Snakes: Why They Are NOT Australia’s Most Dangerous Animal

ANZ March 2014Last month’s reprint of my article for Australia and New Zealand magazine was a top 5 countdown of Australia’s deadliest killers, the animals responsible for more human deaths than any others.

The conclusion was the pointed combined fingers of many coroners to the mild-mannered often hay munching and occasion carrot crunching herbivorous horse as Australia’s most prolific killing critter.

Horses indeed!

Most people, if asked the question, would probably say the snake is the animal responsible for most human deaths down under, here’s why it isn’t. This article appeared in their March edition of this year and they called it…

Snakes in the grass

Snake - CartoonLast month we discovered that the most dangerous animal in Australia in terms of human fatalities is the horse. For those of you considering moving to Australia I’m sure that is the last creature you are concerned about sharing this continent with.

Other critters, no doubt, pop into your mind ahead of the horse when thinking about the wildlife down under; maybe snakes and spiders? Yes, probably. Let’s deal with snakes today and spiders next month.

I’ve lived here just over six years now, so what’s it really like living with snakes in Australia?

First, a bit of background about me, well two bits. I live in the western suburbs of Brisbane, 20 kilometres or so from the city centre. Concrete is not very popular in these parts and many houses are on acreage enjoying large, leafy green back gardens. Together, these houses back onto an even leafier green area known as Brisbane Forest Park (Area 1) which itself backs onto the D’Aguilar Range which is so leafy green we would call it the bush.

Snake sightings mapSnakes, in case you didn’t know, love leafy green. So I live in an area with a higher than average snake population. The second bit of background is that I am actively looking for snakes all the time.

Nothing pleases me more than finding a snake, taking a photograph of it, or better still some video footage and writing about it on my website. So, in my six years here, I must have seen hundreds of snakes, right? No, not right. My snake sightings can be summed up in a short paragraph.

  • I’ve seen two snakes (non-venomous) that were pointed out to me otherwise I would never have seen them.
  • Two snakes crossing the road in the depths of the above mentioned countryside whilst I was driving my car.
  • Two more snakes on acreage properties that slithered away from me so fast I couldn’t see what they were.
  • Then one snake in Byron Bay, NSW that was a venomous eastern brown but still scampered away from me as I followed it with my camera.

Seven sightings in six years and I’m virtually a snake hunter living in snake world!

Sometimes in life though you do get what you wish for and a couple of years ago I got that and more when I saw my eighth snake. It came into my house and in one of those ‘don’t try this at home’ moments, instead of calling the snake catcher I grabbed my video recorder.

I would love to have included that video here to celebrate the 101st edition of this magazine, but technically that’s not possible. If you go to my website though and just search for ‘snake in house’ (did you see what I did there for you my readers?) you’ll find the video very quickly. I survived, obviously, and so did the snake, but we had a few laughs along the way.

So are snakes a problem in Australia?

They usually account for one, two or three deaths a year here, so yes. But compared to the horse or, as I heard recently, house dust mite related deaths in the UK, these numbers are tiny. I think it’s fair to say that snakes are to be respected and it’s good to be aware, but their reputation is scarier than the reality.

Ed the Horse

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{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Jay September 3, 2014, 3:16 am | Link

    I’ve lived in South Africa and know everything there is to know about venomous snakes. Don’t let anyone fool you they are not dangerous or it is very unlikely you will run into them. The biggest problem with them is that they blend in with the environment extremely well that by the time you seem them you are way to close for comfort. Most snake attacks actually occur when people accidentally step on snakes hence the snake retaliates by biting.

    • BobinOz September 3, 2014, 9:43 pm | Link

      Are you sure you know everything there is to know about venomous snakes? That really would be quite some achievement 🙂

      I’ve never said they are not dangerous, just putting it into perspective Jay, that’s all, and Australian snakes are almost certainly different from South African snakes, but then you knew that, didn’t you?

      • alexandra seddon June 16, 2016, 4:30 am | Link

        Wow! Bob, what you say about snakes alone is enough to make you my hero!
        So many people misunderstand them.
        They are so very fearful.
        Brown snakes are the most nervous of all. (and they love to eat mice and rats!)
        I usually just tell people to say to themselves, “slow motion, slow motion”, a sort of self hypnosis so that they do not frighten the snake.
        Thankyou!!!!
        Alexandra

        • BobinOz June 16, 2016, 10:08 pm | Link

          Well I’ve never been anybody’s hero before, so that’s made my day. Thank you.

          Slow is good, so is stomping or walking with heavy feet. Our snakes like to hear you coming so they can get out of the way and slow definitely gives them the chance to do that too.

  • djmcbell June 26, 2014, 5:41 pm | Link

    Please give the horse on that picture a set of fangs and a bloodied mouth, as befitting his position as Australia’s most dangerous animal. People must be warned about horses stalking their prey, grown men and women, through the rural villages of Australia, waiting behind lamp-posts until the right moment, at which point they pounce, sinking their fangs into the necks of their hapless victims. The evil horse then drags it’s food back to it’s lair, normally an old barn, and covers them in hay so the farmer does not notice, feeding at it’s leisure.

    When Australia lost Steve Irwin it lost it’s only defence against these monsters. Now they have to fly Chuck Norris in specially for dealing with horse infestations, with massive collateral damage. Whole towns razed to the ground as Norris and the Australian Horse Offensive Ordinance Federation (or H.O.O.F) have no choice but to adopt a “scorched earth” policy.

    Beware… the horses are coming…

    • BobinOz June 26, 2014, 8:34 pm | Link

      Took me long enough to add the speech bubble 🙂

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