snakes in the city

Snakes in the city

Snakes are becoming increasingly common sightings in urban centres across Australia. Brisbane and her surrounding suburbs are no exception. Local snake sightings are on the rise in the urban jungle. There are an increasing number of reports of venomous and non-venomous snakes in Australia’s busy capital cities.

Many of Australia’s most feared species are popping up with more and more sightings on a regular basis. The potent eastern brown, red-bellied black and tiger snakes are being spotted in well-established inner-city suburbs.

Of course, numbers increase during the hot summers and breeding seasons. Experts advise metro dwellers that they are only at higher risk of bites when they try to interfere with them. Did you know that figures show two-thirds of snake and spider fatalities occur in cities and towns? This is obviously due to higher population density. Who said living in the country was more dangerous?!?

About 3000 snake bites occur in Australia each year. When you compare the number of fatalities due to snake bites in Australia compared to countries such as India, we have a very low annual rate of 2-4. A large percentage of these bites are classified as ‘dry bites’, this means that in self defence, the snake bites but doesn’t release any precious venom.

Snake Catchers across our great nation agree that snake reports in cities were on the rise. Remarkably though, that does not equate to a larger snake population. It has more to do with expanding development and habitat loss. But more accurately it’s due to the increasing number of snake catchers sensationalising and promoting their business on social media. Creating fear gets people’s attention. Some catchers also go as far as creating fake social media accounts so they can give their business many shout outs on local community Facebook pages to expand their following.

Snakes have been reported and caught in urban areas like Brisbane’s Queen Street Mall, Spring Hill and Kedron. Greater Brisbane suburbs are no exception as the demand for housing increases and more catchers compete for public exposure.

It is the prevalence of snake food sources that lure the snakes in. Rodents such as rats and mice hanging around urban chicken coops are a huge pull! The attraction of water such as pools, dog bowls and even air conditioning is also responsible for the influx of snakes in people’s homes and gardens. Snakes will utilise any convenient hiding spots such as piles of wood, overgrown and unmaintained gardens, gaps under concrete, cluttered storage areas etc. And yes, even your home if there are entry points, if they can get the heads through any gaps the rest will follow.

In summer especially, overheated snakes were on the move looking for water sources in which to take a dip. Eastern brown snakes can be found taking a dip and swimming around in pools and spa baths. In Everton Park, there was a report that a pool turned green because a python had curled inside the pool filter and blocked it.

Snakes will sidle under doors as they are passing through and can feel the cool air conditioning inside the house. A temptation too large to resist.

Snake hotspots

It is suggested that snakes had adapted to established urban suburbs where gardens were overgrown. This is contrary to popular belief that snake populations boom because of new developments. It has been believed that new suburbs which had been razored for development are the new residences for growing populations.

Snakes were relocating to 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

Tiger snakes were the most prevalent snake in Melbourne and the surrounding suburbs. Sydney is home to more red-bellied black snakes. Brisbane residents won’t be surprised to learn that carpet pythons and common tree snakes had the highest reports against them. Of course, both are harmless to humans.

Adelaide and Perth were mostly home to brown snakes. Hobart was all about tiger snakes and the majority of the snakes that were reported in Darwin were non-venomous.

Snakes on wheels

It is suggested that social media has a lot to do with the hype around slithery sightings. Snakes have always been here, but the stories and posts on social media have made the sightings a big deal. People are hyper-aware because of what they see on social media.

Species such as the red-bellied black snake can pop up in the most unlikely of places. Locations like Sydney’s George Street, usually because they were accidentally transported after hiding in cars or cargo.

We have developed extreme behaviour towards snakes and Australians are not as connected to the native wildlife as they used to be. Instead of being afraid we should try to get more educated about the animals and reptiles we are likely to come across and their behaviour. Avoiding a bite is easy, leave it alone…that’s it!! A snake will only bite in self defence, they can strike a distance of about ¾ of their body length so stay well outside of that bubble and it can’t reach you.

If you spot a snake and need free professional help in identifying it and advice on action to take, you can always reach out to Pat Lazzaro. He is a snake catcher in the Northern suburbs of Brisbane but is part of a large network of professionals across SE Queensland.

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