Deadly snake sightings are on the rise in the urban jungle, with increasing reports of venomous reptiles in Australia’s busy capital cities.
Feared species including the potent eastern brown, red-bellied black and tiger snakes are popping up in established inner-city suburbs.
And with the impending hot summer, experts warn metropolitan dwellers could be more at risk of bites, with figures showing two-thirds of snake and spider fatalities occur in cities and towns.
About 3000 snake bites occur in Australia each year, however there are very few fatalities compared to countries such as India.
The New Daily spoke to snake catchers in Queensland, NSW and Victoria who agreed snake reports in cities were on the rise, however that did not equate to larger snake populations.
Snake Boss Julia Baker, who has a program on Animal Planet and runs 1300 Catch It in Brisbane, said she had caught snakes in urban areas like Brisbane’s Queen Street Mall, Spring Hill and Kedron.
Ms Baker said the prevalence of snake food sources, such as rats and mice (especially around urban chicken coops), and the attraction of water such as pools, dog bowls and even air conditioning, lured snakes to people’s homes and gardens.
She said especially in summer, sweltering snakes were on the move looking for water sources in which to take a dip.
“I’ve had a job where a girl jumped into her pool in a bikini only to see an eastern brown swimming around,” Ms Baker said.
“Another guy’s pool at Everton Park turned green because a python had curled inside the pool filter and blocked it.
“We have tree snakes that slide under doors because they’re passing through and sense the cool air conditioning inside the house.
“I had a job where a mother-in-law went to the toilet and a snake was curled around the toilet paper and when I got there, there was a trail of wee going out the door.
“Another job an Indian fellow was cooking a curry for the family when a python fell through the skyhole and he ran out of the kitchen. By the time I got there the kitchen was nearly on fire and the curry was burnt.”
A firefighter at Rutherford Fire Station found a s-s-s-surprise visitor hiding in their helmet. The red-bellied black snake was safely removed by a professional handler. pic.twitter.com/4fFSVOgYeO
— Fire and Rescue NSW (@FRNSW) January 19, 2018
Melbourne’s Snake Man Raymond Hoser said snakes had adapted to established urban suburbs where gardens were overgrown, as opposed to new suburbs, which had been razored for development.
He said snakes were “recolonising” city locations. The capital city suburbs with the highest sightings are:
Melbourne: Ivanhoe, Williamstown, Kew, Templestowe and Frankston North
Sydney: Mossman, Parramatta, Normanhurst, Watsons Bay
Brisbane: Taringa, Toowong, Woolloongabba, Wynnum, Manly
“Snakes are now better adapted to survive in heavily disturbed areas and are more abundant than they ever used to be in city areas,” Mr Hoser said.
“As gardens get overgrown and unkempt, the snakes move back into the older suburbs.”
Mr Hoser said tiger snakes were most prevalent in Melbourne, whereas Sydney was home to more red-bellied black snakes, and Brisbane mostly reported carpet snakes or pythons, which are harmless to humans.
Adelaide and Perth were mostly home to eastern browns, Hobart was all about tiger snakes and most of the snakes reported in Darwin were non-venomous, he said.
Snakes on wheels
Sydney’s metro area snake catcher Rob Ambrose said it was not possible for snake populations to have increased. He said social media had a lot to do with the hype around slithery sightings.
“Snakes are there. They always have been, but the stories and posts on social media have made it a big thing,” he said.
“People are more hyper aware because of what they see on social media.”
Mr Ambrose said species such as the red-bellied black snake popped up in quirky locations like Sydney’s George Street, usually because they were accidentally transported after hiding in cars.
“A good snake season is when you see a lot of snakes and that is how it should be,” Mr Ambrose said.
“Unfortunately we have developed extreme behaviour towards snakes and Australians are not connected to the native wildlife.”