Durban snake catcher Nick Evans was left shaken after he was almost bitten several times while rescuing a black mamba.
Nick Evans said the black mamba had been hanging around the garden of a Westville home hunting dassies.
He said he tried a few times to catch the snake but each time it disappeared into the Palmiet Nature Reserve.
He said the snake was not a threat to the family. However, it occasionally came around the house looking for young dassies, so the family was keen for it to be removed.
“On Friday I was called and told it was basking again. Unfortunately near the boundary, by the reserve, and not near the house. I was far away at the time but said I'd make my way there. I knew the chances of catching it were slim,” Evans said.
He said if the snake was there, it could see him approaching from about 30 metres away since mambas have good eyesight.
Evans said that while he made his way to the home, he was told the snake had moved into the reserve.
He said he was not surprised, but decided to have a look anyway. He had seen it basking in the reserve before and while it was impossible to catch there, he enjoyed seeing mambas and was keen to see it if it was around.
Evans said that when he got there, he walked over and peered over the ledge, scanning the bush below. He did not see anything, and thought the snake must have gone hunting.
“I don't know what made me look down, I hadn't heard anything, but I did. Right next to my foot, was the mamba, slowly slithering past my foot in the grass, that was above ankle height,” Evans said.
“Did I keep still? No, I jumped back in disbelief at what just happened.”
“Our eyes locked, and the mamba knew it was time to flee. It tried getting back to the reserve, but I grabbed it with the tongs, a quarter of the way down from the head,” Evans explained.
“It was a grumpy snake! Rather than reversing, it tried coming forward, towards my hand. I held on a little tighter than normal, before finally, it decided to reverse, and I grabbed it.”
Evans said that once the snake was in his hands, he was checking his legs for punctures. He heard of people, usually handlers, getting bitten by these snakes and not feeling it. Their fangs are small.
“But I was fine. Just very shaken up,” he said.
“This mamba had an easy opportunity to bite me multiple times before I'd have even known it was there. Did it? No.”
He said that he thought the snake had not gone down into the reserve but from where the homeowners were standing it probably appeared to have done so. Instead it had slipped into the long grass and basked there. Or it came up to bask again, hoping to sneak past him.
“I see so many situations where people could have easily been bitten, but the mambas choose not to. It's usually when they are being killed or captured do bites happen. Occasionally freak accidents,” Evans said.
“I didn't have a great grip, probably because of the fright I got, so had to correct it before putting it in the bucket.”
He said that during the rescue, the snake was digesting a meal, probably a young dassie.
“I still have absolutely no idea how I didn't see it.”
“Sneaky thing,” Evans added.