How to safely handle a Rinkhals.

EVERY day in nature is a lesson, and while wading through books, we learn a lot, actually being able to experience some natural event will embed the knowledge forever. Yesterday I was privileged to be present for a search and release of some snakes that had been rescued from a proposed construction area. The snake that grabbed my attention was the Rinkhals.

When approached a Rinkhals will rear up and hood as a warning.

When approached a Rinkhals will rear up and hood as a warning.

I have always thought of then as monster snakes and very long. Yesterday as one was released it did the expected hooding as a warning. Then, it flattened itself to a mere 5mm looking as if it had been run over by a huge truck.
After hooding, if the Rinkhals still feels threatened, it will flatten its body and lie down.

After hooding, if the Rinkhals still feels threatened, it will flatten its body and lie down.

Then it did it’s species party trick (the bit I did not know about) and rolled over onto it’s back and played dead. It remained in this state for 20 minutes before ‘re-inflating’ itself and slithering away to a safety under a rock. Each time that I approached with the camera it would flatten itself and prepare to ‘die’ again, remain still for a few minutes before continuing on it’s way in pursuit of safety.
After flattening its body, the Rinkhals will roll over and play 'dead' till the threat is over.

After flattening its body, the Rinkhals will roll over and play ‘dead’ till the threat is over.

Amazing behaviour and a lesson well learnt for when next I encounter one in the wild or in someone’s house. Oh, and they are not as big as I thought, a mere 1m long. It’s party trick of flattening itself is what makes it so successful of getting into the thinnest of cracks, a reason why in spring so many are found in houses in the eastern Cape after they literally squeeze under a door. So if you encounter one this summer (or any other time), stand back, let it hood (it won’t spit), and gently nudge it with a broom handle for 30 seconds – it will flatten, roll over and play dead allowing you to lift it (with the broom handle) into a bucket so that it can be relocated before ‘reviving’ itself.

Most important, when encountering snakes is to know their behavioural traits and act accordingly, being mindful that each and every species is different. The biggest danger with snakes is not knowing how to behave when you find one. The Rinkhals is found from the Garden Route, the Eastern Cape and in Gauteng.

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