Snakes on the move

By Country News

The phones have started ringing for the spring season with people alerting Goulburn Valley snake catcher Craig Bergman of his slithery friends’ whereabouts.

Mr Bergman was seven when he brought home his first snake, while living in the small country Victorian town of Korong Vale.

‘‘With not much to do out of school hours, catching snakes and lizards, scorpions and spiders — things like that — was just part of having fun,’’ Mr Bergman said.

Disagreeing with the saying ‘‘the only good snake is a dead snake’’, Mr Bergman said all snakes had a purpose.

‘‘As a snake catcher, you have a real passion for snakes. Snakes don’t go out of their way to bite people; every snake has a purpose,’’ he said.

Following the snake trail for more than 25 years, Mr Bergman said he had been bitten three times, but had never had venom injected.

‘‘They say one in four bites from an eastern brown snake is venom injected and the rest of the time it’s more or less a warning. I don’t mind though; I don’t hold any grudges,’’ he said.

Mr Bergman said people needed to educate themselves about snakes and show respect for the native reptile.

‘‘You’ve got to understand it from a snake’s point of view; we are encroaching on their habitat and to me a snake will do more to get away from you than bite. It takes them so much time and effort to produce their own venom and they don’t want to use it on something they can’t eat.’’

Within the Goulburn Valley, Mr Bergman said the calls he received were mainly for tiger snakes, red-bellied black snakes, eastern brown snakes and the old famous rubber snake.

‘‘The biggest snake I have found was an eastern brown that was over nine feet (2.7m) long in Toolamba,’’ he said.

‘‘The guy who called it in had been watching it for a few days before he called, so we relocated that one.’’

Mr Bergman said prevention was the key to a snake-free zone.

‘‘The only way to get rid of them is to eliminate their hiding spots and keeping your yards tidy,’’ he said.

‘‘If people remove all their garden beds with low-lying ground cover and cut underneath all the bushes they will have less snakes coming through.’’

With the warmer weather hitting early this year, Mr Bergman is getting ready for a long season.

‘‘The stories I could tell you, it’s not uncommon to get a call at two in the morning. A few years back I had a call from a lady in Girgarre that had a snake land on her shoulder from inside the house,’’ he said.

Mr Bergman said people had to be vigilant and understand that snakes were going to be around.

‘‘The most snakes I’ve had in the one spot was eight eastern browns at the Murchison cemetery and there was a bus-load of senior citizens all watching me try and catch these snakes sunning themselves on a grave.’’

Mr Bergman covers the entire Goulburn Valley, including Echuca, Wangaratta and Seymour, and keeps in touch with other local catchers if he is unable to help.

■For more details or snake assistance, phone Mr Bergman on 0428300210 or Tania Dowsett on 0409575164.

—Madeleine Caccianiga