Nick Evans, the snake wrangler, is a household name in KwaZulu Natal and a real-life ‘hero’ for anyone who has ever come face-to-face with a black mamba…
The passionate conservationist heads up the KwaZulu-Natal Amphibian & Reptile Conservation organisation and spends his days rescuing snakes from people (and people from snakes).
A large part of his work involves educating the public on the role that the reptiles play in the ecosystem.
“If you are afraid of snakes, that’s okay,” says Evans. “The majority of people are.”
But he recommends that those who are fearful look past their fear, and spend some time learning about snakes through books or online. Or chat to an expert.
“I really enjoy speaking to people about snakes, and it was how I was making my living (pre-COVID!) I’ve done talks at schools, on stages at events, in fancy boardrooms, places I thought I’d never stand and speak when I was in school” (Find out more about Evans’s talks, and how to support him HERE).
“You’ll see that they serve an important purpose in our environment, and frankly, they’re not that bad! I’m not expecting you to love them, but just to have a bit of respect for them.”
Inspired by Steve Irwin
As a young boy, Evans says he was always fascinated by Australian Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin.
“His passion and enthusiasm ignited my interest in snakes,” says Evans. “That’s when my love for them really started. I’d go looking for them at home, or at my grandparent’s large garden, or in my local nature reserve (Palmiet Nature Reserve). In primary school, my mum and I even had snake removal adverts made in the school newsletter, and she’d drive me around to any calls that came through. What fun!”
In primary school, my mum and I even had snake removal adverts made in the school newsletter, and she’d drive me around to any calls that came through.
Does the Snake Wrangler ever get scared?
Evans says he never goes into a rescue situation feeling scared.
“For me, this is fun, I enjoy it. So if anything, I go to calls with excitement! I do have a lot of respect for snakes, especially the venomous ones, and there is always a bit of fear of course. But I just try to remain as focused as possible.”
Some situations are more tricky than others, and they do get the adrenalin pumping, says Evans.
“For example, being up a tree on a ladder, on a branch, trying to pin down a Black or Green Mamba, usually results in my legs turning to jelly. Mambas in trees are never easy!”
Two memories stand out in the past year:
A Black Mamba had been seen trying to get into someone’s lounge via the sliding door. The door was closed, fortunately, but it was quite comical. It looked a little like the mamba was knocking on the door! Anyway, when I got there, it was behind a board against a wall. I lifted the tail up with my tongs, and grabbed it with my hand. Well, as soon as my hand touched it, the snake came flying back, in attempt to nip me on the hand. I released it immediately. It was a close call!
Watch the footage below:
The second incident, I was in the Tongaat area, trying to remove a Black Mamba from a storeroom (which was actually an old toilet). I had cleared out most of the clutter, and the mamba was under an old, rotten, small cabinet. While pulling it out by the tail, I realised it was tangled up with another mamba!
It was during the mating season, so this pair decided to make this old loo their honeymoon retreat. You need two hands to catch a mamba, but here I was with two mambas, wishing I had another pair of hands!
The second shot out from under the cabinet, and tried going up the wall. I was trying to secure the first as quickly as possible. The language wasn’t great. Luckily, the second decided to hide rather than venture out the storeroom, giving me time to get the first in a bucket. I soon had both.
Watch the footage below:
Moving a mother python and her eggs was also an ‘epic’ moment
“I was once called to an estate on the North Coast, to remove a mother python who was curled up around her eggs,” recalls Evans. “It was a bittersweet moment. On the one hand, I had the privilege of rescuing this four meter long giant, with a bunch of her eggs. On the other, I had to ruin her happy incubation spot. But for her safety, and only because her and her babies’ life could be in danger, we chose to remove her. Having to unravel her off her eggs was just not happening. We didn’t want her crushing or flipping the eggs over, damaging them. We ended up lifting her body up, and scooping eggs away, while keeping the striking head at bay.”
Watch the footage below:
When is peak “snake season” in South Africa?
According to Evans, snakes are generally most active in the spring and summer months. However, don’t drop your guard during winter as some species, like Black Mambas mate throughout the winter months, as do Greens.
“Puff Adders mate in early winter, and pythons mate in late winter.”
How to discourage snakes from making your home their home:
“Snakes come for shelter and food, so if you don’t provide them with that, you’re less likely going to see one on your property,” says Evans.
1. Keep your properties clean and tidy!
In saying that, please don’t chop down every tree or shrub. Just don’t have piles of wood, bricks or rubble lying around. These kinds of places provide snakes with great shelter. If you have a storeroom, try to keep it neat and tidy. Messy storerooms are usually breeding grounds for rats, which in turn attract snakes.
2. Please don’t waste your time or money on “snake repellents”.
There is no repellent that permanently keeps snakes away. I go to homes, to catch a snake, and the people complain to me at how their chemicals or specific plants haven’t kept the snake away. They don’t work, sorry!