My attention was grabbed the other day by a headline on the Cyprus Mail website:
PAPHOS SNAKE COULD BE LONGEST EVER
The longest ever? What? He’s here? In Kypros? You’ve got to be kidding! Help!
When you look at some of the phobia from which people suffer, I suppose I should be grateful that there’s not much which really gets me going.
I don’t suffer from consecotaleophobia or coulrophobia – although I’m useless with chopsticks, and I’ve never had much time for clowns.
Nor do I suffer from peladophobia, pogonophobia or rhytiphobia – I’ll probably be bald myself one day, I’ve been known to grow a beard before, and wrinkles are an inevitable part of growing old, regardless of how many moles you have.
And I’ve certainly never had a problem with lutraphobia or philematophobia – how can anyone not like otters? Although it has to be said I wouldn’t want to kiss one.
But arachnophobia, ophidiophobia and herpetophobia are three that I’m definitely a bit iffy about. And I don’t have a phobia about admitting it.
I haven’t given any thought to snakes in Cyprus. Or spiders, come to that. Time to don the deer-stalker once again and investigate how much of a threat Cypriot creepy-crawlies pose.
The Cyprus Mail article was the obvious starting point.
“A three-metre long snake has been discovered in a Paphos village, which if verified, could be the longest snake ever found on the island.“
So not actually the longest snake ever then. Just the longest snake in Cyprus. Bit of a misleading headline, wouldn’t you say? But three metres?!! That’s about 10 ft!
Ok, it’s insignificant compared to anacondas and reticulated pythons, the latter of which officially holds the world record at 33 ft. But fortunately, they’re not native to the Mediterranean. So what brand is this slimy Cypriot slitherer?
According to Hans-Joerg Wiedl, the island’s foremost snake expert, it’s the largest species found in Europe – a Large Whip Snake, which isn’t venomous.
So what does it do? Flog you to death?
Apparently it kills by constriction. That’s a relief. I’d much rather have the life squeezed out of me than be bitten to death!
Our resident snake expert said,
“I’ve advised the villagers not to disturb it.“
Why would anyone want to? The very last thing you want is an angry snake chasing you down the road and whipping you into shape before putting the squeeze on you!
“There are eight species of snake indigenous to Cyprus, three of which are venomous. The Large Whip Snake is the most common of all. In defence, it coils itself into a spiral and attacks, hissing loudly.“
Great! An encounter with Hissing Sid and his large whip is just what I want when I’m taking my dog, Cleopatra, for a walk in the woods. Maybe I should trade her in for a mongoose.
“However, only the blunt-nosed viper is dangerous to humans.“
That’s one dangerous-to-humans, slippery customer too many for my liking. Cute little fella though. Make a lovely pair of boots with matching belt and hat-band. And if you blur your eyes, it looks a bit like the River Thames.
So what’s the likelihood of bumping into one of these venomous vipers?
“Snakes are comatose in the heat of high summer and spend the winter in hibernation and are without exception frightened of human beings and only attack to defend themselves.“
I like ‘comatose’, ‘hibernation’ and ‘frightened’. Only attacking in defence is small comfort though if you accidentally step on one, comatose or not. I imagine it would pretty soon wake up!
“The blunt-nosed viper is a fat, dangerous, highly poisonous viper. If it is disturbed, it hisses loudly and may attack very rapidly.“
So no time to say sorry and tell him you were just having a laugh.
“If it’s disturbed then it will become very cross and you then have to react in total reverse of your normal instincts – just stand perfectly still (shaking doesn’t count) and let the very angry snake go on its way.“
Right! Just stand perfectly still while Fatty Blunt-Nose decides if he can be bothered to kill you or not.
“It is particularly dangerous because when it bites, its teeth remain embedded in the tissue and the movements of the jaw pump large amounts of poison into the wound.“
“Needless to say if you are bitten then get to a hospital fast.“
You’re right! It’s needless to say. I’ll be queue jumping!
So! Of the three species of poisonous snakes on the island – the other two being the Slender Cat Snake and the Montpellier Snake, pictured here – only the chubby, blunt-nosed viper is dangerous to man. And to dog presumably.
What about spiders? Big, fat hairy spiders. Any of those in Cyprus that I should start checking my boots for?
First thing I found was an article written by some nutter who’d actually come to Cyprus specifically to look for scorpions. He found a few too. Woo hoo! Nice hobby!
Frankly, I’d read enough. I no longer want to know about hairy spiders and scorpions. I’ve got enough on my hands dodging whip-wielding snakes and overweight, pug-nosed vipers.
Maybe another time, when I’ve plucked up enough courage to set foot outside the apartment again…
Cast (in order of appearance)
Stamp – Anaconda courtesy of allposters.com
Alameda Whip Snake courtesy of Sacramento Fish & Wildlife Office – photo by Sheila Larsen
Sleuth – no idea where I found him
Large Whipsnake photo courtesy of University of Washington
Montpellier Snake from this site – no idea what the site’s called as I don’t recognise the language!
Scorpion courtesy of Scorpions Of Cyprus