Bay snake catcher run off his feet
FOR the past 19 years, if a snake has been spotted in the region Byron Bay-based snake catcher George Ellis has been the person to call.
During almost two decades of service Mr Ellis has caught more than 10,000 snakes and confronted thousands of life-threatening situations.
If laid head to tail, the snakes caught by Mr Ellis would stretch more than five kilometres.
"In this time I have caught more than 3400 deadly eastern brown snakes and I have only been bitten once," he said.
"I've also had to deal with 29 snake bite victims, the worst case of which was a nine-month-old baby bitten by a red-bellied black snake."
The recent warm weather has prompted a spike in the number of snakes spotted in the region but Mr Ellis said people continued to be surprised by the number of brown snakes caught in the Byron Bay CBD.
"The CBD in Byron is a perfect place for brown snakes as they are attracted to the rats and small mammals that feed on food scraps," he said.
"I've caught lots of brown snakes around two metres in the Byron CBD."
While Mr Ellis's service is a welcome one for many, continuing operations has at times been financially challenging but he has benefited from the generosity of some.
When long-time Mullumbimby GP Suresh Rananavare died in 2012 he bequeathed money to a number of institutions, including Mr Ellis's snake-catching service
"Dr Suresh basically left about half of his estate, which was about $1.5 million, to local charities, including Brunswick Valley Historical Society, Byron Youth Service and Mullumbimby High School, as well as Greenpeace and the Royal Flying Doctor Service," Mr Ellis said.
"I got a phone call from his solicitor saying I was one of the beneficiaries of Dr Suresh's will."
Mr Ellis used that money to purchase a car so he could continue catching snakes.
"Without this very generous bequest from Dr Suresh's estate I wouldn't be able to continue the work I do in the community," he said.
Mr Ellis said he also asks clients for a donation for each snake he relocates.
For more information, or to make a donation, visit http://www.byronsnakepatrol.com.