Snake caught shopping for organics
SNAKES like shopping for organics - at least it seemed one Northern Rivers Eastern Brown did on Wednesday when staff at Santos Organics, Mullumbimby, found one in their store room.
"The snake's probably come through the drainage systems and through people's yards to get in, up through the back stairs," said self-described snake doctor, Kane Anderson, who responded to a call for help at the busy grocery store.
Mr Anderson said a staff member "used his bare hands to throw the snake in a bucket" when the snake decided to venture from the store room to the shop floor but the snake doctor advised people to avoid handling snakes themselves and to call an expert.
"The snake itself was quite calm until it got into the slippery part of the shop," he said, adding that snakes can't get traction on tiles and can become stressed.
Snakes in the suburbs
"I've taken snakes out of the suburbs before," he said, "people have had them under their arm chairs for several days without realising".
Mr Anderson advised people to ensure homes deterred snakes by blocking entries with a towel placed under doors and by providing water bowls away from the house beneath bushes to eliminate the need for hot and dehydrated snakes to seek respite inside.
He said snake deterrent gadgets available from hardware stores were a "scam" as they were mostly based on emitting frequencies when snakes had no ears to hear them and on vibrations that would have to be equivalent to a tractor driving past in order for a snake to detect.
"They get fancier and bigger and with more buzz but they're a joke," he said.
"[Another snake handler and I are] tying to get them banned around Australia."
The experienced snake handler said development continually encroached on snake territory, restricting access to water in the bush.
He said he was still trying to think of a suitable relocation for the Santos snake, which was about a metre long and had stripes that led some to mistake it for a Tiger snake.
"They lose their stripes over time, they can look green or grey when they're young," he said.
"Basically, you can't ID a snake by its colour or stripes.
"Leave it to a professional to ID a snake, or someone who is into reptiles."
What to do if you see a snake
"Usually when you encounter a snake you're already on top of it," said Mr Anderson.
"A snake can see you coming from about five metres but they need to rear up to get a look at you because you're much bigger, you tower over them.
"Eastern Browns have a strike range of about 1.5 to two metres so as long as you're out of their range they'll keep away from you, it has to be really pissed off to want to strike you.
"You hear stories about people being chased but [snakes] don't chase, they follow."
Mr Anderson said snakes act like movement detectors: "if you move, they move. If you stay still, they'll leave."
"Act like a tree, we teach the kids. Don't point to it and say 'there's a snake!'"
The advice to refrain from movement included reaching for your phone to call for help, he said, until the snake was well out of strike range.
He also advised people living in snake territory - which was almost everywhere in the Northern Rivers - to have proper snake bandages on hand, available for under $50 from chemists or perhaps cheaper online.
Snake bandages are two metres long before being fully stretched out, he said.
While common sense was important when walking through bush and gardens and might include wearing enclosed shoes and long trousers, Mr Anderson said the key to mitigating snake encounters was to be mindful of movement.
"A lot of people like to walk in the bush bare footed and that seems to slow them down," he said, suggesting that slower movements would give a snake more time to see a human and leave the area.
Anyone with questions on snakes could contact Mr Anderson through his Facebook page or on 0475 256 280.