Julie gave me a bollocking the other day. Nothing unusual in that, of course, except the subject matter. “When were you going to tell me that Flinders Island is groaning at the seams with snakes? AND the snakes have ticks, what have you got to say about that?”
“It’s news to me,” I replied, but I don’t think she believed me. You see, I have form.
Julie loves critters and birds as much as me, but she draws the line at things that crawl, slither and scuttle. So is it any surprise that a few years ago, when we were wandering through the Costa Rican countryside, I failed to mention that a red-kneed tarantula the size of a saucer was about to walk across her boot? I mean, what’s a man to do, she might have panicked if I’d mentioned it. So I didn’t, but she glanced down, spotted the enormous arachnid and panicked anyway.
A few days later we were staying at an isolated lodge in the south of Costa Rica. Julie was still outside when I unlocked our cabin and spotted a scorpion looking up at me. We eyed each other cautiously. Then with a shrug of his handsomely armoured shoulders he waved his stinging tail nonchalantly in my general direction before squeezing himself between two floorboards and disappearing out of sight. I had to think quickly, Julie was approaching, should I tell her that for the next three days we’d be sharing a bedroom with a scorpion? Quickly concluding that life’s too short for that sort of conversation I decided to say nothing, and just take sensible precautions.
It wasn’t until we’d left for San Jose that I asked if she hadn’t thought it a little odd that I’d suggested we leave our shoes on the top shelf of a bookcase overnight. She looked at me quizzically, then asked if there was anything I thought she should know. I took a deep breath and ’fessed up. I have to say that the next few minutes did not go well for me, nor have I been allowed to forget my indiscretion in the years since the great scorpion cover-up.
It is little surprise, therefore, that Julie was not convinced that I, a notorious admirer of snakes and other reptiles, had not known of Flinders Island’s little secret. But I didn’t, honest.
Simon Watharow’s 2012 blog on A Trip to Flinders Island reveals all. He says,
Wildlife on this island is surprisingly large and very diverse with some notable Tasmanian endemic species, Tasmanian Wombat, Cape Barren Geese (and Green Parrots). Two extremely important factors make this island a haven: no foxes and no rabbits [though] unfortunately there are feral cats, rodents and pigs. Flinders Island has 150 species of birds, 16 native mammals including Flinders Island’s unique sub‐species of Wombat (Vombatus ursinus ursinus) once found throughout the Bass Strait Islands but now restricted to Flinders Island, 12 species of reptiles and 6 frogs recorded
Watharow, an enthusiastic ‘herp’ (herpetologist, student of reptiles) describes five types of skink, two other lizards, and three species of snake: Lowland Copperhead, White Lipped Snake and Tasmanian Tiger Snake. I hope we see a few of these on our trip, especially one of the snakes.
The snake is a grossly misunderstood critter, persecuted worldwide as a result of ignorance and fear. But it too has a role to play, and just like the more appealing and amiable Wombat deserves its place in the sun. DH Lawrence wrote an insightful poem about the relationship between man and snake; please read it and reflect.