Yep. I had to reset the counter the other day. You’ve all heard the stories about Australia being home to seven of the top ten deadliest snakes in the world. Or the top however many of the deadliest creatures. You’ve seen the Croc vs Snake video and the Kangaroos fighting in the street. Wildlife is everywhere. We used to laugh when we hear about Europeans thinking kangaroos are constantly hopping down the street. Not in the city and not during the day, typically. Although it does happen in rural areas around dusk. Foxes are common in the suburbs, scavenging for food. Possums are found in inner city parks and roofs. Rabbits are everywhere. So, I’m a little surprised we’ve gone 20 years in our current place of residence before our first snake encounter.
With the massive expanse of scrub-land behind our place, I really thought we’d come across a slithery little serpent in our yard many years ago. Neighbours occasionally report sightings in their wood piles against back fences, under sheds etc. So naturally we thought our time was not far away. We always cut our grass short and keep piles of cut branches, wood and other rubbish to a minimum. That probably helped a lot. But it turned out our first encounter was to be within the sealed walls of our home.
We probably have our dog to thank for discovering the silent sucker. And my daughter for noticing his strange behaviour, and for her calm reaction. Last Thursday was a warmish day. We had the laundry’s external door open and the fly-wire door shut for the breeze. I was helping her with a late essay for school at the dining room table. At one point she decided to get up for a drink of water. From the kitchen she can see through to the laundry where the dog was extremely interested in the bottom of the solid back door wedged open against the wall. Ears were up, nose was sniffing madly. Em approached cautiously and had a peek behind the door.
On her return to the school essay work site, she calmly says to me, “I think there’s a snake in the laundry.” Eyebrows raised, I go to the laundry, get the dog away and peered into the gap between the wall and the open door. The I praised the door wedge jamming it open against the wall, preventing the dog from gaining access to the poisonous fangs on the creature tucked in behind it.
Snake presence confirmed, we then went into automatic snake removal mode. Lesson one: Make sure you have the phone numbers of several local snake catchers. We didn’t and started Googling. Actually this wasn’t so bad because the first website on the list automatically used my phone’s location to direct me straight to a local snake catcher. Problem was the guy was based in Mornington, more than an hour’s drive away. The intent was good but the result was off the mark somewhat.
Anyway, after sending him a pic of the snake he confirmed it was a copperhead. Very common, very poisonous but rarely kills people. And he was at least an hour away. My wife in particular was not prepared to wait that long. Her father is advocate of “If you see a snake, get the shovel”. I’m an advocate of avoiding huge fines by not killing protected animals. Yes, Australia has some of the deadliest snakes, and they are protected. This snake was curled up peacefully behind a door. Moving the door would have risked it slithering out and heading to some other hiding place, either further in the house or outside somewhere. Not knowing where the bastard is was less comforting than watching it lying in its current position.
After the third phone number and about seven attempts to call them all, we had a Steve Irwin-type guy come out to catch it. And catch it he did. Wife won’t go to bed now without a towel wrapped up (ironically snake-like) against the small gap at the bottom of the wire door. Everyone else seems rather unfazed by it all now. It was an excitement we hadn’t seen for years. And the Steve Irwin snake catcher assures it will likely be another 20 years before we see another one nearby. Let’s hope so. Thinking of getting a sign like this: