Friday, 8 July 2022

Croatian Snakes - How to Avoid Contact and What to Do If You're Bitten

July the 8th, 2022 - Croatian snakes, much like any other snake, prefer to stay as far away from human activity as possible and truly want absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with you. Croatian snakes are not outwardly aggressive, they do not seek confrontation, and contrary to popular (and unfortunate) belief, they do not bite out of ill will.

If cornered, surprised or in fear, they can and will take a swipe at you. If you see a snake, especially a horned viper, make sure to give it a wide berth and show it some respect. You'll likely get the same back and you'll both merrily go on your way. Here's what to do if do find yourself hiking out in the Dalmatian mountains and happen to sit or step on a snake.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the weather is hot, summer is here, and people are (when not begging for mercy under their air conditioners), spending and more time out exploring nature, hiking, and going to the beach. Some things need to be kept firmly in mind during this time of year, writes N1, and one of them is that Croatian snakes are also out looking for their places under the sun, and they have every right to do so. The Croatian Institute of Public Health has announced what to do in case you do get too close to a snake and how to protect yourself.

Snake bites

There are 14 species of snake living in and around Croatia, of which only three are venomous, the horned viper (Croatian: poskok), the Common European viper/adder (Croatian: ridjovka), and the Meadow viper (Croatian: planinski zutokrug). Although the distinctive horned viper is slightly more venomous than the Common European viper and the Meadow viper, all three of these snakes are less venomous and as such less dangerous than, for example, African or Asian venomous snakes, and their bite is very rarely fatal.

The horned viper (poskok) is ash-gray in colour and grows up to around one metre in length. The head is heart-shaped, with a characteristic ''horn'' on the tip of its nose, from which it draws its rather ominous-sounding name. Along the spine of this snake there is a dark winding line that goes from the head all the way down to the tip of the tail and is characteristic of every viper. There are dark spots running along the side of this line. The horned viper lives mainly in the southern, more rugged Croatian regions.

The Common European viper (ridjovka) is found throughout Europe. It is about 60 to 80 cm long and also has a zigzag line running along its body. There are two species: Vipera berus bosniensis and Vipera pseudoaspis.

If you are bitten by a snake, the most important thing is to determine whether it is venomous or not. Unlike non-venonous snakes, venomous snakes have a triangular head and narrow elliptical eyes. Croatian snakes who are venomous also differ from non-venomous ones in the shape of their bodies, which are short and stocky, in contrast to non-venomous snakes whose bodies are thin and elongated. It should be noted, however, that distinguishing venomous snakes in this way is valid only in Europe and for native European species.

Species from the Viperidae family from North and South America and Asia, such as rattlesnakes, also have a depression between their eyes and nostrils that are used to detect heat. However, European species from the Viperidae family do not have such indentations, so this cannot serve as any sort of criteria for distinguishing venomous and non-venomous snakes in our climate.

When it comes to self-help procedures, it is stated that a bitten individual should absolutely not try to find and seek revenge on the snake. Snakes do not bite out of malice and should not be harmed. Seeking out an irritated or frightened snake again may lead to an additional attack. If the snake is found and killed, which, once again, should absolutely not be done, then it is preferable to bring the body to the hospital with you for accurate identification.

At the bite site, two puncture wounds from the snake's teeth are usually visible, and they're around 6-8 mm apart, although it is possible that there is only one wound or even just a small scratch. The finding of a wound doesn't mean that the venom was injected into the body. According to data, as many as 22% of proven bites have no signs of venom within them.

Symptoms of a snake bite

Pain and swelling appear at the bite site typically occur within two hours. In severe cases and where a lot of venom has entered the body through the wound, the pain appears quickly and is unusually sharp; the swelling also spreads quickly and may be accompanied by severe subcutaneous bleeding. Along with redness, blisters with bloody content may appear on the skin.

Immediately after the bite, almost half of those bitten experience general symptoms such as dizziness, nausea and vomiting, an overall feeling of weakness and swelling of the regional lymph nodes (this can also occur in and around the groin in the case of a bite in the leg, or in the armpit in the case of a bite in the hand). Pale and cold skin, profuse sweating, a rapid heart rate and drop in blood pressure are signs of shock, which generally develops gradually and is the main cause of death.

Snake bite procedures

If the snake you've been bitten by is not venomous, the wound should be washed very well with water, smeared with antibiotic ointment and wrapped with a clean bandage. It should be checked when the person who was bitten was last vaccinated against tetanus, and if more than five years have passed, a booster vaccination is required.

If you've been bitten by one of the venomous Croatian snakes, the person must remain absolutely still, the slightest of movements should be avoided, and the arm or leg with the bite wound should be immobilised as quickly as possible. Do not try to suck out the venom from the bite site. Any compression of the wound must be performed by specially trained healthcare professionals in extraordinary cases.

It is necessary to take the bitten person to the hospital immediately. In principle, every case of a person being bitten by a snake sees them hospitalised, without thinking too much about whether the snake is venomous or not.

Antidote for snake bites (antiviperinum) comes from horse serum, and contains antibodies that the horse produced after being injected with snake venom. Antiviperinum is given only in hospital conditions intravenously, and only when strictly indicated, since the antiserum itself can cause serious and even life-threatening reactions.

Snake bite prevention

Some snake bites, such as when a person accidentally steps or sits on an unsuspecting and understandably rather disgruntled snake, are almost impossible to prevent. However, there are precautions that can significantly reduce the chance of being bitten by Croatian snakes this summer:

- Leave any snake you might come across minding its own business completely alone. Many people get bitten when trying to kill a snake or get as close to it as possible. This is cruel and absolutely not necessary. You are invading the snake's territory and it, like all animals, should be respected. If you want to take a photo or a video of the snake, do so from further away and use your zoom feature! Snakes usually try to avoid you entirely, and only very rarely do they decide to attack. If a snake bites you, you can almost guarantee that you are the one who has caused it.

- Avoid tall grass and plants if you don't have suitable footwear on (thick leather boots) as Croatian snakes enjoy lying around and hunting their prey there, and use existing paths as much as possible.

- Do not put your hands or feet in places that cannot be seen or inspected properly for any potential threat (for example, don't put your hand in a bush or behind a rock or stone). Do not pick up rocks or pieces of wood unless you are far enough away from a potential snake attack. All of these locations are enjoyed by Croatian snakes, including the horned viper and the Common European viper.

- Be especially careful and prepared if you're into rock and mountain climbing. Croatian snakes are, like all others, cold blooded, and enjoy lying on heated rocks to provide them with energy. They aren't fans of being disturbed by climbers and hikers.

- Dogs and cats (and other animals) are just as susceptible to being fatally harmed by a bite from a venomous snake. If your pet is bitten, take them to an emergency vet immediately for treatment. Do not allow your pet to approach a snake under any circumstance. Curiosity killed the cat, and in this case it will kill the dog too.

- Croatian snakes have no interest in you whatsoever, show them the same grace and don't tempt fate.

How many fatal bites have there been in Croatia so far?

"In the last twenty years or so, only three cases of a snakebite being fatal have been recorded in Croatia, in 2006, 2007 and 2013, they occur sporadically with an average number of cases of 0.2 per year for the analysed period, and the counties in which the cases occurred in Zadar, Split-Dalmatia and Lika-Senj counties", they stated from the Croatian Institute of Public Health.

Most of the victims who died from bites from Croatian snakes were adults. The absolute number of recorded deaths from this cause is small, so it can only be concluded that cases of deaths caused by Croatian snakes are extremely rare. Men are more often victims of snake bites than women. The most recorded bites were from the Common European viper (ridjovka), which is the most widespread venomous snake in Europe.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated lifestyle section.

Friday, 11 February 2022

The Kuna, Croatia's Future Euro Coin Design Explained

February 11, 2022 – Considerable controversy has arisen in Croatia this week after artist Stjepan Pranjković was accused of plagiarising a winning proposal for the country's future Euro coin design of the Kuna. 

The graphic designer became the object of public scrutiny when members of the public began pointing out similarities between his composition and a photo of a marten taken by British photographer Iain H Leach. Pranjković has since withdrawn the proposal, leaving officials with the task of selecting a new motif before the coins enter circulation in January of next year.

Squabbling aside, I want to seize this opportunity to draw your attention to the real star of this somewhat dramatic narrative, our fuzzy friend, the kuna.

Many people are familiar with this mischievous forest creature and maybe understand why he lends his name to the national currency. However, if you're like me, you may recognize that gaps remain in your kuna-knowledge. If so, keep reading.

In biologists' speak, kuna (martens) constitute the genus Martes within the family Mustelidae, a group that includes more familiar carnivores like weasels, otters, badgers, and wolverines. There are many species of marten, ranging throughout Europe, Asia, and North America. The star of the current coin debacle is most likely a European pine marten (Martes martes), a common species across Europe, including in Croatia and in Leach's native Great Britain.

The photo in question shows the kuna climbing on a branch. It comes as no surprise then that pine martens are arboreal, spending much of their time maneuvering amongst treetops. These agile predators use their semi-retractable claws to climb between branches, including those of the pines from which they take their name. These claws also come in handy when hunting and foraging their favourite foods: small mammals, birds, insects, fruits, and carrion… delicious! While not most appetizing to the average palate, scientists attribute the appetites of pine martens to a population reduction of the invasive grey squirrel in certain regions across Europe. While many view this fuzzy creature as a pest, this example demonstrates the valuable role pine martens play in their native habitat. Fortunately, despite pressure from deforestation and illegal hunting, the European pine marten is still classified as least concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

So, how did this tree climbing, squirrel eating, weasel cousin end up at the centre of a national debate on currency design? Well, like most things in Croatia, the kuna goes back several centuries and has a complicated but interesting backstory. To understand, we must go back to medieval Croatia, a time when marten pelts were traded as money. Flash to the 13th century, the Croatian Viceroys distributed marten-adorned silver coins called banovac. However, the currency did not last long. As Croatia lost its autonomy to its union with larger and more powerful Hungary, the banovac disappeared in the following century. But this would not be the last time the world would hear the word kuna.

As I'm sure you are all aware, Croatian's are a stubborn and traditionalistic people. (I say this out of love and from personal experience). Thus, it was only natural that upon independence, Croatian leaders designated the kuna as the state currency on May 30, 1994. Ever since, the kuna has served both practically and symbolically as an embodiment of Croatian custom, identity, and national pride.

As is so often the case, it appears that history is set to repeat itself. With the adoption of the Euro imminent, the renaissance of the kuna is coming to an end. I don't want to criticize the government as it moves to bring the country towards a more integrated future. Croatia has much to gain from establishing the Euro within its borders. Nevertheless, by dawning this historical perspective, one can glean additional insight into why so many are hesitant about the process.

For this reason, it truly is a shame that the coin depicting the kuna, a consecrated emblem of Croatian independence, has become ensnared in public dissension. Of course, the choice to withdraw the submission and protect intellectual property was correct. But, personally, I hope that officials can find a way to reincorporate the kuna into the Croatian Euro roster. That way, Croatians can continue to trade furs for beer and wine while sharing this tradition with the rest of the European community.

For more news about Croatia, click here.


Wednesday, 3 July 2019

VIDEO: Tourist Films One of Largest European Snakes in Croatian Waters

First sharks, now snakes! After a Mako shark entertained us with his (or her) journey up and down the Dalmatian coast recently, followed by a blue shark relaxing near the shoreline in Primošten, seeing numerous people capture impressive footage, now snakes fancy their turn in the limelight. 

As Morski writes on the 2nd of July, 2019, a Hungarian tourist managed to capture footage of one of the largest European snakes swimming along near Kaprije, the recording was captured more specifically between the islands of Kakan and Borovnjak Veli, in the Šibenik region.

Upon receiving the unusual piece of footage of the snake, which can also be seen attempting to leave the water to board a boat, Morski consulted expert Andrej Simčić, who has been studying reptiles which live in Croatia for a long time, about the snake in the video.

''He's a Four-lined snake (Elaphe quatuorlineata), the longest European snake. They grow to about two and a half metres in length, maybe even a little over that, and they aren't venomous. They bite only very rarely, and they're more likely to hiss to warn those who approach, and look for every possible opportunity to escape. It's highly unlikely that this type of snake will bite, even if you hold one in your hand. In the spring, they eat young and old birds, they climb up trees, but the majority of their diet is made up of rodents - this snake is actually very useful. All snakes can swim, so this video isn't a rare one. It's possible that he was in a tree just above the sea and fell down, and he wanted to climb up onto the boat, which is natural because he wanted to be on dry land,'' explained Simčić.

Watch the video of the snake here:


He also added that there are three types of venomous snakes which live on the territory of Croatia, the most famous of them all being the Poskok (Horned Viper). While all of them pose a threat, none of them can kill a human who is healthy and with a normally functioning immune system. He stated that more serious consequences can occur however, if a child, older person or someone with a poor immune system is bitten.

In any case, it's worth remembering that snakes typically do not seek human contact, and will only bite if they feel threatened, preferring to escape or give you enough warning to do the same.

Follow our dedicated lifestyle page for much more.

Thursday, 30 August 2018

Wild Beasts in Play in North Velebit National Park

The national park staff has published previously unreleased shots.

Friday, 13 July 2018

Mali Iž Averts The Summer's First Wildfire

July 13, 2018 — A small island off the coast of Zadar called Iž needed some gumption and plenty of luck as locals formed a bucket brigade to extinguish an unexpected wildfire.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Different Kind of Migrant: Croatian Eagle Travels World

Since he departed from Telašćica Nature Park in July, Paško the eagle has travelled a distance of over 6.000 kilometres

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Deer Released into Croatian Forests as Part of EU Project

ZAGREB, February 15, 2018 - Twenty-one deer have been released into the forests managed by the Vrbanja forest management company in eastern Croatia to replenish the local deer population after a disastrous flood hit the area in the spring of 2014.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Croatian Post and World Wildlife Fund Issue Special Postage Stamps

The four stamps will feature griffon vulture, one of the most endangered species in Croatia.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Croatian Society for Protection of Birds Part of 50 Years of International Waterbird Census

An important contribution to infomation about bird migration patterns, and you can play your part.