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Staff at a family-run Christmas tree farm are struggling to maintain their yuletide spirit as an inundation of deadly brown snakes has led to untended trees and dangers to browsing visitors.
While families elsewhere wander farms and browse for a Christmas tree to fit with a special tag, an unusually high number of aggressive snakes on the Court family's Wolumla property, just south of Bega in New South Wales, has limited their ability to maintain the business.
"It has affected the families and kids roaming on the property wanting to tag a tree," Deb Court said.
Ms Court manages Xmas Tree Bob after taking over the business from her father, Robert 'Bob' Court, following his death in 2016.
She said her father taught her a lot about tree harvesting over the years, but that this has been a particularly challenging year.
"It's a kill-joy on the family tradition," Ms Court said.
The Court family has been selling freshly cut pines out of a five-acre property in Wolumla for nearly a decade.
The business, located beside the Princes Highway, is known for its iconic rainbow-coloured tree fencing which decorates the front of the farm.
While the snakes have not yet impacted sales, they have hindered the Christmas experience.
Ms Court said she also been less able to maintain the trees this year because of the snakes, so has been selling them as a bushier "organic version", due to less trimming.
She said the drought was causing more snakes to come through her property, which is wedged between a sub-divided block and a creek.
"Normally I'm out in the garden in my flip flops," she said.
"We'll be seeing them around from now until April or May."
Mr Pattinson said the dryer conditions should not cause an increase in the species numbers but that the warmer weather had caused them to come out of hibernation early and be more active.
The best advice, he said, is to keep a safe distance, regardless of the number of snakes sighted.
"It sounds like repetitive rhetoric but the best thing we can do is leave them alone," Mr Pattinson said.
'Tis the season to be snakey
Ms Court has had plenty of close calls with snakes while trying to manage the Christmas rush.
"Mum opened the car door the other day and a brown was under her foot," she said.
"I had one go through my legs while gardening.
"I carry a rake around with me at all times now."
To prevent buyers from wandering the property, Ms Court now greets them at the front gate.
She also leaves pre-cut trees at the entrance with a sign warning of the snakes.
"[The customers are] very understanding, they often have [snakes] on their property as well," Ms Court said.
She does however have a laugh about what her dad would make of it if he were still alive today.
"I think Dad is up there laughing his head off at me trying to manage this," she said.