Dale Fehlhaber with the snake that killed grandson Ethan’s chicken.
Dale Fehlhaber with the snake that killed grandson Ethan’s chicken. KARLEILA THOMSEN

Gran saves kids from lethal snake

LESS than 40cm in length and so thin it might have slid away unnoticed.

But with an eight-year-old child and two surviving chooks close by, Dale Fehlhaber was not taking any chances with the baby red-bellied black snake she discovered in the clutches of a third chook yesterday morning.

The alert was raised by a cleaner who spotted the fatal encounter in the yard at the back of the Wondunna home.

“I got it out of its beak and broke its neck. I took a shovel to it,” Ms Fehlhaber said of her instinctive move to defend her grandson, Ethan.

“I’ve had eventful baby-sitting times but they’re generally just dirty nappies, not killing snakes.

“I had hoped it hadn’t bitten the chook but that was obviously wishful thinking. The chook survived for 30 seconds, max.

“That’s what scares me so much, it all happened in two minutes. If it can do that to a chook so quickly, what could it do to a child?

“Snakes are everywhere at the moment. We just have to keep our eyes peeled.”

Snake catcher Roy McGrath confirmed that snake hatching season was very much under way and would run through to January.

“The red-bellied will not kill you but its bite will make you very, very sick,” he said.

“They’re very common. They are cannibalistic and a very territorial snake.”

He said the severity of the drought had meant a quiet year as far as snake catching was concerned but warned about snakes seeking out cooler corners inside homes.

He said owners of chooks and aviaries should be extra careful as bird food attracted mice and rats, which attracted snakes.

“They’re not going to leave because there is a smorgasbord laid on for them,” he said.

“It’s important to keep your home tidy. Get rid of palm fronds; don’t let them build up.

“Check garden sheds for droppings. If you have mice, bait them or trap them.

“We need to remember we’re encroaching on the snake’s habitat the more developments we have in Hervey Bay and Maryborough.

“If you leave a snake alone, it will leave you alone. Just walk away.”

RED-BELLIED FACTS
  • Can grow up to 1.5 metres in length
  • Usually gives birth to about 20 live snakes at one time
  • Very dangerous bite requires immediate medical attention
  • Not aggressive and not eager to cause a disturbance and attack


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