Wagga’s new snake catcher, Josh Thompson, is glad he met his wife before he decided to take up a career as a reptile wrangler.
“When I started dating my wife, I had a few snakes and she was less than keen about that,” he said with a laugh.
“But after what she’s seen, she knows that they don’t really care about us at all and just want to stay out of our way, so she’s calmed down a hell of a lot.
“But if I met her now and said, ‘Hey, I’m a snake catcher’, I don’t think it would have happened.”
Josh’s Reptile Relocation launched this week in Wagga and he’s taken leave from his job to get the business going and to give locals a hand dealing with any surprise serpents.
“I’d been speaking to Tony Davis, the current snake man, and he’s looking to give up that mantle,” Josh explained.
“I thought, you know what, I’ve got some reptiles at home, I’ll see what it takes to get into becoming a snake handler.”
Josh got to know Tony after the veteran snake man responded to a few incidents where he was working and later joined him on call-outs.
“The first one we caught was a six-foot brown snake that was pretty much the length of my whole body,” he said.
“We’d had a couple of phone calls saying, ‘Hey, there’s a giant brown snake on this footy oval’, so we went out there to have a look around.
“We thought maybe it wasn’t there anymore but on the way out it was standing up in front of us, sticking up its head as we approached. Too easy.”
Once he’d made up his mind, Josh took a venomous snake training course with John and Tina Moisten on the Central Coast and is now well prepared and stocked up on the tools of the trade.
“I’ve got a bunch of hooks now, a bunch of hoop bags and, the most important things, first aid bandages,” he said.
“We wouldn’t go anywhere without at least a couple of bandages on us so that if you do get bitten, there can be immediate first aid.”
While he’s yet to be bitten by a venomous snake (his pet pythons don’t count), Josh accepts that it’s a risk that comes with the territory.
“It’s gonna come,” he says pragmatically.
“But I know with the training I’ve done and with the antivenin program that we’ve got here in Australia, there’s a 99% chance I’m going to survive.”
Josh traces his love of reptiles back to his childhood and time spent in the bush with his grandfather.
“Pop was a drover and I always used to go out and help out on the farm and get firewood and he’d always show us reptiles like blue tongues and snakes and everything,” he said.
“He was like, don’t kill them, you’re in their environment, you’re in their home, so just respect that.”
He’s also a fan of the popular Sunshine Coast Snake Catchers, whose videos have gone viral on social media.
“That was something that inspired me to take a step forward, seeing what they do up there,” he said, adding that he also plans to document and share videos of his adventures.
With a warm summer predicted and plenty of mice and frogs around, Josh is expecting a busy start to his new business venture.
“If there’s a water source, you’re more likely to find red bellies, but brown snakes are the most common because they have adapted to living alongside humans.
“Rats and mice will come to where you live and, of course, that’s what they eat.”
He said the best policy is to stay out of their way, but if there’s one around the house or yard, give him a bell and he’ll be right over.
“Remember, the snake wants nothing more than to get out of your way, so if you approach a snake in your backyard without it being cornered, it’s not trying to try and fight. It’s just going to bolt,” he said.
If you’ve got a snake problem in the Riverina, you can get in touch with Josh via his Facebook page.