MELBOURNE’S SNAKE CATCHER, RAYMOND HOSER GIVES ADVICE ON SNAKES AND SAFETY
As cold as it is now, in about 8 weeks spring will have sprung and the snakes will be out and about.
While you can find snakes in all parts of the Dandenong Ranges and all are venomous, there is no need to live in fear or panic.
Firstly, there are nowhere near as many snakes in the Dandenongs as in other parts of Australia. Many people have lived here for years and have never seen a snake. Secondly, not all of them are dangerously venomous although two of the four local species are and they are by far the most commonly found.
Thirdly and most importantly, it is actually very hard to get bitten by a snake! In the first instance they always try to get away and most snakes will only bite when attacked. So unless you are running around attacking snakes your risk of being bitten is very low
Snake safety is simple.
Don’t go near a snake!
If you are near a snake already, stay still or back away slowly. People aren’t usually bitten by a snake when running away from one.
If bitten, assume the snake is dangerous and apply a tight bandage for the entire length of the limb and call 000.
Follow these instructions and your chances of dying from snake bite are very low.
There are a lot of people who don’t want snakes in their yards because they have fears for young children or pets. This is quite reasonable. Kids may not know to avoid snakes. Some pets may try to attack them and get bitten as a result.
With snake season just weeks away, now is the perfect time to do the things you can to keep snakes away from your property like removing places they like to hide or loiter. Clean out piles of rubbish, unused wood piles, sheets of tin on the ground, excess ground-level vegetation and so on. If you uncover a snake in winter, simply move on and let it move away at its own pace or call a snake catcher. But be warned, if a snake catcher has removed the snake, you may think that your problem has gone. It probably hasn’t.
Snakes are creatures of habit and most of our snake removal calls are to properties that are perfect snake habitats. If one snake found your property a good place to live another may do so as well. Snakes generally don’t like their own kind much so it is unusual to find more than one inhabiting the same site. However once a snake has been removed from a good living spot, the vacancy is left open for another snake to move in. If your property is good snake real estate then it’s likely you’ll get another snake at some point in the future.
While it’s effectively impossible to stop all snakes entering and living in a property there are a number of things you can do to discourage the snakes most of which involves simply cleaning away hiding places. Snakes have certain needs and the most important is the need to regulate their body’s temperature. This is called thermoregulation and if a snake could have its way, it would have a body temperature of about 30°C all the time. This desire dictates their movements on a day to day basis.
Because Melbourne and the Dandenongs are cool most of the time snakes tend to be found in sunny places and gardens with a northerly aspect. While they will bask in the open to get warm they prefer to bask in cover of vegetation and most people will only see snakes if the snake is wandering from place to place, when they are gardening or when a pet finds them. In hot weather when snakes move around more they sometimes enter suboptimal habitats, even houses, in search of cooler spots. If a snake overheats they die! It’s that simple.
If you live in a bushy area and on a north facing slope your property is ripe for snakes so here’s what you can do to remove housing for snakes.
If you have a rock garden, seal all the holes under the rocks. Don’t give the snakes a place to hide.
Remove overgrown and creeping vegetation as best you can. Snakes will hide and secrete themselves in this as they love ground-level vegetation that straddles sunny and shady spots. In other words, remove all ivy, agapanthus, blackberries, wandering trad and similar plants. Creepers on rock gardens are great real estate for snakes.
Avoid plants with spikes. Besides the direct risk they pose to kids and snake catchers like me, snakes know they give them protection from large animals and so will gravitate to them. In other words no cactuses around your pool! While snakes may climb, they generally don’t in the Dandenongs, although occasionally Tiger snakes are found on fences, house roofs and the like. Last summer I caught a tiger snake in a home wall cavity at Gembrook.
Situations snakes love most are rocky retaining walls with overgrown vegetation especially if there is a pool or pond nearby. This is snake heaven. If you have this, then remove overgrown plants to ground level and seal all holes at ground level with cement. Deny snakes access to hiding spots.
Remove vegetation from fence lines and along the house walls. Snakes tend to secrete themselves in these situations and move about along the building and fence lines.
If one side of the fence has ground cover and the other doesn’t then the snake will still be happy. In other words cooperate with your immediate neighbours to make their fence lines and gardens equally snake unfriendly. Overgrown property boundaries are preferred hiding spots for snakes so don’t let weeds and creepers grow over fences and the time to do this is now! Use your COVID-19 time at home constructively!
It’s probably important to consider that if your place is tidy and your neighbour’s place looks like a rubbish tip, you are still likely to get snakes.
Local Snakes In The Dandenongs
The four species most often found in the Dandenongs are Copperhead (most common) and Tiger, both of which are dangerously venomous. The Small-eyed Snake and White Lipped Snakes, which are both small can be regarded as harmless (no deaths recorded from either species). Small- eyed snake deaths in the literature involve a very different species from Queensland.
With the exception of the Small-eyed snake which is always blackish grey on top, the other species come in all colours, patterns and combinations, so it is nearly impossible for a lay person to accurately identify them. Standard advice is to be safe and assume the snake you are looking at may be deadly.
Finally, if you see a snake in the garden the best advice is move out of the way and leave it alone.
If you have pets (dogs or cats) or children under the age of 10 and the snake does not move on of its accord you should have the snake removed.
Need to know more?
Put the 24/7 snake catcher phone number in your phone now 0412 777 211.
Raymond has been keeping Melbourne safe from snakes for decades. He has authored nine books and named more than 100 snake species. He also manages a leading conservation and breeding facility for venomous snakes and collaborates on numerous wildlife conservation projects worldwide.