The 3 Most Hectic Snake Catches Of My Life

Reptiles have always been a passion of mine since I could basically walk.

At a very young age I would find myself chasing and catching lizards in my own backyard, but also all around Australia. I was very lucky that my parents took my brother and I on multiple camping trips each year to all corners of Australia. During these trips we would be chasing skinks and goannas on bush walks, trying to catch whatever we could find. I even copped a bad bite from a lace monitor as a young kid when I grabbed him off a tree.

Growing up, I didn’t have your standard pets like cats or dogs -- in fact my first pets at the age of about 10 years old were two shingleback lizards, one of which I still have today!

I studied Marine Biology and Zoology at James Cook University and landed a job at the world famous Australia Zoo in the Reptile Department straight out of uni which was great. From there my passion for reptiles grew even more, and over my six years at Australia Zoo, I got to work with a range of amazing reptiles, including Australian and exotic venomous snakes and huge exotic snakes including the reticulated python and green anaconda -- the world's largest.

I also worked with alligators, freshwater crocs and the largest of all reptiles, the saltwater crocodile. I fed crocs for several years in the world famous crocoseum in front of 5,000 people, which is something I will never forget.

I was also lucky enough to attend the Australia Zoo Crocodile Research trip to Cape York in 2016, where we captured, tagged and released saltwater crocodiles along the Wenlock River.

During my time at Australia Zoo I started my snake catching business, which in the beginning was simply a hobby. Over several years the hobby turned into a source of income, and as our presence on social media grew so did the business -- it's now turned into one of the largest snake catching businesses in the world!

I catch some of the world's deadliest and venomous snakes on a daily basis and we can get as many as 30 phone calls for help every day.

Over the last six years of snake catching I have caught thousands of snakes from thousands of different homes in all sorts of situations.

There are, however, three particular snake calls that stand out from the rest as my favourites -- these are the calls that I will never forget:

1. Jumping off a pool Mission: Impossible style and wrangling a large Eastern Brown snake

Looking back at this job now, I'm not sure I would do it again. Due the circumstances I was starting to get frustrated and desperate to catch this large Eastern brown snake.

A family had an above-ground pool which sat about 2.5 meters off the ground on one side, and a large brown snake had made a home under the concrete slab.  It was the perfect spot -- he would come out and bask in the sun, and when he was warm enough, go back in under the slab to chase rats or seek shelter.

It took me three days to catch this snake, and when I finally did, it was the most relieved and excited I'd ever been on a snake call. On day one, I'd tried to sneak around the side of the pool, but as soon as he saw me, he went straight under the slab. I spent an hour and a half trying to dig him out and also flush water and air into the hole, but had no luck.

Snake Catcher Stuart McKenzie's Number One Catch

He was out and about the next day, and I came around again, but as I arrived it’s like he knew I was coming -- he went back in under the slab.

I was starting to get annoyed. On day three, I thought 'there's only one way to get him' --  dropping in on him Mission: Impossible style. Yes that’s right -- I decided to jump off the side of the pool and land right next to him to tail him and put him in the bag! That was the plan anyway... and to my disbelief, it worked perfectly! Watch it all unfold in the video above.



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2. Nearly getting bitten by a large Eastern brown snake

This is the closest I have ever been to being bitten by an Eastern brown snake, the second most venomous land snake in the world. It’s a day I will never forget and a day that I hope never happens again.

It was a warm summer's day a few years ago, and a family in Twin Waters had two large brown snakes hanging out under their small deck in their backyard. We waited until at least one of them was out from under the deck to give us the best chance of catching him. He came out and was enjoying the sun by the pool, so I rushed over to grab him.

He saw me coming and started to move away, but luckily I was able to grab him and not fall in the pool at the same time. The first mistake I made was not bringing my snake bag with me -- I now found myself holding a very warm and grumpy five foot brown snake with no bag in hand.

Snake Catcher Stuart McKenzie's Most Dangerous Catch

I had to carefully walk backwards with the snake, opening the pool gate and trying to avoid couches on my way back to where I left my bag.

The second mistake I made was not leaving his head on the ground, and as I picked up my bag and brought it around, he shot up on himself towards my hand. I have screenshots of the video showing he got within a centimetre of my fingers. I can count my lucky stars that I didn’t get bitten.

I've changed the way I do things since that day. It was a big learning moment, and a turning point in my career.



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3. Catching the largest Eastern brown snake I have ever caught under a house

This particular snake call happened only a few weeks ago, and it was one of the sketchiest situations I have found myself in as a snake catcher.

When I arrived, the family had seen a monster brown snake go around the corner of the house towards the enclosed space underneath, where there was only one way in and out.

There was only about three feet of space to work with under the house, so I carefully went under looking for the snake.

Snake Catcher Stuart McKenzie Bags The Largest Eastern Brown Of His Career

To my surprise, he was sitting on top of the besser block wall on the other side, opposite the only entrance and exit point. As I made my way over, I realised just how big this snake was -- around the two metre mark, which is about as big as they get!

I knew it wasn’t safe to grab him under the house as I could only crawl around, so I poked him and encouraged him with a long stick. He moved along the wall and back around to the only exit.

He then decided he didn’t want to leave the enclosed space, and guarded the exit so that I was stuck under the house.

I eventually encouraged him away from the exit and crawled out quickly, finally grabbing him and bagging him up.

Wow, what a nerve-racking experience!



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Snake catching is one of the most dangerous occupations in the world, but I tell you what, I wouldn't trade it for anything.

As a snake catcher you are constantly going into the unknown, and every callout could potentially be life-threatening if you make a mistake.

I get the chance to work with some of the most beautiful and fascinating creatures on the planet, make my clients' homes safe places again, and get my daily shot of adrenaline.

While most people run the other direction when they see a snake, I can't wait to roll up my sleeves to snag my next catch!

For more information on snake catching, visit Sunshine Coast Snake Catchers 24/7.

This article first appeared on November 11, 2019.