Venomous snake found hiding in family’s Christmas tree – WISH-TV | Indianapolis News | Indiana Weather forecast

(CNN) — There’s usually a sense of excitement about what’s under the Christmas tree, but for one festive family, the biggest surprise was hiding in the branches above.

Rob and Marcela Wild wasted no time calling a professional after discovering one of Africa’s most venomous species. snakes hiding among garlands and trinkets at their home in South Africa on Friday.

After decorating the tree hours earlier, they spotted their cats staring at its branches.

Rob Wild, a British stock trader who moved with his Costa Rican wife to South Africa 18 years ago, told CNN on Tuesday: “The cats were looking up the tree and my wife said ‘there’s probably a smile somewhere in there'”.

However, they soon discovered a rather different animal staring back – a boomslang.

“I didn’t know what it was at the time, but I googled what snakes were in our area and it immediately came up as a boomslang. I thought ‘Holy Moses, this is the king of all poisonous snakes,” the 55-year-old said.

The boomslang is known as a shy species, but it is one of the most venomous in Africa. The animal’s venom causes hemorrhaging and can be fatal to humans in small amounts.

Snake catcher Gerrie Heyns confirmed the animal’s identity when he arrived at the family estate in Robertson, Western Cape, shortly afterwards. The snake was female and measured between 1.3 meters (4.3 feet) and 1.5 meters (4.9 feet) long, Heyns told CNN on Tuesday.

He said he asked the family to stay away from the tree, but to “keep your eyes on the snake” until he arrived.

“The snake stayed in the tree for two hours until I got there,” Heyns said. He used “snake tongs” to place it on the ground, where it was “easier to handle”, he added.

“Once I got it under control, the family came to see the snake. He didn’t try to bite or get defensive because I gave him no reason to. A scary time turned into an exciting time for the kids,” Heyns said.

He then held it behind his neck and placed it in a “snake tube”. As it was getting dark, Heyns brought the reptile home where he temporarily housed it in a snake pen before releasing it back into the wild on Sunday.

Heyns said the snake likely entered the property in search of food, water and shelter.

“Probably when he saw the first movement he tried to escape to the nearest hiding place which was the tree,” he said.

Heyns, who has removed hundreds of snakes from South African homes, said bites from a boomslang are rare.

Heyns said that in his eight years as a professional catcher, he had only been bitten once – and that was because he hadn’t realized the animal had been put down and he was acting defensively.

“They (the snakes) are very reluctant to bite but they’ve just been so demonized,” he added.

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