Hunter warning over snakes

Wet weather has brought an uncountable number of snakes, in particular the venomous red-bellied blacks, into Hunter backyards.

Reptile specialists and health authorities are warning people to steer clear of the slithering specimens to avoid a potentially poisonous bite.

Emergency services should be called in case of injury, and wildlife services notified to remove the snake.

The reminder coincides with the Medical Journal of Australia publishing a study into the red-bellied black snake, which Newcastle researchers co-authored.

Warrick Dyer , the reptiles supervisor at the Australian Reptile Park, at Somersby, said an almost uncountable number of snake sightings had been reported recently, most involving red-bellied blacks.

Red-bellied black, eastern brown, whip and swamp snakes were common in the Hunter and Central Coast, he said.

"All this rain . . . red-bellies predominantly hang around a water source," Mr Dyer said.

The best thing to do on sighting a snake was to stay away.

"They're more likely to avoid danger, avoid humans," he said.

Being aware, keeping yards free of rubble and mowing grass could also help.

Calvary Mater Newcastle clinical toxicologist Geoff Isbister echoed the advice.

"Never approach a snake to either kill it or pick it up," he said.

"More than 30 per cent of snake-bite cases seen by hospitals across Australia occurred because the person approached a snake."

Dr Isbister said applying first aid quickly while waiting for medical help was crucial and could help save a life.

Dr Isbister and Mater hospital scientist Margaret O'Leary are among several authors to the medical report.

Of the 873 bites in an Australian Snakebite Project database, which covered January 2002 to June 2010, 85 were potential red-bellied cases, the report said.

Tiger or black snake antivenom was recommended to treat poisonous red-bellied bites.

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