Salem district sees alarming surge in snake sightings, rescue services stretched

Officials attribute this alarming trend to improper garbage disposal and population growth in rural areas.
A snake used for representational purposes only
A snake used for representational purposes only(Photo | Pexels)

SALEM: Salem District is grappling with a significant increase in snake sightings, compelling the Fire and Rescue Department to seek additional support. A comparative analysis of data over the past five years shows a surge in snake encounters since 2020. The number of reported sightings has escalated from 382 in 2020 to 815 in 2021, 1,091 in 2022, and a staggering 2,262 in 2023, and has already crossed 800 this year.

Officials attribute this alarming trend to improper garbage disposal and population growth in rural areas. The proliferation of waste attracts rodents and frogs, which in turn draws snakes into human habitations.
A senior officer in the fire  & rescue services department told TNIE, “We need to search for snakes, and in order to rescue them, we often have to ignite smoke or use water to flush them out from their hiding spots among rocks.”

Despite the government providing safety gear like gumboots and suits, they feel some tools provided are not serving their potential. An official mentioned, “The aluminium rod we use tends to break when catching large cobras, risking our lives. Once a 13-foot cobra in Panamarathupatti had taken refuge in a well. To safely capture and relocate the snake to the forest department, the team employed a chair knot to lower an officer into the well. This successful but dangerous mission highlighted the need for more robust equipment and better training.”

District Rescue Officer Mahalingam emphasized the multi-faceted reasons behind the increased snake sightings. “The main factors are the rise in population in rural areas, changes in the atmospheric cycle, and the dumping of garbage. Snakes are drawn to these areas by their prey, such as rats and frogs.”

To address the issue, the Fire and Rescue Department has intensified its efforts to educate and train its personnel. “We follow a strict timetable for teaching and advancing rescue techniques,” Mahalingam added. This continuous training aims to enhance the team’s ability to handle the escalating number of snake rescues more efficiently and safely.
The spike in snake sightings and the subsequent demand for more

Frequent rescues have put a strain on the department’s resources. The officials are calling for community cooperation in maintaining cleaner surroundings and proper waste management to mitigate the factors attracting snakes to human habitats. Public awareness campaigns are also being considered to educate residents on safe practices and how to respond if they encounter a snake.

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The New Indian Express