Let a sssnake ssslide by

Red-bellied black snakeI was venturing into the wilds of a Canadian landscape a few years ago when we were stopped abruptly.

Our guide turned and suggested rather quietly, "Best not to throw the bear banger behind the bear. It will run towards you".

It was sound advice.

Knowing how to use a 'bear banger' is important. It is a small explosive device that is designed to deter bears. Just like a firecracker, the spot where it lands is rather important.

As an Australian, the North American landscape can appear rather threatening.

When I expressed some concern about the ferocity of the roaming wildlife, our hosts shrugged their shoulders as if to say it's all part of nature.

They then enquired about how us Aussies handle snakes. I simply suggested that we don't handle them and it is best to leave snakes alone, admiring from a distance.

I guess it's all about your perspective.

With the warmer weather now upon us, our cool blooded reptilian friends are on the move in search of food and sun. It's therefore not uncommon to encounter snakes as they go about their business.

As a species, snakes have something of an image problem.

They are generally viewed with fear and trepidation. But to my mind they are timid, beautiful creatures who are probably more afraid of you than you are of them.

Snakes play an important role in the web of life, consuming smaller animals and acting as pest controllers by preying on introduced mice and rats.

Occasionally we may come across a snake in suburbia and in most cases it's simply passing through.

If you do find a snake in your yard, move pets and children inside until the snake meanders on.

Importantly, to reduce the likelihood of inviting a snake to stay, keep your lawns and gardens well maintained.

Remove piles of wood or other debris, think about that pet food bowl and perhaps enclose that compost heap to reduce mouse populations. If you have aviaries, keep them tidy to avoid attracting mice.

Any self-respecting snake's first form of defence is to move away from danger.

We humans are seen as danger.

However, if provoked or cornered, a snake may naturally attempt to protect itself.

People are most likely to be bitten when attempting to kill or handle a snake.

Don't forget that snakes are protected by law and hurting or killing a snake carries severe penalties.

It is fortunate we don't need 'bear bangers' to live in harmony with snakes here in our beautiful bush capital.

For more information on living with these graceful creatures visit: www.environment.act.gov.au/parks-conservation/plants-and-animals/urban_wildlife/local_wildlife/snakes

Brett McNamara is with ACT Parks & Conservation Service.

Brett Mac

Brett McNamara - Regional Manager with ACT Parks & Conservation Service

Brett loves our national parks almost as much as the Gang-gang on his uniform. He is prone to using the word 'majestic' when referring to the bush capital. He loves talking. A lot. His favourite animal is the playful platypus.

Article also appeared in The Chronicle