My Pet: Willow the snake

By Madeleine Byron

Normally the word 'snake' would send people running in the opposite direction, but not snake catcher Tania Corby, who is more likely to be walking towards the reptiles.

Ms Corby’s fascination with snakes started at a young age while growing up on a farm and following them around on horseback.

“I feel as though snakes are the underdog of the world and it was always a conflict in my mind because adults were yelling 'danger danger' but it just wasn’t computing to me,” she said.

Ms Corby's love affair with the reptiles blossomed after she found a brown snake at her home in Gillieston (near Mooroopna).

“I got this huge brown snake here and I thought, 'I’ve got 22 animals, what am I going to do?'” she said.

Having no interest in killing the creature, but wanting to move it off her property, Ms Corby signed up for a snake handling course in Melbourne.

This convinced her she needed a snake of her own.

“I went into Shepparton and they had bredli python hatchlings and I brought home Willow,” Ms Corby said.

“She was this tiny little hatchling and she became my best friend. Every morning I’d get up and I’d get her out and wrap her around my wrist or my neck and we’d just cruise around and watch TV.”

After spending countless hours together over four years, Willow is now 2.6m long and weighs about 15kg.“She is the kind of snake that can turn people around because she’s so serene in her movements. There's nothing fast about her and she’s never bitten and she’s just like an old tortoise,” Ms Corby said.

Reminiscing about the day Willow got out of her enclosure, Ms Corby said she was distraught.

“I searched for hours. I looked under the house, I walked the whole property, I was bawling my eyes out and I couldn’t breathe,” she said.

“I tore this whole place apart and she was up on top of her enclosure among the blankets, asleep. She hadn’t even touched the ground.”

Willow is one of seven snakes in the house, including three of the deadliest types in Australia.

“My babies have been bred in captivity, so these guys are so gentle compared to what I’m dealing with out in the wild and all they know is a human hand,” Ms Corby said.

“My tiger snake is so quiet I can leave him on the couch.”

Pet snake Willow is eight and a half foot long and weighs close to 15kgs.

Despite spending more than $500 on food for her reptile family every couple of months, Ms Corby has nothing but good things to say about them.

“People think that reptiles don’t have feelings, don’t have memories, that they are a very cold pet — I totally disagree,” she said.

“My snakes know me, they know my scent, they know my touch, they know my shadow and they definitely know my aura.”

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