Snakes on Table Mountain

Sightings of snakes on Table Mountain are rare.

snake with mortal wound on table mountain

I hardly ever see snakes on Table Mountain ... ha ha. I laugh, because whenever I've said something similar to guests who ask, that on a couple of occasions, has been the one day out of so many hundreds over decades of hiking that we have seen one.

But that this note on local snakes is poorly illustrated with photos is partial evidence of such a rare occurence. An encounter is usually so fast that one does not get a camera out in time. A Puff adder eyeing you as it slithers across the path has the kind of look that makes you forget photography. 

Then you'll have a spate of sightings, like two in one day. Or the month I saw three berg adders - in Jonkershoek, and on Mont Rochelle; and then this one, caught on video high up Kasteelspoort, Table Mountain. It looks like it is hunting, maybe lizard?

Initially you may mistake berg adders for young puff adders. Their markings are subtly different. And by comparison, the Berg Adder, sometimes called a Mountain Adder, is a relatively small snake, around 30 - 50 cm in length.  (10 - 20 inches.) You could almost say cute.

A cuteness-factor is not strong reason for the species' mysterious evolution.   Interestingly, although adders' embryos develop within eggs, the mother snake bares her eggs within her, giving birth to live young. This is reckoned to be a potent factor in the adders’ survival - a rare achievement in the face of humanity's deadly fear of snakes, espaecailly since Berg Adders enjoy relaxing in the sun.

If you disturb them they’ll hiss. Step too close and there’s a chance you’ll get bitten.

Their venom is unusual. Other vipers, like the gaboon adder and puff adder, release a mainly cytotoxic venom, which damages the tissue cells, causing pain, swelling, blisters.  However Berg adders release a combination of this with neurotoxic venom, like that of some cobras and mambas, and which affects the respiratory system.

Their victims struggle with pain and swelling; there's tissue damage, though not severe. Quite often they may have difficulty breathing. Vision is impaired, eyelids droop. Temporary blindness is also a symptom. Death in humans is highly uncommon.   

If the bite goes unnoticed at first, a bit later it may seem like an scratch or small superficial wound. Small children bitten by a berg adder are at higher risk of being seriously affected.

Get medical attention ASAP.

As you can see from the video, this snake didn't seem bothered by me. It must have been aware I was there.


The puff adder’s markings form chevron shapes.

Berg adder’s eyes are set slightly more forward than a puff adder

It has more of a lance-shaped head.

It’s nowhere near as big.