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Snakes of Oman < OMAN ENVIRONMENT

 

Snakes of Oman

A Western expatriate returning to his villa in Bausher Heights after parking his car was startled by the slithering presence of what appeared like a snake… or was it a large worm that skittered into a flowerbed nearby?

Some days later, his wife stumbled upon the same shiny-scaled creature and, fearful of snakes, adopted for a while the practice of nosily stomping her feet every time she left the house in a bid to scare away the reptile.

Eight months have since gone by with no trace of what the couple probably saw was a Blind Snake, a very small reptile that burrows in soft soil and compost, seeking ants and termites.

It is said to come up to the surface only at night, but is found in cultivation and spreads in flowerpots.


 


Carpet vipers hide by day under objects, garden
litter and rodent burrows

The harmless Blind Snake is a gardener's friend

The Blind Snake is harmless, and is, in fact, a gardener's friend as it aerates soil and eats pests.

Other than the Blind Snake, many hair-raising stories are told about the Racer Snake, which are seen in wadis, and most notably, the pools of the Snake Gorge.

Although they look intimidating with their long slim bodies, olive-grey or brown colour and quick movements, they are more interested in catching toads and fish at the edge of the water than attacking humans.

According to the Natural History Museum, only a few snakes in Oman are dangerous to man. Many snakes commonly seen are not dangerous to people. In fact, they try to avoid contact with people.

There are 22 species of snakes in the country, and the only dangerous ones are the cobra, the vipers and the sea snakes.No chances should be taken with snakes if they are venomous.


Puff Adders lie in wait on grassy paths and in trees


The large and bulky Arabian Gulf Sea Snake

 

Venom, a complex mixture of different chemical compounds, act upon body tissue, the blood and the nervous system if injected in sufficient quantity. Venomous snakes in Oman inject venom through hollow fangs fixed in the front of the mouth (as those in cobras and sea snakes) and by hollow erectile fangs (vipers).

The one Cobra species in Oman grows to two metres long and is found near water and trees in the Dhofar mountains. Its toxins affect the motor nerves and paralyse the muscles and cause difficulty in breathing and swallowing.

 


Mole vipers are seen occasionally at night or after rain

The seven species of vipers in Oman include the Mole Viper, Puff Adder, two Horned Vipers and three Carpet Vipers, which may be seen in Dhofar.

Although the effects of the venom on individuals vary, the toxin from the viper may cause local pain and swelling, destroy the clotting power of blood, and widespread bleeding occurs, usually seen in spit, urine and bruising, according to the book Snakes of the Arabian Gulf and Oman, by Michael Gallagher.

 

The relatives of cobras, the Sea Snakes, however, are probably those that people, especially seafarers, encounter more than any other venomous snakes.

Said Muhammad Abdullah Al Ghafry who works for Ericsson, narrates once such encounter with a sea snake during a fishing trip with friends last November.

After dropping anchor near a rocky outcrop behind the Jalali fort, they uncoiled their fishing lines while waiting for their big catch.

They were soon surprised to find that their fishing lines had ensnared a pair of angry, wriggling two-and-a-half-metre-long sea snakes.

Aware that sea snakes can be poisonous, they cut a fishing line setting loose one snake, but had to kill the other before it could pose any danger. As a tip, take care and leave snakes alone. They won't do harm if you avoid them as much as they avoid you.

More tips are given in Michael Gallagher's book, such as look and take care where you put your hands and feet, particularly in wadis, gardens, woodland and near rubbish and water. Remove litter, creeping plants and rodents from around your house and seal holes.

Avoid walking outside at night without light, and so on. Basic First Aid reminds that in case of snakebite, wash the injury, keep the area still and at a lower lever than the heart and keep the victim quiet. Also, take the victim immediately to the hospital.

* Adapted from Oman Observer. Nizwa.NET is not responsible for contents.