Bibron’s Stiletto Snake – Atractaspis bibronii 

One of the top three most common snakes responsible for venomous snake bites in South Africa.

With the onset of summer rains across the Eastern parts of South Africa, will bring out the Stiletto Snakes as they are flushed out from saturated grounds and come to the surface after heavy rains.

These snakes are found in Namibia, Botswana, Swaziland and within South Africa in Kwa-Zulu Natal, Gauteng, Free State, North West, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape – only being absent from the Western Cape and virtually the entire Eastern Cape.

An unassuming, small, dark brown snake with small eyes and a non-defined neck. Stiletto snakes are commonly found in the warm summer months, particularly on the roads at night after rain, in swimming pools, and in the turned-up topsoil. These snakes bite a significant amount of people who mistakenly pick them up after incorrectly identifying them as either thread or house snakes. There have been instances of people thinking they are mole snakes, despite the fact they are visually quite distinct.

The Stiletto Snake cannot be held safely behind the head and should never be picked up –  they have long, movable fangs which they can stick out of the sides of the mouth and stab fingers with ease. The venom is not known to be lethal but can cause serious injury. We often severe bites where and amputations or permanent disfigurement fingers occur from bites of the Stilleto Snake. There is no anti-venom for treating bites so all bites are treated symptomatically as the symptoms occur.

Bibron’s Stiletto Snake (Atractaspis bibronii)

Showing classic defensive neck arching. From Durban, Kwa Zulu Natal.

Bibron’s Stiletto Snake (Atractaspis bibronii)

Deep in shed. From Durban, Kwa Zulu Natal.

These snakes are often confused with many other common species of snakes such as Mole Snakes, Bibrons Blind Snakes, Cape Wolf Snakes and Thread Snakes.

For more in-depth information on snakes from across Southern Africa you can view these snakes here.

If you’re unsure on what snake you’re dealing with NEVER attempt to pick up the snake or hold it behind the head you will only become yet another static of the Bibrons Stiletto Snake in South Africa.

Close up showing the two large moveable fangs of the Stiletto Snake.

by Tyrone Ping

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