Snake season is beginning: breathe and remain calm

By Daneka Hill

Spring brings with it snakes, but the combined impact of an unusually cold winter and COVID-19 has left this spring more snake-less than usual.

For seven years snake catcher Tania Corby has been removing the legless reptiles from properties across the Goulburn Valley.

“I’m normally catching snakes in August, but I haven’t had too many this year. I think because of COVID-19 people aren’t out and about and coming across them as much,” Ms Corby said.

“We’ve also had a really cold winter. The snakes need warmer nights than this to really get going. We’re only just seeing them coming out now and sunning themselves on the roadside.”

Ms Corby said once the weather warmed she could get three to five calls a day.

Nearly all of those calls are for highly venomous snakes.

“In seven years I’ve only removed two pythons (non-venomous species), gorgeous Murray-Darling ones. You wouldn’t believe how many people ask me ‘is it dangerous?’… in this area all we get is highly venomous snakes,” she said.

Ms Corby said the most important thing to do when encountering a snake was to breathe and remain still.

“The snake’s not going to bounce off the ground and bite your face,” she said.

“We don’t need to fear them with the aggression that we do. If you stay still they can’t really notice you and they won’t have a reason to fear you.”

Ms Corby said to keep an eye on the general area the snake had moved into so when the snake catcher arrived the search area was narrowed down.

Snakes are nocturnal hunters and need warm night-time weather to hunt and search for mates.

During the day they will seek out cool spots like concrete shed floors, shaded gardens, and even air-conditioned rooms.

Ms Corby has been bitten once in her snake-catching career, and that was on the pad of her thumb by a tiger snake.

“I only got bitten because I was working with someone else and misheard what he said. Within three steps I knew I was envenomated. I got the worst migraine I’d ever had, sweats, and it felt like someone was sitting on my chest,” she said.

“He only bit me because he was scared and cornered. It was what any animal would do — it is what humans would do if two people came out of nowhere and pinned you down. You would scratch and fight.

“We really do need to respect these creatures. We do need them and we need to sit down and think about that. I would rather have one snake in my backyard than 10 mice in my kitchen.”

Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning senior wildlife management officer Therese Davis said most snake bites happened when people tried to capture or kill a snake.

“Snakes are generally very shy and prefer to keep away from people, and often when a snake is found in a backyard it’s because it’s moving through the area to other habitat,” Ms Davis said.

The three snake species common throughout North-East Victoria are the venomous eastern brown snake, tiger snake and red-bellied black snake.

Merrigum snake catcher Craig Bergman (phone: 0428 300 210) and Kyabram’s Tania Corby (0409 575 164) travel as far as Euroa and Echuca to catch and relocate snakes.