The Black Mamba

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The Black Mamba

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Black Mamba shot in Namibia

The Black Mamba is fast, nervous, unpredictable, lethally venomous and when threatened, highly aggressive. It lives in Africa from Eritrea in the north east through to South Africa and as far west as Namibia, this includes Swaziland, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Angola, Malawi, and the Congo.

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Named after the ink black color of the inside of his mouth, the Black Mamba's actual skin color can vary from a yellowish green to a gun metal grey. The snake's scientific name is Dendroaspis polylepis, Dendroaspis "tree snake" and Polylepis "many scaled", this dark eyed snake is called "Swart Mamba" in Afrikaans.

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They are Africa's longest venomous snake, reaching up to 14 feet (4.5 meters) in length, although 8.2 feet (2.5 meters) is more the average. The weigh up to 3.5 lbs (1.6 kg).

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The Black Mamba prefers traveling on the ground, they are secretive and will normally retreat from danger. It maintains a home range, but is not considered highly territorial. However, this snake will become highly aggressive if it feels threatened, especially if the threat is standing between the snake and its lair. When in its aggressive mode, the Mamba will rear its head as high as possible, even sometimes being able to look directly into the eyes of an averaged sized man depending on the snake's size. I surely can testify to this as I have personally experienced a showdown with a Mamba after spooking it out from under a potted plant three feet from my front door. I ran back into the house to grab the shotgun, upon returning it was slithering away, I gave it a quick sweeping shot to slow him down before it could reach cover, only to see him rear itself up about 15 yards away to face me at eye level with a tremendously aggressive posture. A moment hard to forget that ended with a shot to the head.

They are also among the fastest snakes in the world and are faster than most people can run, slithering at speeds of up to 12.5 miles per hour (20 kilometers per hour), they use their incredible speed to escape threat, not to hunt prey. I have witnessed the speed of this snake on many occasions and it's truly exceptional to watch especially on close encounters.

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On one occasion while driving through a grassy plain, I saw about 30 yards from my car, a Black Mamba going easily 10 mph (15 km/h) with two thirds of its body reared up like a cobra more than a meter high. This lightning fast snake traveled reared up at that speed the same direction I was going for at least 75 yards (75 meters), only to disappear by a lonely bush tree in the middle of the plain, most certainly where its lair was.

It has never happen to me but we have had a couple of instances where Mambas ended up in the back of the truck. This type of eventful circumstance usually happens when driving faster than a normal bush driving speed on roads with grass between the tracks and hitting the snake that did not have time to move out of the way. The Mamba in a last attempt to face his fears will rear itself up so high above the hood of the car that with the speed of the truck it will be thrown onto the hood, windshield and end up in the back of the truck. At a moment like this jumping off the moving truck is the least of anyone's concerns...

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Snakes will often lay out on the road to soak up the warmth of the sunrise.

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The Black Mamba is most active in the spring when they are busy hunting after the cold winter and also because it is their mating season. When hunting for food it delivers a single bite and backs off from the small animal waiting for the neurotoxic venom to paralyze the prey. If fighting off a threat, it will deliver multiple deadly strikes. Hunting is done from a permanent lair to which it will return regularly and where it will nest and lay its eggs if it is a female.

The venom of the Black Mamba is mainly neurotoxin, its' bites deliver about 100 to 120 mg of venom on average, however it can deliver up to 400 mg; 10 to 15 mg is deadly to a human. One snake can produce enough venom to kill 15 to 25 people. The venom is potent and due to its' aggressive nature and its' speed, it is widely regarded as one of the most dangerous snakes in Africa. However, bites from Black Mambas to humans are rare, as the snakes would rather avoid confrontation with humans. Black Mamba bites can potentially kill a human within 20 minutes depending on the health, size, age, and psychological state of the person; but death usually occurs after 30 to 60 minutes, sometimes taking up to three hours.

If bitten, common symptoms to watch for are rapid onset of dizziness, coughing or difficulty breathing, and erratic heart beat. In extreme cases, when the victim has received a large amount of venom, death can result within an hour from respiratory or cardiac arrest. Also, the Black Mamba's venom has been known to cause paralysis.

Death is due to suffocation resulting from paralysis of the muscles used for breathing. Other factors include penetration of one or both fangs, amount of venom injected, location of the bite and proximity to major blood vessels. The health of the snake and the interval since it last used its venom mechanism is also important.

Mortality rate is nearly 100% unless the snake bite victim is promptly treated with anti venom or is put on a respirator or ventilator. There is a polyvalent anti venom produced by the South African Institute of Medical Research (SAMIR) to treat all Black Mamba bites from different localities, it must be administered quickly.

It is crucial when bitten for the victim to remain extremely calm and for a first aid treatment to be done right away. Applying pressure with pressure bandaging and immobilizing limb with a splint to reduce spread of venom is crucial to increase the chances of survival. Loosen but do not remove pressure bandaging if there is severe swelling. If at all possible, the victim should be immobilized by laying down and be kept as quiet as can be. Victim should be taken immediately to the nearest clinic or hospital.

There are some general rules that we need to follow if a bite has occurred as preparations are made to evacuate the victim to formal medical care. Field treatment of snake bites is often dangerously misunderstood. Myths about snake bite treatment abound and some of these treatments actually make things a whole lot worse. For more information about snake bites and field treatment click here read an article called Snake Bite.

Here below are pictures of a Black Mamba getting a head shot!

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CAustin

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leslie hetrick

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i ran into one in boswana, it went up a small tree and i went the other way. i didn,t have time to shoot it.
 

IvW

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Most dangerous and aggressive and venomous snake found in our parts...never try to drive over it with a Land Cruiser....I will never forget staring one down 2 feet away from my face while I was on survival course during my military training...I had just started crawling out of my basher...I froze while the black mamba was raised up staring me down with mouth open exposing the pitch black inside for what seemed to be forever....me frozen in time...unable or willing to reach back for the AK47 behind me in my basher with only 3 rounds of FMJ in the mag....thankfully me remaining motionless which required ALL of my will power resulted in the Mamba going to ground and slithering away...

Needless to say, and with all respect, we moved our camp location as they are very territorial....respect....
 

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