Snakes alive! Toddler plays mum to deadly pet

Last updated 08:46 21/12/2012
Brown snake

SLITHERING SURPRISE: The hatched eastern brown snakes.

CLOSE CONFINES: The snakes and the container they were found in.

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Toddler Kyle Cummings has kept crayfish, chickens and a pig as pets on his family's hectare property.

But this month, the three-year-old boy unintentionally added a clutch of one of the world's deadliest snake species to his menagerie.

Kyle happened upon a nest of eggs in the yard of his home in Nome, north Queensland, about three weeks ago, piled them into a plastic takeaway container and hid them in his bedroom closet.

On Monday, Kyle's mother, Donna Sim, opened her son's wardrobe to discover a container seething with seven baby snakes.

The snakes were later identified as eastern brown snakes - regarded as the world's second most venomous species behind the inland taipan.

Fortunately, Kyle had tightly closed the lid of the plastic container and the snakes were not yet large enough to push it open.

Kyle's family took the snakes to nearby Billabong Sanctuary, where rangers contacted local wildlife carers.

North Queensland Wildlife Care reptile co-ordinator Trish Prendergast was rightly shocked when she was handed the container of deadly reptiles.

Prendergast immediately contacted Kyle's family to ensure no one had touched the snakes.

''They are born highly venomous, they don't grow their venom,'' she said.

''Their fangs would be extremely tiny [an adult brown snake's fangs are between three and five millimetres long] … so the chance of one piercing the skin would be very unlikely, but if one had envenomated on the little boy and he had then put his hand in his mouth, or had a cut on his hand, he might not be here today.''

Prendergast said Kyle was also extremely lucky not to have been confronted by the mother snake while he was emptying the nest.

Eastern brown snakes are inclined to become aggressive if confronted.

''The mother snake would have been close by, because they generally incubate their eggs,'' she said.

''He's very lucky he didn't come into contact with her.''

Prendergast warned others against taking eggs from wild nests.

''You never know what's inside,'' she said.

She has released the baby snakes into local bushland.

The eastern brown snake inhabits open grasslands, pastures and woodland in most of eastern Australia from the desert to the coast.

On average, between two and three Australians die annually from snake bites, with eastern browns accounting for about half of those.

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- Brisbane Times

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