Raunchy reptiles are startling residents
THE last thing Andergrove snake catcher Mel Ellul wants to do is explain to another family how their pet has disappeared down the gullet of a python.
But it's not an unusual situation for the licensed snake catcher during the busy summer season.
The warm weather had brought out a friskier side to the reptiles, Ms Ellul said, and snakes taking advantage of the breeding season had startled a few residents.
"Because its heating up everything gets more active," she said.
"They're a hell of a lot more active."
Every week, Ms Ellul responds to between two and five call-outs from panicked residents asking her to remove snakes from their homes.
With snakes in search of food, water, shelter and romance, she said, they were more likely to end up in homes around the region.
And the slithery serpents are turning up in some strange places.
Ms Ellul recently had to pull a common tree snake from a washing machine in Blacks Beach.
And in a call-out to the Illawong Beach Resort, she found one hungry brown tree snake had "folded over itself" trying to fit into a nest to snack on some eggs.
The expert snake handler said half of the challenge was managing the panicked residents.
"There's a lot of misunderstanding that people have got about snakes," she said.
Despite their bad reputation, Ms Ellul said snakes were essential to the ecosystem and kept pesky vermin out of the house.
But she admitted facing down a python could be particularly daunting for families with pets and small children.
"There's a little bit of panic," she said. "They don't want to have to explain to the kids where their pets have gone."
Ms Ellul said she still remembered having to remove a large python after one customer's prize-wining duck disappeared into its stomach.
Top tips for snake season
1.Be aware while out in the garden or outdoors, as snakes will be present.
2.Keep your garden clear and tidy.
3. Don't panic if you find a snake. The snake is unlikely to attack unless provoked.
4.Don't try to hurt it, as the snake will try to retaliate.
"The only thing they know how to do is fight back," Ms Ellul said.