Note to budding snake lovers - if the world's most venomous land snake isn't hungry, don't try to force feed it.
A New South Wales teenager has survived being bitten on the left index finger by a bristling inland taipan, a normally reserved species which experts say packs the punch but lacks the ferocity of some of its nastier coastal cousins.
Detectives had been called in to investigate how the 17-year-old was bitten by the snake despite it being thousands of kilometres from its natural environment.
It now appears the teenager may have attempted to feed the inland taipan, which carries enough venom in one drop to kill 100 men, when the snake, a female, ignored the mouse and turned on the youth on Wednesday evening.
But, who had possession of the snake, or how it came to be so far away from its normal habitat in far western NSW and western Queensland, is still not clear.
''You could say they are in the more intelligent group of snakes,'' a snake catcher, Peter Bryant, said yesterday.
''If they want to bite someone, they will bite someone but most of the time they will rather just move away.''
Bryant said he had never seen an inland taipan in the Hunter.
Although listed as the most venomous snake in the world, the inland taipan's lack of aggression has it fourth on the list of the world's most dangerous - mainly because of its level of toxin.
Dr Geoff Isbister, of Calvary Mater Newcastle Hospital, estimated that there would have been fewer than 10 cases across Australia of an inland taipan bite, and he was unaware of any fatalities.
The youth walked into Kurri Kurri Hospital on Wednesday night before another man dropped in the snake for experts to correctly identify.
He was given anti-venom and was listed as being in a serious, but stable condition in the Mater last night.
Australian Reptile Park's head keeper of reptiles and spiders, Julie Mendezona, said the snake's venom was a neurotoxin that acted quickly.
''Effectively what it will do is it will start shutting down the function of messages going to your brain, to your vital organs, your lungs and your heart and even your muscles,'' Mendezona said.
''So paralysis is usually what happens with the patient.
''Because it can act so fast, being a neurotoxin, that's what makes it such a deadly animal.
''It can kill someone within maybe 45 minutes. There have been reports of people experiencing effects of venom within half an hour as well.’’
Police have ruled out any links with the break-in at Hunter Valley Zoo on Sunday night where thieves stole four pythons and two alligators.
- Sydney Morning Herald