Wednesday Morning 2 a.m.
by Michael Patrick O'Leary
I was having an unusually good sleep after a few glasses of California Red when i suddenly became aware that my wife was a wake. She had been woken by the activity of the puss Mimi (seventeen –year old Belle of Bellvelly).
I am used to springing into action to isolate rats in the bathroom and dispose of them into a box and out of the window before Mimi bites off their heads.
This time Mimi was more circumspect. Curled up on the bedroom floor- black cement flecked with white- was a black and white baby krait.
Despite my befuddlement I opened the kitchen door, fetched a metal bin and brought a bread knife with which my wife flicked the serpent into the bin and I tossed it out of the back door.
According to Wikipedia: The common krait (Bungarus caeruleus) is a species of venomous snake of the genus Bungarus a member of the “big four”, species inflicting the most snakebites on humans in the Indian subcontinent.
It is known to take up residence in termite mounds, brick piles, rat holes, even inside houses. It is frequently found in water or in proximity to a water source. The common krait feeds primarily on other snakes, including: “blind worms” (snakes of the genus Typhlops); and cannibalizes on other kraits, including the young. It also feeds on small mammals (such as rats, and mice), lizards and frogs.
During the day, it is sluggish and generally docile. It often hides in rodent holes, loose soil, or beneath debris, so is rarely seen. It often rolls its body into a loose, coiled ball, keeping its head well concealed. When in this ‘balled’ condition, the snake allows considerable handling, but over handling often instigates bites. However, at night, the snake is very active and escapes by hissing loudly, or keeping still, occasionally biting the source of the annoyance. It is reluctant to bite, but when it does, it typically holds on for a while, which enables it to inject considerable amounts of venom. It may become aggressive at night if threatened.
The common krait’s venom consists mostly of powerful neurotoxins, which induce muscle paralysis. Clinically, its venom contains presynaptic and postsynaptic neurotoxins, which generally affect the nerve endings near the synaptic cleft of the brain.
Kraits are nocturnal, so seldom encounter humans during daylight hours; incidents occur mainly at night. Frequently, little or no pain occurs from a krait bite, and this can provide false reassurance to the victim. Typically, victims complain of severe abdominal cramps, accompanied by progressive paralysis. Once bitten, the absorption of the venom into the victim can be considerably delayed by applying a pressure bandage to the bite site (using about the same tension as one uses for a sprained ankle) and immobilising the area. This allows for gentle transport to medical facilities, where the venom can be treated when the bandage is removed. As no local symptoms present, a patient should be carefully observed for signs of paralysis (e.g., the onset of ptosis) and treated urgently with antivenom. It is also possible to support bite victims by mechanical ventilation, using equipment of the type generally available at hospitals. Such support should be provided until the venom is metabolised and the victim can breathe unaided. If death occurs, it takes place about four to eight hours after the krait bite. Cause of death is general respiratory failure, i.e. suffocation.
Often during the rainy season, the snakes come out of their hiding places and find refuge inside dry houses. If bitten by a krait while sleeping, a victim may not realize he has been bitten, as the bite feels like of an ant or mosquito. The victim may die without waking up. Krait bites are significant for eliciting minimal amounts of local inflammation/swelling. This may help in species identification if the snake has not been seen.
The few symptoms of the bite include: tightening of the facial muscles in one to two hours of the bite; inability of the bite victim to see or talk, and, if left untreated, the patient may die from respiratory paralysis within four to five hours. A clinical toxicology study gives an untreated mortality rate of 70-80%.
We wondered how the snake got into the bedroom. Did it fall from the roof? Did it come up a plughole?
My wife’s theory is that it came in a beer crate but this could be homonym confusion.