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No. 56
Almost every dog we train goes right up to the first snake they see. Out of curiosity more often than as a predator. This is exactly what can land a dog in so much trouble. By the end of training most dogs avoid the last snake we let them meet and most of the target hidden snake smells. From colossal St Bernards to the diminutive Chihuahua we see them all. The vets and vet nurses we meet all have tales of the trauma and distress for owners and dogs when a snakebite occurs. Many dogs succumb to the effects of the devastating venom, but veterinarians are able to save thousands a year with prompt anti venom treatment. We try hard to keep dogs away from snakes and we know Snake Avoidance Training works well for many dogs most of the time but not all dogs all the time

Most days when we are out training refresher dogs (those that have been before) we hear from some that they have seen their dogs avoid snakes directly as a result of the training. That makes the long days out in all weathers all over WA worthwhile. It is not always such good news; several we know of have been bitten since training with us. We do what we can, and it is definitely harder with high prey drive breeds and those with reptile and mammal hunting hobbies!

Stella, the Jack Russell dog and David Manning. Photo: Danella Beavis, / Animal Ark

White and brown staffy, snake avoidance training. Photo: Animal Ark

SNAKES ON THE MOVE where and why
It is hot now and snakes are on the move. Their main requirements and motivators at this time of year are a mate and food, water and shelter. Some move from overwintering sites to summer feeding areas and will eventually return to a shelter or refuge they know from previous years.

Few studies have been completed on snake hunting behaviour but certainly some species like dugites are highly mobile and will travel considerable distances, several kilometres for sure, through the suburbs seeking food. However, if a snake is lucky and finds a chook pen with a good supply of rodents to hand or a shed with rats and mice, who can blame them for staying around and making a home for themselves.

Newborn snakes appear around February to May in the Perth region, these young ones need to find a home - again one offering food, water and shelter. At any time of year if your back yard has mice, rats, frogs, shelter, water and what snakes perceive as a safe refuge they might visit and stay. Cats can also bring snakes directly into the home - I have already had one call this year from a lady whose cat 'kindly' carried a dugite upstairs into her bedroom.

King Brown or Mulga snake (Pseudechis australis). Photo Animal Ark

Dugite hunting up tree. Nov 2018. Photo: Friends of Star Swamp

Many spiders use ballooning as a means of dispersal. They climb up and release a silken thread or sail and catch the slightest breeze and simply drift away. This has been observed by naturalists for centuries and it has always been assumed that some wind was needed to make these flights possible. Now it has been reported that naturally occurring electromagnetic fields can not only trigger the ballooning phenomenon but even supply enough lift and velocity without any breeze present at all for spiders to take flight.

Erica Morley and colleague Daniel Robert from the University of Bristol in the UK have been studying this. They created electromagnetic fields within sealed containers containing spiders to eliminate any breeze. When the fields were switched on the ballooning effect increased significantly. Further to that by switching the electric field on the spiders would move upwards and switching it off caused them to move downwards. It has long been known that the electric currents all around us are used by animals such as bumble bees for navigation and honeybees for communication, but the arachnids use of earth's natural electrical activity is I think quite amazing.

An observational study of ballooning in large spiders. Photo: Cho M, Neubauer P, Fahrenson C, Rechenberg I. 2018 Wikimedia Commons

Spiderlings ballooning. Photo: Little Grove Farms, Wikimedia Commons

Florida is seeking snake hunters to help eliminate invasive Burmese pythons from the Everglades. These non-native Asian pythons are large, all-consuming constrictors. A total of 50 paid hunters are now searching for and removing them to help protect native species. They're paid US$15 per hour with bonuses for larger/longer snakes, especially females on a nest of eggs. So, you head off into the vast swamps and search for snakes - sounds like fun - to me anyway. A great way to help mitigate the damage caused by another of the world’s invasive species. Enquiries for the position have been slithering in. This 15 foot long beast was captured in the Florida Everglades. Photo: Michael Freifeld, Orlando Weekly
Or miss out - really we are super busy fitting dogs into time slots at various locations. We can only do so much and word of our Snake Avoidance training is spreading - Australian shepherd refresher - Snake Avoidance Training. Photo: Animal Ark
CHICO MENDES 1944-1988
Chico was a South American rubber tapper, or seringueiro, and environmentalist. Born into poverty in a rubber reserve near Xapuri near Acre in north western Brazil, aged 9 he started rubber tapping alongside his father. Rubber tappers were both poor and badly educated. Schools were very unpopular with landowners who preferred to keep their peasant labourers uneducated and tied to the land. Chico was illiterate until he was taught to read and write aged 18. Beginning to read newspaper articles changed his life and his outlook of the world around him.

"At first, I thought I was fighting to save rubber trees, then I thought I was fighting to save the Amazon rainforest. Now I realise I am fighting for humanity"

He became increasingly political and alongside many with rubber tappers demanded changes to the road building, deforestation and cattle ranching that devastated vast areas for very short-term gain. Back in the 1980's what interested me about him was his ideas about the more sustainable use of the Amazonian forests. He promoted establishing vast 'extractive reserves', for having communities with education and healthcare for the people. He envisioned the sustainable harvesting of nuts, oils, fruits, and fibres rather than direct large-scale logging, as a means to both preserve the forests and give lasting economy to the families living within them. Regrettably, Chico was assassinated in December 1988 by local ranchers. His death was due to the conflicting attitudes of resident communities as he wished to preserve a sustainable Amazon Forest. He died before he could see the changing attitudes of people in regards to sustainability.

Chico Mendes was fundamental in the establishment of reserves now covering 13% of the Amazon area. His legacy whilst decades old still continues; however, the planet’s remaining rainforest areas are still under continuing threats from human development, ranching, fires and other threats to what is one of the planets most precious environments.

Chico Mendes at his home in Xapuri Acre, Brazil 1988. Photo: Miranda Smith, Miranda Productions Inc, wikimedia Commons

Chico Mendes at home. Photo: Miranda Smith, Miranda Productions Inc, wikimedia Commons

New stock is in. Snake bite bandages $60 for 4 includes postage Australia wide.

These are life savers – simply put, if applied with easy instructions followed you should not die.

Snakebite bandage available from Animal Ark
Animal in Focus: Huntsman Spiders (Family Sparassidae)
Huntsman spiders are a commonly seen arachnid in Australia. We find them in and around our homes and gardens especially in palms trees and gum trees where they shelter under bark and amongst foliage.

Huntsman are quite typical spiders: eight legs, eight eyes and the ability to appear suddenly, move quickly and give one quite a fright. They are generally a placid creature, very useful in controlling pests around the home, especially laundries and bathrooms, probably due to the higher humidity in these areas. They are mainly reluctant to bite and are not considered dangerous to humans.

Over 200 species are found in Australia, they are mostly solitary in habit and rather than using silk to produce webs they are active hunters, fast moving and catch prey ranging from small insects like crickets, other spiders, beetles and the like but also some larger species tackle frogs, lizards, and even rodents. Their lifespan is approximately 2 years. The predators of huntsman spiders include birds and geckos. Huntsman spiders are from the family Sparassidae and there are over 1,000 species found worldwide, mostly in tropical and warm temperate regions.

One of the world's largest spiders is a huntsman from Queensland, Beregama aurea. This species of huntsman spider has a leg span that can reach 15cm and they can weigh over 5.5 grams. Whilst huntsman spiders do use venom to immobilize their prey, bites from sparassids usually do not require hospital treatment for humans.

Huntsman spider, Sparassidae. Photo: Vengolis, Wikimedia Commons

Huntsman spider, The Hills. Photo: Animal Ark

Upcoming Courses and Events
Snake Avoidance Training for Dogs
Saturday 4 January – Perth Hills, Mahogany Creek
Tuesday 7 January – Ferguson, near Bunbury
Wednesday 8 January – Ferguson, near Bunbury
Thursday 9 January – Manjimup
Friday 10 January – Albany
Saturday 11 January – Albany
Saturday 18 January – North Beach, Perth
Tuesday 21 January – New Era Vets, Oakford
Friday 31 January – Busselton area
Sunday 2 February – Bunbury area
Saturday 8 February – Perth Hills
Saturday 15 February – North Beach
Sunday 16 February - Oakford
Saturday 22 February – Perth Hills
Sunday 8 March – North Beach
Saturday 14 March - Mahogany Creek, Perth Hills

Venomous Snake Handling Course
Licensed by DBCA Parks and Wildlife Service
Monday 6 January - Mahogany Creek, Perth Hills
Thursday 23 January - Mahogany Creek, Perth Hills
Friday 7 February – Mahogany Creek, Perth Hills
Friday 21 February – Mahogany Creek, Perth Hills
Thursday 27 February - Mahogany Creek, Perth Hills
Tuesday 10 March – Mahogany Creek, Perth Hills
Monday 16 March - Mahogany Creek, Perth Hills
Thursday 26 March - Mahogany Creek, Perth Hills
Wednesday 8 April - Mahogany Creek, Perth Hills
Thursday 30 April - Mahogany Creek, Perth Hills
Tuesday 5 May - Mahogany Creek, Perth Hills
Monday 18 May - Mahogany Creek, Perth Hills
Wednesday 3 June - Mahogany Creek, Perth Hills
Friday 12 June - Mahogany Creek, Perth Hills

Fauna Handling Course
Thursday 6 February - Mahogany Creek, Perth Hills
Wednesday 29 April - Mahogany Creek, Perth Hills
Thursday 11 June - Mahogany Creek, Perth Hills

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:

Tuesday 14 January
Animal Ark Wildlife Incursion
Bunbury Library
1 Parkfield Street
10.30am – 11.30am
Contact Bunbury Library for more information and to book

Tuesday 14 January
Animal Ark Wildlife Incursion
Withers Library
Hudson Road
1.30pm – 2.30pm
Contact Withers Library for more information and to book

Wednesday 15 January
Animal Ark Interactive Wildlife Display
Flinders Square Shopping Centre
11am – 1pm each day
Free school holiday event

Thursday 16 January
Animal Ark Interactive Wildlife Display
Flinders Square Shopping Centre
11am – 1pm
Free school holiday event

Friday 17 January
Animal Ark Interactive Wildlife Display
Flinders Square Shopping Centre
11am – 1pm
Free school holiday event

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.