Lipstick for goats

Lipstick for goats

Friday, 3 November 2017

Stalking a Red Belly Black Snake.

What to do when a Red Belly Black snake takes up residence under your wheelbarrow water pump cover? 

You sit and wait patiently for snakey to vacate, 'cos if you don't see it leave you don't know if it is safe to remove the wheelbarrow to use the water pump!

Australia has a good share of highly venomous snakes. Our farm has three of these,  the Eastern Brown snake being the most deadly and aggressive of our Australian snakes,  it is also ranked second most venomous snake on the planet! Coming in at seventh place for nastiness is the Copperhead snake and taking out tenth place is the Red Belly Black snake.

So when you spy a black tail hanging from under the wheelbarrow you sigh a little in relief, "Could be worse." 

When we first started coming across snakes on our property and mentioned our horror of  stumbling upon a Red Belly Black snake the locals were so blase. "Ah,  blacks are okay. Leave them alone and they won't bother you."  

My thoughts at the time - "Are you kidding? It's a venomous snake! It's like, - well, - slithery, fork tongued, scaly and above all scary."

Here I have a confession to make. I think the Red Belly Black snakes are rather beautiful. No, I don't think snakes are beautiful, it is the black and vermilion red of this snake that is gorgeous. I do admire Red Back spiders for the same reason. 

I have learnt the locals are right, the red bellys are not aggressive and would rather slink off in the opposite direction than have a confrontation with you. Just don't threaten them by stepping on one, give it a fright or try to grab it, then the story would be different.

So I watched and waited for two hours for snakey to come out.  I will call the snake  a him, I have no idea or inclination to try and sex a snake. We played peek a boo with him popping his head from under the barrow and tasting the air, to see if it was safe to venture out. By the time the shadows moved across the barrow I imagine it became too cold under there for him and he finally slid out. 

I was deceived by his small head, thinking he was a little snake when in reality he was nearly a metre long.

He slunk into a sun drenched grass spot, flattening his body out to absorb the radiant heat.

He may have vacated his temporary sanctuary but my snake patrol was not over. Beavis and Butthead, my  goats, had decided the reeds at the dam presented the best option for lunch and could not be deterred from this gastronomic delight. The snake was sunbathing, deathly still, a few metres away. I was scared the goats would inadvertently step on him and be bitten.

After warming himself up Mr Snake took off over the paddock. I followed at a discrete distance to make sure he didn't hang around. Boy, did he slither fast once warmed up.

To my delight he was heading for the boundary fence but then seemed to have a distinct purpose in mind, halting at a decaying tree stump and quickly sliding in and out of the fallen wood. Then without hesitation he went straight up the stump, the top part of his body disappearing into the hole at the top. I figured he was looking for a new snooze spot in the rotten center. 

I was about to turn away, believing my stalking was complete, when I heard the weirdest noise. It is so hard to describe. It was like a high pitched squeaking sound like a cork being twisted into a wine bottle. The snake appeared to be trying to squeeze the thicker part of its body downwards into the trunk hole with a twisting motion. I honestly thought the snake was stuck and wondered how it was emitting that distressed sound.

All of a sudden he backed out of the hole with the back leg of a frog between its jaws. That dear little frog was trying to hang on the the stump with all its might but Mr Snakey was not letting go, he had brute strength on his side.

How I wanted to rescue that little frog with its front leg waving imploringly in the air!  Three gulps, frog was gone. There was no way I was going to try to wrestle and deprive Australia's 10th most venomous snake from its meal. 

That snake went straight back up into the tree stump and dragged out a second frog. Lunch was on!

A third investigation of the hole left him without dessert. He slithered all around the fallen wood on the ground, seemed not to find anything further and finally went through the fencing wire into a heap of leaf litter to digest his meal.

At last we could put our water pump on. We will be extremely careful taking the cover off the pump in snake season from now on.

The dam is still alive with the sound of frog music, so I am pleased to say Mr R.B.B. Snake has not decimated the frog population.

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