YARRAM snake catcher, Kathleen Cropley, doesn’t like to talk about the time she got bitten and nearly died from a snakebite.
“I lost my eyesight and couldn’t drive for six weeks,” Kathleen says, reluctantly.
She spent six days in Latrobe Regional Hospital and experienced “extraordinary pain” from a copperhead bite, while trying to extricate the snake from tree netting.
The incident does, however, go to show that even the best trained, most safety conscious professional snake handlers can, and do, get bitten.
In fact, the most likely time to get bitten by a snake is when you are trying to kill or catch a snake – reportedly making up for as many as 80 per cent of snakebites.
The moral of the story being, call in a professional snake catcher in to do the job.
They’ll safely catch and release the snake, well away in a bush setting.
Locally, you can call Neil Arnup of Fish Creek 0427 380 191, covering the South Gippsland area, and Kathleen Cropley, covering the area from Toora east.
So, what are the snake numbers like this year?
We asked Kathleen.
“It’s been a lot more hectic than usual this year with a lot more tiger snakes than usual – a heck of a lot.
“We’ve had some copperheads and red belly blacks too but no eastern browns which you will find down in the Waratah Bay area.
“Neil believes there may have been some brought into the area in a bale of hay a few years ago.”
But the tigers are the worst, according to Kathleen, dismissing the idea that they are only aggressive in mating season.
“They’ll go you. They’re aggressive all the time,” she said.
“They’ll get up on their back half and hiss and growl at you and they’ll chase you as well when you release them, the little buggers.”
Not so little.
They typically grow to 1.5 metres in length, and the females give birth to between 15 and 20 snakes, all of whom are required to fend for themselves from birth.
Tiger snake mating occurs throughout the summer and reaches a peak in late January and February.
But if you take Kathleen’s advice, they’re dangerous all the time.
“If you see one around the house, don’t take your eyes off them while calling the snake catcher.
“Don’t leave shoes or boots outside, snakes love curling up in shoes.
“Keep pot plants away from the backdoor. They’ll hide behind them and boom, they’re in the backdoor as soon as you open it.
“And clean up around the garden, getting rid of places where snakes might hide.”