Spiders and Snakes

Anaconda

Dear Mother,

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!

Alameda Whipsnake

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!
Large Whip Snake

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.

Blunt-nosed Viper

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.

(gulp!)

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!

Montpellier SnakeSo! 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?
Scorpion
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…

 

©MPB 27/July/2007
Acknowledgements:

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

References
Cyprus Mail  –  Paphos Snake Could Be Longest Ever
Cyprus Mail  –  Snakes Alive
Cyprusive

 

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6 Responses to Spiders and Snakes

  1. Glyn Cox says:

    I have only been on the Island 9 days, and all i have heard about is the sodding blunt nose viper !!! I live ruraly in Kissonerga down a track surrounded by olive groves.(yes with irrigation systems)!! AND i have brought my 2 dogs (at great exspense i might add) to somewhere i am too flippin terrified to walk them! Going to be an interesting year, and i will no doubt leave here with a hunched back, having spent my time bent over looking at the ground… just incase!! Great reading.. and VERY funny.. you should write for a living… 🙂

    Regards,
    Glyn. (miss)

  2. Sue Cordrey says:

    Have just today rescued my cat froma blunt nose viper…he was playing with it in the garden making it sit up and hiss and lunge at him! My cat is very resourceful and was dancing around it like he was doing rock and roll! Needless to say it was only a baby blunt nose but big enough (apparently, as told by the reptile park near Paphos) to inflict serious damage if not kill! As for scorpions, my dog, a 7 stone giant of a Weimaraner found one under his bed and was playing with that too….patting it with his foot and chasing round after it till it decided to bite…..one big hole in foot and £35 quid later, he was nonchalantly looking round for the next one! So now no-one enters outside in the morning till the area has been scanned for any predator laying in wait.

  3. dale says:

    i lived in cyprus for over 2 years and not once heard anything bad about any snakes.it is a great island and has some amazing wildlife.i absolutly loved it and would not hesitate to return despite all these rumours about snakes.

  4. carol says:

    Have lived in Cyprus for 2 years. Six months after arriving my 9 year old daughter was bitten by what we and the doctors think was a juvenile blunt nose viper although nobody actual saw the snake. But she was rushed into hospital, her toe went black very quickly so we knew something had bit her but luckily after 1 week in hospital she recovered remarkably well and apart from a dent in her toe is completely fine it was very scary at the time though. The doctor said its very rare to be bitten and although I cant say for sure he said there are only a couple of cases a year. We still live here my daughter was just very unlucky in the wrong place at the wrong time. We are more careful now especially where our children play but we don’t let it rule our lives.

  5. Charlie Maloney says:

    I went to Cyprus for 10 days staying in Polis and saw 3 whip snakes!

    They didn’t put me off I’m off for 6 months but I do wanna know about spiders!

  6. Marios says:

    Silly people! Unlike most countries, there is only one type of poisonous snake in Cyprus and it’s a viper. ONE! One type along with a total of 15 different species on the island! If you manage to see one, it might as well be as rare as seeing a Hippo on land in Africa!

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