Snakes alive! A South African family found an unexpected guest wrapped around their Christmas tree: a boomslang snake, which is one of the most venomous serpents in Africa.
“I didn’t know what it was at the time, but then I Googled what snakes are in our area, and it came up immediately as a boomslang,” rattled father Rob Wild told CNN. “I thought, ‘holy Moses, this is the king of all poisonous snakes.’”
Wild, 55, a British stock trader, said that he and his wife Marcela had noticed their cats staring into the tree. The couple assumed there was a mouse hiding in the branches somewhere.
It wasn’t a mouse they found peering out from the boughs, however, but a boomslang.
Boomslangs are known to conceal themselves in bushes or trees, where they hunt chameleons and birds, according to Britannica. They’re native to Sub-Saharan Africa. And while the snakes are often described as fairly shy and non-aggressive — and bites are not common, since they are “rear-fanged,” meaning they have to open their mouths extremely wide to inject venom into prey — their bites are still extremely dangerous to humans. That’s because their potent venom is a hemotoxin that destroys red blood cells and disrupts blood clotting, which can lead to internal bleeding. So boomslang venom can be fatal to humans, even in small amounts.
The family kept their two children away from the tree and called in a professional snake catcher, who was able to safely whisk away the holiday party crasher. The snake was female, and between 4.3 and 4.9 feet long. The snake whisperer, Gerrie Heyns, theorized to CNN that the boomslang probably slithered into the house in search of food, water or shelter, and then was probably scared into the Christmas tree when it heard or saw one of the pets or family members.
The wild anecdote began climbing Google search trends on Tuesday. But it’s actually not that unusual to find a critter tucked between the lights and ornaments on a holiday tree. Last year, a tiny owl was found cowering in the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree as workers erected the holiday icon in New York City. The little bird — named Rockefeller, of course — was cleaned and nourished at the Ravensbeard Wildlife Center in upstate New York, and later released. He even inspired a children’s book.
But we’ll take a tiny owl over a poisonous snake any day. Merry hissmas.