Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Snake Safety

Red-Bellied Black Snake Pseudechis porphyriacusRed-Bellied Black Snake Pseudechis porphyriacus
Snakes are attracted by potential food and good places to hide.  Waterways are home to frogs, whilst sheds, composts and covered woodpiles attract rats and mice.  If you have frogs and/or rodents, you may have snakes.
Contrary to popular belief, snakes are shy, timid animals (read more on Snake Myths Busted).  They do not like to cross open ground where they are exposed to birds of prey.  They travel through long grass, amongst leaf-litter or under shrubbery or debris.
When they’re not hunting, they’re working on maintaining their body temperature.  Snakes are ectothermic (from the Greek ‘ectos’ meaning ‘outside’, and ‘therme’ meaning ‘heat’).  In other words, they use the sun, instead of their metabolism, to keep warm.  Diurnal (day-active) snakes do this by basking in direct sunlight, whilst nocturnal (night-active) tend to cuddle up to warm surfaces, such as rocks, which have been heated by the sun earlier in the day.
The common phrase ‘cold-blooded’ is in fact incorrect, as their blood is just the same temperature as ours.  And, like us – if it’s cold, they’re cold, and if it’s too hot, they’re too hot: so they seek their hiding places accordingly.
On cool days, snakes enter warm, insulated hideouts like rabbit burrows, wood piles or compost heaps … whilst in hot weather, they are more likely to slip under houses or into sheds with nice, cold concrete floors.

Make your garden less appealing:

  1. Remove any debris lying around like corrugated iron or timber.
  2. Stack firewood neatly and away from the house in an exposed, stand-alone pile.
  3. Put your compost in a bin with a tight-fitting floor and sides. 
  4. Keep bird aviaries and chicken coops clean and tidy to reduce rodents.
  5. If your house is on stumps, do not enclose the sides. Keep the space underneath completely clear and open, so you can see right through to the other side.
  6. Keep your grass short and your garden tidy.
  7. Keep your sheds tidy and store everything on shelves at least 10cm up off the floor.
  8. Try to control rodents, but do not lay traps or baits where they may harm native wildlife like possums or lizards.
  9. Never leave your doors open.
Tiger Snake Notechis scutatusTiger Snake Notechis scutatus
Under no circumstances should you ever attempt to catch or kill a snake.  Snakes are protected by law, and it is a criminal offence to  harm one.  The penalty for harming a snake includes a substantial fine and gaol sentence.  There are no exceptions to this rule.
It is also against the law for unlicensed persons to attempt to trap or catch snakes.
The vast majority of snake-bites occur when people are trying to catch or kill snakes: so don’t.
If you see a snake, walk quietly away and leave it well alone.  It will leave of its own accord, or if you would like it removed from your property, call your local snakecatcher.

Be ‘snake conscious’, and remember some simple rules:

  1. Never put your hands where you can’t see them.
  2. Wear boots and trousers when walking through long grass or leaf litter, and watch where you walk.
  3. Take a torch if you’re out on warm nights.
  4. Keep cats indoors or in a cat run. Even a well-fed domestic moggy will kill hundreds of native birds, lizards and small marsupials each year, without your knowledge. Likewise, they will attempt to kill snakes, and are very likely to get bitten.
  5. Last, but not least, is it is true that if you drive over a snake, it could become caught up under your car. Always avoid running over snakes.

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