Wildlife experts have issued a stark warning to Aussies to remain extra alert in snake-prone areas in the coming days, as the animals wriggle out of their brumation period in droves, some six weeks ahead of schedule.
Snake season — which normally begins in late September to early October — has kicked off more than a month earlier this year due to the warmer-than-average and generally dry winter the nation has just experienced. It's prompted the warning to millions from reptile experts and snake catchers alike to be wary of the animals, which are now slithering across the nation in numbers.
Operations Manager at the Australian Reptile Park, Billy Collett, said by and large snakes are not out to intimidate, or even be seen by humans, but there's a few factors that may increase the chances of a person encountering one. He warned that, if people don't want to be bothered by the serpents at their property, they should avoid harbouring "snake hotels", which can draw the animals in and cause them to return.
"Because we've just come out of one of the warmest winters the east coast has seen, the snakes have come out of that brumation period as early as early August," Mr Collett told Yahoo News Australia.
Snake season almost two months ahead of schedule
Brumation, Mr Collett explained, is a period of dormancy in reptiles, which is similar, but separate to hibernation. During this period, reptiles effectively "shut down" their bodies to conserve energy.
"So that should have ended you know, mid to late September, early October. So I think we're in for a long, warm, dry summer by the sounds of it, which will therefore mean a long and big snake season," he said.
"So people need to be mindful of this. And the best thing to do at home is to keep your yards tidy, lawns mowed, rubbish piles at bay, don't have tin lying around, and so on. These are all things that we call snake hotels, they love to camp under them and keep themselves happy."
'Snake hotels' come in a variety of shapes and sizes
Mr Collett said snakes will "take the opportunity" to "camp around urban environments" if they look appealing enough.
"With timber piles laying around...and firewood stacked up or rubbish piles even, garden clippings, all this sort of stuff is areas that snakes are hiding and is what we'd call a snake's hotel," he said.
"The more you have around, the more chances you have of a snake been around your backyard, and usually wherever there's people, there's rodents not too far. So there's a food source close by and then normally there's water too."
Aussies should be alert, but not scared
Snakes aren't out to hunt people, nor are authorities expecting any sort of population boom at this stage, but Mr Collett advised Aussies who are concerned about the animals to "brush up" on their snake response and be aware.
"They're not looking to hunt people — they don't want to waste their venom on you. They just want to be left alone, you know, to get bitten by a snake, you've literally got to be mucking around with it," he said.
"But people need to brush up on their first aid as well. What to do in the unlikely event of a bite —because it's critical and could save a life."
Love Australia's weird and wonderful environment? Get our new weekly newsletter showcasing the week’s best stories.