South Africa’s most venomous snake slithers out of Christmas tree

Family’s cats first noticed something in the tree; family thought it was a mouse

You think having to keep your cat out of the Christmas tree is bad? The Wild family in Robertson, South Africa, found a snake in theirs.

The family of four had just finished decorating their tree and were about to turn the lights on “when my wife, Marcela, pointed to our two cats and said she thought there might be a mouse in the tree as they were staring at it,” Rob Wild told U.K. news outlet the Mirror.

There was a creature stirring, all right, but it wasn’t a mouse.

The creature pretending to be garland was a boomslang, the country’s most venomous snake.

“(The cats) often bring ‘gifts’ in from the farm we live on so Marcela went to have a look and moved a bauble and saw a snake’s head staring straight back at her,” Rob Wild said. “She gave shriek and shouted ‘snake’ and we all got back.”

A quick Google search revealed the snake was a boomslang, so the family called a professional to take care of it. He told them to keep it in the tree, so the Wilds would rattle presents whenever the boomslang would peek out.

“It was a very long two hours until he got here and it was like the cavalry turning up but once he hooked it out with his tongs we could breathe again,” Rob Wild told the Mirror. “I was wishing for a lot of things to be under the tree for Christmas Day, but one thing I wasn’t wishing for was a 4-foot-long poisonous snake.”

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Boomslangs can open their mouths 170 degrees, and their venom can cause a painful death by internal and external bleeding.

“The venom basically stops your blood coagulating, so you need the anti-venom to survive or blood literally comes out of every orifice that your body has,” snake catcher Gerrie Heyns said.

“Drop by drop they are the most venomous snake in South Africa but they don’t kill as many as the cobra or mamba as their poison is very slow acting,” he added. “You have about eight to 20 hours to get to hospital and get the antidote.”

Heyns stressed that boomslangs are extremely peaceful snakes, nonaggressive and happy to be left alone. They won’t attack unless they feel extremely threatened, he added.

“I suspect this one slithered inside the home to get shade,” he said.