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Living in a shed in the bush, so close to the forest meant that we were surrounded by the typical native animals of the Sydney Basin. We had a cleared section of native grasses surrounding the shed but the majority of the 52 hectares was forest. With the help of my grandfather I started to learn to identify the insects, reptiles, marsupials, birds and spiders that lived around us. Obviously, living in Australia, part of that was not just an appreciation of the majesty of the creatures we were living among but also for the sake of survival because there are several animals native to the Sydney Basin that are dangerous or poisonous.
One of the more attractive and thrilling animals that we shared our home with was the Red-bellied black snake. It grows to 1.5 to 2m in length and is a glossy black colour on the back with a red belly that you can glimpse with a shock as it slithers away from you through the grass. I have seen these snakes up close on many occasions, sometimes only just lifting my foot in time to prevent myself from stepping on one in the grass or beside a creek, and I have never known one to be aggressive. Once when my cousin was riding his motorbike through the paddocks on our grandparent’s farm a red-bellied black snake slithered after him and bit his rubber boot but that’s the only case I’ve heard of and maybe the bike ran over the snake and that’s why it did that.
Anyway, these are snakes that one should be careful to avoid and treat with respect. I can vividly remember one day opening the door under the kitchen sink and discovering a red-bellied black snake curled up under the sink! You can imagine my surprise and fright! I suppose that one of my parents must have put it outside. Snakes are protected animals in Australia so it’s not allowed to kill them but also the snake handlers I’ve spoken to have told me that the main cause of snake bites in Australia is when the person was trying to kill the snake. I much prefer encountering snakes outside instead of inside my home!