Warning note leads man to find red-bellied black snake in car engine

  • Jim Gainsford

"This afternoon a red belly slithered up into your front left tyre. Please be careful," the note read.

Despite the warning, Michael Garbutt was still caught by surprise when he found a venomous snake under the bonnet of his car.

Michael Garbutt found a red-bellied black snake under his bonnet after parking his car in Kurnell. Photo: Supplied

Out for an evening walk at Kurnell in Sydney's south on December 28, he returned to his car parked next to the skate park to find the note on his windscreen.

"So I popped the bonnet and there it was coiled up underneath," the high school teacher said.

The note left on Mr Garbutt's windscreen warning him to "be careful". 

"To say I was shocked is an understatement. On reflection I don't think I would have put my hand out to pop the bonnet if I had known it was there.

"My main concern was how do I get rid of it?

"I looked at Google to find a local snake catcher and called him up."

Michael found the number of Andrew Melrose of Shire Snake Catchers of Engadine who headed straight out to Kurnell.

It took about an hour for snake catcher Andrew Melrose to coax it out. 

"By the time he got there the snake had slithered down into the engine," Michael said.

"It took about an hour for the snake catcher to coax it out.

"No snake ever attacks," Andrew Melrose said. "The snake doesn't need rescuing. It's the people that need rescuing." 

"The snake was trying to bite the snake hook. The guy ended up catching it with his hand and just chucked it in a bag."

Mr Melrose said red-bellied black snakes are common at Kurnell.

"I had the contract to catch snakes with the Caltex oil refinery and I've [caught] hundreds of black snakes out there," he said.

"Because the peninsula is swampland the snakes live there because they eat frogs and eels. They are out there but they are quite inoffensive unless you touch them."

Mr Melrose said it is common to find them in cars.

"If they get startled they look for the first place that is safe.

"The place I found it was very bare. There was no place for the snake to escape.  People would have startled it and the only place for it to hide was the car.

"The driver could have driven off unaware and parked and the snake would have left the car when it felt safe.

"Snakes will do anything to stay away. That's why they get into a car.

"It was in the guard of the the wheel. I tapped the metal to make it move. It went under the motor to the front bumper.

"I tapped that area and it climbed up into the guard. I tapped the metal again and it crawled into the end of the coil suspension in the right-hand font wheel. And that's when I tried to gently coax it out by touching its body.

"Its head came out and it started biting the tyre. It slid down onto the ground and that's when I got it."

Mr Melrose said he wasn't worried.

"I've done it my whole life. I can read the animal. It looks simple but if you haven't done it before you can get killed real quick.

"I touch it gently because I don't want to hurt the snake. That's why I use my hands and not gloves. The less pressure on it the less likely it is to bite.

"We've still got a few months of the snake season to go and we are coming into a time when they are on the move."

Mr Melrose reminded people that snakes only bite out of defence.

"No snake ever attacks," he said.

"The snake doesn't need rescuing. It's the people that need rescuing."

St George & Sutherland Shire Leader