On Thursday, an Australian woman was startled to find a huge, potentially dangerous red-bellied black snake hanging from her fridge's water and ice dispenser.

Gail Auricht discovered the uninvited intruder, estimated to be about 80 centimeters (31 inches) long, on January 13 in the outdoor entertainment area of her home in the Adelaide Hills.

It seems the snake was seeking some cool relief from the scorching heat and ended up a bit stuck. Luckily, Gail kept calm and her neighbors contacted a professional snake catcher who safely removed the reptile.

This event attracted quite a bit of attention, both locally and nationally. Not that this particular snake has taken all the spotlight.

Elsewhere in Australia this week, the same species has been spotted hiding under a restaurant's coffee machine, and on the day that Gail's ice dispenser became a snake dispenser, another managed to hitch a ride on a Rural Fire Service vehicle.

Red-bellied black snakes (Pseudechis porphyriacus), known for their glossy black backs and distinctive, bright underbellies, are commonly encountered on the east coast of Australia.

This species is venomous, but they are not known to be aggressive and rarely bite unless provoked. They mostly eat frogs, lizards, small mammals, and snakes – even their own species.

It seems there are no confirmed cases of death from its bite, which is less venomous than that of other Australian snakes in the family Elapidae.

That said, its venom can cause unpleasant symptoms such as bleeding and swelling, headaches, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and muscle weakness.

a snake eating eggs
A red-bellied black snake (Pseudechis porphyriacus) eating eggs of the green tree snake (Dendrelaphis punctulatus). (Ros Runciman/Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons)

Gail told the ABC's Daniel Keane she heard a hissing sound she thought was an air compressor, and was shocked to see the snake hanging from the ice outlet.

"As he turned himself around – he had to slide himself up to get his whole body through – he appeared to have become stuck," she said.

"I could only see the bottom half of the snake at first sighting, and it was using a lot of force because it was managing to pull the door which was setting the [fridge] alarm off."

Why the fridge? The snake was likely seeking water or a cool escape from the heat.

Snakes can't regulate their temperature internally and try to find refuge from extreme weather in milder spots. Unfortunately for unsuspecting residents, our backyards and homes can sometimes offer what they need.

Finding snakes near houses is not uncommon in Australia. As the weather warms up, they bask in the sun. Or, as one unsuspecting driver discovered in 2018, they might be attracted to the warmth of a car's engine.

In hot weather, they turn up in cooler places, like behind an air conditioner, under a refrigerator, in a toilet bowl, under a barbecue, or in a retaining wall crevice.

a close up of a red-bellied black snake
Red-bellied black snake (Pseudechis porphyriacus). (Oliver Neuman/CC BY-SA 4.0/Wikimedia Commons)

Australia's climate has warmed by about 1.4 °C since 1910, and temperatures have been soaring in some areas.

Simon Hempel, the snake catcher in this case, explained that the recent hot weather following heavy rain had made his job busier and highlighted the unpredictable nature of these encounters.

"I've been doing it for 25 years – I've caught them under fridges but never up in the dispenser," he told the ABC.

"That's very unusual. That will probably be the one and only, I would say. I don't think I'll ever get one in there again."

He successfully retrieved the reptile without harm to it or the residents. Snake catchers can safely relocate these reptiles to ensure human and snake safety.

Experts advise keeping doors and windows closed, storing food and rubbish securely, and calling a professional if you encounter a snake.