Thursday, July 8, 2010

So, I just got off the phone from the snake catcher

My favourite description of Australia comes from the late Douglas Adams:
Australia is like Jack Nicholson. It comes right up to you and laughs very hard in your face in a highly threatening and engaging manner. In fact it's not so much a country as such, more a sort of thin crust of semi-demented civilisation caked around the edge of a vast, raw wilderness, full of heat and dust and hopping things.
Until last weekend my encounters with Australian wildlife had been more Eric Bana (cute, humorous and admired from a distance) than Jack Nicholson. Take this echnidna I met bumbling about his business a couple of weeks ago.

I grew up in New Zealand, where meeting a busload of tourists on a Lord of the Rings tour classifies as a scary wildlife encounter. For most of the twelve years I have been in Australia I've been safely tucked away in the city and never encountered anything remotely dangerous. I have always been particularly bemused by how terrified many Australians are of snakes.  One of my neighbours will not go out and walk in his fields in Summer. I guess growing up  with news reports of innocent old ladies dying from backyard snake bites will do that to you.

My innocent belief that I didn't really mind snakes was undermined on the weekend by the velocity of my screams when I lifted a brick in my shed and found this hibernating fellow.

Piet, part of my new garden support team,  leapt into action  grabbing a large metal pole and waving it around authoritatively, while I even more authoritatively sprinted outside still screaming. The snake happily slumbered on. This is when I found out that killing and snakes only goes one way in Australia. They are protected and you can be fined $5000 for dispatching one from this mortal coil. As I hate killing things I was actually quite happy to hear this.

Because I have a healthy appreciation for the law and because I am part English we adjourned inside for a cup of tea and a fruitless search for a snake catcher.  When I checked later, the snake was gone.

Today I managed to get hold of snake catcher Dave who had a soothing manner and infectious love of snakes (he takes payment by small donation in case you were considering this a possible lucrative career option).

Snake catcher Dave: I'm pretty sure that he would have been a Copperhead. They are a very quiet snake and don't attack.
Me: Oh, good.
Snake catcher Dave: "If he was pretty small he could have been part of this year's litter from February or March.
Me: Oh, OK.
Snake catcher Dave: A snake will usually have about 10 to 15 babies.

Pregnant pause while I imagine 15 baby snakes rampaging around my property.

Snake catcher Dave: He will probably have about four shelter sites that he likes to visit. Your shed will  probably be one of them.
Me: Fine, I guess.
Snake catcher Dave: He'll be attracted to anywhere that he can find skinks, frogs and mice so it's important to keep grass down around the house and mice under control.
Me: Can I expect that there are always snakes around?
Snake catcher Dave: They range over a very large area but you can expect that they will always come through. I live a few hours away but can come out in an emergency. Give me a call if you find one in the house. Occasionally they will squeeze in UNDER A DOOR [emphasis mine] to find mice.

Twin-sized pregnant pause while I consider the new information that snakes can SQUEEZE UNDER  CLOSED DOORS and make urgent mental note to purchase steel draught stoppers and locate snake catcher who lives in the vicinity.

After cheery goodbyes from Dave, I speak to snake catcher Nick. Nick said he didn't get out enough and offered to come  and visit to take a look for the snake and to let me know what I could  do to reduce my risk.  He thoughtfully checked whether I might actually want snakes on the property then regaled me with a story about a wealthy client with a large spa and a $1000 annual rat (chewing through electrics) problem. Nick had innovatively solved the problem by releasing two tiger snakes  that now lived under the spa.  Five years later the snakes had saved $5,000. Everyone was happy, including the snakes.

It sounds like a visit from Nick will be highly entertaining.  I'll keep you posted.

1 comment:

Peta said...

The only kind of snakes I like are the ones that come in a bag called Allans. It would want to be some giant rat problem for snakes to be the solution!