Australia often conjures up images of some of the deadliest animals known on earth. Spiders bigger than hands. Crocodiles lurking in dark water ready to snap unsuspecting victims. And then of course snakes. Lying in the grass, camouflaged, are they really as dangerous as is often made out to be? Are they everywhere, and what do you do if you see one?
ARE SNAKES EVERYWHERE IN AUSTRALIA?
Snakes often get a bad reputation. While they will probably never be cuddly to most people, including me, there's one thing for sure.
They are extremely important to the Australian ecosystem.
Without them, many animals, especially rodents, can breed out of control.
So are they all throughout the country?
But one clear distinction we need to make is they vary from area to area and season to season.
And more importantly, often forgotten is the fact they will do everything they can to stay hidden and escape your presence. For the most part anyway.
Which is great news for us! Especially when spending time outdoors!
WHAT TO DO IF YOU SEE A SNAKE IN AUSTRALIA
► Give Them Time to Move!
Much like you need your morning coffee, snakes are sluggish in the morning. They need their hit of the harsh Australian sun to get them going. So if you are hiking out in nature in the early morning, don't rush it, make your footsteps heavy and they'll be gone before you get there. Snakes respond to the vibrations of your footsteps and will scoot out of the way before you ever knew they were there!
► Don’t Provoke Them!
Just as you wouldn’t appreciate some unsolicited stick poking, snakes like to be left alone. This is the biggest reason for the few snake bites that occur in Australia every year. They were often by people provoking them. Snakes are fast at getting away but even faster at biting if you piss them off!
► Just Accept That You Will See One
The quicker you accept the fact that by being in the outdoors in Australia, you will eventually see one whether you like it or not. You can speed this process up by visiting one of the many wildlife parks around and actually handle a snake yourself under the guidance of a ranger. It’s usually very inexpensive and gets you feeling a little more at ease. You will also learn all about them which makes them easier to understand.
Of course, they still won’t be cuddly after all that, we have Koalas to remedy that!
► Know What Terrain and Habitat They Like
Do a little reading about snakes. Knowing they like to be under logs and tucked in holes helps when you decide to stick your hand in holes or under logs.
Always look before you do it, and better yet, just don’t!
They also like bathing in the sun just like us- it's actually essential for them being cold blooded. Snakes prefer rocks but will take any open space they can get to warm up. You'll find them around open creek beds on the boulders and rocky slabs. All snakes are different, but knowing these few things will go a long way in knowing when and where they might be.
► Assume Every Snake Is Venomous
It's safest to assume every snake you see is venomous. While many aren’t, to the majority of us, it will be impossible to be 100% certain which snake is which. Some can be very similar to others in appearance. So stay safe, and assume they are venomous.
► Know Your Snake Bite First Aid Just in Case!
While I have seen countless snakes, I have never met or heard of anyone I know of being bitten. But it does occasionally happen. The anti-venom is now universal, and if you are transported to a hospital quickly there is rarely any fatal results.
But it pays to know what to do if you are bitten.
According to updated guidelines, here is the important stuff:
◘ Do NOT wash the area of the bite or suck out the venom. It is extremely important to retain traces of venom for use with venom identification kits in the hospital.
◘ Do NOT incise or cut the bite, or apply a tourniquet. Cutting or incising the bite won't help either. Tourniquets are ineffective and can be fatal if released.
◘ Do bandage firmly, splint and immobilise the limb to stop the spread of venom. All the major medical associations recommend slowing the spread of venom by placing a folded pad over the bite area and then applying a firm bandage. It should not stop blood flow to the limb or congest the veins. Only remove the bandage in a medical facility, as the release of pressure will cause a rapid flow of venom.
◘ Do NOT allow the victim to walk or move their limbs. Use a splint to minimise all limb movement. Put the patient on a stretcher or bring transportation to the patient.
◘ Do seek medical help immediately as the venom can cause severe damage to health and even death within a few hours if untreated.
The above information is no substitute for proper first aid training.
At the minimum, do your own research on accredited websites or books. Other parts of the world may treat snake bites differently so it’s important to treat it exactly as required in Australia.
WHAT IT IS LIKE ENCOUNTERING A SNAKE?
Over the years I have had many encounters with snakes. The majority of them were actually venomous snakes, but never was I ever close to being attached or bitten.
I've had snakes slide over my foot in their escape. A snake has fallen out of a tree into a friends lap next to me. I've even stepped on one!
And after all that, no bites and I’m not the least bit worried.
While it can be intimidating the first time, you'll quickly realize they have no evil feelings towards us. Sharing habitats with them is just a part of life in Australia.
Who knows, you might even grow to like them!
For more information, you can visit the following websites:
► Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage- Snake FAQ
► Snake catchers- Tips for a snake encounter in your house