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How to enjoy the bush without fearing snakes

I want her to enjoy playing in the bush without fear of snakes. Tricia Hogbin-001

My daughter races around our rural property oblivious to the risk of snakes. I don't want her to fear snakes. But I also don't want her to naively run through long grass or pick up rocks and logs.

There's a handful of venomous snake species here in the Hunter Region, including the Red-bellied Black Snake, Eastern Brown Snake, Common Death Adder and Tiger Snake.

I don't fear snakes myself. But the idea of my child being bitten horrifies me and sees my protective mum mode emerge.

"Look ahead of you!"

"Stomp!"

"Slow down!"

"Don't pick that up!"

"Put your gumboots on!"

Given my fears I was pleased to find an article at wildlifefun4kids.com on how to teach your child to be snake-safe.

Using tips in the article, we role-played being snake-safe.

Stomping along the path, we'd scan ahead and freeze as soon as we saw our imaginary snake.

2012-12-11_17-21-16_122
We used a stick as our imaginary snake. 

We practised staying calm, because the safest way to prevent a snake bite is to stand still and wait for the snake to move away from you. You are supposed to stand still until the snake is at least 10 metres away and then move back slowly.

We recently had a chance to test our snake safe role playing.

I failed dismally.

While wandering through a friend's paddock, I looked across to see a huge Red-bellied Black Snake rearing up less than a metre from my daughter.

I panicked. Jumping up and down, I screamed her name repeatedly jumbled in with the words "Move! It's a snake! Snake! Move! MOVE!".

2012-12-27_18-56-24_887 (1)Minutes after the encounter

Thankfully she seemed immune to my panic. She looked at me, followed my gaze to the snake and calmly stepped away.

We watched the almost two-metre snake slither away with a mouse in its mouth.

I'm thankful its mouth was already full as I wonder if the outcome would have been different if it hadn't been.

The encounter leaves me wondering whether anyone has ever followed the advice to stand still until the snake is at least 10 metres away. I'm pretty certain I couldn't stop myself from jumping away if I ever encountered another rearing snake.

Hopefully I don't get a chance to test that.

[Originally published in my column LESS IS MORE in the The Newcastle Herald Weekender Magazine 12 January 2013]

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