During the final weeks of Autumn I was contacted by a member of public with regards to a snake that had ventured down into a 4m mine shaft on their property.
At the time the call was made, this snake had been down the mine shaft for 2 weeks. The property owner had hoped that the snake would eventually make its way out on it's own.
They had also placed long tree branches down the shaft in hopes that the snake would climb up, however every attempt to climb up had failed.
Elapids (Australian venomous snakes) can climb, though they aren't an arboreal species (like pythons) and their climbing ability is somewhat limited.
I organised a site visit with the property owner, and a few days later I drove from Bendigo to Beaufort. With previous mine rescue experience I was more than eager to take on the challenge.
On arrival the snake was still down the shaft, in a bottom corner. I was able to immediately identify the snake as an Eastern Tiger Snake. It still had good body condition and didn't appear to be injured or in distress.
As it was too dangerous to go down the mine, I set up my equipment to attempt to catch the snake from the surface....
Unfortunately the first attempt was unsuccessful (unlike my previous 2 rescues) This was extremely disappointing as I had driven the 137 kms to the location! An old piece of mining equipment acted as a hiding place for the snake, so the next mission was to attempt to move or remove the object so the snake didn't have a place to hide.
I went home and returned several days later.
I strapped the equipment to a quad bike and tried to move the object but it was not budging! it was very much partially buried into the ground.
I again attempted to catch the snake from above but the snake once again fled.
This went on 2 more trips. By this stage I had driven the 137km (one way) trip twice more.
After much brainstorming I cam up with the idea to lower sandbags down the shaft and place them over the entry/exit points around the object at the bottom of the mine shaft to stop the snake from being able to hide. I put the sand bags in place, ready to be lowered when the snake was out of its hiding place. I left and returned several days later.
What turned out to thankfully be my final trip, I returned back to the property to find the snake having reappeared and sitting still in the corner. I carefully lowered the sand bags into pace to block the access to the hide and then used my catching pole/bag to work on gently coaxing the snake into my bag.
After much huffing and puffing and hissing by the snake, he began to slowly make his way into the bag, I was SO RELIEVED!!!
He finally made his way all the way into the bag, and I quickly (but carefully) pulled the bag up! It was over..... he was free!
Mineshafts are very problematic when it comes to the safety and welfare of our native wildlife. Every year hundreds of animals fall down these shafts, become trapped and slowly die. Many mine shafts are not filled in, capped or even mapped!
This was my 3rd mineshaft rescue in 7 months. I hate to think how many animals go undiscovered.
If you pass by a mineshaft, please take a moment to safely and carefully have a look to see if anything is trapped down it, and give your local wildlife rescue group a call to notify them.
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