Context . Reptiles, especially snakes, can cause a fear reaction in the public and are, therefore, a good model to examine human–wildlife conflicts. Human city dwellers often respond to the presence of snakes or other reptiles by calling out the responsible agency for animal control, which has to mediate the situation.
Aims . To determine how the temporal and spatial occurrence of human–reptile conflicts were associated with environmental conditions and socio-economic factors in a large Brazilian city (Belo Horizonte).
Methods . The callout reports of the Environmental Police of Belo Horizonte, Brazil, over a 7-year period from 2002 to 2008 to mediate reptile conflicts were analysed. Densities of callouts were determined by kernel-density estimator and matched with the vegetation cover and land use, to determine how the environment affected reptile callout distribution. The study area was divided into nine regions with different socio-economic and demographic characteristics to evaluate the possible effects of human factors in the conflict.
Key results . Reptile callouts were almost exclusively about snakes or freshwater turtles, despite a large population of wild lizards. In general, the difference in callout distribution of snakes and freshwater turtles was the result of different attitudes from city dwellers on the basis of socio-economic characteristics. Snakes were less frequent as urbanisation increased, whereas freshwater turtles were associated with water or open areas. Significantly, more conflicts occurred during the rainy season. People in areas of high per capita income used the Environmental Police as mediators more often than did those in poorer areas, but callouts were not related to human population density.
Conclusions . Habitat type and climate were significantly predictive of human–reptile conflicts. Human populations with higher salaries and education levels tended to resolve their conflicts with reptiles using official mediators whether the reptile was venomous or not.
Implications . The environmental and climatic data show that it is possible to predict when and where human–reptile conflicts are most likely. Thus, official mediators can use this information for targeted education programs. Such education programs should emphasise, at all levels of society, how to deal with such conflicts sensibly, so as to ensure the best outcomes for people and reptiles.