Snake expert Sue Johnson at her home with a carpet python.
Snake expert Sue Johnson at her home with a carpet python.

Hands-on snake experience

Know the difference between an eastern brown and a brown tree snake? Or where you’re most likely to spot a whip snake?

Get up close and personal with the Northern Rivers’ most common snakes this Saturday when reptile expert Sue Johnson presents an educational and hands-on workshop at the Mullumbimby Ex-Services Club from 2pm to 4pm.

Hosted by Brunswick Valley Landcare, the workshop is designed as a general introduction to snake identification and behaviour – with an emphasis on dispelling fears and myths.

 “It’s all about education – the more you know about snakes, the more you understand that they really are not out to get you,” Sue said.

“No snake is purposefully aggressive.

“They’ll act defensively if they feel threatened. But really, they’re very shy, secretive creatures that don’t want to be disturbed.”

If you see a snake in the yard, Sue’s advice is simple:

“Stand still and let it pass. Move away, and if you’re a child, tell an adult. The snake isn’t out to get you. Of course, if you are bitten, call 000 immediately.”

Reptile biodiversity workshops are important because they help people learn more about snake behaviours and may result in better outcomes in the event of a face-to-face encounter, according to Sue.

Despite sightings being quite common around here, many people have no idea about key species indicators, such as whether snakes are on the ground or high up in a tree or have a distinctive head. All of these things can help you work out what sort of snake you are dealing with.

The most common snakes in the northern reaches of the shire are the coastal carpet python, brown tree snake, green tree snake, eastern brown snake and the yellow faced whip snake.

 In answer to this article’s opening questions: brown tree snakes have a distinct head whereas the head of the eastern brown is indistinct. Brown tree snakes are active at night, whereas eastern browns are active during the day. Yellow faced whip snakes are most commonly found in rock and sleeper walls.

Sue sets the record straight on a number of common snake myths:

Having a carpet python around is going to keep brown snakes away? Not true. What will help in this regard is keeping your yard clean and free of food sources like rats and mice.

Having lizards will keep the brown snakes away? Again not true. Snakes like eating lizards.

Young eastern browns may be more aggressive. True.

Young snakes in general are at the bottom of the food chain and they are fighting to survive, which makes them react quicker. The larger the snake, the longer it has been around and the slower and less reactive it is likely to be.

You can cross-breed snakes to make super-sized ultra-venomous snakes. Not true.

Sue does, however, have some sage advice for pet owners.

“If you put your bird in a cage outside all day and all night, it’s just like putting bait out there for a snake. And the same goes for rabbit hutches and chook sheds. You need to snake-proof these enclosures, especially at night,” she said.

For more information or to book for the Brunswick Valley Landcare Reptile Biodiversity Workshop, contact Jacqui Paine on 66 851 880 or 0435 759 311.

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