Catching Snakes to Earn a Crust with Stuart Mckenzie

In this Interview In Depth lesson, we’re going to study a portion of the AE 385 interview with Stuart Mckenzie.

Read and listen to the full interview here.

How to complete this lesson:

  1. Listen & read
  2. Complete the quizzes

AE 385: Catching Snakes To Earn A Crush with Stuart Mckenzie

Difficulty: Intermediate

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 have happened. But as I picked my bag up, he saw that movement and he shot up straight up past my hand, literally got within a centimetre 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 opened 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.

(I’ve) 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”.


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… that’s 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, (a) couple of 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 tiger 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 elapid 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 got 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.


ST = something

SW = somewhere

SO = someone

An ambulance – a vehicle equipped for taking sick or injured people to and from hospital, especially in emergencies

  • Don’t worry mate, the ambulance will arrive soon and take you to hospital.

As much as possible – to a feasible extent; as best one can

  • I try to go to the gym as much as possible.

Bag ST – place ST (e.g. a snake) inside of a bag

  • He had to bag the snake before leaving the property.

Bald – without hair on the head

  • I’ve been bald all my life.

A bandage – a strip of woven material used to bind up a wound or protect an injured part of the body.

  • The doctors put a bandage on his burnt leg.

Be out there to do ST – be aiming to do ST or get ST – ‘out there’ = ‘out in the world’, i.e. existing

  • Most people aren’t out there to hurt anyone.

Chase ST – pursue ST

  • The lion chased the zebra.

The cloaca – a cavity at the end of the digestive tract for the release of both excretory and genital products in some animals

  • Turtles and snakes have cloacas.

The closest call of my lifea ‘close call’ is a narrow escape from danger or disaster (i.e. dying), here he’s saying that this was the closest he’s ever come to significant danger/death.

  • When I crashed my car, that was the closest call of my life.

Commonsense – good sense and sound judgement in practical matters

  • Eating your food once it’s cooled down a little is just commonsense.

Consider ST – think carefully about (ST), typically before making a decision

  • He considered what to wear before going outside today.

Cross one’s fingers – wish for luck – the act of putting one finger across another in a cross shape as a sign of good luck

  • Cross your fingers and hope the snake bite was a dry bite.

Defensive behaviour – a defensive response by an animal or person to a particular situation or stimulus

  • A snail’s defensive behaviour is to pull itself into its shell.

A distribution – the way in which ST (i.e. an animal) is spread over an area

  • This goanna has a distribution that goes from Victoria to Queensland.

Don’t get me wrong – don’t get the incorrect idea about what I’m about to say – usually said before saying ST you fear the person you’re talking to may misinterpret

  • Don’t get me wrong, James is a great guy, but I really don’t like his ideas.

A dude – a guy, bloke, man

  • All of those dudes are his friends.

Enable ST – facilitate or allow ST

  • I’m not going to enable his smoking by buying him cigarettes.

Encourage SO to… – persuade SO to do or continue doing ST

  • I always encourage my kids to spend time with their friends.

An envenomation – the process by which venom is injected into some animal by the bite (or sting) of a venomous animal

  • I’m hoping that bite wasn’t an envenomation.

Escalate (ST) to… – make or become more intense or serious

  • The bushfire alerts escalated from mild to severe.

Exactly right – completely correct

  • What he said is exactly right!

Far out!Said as an exclamation in shock or surprise.

  • Far out! Did you cook all of this food by yourself?

Feel threatened – (for ST to) feel that it’s in danger or likely to be harmed

  • If a dog starts growling, it’s usually because he feels threatened.

First-aid – help given to a sick or injured person until full medical treatment is available.

  • I gave first-aid to the victim until the ambulance arrived.

Flee (ST) – run away from (ST)

  • The thief fled the scene of the crime.

Get confused for ST – mistaken or misidentified

  • How did I get confused for my sister by my mother?!

Go up to it – approach it

  • This little kid just went up to that stranger.

Get to ST – reach ST

  • I got to work at 6am this morning.

Give that a whirl – Give ST a try or go

  • Here, you should try this beer. Give it a whirl!

God damn it! – an exclamation of annoyance or anger

  • God damn it! I just stubbed my toe on the table.

The handling skills – the ability to cope or deal well with animals using one’s hands.

  • He has great spider handling skills.

Headbutt ST – hit ST with the head

  • The wombat ran straight up to me and headbutted my leg.

A hook – a piece of metal or other hard material curved or bent back at an angle, for catching hold of or hanging things on. – here he’s talking about a hook on the end of a metal pole that is used to handle snakes

  • Every snake catcher needs to have a snake hook.

In little pockets – in small areas or places

  • I’ve hidden some Easter eggs in pockets of the garden.

In saying thatused to acknowledge that you have just made a good point, but that you are about to make a point against it

  • He’s a friendly guy, but in saying that, he can be violent when drunk.

In the top – in the highest position or rank

  • He’s a Olympic swimmer and is ranked in the top 10.

To jinx oneself – to cause oneself bad luck, usually by stating ST misfortunate that hasn’t yet happened to you

  • I’m a storm chaser who’s never been struck by lightning. Fingers crossed I didn’t just jinx myself.

Keep away from ST – maintain distance from ST

  • If you see a dangerous man, keep away from him.

Keep it that way – make sure things remain a certain way

  • I go surfing every weekend and I’m going to keep it that way.

Keep your distance – maintain distance between you and ST

  • Keep your distance from me, because I’ve got a cold.

(ST) kind of thing – things like ST – used to say ST is more or less like the ‘ST’ just mentioned

  • The movie’s a murder mystery kind of thing.

(The) majority of the time – most of the time

  • I’m on my computer the majority of the time at work.

Make contact (with ST) – Touch (ST)

  • The boxer’s fist made contact with his opponent’s face.

A massive range (of ST) – a large variety (of ST)

  • The supermarket has a massive range of chocolates.

A no-go zone – an area you shouldn’t go

  • That part of the forest is a no-go zone, because there’re some deadly snakes there.

Non-venomous – (of an animal) not being venomous

  • You’ve nothing to fear, because pythons are non-venomous.

The odd eastern brown – the occasional eastern brown (snake)

  • Every now and then I go for the odd surf.

On a weekly basis – occurring every week

  • I love going swimming on a weekly basis.

On the job – whilst working

  • You should never drink on the job.

or anything like that – or anything similar – used with negatives to say that SO or ST is not at all similar to SO or ST else

  • These animals aren’t dangerous or anything like that.

Overly – excessively

  • I’m not overly excited about going to the dentist.

Secure – certain to remain safe and unthreatened

  • The house is now snake-free and secure.

A selfie – a photograph someone takes of themselves whilst holding the camera in their hands

  • She loves taking selfies and posting them on Instagram.

Shoot up ST – move incredibly quickly up ST

  • The goanna shot up a tree when he saw us.

Snakes are only dangerous if you let them be – snakes are only dangerous if you allow them to be (dangerous) – ‘let them be’ here, means ‘allow them to be (dangerous)’. Note: the omission of ‘dangerous’ a second time

  • It’s only a big deal if you let it be (a big deal).

Snake envy – being jealous of ST (e.g. snakes)

  • I think he’s jealous of your new car. He must have car envy!

Though – However – indicates that a factor qualifies or imposes restrictions on what was said previously

  • I’ve been bitten a few times, though never this badly.

Touch ST – reach ST; come in contact with ST

  • The cars only just touched, and no damage was done.

A type of ST – a variety of ST

  • Snakes are a type of reptile.

Unpredictable – not able to be predicted; changeable

  • Animals are always unpredictable.

Variation – a different or distinct form or version of ST

  • Aussie English is a variation of English.

We got – We’ve got incorrect grammatically, but commonly heard said by English speakers. It should be “We’ve got”, but often the contracted ‘’ve’ (have) or ‘’s’ (has) is completely dropped.

  • We got heaps of friends coming to the party.

We’ve got around probably 18 or 20 – we have approximately 18 or 20 – ‘to have got around + amount’ is often used in spoken English as ‘to have approximately + amount’.

  • I’ve got around 20 cousins.