Snake Bite Season: Australia and UK Compared

Yes, really. I’ve had enough of comparing supermarket prices for fruit and veg, meat, fish and other stuff, let’s compare snake bite seasons.

In just one weeks time it will be winter here in Australia. Where I live though, Brisbane, you really wouldn’t think it. Daytime temperatures have been sitting at around 25° to 27° for at least the last three or four weeks.

I drove past my favourite local towering temperature gauge at just gone 3 o’clock this afternoon; let’s see what it had to say…

25 degreesThere you go; 25° again, hot, sunny and clear blue skies.

Despite the continued heat, I think it’s fair to say that the snake bite season is over for now in Australia. I’ve just checked Wikipedia’s list of snake bite fatalities in Australia and in particular, the figures for this decade so far.

Since the beginning of 2010 there have been 13 human deaths due to snakebite and not one of them was during the winter months of June, July or August. Eight of those fatalities though, I noticed, were in Queensland.

Hmm. That’s something to think about.

Back to snakebite season.

Whilst I’m not saying it’s impossible to get bitten by a snake at this time of the year, it is certainly less likely. So I think ‘snake bite season is over for now in Australia‘ is a reasonable statement to make.

Summer in the UK

Meanwhile, the UK is heading towards its summer and I understand they could well be having their hottest May on record this year. In what has been described as a ‘mini heatwave’, some parts of the UK have enjoyed at least one 27°C day during the month and the forecast is for a very hot summer.

So, I felt this was the perfect time to have a look at an article that was sent to me by Geoff Coombe, a snake expert from South Australia and author of Living with Snakes in Australia: A Guide for Newcomers, who I have known for a few years now. I will provide you with a link to the article shortly, but here are some of the important bits.

Snake bite stats and facts:

  • Hundreds of people bitten each year
  • Last recorded death was in 1975
  • Dramatic anaphylactoid symptoms may appear within five minutes of the bite
  • Generalised swelling and bruising of the whole body, nausea; retching; vomiting; abdominal colic;
  • Diarrhoea; incontinence of urine and faeces; sweating; fever; vasoconstriction; tachycardia; light-headedness; loss of consciousness; shock;
  • Cardiac arrest, acute gastric dilatation, paralytic ileus, and acute pancreatitis

Okay, I’m going to stop right there because even I’m beginning to feel queasy. As you can probably tell by the rather long words used here, they are not mine. They come from, courtesy of copy and paste, the BMJ.

That’s the British Medical Journal and you can read their full article by clicking the following link. It’s about the UK’s only indigenous venomous snake, the adder or viper (Vipera berus).

The adder


FreeImages/Andrew Lee

The article is an old one, it’s from 2005. I wondered if much has happened since then, so I did a Google search for ‘adder bites UK’ to see what’s been happening since then and I found some interesting headlines:

  • Dad five minutes from death after being bitten by black adder snake while on family walk in Kent (2010)
  • Bury woman’s Adder bite hell – while walking the dog – Manchester (2013)
  • Man bitten three times by adder left in serious but stable condition (2014)
  • Adder lucky escape: Teenager falls from 100ft cliff, survives, then is bitten by snake (2015)
  • Killer snake warning as record number of venomous adders spotted in Britain this year (2015)

As the BMJ article goes on to say, ‘Bites occur from February to October, peaking in June to August.’ So, snake bite season might well be over in Australia, but it’s already begun in the UK and is about to approach it’s peak.

I’m so glad I am living here in Australia.

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{ 2 comments… add one }
  • djmcbell May 25, 2016, 9:38 pm | Link

    I’m trying to think of a good joke about Rowan Atkinson here but really can’t.

    • BobinOz May 26, 2016, 5:51 pm | Link

      Well, you lost me with that one, but a quick Google of ‘Rowan Atkinson and snake bite’ has sorted me out. Now I get it.

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