Unexpected arrival of the snake, from between the lifesaving flags at Forster beach, causes visitors to flee and lifeguards to warn people away.
Visitors to a beach on the mid-north coast of New South Wales made a hasty retreat on Tuesday after spotting an eastern brown snake, one of the most venomous snakes in the world, emerge from the surf and glide along the sand.
The unusual incident occurred at One Mile beach at Forster. The unexpected arrival of the snake, which emerged right between the lifesaving flags, caused visitors to flee as lifeguards warned people away.
Beachgoer Olivia Moffatt said that visitors were initially afraid it was a shark when lifeguards blew their whistles.
“The snake travelled out of the water and remained on the shore for a while until waves washed up against it,” she told the Great Lakes Advocate.
“Raising its head, it headed for shade towards the lifeguard trailer and happily sat there until again moving up along the beach to the bush.”
The eastern brown snake, which can grow to around 2.5 metres, is thought to be responsible for most human deaths by snakebite in Australia. However, the snake normally only strikes out when it feels threatened.
Stuart Kozlowski, a reptile keeper at Sydney’s Taronga Zoo, said it was unusual for eastern brown snakes to emerge from the sea.
“Their habitat is often near the beach, they like to spend time underground in the sand dunes,” he told Guardian Australia. “They quite frequently go into creeks and rivers to cool down and assist with the shedding of skin, but it’s unusual for one to go into the salt water.
“I think it was maybe cooling off or perhaps it was frightened and made a beeline for the water. Some snakes adapt to their environment so it may be a regular thing for this snake.”
Kozlowski said beachgoers did the right thing to move away from the snake rather than recklessly interfere with it.
“You’d definitely want to give it a wide berth,” he said. “Snakes don’t attack people, they defend themselves against a threat. But saying that, brown snakes can be quite territorial, so it’s best if you move away from it.
“It can give a bite that is potentially life-threatening. These are the snakes we take most care with when handling them at the zoo.”
On Tuesday night, a woman who is eight months’ pregnant, was airlifted to Toowoomba hospital in Queensland after being bitten on the foot by a king brown snake.
The woman was in her kitchen at home near Mitchell, almost 600km west of Brisbane, when she was bitten, and remains in a stable condition.