Cat #1 caught a young dugite on Tuesday. First I knew of this was when I heard that distinctive triumphant but somewhat muffled “Meow! Meow! Meow!” approaching. I looked up from the post I was trying to give the final edit to and saw a snake dangling out of her mouth as she headed for the house to deliver her present. Poor snake was perfectly alive and so far apparently unharmed, only about a foot long, and wriggling like fury trying to get away from the cat. It succeeded too, and she immediately picked it up again and kept coming.
Thankfully the screen door was closed (unusual, but fly season is starting here) and she couldn’t just bring it straight in. We convinced her to drop it at the door. It immediately worked its way under the screen door to hide from the cat. So we closed the glass sliding door too to make sure it stayed out, and I went and got the snake gear.
Big shout out to Snake Rescue and Relocation Training, one of Bob Cooper’s survival and wilderness companies, who taught me years ago what I needed to know today. I hadn’t actually put a set of snake gear together, but I knew what I wanted. A big garbage bin with a lid. A dark cloth to go in it. A pair of wellies and some garden gloves. So, while Husband watched the snake so we knew where it was, I found my gloves and Husband’s wellies (mine are on the farm in Albany), grabbed the bin I use for carting mulch and put a towel in it and went and put those near the snake. I also grabbed the cat and put her in the laundry.
However, we couldn’t get the snake out. It did appear to have its head wedged. Removing the screen door requires unscrewing two screws along the bottom on the inside, one about where the snake’s head was. So Husband on the inside of the door got that job. He commented that if the head was stuck then he could easily pick it up by the tail.
I went and got a coathanger and a pair of pliers and improvised a jigger. It’s a handy little tool and its main purpose is to hold the head of the snake safely and firmly somewhere out of your reach. More to the point(s), with you out of its reach. You can make one from a coathanger, or the things you use to hang pot plants also work OK. I didn’t have to explain it to Husband as he’d seen me use something similar to retrieve a lost teaspoon from a 240-litre wheelie bin on the weekend (one of the joys of knowing the fine details of the laws of physics is occasionally doing the seemingly impossible).
So we removed the screen door, the snake was indecisive about where to make a bolt to, we picked it up and put it in the bin and put the lid on, then carried it across to the local creek reserve where it had probably come from and released it. Much excitement, but no real drama.
Best bit of it all was getting to teach some of my snake handling skills to my husband. I do highly recommend the snake handling courses if you’re likely to run into such things in your backyard. Mine is more likely than many being somewhat untamed and between a year-round creek and the neighbour’s swimming pool, but this is dugite-on-the-move season so they can turn up across most of the semi-urban area.
Funniest bit was Husband asking me if I was sure it was venomous. I had to resist the urge to ask him what country we lived in. I did check later, and as I thought it was most likely a young dugite but could have been any one of the complex of brown snakes, they’re not easy to tell apart visually unless you can count the belly scales. The black head was a pretty good clue though. Combined with an olive body that had no banding but a few speckles, dugite’s a safe guess.
Irony of it was that I’d allocated Tuesday to clearing potential snake habitat – in the front garden. The snake was caught in the back yard. I’ve been trying to keep the habitat down, but the extra rain at season-end meant everything I’d cleared had regrown. So “clearing up” has moved to the top of the task priority list.