Riverina snake handler Jake Cullen urges respect for native reptiles

Riverina snake handler Jake Cullen has warned people to stay away from snakes after a fatal incident in Tamworth last week.

Mr Cullen’s reminder follows an incident in Tamworth last week where a man died after being bitten by a brown snake.

Mr Cullen operates Riverina Reptile Relocation and has moved around 60 snakes including Eastern Brown and Red Belly Black snakes around the district this summer.

He said snakes generally aren’t aggressive towards humans and are more likely to run away than to attack.

“It’s more a passion than a job, you’ve got to love it,” he said.

Snake handler Jake Cullen with a Red Belly Black snake. Photo: Contributed

Snake handler Jake Cullen with a Red Belly Black snake. Photo: Contributed

If provoked an Eastern Brown snake can launch itself 1.5 times its own length, as well as being second the most poisonous snake in the world.

“You’ve got more chance of being bitten if you try and kill them,” Mr Cullen said.

“Often what we think is an attack stance is 90 per cent bluff – they want to be safe.”

And far from being territorial, Mr Cullen said snakes would chase food and water and the best way to keep them moving was to ensure homes, gardens and sheds were clean and tidy.

Mr Cullen said the weather at the moment was almost too hot for snakes and they would often seek shade.

“They can’t regulate their own body temperature, right now it’s too hot for them, so they’ll find a cool place,” he said.

If people see snakes, Mr Cullen said people should avoid that area but to keep an eye on the snake in case it moves from a safe distance.

 Stevie-Leigh Bromham with an Olive Python. Photo: Contributed

Stevie-Leigh Bromham with an Olive Python. Photo: Contributed

“If a snake is close to you, stand still and don’t move,” he said.

“But if you’re a few metres away, you can run in the opposite direction.”

Eastern Brown snakes are the most common around the area, but there’s also a legless lizard called a patternless delma which sometimes mistaken for a brown snake.

“They’re a dead ringer for them,” Mr Cullen said.

He said there’s also whip snakes, blue-tongue lizards often mistaken for goannas, shingleback lizards and lace monitors.

Mr Cullen said snakes were released near National Parks at approved locations once they were caught.

As well as relocations, Mr Cullen’s a registered reptile breeder and has been doing talks around construction sites to help raise awareness of snakes and lizards.

He wants to bring those talks to public schools so students can gain an appreciation of native reptiles.

“We want people to have respect for native wildlife, snakes can be dangerous if you don’t have respect for them,” Mr Cullen said.

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