Snakes on the plains: 'Bigger, fatter' reptiles thriving with more food, better cover

Mouse plague, environmental improvement leads snakes to thrive in Central West

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THRIVING: Snakes, like this western brown, have bounced back recently after being hit hard by the drought. Photo: FILE

THRIVING: Snakes, like this western brown, have bounced back recently after being hit hard by the drought. Photo: FILE

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Snakes appear to be thriving in Central West regions as increased food sources combine with recovering environment, snake handler Stephen Thomson says.

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CSIRO experts say recent rain has 'checked' mouse populations without erasing them completely amid the horror plague that's hit the region this year, but another side effect has come to light this week - the impact it's had on snakes.

Booming mouse numbers have provided a rodent smorgasbord which, combined with the environment's continued fightback from drought making for more cover, has created perfect conditions for snake species' to thrive.

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Bigger, fatter snake species' to be specific.

Some of the snakes I've seen this season have certainly been very, very well-fed. - Snake catcher Stephen Thomson

"Some of the snakes I've seen this season have certainly been bigger, fatter and very, very well-fed," Central West snake handler Stephen Thomson said.

The prevailing conditions have, however, resulted in fewer sightings and in turn a slower season for Mr Thomson in terms of removal and relocation, also giving the reptiles a chance to recover from drought-related damage.

Mr Thomson, based in Dubbo, said he expects that to flip next season though thanks to the enhanced breeding cycles that have come this year as a result of those improved conditions.

"During the drought, there was simply no real food chain for snakes and they battled through that period. Some snakes, I think, were probably pushed to the point of extinction," he said.

"But with more cover and so much more food, they've really been able to fight back."

Don't misconstrue that, in no way is Mr Thomson suggesting the mouse plague has been at all positive.

Environmental improvements following the drought and resulting benefits for food sources alone would have helped snake populations.

"The amount of mice and rodents has been incredible, particularly further west where you see those videos of hundreds, thousands - that's awful," he said.

"Snakes are actually a good thing to help that, even though baiting does have a flow-on effect, but it's a very vast country so the increase in cover that's come after the drought would have been a big boost on its own.

"I'm a snake lover, so in that respect it's great to see them recover and I've seen more baby snakes around, so I think next season might be a bit busier because of that."

That shouldn't be cause for concern even if people happen to hold the common fear of the reptiles though, with more cover they're still far less likely to be stumbled across even with increased numbers.

"A lot of the time, you could be right next to a snake and not even know. If you do see one, just stay calm, don't go near them," he said.

"Wearing the right footwear is important if you see one or you're in an area where you know there are snakes, and making sure you keep your pets tied up is important, far more often it's the pets that are impacted."

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The story Snakes on the plains: 'Bigger, fatter' reptiles thriving with more food, better cover first appeared on Central Western Daily.

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