Public servant by day, snake catcher by night

Department of Human Services staff member Wayne Alford is the Snake Co-coordinator for Wildcare, a volunteer organisation dedicated to the “rescue, release and rehabilitation” of Australian native wildlife that operates in the NSW region surrounding Canberra.

Wayne’s full time job is with the department in Canberra, but the snake co-ordinator work keeps him busy out of hours – particularly in the summer.

“That time of year, snakes are coming out of hibernation, hungry and looking for love,” Wayne said.

Wayne first became interested in snakes after he found a baby brown snake in his stable.

“I was advised to put it in a pillow case and release it down a dirt road away from people,” he said.

“The pillowcase was flapping in the wind because there was no weight to the snake and I thought ‘there has to be a safer way to do this’. I completed a course and now I am one of the Senior Trainers and the Snake Co-ordinator for Wildcare.”

Part of Wayne’s role with Wildcare is to help look after injured animals, so at any time in the warmer months, Wayne’s garage can have some interesting guests.

“I have a snake in care at the moment which was caught in bird netting – extremely tightly wound around its neck and jaw. Unfortunately, I think he only has around a 50/50 chance of surviving,” he said.

“I really hope he makes it because when it’s a good outcome, those types of catches are particularly satisfying – freeing a snake caught in anything from tin cans to netting and nursing it back to health. It’s very uplifting to release it into the wild after what might have otherwise been a death sentence for an animal that was just going about its business.”

Wayne says his favourite part of volunteering for Wildcare is teaching people to safely handle snakes.

“It’s great being able to take someone from screaming at the sight of a snake to calmly and safely putting one in the bag,” he said.

“If you see a snake, move away from it and let it get on with its business – it is not interested in you, as it can’t eat you. It will only ever look at you as a tree if you don’t go near it or a threat if you do.”

“If you see a snake in your yard, remove animals and kids, and if it doesn’t move on by itself, squirt it with a hose from a distance to encourage it to move on.”

Wayne’s advice for homeowners going into snake season is to prepare.

“The best way to minimise snake encounters is to clean up your yard to eliminate hiding spots and remove food sources. Things like grain or seed tend to attract mice – if you create a Snake Hilton, they will move in.

“Knowing first aid is also crucial in snakebite situations. Have a Setopress compression bandage handy, sit down, put the compression bandage on and wait for the ambulance. Knowing what to do in the unlikely event of a snakebite may save your life.”

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