Friday, December 7, 2012

On snakes (again? Really?)

Snakes.

Have I mentioned them before? Have I mentioned them in the last five minutes?

We've got a fairly expansive (and expensive) system planned to allay my fears of Lucinda strolling over to one and trying to pat it. Call me paranoid, but I'd rather not take chances and I don't want to keep her cooped up inside all day because I'm worried about what she'll find waiting out the back door.

Our first line of defence is to snake fence the entire house block, which includes both houses and the area where the herb gardens will be.

It's an expensive exercise but we've budgeted for it and it's pretty much priority number one as far as I'm concerned.


Having met a few people lately here in Queensland who've moved off acreage specifically because the snakes were too constant a problem, I think it'll be money well spent if we can at least keep them off the house block.


Our second line of defence is to get a couple of fox terriers to keep away vermin and hopefully raise a ruckus when they get through the snake fence (I say when, not if).

We already have one dog, a red and white border collie called Maisie.

She's about as ferocious as she looks, which is not at all. Maisie spends most of her days trying to catch her shadow and chasing leaves. If she ever met a snake, she'd be a goner. Let's hope the new terriers watch her back for her.

Our third line of defence is a small fence around the main house, inside which will be turf for Lucinda to play on. This fence will also have snake mesh.

We've heard mixed reports about snake repellers. Some people seem to swear by them, others reckon they make no difference at all and some even say the vibrations attract snakes.

So, that's our grand plan. Sounds like overkill but if it helps me sleep a little easier at night then it's got to be worth it.

I'm very interested to hear from anyone else living on acreage (or snakerage, as Dan calls it) about how you manage snakes, particularly if you've got young kids.

27 comments:

  1. Hi Edwina, we don't have young kids so no advice there but you sound pretty organised. We recently purchased 4 snake repellers, I do feel comforted knowing that we have them (since we've had them our neighbours have had at least 2 browns but we have not) but I certainly make sure to keep an eye out when I am outside. As I said I do feel somewhat comforted knowing that we have them, but not totally relaxed about the possibility of having a snake here. Judy xx

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    1. Thanks Judy. I think I might get some anyway just until we get the snake fencing up... can't hurt (assuming they don't actually attract them as some people seem to think).

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  2. We get snakes and I hate them. We have a small dog and he will bark at them - also have got snake repellers but think they are probably unreliable at best but they make me feel better... Haven't seen a snake since they went in though so worth a try. I also sweep and make a noise outside daily and try and keep rubbish etc cleaned up.

    I think the best thing is to teach kids what they are as soon as they understand and go through what to do (ie stay still or back away quietly).

    Horrible fear though and I know it well. I killed one in my kids sandpit and my husband found one under our sons trike. Lovely. I still check outside before the kids go out and they are bigger now.

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    1. All sounds very sensible advice. Snake Avoidance 101 to commence just as soon as possible.

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  3. I grew up on acreage with lots of snakes, and as A Farmer's Wife says, we were taught from a very early age what to do - stamp our feet as we walked, keep an eye out, be careful picking up things that could have snakes under them, how to tell a python from a venomous snake, what to do if we saw one, what to do if we got bitten etc. Dogs were very good at letting us know if there was one around too.
    Reading over that it sounds like we were militant about it, but really it was second nature and just part of living where we lived. A bit hard with such a little one at the moment, though! I would go the peace of mind option with fencing as well.

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    1. Got to love dogs. I'm on Gumtree now hunting for Jack Russells to take with us!

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  4. "snakerage", love it! Being from NZ originally, I am very scared of snakes, but we seem to be lucky enough not to see them often at our place. My husband is vigilant about keeping the grass around the house very short, so there is nowhere to hide (also a good fire break, that's the other thing that scares me), and our house is on stumps. We don't have kids to worry about, that would be a different story. Good luck with the terriers, I've also heard that guinea fowl deter snakes, but they make a bit of noise too!

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  5. It might be worth snake-training Maisie? It can be quite easy to snake train friendly/curious dogs so they don't go sniffing around near them - some are so sweet and curious they'll go right up and put themselves in the firing line. Dogs from traditionally urban areas are interested in snake smells/curious - they haven't had the history to know they should stay away or make a ruckus to alert others. You can snake-train dogs using rubber snakes - if you google around there's heaps of good information. You basically train dogs like Maisie to stay away from snakes once they smell them, instead of investigating - to keep Maisie safe.

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    1. Such a good idea - I'll look into it.

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  6. Snakerage! Cracker. My only advice aside from all the above is invest in some thick rubber boots for Lucinda and make sure she always has them on if she is outside- would be difficult for snakes fangs to penetrate if she stepped on one at least. My much younger half brother and sister grew up with farm exposure and were always taught to be wary of snakes and they never had an issue. Do remember there being fillets of snakes in the freezer for the bbq one year though! ( my dad is slightly nuts). mel x

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  7. I had/have young children AND snakes on our 3 acres, with no fencing or snake deterants, they are mostly Brown snakes where I live, and from a very early age, all the children were trained what to do if they encountered a snake. Stop. Walk away backwards. Call out mum snake as loudly as possible! And most importantly NEVER EVER PRETEND YOU HAVE SEEN A SNAKE WHEN YOU HAVEN'T! (Insert story of the boy who cried wolf here, they will understand!) One day when my first born was 2 years old that's exactly what happened, she alerted me to a snake curled up on the back step when she had gone out to play, I was terrified, and had to play the corageous mummy role!!

    One thing I have learnt though in the 10 years and numerous snake encounters we have had here is that despite popular opinion brown snakes (and I suspect most others) are simply not aggressive, they will make a big U-Turn and flee if startled by someone, so chances are you will never be bitten. Your other commenters have loads of good advice, especially keeping the grass low and clutter in the yard(s) to a minimum.

    I love your dog idea, but be prepared for the possibility of losing one, our bull terrier cross rotweiller lost a battle with an enormous brown snake one day, he killed it, but it too killed him. It was 1.5 metres long!

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  8. 6 children and loads of snakes(brown snakes out our way so rather deadly) last year we had 27 the year before 23 and so far this year 5 and the season has just begun..our line of defence is cats...I reccomend at least 4..much less care than a dog(cost less to feed too) and cats know exactly how to kill them I have watched all 4 of ours fight and win every single time..one of cats recently saved my husband form a snake....the cats just knows how to get that head down ..immobilize the snake by ripping its back(which paralizes it) then bites its head off...

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    1. 27? Brown Snakes? In one year?

      Oh. My. God.

      Will absolutely post a show and tell once we've got it set up. We're moving in this week!

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    2. In one snake season..so not a whole year they hibernate in the winter..i came back to tell you we just got our 6th snake about 15 minutes ago https://www.facebook.com/#!/photo.php?fbid=377205042372690&set=a.377205039039357.91606.100002495916829&type=1&theater

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  9. so show and tell on your snake defence please..i would love to see how it works

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  10. Everything you mention about moving to the country sounds amazing. But then you mention snakes, and I change my mind... I would be way to scared to let Jarvis outside to play.

    http://iliska-dreams.blogspot.com.au/

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    1. Yeah, that's where I'm at. I'll have to get over it though. Hopefully the fencing makes them a rare thing, although then there's always the danger of becoming complacent I guess.

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  11. I think you may well have it covered Edwina. The snake proof fence, with terriers inside all the time, sounds pretty good to me. That snake wire may be expensive, but worth it, as you say. How high will it be? I know nothing about cats or snake deterrants. I still think that a cattle dog wouldn't go astray either! Maybe just an outdoorsy one. You'll be fine - don't stress too much! cheers Wendy

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  12. Sorry Edwina, but I just had to add - also be prepared on how to treat snake bite. Update your first aid skills. We carry around elastic bandage in the car, or when we are out and about. Sounds ominous I know (specially after just saying you'll be fine) but it is much better to be ready.

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  13. Oh, Edwina, life on a snakerage is fun! As you know our dog survived two recent encounters, and my credit card is groaning after two visits to the vet within 5 days. I'm interested in the electronic snake repellers but I'd need quite a few to cover our house paddock and for that expense I'd need a guarantee they work, but how does anyone know if they work or not? It has been a particularly bad season for snakes in NSW and Victoria, and probably your state as well. Our dogs are inside as soon as the temp begins to climb, but they have supervised play outside about 6 times a day, and they seem to enjoy it more than before because we are spending more time playing WITH them while outside.

    From experience I have learned that brown and red-belly black snakes want to get out of the way of humans/dogs/cats, it is only when a human/dog/cat shows interest and hassles them that they attack. Unfortunately my German Shorthair Pointer is a born hunter and retriever and can sniff anything reptilian yards away under rocks or in the garden, so she goes for them, while our other dog (a Heinz 57) doesn't bother. Any sort of working dog or hunting dog and most retrievers will chase snakes, their instinct is so strong.

    It seems you've taken good precautions with construction of a snake fence. Keep the grass down, keep your screen doors closed, don't leave dog food out, don't bury fresh egg shells in the garden because snakes are attracted to eggs and I am always hearing stories of a snake being in the hen-house when people have gone to collect the eggs. Red-belly blacks like to hang around fish ponds and I found one curled up inside a planter tub, between its wall and the potted fern I'd placed inside the tub .. a space of a few centimetres! Found it after investigating why the dog made a big detour around the tub everytime she walked past it!

    Having said all that, I wouldn't want to move back to suburbia for quids!

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  14. I love the advice from busy mum of 3. Our back boundary is a creek which attracts black snakes but we also have pythons who come after the eggs and chickens, brown snakes and lots of green and brown tree snakes. I have found in the 15 years of living here that most snakes aren't aggressive, although most snakes will have a go at you if you threaten them. Remember, you've chosen to live there in that beautiful natural environment and snakes are a part of it. Don't let your fears spoil it for you. I would encourage you to get a snake book for the local area and read about their habits. They're not out to get you, they're just living on the land they've always lived on. When we had our Airedale terriers we brought them inside when we knew there was a snake outside. We didn't want them to go after the snake and maybe get bitten, and we didn't want the snake dead. I agree with joyfullhomemaker too, cats deal with snakes better than dogs do. I hope that you can enjoy your new home, without fear and in safety, and grow to accept the snakes as part of the country you live on. :- )

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    1. Thanks Rhonda. I am feeling a bit more zen about it today.They've never been something I've been fearful of in the past, so with a bit of luck we'll avoid any in the house or anything - at least until Lucinda 'gets it' - and then once she does, we can all just get on with our lives in relative harmony.

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  15. I must confess when we first moved to the bush, I was understandably nervous about snakes. We had a little daughter to be weary of too. It just hasn't turned out to be an issue though, and this includes uncovering brown snakes curled up in our compost bin and having them go through our chicken coop, when my daughter was only metres away.

    The brown snakes only came for the mice, and so that limited their range to our chicken coop and compost bin. I have seen one on the edge of our back verandah, but I can put that down to a very wet season and grass we didn't get to mow for a while. The best defence against snakes in my opinion, is keeping your lawn mowed. The second is keep tall eucalyptus trees in bands around the house. Not so close they could hit it if they fall, but mown lawn is your first defence and tall trees on the outskirts is your second.

    Why tall trees? Many of our carnivorous native birds love to perch on them to spot a meal. We've seen many parents bringing their young to feed on a clutch of small snakes. It's important to note when breeding season for browns is too - which is anywhere from October to December for us. They tend to be more aggressive when they're in mating season, but I almost walked on a pair in the middle of the act, and they didn't budge. I don't know if we have a docile form of brown snake around here, but they certainly have never turned out to be the terrifying menace we feared. Don't get me wrong, they still have our utmost respect and we've taught our daughter all about snakes, but if I had spent a large amount of money to keep them out completely, I don't know if my fear senses would have changed much.

    I always recommend to people moving to acreage, not to spend too much money at first. You just don't know where those resources are being wasted. I thought a great many things were important to us as a family, which ended up changing as we learned to adapt to our new environment. I think the temptation is there when you move from the comforts of suburbia, to bring that same comfort zone to the country. But the threats are never going to leave you alone, lol, and you soon run out of money. Everything you could do in suburbia ends up being so much more expensive attempting to achieve on acreage.

    If you really want to invest in snake mesh though, keep it to a limited area where your kids will be playing and you can keep an eye on them. Also, don't underestimate your dog. We had a giant puppy (err dog) which ended up bighting a brown snake in half. We never thought she'd hurt a fly, but carnivores change in their natural environment. I truly believe snakes have more to fear from us humans, than we have to fear from them. They want nothing to do with us, and if they happen to enter our territory, they're probably looking for food. Don't give them an easy reason to find it around your place, and they'll become fewer in numbers. I truly believe our healthy range of carnivorous birds (and their seasonal offspring) help keep the snake population in check. We give them every reason to keep nesting here, which includes no cats.

    Cats in my opinion, disturb the natural balance of carnivores in the area, by eating all the food available. I know this isn't a popular opinion to share, but I've seen it for myself. The neighbours with roaming domestic cats, end up with the most snake sightings on their property. They think we're lucky, only to have a few. But a couple of cats will never do the relentless job of countless carnivorous birds, all attempting to feed their multiple young. You need to give them a reason to keep nesting by protecting their food supply.

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  16. mum and dad's block was known to the locals as 'taipan flats' before they moved their house there to live. i've never seen or heard of them having a snake there since they moved in nearly twenty years ago. i'm guessing it's mainly due to my mums obsessive mowing ... she mows three of the five acres to golf course perfection once a week.

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  17. I live on Snakerage too....have lived here since I was 4 (31 years now- omg!) and i HATEEEEEE snakes!! I think generally we have been lucky that we have mostly had carpet snakes. Still don't like them, but I know I'm not necessarily going to die from one lol.

    I am fearful of my 3yo dd encountering them, and also my dogs and cats (even though cats are sposed to be good at getting them, we've lost one to a brown). When DD was little we thought it was worth trying the vibrating snake deterrents. I don't know if it's coincidence or not, but we've only seen 2 carpet snakes since then- and they were heading towards our place, but turned around and headed away. I don't entirely trust them, but we leave them there in case lol.

    I think educating your daughter is #1, and always being vigilant too. Good luck!

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  18. Some time ago I called WIRES because we had a black snake in our backyard and I was concerned about the little girl who lived next door. They sent a snake catcher who caught the snake and, in the process, told me that black and brown snakes (the ones most common here) are very timid. He went on to tell me that he does snake handling courses and always has to shake up the bag of snakes to get them angry and even then they take some convincing to be aggressive.
    The thought of someone shaking up a bag of snakes still gives me the creeps, but I have taken some comfort from his words and I hope you can too. xx

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  19. Our cairn terrier would be awesome, no movement or sound misses him.... All terriers would be good. He goes into down and pounce position when things move, he barks heaps and backs away and does a few laps and circles. That would be pretty useful I imagine, makes lead training hard as they are focused on any movement and constantly guard and watch... Good for you guys though! Awesome guard dogs too if you are out in the bush.... Raise quite a ruckus if anyone comes near our door!

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