The Foreign Residents in the TRNC – Snakes of Cyprus


Snakes of Cyprus

 by Ralph Kratzer

In my article about “4 deadly dangers for your dog” posted on 15th March 2013, there was one paragraph about the danger of snake bites.

To remember please click here: https://tfrnorthcyprus.wordpress.com/2013/03/15/1805/

There was quite a lot of response to this article by our readers, thank you very much!

One comment given by a reader said: Interesting information thank you. I wonder if you might present similar information about what to do when a human is bitten by a snake, e.g, where is the best place to head, hospital, army base?“

So I decided to provide our readers with some information about the snakes of Cyprus. But before I begin I want to clarify something:

Firstly, I am not a medical practitioner, so therefore I am not authorized to give people any kind of medical advice! I can only share information and experiences with my readers.

Secondly, I am not a zoologist. So maybe one or another of the explanations I will give you about the snakes of Cyprus aren`t complete or scientific.

Nevertheless, let´s start now:

Now is the time of the year snakes awake from their hibernation. So you may have the experience of seeing or getting into contact with one or more of them. In principle snakes are not aggressive, they don´t attack you if you don´t go too near to them. If you keep your eyes open during walking in nature, collecting herbs or gardening you are not in danger!

There are different species of snakes on our island, venomous and non-venomous. I just want to introduce six of them.

Let´s start with the non-poisonous ones.

coin snakeThe coin snake or Ravergier´s whip snake is harmless and not dangerous to humans. The greyish-brownish body is marked on the back with large dark-brown irregular spots looking like “coins”.

Unfortunately these friendly snakes look very similar to the blunt-nosed viper (to which we return later), so a lot of people are scared when seeing them and try to kill them….. please don´t do that! The main difference between the harmless coin snake and the dangerous viper are the eyes: the first has round pupils, the second vertical ones.

large whip snakeThe large whip snake is, with its maximum length of 3 meters, the longest European snake. The colour of this elegant and fast snake is pure black, only during the first 2 or 3 years of their life they have a yellowish or light brown colour. They are not only very fast but good climbers as well. You can find them even in trees.

I have heard the story that the British brought them to Cyprus because this snake not only has mice, rats and other pests on its menu but also the venomous vipers. But maybe this is only a rumour.

Cyprus whip snakeThe Cyprus whip snake, which is endemic and very rare, has a black, dark-brown or olive-brown colour and a white ring around its eyes, the body of the up to 1-meter-length snake is slim and similar to the juvenile large whip snake.

The bite of one of these above described snakes is not lethal because they have no poison, but they will defend themselves, so if they should attack you it could be a painful experience!

Now we come to the poisonous species.

Blunt-nosed-viperThe most dangerous snake on the island for humans is the blunt-nosed viper or Levant viper.

This – up to 150 cm length – snake has a relatively fat body, a clearly distinct triangular shaped head and a thin horny tail. The colour varies between yellowish grey and light brown, usually with distinct large brownish or black marks on the back. The bite of this snake is dangerous to your life!!!

cat snakeThe cat snake, up to one meter in length, is normally only active at dusk and night time. The dorsum is grey-brown with black maculations. The amount of poison this snake has in itself is not enough to be lethal for a human, but medical help will be needed anyhow.

Montpellier-snakeThe Montpellier Snake´s venom is not normally dangerous to man, but the bite can cause heavy local swellings of the affected body part and a general malaise. The snake grows up to 2 meters in length and the colour of the adult snake can differ between greenish-grey and brown.

To get more detailed information and pictures of the described and other types of Cypriot snakes – click here: http://www.aev-uk.com/cyprus/snakes/index.htm

I will try to give you now some advice from my personal experience what you can do to avoid dangerous contact with snakes and what to do if you are bitten:

Preventive:

  • from late March until end of November avoid walking on ground where you cannot see where you step, e.g. high grass, bushland, dry river beds etc.
  • have a long stick with you while walking. If a snake lies on the track and doesn´t slide away, give her a nudge with the stick or better still make a detour.
  • be careful while working in your garden: don´t grab with your bare hands under bushes and flowers, always use garden tools for that.
  • If you hear a swish nearby you or, much worse, an audible hiss: stay calm, avoid sudden actions, make a quiet and slow retreat.

In the case you are bitten:

  • an old saying is to apply a tourniquet between the wound and your heart. I always have a piece of a thin rope with me. So in the case I would receive a bite – normally into the leg or the arm – I would try to reduce the amount of infected blood going into my circulatory system. Note: Not every expert advises a tourniquet, ask your doctor!
  • for the dog´s first aid I recommended – in my article mentioned above – to apply an injection of Hydrocortisone for shock treatment. I would never recommend this for humans!!!!!! Hydrocortisone is a highly effective drug and may cause heavy side effects to the human body!!!!!!
  • in the end there is not a lot of first aid you can do for yourself or somebody else you try to help.
  • do not use any kind of “home remedies” you have heard of…..you lose time with doing that!
  • the most important thing is to go to a clinic or doctor´s office as fast as you can!!!! You have to get the proper antidote injected. Describe to the medical personnel the kind of snake which has bitten you to help them applying the right antidote. (Best you make a printout of the above mentioned webpage “Snakes of Cyprus” and show them the picture of the snake.)

Note: Always take your mobile phone with you when you go for a long distance walk in nature. Save the most important emergency numbers in your phone.You will find them under: https://tfrnorthcyprus.wordpress.com/450-2/

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About tfrsecretary

Born in Augsburg, Bavaria, Germany in 1957, I was educated at a Baccalaureate High School. Later completed Technical University with a degree in Economic Informatics. I served for 12 years in the German Army before joining a French computer company for another 10 years. Then ran my own motorcycle and gastronomy businesses before deciding to retire. I arrived in North Cyprus with my second wife in 2004 and since her sad loss in 2011, I have kept myself very busy trying to help others with similar problems and in 2012 became the Secretary of “The Foreign Residents in the TRNC” (TFR). I am very keen to see expat communities coming together and playing their part in helping North Cyprus, our adopted homeland.
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4 Responses to The Foreign Residents in the TRNC – Snakes of Cyprus

  1. Jonny Tango says:

    Thanks for this. I had a snake fall off my roof and land right next to me, it scarpered real quick but I was sure it was a coin snake. The locals are convinced I should kill it or trap it. To climb onto my roof which is 6 metres heigh is a task. would a blunt nose climb that well? I understand the coin snake is a very good climber. My building has loads of sparrows and house martins so I assume these were its goal, just lost its footing. I live in the middle of nowhere so any information would help. In summer months I see around 20 snakes a day along my dirt road. Are snakes territorial as some locals say I should lay black pipes around the property so they look like the black snakes that attack the blunt nose. Others say use a drain pipe and put milk in a blocked end to trap them as the blunt nose likes milk, after which they tell me to cut off their heads. I have two dogs that run all over the property of about an hectare so I am more concerned with their safety than my own. I cut all the grass down regularly. My nearest neighbour tells me he kills between 10 and 15 a year. Being a lover of snakes I have no interest in killing them but have worries more now about the dogs since the coin snake almost fell on me.

    Thanks for the info…

    Jonny

    • tfrsecretary says:

      Hi Jonny,
      as I said in my article, I am not an zoological expert, but as far as I know, blunt nosed vipers can climb on small trees but not on high roofs, this seemed more to be a coin snake. But anyhow, if you have a lot of snakes on your land there may be the one or other venomous ones among them. The danger for your dogs is existing, so better ask your vet what to do in case of an emergency. Normally snakes make seasonal wanderings but generally they are said to be settled. With milk you can attract nearly every snake but do you really like to kill them? To cut the grass down was a good idea, the less shade and shelter they get in the summer the more the possibility they look for a better place to live.
      Thanks for your comment…

      Ralph

      look at this link – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macrovipera_lebetina

      • Jonny Tango says:

        Thanks for the reply Ralph,

        I have no wish to kill any snake as I am not afraid of them and see they have more right to live here than I do. My main concern was if the blunt nose fell on my head I would probably have been in trouble. You have concluded the same as I that to climb onto the roof it must have been a coin snake. I grew up as a child in snake country so I have a wary eye and careful foot when it comes to moving around. I have decided to trim all the grass back and allow little room for the snakes to live including sealling the gaps under my container, as you say they will hopefully look for better lodgings.

        Thanks for your help Ralph and good article.

        Jonny

      • tfrsecretary says:

        Thank you Jonny, if you have more experiences to share with our readers, let me know. Maybe you are interested to give informations about other topics…
        my email is tfrsecretary@gmail.com

        Ralph

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