Australia is known for its dangerous fauna, and aside from the humble redback spider, it’s our native snakes that top the deadly list. The chances of you encountering a snake here in Oz are higher than you think, with approximately 170 species calling Australia home. So it goes without saying that being prepared for an encounter with our slithery friends is not only important — it’s a matter of life and death.
Being reptiles, snakes tend to laze around during the colder months and wait for the heat to get a move on, but it’s important to know how to identify them and take protective measures if you stumble upon one, especially if they are venomous.
For example, if you’re bitten by an Eastern Brown Snake – the 2nd most venomous snake in the world – the deadly cocktail of toxins will make its way through your bloodstream, take hold of your nervous system and muscles, and eventually put you into cardiac arrest. If that wasn’t enough to strike fear into your heart, they’re also known to be highly aggressive and carry the title of causing the most snake bite fatalities.
If you are unlucky enough to encounter one, remember the following:
Stay calm: Avoid trying to scare it off and begin slowly moving away – there is no need to pose as a threat because we’re not seen as food and snakes only attack if they feel threatened.
Contact your local wildlife rescue: Don’t be a hero and attempt to catch the snake because chances are you’ll end up provoking it – leave this part to the experts.
Call an ambulance: If bitten, seek medical help immediately; they’ve got the knowledge and experience to help you through this.
Wrap it up: while you wait for help, apply firm pressure with a bandage or any available material on and around the bitten area. Despite the common belief, don’t try to suck the venom out of the wound or wash it, otherwise the nature of the the bite can’t be identified to ensure proper treatment.
Breathe slowly: Stay calm and try to stabilise your heart rate while you wait – this will slow down the flow of venom. The more you move, the faster it will spread.
If you live rural, or in residential areas prone to wildlife, there are ways of mitigating the appearance of snakes. Snake-proof your house by screening doors and windows as well as blocking any entry points that could allow entrance by a slithery guest. If a snake does get into the house, open all doors and entry points; attempt to close off sections inside to guide them outside by using something long – such as a broom – to keep your distance. To avoid them altogether:
Cut off any scents: Store any pet food in an airtight container and keep compost in closed bins to prevent attracting rodents that will draw the snakes in.
Maintain your lawn: Snakes are generally shy and like to stay hidden so keep the grass short, and the garden beds away from the house. This ensures you won’t be in for a surprise attack.
Remove potential homes: Pieces of timber, iron sheets, or grass-clippings are examples of places where snakes love to crawl and hide under. Ensure you keep your backyard clean and properly store materials away – maybe even remove them from your property.
Wear protection: Lastly, ensure you don gloves, long pants, and covered shoes when gardening.
Few people die from snake bites each year in Australia, with only 1 in 20 requiring emergency treatment and the use of anti-venom, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be prepared. Remember to stay vigilant during the warmer months, and keep your eyes peeled – especially when tackling the great outdoors.
About Jase Andrews:
Jase Andrews is the host of Australia’s number one 4WD and adventure show, All 4 Adventure. Being no stranger to the outdoors and having a passion for exploring the outback, he’s acquired the knowledge to survive any situation that he’s faced with.