It was a pretty normal morning. The sky was a solid, cloudless blue, the water was crystal clear, and the sunlight bounced off its surface like golden fireworks. I could feel myself getting sunburnt at 9am, and diving under a foaming, crashing and curling wave was a better wake up call than any cup of coffee I’d ever had in my life. It was paradise- and it was just an average day at Byron bay. 

Heading out after my morning swim onto the beach, something caught my eye. Amongst the seashells and crab holes, the river stones, florescent jellyfish and specks of dried seaweed, I saw something slithering on the sand.

A snake

Wiggling away in the sand was a small, foot long reptile. With its reddish belly, black back and head that you couldn't tell from the body, it was pretty clear that it was a red-bellied black snake. It was tiny and scared; trying to burrow into the sand underneath a footprint someone had left on the beach.

However, the red bellied black is found near water on the East Coast of Australia, so finding it on the beach wasn't entirely surprising. It could have been washed off the rocks, or came out of the dunes and scrub.

There's also some massive redevelopment in the Byron area and a big housing estate going in on the other side of the train tracks, where there used to be bushland. It’s the same old story: everyone wants to live in paradise, and the fauna have been pushed out of their habitat and into more urban areas as the humans move in.

On top of that, the snake is also being wiped out by a far worse enemy: the cane toad. These poisonous slimy pests are an introduced species in Australia and once snakes eat them as prey, the snakes quickly die from their toxic skin. Now, some people might see a snake and run a mile. Others might want to kill it. And given the huge number of kids in the area this was my biggest fear, that some panicky parent might give the snake a painful death by child’s bucket and spade.

However, the first thing anyone who knows anything about snakes will tell you is that snakes are more afraid of you than you are of them. So, keeping that in mind, this animal lover decided to stage a catch and release in a two-piece vintage bikini
With a stick and a beach towel, I flicked it into my towel, wrapped up all four edges and headed off down the beach to a rocky area where most visitors don't go- and where you can frequently find the more aggressive brown snake sunning itself in the morning.
You might think I'm a bit silly to pick up a snake, and I fully agree with you. Pick up a snake that size in someplace in Africa, and one bite would kill you in a few hours.

Here, I took a calculated risk. The snake was possibly too small to get much venom into me if bitten. I had friends out on the beach with me, and the local hospital was four blocks away and well-stocked with venom. And when I tipped him on the rocks, the little guy happily just slithered away into freedom. He’d didn’t put up much of a fight.

So what are your chances of seeing a snake up in Byron? Pretty good, actually. A few days after I relocated the little guy, a big 6-foot diamond python took up residence in the garden where I was staying.

Best keep an eye out, or you might have your own reptilian encounter.



By Shaney Hudson