THE worst part of the job for Noosa snake catcher Luke Huntley isn't the danger or the call outs in the middle of the night - it's coming across a healthy snake killed by unnatural causes.
On Tuesday morning, Luke was called to relocate a red-belly black snake in Cooroy which had been hit by a car.
"By the time I got there, it was dead - it had died two minutes before,” Luke said.
"It was a beautiful red belly, quite a good size, very healthy, very shiny, very vibrant.
"It's such a shame.”
While some would praise the act of ridding Noosa of an incredibly venomous snake, Luke has a perpetual respect for the magnificent, mysterious creatures.
"It's why I do what I do,” Luke said.
"It's mainly to protect the snakes but also it protects people.
"And I like to educate people as well, just so people understand snakes are not aggressive by nature at all.
"If someone was going to attack you, you're either going to fight or run away.
"It's exactly the same with every animal, snakes included.”
Luke said he's always had a fascination with dangerous fauna.
"I've loved snakes my entire life, and sharks, crocodiles - you name it.
"Even when I was a really small boy, I'd always be running around looking at snakes.
"And if I was at Australia Zoo, the only place I'd really be interested in was sitting in the snake enclosures, looking at all the different snakes.
"That was my life-long passion and now I can put it in to practice in the town I grew up in, Noosa - that's me.”
Luke lives and breathes the lifestyle of a wildlife catcher, staying fit and healthy to keep up with the snakes he's catching.
He said large, heavy pythons often put his physical strength to the test, like the recent relocation of a nine-foot python at a house near the Cooroy IGA.
"I got a snake call six days ago,” Luke said.
"It was on a back patio. There was lots and lots of chairs, it was really hard to see underneath.
"I saw the tail and then I saw a head in the distance, and I thought, 'maybe there's two snakes in there'.
"I dropped down on to the ground and I looked down and thought 'wow, that is a long python'.
"As a snake catcher, you've got to climb around, chase things, climb under things, do roof inspections.
"So I try to keep in shape and eat proper stuff, and you've got to have your head in the right space, too.”
Luke said in his career as a snake catcher, one thing he was called out for continuously was pythons in chicken coops.
"Over the last couple of weeks, we've had about eight or nine of them,” he said.
"Rural properties often have chickens and chicken coops attract pythons. They love chickens.
"One of the biggest pythons I've ever seen was in a chicken coop, he was 9kg and he'd just eaten a
"He was really old, and really grumpy.
"The size of the chicken in this python's belly was like a basketball.
"So you can imagine trying to pull out a big, angry python when he just wants to relax after eating something.
"Every single python I've pulled out of a chicken coop is curled up in a nice warm corner, with a chicken inside its belly, happily digesting its meal.
"Unfortunately, it's always someone's chicken but they (pythons) don't know the difference between a chicken and a possum.”
Luke said the best way to keep pythons out of chicken coops was to ensure the base and doors were sealed.
"The best thing you can do is make sure the bottom of the chicken coop is one layer, or sealed, like a concrete base, or something you can't get through,” Luke said.
"All the doors have to be sealed. You need to use 1cm by 1cm chicken mesh, the proper stuff.
"If you leave gaps, they're just going to get in and they won't be able to get out once they've eaten a chicken,” he said.
As for Luke, he said he'd only had a handful of encounters with snakes that were too close for comfort.
"I've been bitten by a couple of tree snakes (and had a) couple of near misses with a python,” Luke said.
"Dad's not a snake fan, Mum grew up with snakes. They don't really mind, as long as I don't get bitten or anything like that.
"Same with my girlfriend. She's like, yep, do what you love.
"She's a very supportive partner: That's what counts really.”
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