How to get rid of snakes/(nyoka) with explanations - Zimbabwe, Africa

Mhungu - Plain phase Snouted Cobra in an abandoned pool in someone's yard

Following up on our post where we talked about why there is a rise in human/snake conflicts which is resulting in in increase in snake bites, below we are going to discuss some of the ways to get rid of snakes.

If you genuinely want to reduce the chances of snakes (especially venomous snakes) showing up in your property or premises, this is the starting point...

1. Wash your dishes the same night.

As soon as you finish your dinner you have to wash your dishes immediately not waiting to wash them the following morning. You also have to dispose of any leftovers properly not just putting your pot with sadza and/or any other food items under the sink.

This is very important because leftover food attract rodents like rats into your house. In turn these rodents attract venomous snakes like cobras, black mambas, etc. So if you do not want these kinds of visitors in your house you've got to wash up your dishes and keep your kitchen sparkling clean at all times.

2. Make sure that your lawn or any other grass is cut short at all times.

The relationship between snakes and tall grass is something that you have probably heard a million times from a young age. Snakes basically prefer to move around hidden places so that they are not seen and grass or lawn just happens to be one of those hidden places.

Before you conclude that they do so because they don’t want to be seen by YOU And that they are schemers against YOU and other humans, scheming to hide and bite you when you walk past etc etc.. BREATHE! RELAX! That is not why they hide; you can be rest assured. Snakes, (like many animals living in the wild), do not have it easy. Especially because they don’t have limbs and they are fairly small animals, they constitute food for many animals. For example they are food to animals like other snakes, birds of prey, civets, genets, mongoose etc. So if they move around in open spaces (pajekerere), it will be so easy for them to be spotted. Therefore, even though they have you to worry about as well (Yup! They are extremely worried about you killing them), they have a lot more to worry about too and that is why they hide in any place which seems hidden & tall grasses in your yard just happen to be one of those places.

It is therefore important to always keep your grass mowed to make sure that any snakes outside don’t have a place to hide - which naturally, without a place to hide, they will move away from your yard.

3. Clean up immediately after your pets have finished eating

This one applies quite a bit to many African households. You know how we so love having dogs, mostly for security purposes and how we also love having cats to keep rats (& sometimes snakes) at bay... yeah! What we don’t realize though is that, in the process we are creating another problem, particularly when it comes to the feeding of these amazing animals.

We give them their food usually outside the house, in some corner where we hardly clean. Even when we do clean that corner, it will be after many hours, depending on how often we feed the animals, it can be after 24hours or 12 hours. So, because most of these animals are “messy eaters”, food scraps will be all over the place, and with no one to clean the area, rats and mice will come in full force and get busy.

Rats and mice are food for snakes right so there you have it, your venomous snakes will also start coming in. Yes cats can keep snakes at bay HOWEVER, it’s within reason. If you keep on forcing the rats to come because of too much food lying around, the cats will not manage to keep up (which is exactly what’s currently happening in our cities). Same applies to the snakes too. Nothing can come between a hungry animal and its food, not even an angry, fierce cat. It will not work Simple!

So bottom line is - if you want to successfully reduce the chances of venomous snakes staying in your yard, you have to make sure that they have no reason to be there. Get rid of rats and mice and you will see a drastic change.

4. Get rid of all the piles of wood, leftover bricks, leftover durawall panes, leftover roofing sheets, garden refuse e.t.c. lying around your yard

If you look outside through any of your house windows or doors right do see the above mentioned items which you have been procrastinating on removing??

They Need To Go...

Anything that hides a snake and provides warmth and shields it from rain and other varied climatic conditions is perfect home for snakes. Snakes are cold blooded reptiles. This means that unlike humans and other mammals which are warm blooded therefore have the ability to control their body temperatures – snakes’ body temperatures are controlled by the surrounding temperature. Meaning, when it is cold their body temperatures drop and when it is hot their body temperatures rise. As a result they need to be under something like the above items for shade when it’s hot and when it’s cold for some warmth.

They also prefer those places because they are the perfect hideouts – less human activity and the animals that feed on then can not get them from underneath the piles. So it is quiet and safe in those places. With the electricity situation in the country some of us are hoarding tree logs which take us a month or 2 to use up. Sometimes we even end up adding more before we get to those logs right at the bottom of the pile. In such circumstances your home can even become a great maternity ward for breeding snakes.

For some of us, even the durawall surrounding our yards now needs to be renewed because it has lived its full life span. But we still have the left over panels from the time it was erected in some corner in our yards (hanzi “I want to build a fowl run but 5 years later no sign of that fowl run”)🤦‍♂️🤦‍♀️. Same applies to the left over bricks etc.

They’ve got To Go people!

5. Thorough clean the inside of your house REGULARLY

That room that you dread to walk into - including storerooms, pantries, garages, the shelf/ the top of the wardrobe you think twice before touching; those boxes under the table with OLD shoes, books, newspapers, magazines, clothes, lifeless furniture, equipment e.t.c. ...You know the ones we are talking about...

THEY HAVE TO GO for the same reasons given in 4. above

6. Seal any cracks!

Sometime in 2018 we just got curious and asked every home that we went to attend a snake call out why their yards were cemented all round. Of course one of the reasons was to reduce dust but when we asked why not plant lawn then; a lot of them said lawn invites snakes unlike cement. So basically one of the reasons is to reduce chances of snakes living in their property.

The irony though is that if this cement is not well maintained (which is not easy to) it can invite snakes.


So as the cemented pavements get old they start cracking. These cracks become perfect hide outs for snakes. Snakes being coldblooded, as explained above, they need somewhere which provide them with warmth when the weather is cold and shade when the weather is hot. Also, being prey to many animals they also need a place to hide. So seal everything that should not be open.

7. Keep an eye on the trees in your yard, making sure branches are not hanging towards the house.

The situation depicted in the picture on the left is a direct result of branches not being trimmed. The snake is a Boomslang (Mhangara in Shona), which is basically an arboreal snake – meaning it spends most of its time in trees. It is therefore an excellent climber.

We were called out to remove it from someone's house and we saw it sitting comfortably on top of the wardrobe.

Considering that, snakes do NOT recognize the artificial boundaries that we put up as humans (e.g. apa pamusha paMoyo,apa ndepa vaNcube), this snake must have seen prey which escaped into the house and followed it there or it must have been chased by a predator and decided to hide in the house. Either way, the one thing we can confirm is that there were branches hanging around the windows near that wardrobe and this is likely what the snake used to get inside the house and onto the wardrobe.

If you see this snake in your garden, there is nothing to worry about though. It is a very shy snake, so it’s not going to do anything to you, as long as you keep your distance and leave it alone. It is highly venomous though with haemotoxins it is a snake you do not want to mess with (We will talk more about it in future blog posts).

Bottom like is that, to reduce the chances of having this snake in your yard you need to trim the tree branches. Zvamurimi though mugotema miti yese iri muyard menyu, Nope – you don’t need to get rid of any tree, just trimming the hanging branches is enough.

These are our 7tips on how to reduce the chances of venomous snakes living in your house or property. Wish you all the best in your efforts to get rid of snakes. Just remember that snakes are not an enemy but are a part of the ecosystem in which they play a crucial role.

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