The fatal snakebite incident involving Ian Miller in 1955 has been immortalised by the details published in Dragon's Wrath and Barrier of Spears. Some interesting details have now been released about the rescue.

The well-known photo of Ian Miller cautiously probing the grass for snake on that ill-fated trip was recently published in an article appearing in The Witness, titled A Tale of Two Pictures.

Ian Miller inspects the grass for snakesIn response Peter Allan, who was involved in the rescue, submitted an article which provides some little known details of the event. This worthwhile read can be viewed here.

The photo is linked from that article.

It has already been pointed out that Miller's phobia of snakebite may have been an aggravating factor in his death. It remains the only account of snakebite related death in the Drakensberg that I know of. Snakebites remain rare in the Berg (the last incident happened to be in February this year).

Remain calm and get help as soon as possible. The following advice is published on the KZN Wildlife website:

There are three types of dangerous snakes in the area, the Puff Adder, Berg Adder and Rinkhals. The Rinkhals is capable of spitting and in cases of poison in the eyes, rinse with water, milk or urine. If you have a snake bite victim, keep them calm and reduce movement to a minimum, exercise quickens the spread of the venom. Seek medical assistance as soon as possible and do not apply a tourniquet. Wrap the limb firmly, starting at the top in order to slow (but not stop!) the blood circulation in the limb.
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antmanhowes's Avatar
antmanhowes replied to: #75248 12 Aug 2019 20:47
Does not sound like he died of snakebite.
HFc's Avatar
HFc replied to: #61945 03 Oct 2014 17:09
Big LOL to Selous... :laugh:

Anyway, that is why I always (as in always....) wear long trousers and gaitors in the Berg.
ghaznavid's Avatar
ghaznavid replied to: #61937 03 Oct 2014 12:13
7 days in the Berg, about half off escarpment in hot weather - saw 3 snakes. 1 baby Berg Adder, 1 large Berg Adder that had just eaten and moved off very slowly and 1 skaapsteker. Snakes are such beautiful creatures and don't scare me nearly as much today as they did 5 years ago. Maybe that's why I don't see them any more :laugh:
Selous's Avatar
Selous replied to: #61936 03 Oct 2014 12:05
Hi All

It is quite funny how I only bump into snakes in the berg when I am walking with people who have an inherent fear of them.
I don't have a fear of them so never see them only until I hike with an Ophidiophobic Person.

The conversation starts something like this on the drive up to the berg ....

Hiking Friend "Todd how many snakes have you seen in the Mountains"
Todd "Only when I am hiking with people who are afraid or have a phobia of snakes"
Todd "Do you have a fear of snakes??!! "
Hiking Friend " um yes I do"
Todd " Well we will see one today - Guaranteed" :evil:
Silence Prevails :(
Big gulp by Hiking Friend :ohmy:

Conversation on the way home...
Hiking Friend " you were right about seeing a snake" :thumbsdown:

It's the weirdest thing and always amazes and confounds me.
Have fun hiking to all those out this weekend.
Lindsay Reyburn's Avatar
Lindsay Reyburn replied to: #61935 03 Oct 2014 11:30
Many years ago I came across a rinkhals on the top when walking from the Amphitheatre to Mweni. The snake reared up suddenly and I did the most amazing jump with full kit
ghaznavid's Avatar
ghaznavid replied to: #61835 18 Sep 2014 10:33
A photo posted by Cape Snake Conservation on FB. Caption: And a nice big female (110cm, 1.9kg)

I think we can be happy that they don't get this big in the Berg! On the bright side, you'd see one this big long before you got anywhere near it.
andrew r's Avatar
andrew r replied to: #61403 28 Jul 2014 14:26
If not a Cape cobra (Naja nivea), could also be a snouted (Egyptian) cobra (Naja annulifera) which range throughout Limpopo, Southern Moz, Northern KZN & Zululand, and they can look a very similar bronzy-yellow.

edit: from the same source as firephish above, a snouted cobra would also be a long way outside it's documented range:

diverian's Avatar
diverian replied to: #61395 25 Jul 2014 15:02
@ Highlands Fanatic, Sorry I missed your post was away over Easter, but no relation. Found it interesting though quite a coincidence with the name.
firephish's Avatar
firephish replied to: #61394 25 Jul 2014 09:38
pretty interesting that some feel they have encountered a cape cobra in the 'berg and that 7% feel a cape cobra is the snake to most be concerned about.

Below is the latest SACRA distribution map for Cape Cobra, the presence of a cape cobra in the 'berg would certainly be a very interesting record from a scientific point of view as its well out of know distribution range. I would encourage anyone who thinks they have seem one to submit the record to SACRA.

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intrepid wrote: Results from the opinion poll "Which Berg snake troubles you most?":

Puff Adder - 32 (56.1%)
Berg Adder - 13 (22.8%)
Rinkhals - 8 (14%)
Cape Cobra - 4 (7%)

Number of Voters : 57
First Vote : Tuesday, 20 October 2009 05:35
Last Vote : Tuesday, 23 March 2010 19:54

Viking's Avatar
Viking replied to: #60392 17 Apr 2014 07:51
Dragon's Wrath has the name as Ian Muller, not Miller.
HFc's Avatar
HFc replied to: #60391 17 Apr 2014 06:32
@ Diverian, you family of the late Ian Miller? (As in topic heading)
Spykid's Avatar
Spykid replied to: #60323 12 Apr 2014 11:53
Brown water snake. Definitely what I saw.
Serious tribe's Avatar
Serious tribe replied to: #60321 12 Apr 2014 06:36
I got chased by a rinkals coming off Amakehla Amabilli a couple years ago.
Spykid's Avatar
Spykid replied to: #60318 11 Apr 2014 18:52
Ghaz I stepped over and then JUMPED over a small brown snake coming off Mike's Pass. It was laying in the middle of the road and also got a fright and took a strike. But moved away before I could have taken a pic. Not a berg adder or skaapsteker. This snake was blackish , dark brown and I am sure not poisonous.
Captain's Avatar
Captain replied to: #60306 11 Apr 2014 12:57
:blink: I guess you nearly saw your 'backside'!!!

Lol! Could'nt help saying it. Seriously though, I guess you were pretty lucky :)
relevitt's Avatar
relevitt replied to: #60304 11 Apr 2014 10:32
I sat on a young puffadder in my teens. I was perched on a big clump of grass while we were making tea. Thought I heard hissing, looked around, heard it again, mentioned it to the others, general looking around. Eventually we found the puffadder coiled up deep inside the clump of grass, located only by the sound of its hissing.
diverian's Avatar
diverian replied to: #60298 11 Apr 2014 09:35
Nothing to do with me !
Viking's Avatar
Viking replied to: #60296 11 Apr 2014 09:29
Funny that - I was actually reading about the Ian Muller incident a couple of days ago again in Dragon's Wrath.
ghaznavid's Avatar
ghaznavid replied to: #60292 11 Apr 2014 08:57
Quite an old thread - but a really interesting one :thumbsup:

I used to be more worried about Berg snakes than I am now. I am yet to see a puffadder or rinkhals in the Berg, but I have seen many bergadders and a surprisingly high number of skaapsteekers recently - skaapsteekers are an endangered species, aren't they?

Any way, I have come close to standing on bergadders at least 3 times, and might well have stood on a baby one on the way to Corner Pass this year. I only saw the snake when Viking pointed it out a bit later. Last year Kliktrak stood on a bergadder on the contour path near Jarding Pass but it also didn't bite him. Both occasions were cold and wet days, in both cases we though the snake must have been dead so the snake was poked with a trekking pole - on the first occasion we got a hiss, bit of movement on the recent time - it may well have been dead.

A skaapsteeker bashed into the side of my shoe coming down the ridge from Rhino Pass - not sure if it was trying to go for me or if it was running away from others in the group. Basically it fled to my right as I was coming, then took a sharp turn and lifted up as I lifted my shoe and bashed into it. It promptly shot off.

Whether or not the snakes are friendly to you on the day, I think its undeniable that these creatures are really beautiful in their natural habitat. I suspect the danger they pose may be exaggerated at times - after all, there have been a number of snake bites in the Berg over the years, but only 1 death from it. Naturally I do rate it as important to know what they look like so that you can identify them if one was to bite you. You should also know the emergency procedure for handling a snake bite before rescue gets there.
ClimbyKel's Avatar
ClimbyKel replied to: #1022 27 Mar 2010 14:17
What'd it look like? Hmmm....I'm from Canada and this "agressive" comment makes me a bit cautious.
intrepid's Avatar
intrepid replied to: #1021 27 Mar 2010 11:23
Results from the opinion poll "Which Berg snake troubles you most?":

Puff Adder - 32 (56.1%)
Berg Adder - 13 (22.8%)
Rinkhals - 8 (14%)
Cape Cobra - 4 (7%)

Number of Voters : 57
First Vote : Tuesday, 20 October 2009 05:35
Last Vote : Tuesday, 23 March 2010 19:54
intrepid's Avatar
intrepid replied to: #737 30 Oct 2009 22:12
Thanks to everyone for some useful info so far, keep it coming. Always interesting to come across topics that get people talking.

See the current poll at the bottom of all pages on this site. The topic is which Berg snake causes you the most concern or which you are most worried about. The poll is not intended to cause undue sensation around the topic of snakes, its merely intended to stimulate more thought and discussion among hikers on the topic.
Otterjasie's Avatar
Otterjasie replied to: #734 30 Oct 2009 13:24
@ Odie

You forgot about the one on our Giants trip - Unidentified aggressive little b******!
Otterjasie's Avatar
Otterjasie replied to: #733 30 Oct 2009 13:21
I had the privilege to attend a presentation on SA snakes by Johan Marais (a leading SA snake expert) for students in natural science at the North-West University.

His view on antivenom is that the amount of antivenom required by a serious snakebite is several times more than the amount regular "snake bite kits" contain, therefore the amount any normal person will be able to obtain is not sufficient.

Secondly antivenom should only be administered in a well controlled environment like a hospital due to the serious side effects thereof.

On the point of identifying the snake he commented that he knows of several cases where people lost limbs due to an improperly applied tourniquet after being bitten by a harmless snake.

Bottom line being that the best course of action is to stay calm and get to the closest, largest hospital asap. Though I know that this is will not be simple if the bite occurs in the berg (at least we now have helicopters...).
Odie's Avatar
Odie replied to: #730 30 Oct 2009 13:04
Very interesting topic. I live in the Mpumalanga Lowveld and here we have big 5: black mamba, treesnake, puffie, Moz Spitting Cobra and vine snake. They are killed by people on a daily basis, espcially the tree snakes. Since living here I have come to learn a lot more about these guys - other than the puffadder (lazy) you are not likely to see any of these often. And of the 5 mentioned on top only 3 can actually really bite you - tree and vine snakes are designed for bird feeding, you have to apply in writing to be bitten on your fingers.

I have encountered puffadders, bergadders and rinkhals in the berg - once 3 within 500 meters. They just scooted. Other was whilst climbing the route to Organ Pipes via the Camel in heavy mist that a loud hissing warned us looong before we came close - it was too cold for the snake to move away quickly.

Serum is also a controversial topic - all doctors and hospitals nowadays treat snakebites according to the symptoms. So should you be very unlucky and get bitten, stay calm, strap the leg or arm firmly but not tight, relax and let them get you to hospital. A dangerous fact about serum is that snakes look different in the various development phases, so unless you are an expert, we often mistake one snake for another.

I am not an expert, I have just learnt from snake wranglers here and experts that snakes are not a threat - they will run - and that you obviously should not go after them to play with them. And if you get bitten, relax stay calm and get help.

I keep a eye on the track when hiking, and will still be wary, but I am don't fear snakes. Well, the test will probably come if I'm bitten one day, but prevention is my motto!