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‘The only threat is if you are so afraid of them that you get a heart attack’

‘The only threat is if you are so afraid of them that you get a heart attack’

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All of the snakes on the island of St. Vincent are harmless to humans and play a very helpful role in our ecosystem and in public health.{{more}}

Senior Forestry Supervisor Fitzgerald Providence told SEARCHLIGHT on Wednesday that the local snakes are not poisonous and none of them pose any threat to humans.

“The only threat is if you are so afraid of them that you get a heart attack,” Providence said.

He, therefore, advised that if a local snake is encountered, we should just “leave it alone,” as the snake will not attack, but will “probably just move away.”

Interest in the local snake population was heightened a few weeks when a Congo snake (Corallus cookii) was discovered and killed in the Buccament area.

Providence said Congo snakes eat rodents, which make them very useful in keeping down the rat population.

“Rats bring leptospirosis. The snakes eat the rats and help to keep the rodent population under control,” he said.

He is, therefore, urging residents of St. Vincent to keep a clean environment around their homes and neighbourhoods, if they do not want to encourage the Congo snake.

“If you provide a habitat for it, it will just keep coming back,” he said.

Providence said in recent times, there has been an increase in sightings of the reptile in some residential areas on the outskirts of Kingstown, presumably because of a ready supply of food in those areas.

He also said pruning trees and limiting how much bush we have around the home will help to keep the Congo snake away, as the reptile has to have trees and shrubs whose branches and leaves touch each other, to make its home.

“A bushy environment also provides cover for criminals moving through the neighbourhood,” Providence said, giving another reason why homeowners should keep their trees and shrubs neatly pruned.

The experienced forestry official said the Congo snake feeds at night, and once it has eaten, it lies quietly in the trees. He said the meal is digested over several days or weeks. He said the snake, which was killed at Buccament, was probably killed because someone passed, saw it and felt under threat.

“You can be under a tree, and it would be right above you and you would not know it,” he said, re-emphasizing the point that these snakes pose no threat to humans.

Besides the Congo snake, which is also known as the Treeboa, there are two other types of local snake, the black snake (Chironius vincenti) and the white snake (Mastigodryas bruesi).

Of the three types of snake, Providence said the most aggressive one is the black snake, but it will only attack in a defensive manner. He, however, said chances of encountering a black snake are slim, as they live deep in the rain forest in the interior of the mainland.

The White snake is fairly frequently found in gardens. They are active by day and eat frogs and lizards and sleep at night in trees and bushes. This snake is generally bluish-gray to brown, with light lateral stripes on the back, with the under-belly colour varying from white to dirty yellow.