When I first decided to pursue snake catching, I had many stressed conversations and restless nights thinking about that one Snake. The Eastern Brown. Our countries deadliest snake, responsible for over 60% of Australia’s snake bite deaths. I heard stories when I was a kid about Browns chasing people up trees, biting pets multiple times, outrunning people with ease. Any one living in a rural or even semi-rural area in Eastern Australia has been taught to beware the Brown. Their hyper-aggression and never back down attitude, cemented in bush mythology. They were, and are too this day, one of my biggest fears. I spent much time day dreaming about the Browns I would encounter, how I would mitigate being bitten and how I would successfully catch them. I hoped that my first Brown callout would be gentle, but I knew it wouldn’t. How could it be?
That first callout came mid- summer, a woman said she had seen a snake in her bedroom and wanted it removed promptly. She was unwilling to get close enough for a photo, so I was going in blind. As I arrived, I was lead to the bedroom where the snake was last seen. I did a cursory scan of the area and noticed something near the bedrooms glass door. As I moved closer, I realised what it was. The snake was about 50cm long, was a light brown colour and had reddish bands along the length of its body. I knew right away it was a Brown. I moved my hook towards the snake and it obliged, wrapping around the hook and almost consenting to being put in the hoop bag, no objections at all. What? Where was the temperament? Where was the hissing and the S formation and the charging? Where was the aggression? The answer was it was in my head.
I had been conditioned to see the Brown Snake as a demon, a creature of nightmare never to be crossed, but what I encountered was a scared young snake, who wanted nothing more than to be away from me. I have had countless encounters since then with Browns. Can they be nasty, angry and hyper-aggressive? Absolutely. I understand the cultural reason for their heightened perception as being foul beasts that lust for blood. But sometimes fear is easier to garner than respect, and I can’t help but feel Snakes suffer from this as a whole. The problem is fear can sometimes perpetuate unfair stereotypes affecting our behavior and attitudes, as does respect but in a contrastingly positive light. People often say fear and respect are intertwined, and this is largely true. My first experience with a Brown helped define the difference.