Oyster Bay high school teacher Michael Garbutt has had a timely reminder that we are in the middle of snake season.
Out for an evening walk at Kurnell on December 28, he returned to his car parked next to the skate park to find a note had been left on his windscreen by a passerby warning him that a red-bellied black snake was seen crawling up into the wheel of his car.
“So I popped the bonet and there it was coiled up underneath,” Michael said.
“To say I was shocked is an understatement. On reflection I didn’t think I would have put my hand out to pop the bonnet if I had known it was there.
“My main concern was how do I get rid of it.
“I looked at Google to find a local snake catcher and called him up.”
Michael found the number of Andrew Melrose of Shire Snake Catchers of Engadine who headed straight out to Kurnell.
“By the time he got there the snake had slithered down into the engine,” Michael said.
“It took about an hour for the snake catcher to coax it out.
“The snake was trying to bite the snake hook. The guy ended up catching it with his hand and just chucked it in a bag.”
Snake catcher Andrew said red-bellied black snakes are common at Kurnell.
“I had the contract to catch snakes with the Caltex oil refinery and I’ve got hundreds of black snakes out there,” Andrew said.
“Because the peninsula is swampland the snakes live there because they eat frogs and eels. They are out there but they are quite inoffensive unless you touch them.”
Andrew said it is common to find them in cars.
“If they get startled they look for the first place that is safe.
“The place I found it was very bare. There was no place for the snake to escape. People would have startled it and the only place for it to hide was the car..
“The driver could have driven off unaware and parked and the snake would have left the car when it felt safe.
“Snakes will do anything to stay away. That’s why they get into a car.
“It was in the guard of the the wheel. I tapped the metal to make it move. It went under the motor to the front bumper.
“I tapped that area and it climbed up into the guard. I tapped the metal again and it crawled into the end of the coil suspension in the right-hand font wheel. And that’s when I tried to gently coax it out by touching its body.
“It’s head came out and it was started biting the tyre. It slide down onto the ground and that’s when I got it.”
Andrew said he wasn’t worried.
“I’ve done it my whole life. I can read the animal. It looks simple but if you haven’t done it before you can get killed real quick.
“I touch it gently because I don’t want to hurt the snake. That’s why I use my hands and not gloves. The less pressure on it the less likely it is to bite.
“We’ve still got a few months of the snake season to go and we are coming into a time when they are on the move.”
Andrew reminded people that snakes only bite out of defence.
“No snake ever attacks,” he said.
“The snake doesn’t need rescuing. It’s the people that need rescuing.”