Snake Catching is far from your average career choice, but Brenton Asquith has been doing exactly that for around 10 years in the Manning Valley, and what he doesn’t know about these scaly critters is not worth knowing! We were able to speak to Brenton recently about his snake catching adventures.
When did you first become interested in snakes, and how did it evolve into you becoming the region’s official snake catcher?
My first memory of a love for reptiles was in Kindergarten; a reptile show came to school, and I was in awe. After being allowed to touch a snake, that was it – I was in love with snake! From then on I wanted a snake, and my mum always said, “No way!” as she has a fear of all things reptile.
About 15 years ago, I went and got a licence and then a snake, and from there it grew into a pretty serious hobby.
Roughly 10 years ago, I lived at Old Bar and had regular visits from Red-bellied Black Snakes, and I used to move them away from the house. One day I was watching a YouTube video of a snake catcher from the Gold Coast, which was the catalyst for me deciding to go and do training and eventually become a licensed snake catcher.
Over the years word has spread, and I now have a fairly regular flow of calls to remove snakes.
Tell us about the most common callouts you respond to?
The most common snake for me is a Red-bellied Black Snake by far – commonly in or around houses. Often they find a way inside due to open doors and give people a surprise, but it’s not something to worry about – just a reminder to keep doors closed.
Pythons are another common snake and are often found hiding in gardens or tight spaces, and while they can bite, they are non-venomous.
We also have six species of snake that are brown in colour and are often mistaken for Eastern Brown snakes.
Too often, I get asked about Brown Snakes, and it’s a topic that seems to have a lot of myth behind it. Brown Snakes, whilst they are dangerous, are given a much worse reputation than they deserve. Each season I catch between three and six Eastern Brown Snakes. To some, that may sound like a large number, but it’s not at all.
Is there any time of the year that is your busiest?
The season from September through to May is generally busy, with increased occurrences during spring time (mating season for snakes), and late summer through to early autumn, where snakes are needing to feed up for the cooler weather and the brumation (similar to hibernation, but they don’t sleep the entire time, as they are still active on warm days). Babies are born around the same time – so lots of babies are travelling to find their place and avoid predators and heat.
Scariest or most challenging situation you’ve found yourself in?
I regularly get asked about being scared and I firmly believe that if your job scares you, then you either lack training and confidence in yourself, or you’re doing the wrong thing. I know this may sound silly, but if you know what you are doing – it’s not scary. Sure, my adrenaline gets pumping and I get really excited, because I absolutely love what I do.
I have only ever been scared once, and that was while removing a Red-bellied Black Snake from a retaining wall; as I lifted it down, it struck out and head butted my chest (didn’t bite, but very well could have) and being at Mt George, the situation could have been very bad – but luckily I wasn’t bitten, and the snake was safely taken away.
Have you ever been bitten?
I’ve been bitten by many pythons, tree snakes and other non venomous species over the years, especially while breeding and keeping snakes privately, but I’ve only ever been bitten by one venomous snake, and that was a very small Eastern Small-eyed Snake about five years ago. I was lucky enough to only have pain and swelling, but it was a lot of pain. This species is dangerous and have recorded deaths. To the untrained eye, they look like a Red-bellied Black Snake, but they are very different.
Most unusual situation you’ve encountered?
Over the years I have caught so many snakes in different situations, that it’s hard to consider anything unusual – because with wild animals, anything is possible. I guess what most people would consider unusual is finding snakes in shopping centres – it’s not common, but it does happen.
Any advice you have for the general public on how best to deal with an unwanted encounter?
The best way to deal with an unwanted snake is to keep your distance and call a licensed snake catcher while watching the snake, so you can point the catcher in the right direction.
Be aware of your surroundings, and if you are walking in long grass or anything that a snake may be able to hide in, then wear long pants and boots for protection.
If you are happy to leave the snake to do its own thing, then just be aware and give it space. Snakes bite for two reasons; the first being food (and humans are not food to any snake in this area), and the second reason is for defence – so if you keep your distance and leave it alone, you are not a threat to it, and it won’t bite to defend itself. Contrary to popular belief, snakes do not go looking for people to bite. In fact, they do their very best to avoid us.
How can our readers get in touch with you?
I can be contacted on 0434 490 133 for snake relocations, or to have a snake identified you can send a picture to that number. If you just have questions, either text or send a message on Facebook to The Reptile Dysfunction or Taree and Surrounding Snake Catcher, and I will get back to you ASAP.
Thanks Brenton. Interview: Ingrid Bayer.