Photos of snake trapped in can expose alarming trend

Snake catchers say its a 'common occurrence'.

The snake in the can (left) and a close up (right). Source: Facebook/Adam Brice
The snake was pictured trapped in the drink can. Source: Facebook/Adam Brice

Startling images have revealed how a snake seeking shelter almost led to its death as snake catchers warn that the reptile’s behaviour can often be fatal. In a series of photos, the long brown body of one of Australia’s largest venomous snakes can be seen trailing out of a drink can in Western Australia’s northern Pilbara region.

“It’s a common occurrence that I think most snake catchers will deal with at some point,” Brandon Gifford from Sunshine Coast Snake Catchers 24/7 told Yahoo News Australia. “And it’s terrible because you’ll find them out in the bush dead in a can as well.

“I’ve seen photographs of dead ones that people have come across and it’s just a mummified snake with a can. You just see that from time to time.”

In this instance, fortunately an experienced wildlife rescuer was on hand.

“While at work, I received a call from the town’s local snake catchers who had a call from the local ranger I think, advising that a snake was caught in a can,” Adam Brice wrote on Facebook.

“The boys at the time had no experience with this so they brought the can (with the snake) to me. And it had most of its body inside this small 300ml can!” After determining that it was a mulga snake — otherwise known as a king brown — the expert got to work.

The snake in the can being cut open (left) and the snake out of the can in a bin (right).
Fortunately wildlife rescuer Adam Brice was on hand to slice open the can and free the mulga snake. Source: Facebook/Adam Brice

“Gently using a pair of small sharp scissors I had used for site medical work, I cut the mouthpiece open and gently ran the scissors down, following the contour of the snake’s body as I went,” Brice, who is also a wildlife photographer, explained.

“Soon it was completely cut out and you’d never believe the size of the snake! [It] was released in perfect health with barely a scale out of place and no constriction injury where the can was.”

They may seem like their lights are switched on, but sometimes snakes will just simply underestimate how small the can hole is.

“The problem is, it’s not so much getting the body in because their ribs aren’t attached and they haven’t got a sternum so they can squeeze really well, but then I think they panic, they tense their muscles up, and they can’t reverse out and they can’t move forward,” Gifford said.

But why do they attempt to climb into a can in the first place?

“I think they’re seeking shelter most of the time,” the Queensland snake catcher explained.

“I don’t think there’s a food item in there and I don’t think they’re trying to get fluid. I think they’re just trying to find a spot to curl up and they go, ‘Oh this is a cavity’. So they stick their head in, have a prod around and then go further in and then get stuck.”

The mulga snake on the sand.
The mulga snake is one of the most widely distributed venomous snakes in Australia. Source: Facebook/Adam Brice

While some snakes will damage their scales struggling to get out of the can, especially if they tense their muscles up on the edge mouthpiece, Gifford believes it’s something else that kills them once they’re trapped.

“They probably die of heat stress, I reckon,” he said. “I think they’re seeking shade, they’re out in the open, they find a can, they try to get in there and then they’re stuck.

“And then suddenly they’re stuck in a metal can in the sun, so I’d say they just die from heat stress.”

Fortunately, in this case, help was on hand to rescue the mulga snake, which is one of the most widely distributed venomous snakes in Australia. But research shows discarded food and drink containers are having a detrimental impact on wildlife overall.

A study into 32 cases of monitor lizards — also known as goannas — stuck in discarded containers across six countries, found that most events occurred in Australia (56 per cent) with six fatal entrapments. While the most common container in which the trapped animals were observed was drink cans.

A monitor lizard on the ground.
Monitor lizards, or goannas, are also known for getting their heads stuck inside drink and food containers, especially cans. Source: Billabong Sanctuary

“This is why people need to stop littering, stop chucking cans out and pick up their rubbish because it’s not just snakes that are getting themselves caught up in it,” Gifford said.

“People should also always look out for wildlife. Indeed if you see something like this, report it. Don’t leave it. Because someone can come along and literally save that animal’s life.

“And every animal is important to the ecosystem whether we realise it or not.”

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