AE 385 – Interview: Catching Snakes to Earn a Crust, with Stuart Mckenzie

In this episode of the Aussie English Podcast I interview snake catcher and reptile keeper Stuart Mckenzie about what it’s like catching snakes to earn a crust!

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AE 385 – Interview: Catching Snakes to Earn a Crush with Stuart Mckenzie

G’day, guy. Welcome to this Aussie English interview episode. So this has been long-awaited, for me at least. I’ve been collecting interviews now on the sly without you knowing about it for probably three months, and I’ve been racking my brains trying to work out how to best use these to serve you guys.

Anyway, I’ve been running around interviewing mates, interviewing family members, and more recently, finding more interesting fairdinkum Aussies in order to get on the podcast, and today is the very first episode of that.

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Anyway, guys. Enough for the intro here. Let’s get to today’s guest.

Today’s guest is none other than Stuart McKenzie. Stuart works at the Australian Zoo as a reptile keeper and has his own snake catching business, The Snake Catcher 24/7. This is located on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. He’s been removing snakes successfully from all kinds of strange places, as you’ll find out in the interview, for the last four and a half years now.

The interview had the potential to be interrupted by an urgent call from local residents needing snake catching skills, but fortunately we got through the whole thing without being interrupted. So, there you go.

Anyway, guys, here we go. I give you snake catcher and all-round top Aussie bloke, Stuart McKenzie.

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Stuart, welcome to The Aussie English Podcast. Thank you so much for coming on the podcast today, I really appreciate your time.

No, man, no dramas. I’m pretty stoked to be doing it. I was actually looking forward to this week.

Oh, brilliant! Thank you so much for your time and the interview may be cancelled during, but we’ll see how we go.

So, you’re a snake catcher up in Queensland. Most kids, when they were kids, obviously, wanted to be cops of firies when they grew up. How on earth did you end up being a snake catcher, and was that something you always wanted to do?

Yeah, I guess from an early age like, you know, a lot of my mates and stuff had, you know, dogs as pets and all that sort of thing and we thought about going down that road, but I… can’t remember, I’m just trying to remember the first instance where we decided to… ’cause I’ve actually go to shingleback lizards, you know, very sort of common lizards found around parts of Australia in all those sort of hot arid regions, but, yeah, we decided to get a pair of those and that was my first ever pet. So, that sort of started out a bit different for us, getting reptiles rather than a dog or a cat, which is pretty standard back sort of 15 years ago. And then, yeah, I guess, from there it sort of grew. Every time we’d go camping, we’d go looking for lizards, and more so lizards at the start just because I didn’t really know a lot about snakes sort of as a kid. So, I knew that lizards weren’t dangerous so we’d go catch them and that was fine.

At least the small ones.

Yeah, I think it is more my parents feeling like, yeah, nah, we can grab these because we didn’t know a lot about snakes at the time at the time. But I guess, it sort of grew from there. And then, I…I actually work at the Australia Zoo as well, which is pretty cool, and I worked there full-time until I sort of started my business, and then I sort of dropped back and worked there a couple of days a week, and work in the Reptile and Crocodile Department there. So, that sort of increased my love for reptiles and that sort of thing. And since then I’ve obviously started my business and have been doing the business now for nearly five years, and yeah, absolutely love it. It’s a pretty, pretty cool job.

So, when did you realise that you could earn money from getting snakes out of people’s houses and turn that into a career?

I guess…it was probably my first year at the Zoo. So, probably about six years ago, five years ago. Basically, a few of the guys who’d been around the coast for a while had their permits and stuff to catch snakes, and I sort of found out you can get a permit to catch snakes and, you know, you obviously have to have experience and all that sort of stuff. So, I went about getting a bit more experience in and being out and applying for the permit, and I finally got it, and then I sort of started my own little Facebook page, which nobody else had really done. There was a few guys around Australia doing it, but not really here on the Sunny Coast at the time.

And yes, I started my little Facebook page, got a bit of following, and I sort of realised that… you know, I knew you could always charge money for it, but I didn’t realise it could ever be sort of make a living out of it, if you know what I mean? I guess, I just took it a bit more seriously than a lot of others and, you know, did a bit of advertising, and sort of the Facebook page sort of started it all, and then I worked with a few other guys in the reptile industry around the coast. (I) did a bit of snake catching up with them, and then decide to sort of do my own thing, and then build a website, and then just went from there, and since and it’s just going gangbusters, and, you know, it’s gone from…I was reading all my records the other day, like records probably four years ago, maybe doing like five calls in a month to, you know, doing 130 calls in a month now. So, it’s yeah, it’s definitely, definitely increased tenfold, that’s for sure.

So, what’s the average office day like for you?

So, for instance today, like being Boxing Day I wasn’t expecting many. I did have one yesterday on Christmas Day, but I didn’t find the snake, it disappeared about three minutes before I got there, which was frustrating, but (I) had a look around and couldn’t find him. And… and yes, so the average day is probably around four or five calls a day, I reckon. So, that’s actually a job. So, that’s jobs that we all go out to and try to catch a snake. We could get upwards of 15-20 actual phone calls in a day. Because a lot of people call us for, you know, just to ask a question or they might have a completely harmless snake like a tree snake or a carpet python, and then… they’re happy for it to be there. They just want to know what it is, you know what I mean?

Yeah.

Or they might have a blue-tongue lizard or a water dragon or something like… some sort of species a lizard in their backyard and sort of asking questions about, you know, do I get along with the dog? You know, should I get it relocated, rah, rah, rah. So, a lot of times we’ll get calls and they just simply just don’t need to come out, but in a lot of the cases they do need us. A lot of people obviously have a fear of snakes. I think that’s the biggest driver for people to come for us to come out, their fear of snakes, and just having that peace of mind knowing that it’s not in the backyard anymore. You know, even… snakes play a pretty important role in the environment, you know what I mean? They’re looking after rodents. They got their own little spot within the food chain. But unfortunately, people just are petrified of them. And I can understand it, ’cause, you know, everybody is scared of something and just so happens that snakes and spiders is another big one, which people are obviously scared of. But yeah, so your average day is four or five jobs and a heap of phone calls. So, some days I’ll leave home, gee I could get a phone call at 6 o’clock in the morning and then, you know, I want more I get home and not eat until like 2 o’clock in the afternoon, ’cause you might be just back to back to back phone calls. So, yeah, and you could be driving all over the coast. You could get lucky and get a few close together, but it usually doesn’t work like that. Usually, you know, you’ll be 20kms down south and then you’re drop 30km up north, and then down south again, and in the middle. And yeah, I’ve done sort of 400-450kms a day before just driving.

Holy moly!

So, it can be quite hectic, can be quite busy especially when it’s, you know… It can be quite serious some calls, like, there if there was a big eastern brown on the move inside someone’s house or something like that, which does happen. And I sort of started out by myself. And now got sort of a team of maybe… it’s probably 10 of us who, you know, they all have full time jobs, but I’ve definitely got three or four of us available every day in different areas so that, you know, for instance, I got a phone call for Central Sunshine, oh no, a little bit south, so down Caloundra way, and then also got a call at the same time for Caboolture, which is another 40 minutes south, and I was able to… I went to the Caloundra one, and I sent one of my guys, Chris, down to the Caboolture one. So, we can always offer that, you know, within sort of 20-25 minutes we’ll have someone at your house to be able to catch the snake hopefully and relocate it, but as with snakes you cannot control what they do.

So, how does the average phone call go? If someone calls you up, are they normally in a state of panic or only once they realise what the snake is?

Some people… it’s crazy, hey? Like, literally complete ends of the spectrum. So, some people ring me up and they’re like, “Hey! Stuart, just to let you know, I’ve got a snake, can you come and grab it for me? I’m just not a fan of them. (I’d) just prefer it is not here” or, you know, “I’ve got small pets or something. We’d like it removed”, you know, relatively calm, and I’ve had phone calls where I could not understand it, because they were literally balling their eyes out, in complete hysterics. So, yeah, it goes sort of either way. And then you get the odd ones, you know, no offense to the older generation, but the older generation haven’t sort of… back in their day, you know, any snake’s… any good snake’s a dead snake, you know what I mean? So, that was the attitude back in the day. We’re obviously trying to change that now. And yeah, sometimes they can be, you know… and a lot of people don’t think that you have to pay for it as well.

Yeah.

It’s getting better. Like, when I first started out five years ago, like, nearly every phone call was like, “Oh, what!? You have to pay for it?”.

“I’m providing a service.”

Exactly. It’s a professional service and we don’t charge a lot, you know what I mean? It’s not a lot to come out and, you know, potentially remove, you know, relocate something that might be a bit of a hazard.

And do the people, when they do have snakes that are like eastern browns, which are one of Australia’s deadliest or most dangerous snakes, do they often realise the gravity of, like, having that in the house before they call you or only afterwards do they clue in and say “ok…”?

No, sometimes. So, most of the time it’s an overreaction, I’d say. So, people think they’ve got a brown snake, but it’s actually, when I get there, it’s a tree snake, and its completely harmless. But in saying that, I’d prefer people to be like that. You get the occasional…For instance, the other night I got one. It was actually about 10 minutes away, and the guys had rang me early in the afternoon and they’d shooed this little snake out thinking it was a… they’re like, “Oh, yeah, I think it’s a tree snake”, and they shooed it out with a broom. Got it outside and then it turned up again inside again. So, I don’t know how that happened, but they’re like, “oh, can you just come and get us, it’s been really painful”. I rock up and, you know, the guys got not shirts on, walking around in bare feet, and I look into the pantry and it’s a one-and-a-half-foot eastern brown snake.

With the little brown spots on the back of the head and you just like…

The markings and a couple of… and it was actually a really pretty snake has stripes and stuff on it still. But yeah, just sometimes you run into some pretty crazy circumstances. And, now I’ve caught snakes literally in every situation now that you can think of like this. If you point to a section of your house, you know, I’ve caught a snake there. They can get anywhere, especially when they get inside, and the majority of snakes are capable climbers as well, including some of the venomous ones.

So, what are some of the strangest positions you’ve found them in?

Well, recently, I caught one in a printer. So, it went behind a Christmas tree, that video that went pretty crazy online, but yeah, it went in behind the Christmas tree, into a TV cabinet and, like, no joke…actually, I’ve got a printer here. So, I lifted up this part of the printer, and nah, it wasn’t there, it was in under here, like… I’m talking not a little red-belly, like, we’re talking it was probably four, four and a half foot long.

And it was a red-bellied black snake?

A red-bellied snake was tucked into the printer. I actually had to pull out the section where the paper goes sort of underneath and to get him. But yeah, I’ve caught them on top of fridges, you know, we catching them in roofs all the time. I’ve caught them under couches, in couches, on beds, you know, in closets, in ovens. Ovens is actually… The oven wasn’t obviously on, but…

Had been.

It’s been twice now that… there’s a small, it’s only about an inch, maybe an inch and half of insulation that goes around the oven. So, it sort of separates the outer section, which we see, and the inner hot section, and I’ve pulled out two seven foot carpet pythons out of that insulation area. Like, I actually was about to accuse these people of being loony bin, because I’m like, “There is no way there’s a snake here”, they are like, “No, trust me we saw it go under the oven and it has to be there.”

It didn’t come out.

It’s not there, and then I kept looking, and here’s this massive snake tucked into the side of the oven. So, some of the places are pretty crazy.

So, would you consider it an overly dangerous job?

Majority of the time… like, don’t get me wrong, every snake has capabilities of biting you. So, whether it’s non-venomous, venomous, it’s going to defend itself if feels threatened, and usually when we catch him a snake feels threatened. So, you know, most people get to see the good side of snakes. You know, they’re nice and calm, and they’ll try and keep away from you as much as possible. You know what I mean? They’re not out there to chase people. Snakes don’t chase you or anything like that. You know, as soon as they see you, they’re more likely to flee than start coming towards you kind of thing. So, but as a snake catcher, we’re obviously doing what we would never ever encourage people to do and that’s actually going out to a snake and trying to catch it. So, when a snake feels threatened that’s when we get to see their defensive behaviour. So, it can be, it can be quite dangerous. I guess, we got the experience and, you know, the handling skills, we have to deal with situations. In saying that, they’re unpredictable, and I probably had the closest call of my life recently. It was probably about a month ago now, which…It sort of threw me, and it’s… I had sort of a big think about the way I do things afterwards, like it…I caught an eastern brown, he was about four-foot-long, and I should’ve…I should’ve brought my bag with me. Like, the bag was there, it was about sort of seven metres behind me, but I sort of left it back, and I sort of brought my hook with me, and I caught the snake, and then I sort of had to carry the snake by the tail, and that’s how… well, just below the cloaca is where we hold them on the body side, and yeah, sort of had to carry him back, and as I was carrying him back, I finally got to my bag, I had to go through a fence, I had to go next to some couches and stuff. So, if I had brought my bag with me and put him in straight away, it wouldn’t happen. But as I picked my bag up, he saw that movement and he shot up straight up past my hand, literally got within a centimeter of my hand.

Far out.

I just got lucky, because he didn’t obviously make contact. If he had’ve sort of headbutted my hand, then he probably would have open his mouth and bit me. So…

And what would have happened in that case? What would have the situation had to have been, you know, escalated to?

I would have had to…I would’ve bagged him. So, I would’ve quickly bagged him up, and then I would’ve basically made sure he was secure, and then that would be within 10 seconds of it happening, and then I would’ve sat down and got the people to put a bandage on, you know, do all the appropriate first aid for a snake bite and call an ambulance, and just go through that whole process, and yeah, start, yeah, crossing my fingers.

So, obviously that’s never happened though, yet. You’ve never been bitten on the job, at least by a venomous snake.

Never been bitten by a venomous snake. I am hoping to keep it that way. Yeah.

It’s crazy how there seems to be two different kinds of people: there’s a guy, I’ve forgotten his name, that I remember as a professor, he’s a bald dude in Queensland, of venomous animals?

Brian Fry?

Yeah! And I remember him being interviewed and, I think it was him, and they said, “how many times have you been bitten?”, and he was like “oh, just 22.”. And you’re just like, “What?!”, and he was like “oh, but, you know, those with the envenomations, not the other ones”, and you just like “yeah, okay”.

Yeah.

I’m hoping to keep it that way, but you know, I guess, they are very unpredictable and, you know, you can only hope that doesn’t happen and do it and do your best to make it not happen. I don’t want to jinx myself.

So, could you talk a bit about the types of snakes in Australia? So, what sort of variation there is? And yeah just give that a whirl.

Yes, so here on the Sunny Coast we’re pretty lucky. Well, I think we’re lucky. People probably don’t think we’re lucky who hate snakes. We’ve got around probably 18 or 20 species of snake found here on the Sunny Coast, which includes… thats including some species which are found to be further west and maybe their distribution just touches the Sunshine Coast, you know what I mean? But we’re pretty lucky to have a fair bit of variation. So, usually, there’s probably about seven or eight snakes, like, the common ones that I can catch on a weekly basis, which is pretty cool. Like you go down south, the guys in Melbourne and Adelaide and those sort of areas, and, you know, even in Sydney and a lot of the time those guys are only catching a couple of species. Like, the Victorian guys catch Copperheads and Tiger snakes all the time and that’s about it. Maybe the odd eastern brown, couple pythons. But, you know, up here on the sunny coast we’re pretty lucky. We’ve got a massive range, and I think it’s just the habitat types around here that enables there to be that many species around this area. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to catch a Tiger snake, ’cause I’ve never caught one before. There are some tigers snakes found in little pockets around the Sunny Coast, but very, very hard to find. But now, I see some of the other guys who catch Tiger snakes nearly every day. I’m like God, damn it! But, I’m sure they are like… They’d love to catch some of the stuff that we catch.

It’s snake envy.

Yeah! But I guess, you know, Australia’s pretty lucky, we got a massive range of elapids venomous snakes. We’ve got a lot of snakes in the top sort of 10 to 20 world’s most venomous snakes including definitely the top sort of 4 or 5 with the Inland Taipan, which is found out west. You got your eastern brown snake, which I get to catch, which I’m very lucky to catch that. They’re found…a vast majority of the eastern side of Australia. You know, you got yeah, red-bellies, they’re not in top five, but they’re obviously a pretty cool snake, that everybody loves. They’re a very…how can you say that? They’re an obvious snake. They’re like, you know, everybody knows what a red-bellied black snake looks likes. Whereas, brown snakes get confused for about another five or six species around here just on the Sunny Coast. And then yeah, you the coastal taipan, you got the Tiger snakes and the Death Adders.

So, we’ve got a lot of… a lot of venomous and dangerous snakes. But, as I say to people, snakes are only dangerous if you let them be. So, you know, you see a snake in the wild, you keep your distance, the snake’s not dangerous. Now, you go up to it, try and get photos, try and catch it, that’s when the snake becomes dangerous.

That’s it. Once you go for that selfie, right? Next to it here, right? That’s the no-go zone.

Exactly right. So, I guess it’s… That’s why we’re doing the Facebook pages, that’s why we do our posts, you know, to try and teach people to just keep your distance and be smart, and it’s all commonsense. It’s like with most animals, you know what I mean? A lot of it’s commonsense.


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So, who do you find the most… the people who do get bitten, what kind of activities are they doing that leads to them putting themselves in a position to be bitten?

It’s usually people trying to catch or kill them. So, that happens 90% of the time, I reckon. When someone tries to get a shovel out or tries to hit them with a stick or just tries to catch and remove themselves. So, it’s, you know, snakes can move so quickly and if you’re coming out with a shovel, not only it is illegal to kill any native wildlife, and, you know it’s massive fines, but it’s just so dangerous. Like, you coming out at an eastern brown with a shovel, he just going to see this big object moving towards him. And he’s going to defend himself, and I think people forget how quick they can be, you know what I mean? They’re not going to be able to chase you down or anything like that, but that’s strike and that initial speed is quite crazy.

That’s crazy. So, what has…

So, that’s the main way. Yeah, like the odd person will get bitten accidentally, like, gardening in their… you know, picking some weeds out or putting their hand into a bush, and then the snake sees his movement and all I think is a rat or something, and that’s the reason they bite, but (the) majority of the time it’s when people try and catch or kill a snake. So…

And can you tell us the difference between the different kinds of Australians snakes? Elapids and pythons, for example.

So, we’ve got three. We’ve got the elapids, the colubrids, and the pythons. So, pythons are your egg layers. They’re all egg layers and non-venomous. Your colubrids, which is the biggest actual group or family of snakes around the world, but we’ve only got, I think, it’s six or seven. So, Australia doesn’t have many colubrids, that’s like your brown tree snake, for instance, which is… and some colubrids are venomous, some aren’t.

So, they kind of like that middle-ground. They have… that’s why I guess, they got the biggest, you could say, variety of snakes around the world, and then a largest group. And then, you got your, yeah, venomous front-fanged elapid snakes, which we’ve got plenty of those here. So, I guess, you know, we… with the pythons and that, they are quite recognisable. You know, they’ve usually got that big sort of a busty head and they’ve got that model blotch pattern on them. They’re quite a sort of robust snake compared to a lot of your venomous stuff. I guess, when it gets confusing between the three is when the snakes is smaller.

You know, even pythons, for instance, they… when they’re young and within their first couple of years, they can still remain sort of like a browny colour. They’re gonna remain brown their whole life, but usually they’d sort of change to a bit more greeny shades of colour and that sort of thing, but, I guess, yeah, it’s when the snakes are small and young is when you can… when you make that sort of confusion, if it makes sense. That’s where people get sort of confused.

And sometimes… you know, and I’ve been doing this for a little bit now, but it sort of blows my mind sometimes when, you know, I’ll go at someone’s house, and they’ll be like, “I got a brown snake!”, and I walk in and it’s a carpet python. And, I’m like, “How can you confuse that?”. But then, again, if you’re not someone who deals with snakes and the carpet python has got a bit of brown on him, then you’re going to think it’s a brown snake. And I guess… you know, that’s where that confusion comes in. That’s why we don’t want people to take things into their own hands and that sort of thing.

And… but yeah, it is pretty cool the amount of variety we have here in Australia, you know what I mean? And it’s crazy where some of the snakes can be found as well. Like, some of the habitats and some of the temperatures that some snakes… like, you look at the fear snake, they’re way out west in that sort of clay… you know, earth…there’s just nothing, you know what I mean? There’s just literally nothing except a few cracks in the ground and that’s where they spend majority of the time going through the cracks looking for guidance and looking for things to eat. But, you know, you just… when you get out you just think that nothing could survive.

So, I guess that leads… sorry, I guess that leads well into what role they have in the ecosystem? What sort of roles do most snakes sort of occupy and why they are important?

Well, that’s it. I guess, like, you need to understand, everyone needs to understand that, you know, there’s always a food chain in every ecosystem, and without snakes, like, we would literally be overrun with things like rodents and small marsupials, like, whether the marsupials and mammals and stuff are native, you know, they’re still part of the food chain, and I guess, snakes play their roles especially with your rodents, you know what I mean? People can have serious rodent issues, especially on farms and bushland areas. I guess, ’cause it’s just one of those things where…and even frog species. So, you obviously have a lot of native frogs, and frogs have been… The cane toads obviously had a massive effect on native frog species, even snake species, and goanna species, just ’cause anything that eats them basically die, except the keelback (snake), which is pretty cool. But yeah, they’re just… they’re kind of in that middle zone in the food chain, which is also, you know, is as important as the apex predator or as the bottom of the food chain, you know, you need that… need those levels in that food chain, and the snakes need to be around, ’cause snakes feed other animals as well, you know, kookaburras and different birds will prey on snakes and, you know, it’s… I guess, it’s just that position that they hold in the ecosystem.

If they were to go out, the rodent numbers would go through the roof, which is going to affect crops, it’s going to affect the whole habitat. You know, when you get little rodents like that taking over a habitat is just…it’s not good at all.

Any time it gets out of balance.

That’s it, it’s all about balance and that sort of thing. So, I guess, you just have to make sure that…. and the problem is when us humans as well are playing a pretty poor impact on them as well, especially here… I see on the coast all the time, people always ask me, “Why are snakes coming into people’s home? Why are we seeing them so often?”, and I guess… and the amount of infrastructure, the amount of buildings that, you know, get built and bushland areas getting knocked down these days is crazy. You hear about it on the TV all the time, and I realise that, you know, humans need somewhere to live and all this sort of stuff, but we’re still knocking down all these habitat, which, you know, not just snakes, like, hundreds of species of animals. Not just reptiles, I’m talking about mammals, birds, everything. They rely on that habitat and when that’s gone, then where are they going to go? You know what I mean?

Exactly.

The main reason why they’re seen around homes is because, one: there’s rodents. You know, rodents are attracted to homes, due to scraps or places to hide, chicken coops, any pets that you leave out feed for, that’s going to attract rodents. Then we’ve got skinks and frogs and insects, obviously attracted to the light, you know, that’s why the geckos come try and eat the insects, and the frogs come because there is either a water source or to the light as well, to try and, you know, grab some insects and these are all the things that snakes eat. So, that’s another main reason why snakes are sort of found around the Sunny Coast and around homes, not even just the Sunny Coast, around the whole of Australia, around homes.

So, what advice would you have for someone who has come from overseas and wants to see snakes? What advice would you have to them, for them*, if they came straight to you and said, “What’s the best and safest way to see snakes in Australia?”.

I… You know, I always recommend that people that got a fear of snakes and want to sort of overcome that then go to a zoo or go to an animal…. whether it’s a sanctuary or a little, you know, park or whatever where they can go and actually hold a snake. You know, that’s always a good start, where you can go hold a snake in a controlled environment where it’s safe to do so. Like, you know, don’t go out in the bush to try and grab a snake and just put it in your shoulders, because, you know, who knows where it is? And even the pythons which have a… you know, most of the time probably 9 out of 10 pythons are really well behaved, but if you get the bad one, he’s going to try to bite your face off. So, I guess, it’s all about getting that… being able to experience wildlife and experience snakes in a safe and controlled environment.

And if you want to go looking for snakes, most of the time in Australia it’s just easy to go for a bushwalk. You have to obviously time, certain times of the day, sort of morning and afternoons, and weather conditions are going to affect it, time of the year is going to affect it, even the moon sometimes affect it, you know what I mean?

We… I’ll often go herping with some of my, you know, reptile mates, and we’ll go out at night time and go have a look for some snakes on the move at night, but if there’s a full moon out, you usually don’t see them. So, there’s a heap of stuff that sort of a affects snakes, and I guess, if you’re going to go out looking for snakes, you need to be prepared to keep… like, give them some space, like, not be one of those people who as soon as you see it, you going to go and try to catch it and photograph it or…

I guess, that’s with all wildlife. If you want to go out looking for it, you just got to respect it. I guess, respect is a big thing when it comes to snakes, you just got to learn to respect them, give them the respect they deserve. But you can… everybody can still enjoy them and watch them in the wild, ’cause even I get a kick out of seeing a snake in the wild. Like, I… it’s kind of… catching snakes for people is not really… it doesn’t feel to me like seeing them in the wild. I guess, for other people when a snake rocks up in their backyard that is, but, you know, when I’m out bushwalking or I go for walk with my wife or take the dog for a walk and we see a snake across the path I’m like, “Damn! that’s pretty awesome”, you know what I mean? Seeing a snake in the wild like that. People probably think that’s a bit funny, the fact that I catch catch them every day, but that’s…this is my job, and that does seem like seeing snakes in the wild to me. When you actually go out looking for them and you see one on the move, in the bush, or whatever, it’s just like, yeah, that’s pretty cool. But, even I most of the time… well, all of the time, basically, if I see one in the wild, I’ll just keep my distance and, you know, there’s no point putting myself in danger, like, picking up a venomous snake when I don’t need to. You know what I mean? And, I don’t want to encourage that either. So…

Two more questions then we can finish up.

Yes, sweet!

What advice would you have for any unfortunate tourist or Australian alike who does happen to be bitten, whether it’s a python or a venomous snake, I assume they’re not going to know in the moment, what would you say they should do and what would you say they should potentially carry with them?

Yeah. So, I guess, if anybody takes out… takes away any information from this chat, and this is probably the most important thing, because with snake bite, you know, applying or doing the appropriate first aid can literally be the difference between life and death. Like, it literally can. And when… if you were to get bitten by a snake, anywhere, say, on the arm or leg, it has been changing over the years, but if you were to get bitten anywhere on the arm or leg, I’m just going to try to set this up, just say I get bitten on the hand. What I’m going to do is, initially, you’re obviously going to make sure the danger is gone. So, if you’re in your backyard and you’ve been bitten by a snake, and the snake still on the move in the backyard, I’d probably quickly go inside and sit down, in the cool, on the couch, and relax, and then, immediately, have one person calling the ambulance and other person applying a first aid bandage.

So, what you want to do, the latest thing that I’ve heard, you know, (it) used to be wrap a whole bandage around the bite site and then wrap another one up the arm. The latest information that I’ve been given is that just say you get bit anywhere on the arm, you start down the end, you wrap all the way to the top, and then all the way to the bottom. So, what you want to do is you want to slow down the floor of blood through the lymphatic system. So, the lymphatics system’s just under the skin, and you obviously don’t want that the venom travelling all the way out to your lymph nodes, ’cause that’s when it’s going to get converted sort of into the bloodstream, and that’s when you’re going to be in a bit of strife. So, you want to this apply pressure. You know, if you don’t have… I always recommend every Australian home has a couple of snake bite bandages in their home, and I actually joined up with the company recently, and I sell them to people, and often give them away as well to people when I go and catch snakes for, because I always ask the question, “Do you have a snake bite bandage or do you just have a bandage and general?”. (It) Doesn’t have to be a specific snake bite one, just a normal crepe or elastic bandage or whatever they’re called. Just apply that to the bite site and you’re going to remain calm, and by this time someone’s already rung the ambulance, and you’re going to always wait for the ambulance to come to you.

I guess, sometimes, there’s probably… I don’t like to ever sort of encourage people going to the ambulance, but I guess, if you are in a place of no service or you ring the ambulance and they recommend (to) get the person who is bidden to lay down as calm as possible in the back of a car and we’ll meet you somewhere, like, this is if you’re three or two hours, literally in the middle of nowhere. But you know, here on the Sunny Coast any or built up area really along the East Coast or majority of towns and stuff around Australia is going to have access to an ambulance pretty quickly. So, it’s always best to just remain calm, stay seated, or lie down, or whatever’s a comfortable position for you, and wait for the help to arrive, and then that’s when they’ll pick you up, take you back to the hospital, do some tests, they’ll assess your condition, and basically monitor you for 12 to 24 hours. If you ever rock up to… I know every situation’s different, but if you ever get to the hospital and after three hours like, “Nah, you’re all good, we’ll let you go”, stay there!

Yeah.

You know, I haven’t heard it happening often, but I’ve had a few times where a few things gone on where they’ve asked… they’ve said “Yeah, no, you’re all good to go”, but I’ve heard of reactions of snake bite happening six hours after the bite, you know what I mean? Or… you know, never get that the bandage taken off until you’re at hospital or until you had tests done, you know what I mean? Like, it needs to stay on there, because people have died because a bandage has been removed too quickly or little, you know, little mistakes like that. Just… And always mark the bite site too, that way, on the bandage, that way they could sort of cut into the bandage just on around the bite side and then take a swab to work out what it is, what kind of snake it was. It’s just so important. It’s something you just go take very seriously, you know what I mean? A lot of snake bites are dry bites. So, that’s basically a snake will bite and won’t envenomate, and they’ll do that a lot because if you think about producing venom for a snake it takes a lot of energy, and they’re not necessarily going to want to use it on a human being who’s 40 times their size, ’cause they can’t eat it.

They’re usually going to use it on little mammals or little reptiles or whatever. To be able to… not only does it subdue their prey and kill them very quickly, but it also sort of helps the digestion as well. So, I guess, it’s about… you know, a lot of bites can be dry bites, but you just can’t take that chance.

Exactly.

You know what I mean? ‘Cause the time that you think, “Oh, nah, it’s a dry bite, she’ll be right”, it won’t be a dry bite. And, yeah, you just can’t take that risk.

Alright, last question: what should people do if a snake is in their house?

Yes, so if you see a snake inside your house, I would absolutely get it relocated. Now, if it’s inside your house and obviously a window’s been left open or it’s come in an open door, even if it’s non-venomous, I usually recommend people to just get someone out, get it relocated, especially if you don’t know where it is. If it’s in your backyard, I guess, it’s a personal choice. You know, even if it’s a venomous snake, a lot of people on farms call me and they’ll send me a picture of a massive six-foot eastern brown, they’re like, “Oh! You know, we don’t mind, we’ve brought the dogs in, he’ll just move on”, you know, they’re on property, the snake’s going to move on, and by the time I get there I probably won’t be able to find it anyway.

It’s more so when you’re in suburbia and you’ve got a snake in your backyard cruising around, (the) best thing to do is get everybody away from it, so remove any danger. So, get the kids, the dogs, pets all adults inside, or if it’s inside, get everybody outside, but it’s always good to have someone keeping an eye on it from the distance. And I guess, if it goes into an area where you can’t see it, so if it goes in under the couch, keep an eye on all areas around the couch. Don’t let anybody near there until you see it move out, or even when it moves out, just keep everybody away. So, I guess yeah, if it’s inside I’d always recommend to just call someone, keep an eye on it, if it goes into a bedroom, just lock the door, don’t worry about keeping an eye on. If it goes in any room that you can isolate, lock the door, don’t have to lock it, but shut the door, put a towel under the door so it can’t get back out underneath the door, and then we’ll worry about it when we get there. The snake catcher can just open the door and go through everything that’s no drama. You know, it’s probably safer than someone standing in a room, which can be quite a tight space and then having to worry about a snake on the move. But when it’s outside, it’s kind of personal preference, but I always recommend if there’s pets involved and it’s a venomous snake or big python, just to get it relocated. You know, we… Nothing… The snake’s never harmed. You know, we just pick them up, we relocate them into bushland within sort of four or five kilometres according to our permit. And, we always pick a good spot, you know, to release them, where we know they’re going to be able to still thrive and have access to food and water and shelter.

Brilliant, Stuart McKenzie, snake catcher, thank you so much for being on the podcast.

Mate, no worries, I enjoyed it thoroughly.

How can people find you? Especially, if they need this snake catching help up in Sunshine Coast in Queensland.

Yeah. So, my business is called The Snake Catcher 24/7. So, if you’re not on the sunny coast, I guess, it’s either a matter of just Googling ‘snake catchers’ for your area, or going on Facebook, a lot of snake catchers have Facebook. But yeah, if you’re on the Sunny Coast, The Snake Catcher 24/7, and my phone number is 0408545440. And, like I said, 24 hours a day, if you have a snake at three o’clock in the morning, do not hesitate to call your local snake catcher, ’cause we’re all 24/7, even though it’s hard to get up sometimes at three o’clock to catch a snake, we’re happy to do it, ’cause is what we do.

Brilliant. Thank you so much for your time, mate, I appreciate it.

No worries, thanks, mate.

See you, guys!

****

Alright, guys. I hope you enjoy that episode with Stuart McKenzie, snake catcher. Remember, if you would like his services, if you guys live in the Sunshine Coast area in Queensland, his phone number is 0408 545 440. He is on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. So, if you have a snake in your house and you need it removed, give him a call.

So, I hope you enjoy this episode. There’s loads of Aussie slang, expressions, vocab. He’s got a great accent. And remember, if you would like to support the podcast and help me bring you more interviews like this, you can do so via my Patreon page the link will be in the transcript, and if you would like to support the podcast whilst learning Australian English and upgrading your English, make sure you get into the Aussie English Classroom and finish today’s 5 to 10-minute segment as the exercises that I’ve created for you in there. So, that’s designed to teach you Australian English even faster.

So, that’s it for today guys. I hope you enjoy this episode, and I’ll see you in the next one. Peace out, guys!


Stuart’s Links:

Website – www.thesnakecatcher.com.au
Facebook – www.facebook.com/ReptileCatcher/
Instagram – www.instagram.com/the_snake_catcher/


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