20 Dec, 2022 @ 12:00
2 mins read

Ibiza’s volunteer snake catcher puts out call for help after vehicle gives up the ghost

Ibiza's volunteer snake catcher
Dean Gallagher with one of the snakes he has caught on the island of Ibiza.

DEAN Gallagher is something of a guardian angel on the Balearic Island of Ibiza. Not content with lending a hand to tourists who have broken down, or bringing bottled water to elderly neighbours, he also volunteers providing pest control: if you find a snake in your property, Dean will come and deal with it. 

‘The island has always been free of snakes, that’s what it was famous for,’ the teacher and property manager tells The Olive Press. ‘But in the last 10 years, they started appearing by surprise in different places in rural areas.’ 

The reason for this reptile invasion is the importation by property owners of olive trees, which have been brought in from not just mainland Spain but also other parts of the world. 

And nestled inside these trees were non-venomous horseshoe whip snakes and ladder snakes – and their eggs. 

‘They reproduce in exponential numbers, like rabbits,’ he says. ‘They’ve very quickly established a very solid, firm population around the north of the islands especially.’ 

The snakes are putting Ibiza’s lizards in jeopardy. ‘The main problem is the wall lizard,’ explains Dean. ‘It’s too trusting. They’ve never seen a snake before, and by the time they’ve worked it out the snake has gobbled it up.’ 

Invasive snakes in Ibiza
Dean Gallagher with one of the snakes he has caught while volunteering.

The local authorities are working to catch and exterminate the snakes, but according to Dean it’s not enough. 

‘This is simply trying to protect the species that have existed here since the beginning of time,’ he says. ‘And now they’re close to extinction, we should be doing something about it.’

His volunteer work started with the Ibizan branch of Friends of the Earth (Amics de la Terra), and has seen him drive an estimated 23,000 kilometres in summer alone, spending around €80 to €100 a week on diesel.

But all of those journeys, often on rocky terrain, have taken their toll on Dean’s Land Rover Freelander, which now needs a new clutch and repairs to the bodywork. 

Go Fund Me

So that he can continue his altruistic tasks, Dean has launched a Go Fund Me page – ideally to pay for the repair to the Land Rover, but also, if possible, so he can invest in a 4×4 that’s better suited to the Ibizan roads and tracks. 

‘This year I’ve dealt with 188 snakes, rescued two stranded and lost tourists, assisted in three road accidents and I’ve been bitten around 18 times,’ he writes on his appeal. ‘I’m happy, because it’s positive results and there aren’t any venomous snakes (yet).’  

So far Dean has raised just over €700 of his €20,000 goal, but he is hopeful he can get back on the road soon.

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Simon Hunter

Simon Hunter has been living in Madrid since the year 2000 and has worked as a journalist and translator practically since he arrived. For 16 years he was at the English Edition of Spanish daily EL PAÍS, editing the site from 2014 to 2022, and is currently one of the Spain reporters at The Times. He is also a voice actor, and can be heard telling passengers to "mind the gap" on Spain's AVLO high-speed trains.

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