Snake Strike – Boomslang

untitledClose encounters with Boomslangs are a side effect of summer in Sedgefield. My husband and sons find them fascinating and beautiful, I find them terrifying. With Swallows nesting in the eaves above the garden shed and a well stocked frog pond, our garden hangs out a welcome sign for snakes.

While we have seen Puffadders and a single Cape Cobra, it is the bright green Boomslang (tree snake) we deal with most often. I’ve had to evict them from the deck, the shed, and once woke one snoozing on the bonnet of the car. Not sure who was more startled as we came eye to eye through the glass of the wind shield (Ok, it was me).

And it’s not really me who evicts them – Gavin wields the broom stick and gently prods them until they move next door. The Boomslang has a highly potent venom, which it delivers through large fangs located in the rear of the jaw. The venom stops the blood clotting process and the victim can die as a result of internal and external bleeding.

While bleeding to death is pretty awful the good news is that the Boomslang is a timid snake and bites rarely occur. The bad news is that rarely doesn’t mean never and a few weeks ago ornithologist Geoff Lockwood was bitten by a Boomslang in the Kruger Park.

Lockwood was at the Talamati bush camp when he saw a barred owl chick in a tree. As he moved to photograph it, he stepped on a Boomslang in the grass and it struck.

Lockwood confirmed his suspicion that the snake was a Boomslang by pricking his arm with a needle. When the resultant blood flow didn’t coagulate he knew the deadly poison was in his body. Aware that the venom was slow acting he and his wife drove 500kms back to Johannesburg where he figured there was a better chance of anti-serum being available.

The anti-venom was administered and Lockwood spent a week in a hospital high-care unit having kidney dialysis. Your body needs to break down toxins after a snake bite and part of treatment is to assist the kidneys with dialysis so they can flush out the poisons.

Lockwood has recovered and I find it marginally reassuring that the venom is so slow acting that you can drive for 500kms before receiving treatment.

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4 Responses to “Snake Strike – Boomslang”


  1. 1 Amitabh March 4, 2009 at 12:39 am

    That is fascinating. I am sorry I know you would rather avoid the snakes. Your write-up is personalized and yet informative – which is rare. Will visit you more often.

    And, oh yes, thanks for dropping by.

  2. 2 ian in hamburg March 4, 2009 at 7:34 am

    Those snakes are really quite beautiful… but not in my back yard!

  3. 3 shoreacres July 11, 2009 at 7:13 pm

    I had one up-close-and-personal with a black mamba in Liberia.
    I was sweeping out the house and was holding the screen door open to whoosh the dirt out onto the step. I looked down to the bottom of the door on the hinged side and there was the mamba, with his head under the door, headed in.

    Did you know that you can behead a mamba with a screen door? Oh – and a LOT of adrenalin!

    Hahahahaha! Linda the screen-door executioner. . . I can just see it!

  4. 4 Luke January 11, 2010 at 11:16 pm

    That is a fantastic photograph of a boomslang! I am currently required to publish a small field guide on dangerous South African snakes with the aim of educating field workers to avoid snake bite as well as to conserve these amazing animals. I would love to use this photograph if possible. Please contact me as soon as possible if this is a possibility.
    Kind Regards


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