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Rising Heat in Mpumalanga Leads to Increased Snake Sightings; Public Cautioned

Published December 25, 2023
7 months ago

Residents of Mpumalanga are being urged to exercise increased caution around their homes and vehicles as the sweltering heat draws unwelcome visitors of the serpentine kind. Authorities in the province have issued warnings to the public to remain vigilant for snakes, as the extreme weather conditions are causing a spike in snake activity and presence in places frequented by humans.

Mpumalanga, alongside Gauteng, has been experiencing a dramatic rise in temperatures, setting the stage for these cold-blooded creatures to seek out cooler spots, which unfortunately sometimes coincide with human habitats. This alarming rise in encounters has placed local communities on high alert.

Snake handler Chris Hobkirk, a seasoned expert in dealing with these reptiles, emphasizes the futility of commercial snake repellents. Products such as chlorine, diesel, and various advertised repellent powders and crystals are not only ineffectual but also fail to address the root of the problem. Hobkirk's experience aligns with scientific evidence that has debunked the effectiveness of many such products.

Hobkirk instead offers practical and proven guidance: maintaining cleanliness around one’s property. He encourages the public to remove rubble, trim excessive bushes, and generally reduce the clutter in yards and gardens that can provide hiding and nesting spots for rodents and amphibians. The presence of such prey animals is the primary attraction for snakes venturing into residential areas.

By eliminating these attractants, homeowners can significantly reduce the likelihood of encountering snakes. It's crucial to understand that snakes generally do not seek out human interaction; their presence is almost always motivated by the hunt for food.

In addition to maintaining clean surroundings, there are other steps homeowners can take to minimize the chances of a snake encounter. Ensuring doors and windows are secure, especially at ground level, can prevent snakes from entering homes. Installing fine mesh screens and sealing any cracks or openings around the house can deter their entry as well.

Public education is also a critical component of reducing snake-human conflict. Knowledge of snakes' behavior, understanding their ecological role, and overcoming the often-unfounded fear of these reptiles can help in coexisting safely. In the unfortunate event of an encounter, it is advisable not to approach or provoke the snake and to call local wildlife control or a professional snake handler for assistance.

While the rise in temperature is beyond individual control, the management of one's environment is a manageable defense against unwanted encounters with snakes. As the frequency and intensity of heatwaves are projected to increase due to climate change, adopting a proactive approach to wildlife management is more crucial than ever.

The public is recommended to stay informed on best practices for preventing snake encounters and to spread awareness within their communities. Regional wildlife services and local authorities are also stepping up efforts to educate the public and respond efficiently to snake sightings.

As the summer months press on, vigilance and community cooperation will be key in navigating these natural challenges and ensuring the safety and well-being of both residents and the reptiles that share the landscapes of Mpumalanga.

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