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Reef Report for Monday, August 28, 2006

Amazing Wildlife Right in our Backyard
Northern Queensland Wildlife is Part of our Neighborhood

There are not many places in the world where a snake can make the front pages of the daily newspaper once, let alone three times in the same month. Cairns, a city with lush tropical rainforests right in its backyard, is one such place.

Holloway’s Beach is a quiet beachside suburb just north of the Cairns airport, with sugar cane fields and mangrove forests separating it from other nearby hamlets. Three weeks ago, a resident noticed a huge snake crawling into the crawl space just below the roof of his home. The snake was an Amethystine Python, a non-venomous snake that is the world’s longest species of snake, with specimens found that are over 7 metres (25ft in length)

The homeowner was naturally concerned about the presence of a snake of such size in his house, and was most worried about it literally falling through the ceiling, as it’s weight, well over 60kg (124 lbs) was well over what his ceiling could support.

Over a two week period, a local snake expert attempted to remove the snake, but it proved unsuccessful, the snake had coiled itself up amongst the timber roof supports, and simply was not going to let itself be moved. Other suggestion poured in which ranged from the impractical to dangerous.

Last week a news story broke that Steve Irwin, known worldwide as the Crocodile Hunter for his TV series, had teamed up with a television station to organize and film the removal of what might be Australia’s largest snake from the home. © Kairi Hotel It was rumored that a large crane had even been hired, in case the entire roof had to be lifted off to get to the snake.

Today the Cairns Post reported that the snake had vacated the premises, and left for parts unknown. The same morning local schoolchildren found a snakeskin, 5 metres long, which may have been shed by the same snake. Three of them were pictured holding up the long skin on the inside front page.

We like the fact that the snake chose to leave on its own, and prefer to think of this snake back in the mangrove forest without any commotion. Local residents whose properties are adjacent to forests occasionally see these snakes, know them to be harmless if left alone, save for their appetite for the chickens in the backyard.

The picture here was taken in the bar at the Kairi Hotel in the early 70’s. A copy still hangs there, and the youngest man in the picture now owns the hotel. He vividly recalls that day, and said a local farmer was driving to the pub for a beer and noticed a large snake crawling across the road from his farm. He placed the snake in a large bag and brought it in to show his mates, thinking it might liven up the pub a bit--- he was right!

For those of you concerned about encountering snakes while visiting the area you should know that few people get bitten by snakes. The most frequent victims are young males, and alcohol is usually involved. (No, the snake was not drinking, the young male was.) Most of the snakes in this part of Australia are harmless, and really are rarely encountered, in most cases they sense you coming and get out of your way. If you are lucky enough to see a snake, assume it might be a venomus, leave it alone, and go the other way. Don't harass, pick up, or approach a snake.

(C) DiveTheReef The weekly reef report is written by Joel Groberg of DiveTheReef.com, who compiles them from the many conversations he has with dive staff in the area, as well as  many other local sources in the dive community.

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