Help at hand after snake crash course

Midwest Times
Carpet pythons are not venomous but dangerous snakes can now be handled by the Shire of Shark Bay.
Camera IconCarpet pythons are not venomous but dangerous snakes can now be handled by the Shire of Shark Bay. Credit: Matt Swan

Residents in Shark Bay will now be able to contact their Shire if they spot a snake this summer.

Three Shire of Shark Bay members joined staff from Shark Bay School to participate in a snake-handling course, organised by school principal Kay Mack.

Mrs Mack said she arranged the course because of the number of snake sightings on school grounds and the limited staff available from the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions to assist the school.

In 2016-17, there were 189 admissions for snake bites at Mid West and WA Country Health Service hospitals, according to the WA Department of Health.

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Snake Rescue and Relocation Training owner Bob Cooper said he recommended at least one staff member at all regional schools be trained in snake handling.

“There should be a qualified snake handler in every area — it could be the gardener or anyone really, there just needs to be someone on standby,” Mr Cooper said.

“After all, the wildlife officer might be out doing something else, and snakes don’t just stay still.

“This time of year, they’re out looking for food or a partner.

Mr Cooper, based just outside Perth, has travelled to a variety of places in the Mid West and Gascoyne, including Exmouth, Cue and Carnarvon.

He said the main component taught in his courses was the psychology of fear.

“A lot of people don’t realise that the snake doesn’t actually want to bite you,” he said.

“Being scared of them is a learnt fear, it’s not a behaviour you’re born with, it gets handed down.

“Snakes only bite in self-defence — about 90 per cent of people in Australia who are bitten are trying to catch the snake.

“You just have to stay calm and move away.”

Shark Bay Shire president and World Heritage project officer Cheryl Cowell said the Shire would now take snake-related calls from the public.

“We’ve had quite a few sightings already and we get regular calls at the department about snakes,” Ms Cowell said.

“Especially in a snaky season like this one, I would encourage more people to upskill in snake handling, as it’s better for the teachers and better for the public.”

Snakes caught by handlers are relocated to the nearest nature reserve.

Mr Cooper is in talks with a Geraldton wildlife officer from the Department of Bio-diversity, Conservation and Attractions to bring the eight-hour course to a mix of local residents and department members.

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