Snake Talk: Promoting Awareness and Protection with snake catcher Stuart McKenzie
Stuart McKenzie, founder of the Sunshine Coast Snake Catchers, is a renowned reptile enthusiast and snake catcher. Stuart has turned his love of snakes into a successful career, rescuing and relocating hundreds of snakes every year alongside his qualified team. With years of experience and a passion for reptile conservation and education, Stuart is dedicated to raising awareness about snakes and other reptiles and promoting safe and humane methods for managing human-wildlife interactions. In this interview, we’ll delve into Stuart’s experiences as a snake catcher, how his fascination with reptiles began, some of the unique challenges and rewards of his work, and his thoughts on the importance of snake conservation and education.
Vetafarm: Thanks for joining us Stuart! Interestingly, Vetafarm and yourself are both Wagga Wagga-born and bred. Growing up, did the number of snakes found in the region play any role in your interest or awareness of them?
Stuart: Yes, the good old Wagg-vegas as some may say haha. It didn’t have much to do with it, although I did keep lizards at home in Wagga which I bought off of a local breeder who lived there. So, you could say there is a small link, however the real passion for snakes came when I worked at Australia Zoo on the Sunshine Coast.
Vetafarm: Can you recall a specific moment or experience that led you to become a snake catcher?
Stuart: I started working at Australia zoo in 2012 as a Reptile and Croc keeper. I had a fair bit of experience with lizards before working there, however not a lot to do with snakes. I found out off some of my colleagues at the zoo that you can actually apply for government permits and be able to catch and relocate snakes for people out of their homes and businesses.
I applied for my permit and got it quickly. I then started a small Facebook page and got the odd job and I knew pretty early on the being a full time snake catcher was something I wanted to do. It soon became quite busy and ended up being my fulltime job!
Vetafarm: What are some of the most common misconceptions about snakes and reptiles that you encounter?
Stuart: The most common one is that snakes will chase you and that they are aggressive. It couldn’t be further from the truth. If you get too close to the snake and make it feel scared or threatened, then of course it will defend itself. But if you respect the snake and keep a safe distance then they will leave you alone.
Vetafarm: Have there been any instances where you’ve interacted with rare or endangered snake species?
Stuart: I haven’t really encountered any rare snake species, however the closest thing would be when we found a Death Adder that was up in bushland just out of Mapleton. This is the first Death Adder seen on the Sunshine Coast for a long time!
Vetafarm: How does your work as a snake catcher contribute to the conservation and protection of snakes and their ecosystems?
Stuart: As professional snake catchers we spend everyday saving snakes from situations that could be detrimental to their health and well-being. We also educate millions of people everyday through our social media channels and TV shows.
Talking to our customers on the job is a big way that we really feel we can make a big difference. A lot of our customers who call us out to relocate a snake are often terrified of them so if we can take a bit of time to try and educate them about snakes and change their mindset a little bit then that is a great result.
Vetafarm: What is the strangest place you’ve ever had to remove a snake from?
Stuart: I have removed snakes from nearly everywhere you can think of, however a memorable one was when I got an 8-foot Carpet Python out of the side of an oven in a family’s kitchen. I pulled the oven apart and the snake was in the insulation section of the oven.
Vetafarm: If you could give one piece of snake advice to readers, what would it be?
Stuart: Please try and learn to respect snakes, they are certainly not these evil creatures that some of the media and community portray them as sometimes, they are very misunderstood and also very important for our environment.
Vetafarm: Do you have any reptiles as pets yourself?
Stuart: I do have reptiles as pets, only 4 lizards though. One of the lizards is a Shingleback lizard and is almost 30 years old!
Vetafarm: Thanks for taking the time to share your passion for snakes and education with us! Finally, do you have a favourite species of snake or reptile?
You can keep up to date with Stuart and his team’s adventures here!