How to keep them safe during snake season
As the weather is getting warmer (thank goodness!), so are the number of snakes who are coming out to bask in the sun.
Although the 'snake season' only used to bother those more in bushy areas, what we see lately is more and more snakes in our suburbs. With housing development spreading further afield, snakes have become more accustomed to suburban living and don't mind hanging around our homes or local parks.
It's this time of year that we see more snakes coming out in search of food, water, shelter, or to manage their body temperatures by finding a quiet, sunny spot. If your backyard has any of these things to satisfy a snake, you may be at risk of attracting them into your yard.
I think it's also important to note that some of our most venomous snakes, like the Tiger snake or Copperhead, thrive in the colder climates, hence why they are seen more around Melbourne!
If you've got a woodpile near your house, be cautious as it's one of their favourite hiding spots.
Think about your pet's instincts
When we talk about pet safety and snakes, we're mainly referring to dogs and cats. It's not as likely for your other pets to be bitten by a snake (especially if they're an inside, caged animal – birds, mice, lizards etc.).
So think about your dog or cat. Do they:
Love to chase things that move
Play with smaller animals they may catch (like moths, insects, spiders etc.)
Have a curious nature and sniff out foreign things in your yard
Sneak up and surprise other animals (pets or birds outside)
Bring you 'presents' of their conquests
Most dogs and cats are curious critters, love to hunt and will chase anything they see moving – hence why dozens of pets are bitten each year.
Tell-tale signs a snake has bitten your pet
As it's hard to teach your pet not to chase snakes, it's best to keep them away from them. But, accidents happen, and your pet could even be bitten when you're out walking through parkland.
If your pet does get bitten, keep your pet calm and quiet and go to a Vet's immediately.
Dogs are smaller than us, and the closer the bite is to their heart, the quicker the venom will spread to the rest of their body, potentially being fatal. Recovery is much greater if they're treated early.
If you saw the snake (please don't try to catch it!), describe it to your vet so they can quickly administer the anti-venom. If you didn't see the snake, your vet would be able to determine the type through urine or blood tests. So, if you didn't see or find the snake, don't waste time looking – just get to the vets.
Here are signs of a snake bite:
Sudden weakness and collapsing
Shaking, twitching of the muscles and difficulty blinking
Vomiting and loss of bladder and bowel control
Blood in urine
How to safeguard your pet from snakes
As snake bites can be fatal, and anti-venom quite expensive, it's best to keep your pets away from snakes in the first place.
Here are some ideas:
Clear garden undergrowth, fill in holes and mow your lawns regularly
Rake up fallen leaves, flowers, branches etc.
Clean up spilt food, fruit or birdseed that would attract rodents (who attract snakes)
Don't let your pets sniff 'dead' snakes – they are still venomous and may be play-acting
Train your dog to respond immediately if you call – if you see them confronting a snake, you want them to listen to you, leave the snake and return to your side
Walk your dog on a lead and don't let them run off through park or bushland
Don't allow you dog to explore holes or run through long grass, despite how curious they are
And my most significant piece of advice – don't approach snakes!
If you find a snake on your property, please don't try to catch or kill it. Victoria has so many venomous snakes that will strike if provoked. Calmly take your animals inside and call your local snake catcher.
The Department of Environment and Primary Industries will be able to tell you who this is if you can't find them on your local area Facebook page!
I'd love to hear if you've got any other ideas or tips keeping your yard clear of snakes and your pets safe from snake bites. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.