THE OTHER DAY a person commented, “I’ve seen more snakes this year than in any previous year. Maybe it’s the drought”. Certainly drought can impact on a local habitat, thereby forcing wildlife to move and look for better options elsewhere, but there are other reasons too.
If you have built a beautiful garden of shrubs and flowers — with perhaps a water feature — then that might be the reason one sees more snakes, reptiles and other animals close to the house.
Snakes will hunt for frogs, which come with a water feature and they want to escape from the hot sun by slithering under some cool shady greenery. Likewise, if you have a new chook shed or stable block, the feed will attract rats and mice — followed by a snake on the hunt.
Possums and wallabies (and eastern grey kangaroos) prefer to eat native grasses, shoots and flowers, but in times of hardship, they will gladly help us care for our gardens by nibbling on our plants and seemingly anything that is green. And, as we found out during this year’s dry winter, kangaroos and wallabies can be overly helpful in pruning the shrubs and roses.
Even so, having watched our rural gardens being seemingly destroyed over winter, with the onset of spring, everything is bursting back to life with half-eaten shrubs charging away with growth.
Subdivision and development activity can make wildlife move
Changes to wildlife movement patterns can occur if there is a new development nearby. Or perhaps a neighbour has changed how they are using the land. Wildlife will take advantage if a property is vacant for a long period. There could be uncontrolled dogs that change the wildlife dynamics where you live.
In those times when it rains heavily, wombats that have set up home in a creek or river bed, can get a rude awakening and find they have to quickly vacate the area and set up a temporary home inside, or under a house or shed.
Possums are beautiful creatures and prefer a tree hollow, but they can become a ‘pest’ if they find their way into your attic. As for echidnas, Wildcare had an incident where an echidna walked through an open fly screen door and took up residence in the hallway!
Reduce snake surprises
Anyone who is new to living in a wildlife-rich area can reduce the likelihood of being surprised by: being extremely vigilant when working outside; tidying up around the backyard, so you can see what is around, and reduce hiding places; mending roofs and blocking off gaps; raising bird netting off the ground to stop reptiles and other creatures becoming trapped (as in this image); keeping dogs and cats under control (the risk of snake bite is markedly reduced if companion animals spend more time inside the house); keep feed secure to reduce the likelihood of rodents; and don’t leave outside doors open, including on sheds.
This has not changed: most people get bitten when trying to kill a snake or pick It up
Lastly, most people get bitten by a snake when they are either trying to kill it or pick it up. Often a disturbed snake will want to move away, never to be seen again, but as with all wildlife, if it feels threatened, it will defend itself.
For all snake and wildlife incidents, contact Wildcare for advice on 6299 1966.
IMAGE: Brown snake being untangled from bird netting. Supplied.