A Crocodile Called Casey


It was about two years ago when Steve - funny there is another bloke of that name who mucks around with crocodiless too - ran a fishing camp on an island in the Adelaide River, a known crocodile breeding ground. Steve Timmons was pretty new to the area, he knew there were plenty of crocodiles in the river and that they were dangerous, but he didn't know much about them. And he wasn't prepared for his first meeting with Casey.

We'll let Steve continue the crocodile story

The island itself is long and narrow, the living area is only 50 metres at best from the river and that's in the dry season. In the wet season the water floods the kitchen. There is a resident saltie on this island named Casey, a name given to her by the owners of the island. She, because she's a pretty crocodile. Anyway, Casey is used to being around humans in fact, I think she likes them.

One night, as I was cooking dinner by myself, I noticed this crocodile hanging around at the back of the kitchen. Hmm! Not a large crocodile, only about three metres, but definitely a saltie. I don't know whether this is the one I was told about or not, we were never introduced.

I was inside, it was outside and we were both curious. I continued to cook dinner thinking I could take a photo later.

Well, this crocodile wasn't having any of this. "If you ignore me, I'll just come in." As I turned away from the stove, I saw this bloody lizard, crawl into the kitchen. It just lay there looking at me like I was dinner. So here I was, caught between a croc and a hot place, with this walking handbag blocking the only exit. I must admit that the camp oven smelt good, but the ever-strengthening smell of methane was blowing my cool. We just stood there looking at each other waiting to see who would make the first move.

If I climbed onto the bench, I would have to turn my back on the croc and even if I made it onto the bench, a three metre croc could easily get me. I thought of grabbing a knife and doing a Crocodile Dundee turnout, you know, do a western roll, whipping out the bowie knife in mid-air and stabbing it in the brain. This, by the way is the only way to kill a croc outright, right between the eyes five centimetres back. But a croc's head is one-sixth of its total length and I was in no position to get past those jaws; and a butter knife does not instil confidence.

Where the hell is Steve Irwin when you need him. He could jump on its back and distract it. Did I think of that? No bloody way.

The croc just lay there, legs cocked ready to pounce, even if I could jump high enough to miss those massive jaws the ceiling fan would get me. I've got a gun, but it's on the table behind the croc. You idiot! We both just stood our ground waiting for the first move. Then for some reason the croc relaxed its haunches and lowered it's head to the floor, but stayed put.

Hmmm, it must be hungry. There's a barra carcass on the bench and the fillets are in the camp oven. It's bloody amazing what you think of when you are expecting pain. I grabbed the carcass and with an almighty heave, it was the worst throw of all time, the barra landed a metre away from me! The croc lunged forward at a such rate that I didn't have time to move, picked up the carcass, chomped it a couple of times, broke it in half, picked up the head, crushed it with those massive jaws, gave me a wink and then just turned away and left.

By this time I had lost my appetite.

This, apparently, was Casey. I'm very glad it wasn't a mean one! Casey became a regular at my back door during meal times. I found a bowl and put food in it every night - yes she eats out of a bowl. Some say I should have shot her, some say that I'm crazy to feed her, but it did stop her from coming in. She became a sideshow for visitors. Do I trust a crocodile? Not a chance!

Then there was a caretaker named Paul. A large, strapping bloke with a voice that roared. He would thump around the place, cursing and yelling. I think the vibrations he gave off actually attracted Casey. She would follow him around the island.

Sometimes she would hide in the long grass near the generator, which needed to be refuelled regularly, and would bolt out and say "hi ya bloke!" She was always somewhere around the island.

One day Paul was working on the outboard, bent over, head near the water, she surfaced to say hello. This of course, gave him a big scare - as it would. Paul yelled and cursed like a bullock teamster, Casey just stayed there and smiled.

Paul and Casey spent a lot of time around each other, balmy nights sitting under a palm tree at the back of the kitchen with a bottle of rum to get the chitchat started. Paul discovered that Casey would chomp on anything that he threw at her, some things she liked, some things she didn't but she would always have a go. This was a great way to crush beer cans, but she worked out quickly that they were not food and became annoyed.

One night Casey came up to feed, the pantry was bare, except for some spuds. Not wanting a hungry croc on his hands, Paul sliced the spuds thickly and fried them in the camp oven. By the time the spuds were cool the lizard was getting toey, so he threw a couple at her - she loved them. From then on it was vegetarian crocodile, a little gravy, a few leftover peas in the bowl and everything was Humpty Doo. I was told that she liked TV snacks. Yeah? And I'm gunna believe that!

Anyway! We had a mob of local bird watchers out for the weekend, they called themselves the Scrub Fowls, which actually suits them. "G'day Denise." They brought everything that was nice to eat including chocolate mud cake. Casey had finished dinner, I thought we might like desert.

Now, a croc, usually, just chomps and swallows. Casey, picked up the mud cake and left her mouth open while the cake dissolved, then actually seemed to savour the taste and swallow it gently. If a croc's tongue wasn't welded to its lower jaw, I'm sure she would have licked her lips. TV snacks get the same reaction, plus they're easier to keep.

So, you're thinking "What a crocodile!"

I'm say'n, "well yeah. She is!" You don't believe me do you? Well I have photos. During his time on the island Steve became quite attached to Casey, and in true bushy-style he even wrote a poem about her.

Copyright by Club Marine Limited.

Crocodile - one fascinating find.

Tiger Snake for Breakfast


Tiger Snake: an unlikely breakfast?

Gold Coast naturalist David Fleay recalls the time, collecting snakes for Commonwealth Serum Laboratories anti-venene research, he and his companion hit on the idea of the snake as food.

Moira Lakes upstream from Echuca, along the big bend of the Murray crawls with snakes.

Only droughts knock their numbers back and even these natural disasters serve merely as temporary checks.

I first came across this 'snakiest' place in all Australia in 1926 as a wandering kid on a push bike marveling at first of the river swamps and their mighty flocks of birds.

Those days, local Aborigines had not been pushed into settlements but hunted happily as of yore. They speared cod from hollowed out redgum craft and lived in humpies.

Bu the Tiger Snakes, then as now, dominated the scene -- a fact forcibly noticeable when the snow waters flooded down in October, isolating box ridges and the higher river banks for weeks or even  months at a time.

Then, if so inclined, you didn't need to go on a binge at Barmah Pub to get the horrors.

Landings on flood-girt high spots in the morning sun began an all-pervading series of slitherers, accompanied by the incredible spectacle of the Tigers by the score racing into piled up debris.

Less fortunate snakes sun-basked three, six, 10 or 13 metres above water level in and about the loose bark of ancient isolated eucalypts.

No wonder in later days of antivenene work, we could amass 80 to 100 'milkers' in a morning's work.

One evening, by the camp fire with snake bags full and tied and passing night herons attempting to croak above the mighty roar of amorous frogs, my mate speculated about Burke and Wills.

In their desperate need for some form of sustenance, had they ever  considered snake as food? That did it, for, tough as we reckoned we were, we'd never tested such a possibility ourselves.

Next morning, a passing tiger snake was killed, beheaded, skinned and cleaned.

The fact that our victim carried parasitic nematode worms packed in its stomach almost halted the culinary experiment, but curiosity triumphed and the carcass was then boiled for 15 minutes in salty water.

Finally we fried our quarry in butter and sat on a log for a tiger snake breakfast.

Still not quite convinced we'd removed the very potent venom by decapitation, my mate said his only grace before a meal for the entire trip!

However, almost immediately his apprehensions to eat the tiger snake vanished like the mists of morning.

That fat old Tiger was delicious - a kind of cross flavour between fish, eel and chicken.

It was completely consumed and we didn't even begin to hiss.

Considering that canned Rattlesnake sells from the shelves in USA and crocodile meat has its devotees, why not Tiger Snake fillets or Mulga munchies for Australian gourmets?

What a marvelous idea for the money-spinning entrepreneurs of Surfer's Paradise!

Snake Catchers Snakes Alive!


The snake catchers of Alice Springs rush to answer residents' cries for help - to ensure the safety of the reptile causing the panic.

Story by Liz Johnswood Pictures by Peter Watkins

If you discover a snake at the bottom of your garden and you live in Alice Springs, don't panic - just send for the snake catchers of the Alice. There's Bruce Munday, an incredibly laid-back, fiercely mustached chap who will come to the rescue as quick as a flicker of fang. Or there are the rangers of the Northern Territory Conservation Commission (NTCC), big willing fellows who'd rather face a snake any day than a nasty bush litterer.

Bruce, an animal keeper at Alice Reptile World, and Greg Fyfe, head ranger stationed just out of town at the historic Telegraph Station, filled us in on the reasons behind the creepy service they offer residents.

"We're really more interested in protecting the snakes than the people," Greg explained dealing a blow to the human ego/ "It's illegal to kill snakes in the Territory, but if they're found within 100 metres of your home, that law doesn't apply. It's considered a life-threatening situation, so frightened people start whacking."

Bruce agreed. "You have to get there in a hurry or it's curtains for the snake. I had one hysterical woman screaming at me as I approached, " Hurry up or I'll dong it!" It was just a baby western brown, but a chap was there fending the poor little devil off with a broom.

"Another chap walked into the reptile house one day clutching a small, dead legless lizard that looked as if it had been run over by a Sherman tank. He'd seen a lot of them around the place and wanted it identified.

"The trouble is, with most people anything that hasn't got legs is a deadly king brown or a death adder out to get them," he said.

They can "get" them, too. Like most Australian snakes, the snakes of the Centre are highly venomous -- death adders, eastern and western browns, vicious tiger snakes and a few others.

"It's safer for people to call in snake catchers than tackle them themselves," Greg said. "You can't be too gung-ho about it, either. I've been almost bitten by an eastern brown because of carelessness.

"Anyone trying to kill one of these fellows could be in trouble. They're big, nasty and very fast. They stand their ground, up in a typical aggressive S-bend, mouth agape, hissing like mad.

"We use a snake stick to pin them down while we grab them and I've had an angry eastern brown coming up the stick at me. They are the crankiest snakes I've ever handled." shared by one of the snake catchers

"Most people call us or Bruce or the wildlife people. We place an advertisement in the local newspaper every now and again, telling people to get in touch. It's better than taking risks."

Most of the serpents the snake catchers caught are taken well out into the bush and let go. A few are kept for educational purposes. "Sometimes we get an interesting snake and keep it for a while to do talks to kids at schools. We let them pat the snakes and teach them that they're not slimy creatures," Greg explained.

Bruce keeps a few "magnificent specimens" to add to the reptile house and uses them in talks to groups on the correct method of treating snakebite.

"There are two basic principles," he said. " First you put pressure on the skin over the bite by binding it up and splinting it to keep the limb perfectly still. Then you get a doctor as fast as possible. Don't do ant barn-dances on the way and save the whisky for after the cure. If a bite is treated this way, it can take at least seven hours for it to be fatal."

In the Territory as a whole, Greg says, the rangers get about 800 call-outs a year. Some of these are to tend injured birds or animals, but the majority of calls are for snake catchers task.

"You get snakes in the house, in swimming pools and in gardens," he said. "You even get them in the street."

Not infrequently, the troublemakers are snakes which have been kept illegally as pets. "We picked up one 3-metre olive python that must have come illegally from Queensland," Greg explained. "The suspicious large bulge in his belly turned out to be the caller's prize duck. However, we never did catch the snake's owner."

Poultry yards and bird cages are favourite restaurants for snakes. They track down their prey by picking up scent particles in the air, home in, have a feed and can't get out because they're fatter than when they slid in.

Both Bruce and Greg are snake buffs (snake catchers in the future) from way back. As a youngster, Bruce delighted in catching copperheads on a golf course near where he lived in Tasmania, and scaring his mother silly. Greg was doing pretty much the same on the mainland.

Trainee ranger Peter Mckenzie, who works with Greg, got his training in courage and cunning by pinching crocodile eggs around Darwin, so snakes don't scare him. "We'd take the eggs from nests that were likely to be flooded and the eggs lost, then incubate them," Peter said.

Snake Catchers job or pinching croc eggs -- it's a sure thing not too many will be trying to take the jobs from these intrepid fellows!

Traveling Snake Seeks Suburban Home

"You can take the snake out of the backyard, but you can't take the backyard out of the snake."

Some snakes appear to have a distinct preference for living in suburbia - and are skilled at disguising their presence among us.

Research by a La Trobe University zoology student has revealed these unexpected findings, and other unusual facts about Melbourne's Tiger Snakes.

Tracking translocated Tiger Snakes implanted with transmitters, Bachelor of Science (Conservation Biology and Ecology) Honours student, Heath Butler found that some prefer suburban to rural life.

Four of eight snakes tracked after translocation from suburban backyards to a regional park between August last year and March this year headed straight out of the park into other suburban backyards about a kilometre away.

And when taken from their new backyard home back to the park, they again turned up in the same backyard.

All snakes are protected in Victoria. Under Department of Sustainability and Environment policy, snakes captured in 'inappropriate' locations are translocated to a suitable habitat within five kilometres of their capture point, or euthanased.

"It seems that snakes were so used to the good life in suburbia - with readily-available water and food - that they headed straight back into a similar environment when relocated into the unfamiliar landscape of parkland," Mr. Butler said.

There was another surprising result. By monitoring the snakes' daily habits, Mr Butler believes he may have debunked the old idea that snakes are active only in very hot weather. "The Eastern Tiger Snakes (Notechis scutatus) I worked with appear more likely to be active on relatively cool, sunny days. They disappear, at least between 12 noon and 2 pm, on days when temperature exceeds 30 degrees Celsius," he says.

Curious about snakes since his adolescent years at Port Fairy, Mr. Butler conducted his research, sponsored by three interested parties - Parks Victoria, Australian Geographic and the Melbourne Zoo.

He worked initially with several of the 45 Victorians licensed to catch snakes in 'inappropriate' - read urban and suburban - areas and to release them on public land.

Melbourne Zoo veterinarians surgically inserted tiny transmitters into eight snakes captured in suburban backyards within five kilometres of Westerfolds Park, Templestowe.

These snakes were then released in the park. Six snakes resident in the park were also implanted with transmitters then released at their site of capture. Mr. Butler then electronically monitored their movements and other activities.

"Translocation had such significant effects on the behaviour of the snakes that the relevant authorities may wish to re-examine its success as a strategy to reduce human-snake conflict," he said.

"The two groups of snakes - residents of the park and those translocated - behave differently. Although the health of translocated snakes remained similar to the local snakes, they exhibited home ranges about six times that of the locals and half the translocated snakes headed off to suburban backyards within a kilometre or so of the park.

"It seems that they are quite happy in suburbia, probably because of well-watered gardens and sufficient food, possibly frogs. Most people were unaware of a snake in their backyard until I informed them."

Over the eight months he captured snakes on 70 occasions, noting their location and monitoring their condition. His catching method was simple. Locate the snake with his tracking equipment, seize it by tail - with bare hands as gloves are too cumbersome - and drop it into a bag.

Mr. Butler was bitten only once, on the hand, but recovered fully after an anti-venom injection. He says his research findings may have been influenced by the drought, which could have made well-watered suburban backyards unusually attractive as snake habitats.

But the season would have had little effect on some other findings, such as the bigger the snake, the better it was at concealment. 1.2 metres long are some of the snake he handled.

Kangaroo hops into expo

Bettong kangaroo

Zane Jackson (The Queensland Times)

IPSWICH wildlife carer Tania Carter has a simple message – look after native animals in your backyard and they will look after you.

With native Rufus Bettong kangaroo Lucy by her side, Ms Carter will be spreading the wildlife gospel today and at the weekend at the ABC Gardening Australia Expo in Brisbane.

She said with so much natural habitat being destroyed for housing and other developments, looking after native animals in your own backyard gained extra significance.

“Take the Rufus Bettong kangaroo, they are a native species, that used to be common around Ipswich,” she said.

“You could find the Bettong kangaroo everywhere but with so many habitats now destroyed, you only find them around Greenbank, White Rock and out to Laidley.

“You don’t have to give up having pets or anything like that; it’s just a case of keeping an eye out, trying to preserve the habitat you find them in and socialising pets so they don’t attack.”

With her Cool Companions business the Redbank resident is spreading the wildlife gospel around Ipswich at shopping centres, schools and parties. This weekend her message will reach an even bigger audience.

Held from today until April 18, at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, the ABC Gardening Australia Expo will deliver Ms Carter one large captive audience.

“What I’d like to get across is that by living and working together with native animals in our backyards and properties, there are benefits for everyone,” she said.

Bettong kangaroo

Pests threaten Queensland's native animals


Queensland's native animals are at risk from unknowing residents trying to exterminate backyard 'pests'.

KATE HIGGINS (Brisbane Times)

Matthew Osley, a wildlife keeper at Cool Companions, the education branch of the Dreamtime Wildlife Sanctuary, said Queenslanders often tried to rid their yards of harmless animals.

Queensland's native animals on the loose

"A lot of people think that the backyard creatures are kind of annoying, but we've got snakes that keep rodents down in the backyards and we've got lizards that keep bugs down," he said.