When running a Christmas tree business, you’d naturally expect to find a surge in visitors during the festive period.
And while one family-run business on the NSW Far South Coast is constantly overcrowded as it nears December 25, their scores of visitors this year are far less interested in purchasing Christmas Trees.
Wolumla business Xmas Tree Bob, 20km south of Bega, has been plagued by deadly brown snakes, leaving owner Deb Court with her work cut out to shift this year’s crop of trees.
“I’m now up and out the front at 6.30am everyday to get people in before 10am,” she told Yahoo News, in reference to an old wives tale about rising early to beat the heat and the snakes.
While business hasn’t taken a noticeable hit, the snakes’ presence has certainly hampered the tree shopping routine.
In previous years, Ms Court and customers have been able to roam the property relatively care-free, yet thanks to their unwanted intruders, they must now tread with caution.
Ms Court, who took over the business from her father Bob when he passed away in 2016, revealed protective, closed footwear is now a must along with other safety precautions for customers when coming to choose a tree they’d like to buy.
“I Just have to let everybody know now,” she said, revealing she stands at the gate all day so customers don’t roam the property without knowing about the snakes.
She’s even been forced to erect a big sign indicating the do’s and don’ts on site.
Community battles surge in snakes
Ms Court said people have been coming to the property for over 30 years and the business had become an integral part of the community.
“It’s a bit of a day out and a family tradition coming here and its a bit difficult to tell a little boy not to pick up a rock to throw,” she said.
She admitted she has spent considerably less time pruning the trees due to the snakes, meaning customers have been purchasing trees a little rough round the edges.
Ms Court speculated several reasons for the spike in brown snakes, telling Yahoo News she believes the prolonged dry weather has been the main cause, with the majority of her local customers in the same boat.
“In general when I mention it to locals the most common response is there’s been a lot of snakes all across the local community,” she said.
She said a plethora of frogs and lizards for the snakes to feed on around her property only heightened the situation.
Head of reptiles at the Australian Reptile Park Daniel Rumsey warned last year that “extreme caution” should be taken when enduring a dryer, warmer spring which often leads to an increase in snake activity.
He said NSW residents in both rural and suburban areas should be on the lookout.
“Snakes don’t go out to harm humans, but if you get in their path or startle them, they will bite and it can be fatal,” he said.
It appears a spike in snakes is affecting Queensland as well, with one snake catcher warning about the dangers of uncovered drains earlier this week after a woman found a red-bellied snake in her shower.