'I’d have been a goner': Resident recounts close call with venomous snake

THAT WAS CLOSE: Black Range resident Keith Lofthouse at the scene of the slithering, where he came close to a brown snake on this very rock in his backyard. Picture: Peter Pickering
THAT WAS CLOSE: Black Range resident Keith Lofthouse at the scene of the slithering, where he came close to a brown snake on this very rock in his backyard. Picture: Peter Pickering

Black Range resident Keith Lofthouse had a close call with a potentially lethal brown snake only meters from his back door last weekend. 

During a four hour power outage in the Great Western region on Saturday Mr Lofthouse said he decided to remove a tree stump on a terrace, when the snake startled him. 

“I finished about noon and was coming down the slope from the shady side of a large boulder when I accidentally disturbed this massive brown which must have been basking out of sight on the sunny side,” he said. 

“We were virtually eye to eye, separated by centimetres, when it slithered down the rock at amazing speed.

“It was easily two metres long and fatter than my forearm. I’d have been a goner had it decided to attack, which browns are known to do when threatened.”

Mr Lofthouse said had he been bitten, there would have been minimal chance of survival. 

“They are full of venom in mid-spring, and if I was bitten anywhere on the body that, by myself in panic would be difficult to bandage, thirty to forty minutes waiting for medical help would have been too long,” he said. 

He also said snake sightings around his 60 acre property were rare, and in ten years he averaged less than one a year. 

“This is only the second brown I’ve seen, but it’s scary that this was just metres from the back door,” he said.

Mr Lofthouse said his “close encounter” was just as ironic as it was terrifying. 

“Only minutes before the snake sighting I had warned a new neighbour who was planning to do some gardening that this mild and sunny Saturday was an ideal snake day and she should take precautions,” he said. 

“It was definitely on my mind as I worked – I’m always alert to snakes.

“I was using a chainsaw and making enough noise, but I was blinded by the rock.

“On future snake days, I’ll only work and walk on open ground; now that I’ve had the fright of my life.”

A senior scientist from the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning’s Arthur Rylah Institute, Nick Clemann said snakes were becoming more active across the Grampians region, as usual during Spring.

“At this time of year, we experience warmer weather. Under these conditions, snakes will often seek out a sunny or warm patch, and be reluctant to move,” he said. 

“This reluctance to move is because they are either asleep, have a cold body temperature or because they need to stay warm to digest a recent meal.

“People need to be extra careful about where they step or put their hands as these weather conditions increases the risk of people and pets encountering snakes, as a snake that would flee under warmer conditions may not move at all.”

Eastern Brown Snakes were the most frequently encountered snakes in drier areas such as the Wimmera, while Tiger Snakes, Red-bellied Black Snakes and Lowland Copperheads were also common.

“It is rare for these snakes to bite people, but they are all dangerously venomous,” Mr Clemann said. 

If you live in an area with snakes:

• If you see a snake - keep calm and try to move yourself, anyone with you and your pets away from the snake

• Never touch or attempt to capture or hurt snakes. Instead, ring DELWP on 136 186 for further advice, or call a licensed snake catcher if the snake cannot remain where it has been found

• Have a spring clean. Clean up around the house and cut lawns regularly – snakes are attracted to shelter such as piles of rocks and timber, sheets of metal, or building materials

• Undertake first aid training, ensure your first aid kit contains several compression bandages, and if someone is bitten, call 000 immediately

• Snakes are protected under the Wildlife Act 1975. It is illegal to capture, kill or harm them. Bites can occur when people try to kill snakes.