Snake Bite Dangers in Australia: What To do….

It would be wrong of me to write articles such as Australian Snakes and Death: Continued, if I wasn’t also prepared to write about snakes when a fatality occurs.

I have always defended snakes and played down the dangers they present to the residents of Australia. With good reason too; anyone who has read that article will know that there were apparently only 41 recorded deaths by snakebite in a 29 year period from 1980 to 2009.

That’s less than two a year. Since then, I’ve noticed many other authoritative websites quote an average of three a year. That is still really quite low and maybe takes into account those that may not have been recorded.

But just last week, about 120 kilometres south-west of Brisbane, a Warwick mother in her early 40s died after being bitten by a snake which, as far as I’m aware, has still not been identified.

The victim was in her garden when she was bitten repeatedly by the snake and the emergency services were called immediately by her son. But from what I understand, the problem here was that the snake had bitten directly into a blood vessel rather than into a muscle.

With the snake’s venom entering the bloodstream directly, she would probably have been killed within minutes.

This is highly unusual as far as I can see.

Following the incident, the country is being warned that this year could see an increase in the numbers of snakes moving into urban areas. So it’s time to be more vigilant. But it is not the time for a knee-jerk panic reaction.

The story was reported by, among others, the Courier Mail and you can read the full story here. But if you go on to read some of the many comments, you’ll see what I mean by knee-jerk reaction.

Many people want the right to kill snakes, at the moment it’s illegal. But I can assure you, more people die trying to kill a snake than those that walk away.

Others say it’s time for the government or councils to control snakes, I assume they mean a cull? Really? Which ones? All of them? We do have around 140 species.

Tongue in cheek, somebody agreed by saying that we should kill all the snakes, then the great whites, then all the sharks, murderers, bats and Toyota Prado’s. Well, they have all been known to kill.

Are snakes a serious problem?

I tried to think of some kind of comparison, something I could use to put the minds of those of you in the UK and Europe at rest.

But I couldn’t think of anything.

Truth is, everything I thought of, like being hit by a bus or getting murdered, can happen here too. But then I thought, well, it’s only the UK and Europe that have this small advantage. If I’m not wrong, every other continent has some kind of dangerous killer creature.

Almost all the others have snakes, some have lions, tigers and gorillas, and if they don’t have any of those, they’ve probably got grizzly bears.

So you can stay where you are and avoid the one in 7 million chance of a fatal snakebite if you want. I’m still glad I came.

If you are bitten by a snake.

It is essential you know what to do in the case of an emergency. Your most important equipment will be a mobile phone, to call emergency services, and a bandage to wrap around the bite.

I got this from the Courier Mall, who in turn got it from Queensland Health. I hope they don’t mind me repeating it here. I do strongly advise that you click on that link and visit their website to find out the full, updated, latest information about first-aid for snake bites.

snake wound bandage
If a snake bite occurs:

  • Call 000
  • Quickly apply a broad pressure bandage across the bite
  • Little venom reaches the blood stream if firm pressure is applied over the bite and the limb is immobilised
  • Crepe bandages are ideal but any flexible material may be used such as clothing, towels or pantyhose
  • Keep patient still, including all limbs
  • Do not cut or excise the bitten area
  • Do not apply an arterial tourniquet
  • Do not wash the bitten or stung area. The type of snake may be identified by the venom on the skin
  • Pressure-immobilisation retards the movement of venom and buys time for the patient to reach medical care.

—————————————————————————————

Prevention

I don’t really know enough about prevention, but I’d like to get something going here. So if anyone with more experience is reading this, do let us have your tips below. So far I’ve learnt…

  • Stay alert and always look around you.
  • Be especially careful when walking in the grass, even in your back garden.
  • Avoid very long grass.
  • Take heavy steps; snakes will move away from the vibrations.
  • If the birds are singing wildly, there’s probably a snake in the area.

Last week was a tragedy and my sympathy goes to the family of the bereaved. Whilst I am in no way suggesting they did anything wrong, I do think it’s a good opportunity to remind everyone of what to do if ever you were to be bitten by a snake.

Final word

According to Doctor Ken Winkel of the Australian Venom Research Unit, there are 500 to 600 hospital admissions per year in Australia due to snakebite. He also quotes an average of 2 to 4 deaths per year.

So according to my maths, well over 99% of snakebite victims do survive here in Australia. So if you do get bitten, your chances of survival are very high.

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{ 28 comments… add one }
  • Leon April 29, 2014, 11:17 pm | Link

    Heya,

    Not sure if you still respond to these or not but worth a shot.
    Basically in the future I hope to move and work in Australia in wildlife conservation… why Australia? It just feels right haha

    Anyway, what I wanted to ask is a bit more info such as what snakes should I keep a good lookout for to avoid as well as best removal techniques and, a weird one, what is it actually like getting bitten (if you happen to be unlucky enough hehe)

    Snakes are amazing animals and I understand their importance, but it’s always good to have knowledge about their dangers haha

    The main thing I know is to respect their territory when to go walkabouts :3

    Cheers
    Leon

    • Leon April 29, 2014, 11:17 pm | Link

      BTW, are those default icons from Snood or something lol

      • BobinOz April 30, 2014, 8:08 pm | Link

        Hi Leon

        Yes, snakes are wonderful creatures and should be treated with respect. The thing is though, you will probably hardly ever see one, it’s more a case of them avoiding you than you avoiding them.

        I’ve written loads about snakes, if you search in the Google box on the right-hand side of every page near the top you will find plenty of information. I suggest you definitely have a read of my post where I list my snake sightings.

        As for your to specific questions, the best removal technique is phone a snake catcher, other techniques can end in death. And whilst I’ve never been bitten by a snake, I’ve heard bites are often almost painless, well, until the venom kicks in. A Carpet Python, which is nonvenomous, can give you a very painful bite though and I’m sure there are other snakes that will make you yelp.

        As for those Snoods, great aren’t they?

        Cheers, Bob

        • Leon Fletcher April 30, 2014, 8:10 pm | Link

          Definitely haha

          Thanks for all the info will get straight on those articles

          The ironic thing is, snake catching could be one of my job roles out in Oz xD

          Thanks again for the reply
          Leon 🙂

  • penny August 5, 2013, 1:59 am | Link

    I am coming to Sydney for a holiday, but I am really worried about being bitten from a snake, poisonous or not. Is there anything I can do to prevent it from happening? Or is there some smells the snakes stay away from? Can I get any cream or anything to put them of too?

    I’d be grateful if you could help me with this.

    Thanks

    Penny

    • BobinOz August 5, 2013, 2:37 pm | Link

      Hi Penny

      I think you are over estimating the presence of snakes here, I bet you don’t even see one. But to answer your question, there are no smells or sprays or anything like that you can use, my best advice though would be stay out of long grass.

      I sell an e-book called Living with Snakes, click on that link if you want to read more.

      Enjoy your holiday, Bob

  • Clarry November 17, 2011, 7:56 pm | Link

    Hi,
    We’re doing research on coming out to Oz to work. Sydney seems really expensive for rental property. Are other areas expensive too. What’s your personal favourite area and why did you choose Brisbaine? It’s not an area you generally hear much about. Maybe that’s a good thing!
    Thank you!

    • BobinOz November 19, 2011, 3:05 pm | Link

      Sydney is expensive! We chose Brisbane mainly because of the climate. It subtropical, so the weather is pretty good all year round. Check out my page about Brisbane.

      I live in Western suburbs, very green and spacious, it’s like living in the countryside. Four years on, after having visited quite a few other cities, we still think Brisbane is the right choice for us.

      I hope you find the right place for you too.

      • Clarry November 19, 2011, 6:31 pm | Link

        Thanks for that, we have now started looking at Brisbane and yes, it does look great. The weather in winter would be an added bonus (coming from Scotland, I really mean it!)
        My husband (who’s English!) says to tell you his favourite band is also The Fall! Keep up the good work Bob, very informative. We’ll hopefully be joining you out there in Brisbane next year! x

        • BobinOz November 22, 2011, 3:08 pm | Link

          Your husband has impeccable taste.

          The Fall released their 29th studio album on the exact same day as our fourth anniversary, 14th November.

          It’s called Ersatz GB and the postman delivered my copy, all the way from the UK, yesterday. If you haven’t bought hubby a Christmas present yet, you know what to do.

          Hope to see you out here next year!

  • Sunil Dwibedi November 17, 2011, 6:41 am | Link

    Dear Sir,
    It is miracle & unbelievable. By the grace of God Lord SIVA, since 28 years a person named as Mr. Pradeep Kumar Singh is serving/curing snake bite victims in Orissa & India and also abroad with 100% honest either in physical or over Mobile Phone. 99% of victims have not seen. It is very simple, only victims name is required. Then Mantra will be applied in his/her name immediately. Within few minutes he/she will cure wherever he/she may be. He refers every body to go for medical treatment. After blood investigation, no poison will be found. Thousands of victims have been cured. Only two to five minutes is required, no need any delay for hospitalization. While he was 18 years, his father gave him this Mantra at his eleventh moment at SCB Medical College Hospital, Cuttack, Orissa in Nov 1983 who died in Cancer disease. Since then he has dedicated his life towards this noble service to the human being with free of cost. Though he is a science Graduate & a Govt. employee in Forest Department, Orissa he is also surprised himself what is behind it. His Mobile Phone Number is 9338039119.
    In my presence, so many victims have been cured over Mobile phone through this Mantra. In this scientific age it is really very surprise. My request, please response this astonish matter.

    With regards
    SUNIL DWIBEDI
    Reporter, Uday India
    Badambadi,Cuttack, Orissa
    Mobile No.9338912313

    • BobinOz November 19, 2011, 1:18 pm | Link

      Wow! That is indeed a clever trick, and if it really does happen, it’s a miracle. Call me old-fashioned, but if I were to get bitten by a snake, the first number I will be dialling from here in Australia will be 000.

      I’m not against a good mantra, just prefer antivenom.

      Cheers

      Bob

    • Pip in Sydney November 19, 2011, 9:23 pm | Link

      Scary, this is the reason so many deaths occur in India due to Snake bite. 90% of the time they do a “dry” bite and then the “medicine man” claims it was his powers that saved them. The 10% die in agony and the “Medicine man” claims it was karma, and they’d die anyway…… If you want proof Mr Dwibedi just compare snake bite deaths in india and Australia….. dolt.

      • BobinOz November 22, 2011, 3:46 pm | Link

        Well, Mr Sunil Dwibedi, you requested a response to this, now you’ve got two. We don’t believe it.

        Fortunately we don’t have magical snakebite healers here in Australia, but we do have the emergency services and antivenom. Hopefully, one day, India will be better equipped to provide the same services to all of its inhabitants.

  • Ruth November 10, 2011, 12:37 am | Link

    How often does someone question a visitor to England about their fear of cows? Not often I bet. But I can think of several deaths caused by attacks by cattle in the last few years over here and they are on the increase. Some were walkers in the countryside but one this year was the farmer. You hear very little about it because most people aren’t naturally scared of cows.

    • BobinOz November 11, 2011, 10:03 pm | Link

      Well, no, I’ve never heard of anyone worried about being killed by a cow. But a quick search in Google UK tells me that a vet was trampled to death as she walked her dog.

      Surely a freak accident? Or does this happen quite a bit? And if it happens in the UK, surely it happens here in Australia too? We have loads of cattle.

      • Ruth November 12, 2011, 7:52 am | Link

        4 seperate incidents in summer of 2009, 2 men and 2 women killed. 1 walker, 2 walking dogs and 1 farmer.

        Farmer in November 2010.

        Farmer killed while tagging cattle in April 2010.

        Dog walker killed September 2011.

        It doesn’t seem to get much publicity in the way that deaths by sharks or snakes do. We hear more about each shark attack in Oz on the UK news than we do about each death in the UK from attacks by cattle. It’s strange, but I think it’s partly due to the instinctive fear of certain animals that we are all born with. Cows have lovely big brown eyes and we can usually stroke them so most people can’t imagine them turning nasty. And more cows seem to kill than bulls because they are protecting their calves.

        • Rupert November 12, 2011, 8:46 am | Link

          Check out Spielberg’s 1975 masterpiece “Udders”, about a rogue cow. Roy Scheider shouting “Everybody out of the field” is a classic, as is the scene at the butchers on the high street where the immortal line is ‘uddered’ – “We’re gonna need a bigger combine harvester!”

        • BobinOz November 15, 2011, 5:30 pm | Link

          Ruth

          Seems it happens here too. A young lad died milking a cow when it kicked him in the head just three months ago (August) and a farmer in his 50s died in April this year after being charged by a cow.

          Back in 2007, an elderly woman died on a NSW rural property after being struck by a steel gate when a cow charged into it.

          Found those three with just a superfluous search in Google. Maybe cows really are more dangerous than snakes? Can that be possible?

          Rupert, I think Spielberg’s 1975 masterpiece “Udders” exists only in your head. You’re not taking this seriously, are you?

  • Julian Craig November 9, 2011, 8:21 am | Link

    Hi Bob
    Your article on snake bite dangers in oz was a very sensible one on this VERY imotive issue.
    I would like to clarify some of the points you made though.
    Firstly, a mobile phone is NOT the most important thing you need. You need a proper snake bite first aid kit, at the very least 2 or three 2.4m x 10cm heavy weight CREPE bandages. You also need to know how to correctly apply them.
    The info you got from QLD health is not the BEST advice as it is more important to apply the bandages before calling emergency services.
    For a FREE downloadable snake bite first aid sheet that is based on info from one of Australia’s top toxinologists please visit our website at http://www.workingwithwildlife.com.au/download-pdfs.php
    I would also be interested in having a chat by phone at some stage to clarify any misundersatndings around CORRECT treatment as there are many regarding this subject in the community.

    • BobinOz November 10, 2011, 12:49 am | Link

      Hi Julian,

      Thanks for giving us the download link to the free snakebite first aid sheet. I have downloaded it myself and yes, it is more comprehensive than the advice from Queensland Health.

      I’ve had a good look around your website too, excellent job! Anyone who wants to know more about snakes in Australia, check it out.

      workingwithwildlife.com.au

      And Julian, it would be good to chat. I’m going to send you an email with my phone number.

      Cheers

      Bob

  • Rupert November 8, 2011, 7:41 pm | Link

    We will be bringing two cats over from London and I’m worried they may be bitten by a snake or a spider, either indoors or outside.

    Do you have any stories you could share?

    Yours

    Worried ‘parent’!
    (Rupert)

    • BobinOz November 10, 2011, 12:32 am | Link

      If you are really, really worried, then your cats would be safer if you kept them indoors. Lots of people keep indoor cats here, but I still think the majority (only just) do let their cats go outside.

      Snakes can kill cats, it does happen. But the first time I personally heard of it happening from somebody I know was last week, and I’ve been here four years. Ticks can also cause severe problems, but then again, the UK has ticks.

      I’ve never heard of spiders causing any animals any problems, I’m not sure their venom works on cats or dogs. Anybody know more about that?

      Anyway, I realise I haven’t exactly put your mind at rest, but I can tell you that pets are big business out here in Australia. Australians love pets. There are hundreds of thousands of dogs and cats out there, nobody spends too much time worrying about spiders and snakes on their behalf.

      My wife runs a service for dogs in quarantine, well, they also do cat cuddles too. Check it out.

      Cheers

      Bob

      • Rupert November 19, 2011, 9:54 pm | Link

        Karen’s business looks ideal – and we will definitely be needing someone to visit our cats in Sydney. They are Ragdolls and need constant attention and grooming. I just really don’t know what these quarantine places are like, so knowing that someone will give them a dose of love for 30 days is will really put our minds at rest.

        Thank you.

        • BobinOz November 22, 2011, 3:53 pm | Link

          Just drop her email, she will help you out for sure.

    • Pip in Sydney November 19, 2011, 9:30 pm | Link

      As for spider bites your animals will be fine. Funnel web toxin only works on Primates and insects. Dogs and cats are virtually immune to it. A redback, whitetail etc would have a hard time biting something with fur anyway.
      For snakes you’ll be suprised how much instinct dogs and cats retain. A cat is very fast and unlikely to get tagged by a snake (on a side note the way a cat curls itself up and leaves it tail out when sleeping is thought to be done to make it look like a snake and so deter predators!). Dogs and cats have amazing senses and will sense a snake a long time before you do. They won’t risk themselves they will just avoid or threaten it until it moves on. A cat may even catch one as prey on very odd occasions!

      • Rupert November 19, 2011, 10:02 pm | Link

        And you too Pip have put my mind at ease – thank you.

        I have searched the internet and nowhere can I find the information you have outlined above, so I am grateful. I even e-mailed a few Ragdoll breeders and vets in Sydney but have received no replies.

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