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No. 27
Sure has warmed up! Don't Panic - for most of us day to day, snakes are of little relevance. They do not feature in our lives much at all.

However for myself and many a snake catcher we are suddenly knee deep in Dugites and their relatives. I am getting calls daily now from terrified citizens with snakes in homes, gardens and one inside a BBQ.

My daughter Georgia even caught a Western Brush Wallaby, or Black-gloved Wallaby (Macropus irma)! Not what was expected near Reid Hwy.

Time to tidy those backyards to discourage snaky encounters!

A dugite in Star Swamp, WA. Photo Animal Ark
No one knows just how many dogs are bitten or killed by snakes a year, a national record does not exist. A Dogs Life article suggests that 60,000 dogs are bitten and 15,000 die annually. A huge number by any standards.

Our Snake Avoidance Training for Dogs is just one approach to bringing this number down, to help dogs and dogs owners cope with the real risk of snakebite. Find out more at

I love getting involved in wildlife science issues and we are fortunate that Dr Tracey Moore is studying our training technique. It's not new and has been used for years in the States to teach dogs to avoid snakes. She hopes to find out if this technique (e collars) can be used to effectively prevent farmers' dogs from taking the toxic 1080 baits. These baits are used to control feral predators.

Dogs are after all a domesticated species – generally easy enough to work with, it just gets harder when you add venomous snakes into the training mix. Dogs have been around humans for at least 15,000 years but most breeds as we know them today only developed within the last couple of centuries. Dogs are more susceptible to snake venoms than cats. My local vet told me their antivenom supplier has had a five fold increase in demand over last year – so far this snake season. Is it because it's warming up earlier, or are their more dogs or more snakes – who knows?

We are training in Ravensthorpe on 24 October and Hopetoun on 25 October. We are training at North Beach on 1 November, 22 November, 5 December, 12 December and 19 December.

Black labrador. Photo Animal Ark

Tiger snake in grass. Photo Animal Ark

I have had a fascination for Chameleons all my life – since working with them straight from school to handling them for commercials and TV programs back in the UK. As reptiles Chameleons have some very strange adaptations: they shoot out a tongue to catch food and it's even longer than their body; they have independently moving, cone shaped eyes to help aim accurately for that tongue shot; some are adorned with several horns or shields or weird leaf like structures on their noses; and most are able to display a vast array of colours and patterns for emotive displays and or camouflage. Added to that is a prehensile tail that grips like a fifth limb and can be coiled tightly to make the lizard look larger to deter predators. So all in all quite a weird and rather wonderful creature.

I once had a long lived African Chameleon called Colin that got to meet John Cleese in a Schweppes advert and even had a starring role in a Peugeot TV commercial! All back in days of VHS (I've still got the show reels). New species of Chameleons are still been discovered, albeit often miniature ones. The latest species are often tiny and camouflage as dead leaves on the forest floor. Several species have a life span of only 4 months, probably the shortest lifespan of any 4 legged vertebrate. More time is spent in the egg than as a hatched creature. One particular species is annual, reaching maturity at around 8 weeks. Soon after mating the males die and after laying her eggs the female follows suit. The entire species exists then only in buried eggs! The tiny little hatchlings emerge after the dry season ends - all on their own never seeing a parent!

Veiled chameleon. Photo Animal Ark

Chameleon. Photo Animal Ark

PETROL HEAD SPIDERS cause 42,000 car recall
Toyota and Mazda have previously had to recall thousands of cars because spiders, particularly Yellow Sac Spiders (Cheiracanthium mildei and Cheiracanthium inclusum) build dense webs for shelter and for their eggs, favouring fuel vapour lines that block up and cause engine problems. These petrol head spiders seem to love the smell of volatiles in gasoline (American for petrol). David Gimby a Ford fuel systems engineer spent time studying the spiders, their lifecycle and habits and in good time came up with 'spider screen'.

As an active roaming hunting species the problem occurs when they overwinter or start to breed. The spiders then set up home and favour a shallow depression like a fuel vapour line opening causing headaches and recalls for motor manufacturers.

Ford cars fitted with 'spider screens' are to be rolled out in North America and included in the global launch of the 2016 Ford Focus RS

DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME - How not to kill a spider resting on your fuel tank funnel:

Yellow sac spider (Chiracanthium mildei) Washington. Photo Mad Max Commonswiki

Spider nest blocked vent hose. Photo

Well as you may know I used to look after animals in movies in the UK, and a movie has come to town – been to chat to the Director, shown him the creature and well - I'll keep you all informed.

I may well be wrangling on a film set with the stars once again, even if just for the day! I just can't say what, where or when yet.

David on set with ovine movie star
Book now and bring the family. Learn about snakes, first aid and amazing facts. Then get to hold a huge python or a friendly frog, pat a blue tongue lizard, watch a snake eat a dead mouse.

Sunday 1 November at the Henderson Centre, North Beach.

May be sold out if you don't pre book!!!

Boy holding woma python. Photo Animal Ark
Thorny Devil (Moloch horridus)
Few lizards are stranger looking than a chameleon, the Thorny Devil or Moloch though is even more remarkable in appearance. They are entirely covered in hard thorny scales and have a bulbous false head behind their real one. When feeling threatened the real head is lowered between the front legs and the extra spikey, larger false head is offered upwards to any would be predator such as a monitor lizard or hawk. I imagine a Thorny Devil would be a very unpleasant thing to swallow.

These small creatures, endemic to Australia, are rarely more than 20cm long including the tail. In movement they tend to sway from side to side. They live in burrow retreats in some of the most arid parts of central Australia where water is a scarce commodity. They have developed a unique method of refuelling - they will rub up against the dew on plants like spinifex or simply by using the dew that forms on their own bodies, and absorb by hygroscopic action along deep narrow channels towards the gaping mouth. Alternatively when it rains they can stand in a puddle and capillary action channels water upwards also to the mouth. If that is not remarkable I don't know what is.

They feed almost entirely on a few species of little black ants consuming many thousands in a single day. Devils are very hard to spot unless you see them on the road, they blend in so well with the sandy soils. Look for the ants first, they prefer Iridomyrmex sp, and you may spot a devil!

Range is throughout much of WA, southern NT, western Qld and much of SA. Maturing at around 3 years of age females deposit 3 to 10 eggs in a carefully dug air filled chamber. These hatch a few months later. Very unusually for a lizard they appear to eat their egg shells. Life span of up to 20 years is reported.

Thorny devil (Moloch horridus) Lorna Glen. Photo Zigourney Nielsen

Thorny devil (Moloch horridus) Lorna Glen. Photo Zigourney Nielsen

Thorny devil (Moloch horridus) Lorna Glen. Photo Zigourney Nielsen

Upcoming Courses and Events
Venomous Snake Handling Course
DPaW approved for Reptile Relocator's Regulation 17 Licence

Thursday 12 November 2015 - North Beach, Perth - FULL
Tuesday 17 November 2015 - North Beach, Perth
Friday 4 December 2015 - North Beach, Perth

Fauna Handling Course
Friday 13 November 2015 - NAR, Malaga, Perth
Friday 11 December 2015 - NAR, Malaga, Perth

Snake Avoidance Training for Dogs
Saturday 24 October 2015 - Ravensthorpe, WA
Sunday 25 October 2015 - Hopetoun, WA
Sunday 1 November 2015 - North Beach, Perth
Sunday 22 November 2015 - North Beach, Perth
Sunday 5 December 2015 - North Beach, Perth
Sunday 12 December 2015 - North Beach, Perth
Sunday 19 December 2015 - North Beach, Perth

Public Events
Do come along and see us. Bring your family or friends as well.
The Animal Ark Roadshow will be attending the following events:

Sunday 1 November 2015
Snake Awareness Class
Henderson Centre, Star Swamp, North Beach, Perth 6020
1.30pm – 3pm
Pre-booking advised, ring 08 9243 3044 or email

Friday 6, Saturday 7, Sunday 8 November
Perth 4WD & Adventure Show
McCallum Park, Victoria Park
9am – 6pm Friday & Saturday, 9am – 5pm Sunday
See for more information.

See our diary for more dates or contact us to book.

Call (08) 9243 3044, SMS 0466 688 188 or email David or Jenny at to book.

Courses held monthly and as required plus on-site and remote site training available.