Friday, 9 December 2016

A crash course in snakes...

It's snake season here in Queensland. It has been for at least a month now. A few weeks ago a brown snake was seen (and killed) less than 100 meters from home, but I did not see it. Having grown up in regional Queensland, in an area close to farms and with little pockets of bush between houses and paddocks, it might come as a surprise that I have only seen 2 snakes around my parents house and my old school. Ever. 

Yes, I have seen other snakes, usually captive snakes and at least one sunning itself on a country road, seen from the safety of a car or school bus, or carpet pythons. But I don’t count as actual encounters. There have also been other sightings of red-bellied black snakes around my parents’ house, and a school friend had a garden that was very attractive to brown snakes, especially for egg laying…

The snakes around here scare me. Why?

The last of these is actually a good snake to have around even if they are highly venomous – they attack brown snakes. Brown snakes have nasty venom. Really nasty. Blood clotting and paralysis.

Funtimes, right?

So, how did I go my whole schooling years only to see two wild baby brown snakes? I followed the basic rules for avoiding snakes:
  • Stay out of long grass;
  • Stomp around the bush;
  • Keep an eye on the path ahead. 
And now it's time to pass this on to Jimmy, who has no fear of snakes, thinks they should be killed if they're "bad snakes", and has not been discouraged to walk through long grass while we were in Kansas (even though there are rattlesnakes there – ep!).

We've been talking about snakes lately. It's timely and Jimmy is coming to terms with the fact that not all snakes are venomous but all snakes should be left alone. I even brought out the snake book my parents have (as pictured above), to show Jimmy the different snakes and to talk about them in a measured manner. He kept asking if the snakes we were looking at were "bad snakes", meaning 'will they bite me if I come across one' to which the answer was "no, they're pythons, they eat mice and frogs and even if they do bite you, they are not venomous, so they'd give you an ouchie but they wouldn't make you sick". He did really well, and we made it to the ... which is venomous, but highly unlikely to attack, unless provoked.

And that's really the main point: do not provoke a snake because it will bite, venomous or not - if you see one, walk away and tell an adult.

So, crash course delivered, Jimmy is now ready for summer, even if he needs reminding not to go into grass where he cannot see the ground (there are other reasons to avoid long grass, but that's for another time). We'll work on the stomping and keeping an eye on the path ahead, but we've started talking about snakes and other not-so-nice-but-still-important creatures we live with in Australia, and by talking about them I'm hoping Jimmy grows up with a healthy respect for venomous and potentially dangers Australian animals. 

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