While many Cairns residents spent the long weekend entertaining friends in their tropical yards- a lovely couple from Forrest Gardens were unwittingly hosting a 1.6m Coastal Taipan in their small courtyard! On arrival it was clear that this Coastal Taipan was lethargic and not as energised as others I have had to relocate in the past. I very carefully pinned the snake behind the neck and picked it up. A closer examination revealed a break in its spine midway down its body – possibly the result of being run over at some point. Unfortunately the snake had to be euthanized due to the severity of the injury. The Coastal Taipan is a snake that commands respect, equipped with long fangs capable of delivering the third most toxic venom of any land snake on earth. They are renowned for defending themselves with multiple strikes/bites which have resulted in some human deaths over the years. The head shape is quite distinct with an angular brow (which makes it look more angry than angular) and is lighter colored on the face. The eye is a reddish colour and has a round pupil. To appreciate these features however you have to get very close to a Coastal Taipan which I do NOT recommend doing. The Coastal Taipan only eats mammals such as small rodents and is active during the day and in the evenings during hot weather. The Brown Tree Snake is often misidentified as the Coastal Taipan. While these dangerously venomous snakes are not a welcome addition to most people’s yards, they are native to our area and an important part of local ecology. Coastal Taipan’s have not urbanised well when compared to Scrub Python’s and Brown Tree Snakes and as a result we rarely catch them in surburban areas around Cairns. Habitat destruction poses a significant threat to the local Taipan population and I have included a shot of a new development site in Smithfield to emphasize the point. Land clearing can often result in heighten snake activity for people living on the edge of the new development as the local wildlife is forced to find some new accommodation. Residents living on the edge of this land development should show heightened snake awareness at this time.
A Mooroobool couple arrived home last night to find a 5m scrub python had parked itself in their carport. They called me out and I was intrigued to find such a large snake coiled up in such an open space! When I picked the snake up I could tell it was lethargic and it quickly became apparent that the big snake was recovering from a serious injury. I had the snake examined by a vet and it was subsequently released. The scrub python may have been ran over by a car at some point. Big snakes like these often span the whole width of the road and are susceptible to car strikes. Snakes often cross or warm themselves on roads at night and can be hard to see, so be careful if you do see a small stick or a large log on the road at night as it might be a snake!
Most people stop checking under their beds for monsters as they get older, however occasionally it is still worth checking…. A Trinity Park couple were woken in the night by their dog growling at something under their bed as they were sleeping. After the bedside lamp was switched on they caught a glimpse of a snake under their bed. When I arrived they were relatively calm and suspected it was a 50cm tree snake. I crawled under their bed and was greeted by a 3m scrub python tightly wrapped around the bed frame and in a really bad mood. I warned the couple that their room mate was slightly larger than they had initially suspected! The scub python (non-venomous) was relocated and we all agreed that they should look into closing the screen door during the night which was always left open for their pets.
Introducing the newest member of the Cairns Snake Catching team – Jason Legg. Jason is a professional fishing guide, accomplished crocodile and snake handler, and a welcome addition to our team. We now have three professional snake catchers spanning multiple generations to help limit negative interaction between local Cairns residents and the local snake species. Scrub pythons were out in force this weekend looking to exploit any weaknesses in suburban chicken coops in order to access an easy meal. Jason caught this impressive Scrub Python on Friday at a residence in Machans Beach. Just short of 5m and weighing an impressive 28kg this big scrub python was found on top of a chicken coop systematically searching for the entrance to the all you can eat chicken buffet. Many other scrub pythons were also removed from in and around chicken coops this week. It is a timely reminder that as it gets hotter snake appetites increase and small pets left outside for the night need to be kept in a snake proof enclosure
Perfect weather conditions in Cairns saw many residents load up their boats and head to the reef today, while other residents took the opportunity to tidy up their yards after last weeks rain. One Trinity Beach resident decided to deal with the ever growing pile of palm fronds in the corner of his backyard (which we all have) and uncovered an angry red-bellied black snake. This dangerously venomous snake is glossy black on the dorsal surface and red/crimson or even pink in colour on the lower sides and belly. They diet primarily on frogs, but they also prey on reptiles, small mammals and also eat other snakes- including those of their own species! The red-bellied black snake are also live bearers- meaning they don’t lay eggs, but give birth to live young. This is a timely reminder that spring often sees an increase in activity of some venomous snake species around suburban Cairns. Death adders and red-bellied black snakes are the most common species we relocate around Cairns. While tidying up the yard – it is always a good idea to wear shoes long pants and gloves – particularly if your dealing with the pile of palm fronds! Meanwhile at another pile of palm fronds – this time in Kewarra Beach, a large female scrub python was noticed sunning herself at the top of the mound. When I arrived she was no where to be seen but as I dug deeper into the pile of fronds, I found her curled around her clutch of 15 eggs. Dumping vegetation to rot in the backyard creates perfect habitat for snakes, so try not to let the pile get too big and stay for too long.
The blue phase common tree snake is one of the most visually striking species of snake that I encounter around Cairns. It’s neon blue belly is impressive, but the snake takes it’s stunning appearance to another level when it puffs up it’s body causing the scales on its back to separate revealing fluorescent blue highlights that flash with each breath. Gordonvale and the surrounding southern suburbs yield the highest proportions of these blue beauties than the city and the northern beaches according to our catch data. Common tree snakes are non venomous and very reluctant biters. They pose little to no threat to people or pets and should be admired for their beauty and left to their own devices where ever possible. Should they end up in your house (most common during the daytime) you should keep a close eye on their movements as they move fast and can disappear very quickly.
While many parts of Queensland and New South Wales deal with the aftermath of cyclone Debbie, Cairns residents have endured some very warm nights and an influx of snakes! Big scrub pythons have made the most of hot conditions with many Cairns pets under siege throughout the night. Some large brown tree snakes have also been relocated with one from Redlynch measuring 2.4m. Regardless of prevailing conditions, all pet owners in and around Cairns need to ensure that their animals are either inside at night or in a suitable snake proof outside enclosure.
Wet conditions around Cairns have resulted in an increase in snake activity in and around people’s homes as many local snake species decide to book themselves into more comfortable accommodation. This gentle giant was caught earlier in the week from Speewah and was desperately trying to find the entrance to the all you can eat duck buffet. Meticulous snake proofing of the duck enclosure was all that stopped this massive 5.2m scrub python from finding his seat at the table. During wet conditions it is really important to keep all screens on doors and windows shut – particularly at night. This week brown tree snakes, slaty-grey snakes, spotted pythons, common tree snakes, and scrub pythons have been the most common species relocated from inside people’s houses. Make sure any small pets like chickens, ducks, guinea pigs or cats are either brought in at night or are kept in snake proof enclosures outside.
I have always found the humble water python to be an absolute pleasure to relocate. The water python’s beautiful yellow belly is a perfect match for it’s mellow temperament. If it were a primary school child, the water python would get an award for behavior. The scrub python however, would spend a bit of time in detention…. This prime specimen was relocated earlier this morning in Freshwater. Water pythons have a glossy back which is brown to black in colour and bright to dull yellow belly. They are more active at night and feed mainly on birds and small mammals. Many water pythons will lay eggs at this time of year. Female water pythons look after their clutch of eggs which are occasionally exposed during earthworks,
Its a jungle out there! We suspect that this beautiful black headed python may have been a pet that escaped its enclosure and had been ‘living rough’ for a while by the time we found it. The snake was in poor condition and was found trying to enter a Woree residence via the doggy door. Black-headed pythons are generally found inland and not the coastal areas around Cairns (although there is rumored to be a small population on the Yarrabah range). They feed largely on reptiles, including venomous snakes although small mammals and birds are occasionally taken. This species does not have the heat-sensing pits on the lower jaw that are found in other pythons and can grow to an average length of 1.5m (reaching a maximum length of 2.5m). This black-headed python has since been surrendered to the Wildlife Management Unit of the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection and will be found a new home under one of their relocation programs.
When Patty from Speewah calls to say she has a big scrub python trying to get into her duck pen – she really means BIG. Measuring 5.1m in length and tipping the scales at a very respectable 27kg, this hungry scrub python could have cleared out the duck pen in one sitting. It is no wonder that ‘Hot Chocolate’ the flamboyant brown duck was in such a flap when I arrived the scene at 2:30am. The spectacular scrubby also had around 30 bush ticks attached to its head which were promptly removed by Cairns Snake Catcher and vet Dr Jack Shield. The large scrub python was then released back into the Barron Gorge National Park minus the blood sucking parasites.
I’m not here for a haircut, I’m here to catch your snake…but I will need to borrow your wife’s blow dryer…. I could have passed it off as a strange dream, but late last night I found myself blow drying the stairwell of a quiet Kewarra Beach residence. The 2m brown tree snake had retreated into the hollow beam of the stairwell when I arrived and had no intentions of coming out. That is when I decided to turn up the heat. I have used this little trick once on a common tree snake that would not come out of the rim of the toilet bowl, but wasn’t sure if it would work in a more industrial setting. By gently heating the area where the snake is hiding the temperature change will often motivate the snake to leave the safety its bunker. After about 5 minutes of reasonably awkward blow drying the snake slowly exited the steel beam and entered my snake bag. Had the snake stayed in the beam I’m sure the resident would have thought I was loosing the plot!