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. Drought driving deadly snakes into Australian cities: official

by Staff Writers
Sydney (AFP) Jan 10, 2008
Australia's harsh drought is driving venomous snakes into urban areas in search of moisture, resulting in an increasing number of attacks on people, officials said Thursday.

Acting Victoria state Premier Rob Hulls issued the warning after a woman and her dog were bitten in the garden of their Melbourne suburban home. The woman was rushed to hospital where she is in stable condition, but the dog died.

"There will be an influx of snakes and it's very important that people stay away from them," he said, blaming the drought and high temperatures for driving the reptiles from their natural habitat.

"They'll be found in places where they wouldn't normally be seen."

Hull said that in Victoria state alone, 197 people had been admitted to hospital for treatment for snake bites over the past year -- 20 more than in the previous 12 months.

Similar warnings were issued last January after several people were killed by snakes in the early part of the southern hemisphere summer.

Australia is known to have some of the world's deadliest snakes, with Victoria home to at least four particularly venomous species -- the tiger, common brown, copperhead and red-bellied black snake.

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