Only the Lonely

I am becoming deeply concerned for the future happiness and fulfilment of Eric Rimleaper, my resident (in-convenience) Green Tree Frog.   He has been living with me in my donga for almost a year now.  As a flatmate he is about as easy to live with as anyone I know.  His only faults:

  • sleeping in the flush pipe of the toilet cistern and blocking it – making it difficult, or even impossible, to flush on occasion
  • a bit of raucous singing now and then
  • and the occasional frog turd left in the shower.  Ironic he should do that, considering where he lives.

Nonetheless, what he has to put up with from me while he is resting under the rim does not really compare to those minor inconveniences.  Tolerance is called for.  Even when his singing in the WC drowns out mine in the shower.  The bowl acts like a bullhorn.

On the positive side, he has been growing steadily so I guess he eats regularly.  I have had no cockroaches or upsetting insect surprises while he has been in residence.  He has not, so far as I am aware, tried to move out, though a week or so ago he left the bathroom and for a while I heard him singing from behind the washing machine which, like everything except my bed and the bathroom appurtenances, is in my living/dining/kitchen area.  Yesterday I heard him on top of the refrigerator so I retrieved him and took him back to the bathroom.  I put him on top of the cistern and went to get my iPad for a photo.

I returned just in time to snap a shot before he leapt into the bowl, clambered up the side and ensconced himself once more under the rim.

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Eric, about to take the Plunge.
From the beginning of the Wet, Eric has become increasingly vocal, announcing his amorous desires to any lady GTF who may be listening.  My concern for him is that his serenading may be fruitless.  I am doubtful he is likely to have much luck attracting a mate while he is living here.  I am not at all sure there is likely to be any nubile maiden frogs within receiving distance of his calls.  It seems to me the odds are pretty slim of one just  happening to be meandering past at just the right moment.

I could put Eric out of the house with a lunchbox and some aftershave and let him go courting around the community, but there are snakes out there.  Only last week I was called across the road to a neighbour’s house to remove a two metre King Brown.  I was happy when she asked me to come and help.  I had been looking forward to a bit of snake wrangling for some time. A few people in the community have told me they had killed a snake and I had insisted they call me in future so I can catch it and release it far away.  I remind them this is the snakes’ country too.

On receiving a call for help I grabbed my catching gear and headed over the road.   Sadly, I found the serpent dead when I got there.  It had died heroically however, taking out an enormous toxic cane toad, which lay dead beside it.  I had not realised until then that the bloody cane toads have made it this far into the desert as I haven’t seen one out here yet.  I should have known they would be here by now.  I knew they were in Halls Creek two years ago.

With a snake that size around there will be lots more, and plenty of of young ones hatched or about to as well.   And now I know there are cane toads out there too.  It’s not safe out there for the little green fellow.

Eric might be safer remaining here with me even if it means staying celibate a little longer.

The ladies might be safer staying away.

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Dugites Revisited

Five 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.

Flashback below:

Dugites

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.

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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.

Kickin’ Through the Leaves

My advice on letting go your inhibitions and and kicking through the leaves:

Anywhere else; do it.  

Here; Don’t.

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Deathadder

 

Originally this snake was known as the “deaf adder” due to the fact it stays completely still when approached.  This caused people to believe these snakes were deaf, but like most snakes, the death adder can sense vibrations.  It stays motionless in order to ambush passing prey.  Sometimes it hides under leaves and exposes just the end of its tail, twitching it as if it belonged to a small lizard.  This attracts suitable prey.  A death adder would not usually attack anything too big to eat but it will strike at a human or larger animal if it feels threatened.  Most people who get bitten have stumbled upon it or have actually tried to attack it.  The bite was 60% likely to be fatal before the advent of antivenin, which probably accounts for the name morphing to death adder.

The death adder has the fastest strike of all snakes, so it pays to keep out of its reach.  I learned how from the legendary Bob Cooper himself.  Retrieving and relocating one is easy, with the right equipment.   Gently sliding the hook under it in the middle does not disturb it, and when you lift, the tapered design of the hook makes it hard for the snake to slide off.  Then you gently grasp it with the specially designed “gotchas” which hold firmly without harming the snake.  Transfer it to a container (with a lid) and transport it to safety somewhere well away from where people walk – in this case without anyone in the community even being aware of it having been here.  They would have insisted on killing it.

 

My Neighbours and Other Animals

Yesterday I put on a barbecue for the kids after a sports session and the party was crashed by Sadie the camel.

Like Emu, she is a community pet raised here since she was young.  She is very curious about whatever is going on, especially barbecues.  She is not keen on sausages, it turns out, but is quite fond of bread.  Try persuading a two metre camel to bugger off while you are trying to cook.  She is not easily put off when she is determined to check something out.   She tolerates the rough treatment the kids give her with admirable equanimity.  She munches away at whatever vegetation takes her fancy while they clamber all over her.  Mostly she just ignores them unless they are holding food.

She seems to have taken a shine to me. She follows me around and nuzzles my ear or pulls my hair to get my attention.  The kids even commented on it, saying I had two wives now; Sally the Goat and Sadie the Camel.  I think they find my fondness for animals quite amusing.   But not in a weird way I hope.

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Sadie the Camel

Earlier in the day one of the community elders came for a visit.   A friendly elderly gentleman,  he came for a chat about the children and to borrow some curry powder.  As we sat on the deck drinking icy cold lime cordial, he pointed to a hole in the ground near the fence.  I had not noticed it until he drew it to my attention.

It is a King Brown burrow, he told me.  He then told me how to catch the occupant, using a live mouse on a string as bait.  Not keen on doing that.   I have my own snake-catching equipment.

It is the cooler dry season now.  My neighbour should be hibernating and will not be a problem until November. Not that I think it will be a problem anyway.  I am not the sort of meal a snake would want to eat.  I am not at all concerned at having such a dangerous creature nearby.   I merely need to be careful not to accidentally surprise it.  And to that end I’ll need Sally to keep my grass short.

Rather than show a boring photo of a hole in the ground, here is a picture of a KB that I borrowed from the Internet:

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King Brown

I suspect I shall eventually have to capture my neighbour and remove it to a safe place out in the bush.  People are likely to kill it.   No one else seems as fond of snakes as I am.

I really don’t understand why that is.