Snake numbers ‘surging’

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Geelong’s snake population is booming, according to local pest controllers.

Pet deaths and calls for help were rising after an early beginning to snake season, they said.

Snake-catcher Darren Keiller said he has never seen so many snakes in 15 years.

“We’ve been called to snake jobs four to five times a week on average this year,” said Mr Keiller, of Snake Catcher Geelong.

“The worst I’ve seen was about four weeks ago. I got six phone calls in two hours.”

Mr Keiller said nine pets died from snake bites in Lara last summer but this year he was already aware of seven or eight deaths.

Pest controllers said tiger snakes, lowland copperheads and eastern browns were the most active this season.

Two of the species were in the world’s top 10 venemous snakes.

Snake catchers had been called to homes in Lara and Little River were hot spots for snakes so far this season, the catchers said, but they had also attended calls from Corio, Wallington, Norlane and Torquay.

Greg McPherson, of Jim’s Pest Control North Geelong, said snakes were relocated about 5km from capture sites and released into the wild, often near a creek or river.

“Don’t muck around with snakes,” he warned.

“Move away from the snake, continue to keep an eye on it and call a licensed wildlife controller.

“It’s important to remember that snakes are protected under the wildlife act. It’s actually illegal to kill or harm a snake.”

Mr McPherson said most calls were during mornings or evenings.

“Snakes try to keep cool because they don’t like really hot weather. You can often find them lying on a roof or near an open front or back door for the cool breeze.

“They also like food and water, so they’re attracted to dog water bowls and chook pens.”

Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning’s Mark Breguet said snake sighting numbers were difficult to determine because people often dealt directly with snake-removal businesses or councils.

“Any reported increase in snake sightings and work for snake removal contractors this year might well be reflecting other significant factors, including rapid urban growth into snake habitat,” he said.

“Development of more residential housing estates in rural or near bushland areas naturally leads to more snakes being visible and potentially entering people’s backyards.”

Ambulance Victoria Geelong’s Ben Francis said snakes were more active in summer and were often seen around urban fringes.

“Many people who suspect they’ve been bitten were walking through long grass or working in the garden at the time.”

Mr Francis advised residents to ensure victims stayed calm and still to slow the spread of any venom.

A pressure immobilisation bandage also helped slow the venom, he said.

Originally published at Geelong Independent.

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About Alana Mitchelson

Alana Mitchelson is a journalist based in Melbourne, Australia. Follow her on Twitter at @AlanaMitchelson.

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