FORGET about Snakes on a Plane - the Illawarra branch of WIRES believes our reptilian friends have been copping an unfair rap in television and movies.
Wildlife Information Rescue and Education Service volunteer Hugh Marriott said snakes were misunderstood and often seen as villains.
"They are not aggressive, just defensive - the same with any venomous animal," he said.
"They are an important part of our environment."
WIRES' mission is to rehabilitate and preserve Australian wildlife.
Jamberoo resident and WIRES Illawarra reptile co-ordinator Mr Marriott said due to the warm temperatures, volunteers were receiving more calls about reptiles. These ranged from the venomous red-bellied black snakes, to small-eyed and golden-crowned snakes, to non-venomous diamond pythons, blue-tongued lizards and long-necked turtles. "We have been receiving calls pretty regularly for red-bellied black snakes because of the weather," he said.
"They turn up in people's garages, houses or outback sheds.
"A few dogs have been bitten by red-bellies in recent weeks.
"Red-bellied black is the most common venomous we deal with. They take up residence in and around gardens or compost heaps, where they've come looking for food.
"During the warmer weather, they come out of hibernation, and are moving around looking for food, water, shelter and a mate," he said.
"They are opportunistic in their behaviour . . . they are not out to cause problems; they want to enjoy themselves in the summer like we do."
Mr Marriott said residents should call WIRES on 4285 5630 if they were confronted by a snake at home. "Don't approach it, but keep your eye on it . . . from a safe distance," he said. "Keep domestic pets away from them, as well as kids."
Anyone who is bitten should apply a pressure bandage, phone 000 and remain in a stable position, preferably sitting down. Not all bites are venomous, but every bite should be treated as if it might be.