As the Israeli summer heats up, so does sweat, humidity… and snakes.
"Snakes are very territorial animals," explains snake catcher and exterminator Adi Tyer. "They don't distinguish between a house and a rock in the field, so it is not uncommon to find snakes in residential areas."
Most of the tiny snakes in Israel are not poisonous, and of those that are, only the viper is routinely found in built-up areas between Beer Sheva in the south and the Upper Galilee in the north.
Alarming, not dangerous
An encounter with a non-poisonous snake may be alarming, but it's nothing more. In such a situation, Tyer says the snake is unlikely to attack and recommends simply staying away. If the encounter is in a populated area, he recommends calling a snake catcher.
He also says snakes are deaf, so there is no point trying to scare them away with screams or screeches.
On the other hand, should you come across a viper, it could be more dangerous. Vipers are large snakes, with a three-pronged head and designs on the back.
As opposed to other poisonous snakes that try to hide from people, the viper prefers to curl himself up, raise up his head and hiss, as if to warn passers-by not to come near.
In this situation, it is best to move away, but one must try to maintain eye contact. Also, the viper will never give chase, so if you maintain a distance of about one meter (about 3 ft.) from the snake, he will not bite.
Most importantly: never disturb a snake.
Around the house
In order to prevent meeting a snake, it is recommended to:
- Keep the house clear of rats, mice and other snake prey
- Fix leaky taps (snakes are drawn to water)
- Try to minimize plants and maximize grass in the garden. Plants are an excellent cover for snakes
- Fix window screens (snakes can climb)
- Keep a cat in the garden (cat's are one of the snake's biggest enemies)
In the south, rare finds include the adder, ringed snake, black cobra, and several other poisonous snakes.
Snakes are content to sleep between rocks and plants for most of the day.
In case of a bite
In case of a snake bite, Tyer says it is important to remember the field is the snake's home, and they will defend it, but if people stay away from snakes, they are unlikely to get bitten. Rather than run or scream, hikers who come across a snake should quietly move away.
If a bite does occur, Tyer says the most important thing is to remain calm. If possible, someone should kill the animal and bring it to the hospital so health workers may discern the type of antidote to use.
The bitten limb should be kept still so as not to allow the poison to spread to the rest of the body. One should not wait for an ambulance and head immediately for the hospital.
Also, it is absolutely forbidden to administer a "movie treatment" on the bite, such as cutting the affected area open, sucking out the poison, or any other Hollywood methods for treating snake bites.