Snake Proof

You can snake-proof your house

When there’s an Eastern Brown Snake exploring your kitchen, and you’re standing on the table ringing the Police, get as comfortable as possible, and keep an eye on the snake. Our George the Snakeman will be there soon, probably.

Police have a hard enough job without snake catching, so they ring George Ellis, and sometimes help him hurry there, and keep the crowds away, and divert traffic. Everything except pick up the snake. If they’re busy they’ll just pass the call along to him.

So if you get George on the phone he’ll ask what colour it is, how long, and if it’s as thick as a broom stick. He’ll make sure you’re safe and get your address, and directions, leave his dinner get cold, coax his old ute into life and turn up at your door with a cheery “snakeman calling”.

George likes it when people can point and say “there it is”. Even just confining it to one room of the house helps. It’s important to know if it has slipped back out the door where it belongs. Snakes can disappear in plain sight, so it’s always better to be looking at it than just knowing it’s around here somewhere.

Once you know where it is, keep your distance. Of the 8000 or so snakes George has relocated, almost 3000 were Eastern Browns, one of the most venomous snakes in the world. About half of those came out of Byron Bay town centre. They live here too, in whatever numbers the local ecology will support, and our paths cross.

Some of our Brown Snakes are aggressive, and will attack repeatedly. Occasionally George gets one that goes right off, attacking him and striking the walls of his snake box, determined to do damage. He calls them ‘Jumping Jacks’. After one cracked the toughened glass of his snake box, George’s friends at Ocean Shores Glass and Aluminium made for him a bullet-proof box. So don’t go near the snakes. Some of them go crazy.

While sitting on the table waiting for George, give some thought to what you could have done to avoid this situation. Perhaps close doors. If they can’t physically get in, they won’t. Draft seals also keep out snakes. If you can poke your finger under a door, that’s plenty of clearance for a 2m Brown Snake. An automatic closer for the sliding door is a good investment. Keeping an eye on it won’t keep the snakes out.

Like most creatures, Brown Snakes are largely motivated by food, sex and curiosity. They have territories, and explore. Following invisible scent trails, they slowly chase down mates and food. When they bite prey they recoil, avoiding confrontation, then follow the trail of urine to their lunch. That’s what venom is for.

Pythons wrap themselves around their lunch, squeezing and stretching whatever it is into a furry sausage. They’re non-venomous but will give a nasty bite in self-defence. They’re usually placid, and quite pretty. What some people call a Night Tiger is really a Brown Tree Snake, with rear fangs and venom, although not nearly as toxic at the Eastern Brown, and they’re shy. Great for removing mice and rats from difficult to reach areas.

Brown snake lunchIf there’s snake food, and access, there will be snakes, eventually. Keep the house clean, and consider keeping a rat trap set somewhere for the odd rodent wandering through. Remember that rat bait is bait. It attracts rats. And rats attract snakes.

If you’re thinking that poisoning snakes via the rats they eat might get rid of snakes, remember that snakes like their food fresh, and that the fine for deliberately poisoning native species is about a quarter of a million dollars. George is obliged by law to safely release captured snakes within a certain distance of where he caught them. Snakes learn through George to beware the hand of man, and he rarely sees the same snake twice.

There will always be snakes, as long as the ecology is healthy. That pretty dam at the bottom of the garden, full of croaking frogs, is a snake deli. The decorative loose rock wall is their condo, and your house is simply in their way. They were here before us, and they’ll be here long after we are gone. If you want to live here peacefully, get your relationship with our native species right, and support George Ellis in case you need him.