Snake catcher reveals her weirdest call outs
JULIA BAKER, 50
Snake-catcher and entertainer, Eatons Hill
The funniest snake call-outs are when you get there and it's a rubber snake. Every season I get them.
[Husband] John Gallacher, 49, and I went to a place where the people were house-sitting. I asked them to describe the snake over the phone and they said, "It's black and it's blue and it's got big fangs and a big, red tongue".
We were like, "What the hell is that?" We got there and it was a big rubber snake. The owners had put it there to frighten birds.
I try to get there quickly because I know most snakes will disappear and I don't want the people panicking. We're really in the industry of reassuring people. I know the chance of something happening is minimal. I've never had anyone bitten but I also know that, emotionally, people are stressed.
Hunger and mating are what drives snakes. They don't want to inject us with venom. They want to keep it for their prey. For them it's like, 'Oh, for God's sake, now I have to build up the venom again'. But if that's their last defence, they will bite.
I enjoy it because most of the time it is exciting. It's a great job for people who like uncertainty in their life. Not great for someone who wants the bills paid and an ordinary life. You cannot make enough money off snake-catching full-time. If you go into it with that intention, you're going to end up very bitter and resentful.
I was born in Brisbane but when I was five we went to the UK - my mum [Catherine, 82] is English, my dad [Karl, 81] is German. I loved animals as a little girl; I would have loved to do something with animals, but I was terrible at school.
We moved to Germany when I was 10 and I was a rebel; I got into all kinds of mischief and I got kicked out of school when I was 16. So I gave up the whole animal thing and became a baker. Then I did another apprenticeship as a confectioner. So there was nothing with animals and I sort of swept it under the carpet.
At 36, I went to Australia Zoo with my daughters [Simone, now 18, and Kayleigh, 16]. There's this beautiful Burmese python and you could get your photo taken with it. When they put the snake around me, I burst into tears.
I just felt this massive connection to the snake. People in the crowd were saying, "It's horrible", and "How can you touch it?" I felt like my whole life had been like that. That I'd been judged.
I think a lot of people who deal with snakes feel they're a little bit like outcasts of society. That's why we connect with snakes. Because snakes are not cute or cuddly but they're still good animals. They serve a purpose. Imagine how many rats there'd be if there weren't snakes.
I was working for Weight Watchers at that time. I'd been in the pastry industry in five-star hotels and I left after I had my youngest, and lost almost 30kg with Weight Watchers. I was a leader there for three-and-a-half years.
Then I got my first snake, Jessie, a jungle python, 10 years ago, a year after my divorce. Jessie passed away early last year. I get really emotional when I talk about Jessie. He gave me the whole meaning of my life; he gave me a purpose and a passion. I got my snake-catcher licence soon after, in October 2009. Jessie was the snake I planted on my [now] husband when we met on our second date.
He didn't even know I had him around my shoulders and I just said, "Here, hold this", and put it over him. John's perfect; he's spontaneous, he's passionate, he's got a very childlike sense of humour, he's responsible for his own behaviour, he's kind.
In 2016, I got my wildlife demonstrator's licence and I do reptile shows. I've always been an entertainer; my parents are entertainers (puppet shows). I did Snake Boss, the TV show, and in 2016 it was the highest-rating show ever on Animal Planet [Foxtel] in Australia and New Zealand.
I do my reptile show in libraries, gyms, childcare or shopping centres, even at weddings. I've jammed so much into the last 10 years. It's fabulous. The best thing is having love. When things don't go my way, I just say, "You've got the love of your life, that's all that matters". If you've got love, you can get through anything.