Shoppers at Westfield Belconnen may have avoided the crowds on Tuesday night, but they did get more than they bargained for in the form of a red-bellied black snake.
Owner of Canberra Snake Rescue and Relocator Luke Dunn said his team received a call from shopping centre staff on Tuesday afternoon after the snake was found wandering the car park, wounded from what appeared to be a run-in with a car’s tyres.
The snake died before rescuers could arrive.
Luke says that while it’s rare a snake will venture into a place like a shopping centre car park, every now and then, snakes do slither into peculiar places.
The incident was particularly surprising as red-bellied black snakes are uncommon in suburban Canberra.
“We do get them in Canberra. For example, if you went down to Tidbinbilla at the moment, you’d have a pretty good chance of seeing one,” said Luke.
“It’s out in suburban Canberra where we don’t find a huge amount, particularly when comparing them to something like an eastern brown snake, which make up around nine out of 10 of the snakes that we catch.”
As for how the snake ended up in the Westfield car park, Luke has some theories.
“It very well could have come from an area around the lake which is only across the road, but it still has to make it through a fair bit of foot and road traffic,” he said.
“It also very well could’ve been underneath somebody’s vehicle. They could have parked in a spot, and the snake might have slithered up underneath their car, and it was taken there accidentally.”
As to how it came to be run over, Luke is unconvinced the driver intentionally hit the snake.
“Unfortunately for the snake, where it had decided to be was in a busy car park, and not only that, it was in a section of the car park with quite poor lighting,” he said.
“A dark coloured snake in poor lighting, it would’ve been really hard to see if you were just driving around on the road, and I wouldn’t want to think it was hit on purpose. It very well could’ve been an accident.”
Luke says avoiding interaction with the snake is the most important thing to do in this type of situation.
“If it’s just cruising through, the snake at that point in time is not yet dangerous. The snake will only become dangerous when it feels threatened, and it feels it actually needs to defend itself,” said Luke.
“If someone goes over and tries to hit it with something, or if somebody goes over and tries to catch it, regardless of how good their intentions may be, it’s those actions that then make the snake feel threatened, and that’s when they become defensive.
“In a very crowded environment, that’s the last thing you want to do because you do not want to put other people at risk of getting bitten,” he said.
He did, however, suggest bringing the snake to the attention of the people nearby, keeping eyes on the snake from a safe distance and giving the Canberra Snake and Rescue Relocation a call at 0405 405 304 to give the snake the best chance of safe relocation.
“Relocations in suburban ecosystems doesn’t always need to happen, but in a place like a shopping centre, of course, someone will need to come and get the snake because it’s just going to cause an incident if it gets left unattended,” he said.