Live snakes caught at Melbourne airport mail centre

CUSTOMS officers found a package with 13 live snakes at Melbourne's international airport recently marked "mixed powder".

The snakes had to be destroyed because live animals imported using inappropriate procedures could pose a high biosecurity risk.

Agriculture Department head of pathway compliance Nicola Hinder said it appeared the snakes were illegally imported to sell them as pets or "establish breeding stock".

"Where we find intentional non-compliance like this we investigate and seek to apply the full force of the law," Ms Hinder said.

The package was one of about 186 million international mail items Customs officers inspected using detector dogs and x-raying.