January 17, 2019 Sandy Powell DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME: North-West Snake Catcher Scott Smith displaying a large, adult tiger snake at an exhibition in Wynyard this week. Tiger snakes are Tasmania's most venomous snakes and under no circumstances should they be handled by unskilled people. Picture: Sandy Powell. SUMMER’S heat has returned, and with it some of the North-West’s scaliest friends. Venomous snakes have been sighted all across the region in recent weeks, ensuring a busy summer for local snake wranglers. Scott Smith and his partner Kate Downing run the North-West Snake Catchers Facebook page, and are the go-to snake gurus for the local councils. Throughout the summer snake season the couple will receive up to 100 phone calls from North-West locals entertaining unwelcome, slithering visitors. Tasmanian snakes Snakes found in Tasmania include the tiger snake, lowland copperhead snake and the white-lipped snake. All three are venomous, but while the bite of the tiger snake and copperhead can be fatal to adult humans without proper first-aid and treatment, the white-lipped snake is unlikely to cause serious injury to healthy adults. No other venomous Australian snakes or non-venomous pythons are found in Tasmania, which may make it easier to adjust the necessary level of concern should you seek a snake in the wild. Or in your home. On Wednesday afternoon Mr Smith was called to a Federal Street property in Burnie to remove what was reportedly a small tiger snake wrapped seeking refuge under an air conditioning unit. The homeowner, Kay Westte, had called the Burnie City Council upon seeing the snake in her backyard, who had directed her to Scott’s services. Mr Smith was unable to find the snake, and said it was not unusual for snakes to have moved on by the time he arrived. Pull the pets inside, pull the kids inside and give me a call. Scott Smith, on household snake sightings. However, that should not deter people from giving him a call – for both the safety of residents and pets, and the snake itself. “Especially at this time of year when the snakes are so active, people are having a lot of altercations with snakes,” he said. “At the moment we are getting probably five to seven phone calls a day, but we might retrieve about 40 snakes across the summer. “It’s getting quite busy at the moment, but with snakes it is all circumstantial. “As far as people saying we’ve got more snakes this summer it is all dependent on us seeing them, on people seeing them. https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=10217315285981792 “They have always been there and they are always going to be there, but as soon as you get into the new year the males start chasing the females around. “The males are getting ready to mate so they are travelling some distance to try and find a female. “With the warmer temperatures they are looking for water, so they are coming to our houses.” Ms Westte’s property is a sprawling acre of luxurious gardens and bushland, and she said although she knew tiger snakes were active in the area, she had only recently started seeing them. “They live here and I have just got to be aware of them,” Ms Westte said. “I wear rubber boots around the garden, and I was just down here potting today and the dog was barking. “I am concerned about the pets, but I don’t want to get bitten either.” VENOM: A large tiger snake, handled by North-West Snake Catcher Scott Smith, uses its forked tongue to taste and smell scents in its surroundings. Picture: Brodie Weeding. Ms Westte said when she realised the snake was slithering around her property, her first priority was to get her animals inside and not provoke the snake or try and kill it. “That’s not smart. You can get bitten, and I live in their territory. I just don’t want him around the house, in the house or anywhere around where the car,” Ms Westte said. She thought the snake she saw on Wednesday was likely juvenile, as it was smaller and its namesake stripes were very clear, though she had also seen much larger snakes recently. Dangers and education The venom toxicity of juvenile snakes is just as strong as adults, though they typically produce less venom. Similarly, the clarity and colouration of a tiger snake’s stripes may vary due to geographic and climatic differences throughout Tasmania. “But it’s important for everyone to know that the venom quality is still the same,” Mr Smith said. “Regardless of their colour they are still a tiger snake and they are still venomous.” Mr Smith said lowland copperhead snakes, which are also highly venomous, are quite active snakes typically found in more swampy locations. https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=2289970921287729 “They quite like eating frogs and lizards and that sort of thing,” he said. “Generally we find [copperhead snakes] around Penguin, Sisters’ Beach and Devonport.” At an exhibition in Wynyard this week, Mr Smith displayed several tiger snakes and copperhead snakes for a crowd of onlookers from an enclosed pen. “These guys are used to me, so they’re pretty calm,” he told the crowd. “Obviously in the wild you shouldn’t do what I do in here. “Generally speaking, the best thing to do if you encounter a snake is pull the pets inside, pull the kids inside and give me a call.” What to do in the event of a snake bite If you or someone you are with is bitten, call 000 immediately and stay calm. Fear can often lead to shock and exacerbate an already dangerous situation. Reassure the bite victim at all times, because the chance of death is relatively small. Identification of the snake is not necessary, as all native Tasmanian snake bites are treated with the same anti-venom. For full first-aid and snake bite reaction procedures, visit the Tasmanian Government’s Parks and Wildlife Living With Snakes website. Mr Smith said if a pet is experiencing loss of movement, cloudy vision, vomiting and continual licking of a certain area it could indicate symptoms of snake bite and possibly “severe envenomation.” “Areas to look out for at this time of year for pets is outside water bowls,” he said. “Creeks and dams are drying up so snakes are looking for outside sources of water.” Mr Smith said homeowners should keep their yards clutter free, keep lawns cut short and hedges cut high so you can see underneath, keep doors closed and exercise vigilance. Snakes are also attracted to areas with high rodent activity such as farmland and livestock enclosures. North-West Snake Catchers, Scott Smith and his partner Kate Downing, can be contacted on 0488929761.