Increasingly property owners around Australia are realising the value of our biodiversity. They are aware of problems with salinity, the demise of some of our frogs, and the need for suitable habitat for all of our wildlife. Even around the cities most people attempt to make improvements for local birds, mammals and frogs. Unfortunately, some of the most common reptiles which inhabit virtually all capital cities of Australia are not so welcome.
SNAKES IN SUBURBIA
Australia has about 923 species of reptiles including at least 199 species of snakes (Wilson & Swan 2010). Only 15% of these snakes are large enough to be regarded as potentially dangerous to humans. Some species of venomous snakes have adapted positively to changes to their environment and are now common in many of the suburban areas of southeastern Australia. The Eastern Brown Snake (Pseudonaja textilis) has been most successful in this regard. Overgrown gardens, unkempt public reserves, junky industrial areas or just properties which need a "post-winter" clean up (with their attendant rodents) are all home to Brown Snakes.
WHAT YOU SHOULD BE AWARE OF
Snakes are normally secretive and timid animals. Brown Snakes are able to hide in the most unlikely places including under wood, tin, old lino, concrete slabs, plastic, and roof tiles on the ground; within piles of bricks, pipes, fire wood and stones; inside sheds, shops and houses; in the cavities of walls; in aviaries; and even in swimming pools (personal observations).
Many gardeners, who go to much trouble to make their property more livable for themselves, and our native wildlife, donít realize how readily they have also made their garden acceptable to snakes. The comments below may help you understand the potential problems in specific areas. Just click on each heading to reveal the advice. Click again to hide it.
Snakes will not normally live under houses, if there is a substantial gap between the floorboards and the soil. Unless, of course, you have stored your junk, building rubble, heaps of wood, unwanted furniture, toys or tools underneath. The answer here is obvious, but necessary.
Forget the "infallible" solutions for keeping snakes away from your house environs or to trap them. Most do not work. A wine flagon on its side containing a drop of red; a bowl of milk laced with ratsack; a layer of diesel spread as a barrier on the ground; or collecting/encouraging Bluetongue and Shingleback Lizards on your property to discourage snakes are all fallacies.
Trapping snakes does sometimes work, but there are ethical considerations about even a venomous snake caught out in the hot sun. And there are the public health issues if a child or pet comes into contact with such a trapped snake.
Providing a snake exclusion barrier is another possibility. This can stand independently or be attached to an existing structure. Contact Living with Wildlife for more details.
Snakes are given some form of legal protection throughout Australia. If you are unsure of the status of snakes where you live, contact your state or territory fauna agency (check your local telephone directory or the internet) for advice.
There is an abundance of information about snakes available, but how much of it is accurate or reliable? Whether you access information from the internet, magazines or other printed references, determine that it comes from a reputable source. If the publisher is a government body (eg state museum, national parks or environment department) or a medical or tertiary institution, or is affiliated with such an organisation, then you should be able to accept it as worthy of your attention. Be ware especially of websites from overseas which may not relate to Australian conditions or our snake fauna.
Cogger, H.G. (2000). Reptiles & Amphibians of Australia. Reed New Holland.
Whitaker, P.B. & Shine, R. (1999). When, where and why do people encounter Australian brownsnakes (Pseudonaja textilis:Elapidae)? Wildlife Research 26: 675-688.
Whitaker, P.B. & Shine, R. (1999). Responses of free-ranging brownsnakes to encounters with humans. Wildlife Research 26: 689-704.
White, J., Edmonds, C. & Zborowski, P (1998). Australiaís Most Dangerous spiders, snakes and marine creatures. Australian Geographic.