Respect our reptiles

FORGET about the fantasy of Snakes on a Plane - the Illawarra branch of WIRES says 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, but once people recognised how they behaved, they were an asset.

"They'll only be defensive if they think they'll be attacked," he said.

"They're not aggressive, just defensive, the same with any venomous animal."

WIRES' mission is to rehabilitate and preserve Australian wildlife.

Jamberoo resident Mr Marriott, WIRES Illawarra's reptile co-ordinator, said that as the weather warmed up, the organisation would receive several calls a day about reptiles.

These ranged from the venomous red-bellied black, small-eyed and golden-crowned snakes, to non-venomous diamond pythons, blue-tongued lizards and long-necked turtles.

Branch chairman and Albion Park resident Sam Joukador, who has five pet pythons, said a snake's metabolism sped up in the warmer months as they sought food, mates and shelter.

"Snakes are portrayed as villains in TV and movies," he said.

"They don't just see a person and make a run for them; their response is to move away."

Mr Marriott also reminded residents to call WIRES if they were confronted by a snake at home.

"Don't approach it, but keep your eye on it," he said.

"Observe from a safe distance . . . keep domestic pets away from them, as well as kids and the husband with the rake."

WIRES advised anyone who had been bitten by any snake, should apply a pressure bandage, immediately phone 000 and remain in a stable position, preferably sitting down.

"Not all bites are venomous, but treat every bite as if it might be," Mr Joukador said.

"Don't make that judgment yourself," he said.

If you find a snake nearby or in your home, phone 4285 5630.

If you are interested in becoming a WIRES volunteer, phone 4256 6449.

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