Thursday, 16 October 2008

Rodent wars

This is a tale of two wars.

The first and simplest was Tammy the Rocket-propelled Rodent against the slower members of that order. The initial tangible battle in this occurred while I was in Vanuatu and Frances found her emerging from under the shed with a rabbit in her mouth. Good dog!

When I returned and got into gardening, on 3 occasions we found her wandering around the vege garden with a dead rabbit - in 2 cases very dead and fly blown - in her mouth. I wondered why the rabbits were dying in the garden and had suspicions that they were getting some help in "passing over" from a reptile. Advancing a little in time, we come to the second war, which was rocket-propelled rodent versus the hypothesised reptile.

I was feeling a bit tired on 10 October so had a nap in the middle of the day, but was woken by furious barking from the vege patch. Frances was not game to enter to find out what was happening so I went in and called Tammy out of the bean patch where there was obviously a battle going on. She emerged, looked at me, and headed back in to finish the job off. However I grabbed her, put her on the lead, passing this to Frances, and got my brush cutter to lower the level of the bean manure crop. I ask Frances to stand outside the fence and watch which way the snake went.

I glanced round to see Tammy writhing on the ground and then yelping. Obviously she had been bitten. I stopped brush cutting and rang a vet who said to get her to them asap. With Frances nursing Tammy in the back of the car we headed for the vets (about 25km away) at a rather illegal speed and made it with no accidents apart from the poor dog throwing up a bunch of froth in the back seat. As Frances has later said, basically Tammy was dying at this point.

However the vet pumped some anti-venene into her and followed this with oxygen since her lungs were full of gooze by this time. He gave her an 80% chance of surviving at this stage.

When we rang 3 hours later that had dropped to 50:50. He thought she wasn't in pain as she was essentially paralysed and unconscious.

The next morning, after a pretty sleep-free night, I rang the vet and was told she'd made it and seemed not too bad, apart from looking very beaten up around the face, which is where the snake had copped her. So we bought her home and kept her quiet, giving her lots of milk and water as her kidneys could have taken some damage. After 3 days she was pretty much back to normal. Astonishing.

Since then a couple of people have said that it is unusual for a snake to get a Fox Terrier, since the dogs are usually too fast. I think the density of the vegetation must have blocked her dodging: but we have now dog-proofed (we hope) the eating beans so that if the snake has shifted there Tammy can't get in there after it.

We'll be wearing wellies in the vege garden for the next few months.

I do not want to accuse anything unfairly, but about 10 days later we were looking over the dam which is about 30m from the vege garden. I noticed a head swimming across the water, with a considerable amount of body behind it. Here is (most of) what emerged from the dam.

Frances and I talked about this and agreed that the snake was at least 2m long. I would suspect closer to 2.5m We didn't go and measure it and the time, but after a few hours I went back - making much noise, wearing gumboots and carryng a panga, and measured the larger rock below its body as about 210 mm which brings it in about the 2m mark.

A few days later the dog was loose in the vegetable garden (the broad beans havng been dug in) with Frances when she started barking again. So she was brought indoors. Later I went out with her on the lead and again the barking happened. This time I saw a 60cm version of the black snake:
  • emerge from under the stable;
  • see me coming; and
  • head back under the stable before I could think to throw the 1.3kg hammer I was carrying at it.


lisapuckett said...

Very scary. Glad to hear your pup is ok. You really are in the outback, aren't you?

Flabmeister said...

One of the surprising things about Canberra is how close the wildlife is to the City. It is not uncommon to see kangaroos within 1km of the Parliament House.
Not that Canberra is unique in this: we have seen beaver swimming in the Ottawa River immediately below their Parliament!