Spring is just around the corner and soon the snakes will be too!

With the eastern parts of South Africa being summer rainfall regions the onset of spring brings relief from the dry cool winters, for Kwa-Zulu Natal, the Eastern Cape, Gauteng, Limpopo, the North West and Mpumalanga. During the winter months most amphibians are in a state of dormancy or keep their activity to a bare minimum. This all changes with the onset of spring, as the temperatures increase, days become longer and rainfall starts to increase the activity and chorus of frogs and toads begin, many species of toads begin calling in an attempt to lure females for a chance to mate.

The most common and prolific frog eating snakes.

With the abundance of frog and toad diversity in South Africa it comes as no surprise that there are several frog and toad specialists to take advantage of the abundance of prey bought about by spring and summer. Most of the frog eating snakes activity peaks in the early evening and throughout the night when the frogs become more active, calling frog ponds and streams as well as cross road ways and sometimes entering homes. However the Rhombic Night Adder is the exception and is most active mid-morning where it active hunts and searches for its amphibian prey.

Guttural Toad – Sclerophrys gutturalis

Male calling for a mate.

Painted Reed Frog – Hyperolius marmoratus marmoratus

Note the enlarged vocal sac which is only found in the males.

Herald or Red-lipped Snake – Crotaphopeltis hotamboeia

Another prolific snake found across most of South Africa occurring in all 9 provinces. A variable snake which may have bright orange/red, white, yellow or black colouration on the upper lip adding to its common name of the Red-Lipped or Herald Snake. Primarily a frog feeder but are known to take geckos and small lizards.

Favouring damp localities these snakes are a common sight in suburban gardens amongst garden ponds and water features. Larger specimens can reach close to 1m in length and as they age may appear a gun-metal grey colour and are often thought to be Black Mambas due to their impressive threat display.

Rhombic Night Adder – Causus rhombeatus

The Rhombic Night Adder, often found in damp areas of suburban gardens. These snakes have a strong venom and, although not capable of causing death in an adult, they are often underestimated. Many negligent snake handlers are bitten by these snakes. Feeding exclusively on frogs and toads, Night Adders can often be found around water features, rockeries, and pool pumps where they seek their prey. Despite the common name, the Night Adder is active mainly during the day. They can be easily identified by the clear v-shaped marking facing backwards on their head.

Mozambique Spitting Cobra – Naja mossambica

The Mozambique Spitting Cobra is responsible for the majority of the serious snake bites in South Africa, particularly in the northern regions. Averaging only 1.2m in length,, these snakes are often found in residential gardens particularly, those bordering nature reserves as well as safari camps. Their activity peaks just as the first rains of summer arrive, coinciding with the increase in amphibian activity. As their name suggests, this snake can spit/spray its venom with incredible accuracy, reaching targets up to 3m away.

Snakes and feeding.

Frogs and toads form an important balance in the ecosystem, along with helping to keep insect levels in check they are supply many animals with food themselves. Natural ecosystems are sensitive and maintain a perfect balance when left to their own devices. By removing the frogs there may be a surge in insect mass, when you remove the snakes you are left with an increased amount of frogs/toads which may in itself cause an unnatural and somewhat noisy balance.

Appreciate the warmer temperatures and rains that are one the way and you may bump into a few frogs and even a snake if you’re lucky!

by Tyrone Ping

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