Australian Snakes and Death: Continued

by BobinOz on July 15, 2009

in Australia's Bad Things

In my first post about snakes I explained that the Brisbane area has eight snakes that can kill. Nationwide though, Australia has around 140 different species of snake of which 12 can kill. We have another 30 or so sea snakes. So, it’s worse than you thought right?


According to my research, there have been 41 snakebite deaths since 1980 in Australia. The brown snake is believed to have been involved in 24 of those deaths.

Eastern Brown

The Eastern Brown Snake

The Tiger Snake is responsible for 8 and the Death Adder, Rough Scaled Snake and Taipan are responsible for the rest.

Some facts:

  • Australian snakes are very shy and timid. They would rather move away from a human, not towards one.
  • Australia’s snakes rarely envenom when biting defensively. Envenomation occurs in less than 1 in 10 bites. They prefer to hit you with a warning.
  • There are no documented fatalities in Australia from sea snake bite.


It has been pointed out to me that my statement above saying ‘Envenomation occurs in less than 1 in 10 bites’ is not reliable where browns are concerned. So I did a little more research.

First, some background about my original claim. I found a couple of websites making this statement and referencing the quote to ‘Sutherland & King, 1991: 1’. So I felt it was good to publish. But, since Gordon questioned it below in the comments, somewhere around comment 84, I took another look online.

I found an interesting site about toxicity. Some pretty smart people from Adelaide are behind it, including folk from the Women’s and Childrens Hospital and Adelaide University.

Here’s a selection of snakes and their envenomation rates according to them:

Eastern Brown Snake , Common Brown Snake

Rate of Envenoming: 20-40%

Mulga Snake , King Brown Snake

Rate of Envenoming: 40-60%

Inland Taipan , Fierce Snake

Rate of Envenoming: >80%

Common Death Adder

Rate of Envenoming: 40-60%

Mainland Tiger Snake, Eastern Tiger Snake

Rate of Envenoming: 40-60%

Red-bellied Black Snake

Rate of Envenoming: 40-60%

Golden Crowned Snake

Rate of Envenoming: Unknown but likely to be low.

You can read more information about snakes and other venomous creatures at

So 10% seems a little hopeful to us mortals, not just for browns but for almost all snakes. Don’t know how Sutherland & King came to their conclusions but, at best, it seems highly optimistic. Although in fairness, I don’t know who is right and who is wrong here or how they got to their conclusions?. If anyone can throw some light on this, please do comment below.

Again, my thanks to Gordon for pointing this out and apologies for publishing this information which now appears may be flawed. I’ll end this update as Gordon ended his comment “It is a rare event and a low risk overall though , that is true. So, no need to panic!

On with the original post……

More scary than snakes.

  • More than 20 people die each year in Australia from horse riding related accidents. Less than 2 a year die from a snakebite.
  • The deadliest of all Australian creatures, responsible for an average of 10 deaths per year, is the European Honey Bee, which can induce anaphylactic shock in some people.
  • The same happens in the UK, where there are an estimated 10 deaths a year attributed to wasp or bee stings.
  • About 30-60 people are struck by lightning each year in Britain and, on average, 3 of those may die.
  • Scuba diving causes 8 deaths a year here in Australia.
  • Don’t even get me started on road traffic deaths!

So, you are statistically more likely to die going horse riding or scuba-diving, by being struck by lightning or stung by a bee or wasp or by simply getting about in a car.


Of those 41 deaths, it is estimated that over half of them occurred because the victim accidentally trod on the snake. Ways to prevent that from happening include wearing proper footwear when walking in the grass, using a torch at night, being a noisy walker and of course, watching where you tread.

About another eight of those deaths occurred because the victim was handling the snake. They either picked it up thinking it was harmless, or they work with snakes. Prevention: Don’t pick up snakes, but I’m sure you didn’t need me to work that out for you.

Probably another five deaths were due to the victims attempt to kill the snake. Prevention: Running away is always the better option. If it’s in the house, which would be rare, simply close the door to the room it is in or close all the doors and leave the house. Then phone a snake catcher.

That only leaves about five or six deaths which were probably unavoidable. And unpreventable.

It is also worth mentioning that alcohol consumption plays a big part in your chances of being killed by a snake. A high percentage of those killed had been drinking. Prevention: I can’t think of one.

Yes, Australia is home to some of the world’s most deadly snakes. But they are also some of the world’s most timid snakes. The worst countries in the world for snake deaths are Sri Lanka and India, followed by South Africa, Africa and then the USA. Yes, the USA has a higher death rate from snake bites per year than Australia. If you have ever travelled to America, has anyone ever said to you “oh my God! What about the snakes?”

I don’t think so.

I think we have been born to be scared of snakes. It has somehow been built into our collective conscious. But the facts don’t back it up. I have been watching an interesting programme called “The Snake Crusader with Bruce George”. He rides around on his Harley Davidson catching snakes and returning them to their natural environment. He loves them, and I’m beginning to like them too. They are beautiful creatures.

The thing is, he can go and capture a snake, pick it up (skilfully of course), place it in a cloth bag and eventually take it into the wild to be released. One would have thought the snake had been through a traumatic time and may well be feeling quite angry and aggressive.

But no!

When he takes them out off the cloth bag and places them on the ground, they just slowly glide away from him heading straight back into the bush. He swears some of them turn back to look at him as if to say “thanks mate” for being returned back home. They show no aggression at all.

There was an interesting quote on the show from Bruce himself. He said “Snakes don’t bite – people get bitten.”

By and large, he’s probably right.

Thinking of moving to Australia but scared of snakes?

Check out this link:

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{ 285 comments… read them below or add one }

ian September 13, 2015 at 11:02 pm

I’ve read a few more comments from above (not all yet – there’s so many), and some are quite long, so I thought I would explain my last comment better.

First about statistics, imagine 2 scenarios (bear with me): You’re in a pub. You bump into a guy and he spills his beer.

Scenario1: You go ‘sorry, my mistake’. Event ends.

Scenario 2: ‘Hey – you spilt my beer’. You start swearing at the guy. You get punched in the nose.

Even from this set of 2 events, we can write a statistic which says ‘50% of drunken encounters end with a punch in the nose’.

Next time you spill a guys beer, does this mean you have a 50% chance of getting punched?

Absolutely Not. You can write your own version of history by the way you act. Each new event is independent… you can draw statistics after the event, but it seldom works the other way.

Hospitals don’t lie. Say 100 people turn up with confirmed Eastern Brown snake bites, and they find, lets say 70 people are eventually released, more or less unhurt. Of the rest, some would get a bit sick right on up to needing several doses of antivenom to stay alive. Then they can derive averages etc. The bottom line – snakes DO give dry bites, so the obvious question is – when is this dry biting occurring?

All animals are fairly robotic really, including us. The more you hurt or threaten something, the more it tries to hurt you back, and vice versa.

And just a few anecdotes:

I’ve personally witnessed a 3ft Eastern Brown being stepped on by the bushwalker in front of me. It just ‘hung out’ for the 1 second the boot was on it then it continued on its way – without attempting to bite.

I’ve also nearly stepped on 2 Mulga snakes, 1 or 2 Eastern Browns and a couple of Adelaide Hills Copperheads. They don’t always get out of the way (not until they’ve warmed up a bit).


BobinOz September 15, 2015 at 12:36 am

Yeah, I’m a convert to this theory, I think it makes sense. If you corner a snake and try to capture it, it’s going to defend itself with everything it’s got.

I doubt it will deliver a dry bite if it gets the chance to land one.

If you accidentally step on a snake, then both you and he going to be pretty scared/worried for a bit. But if you get off of him and then back off, he’s gonna think “that’s a relief” and carry on on his way.

Or, maybe, as you step on him briefly, he might deliver a dry bite. Of course, I’m sure there are exceptions to this. Just as there are psycho humans in pubs, I’m sure there are psycho snakes in the bush who don’t care whether you meant to tread on them or not. But by and large, I really do agree with you.


Ian September 9, 2015 at 8:34 pm

People need to be careful when trying to interpret stats / averages etc. A snake may have a rate of envenoming of 20 – 40%. This does not mean you have a 20 – 40% chance of being envenomated if you happen to get bitten.

This is just my theory, but it makes perfect sense:

If you hit a snake with a stick, or cheese it off by constantly cutting off its escape route, then it bites you – now its probably 100% envenomation. It thinks its going to be killed and it is fighting for its life (but whose fault would that be??).

The flip side is that if you surprise a snake and it bites, this is when they dry bite. In other words, if a snake bites you and you haven’t actually hurt it, or wound it up too much, you would probably be very unlikely to cop a dose.

Like I said, just a theory of mine – and consider a snake that’s just been stomped on by a roo, then it meets you and bites. You may cop a dose without deserving it.


BobinOz September 10, 2015 at 3:16 pm

Nice theory Ian, I like it. If anyone else has an option on this, we’d love to hear from you.


Adrian March 10, 2014 at 12:59 pm

These stats are stupid, they don’t paint a real picture of the dangers of snakes. E.g If you don’t go outside when there is lighting, you won’t be hit, same goes for snakes, if you don’t go walking around a snakes habitat, you won’t be bitten. Most farmers in Australia get bitten by a venomous snake more than once in their life, because farmers work in the snakes habitat. Farmers don’t get hit by lighting too often, much rarer than a snake bite.

I know person who died in 2 minutes from a taipan bite, the taipan was huge, I call these taipans king taipans, one bite from one of these and you’re gone, lucky they only live in very secluded areas.


BobinOz March 10, 2014 at 11:22 pm

Okay, so nationally recognised statistics are stupid, but you’re hearsay stories and tales from the outback are what we should all be paying attention to?

Nice one Adrian. :-)


edward March 1, 2014 at 5:59 pm

2014 still clinging to the crown? Why? Why should an old woman back in mother England STILL (2014) be able to tell the entire population of a continent: NO ! Simply be refusing her REQUIRED assent? She wasn’t elected & did nothing to earn it other than having been born…which we’ve all managed. Why? What’s wrong with you people? You’d be better off an American state. Reject the crown & we’ll let you in the union…snakes & all.


BobinOz March 1, 2014 at 11:38 pm

Are you all right Edward? I’m a bit worried about you.


Col B. March 2, 2014 at 4:14 pm

I may not know who Edward is, but I certainly got the point of what he’s saying. He’s referring to both the English monarch and the US government in which both are cabal elites (snakes). He should be making comments like this elsewhere on your blogs like anything to do with the state of the economy.


BobinOz March 4, 2014 at 12:23 am

Hi Col B, I thought that was the kind of thing Edward was talking about, I simply couldn’t see the connection with this page. I’ve heard all about the shadowy elite, the illuminati and the reptilian bloodline, but I thought it was lizards not snakes?

Edward, you need to post your views on my page Kate and Wills Fever Down Under.

Cheers, Bob


Col B. March 4, 2014 at 1:23 am

Lizards,yes, but not as in an expression like “Snakes”, Another expression is “Weasels”. These Lizard/reptilian bloodlines, according to conspiracy , are working with the elite cabal to try rid 80 to 90 per-cent of the world’s human population, the other 10 to 20 per-cent becoming slaves. Thus we have the expression that both the Elite and Reptilians are “Weasels” or “Snakes”.


BobinOz March 5, 2014 at 12:29 am

Poor old snakes, they always seem to get dragged into this kind of thing when all they really want to do is keep themselves to themselves and maybe grab the odd small snack from nature now and again.

I think it even started in the Bible.

Doesn’t seem fair…


Col B. March 5, 2014 at 3:35 am

I agree wholeheartedly. Those nutjobs in question likes the expression “Silent Killer” as their motto.


Col B. February 27, 2014 at 3:31 am

Tell the tourists to don saddle up onto the backs of Shellback Ticks for a canter ride to Fat Lump Armpitville. For a Bull’s ride, tell ’em to go on the backs of Jumping Jack Ants to Bigga-Bulge Neckton and they’ll get the meaning of agony. On the contrary, tell ’em for desserts to beware of falling Koalas – or drop bears. :)


BobinOz March 1, 2014 at 1:09 am

You are obviously referring to russell coights comment above, but I’ll tell them all the same :-)

Cheers Col B!

Whatever anyone decides to ride, make sure it isn’t a drop bear.


Col B November 20, 2013 at 6:46 am

How about lobbying to make law compulsory for all rural school caretakers to mow the yards at all times and have a trained guard dog in each school to shoo snakes away?


BobinOz November 20, 2013 at 8:35 pm

Well Col B (good to hear from you again, by the way) there’s already a law against killing snakes, they’re not taking much notice of that, are they? Breaking the law for this school seems to be part of the curriculum.


edward November 20, 2013 at 5:05 am

You might differently if your child attended the school.


kristen November 20, 2013 at 4:56 pm

not sure what you are saying but my children do attend the school


BobinOz November 20, 2013 at 8:33 pm

Hi Kristen

I think what scares me most about what the school is doing is that they are teaching the children is it’s a good idea to attack and attempt to kill a snake whenever they see one. That can only lead to problems and it is certainly not in the best interests of the children.

On that basis maybe you can remind the headmaster that he is not really protecting the children at all, or ‘teaching’ (the thing he is being paid to do) them the best thing to do.

Thanks for keeping us up to date with your exchanges with the school, please keep us informed if you can, I’m keen to know how this one will end up.

Cheers, Bob


Kristen November 19, 2013 at 9:33 pm

Thank you so much for your quick replies, I am really glad that there is support for my way of thinking. I live in a rural area of central qld near gladstone, so we do have a number of dangerous snakes but in the most part we see mostly tree snakes and pythons. I wrote a long five page letter this morning setting out the various reasons why this practice needs to stop immediately. I received a reply this afternoon, which consisted of three paragraphs stating that he has the interests of the students to consider and that they are too far from town to wait for parks and wildlife to arrive.(30 mins at most).
I was basically fobbed off! This has made me a little furious to be honest and I have replied to him already, here is a copy of my reply

Thank you for replying so quickly to my concerns, .

I still do not think that you are taking into consideration the implication your policy has on students. I am not suggesting that the students watch the killings but they are made fully aware of what has occurred (and they were present for the killing when the parent crushed the baby tree snake with her shoe). This results in them thinking that it is an acceptable practice to approach and attempt to kill snakes. This is under no circumstances an acceptable result. Couple this with the fact that one of the teachers who has since killed a snake, told a group when snakes were mentioned, that if she sees a snake she will grab a shovel and cut its head off. The students in the group went on to talk about how they kill snakes. This is once again, teachers modelling unsafe behaviour and considering that she has gone on to practice what she preached the modelling has been reinforced.

I do not believe, from what I have been told, that any of these snake (save the one you mentioned) were a threat to students or staff. By all accounts the one on Monday was a harmless tree snake. If the snake had been threatening anyone at the time then of course this is a different situation and desperate measures could be considered.

You have failed to take any consideration for the laws of this country. It is an offence to kill native Australian animals without a permit. So once again the actions that you have taken (you meaning school policy,not you personally) is modelling unsavoury behaviour yet expecting your students to work within the law. This is not acceptable.

If you look up any information regarding how to deal with snakes, without fail, experts agree that the only safe way is to remove yourself from the situation. Expecting your staff members to approach snakes is a breach of workplace health and safety guidelines.

I am not trying to be difficult but I feel very strongly about this situation and do not believe that your school policy is safe.

Thank you

Kristen Stewart .

I await his reply, I had not considered the points that Geoff made regarding the removal of one snake will lead to another turning up, hence the problem carrying on indefinately, I will definately add that to any subsequent correspondance. I have been in contact with a friend in the education department and she has given me the number to ring if I wish to make a formal complaint, if I have no joy I intend to go down that road, however I hope it doesn’t come to that, it is a small school and I don’t want my kids life to be effected by my sticking my nose in, if you know what I mean. Being a rural area for some reason many locals consider killing snakes to be perfectly acceptable behaviour. I find it abhorrent and do not intend to allow it to go on any longer.
Thank you for the link I will send the relevant information in my next email, along with some quotes from your reply and from this page, the man must be made aware of the danger he is placing his staff and students in.

Thanks again,



Geoff Coombe November 19, 2013 at 7:40 pm

G’day Kristen

After over 40 years trying to educate people about snakes in Australia by public displays, training courses, demonstrations & one-on-one with residents on callouts in their backyards, it’s attitudes as you have described which lead me to despair.

One would hope that teachers (of all people) could have a better understanding of the value of snakes, including venomous species. Depending on where you are in Qld, some of the snakes could have been pythons, blind snakes or colubrids (e.g. tree snakes) all of which are generally considered harmless.

The majority of the venomous land snakes of Australia as not considered dangerous, being mostly small to medium in size. Yes Qld may have a higher proportion of potentially dangerous snakes but even they are well known by herpetologists to prefer to escape the attention of humans than suffer from an altercation.

The notion of habitually killing snakes neglects several points worth remembering (in addition to others you have mentioned): removing one from an area is likely to create an incentive for another snake over time to occupy the same area (for shelter sites & food) & by far the best way to get bitten is to “have a go”.

A bite from a brown snake can appear trivial & a person may ignore it thinking they got away with bashing the snake, until later when the basher collapses. By then it’s probably too late to even call an ambulance.

Do the teachers fully understand the peril in which they are potentially placing the kids? One of the highest risk groups for snake bite are primary age children. What if an adult botches the kill & an injured (& in pain) snake escapes under a school building? Have they not considered their duty of care?

If a person is not skilled in catching venomous snakes it is imperative that they do not interfere with one, particularly any of the brown snake species (which cause the most bites & deaths from snake bite in Australia).

Perhaps the last word should come from one of the country’s most prominent clinical toxinologists who said that “…prevention of bites is a vital element in the reduction of snake bite fatalities.”

For more information go to the toxinology resources website at which also includes the most up to date information on snake bite first aid.

The teachers should at least know what to do when a kid gets bitten after the event.

Regards Geoff


Kristen November 19, 2013 at 12:11 am

I found your page whilst looking for statistics on how many people are bitten whilst trying to kill a snake. My problem is the school that my children go to seem to have the rediculous policy of killing snakes when ever they see them on the school grounds. They killed the fifth one this year on Friday and I am totally horrified by their actions. Not mentioning the fact that it is illegal (this is a state school btw) and cruel to extremes, the fact cannot be glossed over that these teachers are teaching kids that approaching snakes is okay…. And it is not! The one they killed on Friday was apparently a tree snake, the teacher involved actually told the children this, it is beyond my comprehension that they can justify their actions to themselves let alone anyone else. I am in the process of composing a letter to the principal, hence my looking for statistics. I am keen to find qld govt policy on snake handling but so far I am having issues with negotiating the policies on the qld govt. web page. What I really need is some expert advise that I can use to try and convince the principal that his schools actions are reckless and outright dangerous. If I am unsuccessful at this stage I intend to go higher, but if you could give me any useful info or ammunition I can use that would be great, thanks


BobinOz November 19, 2013 at 6:46 pm

Hi Kristen

I am as disgusted as you are about this, and agree that this is a shocking message to be sending to the children. Have they not heard of snake catchers?

I can assure you it is illegal to kill a snake in Queensland and I think it is also illegal in all other states, snakes are protected species. It is also the case that attempting to kill a snake is far more likely to lead to your death than ignoring it or removing yourself from the situation and calling a snake catcher.

So yes, I really do think you should write a strong letter to the principal and demand that this practice cease immediately, maybe you can (sarcastically if you prefer) provide them with the names of a few snake catchers. If they don’t take any notice, then I think you would have to take it higher, their actions are nothing short of outrageous.

As for killing a tree snake, why? They are a totally harmless and quite timid snake, they present no danger to children whatsoever.

I am going to see if I can get hold of my snake expert Geoff Coombe and get his opinion. I’m sure he will be as disgusted as we are, and maybe he can offer some advice.

Please do let us know how you get on after sending in that letter.

Cheers, Bob


HeidiBacardi October 20, 2013 at 11:07 pm

I found your website this afternoon after looking up how to scare away snakes on Google. Have read the whole thread – it’s fascinating! My interest was because, on a 5 acre plot about 40km south west of Perth, WA, we have several sightings of snakes every year and as a Pom (an ex-Pom? – just got our Aussie citizenship hurrah!!) it does freak me out. (Actually I think when it comes to snakes a Pom is always going to struggle to be truly Australian).

I was mowing our back lawn this afternoon (the bit closest to the house) and I saw a tiger snake curled up in the sun. It was almost black and looked wet, and for a second I hoped it was dead but then it decided it didn’t like all the noise and slithered off into the wood pile :) Thank goodness summer’s nearly here and I don’t need wood!

We saw 4 or 5 snakes last year – dugites and tiger snakes, with the most scary being a tiger of about 2m heading towards the house in a very determined fashion. It was only when when we both jumped up and down that it stopped, then turned round and went in the other direction. What also scares me is the babies – it’s very hard to tell a baby dugite from a lizard, and I’ve been led to believe that the babies are far more dangerous than the adults. A friend of ours just had their dog (a boxer) killed by a baby dugite only about 10cm long.

So I’m taking some consolation from the fact that you guys all say leave a snake alone and it will leave you alone….hope you’re right, don’t want to be a statistic, however rare!!


BobinOz October 21, 2013 at 8:02 pm

Sounds like you have already learnt the art of snake repelling, just jump up and down :-)

By and large, yes, snakes will leave you alone, problems occur when you don’t see the snake and it doesn’t see or hear you and you ‘bump into each other’, as in you might tread on a snake.

Leaving them alone is the best defence, it’s a shame that dogs (and cats) do not understand that rule.

Cheers, Bob


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