In my last article I linked the dry weather to the increase in contact with our kangaroos and wallabies as well as the need to put out water for them and as a way to attract birds to your gardens.
Less welcome visitors to your garden in search of water, are snakes.
They may follow mice and frogs, attracted by any moisture in your garden.
The two most common snake species that we encounter in Uralla are the Red – bellied black snake-RBBS and the Eastern brown snake – EB.
The RBBS can grow to well over 2 metres long and a snake of this size is a magnificent creature to encounter. They prefer damp areas such as dams, creeks and garden ponds where they prey primarily on reptiles such as lizards and other snakes as well as frogs. It is a common story that they will keep Brown snakes away but this is untrue. What is true is that they will eat small Brown snakes as well as any other small snakes that they find. They are generally non-aggressive in nature and the venom is less toxic than their Brown cousins.
I have had the experience where my small dog was bitten 4 times on the chest by a large, 1.8 mt RBBS that she attacked. She showed no symptoms until the next day. She was given no antivenin but was placed on a saline drip. She recovered in 24 hours and was back to normal. However, she did not learn her lesson and one year later, I found her dying, next to a small 750mm Brown snake that she had killed.
The EB is a very different story. Fast, agile and deadly, they should be avoided at all costs. They have extremely toxic venom that can kill a human within an hour. Even survivors can experience nerve damage, brain damage and muscle wasting.
Preying primarily on mice and rats, they will also take reptiles and other snakes.
Most snakes we see are passing through, seeking a mate or food. A well maintained garden, free of ground cover and debris will be the best way to deter them. Electronic snake deterrents have proved to be ineffective so save your money and clean up instead. A native garden with rustic logs, rocks, a pond and mulch, though water wise, they are a magnet for snakes.
Trying to kill or catch a snake is the best way to get bitten according to statistics. Educate your children, train your dogs and deter your cats from annoying them and a snake will usually not bother you.
Both species are good climbers and can enter roofs via a bush or vine and mesh.
Snakes are an important part of our environment and while fear is a natural reaction, knowledge and preparation can overcome the loathing that some people exhibit.
It is recommended that people purchase a snake bandage and educate themselves about first aid in case of a snake bite, however rare that may occur.
By Chris Baker
Originally published in Uralla Wordsworth