Ok so time for a small rambling rave about threatening wildlife… This photo is of a beautiful tiny Diamond Python lounging high up in my Balinese Corn crop in late summer. It’s a baby and only about 80cm-1metre long. These locals can get up to about 4metres and are quite spectacular at any size due to their patterned skin. I cheer when I see them as they eat small marsupials and rodents which are the bane of my life atm. They are not venomous.
But I have learnt to be very careful when gardening in Australia for various reasons, and some of them primarily are related to venomous and angry critters including birds, animals and insects.
It’s great to see them about but some can really be very testing to deal with and require some planning and work to avoid or keep under control. I have learnt to turn things over with an implement, use gloves at all times and wear suitably covering clothing such that they cover my legs, arms and other extremities, and make a lot of random noise when working.
Primary among the dangerous problems are aggressive funnel web and other biting spiders that hide under pumps and tools or stacks of resources, venomous snakes that hide in grass and plants, and various wasps and flying stinging insects that get attracted to vibrations like power tools such as tillers and grass cutters.
The two primary snake problems are Red bellied Black Snakes which are fairly large but tend to move away from you and Browns which are very aggressive and dangerous even when only tiny. I wear thick gloves and clang tools loudly about a lot when entering a growing area for the first time. However they have predators too and a kookaburra will easily take out a small snake – I have seen quite a few fly to branches above me with a 1metre or bigger snake in it’s beak. This can be encouraged by making sure there are well trimmed open lawn areas between beds where the line of sight is greater for the predators.
The spiders can be somewhat unpredictable in location but at least the Funnel Webs are usually always located near rocks and dams (often under the water pumps) and less likely to be hanging around in your food crops.
Ticks can be an issue for some but I have not had any directly on me – possibly because i’m not often working under trees with low hanging branches or very long grass. Having a straw hat with a very wide shiny brim all the way around can also mean they tend to drop and slide off.
European wasps are a significant problem when working with power tools in the field as they seem to be attracted to the smell of fresh cut grass and greenery and the vibrations send them crazy. I have had two significant stings on my face from these critters – one required serious medical treatment after my eye swelled up. I now just give up working if they arrive.
Wasp sting on forehead above the eye. I swatted this one with my gloved hand onto my forehead and killed it before it stung too many times. It took about 3 days to painfully swell up and about another week to go away.
Aside from the direct threat to health there are many that also can do enormous damage to plants.
I have a population of Bandicoots that plague my growing plots. They are very well fed and are really quite difficult to keep out. Being quite small and natural burrowers they really are very good at getting past a fence. They seem pretty general omnivores and will eat their way through a pile of chili as easily as a stack of strawberries. They tend to collect and stack small piles of harvested goods under the cover of leaves and you can often find small stacks of things like garlic, strawberries, chill, tomatoes, small potatoes and maybe a few berries that have been picked and pulled into the one spot.
This is what a family of bandicoots will do to a rockmelon or a watermelon overnight. They have devastated this years melon crop and put a huge dent (literally) in last years crop of pumpkins – anything that was located lower than about 50cms from the ground got gnawed. I am currently working on installing finer grained wire mesh for all these growing enclosures.
The local Kangaroos and Wallabies will rip a passionfruit vine on a fence to pieces for a snack of few leaves. They can jump a 1.5 metre fence so you have to discourage them by making the fence look wobbly and unstable along the top edge. However sometimes if they get in they also will just lie about on top of your garden beds and trim the tops off your herbs and vegetables in a minimal way if they are feeling relaxed…
Bower Birds will mysteriously strip all your bean leaves and are smart enough to lift bird nets and prop them up with sticks to get at your fruit. Currawongs will wait for your peas and beans to germinate and grow to about 1cm high before digging them all up and eating them. On the up side I have at least two locals that follow me around the garden when I’m weeding and digging waiting for the disturbed soil to expose beetle larvae.
There is at least one local 1.5metre Goanna that frequently hangs around one of my garden plots – that just seems menacing. They tend to be fairly sedate but can get unpredictably aggressive from time to time.
I know there are far worse possible gardening and growing issues to deal with like extreme weather and diseases but the animal and food growing interface can get fairly challenging sometimes.