A Ballarat snake-catcher has called for a change in the way snakes are perceived, calling them an important part of our ecosystem.
Jules Farquhar, who catches snakes in the Ballarat area along with his brother Jesse, believes the reptiles are the victims of double standards compared to some of Australia’s more poster-friendly marsupials.
“Killing a snake should be as frowned upon as beheading a koala or a kangaroo, which is obviously horrendous – but people behead snakes without us second guessing it,” he told The Courier.
“We have a tendency to understand and respect and love the things that we can relate to and are more familiar to us.
“As humans we are predisposed to love and relate to other cuddly mammal-like things. Take the koala – in a way, it looks like a small child, which we’re naturally programmed to understand and relate to it.
“Snakes have absolutely none of that. They have no legs, they’re long, they slide around in the undergrowth, they have this unblinking eye.
“We fear what we can’t understand.”
“If people knew more, they would respect them more and they would not kill them.”
He called snakes “an important part of the ecosystem” in Australia, where snake encounters would inevitably happen.
“We’re forever going to be coming across snakes, especially as our population centres grow and grow and we move into more snake habitat.
“There’s going to be no absolute exclusion of snakes from the lives of humans.”
Mr Farquhar, a herpetologist who also works as an environmental consultant, says he enjoys “dispelling myths about snakes and trying to get the public to look at them in a better light.” He says that snakes almost invariably would rather not be close to humans.
“Any snake will try to get away from you. If you see a snake in the yard, it’s not a matter of ‘it’s there, it’s come with its whole family to come and kill everybody’. It’s just this scared, nervous animal. People are huge compared to a snake.”
“They’re more scared of you than you are of them. They don’t intend to kill anyone. They’re not moving around looking for someone’s day to ruin.
“It’s very rare when someone’s life is truly in imminent danger.”
He also said the description of certain snake species as aggressive was misleading.
“Rather it’s about which species is more nervous and defensive.”
“Eastern browns have a really bad reputation but we can’t call them aggressive. They’re more nervous and quick to defend themselves. You’re more likely to get bitten by an eastern brown if you do have an interaction with a snake.”
Any snake will try to get away from you.... It’s just this scared, nervous animal. People are huge compared to a snake.Jules Farquhar, snake catcher
For people living around Ballarat, there is less to be concerned about, he said, with fewer species able to live in the area due to the climate. Almost invariably, any large snake spotted in the area is likely to be a lowland copperhead, which has a reputation as a more docile snake than many other species.
“I would urge people not to worry about what snake it is but to treat them all with caution, and try not to approach one,” Mr Farquhar said.
“That would be every sensible snake catcher’s advice.”
“Don’t go near them. Call a snake-catcher if one is in your house or worrying you that’s on your property.”
Mr Farquhar recognised that his perspective on protecting snakes would not be shared by everyone, saying that he had arguments with farmers on the topic all the time.
He remained hopeful that attitudes would eventually shift. “I imagine a future where people understand snakes and understand that they’re just a gene-preserving machine just like any other organism on the planet.”
“Killing a snake used to be seen as macho but I think it’s starting to reverse.
“It’ll take some time.”
- For snake removal in the Ballarat area, call 0439 242 889 or see the Ballarat Snake Catcher Facebook page.
- The official Department of Environment Land, Water and Planning advice is as follows:
- When left alone, snakes present little or no danger to people.
- If you see a snake, keep calm and move yourself and anyone with you (including pets) away from the area.
- Don't attempt to capture or harm snakes. Instead call DELWP on 136 186 for further advice, or call a licensed snake catcher.
- Maintain lawns and clean up around your house, as snakes are attracted to shelter such as piles of rocks and timber, sheets of metal, and building materials.
- Undertake first aid training and ensure your first aid kit contains several compression bandages, and if someone is bitten, call 000 immediately.