7 October 2020

'An absolute whopper' of a brown snake relocated from Clare Holland House

| Michael Weaver
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Gavin Smith with the giant eastern brown snake near Clare Holland House

Gavin Smith of ACT Snake Removals with the giant eastern brown snake near Clare Holland House. Photo: Supplied.

An eastern brown snake that tipped the scales at 1.83 kg has been captured and relocated from the grounds of a palliative care hospice near Lake Burley Griffin.

While it is not the first snake of the season to be relocated, Gavin Smith of ACT Snake Removals said the 1.8-metre eastern brown snake was one of the largest he’s seen before it was released to a nature reserve that resembled its natural habitat.

A spokesperson for Clare Holland House also confirmed the snake had been removed from the rear of the residents’ courtyard on Sunday (4 October). It had likely been disturbed by recent building works.

Mr Smith said he marvelled at what he estimated was a mature male snake, weighing about three times more the average brown snake.

“Judging by the shape of its tail, this was a pretty old boy who’s been around for many years and has grown to this gargantuan size,” he told Region Media.

“I suspect this one has changed its diet over time, and while we can’t be certain, I suspect it’s been eating small rabbits as it’s just an absolute whopper.

“With this guy in the bag, it reminded me of a large python.”

Gavin Smith

Gavin Smith, of ACT Snake Removals, with the giant eastern brown snake near Clare Holland House. Photo: Supplied

He said brown snakes are usually slender and fast-moving snakes, but also pack a powerful punch of venom that makes them one of the most lethal snakes on the planet.

“This one was off the scale of what I usually see. Handling him, I was amazed at its extraordinary strength. He’s the same height as me, so you really have to be on your game and very aware of what he’s capable of,” Mr Smith said, adding that he’s not been bitten by any snake.

He said the forecast of a wetter spring and summer meant more snakes would be attracted by the conditions where they could prey on mice, rats and even rabbits.

“This snake had obviously been living in its habitat for a number of years, and while I’m always ambivalent about moving it, all snake catchers put a lot of effort into choosing as good a habitat as possible to relocate so the snake can continue to do well.

“This one was just getting a bit too close to residents and visitors.”

READ ALSO Living with snakes in the bush capital

An eastern brown had also been relocated from the Federal Golf Course last weekend, while Canberra Snake Rescue and Relocation also received a call from Bunnings at Fyshwick where an injured brown snake had been reported in the car park. However, on arrival, they found the snake had been decapitated, which they said was incredibly cruel and disturbing.

Mr Smith is also a reptile researcher at the Australian National University and said because of the severe lack of scientific evidence about snakes, he was embarking on a telemetry project with other snake handlers to better understand the slitherings of snakes in urban environments.

He said it was vital to dispel the myths surrounding snakes.

An eastern brown

Snake catchers are keen to dispel the myths surrounding snakes, after getting up close and personal with this eastern brown snake that was relocated on the weekend. Photo: Michael Jones.

“Snakes are masters of adaptation and have evolved to adapt beautifully to human habitation, which is why we see so many of them because we give them an environment in terms of shelter, as well as mice and rats, which are their favourite prey items.

“It’s just us humans aren’t so comfortable living so close to eastern brown snakes.”

Mr Smith said the best advice if you see any snake is to remain still and calm and don’t do anything that poses a threat to the snake. He said this was obviously not always possible for pets such as dogs and cats which unfortunately suffer after being injected with the eastern brown snake’s incredibly potent venom

“There’s this idea that most brown snakes live in the bush. They live in suburbia and we have obviously built on their habitat, so the more we can understand by doing the fieldwork required, the better we can understand these magnificent animals.”

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