Southern Stiletto Snake in the Western Cape?

Southern Stiletto Snake in the Western Cape?

Postby SMusker » Tue Feb 03, 2015 1:48 pm

Hi all,

My first post here as I'm not so clued up on my snakes. Hopefully someone can help with an ID question. Sadly I don't have any photos so will try my best to describe what I saw and what happened.

I was hiking above the Harold Porter Botanical Gardens a couple of weeks ago and suddenly a smallish (~30-40 cm long, 2 cm wide) snake appeared trying to cross the path. I thought it looked like a blind snake as it was apparent that its eyes were very small, so, stupidly, I caught it, with some difficulty (having to pin it down) and picked it up. It wasn't happy and wriggled about, and promptly bit me on my middle finger. I grabbed it behind the head and showed it to the others in the group, but with it still writhing about I thought it best to let it go.

My immediate impression was that it had a very reduced head, with basically no 'neck', if that makes any sense. The head came quite quickly to a point. It also seemed to have quite a blunt tail. It was brown above and creamy below, with a bit of a mix of brown and cream scales at the interface. It also had very small eyes, but obviously wasn't blind. Unfortunately, not knowing much about snakes I wasn't able to take note of any scale details, as I don't know what to look for. However, it definitely didn't have the steeply sloping forehead that blind snakes seem to have.

Fortunately the bite showed virtually no symptoms, with minor inflammation immediately surrounding the area. The fangs did not penetrate the skin, although they came close, as when I pulled apart the skin, it drew a tiny speck of blood. There were fang marks in the top left and bottom right corners of where it bit me (relative to how I remember its head orientation being).

After extensive googling the only thing that fits the bill is Southern Stiletto Snake (Atractaspis bibronii). It looked a lot like the one in this thread although somewhat paler below.

viewtopic.php?f=141&t=26352&p=213763

However, it doesn't seem to occur in the Cape at all. SARCA shows no records within 100s of kms of where I was.

Could it have been something else? Or is it possible that the species does in fact occur down here?

Here's hoping you guys can provide some answers!

Seth

p.s. I realise how stupid I was. Needless to say, lesson learnt! In future I won't be picking up any snakes unless I'm doubly sure they're harmless.
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Re: Southern Stiletto Snake in the Western Cape?

Postby Westley Price » Tue Feb 03, 2015 2:59 pm

Sjoe, tough one to ID. I doubt that it would have been a Stiletto though.

When you mentioned sharp nose the one thing that did come to mind is a baby Rinkhals, but it would have spread a hood and no blunt tail so not likely either.

There are quite a few blind snakes in the Western Cape, not none of them would be able to give a notable bite.

Could it have been a Cape Wolf Snake?
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Re: Southern Stiletto Snake in the Western Cape?

Postby Blet » Tue Feb 03, 2015 3:20 pm

Acontias? Never seen one bite though.
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Re: Southern Stiletto Snake in the Western Cape?

Postby SteveZi » Tue Feb 03, 2015 3:43 pm

mole snake?
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Re: Southern Stiletto Snake in the Western Cape?

Postby Westley Price » Tue Feb 03, 2015 4:24 pm

Young mole snakes would not be black, even the Western Cape ones.
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Re: Southern Stiletto Snake in the Western Cape?

Postby SMusker » Tue Feb 03, 2015 4:32 pm

Hi guys

Thanks for the responses. I think Blet's suggestion is probably correct. Wolf and mole snakes seem to have eyes far larger than what I saw, but a legless skink could well fit the bill. In fact, this photograph (http://www.capesnakes.org.za/forum/view ... =19&t=771; first photo; Acontias meleagris) looks a lot like what I saw. The mix or dark and light scales between dorsal and ventral coloration fits very well, as do the small eyes and blunt tail. It also seems to have a slightly 'dopier' expression than a stiletto snake, which I remember noticing. Are there any other species besides A. meleagris that could occur there?

As for the biting, maybe I just REALLY got on his nerves... Anybody have experience of Acontias spp. biting?
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Re: Southern Stiletto Snake in the Western Cape?

Postby SteveZi » Tue Feb 03, 2015 5:36 pm

Acontias aren't black either.
The description said brown above and cream below.
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Re: Southern Stiletto Snake in the Western Cape?

Postby Westley Price » Tue Feb 03, 2015 6:38 pm

Yeah, I assumed a black snake because Stilettos are black (well dark at least) and he thought it was a Stiletto.

Honest mistake.
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Re: Southern Stiletto Snake in the Western Cape?

Postby jka » Tue Feb 03, 2015 9:03 pm

Big Acontias can pinch your skin thats about all. If agitated enough they sometimes open their mouth and rub against your hand to try and get hold of you.

I have seen this with a couple Acontias in the past especially after you have been handling them about.
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