COMMENT: We have scary animals in Australia

HUMAN versus beast is a constant topic of conversation among those planning to visit this great sunburnt land of ours.

Travel books and websites are full of facts for the wary tourist, describing myriad ways to die in Australia at the not-so-benevolent hand of Mother Nature.

Of course, there are the bleeding (if you'll pardon the pun) obvious - sharks, crocs and the terrifying drop bear. There has been a tragic number of shark attacks recently in our local pristine waters.

A former world champion surfer mate, Mark, lives to ride waves and yet, by that very act, he places himself in the front line of potential casualties.

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He tries not to think about what is under him when he's beyond the break waiting. He believes the higher casualty rate now is simply because there are more people in the water.

But surfing is in our veins; most Aussies know that we are in the sharks' environment when in the ocean and they have a right to be there. I don't think that right extends to chomping, but hey, we've all been eating flake for years and that's another name for you-know-what.

I find the land-based terrors more threatening and by that I don't just mean snakes and spiders, but also roaming pitbulls that never seem to have a collar on and always belong to people who assure you "They won't hurt" as Killer or Rambo charges with murder in their cold, mean eyes and fangs dripping with saliva.

I had a love/hate relationship with the snakes that shared my property when I lived in Nashua; we had a shy red-belly black that lived under the carport slab and bolted every time it saw us, so we co-existed somewhat peacefully.

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The eastern browns I wasn't so comfortable with, particularly after a similarly tolerant friend was chased up his driveway by the brown he'd lived alongside for a number of years.

It came at him without warning and he ran; luckily he was by his car at the time so he jumped in and hit the gas. The fact that he was in his vehicle didn't deter the reptile one little bit; it kept pace with him and struck at the rear tyre several times, watched in awe by John via the side mirror.

Just three weeks ago neighbours had their grandchildren visiting and the kids planned to sleep in a tent in the yard.

A mobile phone call to Nan informed her that they couldn't get out because there was a large tiger snake asleep on the tent fly.

The local ranger advised her to slit the tent open at the back and drag the kids out so as not to disturb the snake - which they did.

Now that's scary.

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