It’s autumn, so encounters with snakes are going to get few and far between as they settle down for a season or two of inactivity.
But a news item last night, about a boy bitten by a red-bellied black snake, reminded me of our own encounters. We’ve occasionally seen browns and red-bellied blacks (the ones people are most afraid of in this area), but have had more encounters with whip snakes, green tree snakes (Dendrelaphis punctulata) and brown tree snakes (also called night tigers as they hunt at night and sleep during the day, Boiga irregularis). The green tree snake pictured was more interested in getting away than anything else.
This brown tree snake (one of a pair) took up residence in the shed for a while last spring.
Brown tree snakes are reportedly aggressive, but I have only ever had calm encounters – even when I stepped on one!
I was walking into the bedroom early one evening looking for an extension cord. I stepped on something that felt like a cord, but was puzzled as I didn’t remember leaving it on the floor. I looked down, and the snake whipped itself out from under my foot and raised itself in a classic s-shape. We both were a bit stunned, I think, and both of us froze. It was probably frightened of this enormous beast that has suddenly appeared and stepped on it. I remembered that snakes detect vibration, and was trying to work out how to remove myself without frightening it more. I s-l-o-w-l-y raised one foot, stepped on the bed, then raised the other foot onto the bed. The snake dived under the dressing table and sat there flexing its open mouth – a last-ditch attempt to scare me off before it would be forced to bite. I didn’t need persuading.
I called out to Andrew not to come in as there was a snake. Then there was a yelled conversation between TV room and bedroom as we tried to work out what to do. I didn’t want the snake nor the humans to get hurt. Andrew decided to ring a neighbour, who offered to bring his shotgun down, but we didn’t want that. His wife suggested we ring the Northern Rivers Wildlife Carers and get advice. Andrew got onto the hotline, and then there was a three-way conversation as I tried to identify the snake using the carer’s questions relayed by Andrew. We came to the conclusion that it was a brown tree snake, to which the carer said they were ‘mostly harmless’ as they have rear-facing fangs and bites are venemous but not fatal to people. She suggested I put a broom handle out the open window and go sleep in the studio. The snake would then make its escape overnight.
A fine theory – but the snake was still in the bedroom the next day. So we rang NRWC again, and a carer came out, quickly swept the sleeping snake into an empty garbage bin with a broom and emptied it into the bush behind the house. The snake hardly budged an eyelid.
This advice was useful when, a couple of weeks later, I was editing on my computer and the curtain by the window behind it moved, apparently of its own accord. Channelling Indiana Jones, or was it Han Solo (‘I have a bad feeling about this’), I cautiously moved the curtain aside – and, yes, another Boiga. Sheesh!
This time Andrew did the honours of sweeping out the culprit. And we tracked down where they were getting in, blocked the very narrow hole and have had no problems since.
I can always tell when Andrew has unexpectedly come across a Boiga or two in the shed – he gives his special ‘oh god there’s a snake’ screech. I shouldn’t smile, but I do.