What do snakes do when their burrows are flooded with flood water? The same as humans: they move.
Snakes in California have been seen swimming through the state’s flooded streets, but that’s nothing compared to South Australia.
Australia’s Murray River flood has closed roads, inundated homes and isolated communities across the country. It also displaced local wildlife from their homes, leading to increased snake encounters across the country.
Nature enthusiast Tara Wilde encountered several of these wandering reptiles at the edge of the nature reserve down her street in Murray Bridge, South Australia. “I saw two tiger snakes swimming around,” she said Newsweek. “Other people along the flooded Murray River have seen lots of snakes swimming – they are fantastic swimmers.”
Tiger snakes are highly venomous creatures that can grow up to seven feet in length. It was a “bloody running snake on water,” Wilde said in a Facebook post.
wilde said Newsweek that the tiger snake in his photo had been known in the area for a long time. “We locals love him very much. His normal abode on the rocks, with a nice view to the east, was flooded. I was lucky enough to capture him moving. Hopefully he is fine.”
Snakes are common throughout the Murray River and inland areas, although it is unusual to see them out in the open like this as they are generally very shy. “They prefer to avoid people,” Wilde said.
Wilde’s house is about 300 meters from the Casuarina Reserve, which was submerged by floodwaters. “The houses just opposite [of the reserve] have water to the edge of their property…[but] we are lucky here. Up river it’s much worse…I know a few people with cabins further up the Murray River that are flooded and full of sandbags.”
While walking through the reserve, Wilde spotted another species of snake struggling in the flooded banks. This time it was an eastern brown snake, the snake responsible for more deaths in Australia than any other species. However, Wilde was unaffected by this fearsome reputation.
“I expected to see the snakes because this is their home,” she said. “I was thrilled to see and capture this extraordinary moment, but I also felt a little sad that the snakes and lizards were moved from their environment. Snakes play an important role in the ecosystem and help rodents.”
She said that this particular snake’s den was only flooded that day. “It moved in and out of its flooded lair to breathe, popping up every three minutes for air and seeking to move safely to a dry shore…[It] seemed frantic and stressed.
“This area is normally a dry floodplain that has not been flooded since the Murray River floods in 1956.”
Despite this displacement and the devastation it caused for some people, the flooding had positive effects on local ecosystems.
“The [flooding] creates a wildlife bloom,” Wilde said. “Swans with babies (bookmarks), frogs, spoonbills, ducks, turtles and a massive increase in dragonflies. There is a mosquito problem and the dragonflies can eat 100 a day. They mate near the wetland, the flapping and buzzing of their wings is amazing to see and hear.”
It is feared that as the snakes move around, they are more likely to end up in people’s homes and sheds. If you find a snake on your property, the best thing you can do is call a snake hunter. Killing a snake in Australia is a punishable offence.
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