October 22, 2018 4 min read

Now I realise this may sound a little irregular to most of you …but I’m quite keen on snakes. We have one at home - named Missy (it’s my daughter’s actually…she pestered us for years about getting one and now we’re all in love with her/him/it).  She’s a Stimpson Python and is about 1m long and very beautiful. And very harmless!

I thought, being that it’s Spring here in Australia, it might be a good time to refresh our minds on the do’s and don’ts around snakes.

Spring is the time when snakes are most active. It’s mating/breeding season and so everyone’s feeling a little testy. The males are testy because they’re trying to ‘get a bit’ and the females are testy because they’re in protection mode.

Australia is home to over 190 species of snake (of which only 25 are toxic to humans and 20 of those are among the most venomous in the world. Ahhhh… and that’s why we’re called the lucky country).

Despite this though, snakebite deaths are rare and only account for approximately 2 deaths per year.

In fact statistically, you are more likely to be killed by a dog or a cow than a snake!!

Now I like to think of Australians as relatively sensible creatures but it’s not always the case. Billy Collett, head of reptiles at the Australian Reptile Park says that “ninety per cent of snakebites in Australia are from people mucking around with them, trying to kill them or impress a girlfriend”.

(Hmmnnn…that'd certainly impress me!!) 

The culprit responsible for most snake bite deaths in Australia is the eastern brown snake and whilst snakes in general are quite timid and would rather avoid confrontation with a comparatively enormous human, brown snakes (and tiger snakes) can become quite aggressive if they feel cornered. (Or, if in the case of females they have eggs or youngsters nearby.)


So… what to do?

If you find yourself out riding one day and you come across a snake sun-baking on a path… there are a couple of things you can do.

Firstly, don’t panic!

As snakes don’t have external ears you could try alerting them to your presence by creating vibrations on the ground from a safe distance, or you could always just patiently wait for him or her to move on. Never allow yourself to get in between a snake and its escape route.

If by some strike of extraordinary bad luck you manage to get bitten, take these steps immediately:

1. Keep as still as you possibly can. Do not attempt to walk.

2. Wrap a compression bandage (or anything else with which to improvise…jacket, plastic bag, scarf etc. etc.) firmly around the bite and keep wrapping down the limb to the fingers or toes and then back up again as far as you can go to the top of the limb.

If possible also splint the affected limb. You are not aiming to cut off circulation...just slow it down.

The venom from a snake bite is usually injected into the lymphatic system and can only access the blood stream once it reaches a lymph node (found in the groin or underarm and other various parts). That’s when the venom becomes problematic.

So the plan is to slow that movement of lymphatic fluid, therefore reducing its chances of reaching the lymph nodes and therefore, the blood stream.

Applying a compression bandage all the way up a limb has been shown to potentially give you 7 -8 hours of extra time! (According to toxicology expert Dr. Brian Fry)

I’d say that makes it worth it! 

3. The most likely place to be bitten by a snake is on the leg or arm but if by chance you are bitten on the torso apply direct pressure with your hand to the site of the bite.

4. Call OOO and seek emergency medical assistance.

Anti-venom is now available for all venomous snake species in Australia and if you can follow these steps and get to the nearest Hospital Emergency Department ASAP, your bite is unlikely to be fatal.

5. If you’re not in phone range… I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you all the very best of luck xx  


Tiger snakes:

 Bites can be fatal if untreated. Symptoms of a tiger snake bite include pain in the feet and neck, tingling, numbness and sweating, followed by breathing difficulties and paralysis. The venom also damages the blood and muscles, leading to renal failure.


Eastern brown snakes: 

Arguably ranked as having the second most toxic venom in the world, its venom causes progressive paralysis and stops the blood from clotting, which may take many doses of antivenom to reverse.


So, do be careful this Spring. And try to find it in your heart to love and respect our scaly little friends. They’re really not out to get us… despite popular belief!


Kate xx 



Australian Geographic



Kate Hewett
Kate Hewett

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