With the end of winter drawing close and spring in full start, the anticipation of a facelift for the bush in general is the main talking point at the moment. As the temperatures are slowly increasing, our cold blooded friends are starting to show face, with an increasing amount of “snake trails” that can be seen crossing the roads and one of our resident spotted bush snakes around the campus peeping out its head out of it crevices where he had been lying dormant for the winter. A few students had unexpected surprises whilst studying in the lecture room and all of the sudden a snake passing by their feet or eye level.
Whilst doing a lecture last semester, the students hear a rather disturbing call and with further investigation came across the snake catching a foam nest frog for breakfast.
The Spotted Bush snake is harmless (well at least to humans) because it does not have any venom glands. This arboreal (tree living) snake employs a different method catching its prey. The Spotted Bush snake will keep dead still and waits patiently for an unwary skink or frog to pass by; it then lashes out at the speed of light and catches the prey item with a mouth full of needle sharp teeth. It sometime uses constrictor methods to crash bones or makes its prey easier to swallow. The prey item is then encircled by the coiling motion of the snake’s body, which clinches tighter and tighter every time the prey exhales. It is only a matter of time before the inevitable is achieved and the prey is swallowed whole, usually with the head first to avoid one of the limbs causing a blockage.
This method of catching prey is also employed by Southern Africa’s largest snake, the African Rock Python which can get up to 6 meters. It is an excellent climber and can be found in bushes, trees, on walls or even gliding in between the cracks of bricks. When this snake is disturbed, it will move away fast and in short bursts to the nearest cover. If it is cornered or when it turns defensive, it will inflate its neck like some other snakes and the blue skin in between the scales will be visible. This makes it look more dangerous, almost like a Boomslang. It bites readily if you try to catch it.
This snake is almost always mistaken for a Boomslang. Although there are many differences, they both can be seen in trees and both are green. The spotted bush snake is harmless to humans, but often killed by us, because of this confusion
The Spotted bush snake is a very pretty snake; it is a bright green color with black dots from the head all the way down the body for about two thirds of the body length. The last section of the snake towards the tail fades from a bright green to a blue/purple color.
Always keep your eyes open for the small creatures that the bush often keeps hidden!