With Aussies facing their first El Niño event in eight years, snake catchers have warned unseasonably high temperatures have caused some of the country's most venomous snakes to almost double in size.
"The size of snakes is changing," Sean Cade from Australian Snake Catchers told Yahoo News Australia. "I seem to be getting a lot bigger snakes this year already, from a venomous perspective. That's a bit wild."
While the average length of the eastern brown — the second most venomous snake on the planet and most common snake in Sydney — is 1.2 metres, Sean explained he's already picked up a couple at 1.8 metres, as well as some "really thick" 1.5m long red-bellied black snakes "back to back".
"They're just bigger," he conceded. "They're thicker, they're longer, they're more robust snakes and I don't know what it is, but they're a little bit more cranky too."
What's caused snakes to get bigger?
When temperatures drop, snakes go into brumation, which means they stop eating, their metabolism slows down and they look for somewhere warm and snuggly to hide.
"But because we had periods in winter where it was 20 to 23 degrees, they've been out and about and quite active," Sydney-based Mr Cade said. "And at the same time, everything else came out as well, like lizards, frogs, rodents, small mammals and birds, because it wasn't super cold, and they're just breeding like crazy."
With a smorgasbord to choose from, snakes across the country have been kept well fed for a lot longer this year, and while the warmer winter weather is being blamed for beefing up the reptiles, there are fears about what a hotter summer will bring, with snake catchers already reporting an increase in call-outs.
"It's spring so they're all looking for girlfriends at the moment but they're out early. I'm getting 10 to 12 calls a day now," Mr Cade said, explaining that he would normally receive six to eight calls per day at this time of year. "It's kind of doubled."
Aussies on alert as snakes come out of hiding
With more agitated snakes on the loose, desperately searching for a spot to cool down, more and more Aussies are coming across the reptiles in unexpected places.
"We swim in the dam all the time," one woman from Queensland's Moreton Bay region wrote on Facebook alongside a photo of a non-venomous carpet python beneath the water in Ningi, with just its head poking out. "Just thought I'd share a pic of a python enjoying a soak in our dam."
"New fear unlocked," one person commented on the post. "I wouldn't be swimming in there," another added. "I'll just get a bucket of water and put my toes in."
While Mr Cade said it wasn't "100 per cent normal" for a carpet python to be taking a dip, he explained that the snake — which can't regulate its own temperature — was probably desperate. "It's just in there for a swim around and a cool down, and then it'll just go and find a nice shady place under the trees," he explained. "It'll be having a drink as well."
With temperatures only set to get hotter in the coming months, Mr Cade urged Aussies to be vigilant. "When it does get too hot, that's when snakes start to venture indoors to get out of the heat," he said. "A lot of people have got AC on, or it might be 10 degrees cooler in the garage or under the house."
Mr Cade added that taking some precautionary steps could also avoid a face-to-face encounter with a snake. "Keep the yard free of debris and rubbish, and move any stacked firewood away from the house to eliminate a snake being at the back door," he said.
That also goes for your pet's water bowl. "Keep it three or four metres away from the back door so if a snake happens to want a drink, it's not going to be drinking at the back door when you walk out."
And if you do have a run-in, the expert had this advice: "Don't approach any snake because you don't know what it is," he said. "Keep kids and pets away from the snake, keep an eye on it if you can, and call a professional."
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