Skip to main content
Snakes, magpies and possums

Snakes, magpies and possums

Information regarding problem wildlife

Magpies

The magpie will only attack when protecting their nest, eggs or young from potential threats, especially during nesting time in October and November.

As native birds, magpies are a fully protected species so we should try to respect their needs.

Nests

Nests can be located in your garden, a park or the schoolyard. Magpies prefer a broad area of short grass with scattered tall trees for nesting and a nearby source of water.

Magpie attacks

If a magpie feels threatened, it can attack by swooping, or hovering around you and clacking its beak. Most of this behaviour is a form of a bluff, designed to scare, and the bird rarely intends to actually strike.

In a strike attack, a magpie usually swoops, hovering momentarily and then strikes. The fluttering of wings as the bird hovers can be a warning to duck and avoid an attack.

Avoiding magpie attacks

You can help to avoid a magpie attack by following these steps:

  • do not interfere with, or destroy, eggs or nests
  • try to stop children and others interfering with magpies
  • wear a hat while working or playing in the backyard and garden to deter magpies and protect you from a strike by the bird
  • watch the magpie, or pretend to watch it by painting eyes on your hat, or by wearing sunglasses backwards
  • wave a stick or hat to cause the magpie to retreat
  • stand your ground after being swooped and glare at the bird confidently to make it retreat to a nearby tree (this action is not recommended for children)
  • avoid showing your fear as magpies can sense it and will continue to attack

Possums

Both Ringtail and Brushtail possums live in most suburbs. Gardens and trees around suburban homes provide similar woodland to a possum's natural habitat.

If you have a possum living on your property, you can take some simple steps to prevent it from entering the roof of your house. These include:

  • building a nesting box and placing it securely in a tree on your property, away from the house
  • checking around your house and removing any branches overhanging your roof
  • plugging any holes in your roof and eaves where possums may enter
  • keeping your cat inside at night to stop it attacking possums

Possums are protected under the Wildlife Act 1975, and they must not be harmed or kept without permission from the Department of Sustainability and Environment. You cannot handle or interfere with possums unless you are doing so for the welfare of the possum. If trying to capture them, you must use an approved trap available from the RSPCA or Wildlife Care Groups, and release the possum within 50 metres of where you caught it. We are not authorised to deal with possums.

For information about relocating possums, phone the DSE on 136 186.

Snakes

Residents should keep their distance from snakes, which are most active during the warmer months, and could enter people’s backyards.

Snakes are protected under the Wildlife Act 1975, so you should not try to harm them.

The snakes you are most likely to see near residential areas in southern Victoria are all dangerously venomous, but it is rare for them to bite people. They include the following species:

  • Tiger Snakes
  • Lowland Copperheads
  • Eastern Brown Snakes
  • Red-bellied Black Snake

Avoiding snakes

To reduce the chance of snakes coming onto your property, and to make snakes more visible if they are in the area, make sure you:

  • Clean up around the house. Snakes are attracted to shelter such as piles of rocks and timber, sheets of metal, or building materials.
  • Cut your lawns regularly.
  • Try to reduce numbers of pests such as rats and mice which provide food for snakes.

Preventing snake bites

If you do see a snake, there are some simple things you can do to stay safe:

  • keep calm and try to move away from the snake
  • stay well away from the snake and ensure children and pets also keep their distance
  • never try to touch, capture or kill the snake
  • apply first aid and seek medical help immediately, if anyone is bitten
  • call 136 186 if you need advice or a trained snake-catcher to remove a snake

For information about relocating native snakes, phone the DSE on 136 186.