Australia is renowned for its deadly wildlife and, while some species are more dangerous than others, having anything that can kill you in your house is never ideal. But this is exactly the unwanted position a family in Adelaide found themselves in. What was lying in wait for them will send a shiver down your spine.
The lethalness of its fauna is one way of defining Australia; the fact it’s a prosperous, forward-thinking country is another. Sometimes, when the bush creatures come in without knocking, these two worlds can collide.
Even when you live in a country where lots of potentially fatal creatures reside, it must take some getting used to. Then again, such creatures aren’t exactly likely to move in and make themselves at home, are they?
Well, this is precisely what happened to a woman in Adelaide who found a particularly deadly animal in a particularly unlikely place: underneath one of her kitchen appliances. The woman, who was going to the fridge for a drink, no doubt had the shock of her life when she saw what the creature was.
She kept a cool head, though, and on identifying the invader called an expert to deal with it. Rolly Burrell, a professional pest catcher, arrived on the scene and gently moved the refrigerator. Then he carefully reached down to work his magic.
Rolly removed the unwanted kitchen squatter, which just so happened to be the planet’s second-deadliest land snake. Its name? The eastern brown snake.
Anyone should be scared of this reptile, whose venom can cause heart attacks, paralysis and convulsions. Fortunately, Rolly handled it like a pro – even if getting it inside a sack proved a little slippery.
The eastern brown snake certainly didn’t give up easily. Despite being held by its tail, the serpent reared up aggressively in an attempt to break free from Rolly’s grip.
“He’s quite big for suburbia,” said the snake handler while maneuvering the creature into the sack on the floor. It took a bit of time, and a bit of sack repositioning, but the reptile was eventually bagged up ready for removal.
Despite the fact he essentially risked his life, it was all in a day’s work for Rolly. “I’ve been doing it for 40 years and I make it look easy,” he explained. “When you’re doing 300 snakes a month you tend to get a little bit blasé.”
This isn’t the end of the story, though, for there’s something that could have made events even more sinister. There was a reason why the snake bedded down under the fridge, as Rolly would later find out.
“I grabbed the snake and thought it was carrying eggs, so we decided to keep it for a couple of days to see if she would lay in captivity,” Rolly said. Could the deadly eastern brown snake have spawned some baby serpents for the unsuspecting household?
Well, yes. “It’s lucky she saw the snake now,” Rolly later told ABC,” “or she might have been going to the fridge to get a drink later on and seen all these little critters all over the place.” Such a scene would have been straight from a horror movie.
The snake later laid approximately 13 or 14 eggs, which Rolly reckoned would take a couple of months to hatch. No wonder, then, that the creature was so big – she was just days away from creating a whole new generation of eastern browns.
Fortunately, though, the Adelaide woman called the experts right on time. Had the eggs been laid they would have probably been left in peace – as the mom snake doesn’t usually hang around – to hatch in the kitchen. All 13 or 14 of them.
That said, it’s unlikely that all the eggs would have hatched. Rolly explained that the smaller, off-color ones are called “slugs” – a nickname for what’s essentially a dead egg. Then again, just one or two of these deadly baby snakes would have been terrifying enough.
The Adelaide woman, then, had a lucky escape from a situation that could quite easily have turned out much worse. The eastern brown, after all, kills more people in Australia every year than any other snake.
While they don’t actively bite people and tend to be fairly passive, the snakes are nonetheless armed with one of nature’s most deadly poisons. And when they don’t have enough space – like, say, when they’re confined to a kitchen – they’re not going to be too happy about it.
Rolly’s capture of the snake was a blessing for the eastern brown, too. “If I were to let her go somewhere else,” he told ABC, “she would have probably died, the eggs would have died; so we are just nursing the eggs and looking after her for a few weeks.”
The snake’s capture probably saved the lives of not only the Adelaide family whose fridge it was, but of the reptile’s babies, too. This is one serpent-related story, then, with a happy ending.