IFive years ago I wrote a post (attached below), recording my first capture of a venomous snake (Solomon Islands snakes don’t count because none of them are actually deadly).
At the time I did not tell the full story for fear of my employers seeing it.
Katanning was a touchy place to work at the time and although my immediate superior was a gem, the hierarchy above were people with issues. That’s all I have to say about that.
The truth of the matter was that my statement “they can be harder to get out of the boot than they were to put in” did not completely tell the story. On the way out to the airstrip where we were going to release it, the bucket fell over, the lid came off and the snake escaped into the boot (trunk – to my American friends). The second photo shows it sitting beside the bucket lid. Before I could recapture it, the snake then slithered down under the back seat of the car, where I could not get at it.
After fruitless attempts to find a way to remove the back seat, Carl and I gave up. I drove back to work, knowing that somewhere in my car was a venomous snake that could emerge at any time and bite my ankles. At the end of the day I drove home, locked my yard gate and left the car with all the doors open all night so the snake could escape. I made the assumption it would rather leave than stay, if given the option. However, when I used the car next day, I had no way of knowing of course whether during the night my elongated friend had actually left the safety of its hiding place under the back seat. I drove around for the rest of the week without being sure of its whereabouts.
On the weekend a few days later, while I was hunting through some stuff stored in the garage, I found my olive green friend coiled up behind a box. I was sure it was the same one. I was relieved at last to know that it was not going to emerge and bite some unsuspecting passenger in the Shire car.
I caught it, contained it securely this time, and drove it out to be released.
After 20 months I am finally getting a bit of snake action.
First call a couple of weeks ago was to a home where a baby dugite (Pseudonaja affinis, of the Brown Snakes – classed as dangerously venomous and as a genus statistically the most common cause of snake bite in Australia) was hiding in a compost heap. It was small and we shepherded it away to the reserve nearby.
On Monday Carl the Ranger called me to tell me there was a big dugite on the main street of Katanning, right in the middle of the shopping precinct. Sure enough there it was, admiring its reflection in the shop windows, and slowly slithering down the street, startling and alarming the shoppers. Carl and the bystanders were keeping well back. I gently picked it up with the aid of my snake tongs, adapted from an old litter picker and dropped it into my fishing/butterfly net. Into a bucket in the boot, and off to the airfield to release it in the bush at the back. I learned that I really need a bag to contain a snake. They don’t necessarily want to stay in a bucket, and they can be harder to get out of the boot than they were to put in. We learn as we go. I now have a bag and I have made further adaptions to the grabber that I affectionately call my “snake gotcha”.
That pretty much established my reputation. Dozens of reliable witnesses saw the cool aplomb with which I handled the snake. By the time I returned to the Shire office, word had already spread about the mad shire worker who picked up a dugite with his bare hands (I didn’t). Michelle patiently pointed out that snake catching is not in my job description. I suggested it should be, as a health-related community service as well as for conservation reasons, but mostly because I really love snakes.
We struck a deal. I would make up any time spent on herpetology. I love Michelle. She is a great boss.
On Wednesday a picture in the Great Southern Herald, the local rag, consolidated my reputation. I was not actually in the picture, as the photographer had focused on the creature in my net, but that did not bother me. Word gets round. I was now the shire staff who responds to snake calls.