Monday, March 26, 2012

Snakes Alive!

There’s a snake on the loose and ST is out mustering!

There is a snake on the loose, over by the dog kennels. I was wandering past, just dilly-dallying by with my one working eye, when our Border Collie ‘Rob’ stopped to inspect something by a tree. The snake (assumedly a Brown – second deadliest in the world) was slithering up over some old bricks and rubble just metres to my left. Quickly tying Rob at his kennel, I hot footed it the long way round the trees and back to the house.

Snakes terrify me. And I’m not sure what’s worse: knowing there’s a live snake out there and if you leave it there, it won’t harm you, but you’ll probably never be able to leave the house ever again; or having to man up and have a go at disposing of it yourself…?

Australia is home to seven of the world’s top 10 deadliest snakes, and running into them is common place when you’re living in their habitat. I’ve heard stories of horses and dogs dying within five minutes of a bite from a Taipan, the poll contender on the world’s most deadly list. Brown snakes run a close second and are the most common breed to come across in western New South Wales.

It is illegal to kill snakes – they are native and a protected species. But not killing them is a difficult decision to make when out here, 110km from the nearest town - which does have a hospital, but does not have a doctor – a snake bite would almost certainly be fatal. In the event of snakebite the Royal Flying Doctor Service would immediately dispatch an emergency airplane from the Broken Hill base (300km west), but our nearest RFDS accessible airstrip is 40kilometres away, along rough, dirt roads and with four gates to open on the way.

So when a snake comes dangerously close to your house, yard, and pets... your gut instinct is to protect yourself, which often means trying to kill the snake.

Generally so fired up with fear at the sight of a snake that I run for miles in the opposite direction, I could never kill a snake with a shovel. With this in mind, and adrenalin pumping through my body, I grabbed reinforcements from inside and headed back out to the dog kennels ready to lock and load at the first sighting. I stood around for at least 15 minutes, but couldn’t see anything. There’s no doubt in the time it’d taken me to run inside, and return with a weapon, the snake could have been long gone, or it could have just been curled up under some leaf litter exactly where I’d seen it. Honestly, it could have already made it past me and into the house! I wandered back inside annoyed that it would live to return another time, but relieved I hadn’t had to deal with it by myself…

Just weeks earlier, ST had seen a sinister looking banded brown snake go into our laundry, which is in a little shed, separate to the house but still inside the yard. I had clothes baskets full of sheets in there that it could have easily curled up in… I shiver at the thought of what could have been if we took the “green” approach of just leaving it alone. This particular day, I was inside when I heard ST yelling for me to bring him the gun.

We both stood back, surrounding the laundry shed from either side, just watching and waiting for the snake to exit. “It’s got to come out some time,” ST reasoned. And so we stood there for at least 40 minutes. Drained from standing on guard in the sun, I grabbed some chairs and water bottles so we could take sentry again in a bit more comfort. More than an hour and a half had passed and neither of us had seen any movement around the outside of the shed. We couldn’t stay there forever, and snakes can live for weeks without food... so it certainly could outwait us!

“Are you able to just bring the washing out please?” I asked.

Armed with a shovel, ST dragged the two washing baskets well outside the shed and tipped them over away from him, shovelling through the clothes to make sure there was no way the snake had hidden inside. Satisfied they were safe, I moved them well away before ST grabbed the garden hose and started spraying water around the outside of the shed where he’d seen the snake slither in. There was no sign of it.

We moved rolls of carpet and shade cloth out to make sure it wasn’t curled up in one of them… and then ST spotted a tiny hole in the cement slab, in the far back corner.
Snakes can hide almost anywhere. I’ve seen a seven foot python slither into a fern tree so silently not a single leaf shivered. ST’s mum has told me stories of snakes inside their house which escape through hairline cracks under doorways… It is too frightening to think of the possible consequences if we don’t get these creatures away from the areas we frequent daily…

So, having spent hours looking for the snake in the laundry, we decided to throw petrol down the hole.

I stood back outside, armed and at the ready, while ST entered the laundry with a shovel in one hand and an ice-cream container of petrol in the other. As quickly as he’d thrown it he came backing out the laundry door, whispering loudly “It’s in there. It’s definitely in there. I could hear it moving as soon as I’d thrown it.”

Swapping the shovel for the gun, we returned to our positions at either end of the building… waiting, waiting… and sooner than I could blink the snake shot out underneath the corrugated iron wall. I gasped deeply in fright, and started waving my arms around, pointing crazily before I could get any words out. “It’s here, it’s over here!”

The first shot injured it and the second shot finished the job. At last! We’d spent three hours of our afternoon on that snake, and the shot gun pellets had also sprayed holes through a brand new roll of poly pipe! But how much do you value your life?

I think I might drive over to feed the dogs from now on… sounds safer!


  1. LOL - thank goodness for our men. I cant even look at a snake on TV.

  2. Hi Bess, Just found the Blog. Luv the stories so far and look forward to more.

    What can one say, perforated poly pipe is great to use in the vegie garden - saves installing drippers!! I

    Cheers, Gary

  3. I keep big bits of swishy poly pipe near the doorways so I can use them to dispose of slithery reptiles. (My kids call them snake whackers.) It works well and a long piece means you don't have to get too close. I am still happier with the shot gun approach but need someone else to watch the snake the whole time.

    I did some research into the legalities of snake killing. It is legal if the snake is a threat to people or live stock in WA. Therefore anything in the confines of our homestead garden or sheds is OK in my eyes as I have small children, pets etc.