Deadly discovery in shoe as snake catcher reports busiest day in almost a decade

You won't believe how many snakes were caught on one day.

It was a case of cat versus mouse inside a Sunshine Coast home this week but instead of a mouse the cat was hot on the tail of one of the most dangerous snakes in the world.

Brandon Gifford from Sunshine Coast Snake Catchers 24/7 told Yahoo News Australia he got the callout to Burpengary on Tuesday.

“They saw the cat chasing the snake and then the snake went under the door into the garage,” he explained. “So they just threw heaps of towels at the door and prayed he couldn’t get back in.”

Venturing into the garage himself, Gifford feared it would be like searching for a needle in a haystack.

Pictured left is a shoe with a red-bellied black snake poking out. Right is a close-up of the snake in a shoe.
The red bellied black snake was spotted inside the shoe when it poked its tongue out. Source: Facebook

“It’s hard in garages and I was starting to be like, ‘far out, this is going to be tricky’,” he said. “But then this little forked tongue flicked out of a shoe and he gave himself up.”

Picking up the Vans shoe and angling it towards the ground, a one metre long "highly venomous" red-bellied black snake “shot out” and Gifford grabbed him.

“I was impressed with that,” the snake catcher said. “Like the size of the red belly to the size of the shoe, like how well he was hiding.

“We see them all the time in tight spaces but he was bigger than I thought he was going to be when he came out of the shoe.”

Boom in snake catches

The incident comes just days after Sunshine Coast Snake Catchers 24/7 reported its busiest day in the business’s eight-year history amid a surge in snake activity.

“We had 43 or 44 call outs, it was ridiculous,” Gifford said. “But when they said to me, we broke the record, I was like, I can believe it.”

He put it down to the combination of consistent wet weather and high temps.

“In those eight years, there was probably four years of Australia’s worst drought, so I guess it’s just a bounce back from that,” the snake catcher explained. “Now all the food resources are available to them and they’re out, they’re active, they’re healthy, they’re breeding, and they’re all cruising around and living life.”

It’s all part of a snake’s repopulation programme ahead of the next El Nino event when they’ll “get smashed again”.

“They kind of get the numbers up, so the population doesn’t get decimated by the next big drought.”

Safety messaging falling on 'deaf ears'

With snake activity not due to slow down until April when temperatures start to drop, Gifford is urging people to be wary, saying time and time again they’re making simple mistakes.

“The number one thing I’ve noticed lately is that garage doors are being kept up and doors are being left open,” he said, adding that the message appears to be falling on “deaf ears”.

“But definitely the garage door is one I think people don’t realise, and then the door leading to their house has that little space through which snakes can go under. That’s another way they’re getting in a lot.”

Along with keeping doors closed, keeping a property “neat and tidy” is also important, and that includes mowing the lawn and clearing rubbish away.

“We say it all the time, but you can see the places clearly as to where a snake might reside a little bit more, rather than just pass through.”

Brandon Gifford holding a snake found behind a Christmas tree.
Gifford is one of Australia's busiest snake catchers, pulling out reptiles from all sorts of places. Sunshine Coast Snake Catchers 24/7

Don’t forget to check your shoes

For someone who grew up on a farm and is used to seeing reptiles in his gumboots, Gifford said the message of the moment is to definitely check your shoes.

On top of the deadly discovery in Burpengary, one of the snake catcher’s colleagues found one in a pair of shoes on a verandah last week.

“For a snake, that [hiding in shoes] is literally just making yourself feel as tight and cramped into a crevice as possible. They just want to curl up in a nice dark little cavity and the shoe is actually like the most perfect little space for a snake to feel safe in.

“Which is exactly what they’re trying to do out in the bush when you think of it. They’re going into little hollows a lot, and that’s exactly what the shoe replicates for them.”

So, next time you go to put on a shoe, think first.

“Putting your finger straight into picking up your shoe up is something I do every day, but if a snake is in there and is scared, it’ll give you a nip on the fingers,” Gifford said.

“So be careful how you approach picking up your shoes, and always check for snake or a spider before you put them on.”

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