Snake catchers report increase in calls

By Australian Geographic November 17, 2021
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Snake catchers have reported an increase in phone calls. So what’s behind the demand?

Queensland-based Sunshine Coast Snake Catchers have revealed they’re having the busiest year yet this snake season.

Snake catcher Stuart McKenzie says there’s been around a 20 per cent increase in calls for the 2021 snake season, including calls for sightings, rescues, advice and identification. 

Stuart says, however, there’s no reason to panic or call it a ‘snake plague’. Instead, he believes rapid development on the Sunshine Coast is the cause,

“There are so many people moving to the Sunny Coast, construction is at an all-time high and to build houses they need to rip up bushland and the only spots left are small patches of bush surrounded by houses,” he says. 

“This means there’s going to be more sightings of snakes and more human/snake interactions as they look for other food and shelter.”

After a snake is caught by a licensed professional, they must be released into a nearby habitat, but according to Stuart, even this aspect of the catching process is becoming challenging.

“We’re running out of spots to release them. When we catch them we have to put them back into the bush, but we can’t take them too far because it can be detrimental to the snake. At the same time we don’t want to be releasing it at the back of someone else’s house and so it’s becoming difficult.”  

University of Queensland snake expert Dr Christina Zdenek says due to a lack of research it’s hard to tell exactly what’s causing the increase.

“We can’t know for sure, however, if there’s nearby development and the snakes have lost habitat, if they haven’t died during the land-clearing, they need to set up home elsewhere, so you could get an increase in interactions between snakes and humans,” Christina says, adding that this isn’t always optimal for snakes. “If they flood into a nearby area that isn’t suitable habitat they become vulnerable to things like car impact and domestic cats.”

Christina also doubts that there’s been an increase in snake numbers, suggesting it’s more likely to be an increase in the snake relocation company’s popularity, and/or an increase in humans in the area, which has driven up interactions. “Saying that snakes have increased in numbers gives people an excuse to do wrong by the snakes’. It’s a cop out.”

An increase in rainfall may also make snake prey, such as rats, more abundant and cause snakes to establish new territories. If you encounter a snake in your home, Stuart says to remain calm and get in contact with a license professional as soon as possible. “If you respect the snake then it will respect you back. There’s no reason for snakes to come after a human or a pet. The majority of them just want to keep clear and have nothing to do with us.”