Last summer my girlfriend-at-the-time and I were making weekly efforts to get out and find some of the interesting reptiles that live around Canberra. On one of those trips, an unsuccessful effort to find tussock skinks (Pseudomoia pagenstecheri) and highland copperheads (Austrelaps ramsayi), Peri took this picture:
I really like this picture. I didn't think anything of it when Peri posted it on Facebook. But then this happened:
Australia is, famously, home to many deadly snakes. It's the only place in the world where, if you come across a snake in the bush, that snake is more likely than not venomous enough to kill you. This is somewhat inconvenient for those of us who enjoy actively seeking out snakes in the wild.
That's why, before I moved to Australia in 2011, I bought some equipment to help me look for snakes in a place where reaching around logs and under rocks with your bare hands is really, really stupid. So I bought snake tongs (seen in the picture above) and a collapsable snake hook. Traditionally, snake tongs are used like this, for catching snakes, and snake hooks are used like this, for manipulating them. Snake tongs have fallen out of favour because if you don't know how to use them correctly, you can easily squeeze too hard and break the snake's back.
I have no idea how to use snake tongs correctly. I come from Ontario, where there's only one snake species with medically significant venom, and it's small, slow, and extremely shy. I have no experience or training with deadly snakes of any kind, let alone the fast, agile, alert elapids that live here in Australia. But snake tongs are also exceptionally useful as arm-extensions, allowing to you poke around and move small, light objects without risking life & limb. I use my snake tongs for manipulating the environment, not the snakes themselves.
Unfortunately, my inability to catch snakes here in Australia means that I can only photograph them in situ. Sometimes that can work out alright, like this photo of a highlands copperhead:
But more often than not all I end up with are pretty crappy shots.
Sometimes the snake just won't sit still:
Sometimes the snakes are almost completely covered by vegetation:
And sometimes the snake is in a really awkward, inaccessible spot, as well as being covered in vegetation:
I shouldn't blame this entirely on my very poor venomous-snake-handling skills. It's also because of my very poor photography skills. Here are some in situ shots Angus Kennedy took of some elapids we came across during fieldwork:
Addendum: People who's reptile-identification skills I highly respect reckon that both these snakes are Pseudonaja aspidorhyncha. I remain unconvinced, but, if you have one, you are welcome to send me your opinion.