Most people consider snakes to be dangerous, but Nick Evans, Durban's own snake rescuer, says it’s a misconception.
The reptile and amphibian lover has dedicated his life to rescuing, saving and conserving snakes.
Evans grew up in Sherwood but spent a lot of time at his grandparents' home in Berea West which had a large garden. To the then young Evans, this garden appeared jungle-like, and he played there and looked at all sorts of creatures.
He recalled discovering his first snake in his family’s garage when he was just three years old and was mesmerised.
“I have been catching snakes since I was a kid. My mum would drive me around after school capturing snakes in people's homes. I did not get many calls, but whenever we did get a call, it was very exciting! I'd advertise in my school newsletter,” he said.
Evans does not agree with the notion that snakes dangerous. He explained that while their bites are venomous, they don't intend to harm anyone. But, believe it or not, even he gets the jitters when he has to rescue one of the reptiles.
“I think because I understand snakes, I know how they behave, most of the time, and how I should behave,” he said.
“However, some people seem to think I am totally fearless when it comes to snakes and I am not. I do often feel fear when working with them, especially when I am up in a tree! It is a dangerous job, no doubt. But I believe it is both significant and enjoyable.”
The family man became a full-time snake rescuer at age 21.
According to Evans, there are many challenges in his job; it is not a job that will make you rich, especially if like him, you do a lot of work for free.
Having to deal with difficult people is another con of this profession, he said.
“Black Mambas are easier to deal with! I also work long hours. But, I have a lot of fun, and I am privileged to work with (these) amazing animals and see some amazing things.”
Evans has been bitten by a vine snake and twice by a captive green mamba. However, these were all dry bites (where no venom was injected) which he blamed on carelessness.
He warned that with KwaZulu-Natal’s summer season in full swing, people should watch out for snakes. During this time of the year, the reptiles are on the hunt for food, especially on warm days and nights.
“Many species lay their eggs in November and December, and then go hunting after leaving their eggs. Juveniles hatch in February, March, and even April. But, in most parts of KZN, especially the warmer parts, like Durban, snakes can be seen all year round,” he said.
Here is how you can deal with one of these slithering creatures according to the expert:
- If you see a snake in your home, move away from it and phone a snake-catcher.
- If it's in a room you can close-up, do that. Close the window from the outside if possible.
- You can keep an eye on it if you're feeling brave. If the snake is outside, you must watch it from a distance, from 5 metres or more. If you don't, the snake will likely disappear, and the snake-catcher won't find it. Snake-catchers do not have devices to find snakes.
- Phone as soon as you see the snake, not the day after or longer.
- The best way to stay safe around snakes, is to simply leave them alone.
“Snakes do not want to bite you, but if you hurt them, they feel they have to. If you try and help one, and pick it up to move to safety, they don't understand that. They'll be scared, and bite,” Evans explained.
His favourite snake is the infamous black mamba. He described the much-feared snake as being highly misunderstood. “Even I was scared of them before I learnt how to work with them because of all the horror stories about them. They are terrified of people, and will do their best to avoid conflict. I have seen so many situations where mambas could easily bite people, but they chose not to.”
A published author, Evans wrote Life of a Snake Rescuer a few years ago. The book details his most interesting or thrilling rescue calls. He also wrote a booklet on the snakes of the eThekwini Municipality, which was translated in Zulu.