February 7 - 13, 2016: Issue 250

 No to Netting!

No to Netting!

People use netting to protect their fruit and vegetables from possums and birds. Right? Well, did you know that it’s not a deterrent, it’s a trap? And this vile trap doesn’t discriminate between victims… It incarcerates possums, birds, flying foxes, lizards… AND… snakes!

Vladimir is our latest patient. Vladimir is a rather large, rather handsome and somewhat venomous eastern brown snake. On Monday night, Vladimir was just doing border patrol, undertaking his very important task of pest extermination. He had detected the scent of a rat and was in search of the critter. The rat was caught and struggling in plastic netting. Vladimir pounced. But both he and his prey became victims of the cruel man-made trap.

Panic set in as he was unable to back out of the grasp of the black tentacles. He thrashed around frantically in a bid to extricate himself but the plastic cut deeper and deeper into his flesh. Eventually he was so ensnared that his blood circulation became constricted. Poor Vladimir stopped struggling and accepted the fate that awaited him. The rat had already succumbed to its demise…

Thankfully, the property-owners happened to be pottering around in the backyard and noticed Vlad's 2 metre-long brown body lying limp and motionless in the netting. They immediately called for help.

We arrived on the scene just as darkness fell. Always a wonderful time to undertake a venomous snake rescue…

Armed with a pair of scissors and a head-torch, Operation Brown Snake Rescue began. The important thing was to get the patient out of immediate danger. In this case it was removing him from the roll of netting which was staked into the ground. The rest of the rescue would have to take place in a well-lit surgery to ensure maximum safety for the patient and the rescuers. Vlad was given immediate pain-relief and removed from the property, wrapped in a warm towel and secured in a locked box.

Can you imagine how scary this was for Vlad? He couldn’t move his head without making the netting constrict tighter and tighter. He was gasping for breath by the time we got to work on cutting the netting off his neck. It took around an hour. As we removed pieces, we advanced the plastic tube over his head to ensure the safety of the snake and the rescuers. The plastic tubes are a wonder as they are completely non-invasive and 100% safe.

How much more relaxed does Vlad look in this picture?

This photo clearly shows the lacerations which Vladimir sustained as a result of the netting slicing into his flesh. We made sure to thoroughly clean up his wounds, administer antibiotics and subcutaneous fluids and injected some anti-inflammatories.

A much happier patient. He was popped onto a warm heat-mat and snuggled into some soft towels overnight.

Vlad has spent a few of days in care for observation. Constrictive injuries need to be closely monitored, but luckily he showed no signs of tissue death or swelling so he will be released over the weekend.

We would highly recommend using wildlife-friendly netting. It is soft and stretchy and is quite tightly-woven, like pantyhose - to ensure that little heads, beaks, claws can’t permeate them.

By Lynleigh Greig
Southern Cross Wildlife Care