Pets / Snake season calls for care

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Good guy… a red-belly black snake, which is reluctant to bite. Photo by Heike Hahner
Good guy… a red-belly black snake, which is reluctant to bite. Photo by Heike Hahner

SNAKES are a great concern to many traditional and unique pets owners and with spring now in full swing reptiles, including snakes, are making a comeback to our local environment.

Dogs frequently get bitten because they harass or attack snakes.

Killing snakes in front of a dog, apart from being illegal, will increase the chances that it will take on snakes, as dogs can learn through observation.

If a dog is allowed to kill lizards and skinks, it will have no hesitation to attack a snake and may receive a lethal bite as the reptile defends itself.

However scary snakes may seem, they don’t set out to bite people and, in general, are elusive and try and hide from humans. Coming across a snake is often as scary for the reptile as it is for us and there are things we can do to avoid getting dogs – and ourselves – bitten by snakes, for instance:

  • Keep dogs away from or under control near potential snake shelters such as rocks, logs, hollow trees, long grass, rabbit and wombat hollows, culverts and rubbish piles.
  • Be extra cautious anywhere near waterways. If taking a dog for a swim, seek out areas with flat and open ground, that don’t offer hiding spots for snakes.
  • Walk dogs in the morning, rather than in the afternoon. Snakes will need to warm up in the morning after the cooler night, so they’re more sluggish. Once we get hotter nights, care must be taken at all times.
  • Walk dogs on pathways or roads or in mowed or grazed paddocks where there’s a good view of the ground ahead.
  • Protect gardens and houses from snakes by covering the lower part of garden fences with a fine mesh, such as bird netting.
  • Avoid providing shelter and food for snakes. Avoid clutter around the house to discourage snakes from taking up residence.
  • Chook food and scraps attract rats and mice, providing snakes with some tempting meals. Feed chooks with just as much as they will eat in about 10 minutes and avoid having scraps lying around to keep mice and rats at bay.
  • Encourage less aggressive snakes to stay around to help to keep the more aggressive snakes away. Black snake and the red-belly black snake are calm and reluctant to bite. They are also cannibals and will eat other snakes.
  • Encourage birds such as kookaburras and herons into your local environment. They will keep the baby snake population under control.

Always use extreme caution around snakes and call a professional snake handler for advice and help to remove the reptile. Help can be found at: Access Canberra, 132281; Canberra Reptile Rescue, 0405 405304; snake catcher, Alex Borg, 0421 281439; Queanbeyan Wildcare,  6299 1966 and RSPCA Injured Wildlife, 6287 8100.

Heike Hahner is a dog and pet training and psychology consultant,


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