Snakes slither their way into Benalla

By Meg Saultry

You better watch your step, or you might just step on a metre-long red-bellied black snake.

In the past week and a half, Benalla’s town centre has seen at least three cases of a snake invasion, with red-bellied black snakes captured in Denny Street Arcade, the public toilets under the Benalla Library and inside Benalla Toyworld.

Setting off excitement was the first sighting in Denny Street Arcade on Monday afternoon of February 10.

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Recounting the narrative to The Ensign offices, Upper Lurg’s Pat and Bruce Johnstone said they had come to a halt in the middle of the arcade after the 1.5-metre-long snake was spotted by bystanders.

Free to roam: The Denny Street Arcade snake after it was released into the wild. Pictures supplied by North East Wildlife Control.

With a group of about 10 people gathered, Mr Johnstone said it had been the quick thinking of Andrew Bertalli of Bertalli’s Alpine Breads, who found and placed a cardboard box on the ground for the snake to slither into.

“The snake thought ‘that is a good hiding place’ and goes straight in,” Mr Johnstone said.

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“We were worried it could go up the arcade, maybe get under a door, or into the main street and make it harder to catch.”

Snake catcher and wildlife controller Jeff Davies, who attended all three calls, said last week’s events had been an unusual occurrence.

“To have three snakes in the central part of town, whilst possible, doesn’t usually happen,” Mr Davies said.

“And to see it in the middle of the day (as with Denny Street Arcade) is also pretty rare.

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Mr Davies said it was an increase in rain, which had seen the snakes “flushed out” into public places.

“And as per their nature, they know more rain is coming, so they are looking for higher ground to take shelter, they’re looking for food, and females looking to give birth,” he said.

Safely contained: A red bellied black captured in the toilets under Benalla Library

Cautioning bystanders in getting too close to the snakes, Mr Davies said while the cardboard box used to capture the Denny Street Arcade snake was useful in containing the snake, it had also been a risk.

“He couldn’t see what was around him, so he just curled up inside,” he said.

“But he did come out of the box quite quickly,” Mr Davies said of needing to remove the snake to capture it with his own equipment.

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Mr Davies said the key to his ability to catch and relocate the snakes was bystanders keeping eye on the snake, though not disturbing it in the meantime.

“If you’re able to call me and keep an eye on it until I get there, I catch them and relocate them out of harm’s way,” he said.

And as Mr Johsntone puts it, this is a good news story, as “snake sees to live another day”.

● If you are to come across a snake in public, phone Jeff Davies of North East Wildlife Control on 0448 805 608.