ACT News

'The only good snake is a live snake': Canberra snake bite numbers stay steady

Canberra Hospital has treated 10 people for snake bites since January last year, but a local snake expert has reminded Canberrans they must not to kill the protected reptiles.

An ACT Health spokeswoman said most of the snake bite patients treated since January 2015,  were from outside the ACT.

There was an increase during the warmer months of spring and summer, but in some cases the snakes were not venomous.

Snake bite numbers in and around the ACT have stayed relatively steady in recent years, with nine emergency department presentations in 2014 after a spike of 15 in 2013.

ACT Herpetological Association vice-president Ric Longmore​ said certain sections of the community still felt they should kill snakes if they saw them.

"One of our principle aims is to convince people the only good snake is a live snake. They play their role in vermin control, they have a position in the ecosystem," he said.

Advertisement

"Snakes are protected in Australia; it's illegal to kill a snake unless there's some imperative reason to.

"We tell people to call a snake expert or if you see them in the bush, walk away."

Mr Longmore began the organisation's annual Snakes Alive presentation at the Australian National Botanic Gardens in 1987 to educate people about reptiles and amphibians.

"The key point is to get across a conservation message … that snakes and reptiles deserve their space in the ecosystem and they're not the most fearsome horrible animals people think they probably are," he said.

"You learn about their habits and nature what to do and what not to do – and in the unlikely event of there being a confrontation to seek medical advice pretty quickly."

Mr Longmore said the "highly deadly" and unpredictable eastern brown snake was the most common in the ACT, but most Canberrans had learnt to live with their resident snakes.

Before ACT government rangers were trained to rescue snakes, Mr Longmore was Canberra's "snake man". He clocked up 55 years' experience and a licence to keep venomous snakes.

The group displayed 48 species at last week's Snakes Alive presentation at the Australian National Botanic Gardens.

As well as snakes and reptiles owned by members of the Herpetological Association – everything from Mr Longmore's death adder to a crocodile – the display included corroboree frogs bred in captivity by the ACT government, and native Australian fish.

He said snakes and reptiles were becoming more popular as pets and the ACT government had a tiered licence system based on the applicant's level of experience.

"You start off keeping a pet blue tongue or bearded dragon and you can progress, when you've demonstrated an ability to husband these animals, to get a snake."

Mr Longmore said snakes were not as responsive as dogs and cats, and took more work to heat correctly and feed, but his death adder and woma desert python always knew when he was coming to feed them.

"They're pretty to watch and we love them, some of them are very beautiful to look at," he said.

"Some, like my death adder, are very deadly and not terribly attractive but I still love him because he's a snake that I respect. If I was to get bitten it would be my fault."

Advertisement