Don’t panic if you come across a snake - stand still and it will slither away.
That’s the advice from National Parks and Wildlife Service area manager Andy McQuie following an incident at Dubbo’s Tracker Riley cycleway this week.
Police report an off-duty officer had a close call with a large brown snake while walking his dog at the popular Macquarie River recreation area.
The snake is understood to have reared up and struck out at the officer, biting the back of his shoe.
Other cycleway users provided assistance and helped hunt the snake away.
Police have warned people to be aware of snake activity and the need to be vigilant, particularly in the riverbank area.
According to Mr McQuie, it is not normal for snakes to attack people but they can commonly strike out without biting as a defensive gesture.
“Snakes comprehend that the human object in their way is not something they want to kill and eat because it is too big,’’ Mr McQuie told the Daily Liberal yesterday.
“Snakes don’t have good eyesight but they are able to accurately sense movement through their bottom jaw at it makes contact with the ground.
“The best technique is to freeze and avoid making a commotion. The snake will generally move away without any problem.
“Snakes are territorial and can appear to rush towards someone when in fact they are trying to get past to escape into a safe refuge.’’
Mr McQuie believes the snake at the centre of this week’s incident most probably reacted to dog being walked by the off-duty police officer.
He said a barking dog’s movement would have been viewed as a threat, causing the snake to rear up defensively.
“Snakes are pretty basic - they bite to immobilise something they want to eat or to defend themselves,’’ Mr McQuie said.
As the weather warms up snakes become active to replenish fat reserves which have depleted during winter.
There are more than 140 species of snakes in Australia and, according to Mr McQuie, they have an important role to play in the food chain.
Snakes can be discouraged from backyards and gardens by keeping lawn short and areas tidy and free of debris.
Materials, such as firewood, are best stored away from the house and preferably on a platform off the ground.
“If you do get bitten a tight bandage should be wrapped around the bite site, the limb immobilised and medical treatment sought,’’ Mr McQuie said.
All snakes are protected in NSW under the National Parks and Wildlife Act and may only be killed if there is a threat to human life.