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Southern Stiletto Snake

Chris and Auriel Thorpe in Bungalow # 197 found this Southern Stiletto Snake (Atractaspis bibronii), pictured below, along Heliotrope Loop on Sibon.

It was discovered in the early evening, which is no surprise because these snakes are nocturnal, emerging usually when there is moisture or rain about. The same evening Chris and Auriel found this snake, it began raining and by morning we measured 9mm of rain.

The stiletto snake is a very interesting snake and considered to be very dangerous at the same time because of the peculiar long fang arrangement, that makes for successful biting when being handled! The fangs are fixed, they don’t swivel, and by moving its head sideways a successful bite can be inflicted at a 170 degree angle.

The bite is seriously painful and those suffering from bites have been known to lose fingers, so its certainly not a snake you want to be voluntarily catching and handling, no matter how inconspicuous it may appear. Antivenom has no effect on the venom of a stiletto snake. If you are ever bitten by a stiletto snake seek immediate care from a medical practitioner or hospital where the symptoms can be managed.

Its shape is interesting because it is not that easy to tell the head and tail ends apart. It has tiny eyes. Colour is a uniform purple-brown to black. The average size of an adult stiletto snake is 350mm, but they can grow up to 700mm, as was the estimated length of the one in the picture above.

Habitat is varied, from desert to grassland to arid savanna to lowland forest, so it is a snake that is adaptive to a variety of ecotypes. It spends most of its time underground, where it hunts for other snakes and lizards.


Facts researched on the Internet: Words by John Llewellyn