Adventures with Australian Wildlife

My research into Australia prior to arrival may have been lacking in some (read:all) areas, but I did know one very important fact: everything in the country had the ability to kill me. Even the tiny things. Especially the tiny things.

(One thoughtful Canadian mate even went to the trouble of arranging a set of reference flash cards for me. Which is how I learned the blue ringed octopus, which is venomous enough to kill 26 people in 3 minutes, is about the size of a golf ball. Awesome. Now I can never go swimming again.)

Platypus, shown by a zoologist near the Barwon...

This is not what danger is meant to look like. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Drop bears and Bunyips aside, I had it on good authority (read:heresay) that anything that could move could kill. For fuck’s sake, even the platypus, ridiculous as it looks, is venomous. And it’s a goddamn mammal.

So, despite my Aussie mates (repeatedly) assuring me that in Melbourne I need not check my shoes before slipping my feet in, I’ve been cautious in my encounters with non-human entities in Oz. I’ve had 3 of note and, thus far, have managed to retain all of my limbs. Barely.

Encounter #1 – Ugly McLotsalegs

I just wanted to use the toilet.

I can’t recall now whether it was morning or night, but it was some hour in which my mental acuity was hardly at its sharpest. Still, through the groggy consciousness under which I operate in the wee (or late) hours of the morning (or night), I managed to register that the odd, tube-ish shape lying on the bathroom mat was not simply a piece of lint. No. It was this:

I still don’t know what it was. All I know is it got my tried-and-true method of plastic container over, piece of paper under and off into the unforgiving night (or morning) with you.

After pausing for a photoshoot, of course.

Encounter #2 – Ninja Cleavage Creeper

I just wanted to brush my teeth.

As I caught sight of myself in the mirror (why, hey there, sexy), I noticed a dark spot hanging in the v-neck of the tee I was wearing. I was just about to flick what I assumed was a large piece of lint off my shirt when, at the crucial cusp of action, I realized it was A GODDAMN SPIDER.

To clarify, I am not an arachnophobe. At home. But here in Oz. . .

So I played it safe. I grabbed an empty toilet paper roll (laziness of not bothering to move it to the garbage pays off), placed it over the spider and, as soon as he’d abandoned my cleavage for the roll (sucker), chucked the fucker in the sink.

And proceeded to photograph it.

There was method to this. I wanted to identify the little bastard, to know whether I should be wary of look-a-likes in the future. Unfortunately, while attempting to get a clearer picture of it, I got distracted by another spider that was hanging out under the sink.

I am OUTNUMBERED.

. . .Aaaaand in doing so I lost track of the first one, which I had intended to drown via the faucet once I was done with the photoshoot. As mentioned at the end of my last post, I’ll go to pains not to kill things. But, when it comes to unfamiliar 8-legged crawlers in Oz, I just ain’t fucking around.

Now, all this was all fine and dandy. I even posted the pics to facebook with a series of status updates (because, apparently, I’ve nothing better to do with my free time in foreign lands). I thought I was being tongue-in-cheek funny; playing up the stereotype of the terrified foreigner when really, in all honesty, I wasn’t too stressed about it. But here’s the kicker: turns out that first little bastard, identified by a mate over Facebook as a ‘white-tail’, actually was poisonous. Potentially dangerously so.

So now I check the seat every time I go to the bathroom.

Encounter #3 – The Horror Movie Rustler

I just wanted to work on my computer.

And I was, typing away, click click click rustle.

. . .wait, what?

Rustle rustle.

I turned towards the sound that seemed to be coming from the corner of the room behind me. Silence. Shrugged. Returned to laptop. Type type rustle.

I whipped my head around. Cautiously edged closer to the corner of my bed, towards the-

Rustle.

My backpack. Something was crawling around in my backpack. Something large enough to make rustling sounds.

I had a moment of sheer paralysis. What to do? I couldn’t just leave it. Whatever it was would surely kill me in my sleep if I did. But if I lifted up the flap to peer inside. . .well, then it was definitely going to spring for my face, lay eggs in my belly, evolve, and lay waste to West Melbourne.

I poked the pack with a pen.

Rustle.

Poke.

Rustle.

I gathered some courage (/recklessness) and flipped the top flap open with the pen. And this was what hopped out:

Oh HAI.

Fucker.

Alright, I know, he’s like 3, 4 inches max head to tail. But he could still be poisonous. I’d learned that lesson from Ninja Cleavage Creeper.

Imma gon bite you and yer gonna lose yer leg. lolz.

So I spent the next 15 minutes of my life herding the little bastard off the backpack and out of the corner until I could successfully employ my plastic container over/paper underneath containment strategy.

We have a tiny ‘garden’ in the front courtyard of our house, which is where I’ve been dumping the critters that I evict from the premises. This keeps up, I’m going to have some bizarre battle royale of all things tiny but mighty happening in the front hedge.

Which is then of course going to create some Darwinian super breed and I’m just going to have to abandon leaving the house altogether.

*

*No creatures were harmed during the events of this article. Well, except Ugly McLotsalegs. At one point he made a mad dash to escape his plastic prison and, in sheer frenzied terror, I slammed down on the container and accidentally severed a portion of one of his antennae. Sorry about that, dude. But hey, you can rock it. Chicks dig scars.

*Postscript – Ironically, it was just shortly after publishing this post that I experienced Encounter #4 – ‘Unlucky Seven’.

I don’t care if he’s an amputee – equal rights, dammit. He inspires just as much panic from me as any other Aussie spider.

This seven-legged sucker is most likely a Black House Spider – poisonous, but not fatally so. Unfortunately, he bore a striking enough resemblance to a Male Funnel Web that he was not granted the ‘trap and release’ privilege. He instead got the ‘off to the ocean depths with you’ treatment.

Sorry, dude.

Let him deal with the effing Blue Ringed Octopi.

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