Bad training and dodgy permits – fears that incompetent snake catchers are putting their lives and those of customers at risk
- Snake catchers with little knowledge of the trade being approved, experts warn
- Brisbane herpetologist said handlers instantly approved by government system
- He claimed applicants could even get approved by uploading blank documents
- ‘No-one contacts the course either so there’s no checks and balances,’ he said
- Queensland government said catchers in the state were not routinely checked
Snake catchers with very little understanding of their trade are putting their lives – and those of homeowners – at risk because of lax regulations governing the industry, experts have warned.
Seasoned Brisbane herpetologist Jonathan Lucas said aspiring snake handlers and re-locators can now get automatically approved to respond to call-outs by the Queensland government’s online system.
He said the application would go through straight away even if the person submitting had uploaded blank documents into the portal.
‘Basically you submit your first aid certificate and accreditation from a snake handling course to an online portal and it’s approved straight away,’ the Fauna Solutions director told Daily Mail Australia.
Pictured: Brisbane herpetologist Jonathan Lucas. He said lax government checks meant snake catchers could get approved to respond to call-outs
‘No-one contacts the course either so there’s no checks and balances – it’s all trust. Any man and his dog can get approval.’
Queensland’s Department of Environment and Science has conceded it does not routinely inspect snake handlers in the field, saying it is up to the permit holder to manage safety issues for themselves and their customers.
The department said though authorised snake catchers were generally ‘highly knowledgeable and provide a high-quality service’.
‘It’s like getting your driving licence. You’re getting your P-plates but you’re not going to drive a Formula One car – you have to understand the limitations of your training,’ Mr Lucas said.
The veteran snake handler added the issue also stemmed from inadequate vetting for course providers, who he claimed were setting up shop without having enough knowledge about the dangers involved.
When Mr Lucas started offering handling courses in 2006, he said the accreditation process was rigorous and featured an in-person interview but that had softened in the years since for the standard one or two-day courses.
‘People signing up to some of these lacklustre courses are trusting they’re going to be competent,’ he said.
‘There’s definitely a group of providers who are not experts on the topic. People I’ve trained have been approved the next year to run their own courses.’
Brisbane North Snake Catchers and Relocation handler Steven Brown said snake catching courses did not cover enough in-field situations that could happen in the field. Pictured is one of Mr Brown’s catches
One Brisbane snake handler said many one-day courses did not cover enough situations they would encounter in the field, and only taught students how to use snake hooks.
Brisbane North Snake Catchers and Relocation handler Steven Brown said the hook technique did not work in hotter months when brown snakes are more active and can easily evade the devices.
‘You need to use your bare hands — gloves make it hard to feel what they’re going to do,’ he told Westside News.
Mr Lucas (pictured) said snake catchers needed to understand the limitations of their training. ‘You’re getting your P-plates but you’re not going to drive a Formula One car,’ he said
The state’s Department of Environment and Science told Daily Mail Australia would-be handlers must submit evidence they have passed an approved snake handling course and have valid first aid training.
‘There is no routine inspection or review of operators in the field but, generally, authorised snake catchers are highly knowledgeable and provide a high-quality service,’ a spokesman said.
‘It is the responsibility of the authority holder to take appropriate steps to manage all the relevant safety issues for themselves and their customers during the removal of the snake.
‘That responsibility is subject to the obligations under the Work Health and Safety Act, which can carry considerable penalties for any breaches of that Act.’