'Snakes aren't as bad': What you need to know about the slithery friends this spring

Over the past 20 years, Brendan Smith has earned his badge as an experienced venomous snake and reptile handler.

He is on a mission to help people understand snakes aren't an enemy.

Mr Smith started a snake-catching business to educate the community and provide a service to help with conservation - which is something he is very passionate about.

"The more people who realise snakes aren't as bad as they think, will help with conservation," he said.

The old saying "a dead snake is a good snake" was slowly fading, says Mr Smith, who reminds us it is against the law to kill a snake.

"They're protected under the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016, and fines apply," he said.

Snake catcher Brendan Smith holds an impressive snake in NSW's Eurobodalla Shire.

Snake catcher Brendan Smith holds an impressive snake in NSW's Eurobodalla Shire.

Mr Smith, who's based on the NSW South Coast, said snakes play a key part in the ecosystem. They can be both predator and prey.

When Mr Smith receives a call to catch a snake, he likes to re-home them within five kilometres. His job is to give the snake the best shot at survival by relocating them to a suitable habitat.

"They have to have multiple shelter sites, food and fresh water," he said.

"I can legally move them 30 kilometres away, but I take them just far enough so they don't come back and are still in their postcode.

"They all have a homing range and are very sensitive. To move one out of its homing range does put stress on it."

Snake catcher Brendan Smith holding a tiger snake.

Snake catcher Brendan Smith holding a tiger snake.

Mr Smith said WIRES often gets calls from people wanting a snake removed, however, WIRES deals with injured animals and Mr Smith was the man for the job. His standard callout fee is $150.

So far, this spring, Mr Smith has completed about 50 callouts and taken up to 70 calls from people asking for information and advice.

He said calls come from people with children or pets, concerned over a snake in their garden. He also gets calls from people "who just don't like snakes".

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He is often asked to remove snakes from gaps under old concrete slabs.

"They also love gaps in retaining walls where the earth has fallen away," Mr Smith said.

While some people choose to have snakes removed, Mr Smith said more people were getting into the captive hobby of keeping snakes.

He said pet-snake owners were more informed and helped share a positive image of snakes.

"They're learning about snakes and their behaviour and true ecology, so the truths are coming out," he said.

"It's very, very popular now."

Mr Smith said snakes are very shy and don't like human conflict.

"They choose to take off in the opposite direction when confronted," he said.

The bushfires certainly interfered with the population - it's very patchy now.

Brendan Smith - snake catcher

If you think a snake might chase you, Mr Smith said: "that's a big misconception."

"Of the thousands of snakes I have dealt with over 20 years, a snake has never chased me," he said.

He said eastern brown snakes were one species to have a bad reputation because of its elaborate defensive display.

"When you stir one up, or corner one in the shed, their defence mechanism is to sit up and open their mouth," he said.

An eastern brown snake in its impressive defensive state. Image: Brendan Smith.

An eastern brown snake in its impressive defensive state. Image: Brendan Smith.

When a snake is startled and you can see it's getting defensive, Mr Smith says to stand still.

"If you think you can back off, walk slowly away from the snake," he said.

"As soon as you are at a safe distance, the snake will want to take off in the opposite direction."

He said snakes were well and truly out and about this time of year, and numbers were slowly bouncing back since the 2019/20 bushfires.

"It was a really mild winter and some came out early, especially red bellies - they had an early breeding season and some would be giving birth now," he said.

"There have been quite a few eastern browns this season compared to the last too."

Mr Smith said a huge population of snakes were unable to escape the 2019/2020 bushfires.

"In the burned country, snakes and reptiles that couldn't get away from the fire front perished, with no water to retreat to as creeks were dry," he said.

"Most snake species would seek out water in that situation and it wasn't a good ending for some. The bushfires certainly interfered with the population - it's very patchy now."

He has noticed a higher concentration of death adders in higher country, along ridges that weren't burned.

Check out Mr Smith's gallery of snakes above.

For more information, visit Mr Smith's website www.eurobodallasnakecatcher.com.au or call 0404110368.

This story 'Snakes aren't as bad': What you need to know about the slithery friends this spring first appeared on Bay Post-Moruya Examiner.