Animals, Australia
Comments 18

Something Handsome This Way Slithers

So where were we?

That’s right, in the bush half an hour or so from the northern New South Wales hamlet of Kyogle, visiting the container compound and incipient off-grid metal-box mansion of Alex’s brother and his partner. And I was just shaking off a bout of crippling car sickness, enjoying the trees and birds and quiet when the serenity of the pre-dusk Australian bush was blown to smithereens by — well, to borrow a line from myself (if you’re gonna steal, steal from the best):

We were just settling into a cosy backcountry groove when Graham let out a tremendous holler, leapt into their little Suzuki Sierra 4-wheel drive, and went screaming down the track towards something exciting…

I already had an inkling. I first met Graham, Alex’s little brother, a couple of decades ago or more. They shared an interest in the macabre, grotesque or just plain disgusting; if you’ve ever witnessed Alex’s housekeeping, you know what I’m talking about. And for Graham one manifestation (decorum in this family-friendly blog means a lot of self-censorship) was the keeping of an assortment of reptiles in his northern-suburban bedroom.

You can take the man out of his herpetarium but you can’t always shake the snake handler out of the man:

mmm

Who needs TV in the bush?

The funny thing to me now is how unsurprised we were. We all gathered round for a good look while Graham did his best to keep the biting end at arm’s length:

mmm

mmm

How to dress in the Australian bush: dirty shirt, shorts, thongs, reptile (optional).

The carpet python (most of us just call them carpet snakes) is pretty widespread over the continent and also in Indonesia and New Guinea. Like all pythons, these undeniably charming and attractive hunters kill their prey (“mammals, bats, birds and lizards”: Wikipedia) via asphyxiation, but despite very rare “attacks” like this one on a Moreton Island camping trip, they’re generally regarded with some affection — you might even consider it good luck if one sets up house in your shed or ceiling, though your resident rodents might consider moving.

A few years ago there was some excitement in our neighbours’ yard here in Brisbane when these two were discovered entwined in a captivating and very exotic “dance”:

mmm

Jungle warfare in the Brisbane suburbs.

We weren’t sure if it was a mating ritual or a fight, but it now appears it was the latter: “Biologists say male ritualised combat can be misinterpreted as a courtship display or mating,” according to this source. Around that time there were a few of these charismatic constrictors in the neighbourhood — if you think one moving into your backyard shed is an arresting sight…

mmm

In my father’s shed. If one carpet snake is good luck…

..then how about two?

mmm

..then we were truly blessed.

Not long afterwards, this fella decided to move on, and perturbed by the human attention he/she was attracting, briefly considered a swim before electing to skirt the pool:

mmm

Testing the waters.

DSC05827

Soon afterwards, our neighbours’ elderly cat vanished, and I don’t have to tell you what their theory was…

Carpet snakes lurk near the top of the food chain wherever in the bush they roam, (though they do feature in the traditional diet of indigenous Australians). Their presence often causes an intense commotion that’s a dead giveaway: I recall on a bike ride pulling over to see why a mob of birds was making such an ungodly racket just off the bike path. Sure enough, a carpet snake was attempting a dignified retreat to denser cover while birds of assorted species were shrieking blue murder above his slithering form, a rare instance of a common threat briefly overriding the traditional interspecies animosity that seems to mark our birdlife.

But back to the show…

mmm

mmm

mmm

..which continued just a few more minutes with much writhing and tongue-flicking (and that was just the audience) before our guest continued on his/her way…

mmm

mmm

mmm

mmm

..and we returned, quite animated, to the picnic table and another specimen of exotic wildlife, the Moscow mule, which is capable of delivering a very effective yet strangely soothing kick to the inexperienced wildlife wrangler…

Nelly de Rooij, ‘The Reptiles of the Indo-Australian Archipelago’, 1915 (Wikipedia Commons)

~ And that’s all the Goat wrote

Advertisements

18 Comments

  1. Ohhh….beautiful snake. I love carpet pythons! We have a 6 foot one in our ceiling that helps control the rat and possum population. I sometimes hear a commotion in the garden from the birds trying to attack a python trying to steal their eggs or chicks from a nest. They are one of the species of snakes I am happy to see around my yard (unlike the venomous browns!) I saw a huge one on my Mt Mitchell walk this year stretched out on the path. Many people have seen a similar sized one on that walk and since they are territorial it’s quite possible it is the same one. We’ve got a tiny ancient rat-sized dog that lives outside. I’m actually surprised she hasn’t disappeared overnight… Great pics.

    • Thanks, Jane. Yeah, wouldn’t be surprised at all if that was the same dude/lady. Brown snakes, agreed: not a good one to cohabit with. That could only end in tears, or worse. I did once see three red-bellied blacks on one half-hour walk on my block of land in southern NSW.

  2. Was looking for Bob Dylan and found Johnny Cash:

    “…saw him disappear right into a lake
    said he doesn’t want to be called a snake …”

    Your native land is fascinating. What a great snake. Scales like a woven basket!

  3. I know I’ve told you this before but your titles are so super clever! I love the photo of Graham posing with the snake. Awesome post!

  4. Philthephreak says

    My favourite Australian creature…wish I was an Eastern Carpet Python.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s