With his phone ringing hot with an unusually high number of tiger snake sightings, Albion Park snake catcher Glen Peacock has been keeping the world's fourth-most venomous slitherer front of mind this summer.
But it turns out he should have been more worried about the more common, but also venomous, red-bellied black snake.
Mr Peacock, a professional snake catcher for the past seven years, is back to work after surviving a white-knuckle drive home with red-belly venom coursing through his system last month.
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Despite long-time knowledge of how to manage a snake bite, he says he "did all the wrong things" in his darkest hour, initially dismissing the bite as a likely "dry bite" - without venom - and driving himself home from Wongawilli, a move at odds with medical advice to stay still, and one that cost him a crucial 15 minutes.
"It was a fairly small snake - I'd say 60cm - but it was in a garden bed where it was heavily overgrown. I spent ages looking for it and only saw a tiny section of its tail. I underestimated how big it was and it was able to curl around the other side of the bush and grab my left pinkie," Mr Peacock said.
"At the beginning it didn't hurt. I bandaged my arm on site just to take precautions. It was after a while that the hand swelled up."
Mr Peacock was sweating and vomiting profusely by the time he arrived home to his wife Pam Peacock and "nearly fell out of the car". With a severe headache and his bitten finger turning black, he was rushed to hospital, where he developed a heart murmur and doctors were concerned he would go into renal failure. By then the pain in his hand was "agonising".
Later, he also had to endure "a stern talking-to" from Pam.
"As the ambos were there treating him I was thinking, 'I'm going to kill him'," Pam told the Mercury.
Mr Peacock has some ongoing numbness in his fingers. While he was hospitalised Pam, who once had a crippling fear of snakes, took over his snake-catching work.
"Until I met Glen, I would faint when I saw them," she said.
"I still have a fear of them, but it's not a crippling fear. It's more of a respect."
Mr Peacock concedes he was "a little bit lackadaisical" about the red-belly, and said he would have called paramedics immediately, had the snake been a Tiger.
From the helm of his business, Illawarra Snake Catcher, Mr Peacock has attended seven callouts for Tiger Snakes in the past fortnight, including one in residential Corrimal, where the snake appeared on a freshly mown lawn, then vanished by the time he arrived.
He has captured and released another six of the species in Unanderra, Bulli, Corrimal and Gerringong, where mother-of-two Ros Richardson spotted a 1.2-metre tiger snake in her yard.
"It very quickly moved from our neighbour's backyard to our backyard. My son does a 10-cent bottle collection and it was under the tubs he [stores the bottles in] so obviously it was a concern to us that it was hanging around."
Mr Peacock told the Mercury he had never seen more than three tiger snakes in a single season, lasting from spring until the beginning of winter.
He believes recent weather patterns have created an appetising environment for the species this year.
"The last two seasons have been quite wet, so there could be an abundance of food," he said.
"You get a boom in frog populations and not that long ago there were plagues of rats and mice."
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