Snake bites

Serra Moz

The festive season is approaching and many South Africans have already made their holiday plans. The ‘great outdoors’ has always held attraction, with camping close to nature and the bushveld being popular choices. South Africa has few dangerous animals, but does have several venomous snakes, including the Cape Cobra, Puff Adder and Boom Slang or tree snake – a fact which is often not taken seriously by holiday makers or those living in snake infested areas.
Persons who frequent wilderness spots or like to camp, hike or picnic, should be aware of the potential dangers posed by venomous snakes. A bite from a snake should always, according to the American Red Cross, be considered a medical emergency as one may not know whether or not the snake is venomous.
“Even a bite from a so-called ‘harmless’ or ‘non-poisonous’ snake can cause a serious infection or allergic reaction in some individuals,” says Dr Dan Nevin of Netcare 911.
Although medical professionals sometimes disagree on the best course of action when treating a poisonous snakebite, a few basic steps in terms of snakebite first aid are always advocated. These include:
  • Keeping the patient still, calm and quiet in order to prevent the spread of venom [/*]
  • Washing the bite wound with soap and water (do not cut into, on suck on, the bite in an effort to ‘drain’ the venom) [/*]
  • If the snake has spat venom into the eyes, rinse them copiously with water for at least fifteen minutes [/*]
  • Immobilising the bitten area and keeping it lower than the heart (do not apply any form of tourniquet) [/*]
  • Do not administer any type of pain relief medication (unless otherwise instructed by a qualified medical practitioner), especially not aspirin as this thins the blood [/*]
  • Do not allow the patient to eat or drink anything, especially not alcohol [/*]
  • Only administer anti-venom under the direction of qualified medical help – it can do more harm than good if used under incorrect circumstances [/*]
  • Get medical help as soon as possible[/*]
Prevention is better than cure and being aware of the dangers associated with snakebites goes a long way towards avoiding being bitten. Leave snakes alone – do not try to get a closer look or kill them.
Wear thick boots, stay on paths when hiking and be careful in places where you can’t see properly (including darkened rooms).
“Differing symptoms guide professionals as to the nature of the venom and thus direct treatment. All bites, however, should receive urgent attention,” concludes Dr Nevin.


Good post serra. It is also important to remember that all venomous snakes in South Africa are treated with the same antivenom, there is no need to kill to snake and take it with for id. This excludes the boomslang which uses another type of antivenom. 90% if boomslang bite victims are handlers and probably 90% of the rest bitten are fruit pickers. In other words, you will know its a boomslang if thats what bites you cos you were probably trying to take a chameleon out its mouth lol

Serra Moz

aquadementia wrote:
Good post serra. It is also important to remember that all venomous snakes in South Africa are treated with the same antivenom, there is no need to kill to snake and take it with for id. This excludes the boomslang which uses another type of antivenom. 90% if boomslang bite victims are handlers and probably 90% of the rest bitten are fruit pickers. In other words, you will know its a boomslang if thats what bites you cos you were probably trying to take a chameleon out its mouth lol
Spot on Aqua, no need to kill them, sure if it's life or death or when your pets/kids are in the line of fire it might be a different story if it cannot be avoided. Most of the time they will make their own way to safety.

I am sure there's loads of people that can be called in to remove the reptile? Sadly in Moz none that I know of. I have seen a Mfezi, Green and Black in the wild up there, well from a distance...


New member
Great post. For the record almost no anti venom is used any more, bites are treated symptomatically as very often more damage is done via allergic reactions to the anti venom. These days only really Mamba and Cape Cobra bites would be treated with anti venom.

Venom in snakes is broken down into 3 categories:

1: Cytotoxic: This is a tissue destroying venom and actually attacks the bodies tissue. The bite is extremely painful, leading to massive swelling, necrosis and possibly gangrene if not treated correctly. Snakes in this group are typically things like your puff adder which contribute to the majority of snake bites in RSA.

2: Neurotoxic: This is a nerve damaging venom, it prevents the nerves from signaling to each other which starts to shut down the respiratory system. This can lead to death if not treated. Snakes in this group are normal cobras and mambas.

3: Haemotoxic: This venom attacks your blood cells. It causes the victim to bleed out of all orifaces. Its a very slow acting venom taking 24 to 48 hours to take effect so very often people get bitten and think its a dry bite and don't seek medical attention. Snakes in this group are your Boomslang and vine snake.

Spitting cobras have a mixed venom of cyto and neuro toxin. This is due to the fact that they spit their venom. A neurotoxin in the eye would not have any immediate effect, however a cytotoxin would. They have therefor evolved this mix to effectively keep predators away, but allow them to hunt efficiently .

Serra Moz

Snake Removal Services and some additional info:

Snake Removals Here are a few names of people in the various areas who are able to assist with problem snake removal or advice.
Byron Zimmerman: 082 894 6783
Jason Arnold: 082 745 6375
Chris Lourens: 084 364 5150
Dean Boshoff: 083 613 0827
Rishaad Ally: 083 696 7801
Tyrone Ping: 084 492 2542
Rob Macmillan 073 403 7626
Shaun Venter 079 194 5463
Anton Roberts: 082 463 3253
Arno Naude: 083 739 9303
Jens Reissig 084 256 4534
Kobus Seegers 082 923 0549
Please note that there may be a professional service fee associated with reptile removals and this should be discussed directly with the person concerned.
Anyone else who is authorised to do reptile removals and would like to be included on this list please send me a message and I will amend the contact list to include you.
Snake Removal
Need a snake removal service in the Western Cape?
You’ve come to the right place. If confronted with a snake remember these important points:
  • Make sure someone knows where the snake is at all times and is watching it from a safe distance of at least 5 metres[/*]
  • Keep pets and people away from the area (preferably indoors)[/*]
  • NEVER attempt to kill a snake or allow anyone else to do so.[/*]
  • Many (up to 95%) bite cases result from a person interfering in some way with the snake[/*]
  • In most cases it is against the law to kill a snake[/*]
  • If the snake is indoors close any windows and doors leading to the room[/*]
  • Place a towel along the base of the door to prevent the snake escaping if possible[/*]
Once the area is sealed off and/or the snake is being carefully observed, call one of us immediately
Grant: 084 328 1001
Elroy: 082 616 0090
Vard: 082 539 4452
If you wish to describe the snake then try to liken it to everyday objects; The snake is as long as a rake and as thick as a wrist or about a ruler length and as thick as a little finger, for example.
Colouration and patterning may also assist in its identification beforehand. Note overall colouration and distinctive markings such as chevrons or banding if possible.
Another good indicator is the snakes defensive behaviour; does it spread a hood, spit venom or retract into an S-shape and hiss loudly?
However, this is not imperative and once the snake handler has secured the animal s/he will be able to identify the snake for you. [/b]
Most importantly, don’t panic! Don’t try to fix the problem yourself, remember that this is often how people get bitten. Stick to the guidelines and we’ll make every effort to remove the the snake safely and quickly.
It’s a Voluntary Service but Donations Help!
We generally ask for a small fee or donation for this snake removal service to cover website, equipment, medical, fuel and snake rehabilitation costs where applicable. What is the service worth to you?
Snake Rescue and Public Safety = Priority No.1 We understand that not everyone is in a position to pay and in these cases we will still remove the snake as ultimately snake rescue is our priority!!


Senior Member
Great info on snakes and snake bit info here thanks Serra.


As an ex Field Guide I have attended numerous courses on Snake bite first aid and in reply to using milk to rinse out the eyes because it neutralizes the venom is a very common misconception. Every course I have attended have agreed and stressed that nothing but clean water should be used to rinse out the eyes. Remember milk is full of all sorts of bacteria and can often cause more damage to the eyes from secondary infections.

Besides I should imagine that under the circumstances where one would receive a dose of snake venom to the eyes it would be highly unlikely to have a liter or two of milk on hand. Having said that if the only thing you have is milk then it is better than nothing at all, (though urine is cleaner, but that could make for an awkward situation asking your buddy to pee in your eye). 

Bra Chocks

New member
I almost stood on a puffy whilst walking between fishing spots in the Transkei. I am more aware of where I am putting my feet now when walking through bush and on trails. I also only had sandles on. Could have been a very painful end to that holiday.

After I jump back I watched him for a whilst they have beautiful markings which make them so well hidden.