Snake handler bitten by red-belly in Pambula Milk Bar

Red-bellied black snake.
Red-bellied black snake.

It is the last thing you expect as a customer – to walk into a shop being greeted by a red-bellied black snake that’s not afraid to bite. 

A Pambula Milk Bar regular Judy Jahnke thought the owners were playing a trick on her by placing a “fake” snake in the doorway as she entered the shop at 12pm on Friday, May 18.

Pambula Milk Bar staff member Emily Ingram (nee Doxey) said Ms Jahnke “was speechless”.

“She thought we put a snake there by the door as a joke and looked up to say –  good one, real funny girls.”

As Ms Jahnke looked up to congratulate the staff on their snakey trick, the red-bellied black snake emerged from its doorway position and slithered up the stairs.

“Judy just froze and stood there as the snake slid right past her, it then went in behind the freezer,” Ms Ingram said.

Looking for warmth, the snake found the perfect place for comfort under the freezer fan motor. 

Sprocket the snake catcher from Potoroo Palace arrived at the scene to remove the unwanted visitor.

In self defence, the snake was quick to react – a bit too quick for Sprocket. 

“He had its tail wrapped around him and then all of a sudden its head came flying around and bit his hand,” Ms Ingram said.

The brave reptile wrangler carried an emergency kit to dress his wound before being transported to the South East Regional Hospital by ambulance.

“He was in a lot of pain, he said his whole hand was on fire,” Ms Ingram said.

“He also said that he normally only gets dry bites, this is the first time he had a wet bite where the venom has gone in.”

Despite being bitten, Sprocket still managed to contain the snake inside a bag before his trip to hospital.


Lee Pinker of Potaroo Palace said Sprocket will be spending the night in hospital as a precaution after receiving the snake bite to his finger.

“Because it was a young snake the venom is a lot stronger and painful!” she said. 

He had its tail wrapped around him and then all of a sudden its head came flying around and bit his hand

Emily Ingram

“It was very unfortunate, the snake was in an awkward position for him to get.”

How it managed to find its way into the Milk Bar is a mystery, Ms Pinker said “it would have had a fair distance to travel up the main street without anyone seeing it”.

The “young and foolish” snake was collected by another Potoroo staff member and released at the Panboola Wetlands.

Snakes are still about as the season continues to cool down the snakes slow down also.

“It’s a surprise getting a snake call this late because it has gone so cold! But, people should still be ultra cautious,” Ms Pinker said. 

Can a red-bellied black snake kill a human?

Australian Museum herpetologist Stephen Mahony said there were no verified human fatalities from red-bellied black snakes in modern times.  

"To the best of my knowledge, nobody has been able to provide any scientifically conclusive evidence of a bite from a red belly that has resulted in a fatality, but there are reports of fatalities more than 100 years ago before modern medicine," Mr Mahony said. 

Mr Mahony said red-bellies were shy and might bite if they felt threatened. 

"They are generally pretty shy snakes, often basking in the sun but retreating into dense areas when they perceive danger,” he said.

"When cornered or approached, they can attempt to bite. Most snake bites occur because of people attempting to handle or kill the snake.”

The best action to take when confronting a snake was to call a snake handler. 

"The right thing to do is to call the snake handler, but in that line of work you can occasionally be bitten,” Mr Mahony said. 

"Red bellies are generally associated with wetter areas. They feed primarily on frogs and skinks. they will eat mammals as well, but because of that diet, but they primarily occur in wetter areas around creeks and ponds."

This story Snake handler bitten by red-belly in Pambula Milk Bar first appeared on Merimbula News Weekly.