SnakeSense: Conserving Australian Snakes and Lizards through Education

Sharing knowledge, conserving reptiles: snake catching, education, research, conservation.

Humans are far more dangerous

Not much to show for a life...

Not much to show for a life...

In March 2008, a baby Tiger Snake was born.  Just 18cm long, this tiny, shy little girl knew her mother only a few moments before she and her siblings were left to fend for themselves.  Within days, her brothers and sisters had gone their separate ways in their own quests for survival: and she was alone.

An easy meal for even a pint-sized predator, she moved only in darkness, eating when and what she could, before hurriedly seeking a hiding place warm enough to withstand the winter months.

Winter claims many a young snake, with less than half likely to see their first Spring.  But she made it.  October 2008: the sun was warm… and her tiny body ached with hunger after its long hibernation.  Four more months of hard-won growth and she was so proud of herself for coming so far.

Then it happened.  The sun turned red and the air thickened with smoke.  The ground shuddered as trees exploded, and all too fast, the flames were upon her.  She fled.

Quaking with fear, she coiled in the deepest, darkest hole she could find.  Her lungs hurt for lack of oxygen; her eyes stung.  In the nearby forest, the red sun of Black Saturday was the last her mother would ever see.

On Sunday morning, she was amazed – and elated – to be still alive.  But her relief was short-lived.  Back on the surface, there were no frogs, no lizards – nothing to eat.  2009 was going to be a long, hard winter, with no fat stores to help her through.

Somehow, Summer 2009/2010 brought a miracle: she was okay!  Frogs were returning, and soon, it would be her second birthday.  Next spring, she would be old enough to start thinking about a family of her own.    

But next Spring will never come for this little snake.  On March 7th, she took a risk – the lush garden in which she had lived so long had been cold and wet for 24 hours, and that sudden patch of sun was too tempting to resist.  She lay there, for but a moment: but a moment too long.  A shriek and a flurry of movement: she hid amidst the pot plants. 

She hesitated, terrified: she had to reach a better hiding place.  She made a dash for it … and suddenly, a pain beyond imagination flooded her fragile body.  Again and again, until, she couldn’t move: no matter how she strained her upper body, she couldn’t seem to get the rest to follow.  There was so much noise: people moving and talking.  A car was coming.

She slipped in and out of consciousness, until, half-dreaming, she gazed up into a pair of friendly eyes.  For a second, she dared to hope: but those eyes held only tears, and at that, her world went dark forever.

……………………………………

On Sunday afternoon, we received a call from a couple in Buxton, with a snake in their garden.  On our way home from Healesville at the time, we assured them we would be at the door within forty minutes.

Thirty-five minutes later, we arrived, only to find, moments earlier, the couple had changed their minds and attempted to batter the young snake to death with a garden hoe.  We estimate at least five blows were delivered, directed at the mid to lower body.  At first glance, I saw no scales, only blood and torn flesh.

Well and truly alive, this little girl gazed up at me with the same look I have seen in a wealth of species fatally wounded at the hands of a human.  I am not being subjective … nor ‘anthropomorphizing’ … when I say that the look in those eyes can only be interpreted one way: “Please, help me.”

Her wounds were so horrific, we had no choice but to euthanase her immediately.  Snakes are protected under Victorian law, and any attempt to harm them is a criminal offence: never mind the cruelty involved in the methods employed.  We will be reporting these people for their acts.

In Australia, ‘anti-snake’ is embedded in human culture, and I realize events like these are taking place every day.  Nonetheless, just because something has ‘always been done’ is no justification for doing it. 

Steve Irwin once said, “One day… we’ll look back on [such] things the same way we look back on slavery…”

I will work every day of my life to make that happen.  Please help.

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Did you know?

    Australia is home to over 40 different Blindsnakes The smallest blindsnakes are just 17cm long, and as thin as a matchstick.

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