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May 14, 2021

Meet the Tweed’s ‘reptile relocator’

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[author]Story Albert Elzinga Photos Jeff Dawson[/author]

Almost a quarter of a century ago, Susan Johnson decided to devote her working life to the care of animals.

Susan’s career started at Melbourne Zoo where she completed an on-the-job training course in Animal Technology and cared for fur seals and endangered Australian marsupials such as bandicoots.

After 12 years with the zoo, Susan felt the need for a ‘tree change’ and moved to Crabbes Creek where she soon joined Tweed Valley Wildlife Carers. She established herself as an authority on reptiles and started to rehabilitate and relocate injured reptiles. Her work with the Carers became the prelude to Susan’s current occupation as ‘Reptile Rehabilitator and Relocator’.

This year alone, Susan has helped around ten sick or injured animals recover and return to the wild and she’s started a much-needed campaign to educate the public and reverse some common misconceptions. She says the evasive nature of snakes is often misunderstood and many people attempted to kill a snake at first sight.

Not only is killing any snake against the law, but they’re often misidentified and their behaviour and potential danger misunderstood. Susan said the non-venomous Brown Tree Snake, for instance, was often mistaken for the deadly Brown Snake and killed on sight.

Catching and relocating snakes may be very serious and sometimes more than a little dangerous; however, Susan encountered some funny situations while responding to people’s calls.

On one occasion, Susan was called to catch a snake which had invaded a family’s garage and was hiding behind a pile of stored items.

The family’s description of the snake as black with yellow stripes made it difficult for Susan to identify the reptile and made her very cautious when she attempted to catch it.

She managed to get hold of the animal’s tail and slowly tried to pull it from under the stored boxes. But because the snake failed to move she was afraid the reptile had died.

With extreme caution, she continued to prise the reptile free and when she finally managed to pull the snake free: it turned out to be a plastic toy. A friend had placed the fake snake in the garage as a practical joke.

People can reduce the attraction homes and gardens have on snakes by: cleaning up any rubbish and timber around the house, keeping the grass cut low, pruning bushes and removing low hanging branches.

Residents who encounter a snake and want it removed can call  Susan on 02 6677 1224 or 0428 771 223.

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