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NORTHSIDE couple Emma and Luke Dunn are on a mission to show Canberra that snakes “aren’t that bad”.
In fact, 28-year-old Emma says they play a really important role in the ecosystem, so while it’s okay to not like them, killing them isn’t necessary. And, illegal.
The pair met when working at what was then called the Canberra Reptile Sanctuary and, after a “romantic weekend getaway” to a venomous snake-handling course, they petitioned the ACT government for the first, private, snake-catching licence in Canberra.
The government agreed, so in 2015 Emma and Luke started Canberra Snake Rescue & Relocation, which specialises in removing unwanted venomous snakes and other reptiles from homes, offices or worksites.
Since then, they’ve had to rescue snakes from some odd locations in the ACT.
One of the strangest requests was rescuing a red-bellied black snake from a fish shop in the Belconnen marketplace while people were still shopping.
“Luke has also been on a harness to rescue three brown snakes, winched down in a ditch on a worksite,” Emma says.
“After we rescue native snakes we relocate them within our licence regulations, ideally away from human-frequented areas.”
But, Emma says it’s not as simple as just putting them in some nearby bushland. They both have to make an ecological decision as to what’s best for the snake or there could be dire consequences such as introducing disease.
“We’re in it because we actually care about them, so we wouldn’t put them somewhere, where cats could attack them,” she says.
“We do it because we love snakes and we know a lot of people don’t.”
Emma and Luke want to share this love, or at least a respect for snakes, by using their knowledge to educate the public.
“Our aim is to educate people through snake awareness, school displays and other organised displays,” Luke, 23, says.
“We’ve started doing displays and we can go in and chat to schools.
“We now run a snake-awareness presentation aimed at staff so they know what to do if there’s a snake in the school grounds. If the teacher is able to control the situation and not panic then it is better for everyone.”
Emma and Luke want to remove the fear around snakes, which they say is the fear of the unknown.
“The first time our daughter, [Amelia, 2], saw a dog she panicked and screamed, but put a [pet] snake in front of her and she’s happy,” Emma says.
Luke and Emma urge people not to underestimate their children and teach them about poisonous snakes and what to do if approached by one.
“The likelihood of coming across a snake is high but the likelihood of having contact with a snake or being bitten by a snake is low,” Emma says.
And, she says there’s not really an ideal time to avoid snakes because it’s usually during the hottest part of the day, which is when it’s too hot for humans as well.
“The best thing to do is go out when needed but know how to react if there’s a snake nearby,” she says.
Snakes can even still come out at night when it’s warm and Emma advises pet owners to keep their animals on a leash, especially if there’s long grass around.
“People think that snakes will attack you and chase you if they see you, but if one comes towards you, it’ll usually go past you,” she says.
“If they’re trying to get to a burrow they’ll risk going past you to go towards a spot that’s safe. They don’t stop and bother you on the way.”
“If you see a snake close by, try your best to keep your distance without moving too quickly,” Luke says.
“If you stay still they don’t notice you as much and don’t see you as a predator.”
Emma says: “Each snake is an individual, and as much as people don’t believe us, they have a personality, too.”
Snake Rescue & Relocation have a call-out fee of $70. Call 0405 405304 or email email@example.com