They are exotic bright red and orange snakes known to carry a human-infecting parasite – and they are on the loose in the Illawarra and Shoalhaven.
The American corn snake has been spotted in increasing numbers across both regions during recent months, prompting a state government appeal for the public to keep an eye out for them.
The NSW Department of Primary Industries has urged residents in both regions to report sightings of the snakes, as well as a number of other non-native species that pose a risk to native animals and the environment.
Other exotic animals invading our suburbs include boa constrictors, milk snakes, red-eared slider turtles, Indian ring-necked parakeets, Asian house geckos, Asian black-spined toads and red-whiskered bulbuls.
The DPI appeal to report the unwanted suburban visitors comes ahead of the summer months, when they are more active and therefore easier to see.
“DPI has recently seen an increase in the number of American corn snakes being spotted and believes there may be widespread illegal reptile keeping activity in the Illawarra and Shoalhaven,” a spokesman for the department said.
The DPI has received reports of American corn snakes found in the open around Nowra and Dapto this year, as well as others being held in captivity in the Lake Illawarra and Otford areas.
“Unfortunately, these animals are often deliberately or accidentally released into the wild, where they pose a risk to our native species and environment,” he said.
American corn snakes, which originate from the southern United States and Mexico, are easily identified, according to the DPI.
They are bright red and orange in colour, although there are also some albino varieties, and can get as long as 1.8m.
The corn snakes are banned in Australia because they carry a bacterium that can kill grazing animals.
They are also known carriers of the cryptosporidium parasite, which can infect humans.
Corn snakes may also prey on native animals or compete with them for food and habitat.
They are non-venomous but kill their prey through constriction.
The snakes are considered a serious invasive species and are listed as a “prohibited dealing” under the NSW Biosecurity Act 2015.
“It is an offence to keep, move, buy, sell, breed or otherwise deal with a corn snake unless authorised by DPI,” the spokesman said.
The DPI, the lead agency for managing exotic animal invasions, has warned people who are illegally keeping or selling exotic animals that they will be caught.
“We work closely with classifieds and social media sales websites to remove illegal ads, educate those who don't realise how risky their activities are, and will initiate compliance activities to seize illegal reptiles where possible,” the spokesman said.
HAVE YOU SPOTTED ANY OF THESE ANIMALS IN THE WILD?
DO YOU KNOW OF ANY BEING KEPT ILLEGALLY OR SOLD?
- EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org
- CALL: 1800 680 244