HOT and dry conditions across the Hastings have awoken snakes from their winter slumber early.
There are more than 23 different species of snakes on the Mid-North Coast and they are expected to increase in numbers between August and March, according to Billabong Zoo head of reptiles Stuart Johnston.
Common venomous species include brown snakes, black snakes, rough scaled snakes and death adders.
"For your venomous snake species, red-bellied black snakes are probably the most common found and released," Mr Jonston explained.
"Over the last year, red-bellies, green tree snakes and carpet pythons have been the most caught and relocated snakes in the Mid-North Coast area.
"As the ever warming weather conditions of summer approach us, we start to see the increasing presence of reptile activity.
"People are often alarmed at the increased sightings and presence of snakes. Ideal conditions and increased activity of snakes results in an increased of chance encounters.
"It is basically snake season all year round in Australia because our reptiles don't go into hibernation, they generally go into a relaxed activity time frame for colder parts of the year."
Mr Johnston, who also works as a reptile remover for Port Macquarie's Reptile Solutions, said drier than normal conditions and fires had not yet yielded an increase in snake call outs.
"Recent fires are a disruption to their normal behaviour and as they evacuate they can move into areas surrounding fires," he said.
"Surprisingly we have not received an increase in call outs during the fires in Port Macquarie and surrounds. It has actually been pretty quiet."
Eastern brown snakes are often confused with marsh snakes and eastern small eyed snakes.
"In the nearly 16 years I've been here I've literally only attended two call outs where there were eastern browns," he said.
"Even though 90 per cent of call outs are suspected brown snakes.
"We've got 23 species in the area and close to 20 of those can be close to a brown colour at some stage in their life."
Mr Johnston recommends taking a non-confrontational approach if a snake is found, by remaining calm and not interacting with it.
"If you do encounter a snake in your travels remain calm and keep a safe distance away from it and wait for it to move away or take a detour around it," he said.
"Chasing, handling or killing it involves getting close and creating the potential for the snake to bite in the process of protecting itself."
A garden hose can be useful to discourage a snake from a distance of around five metres or more. Removal or relocation of snakes should be conducted by licensed reptile handlers, according to Mr Johnston.
"This is the snake's home and when venturing outdoors keep to clear, open areas such as tracks or walking trails wherever possible. Try to avoid long grass or thick scrubby areas," said Mr Johnston.
"Wear protective clothing such as covered or sturdy footwear, thick socks, trousers, jeans, wear hiking chaps or gators.
"Carry with you a first aid kit or a snake bite kit, in the form of a 10 to 15cm heavy elasticised compression bandage."
Home owners can reduce their potential risks by stacking sheets of iron or wood vertically, keeping lawns and gardens short, and limiting available shelter or food.
Pets owners should also be extra vigilant during the warmer months, according to Mr Johnston.
"Pet owners must respond quickly if a snake bite is suspected," he said.
"Dogs and cats are most often bitten around the head and limbs. Due to the thick coats on dogs and cats, it can be difficult to locate an actual bite wound.
"We often only know our pet has been bitten after they start showing symptoms."
Snake bite signs can include trembling, agitation, salivation, vomiting, shaking or twitching of the muscles, difficulty breathing, weakness or paralysis, pale gums, dilated pupils, blood in their urine and collapse.
"In some cases dogs will collapse initially and then appear to recover within a few minutes of being bitten. These dogs are likely to relapse and deteriorate very rapidly within hours," said Mr Johnston.
"If you think your pet has been bitten by a snake you should keep it calm, quiet and contact your nearest veterinary clinic immediately.
"If you are aware of the limb that is bitten, applying a pressure immobilisation bandage can also aid in slowing the progression of envenomation."
Mr Johnston recommends keeping bird aviaries and poultry pens clean, free of excess and old feed to reduce the chances of enticing rodents or snakes. Animal feed should also be kept in rodent proof containers.
Around 3000 snake bites occur each year according to statistics from the Australian Reptile Park (ARP).
ARP head of venom Billy Collett recommends snake bite victims apply a pressure-immobilisation bandage to the bite site on the entire limb.
Remaining calm and seeking emergency medical assistance immediately.
"Snakes don't go out to harm humans, but if you get in their path or startle them, they will bite and it can be fatal," he said.
"By applying the pressure-immobilised bandage, venom cannot easily spread through the body, slowing down the poisoning process giving more time for the bite victim to seek anti-venom at hospital."
What else is making news?
While you're with us, you can now receive updates straight to your inbox from the Port Macquarie News. To make sure you're up to date with all the news, SIGN UP HERE.