Many Canberrans will recall the hail storm that swept through the capital in January, but for one family, it brought some unexpected and unwelcome visitors into their home.
A total of 19 Eastern Brown hatchlings were found over the course of a few weeks in a house in north Canberra following the extreme weather event.
Snake handlers believe the downpour swept the hatchings into a drainage shaft of the house, and they settled in.
The first two eastern brown hatchlings were discovered when they slithered their way into the family rumpus room, nestling into a towel that was being used to block bushfire smoke.
The snakes, which are venomous, were discovered when a woman in the house shook the towel out. She was bitten when she tried to stop one of the snakes from attacking her cat.
“I didn’t recognise these two little things all twisted up, I thought it was a millipede,” the woman, who did not wish to be named, told the ABC.
Luckily, the woman’s mother recognised the deadly species thanks to a snake awareness course she had completed just a few months earlier.
“Mum is the real hero in this,” the woman said, explaining that her mum went straight for the compression bandage she had given the family after the course, which slowed the spread of venom.
ACT Snake Removals owner Gavin Smith, who ran the snake awareness course and responded to the family’s call for help, said the mother had potentially saved her daughter from serious health implications.
“The person administering the first aid had only recently attended a training session and knew exactly what to do,” he said.
“They kept calm and kept them completely still and called triple zero and got the person to hospital.”
But the story did not end there — in fact, ACT Snake Removals were called to the house an additional five times.
Mr Smith was in disbelief when the woman called a couple of weeks later, for two more snakes which she had found in the rumpus room and in the toilet.
“You pinch yourself. It had already been quite an intense event [the first time] because of the fact the lady was bitten and venomated,” he said.
“We were completely baffled.”
During a third callout, snake catchers found another 11 Eastern Brown hatchlings in a shaft outside a window.
And then there were more
The fourth call out saw a baby Eastern Brown removed from the rumpus room. It was stuck on some duct tape which the homeowners had used to seal various gaps, and Mr Smith was able to take it home and remove it safely from the duct tape using cooking oil, before releasing it.
Finally, a day later, a deceased hatching snake was found. In all, 19 hatchlings were collected.
“We suspect they’d been washed into a shaft behind the house and the only way to dig out of that was actually through the house,” said Mr Smith, who went on to praise the composure of the family and their openness to learning more about the wild animals throughout the ordeal.
“Even though one of them was actually bitten by one of the little snakes, they still had so much care for the wildlife,” he said.
“They just wanted it taken away safely to a more appropriate habitat.”
The woman said Mr Smith and his team helped her family transform the experience into a positive.
“We coped really well as a family simply because of [the other handler] Alex and Gavin’s care and concern,” she said.
“They spent time explaining to the children that the snakes weren’t sneaking into the house. That really took away the idea of a predatory thing coming into our home.
“We had more empathy for these poor things that were incredibly distressed and in such a desperate situation.”
Since the ordeal, one of her children has decided they want to become a vet “after being inspired by the fact Gavin and Alex would put their life on the line to help an animal that could hurt them”.
And in sharing her story, the woman hopes other families recognise the importance of snake awareness, and that they aren’t to be feared.
“It was freak event on the back of a really difficult summer that came about as a result of an ‘unfortunate architectural design’, that we are getting fixed,” she said.