It was just another summer afternoon, dusty and hot, when one of the factory workers walked out to his car.
He stood transfixed – trying to make sense of what seemed to him to be a living nightmare. There in the middle of the carpark he gradually worked out that the seething mess of coils he saw was two huge brown snakes in combat.
Writhing, striking, leaping into the air.
He walked backwards and reached for his phone.
Licensed snake catcher Chris Page has been operating in Bendigo for six years and said he never gets scared when asked to catch and move snakes.
But this day, driving out to the site he admitted the adrenalin was pumping.
Getting a licence was a natural progression for Mr Page, who has been passionate about reptiles since he was a child.
He insists before giving this interview that we make it clear that it is illegal to kill snakes.
“If you see one, you keep an eye on it and ring someone like me. One of the conditions of my licence is that I move the snake to a bush area – up to a five kilometre radius from where I find it,” he said.
But this hot day in the middle of the carpark Mr Page has two snakes to handle, caught up in a primitive, seasonal battle for supremacy.
“They were flying up, attacking each other,” he said.
“All over the shop.”
Mr Page doesn’t encourage an audience.
“It’s not entertainment. But this day I asked that a few people stay on the boundary of the carpark to spot them in case one of them got away.”
Mr Page had two aggressive snakes and one pair of hands. He said he prefers to use his hands when catching a snake rather than a hook.
“They can spring back at you while they’re hanging off a hook, I feel safer when I’ve got the snake in my grip,” he said.
He knew straight away that he couldn’t catch the snakes one at a time.
“If I did it one at a time, the other snake would get away. I had to pick them both up together – in one hand,” he said.
Mr Page waited for his chance and then deftly picked the snakes up together, in one hand, by their tails and then manoeuvered the two writhing creatures into his bag.
“I’ve never been bitten,” he said.
“But I know one day I probably will.”
Much of his work involves educating people on how to respond when they see a snake.
He said stay about 10 metres away. Try to keep an eye on where it is, or where it has moved to and ring a qualified snake catcher.
“I’ve had more than 50 call outs so far this year,” he said.
“It’s not particularly the nature of the season but the fact that so many new housing estates are being built in the snakes’ territory.”
If bitten basic first aid consists of broadly wrapping around the site of bite, immobilise the patient – use a splint if possible and call an ambulance. It may be counter intuitive – but stay calm in order to slow down the heart beat.
And don’t forget to ring the snake catcher.
– Dianne Dempsey