Many people who move to Mission Beach enjoy being surrounded by nature and the rainforest. However, they do not expect to find nature inside their homes. When residents find a snake in their house or shed, they often ring the shelter and ask for us to relocate it back into the wild.
Tanya is more than happy to come to their aid. A sad alternative is when people decide to remove the snake on their own, which often means killing it. Should the snake be venomous, inexperienced people put themselves at risk of being bitten, which can be life-threatening in some circumstances.
When she gets a call, Tanya tries to assess the snake and situation over the phone. What does it look like? How long is it? Where is and what has it been doing? These simple questions help decide what type of snake is there and how she proceeds.
The most popular type of snakes seem to be scrub pythons, brown tree snakes and green tree snakes. If the snake is large, she needs more assistance and usually asks Karlie, a long-time shelter volunteer and snake lover, for help. It can be difficult to capture a three-meter snake on your own without getting wrapped up, so two people are able to make sure everyone’s safe. Together the women work as a team to capture and move the snake back to the wild.
I have accompanied Tanya and Karlie on a few of these snake rescues to learn more about the process. It’s really interesting, from a psychological and sociological perspective, to watch the residents react to what Tanya and Karlie do. Most of the people who call dislike all snakes or are really frightened by them. They definitely think Tanya and Karlie are insane to touch the snakes, even though most of the calls are for non-venomous baby snakes.
Of course, living in Australia, there are many snakes (among other things) that can kill you. It pays to be cautious and call an expert. However, I thought locals would learn the differences between poisonous and non-poisonous varieties in school (especially in Far North Queensland where nature is everywhere). But perhaps this is a bad assumption? Maybe it’s all the movies that make snakes out to be villains? Or, it could be the religious symbolism given to snakes that portray them as representatives of evil? I’m not sure where the ingrained fear comes.
Many of the snakes I saw have beautiful scale patterns and coloring, and I appreciate their physical beauty as I would any other animal. I wouldn’t touch or remove wild snakes unless I was fully trained to know the different species but viewing them from afar is magical. It’s unfortunate that they get such a bad rap as they’re really amazing creatures.