Australia hosts many of the world’s most venomous, and therefore the most dangerous snakes. While many snakes have some venom (as do other animals such as spiders, centipedes and some frogs) they are only considered dangerous if they have the potential to kill a human.
Note that while the venom is poisonous the snake itself is not. Most snakes only feed and live prey, so snakes use their venom to subdue their prey, and in many of Australia’s habitats prey can be hard to find so the venom can be very strong so that prey doesn’t escape!
Dangerous Australian snakes are members the families Elapidae (the front-fanged land snakes) and Laticaudidae and Hydrophiidae (the sea-snakes and sea kraits).
The venom of snakes is a complex mixture of chemicals, with this mixture varying between species and families of snakes. The venom can affect the blood, muscles and nervous system. The strength of the venom and how much is received during a bight determine how severe and quick the effect will be on the victim!
Snakebites are quite rare in Australia, although they do happen and they are serious. Many bites occur when people chase the snake and are trying to kill it! Anti-venoms are available at hospitals and other medical centres, but can only be used with medical supervision due to the possibility of shock arising from an allergic reaction to the anti-venom.
Snakebite: What to do?
When a bite is on an arm or leg:
- Stay calm. If you are with a victim, reassure them and keep them calm
- Keep the limb as still as possible
- Apply a broad pressure bandage over the site as quickly as possible, extending the bandage over the entire limb if possible, as tightly as if for a sprain
- Immobilise the limb with a splint made of any rigid material
Arrange transport to hospital.
- If the bite is not on a limb, apply firm pressure to the site of the bite if possible and arrange transport to medical treatment as quickly as possible.
- DO NOT cut, wash or suck the bite and DO NOT apply a tourniquet to affected limbs!
Preventing Snake Bites in Australia
Snakes are always a lurking danger in most parts of Australia. You should always keep your eye out for snakes if you are venturing out into the bush or places in which you know snakes frequent. Here are a few tips to help prevent snake bite.
- ALWAYS LEAVE THE SNAKE ALONE! This is the most important fact that you should always take on board. A snake will only attack if it feels threatened so if you see a snake, do not approach it and leave it be.
- As soon as you see a snake do not move. Just carefully observe where the snake is going and only move when you know the snake is out of sight and is no longer a danger. Then carefully leave the area very slowly until you are completely out of danger.
- Never try and touch a snake or pick up a snake. Even if you think it's a small snake and it will be easily handled, chances are you have no idea how the snake will react so therefore you can present a danger to yourself. As in point one, simply leave the snake alone.
- Wear thick boots and long, thick pants. This will help if you are in the bush and you accidentally tread on a snake that you don't see. While it won't prevent the snake from biting you, it can go a long way in making sure the fangs do not pierce your skin.
- Bring with you relevant snake bite information and a first aid kit should the worst happen. It's always better to be safe rather than sorry and in the event of an emergency you need to be prepared. You may be in an area where help cannot reach you easily and you may need to do some first aid to help until further assistance arrives, so always carry with some basic first aid items such as bandages as well as maybe a small book on snake bite treatment.
Kids and Snakes
The best way to protect your kids from getting bitten by snakes is to avoid them from interacting with the snakes. Therefore, it is of immense importance to teach your kids about snake prevention. If we talk about snakes in Australia, there are around 80 species found in Australia of which, only 20 species are venomous. However, because these venomous species are available at all the major parts of Australia, there can be every possibility to have an encounter with such snakes. Moreover, these snakes are very active during the spring and premature summers, as they hibernate for themselves during these seasons and come out in search of food and partners.
Do not let snake enter your place
A very simple and easy way to avoid snakes from entering into the garden is to cover the boundary of the garden with the slit fence. This fence should be around 4-6 inches in height so that snakes do not sneak through them. Moreover, it is also important to check the fence regularly for the trapped snakes and other small animals that can be released in the safe area. It's not a good idea to kill the snakes, and therefore, we must educate children on how to tackle with the snakes if they encounter any, rather than killing them as they play a very important role in balancing our ecological cycle. The information should be provided in such a way so that children can differentiate between a venomous and non-venomous snake and can tackle them accordingly.
The major points that should be covered while teaching the kids about the snakes are:
- their extremely essential ecological roles
- how to differentiate between a venomous and non-venomous snake
- what are the risks and how to handle a venomous snake
- steps to follow while a snake encounter
- things to do, if in case, a snake bites
Snakes are very vital as per the ecological cycle as they are eaten by many animals and birds that?s includes alligators, hawks, etc. Moreover, snakes eat animals like mice, rats, lizards, frogs, etc. thus help in keeping their population under control.
Differentiate a venomous snake from the non-venomous
Children must be educated about the venomous and non-venomous snakes and also, how to handle the two, as both look alike in general. This is important because venomous snakes are very poisonous in nature and therefore, handling them is completely different from that of a non-venomous snake.
What to do in a snake encounter?
If you see a snake at home or at school, it?s important to tell a teacher or the parents about it. Never try to pick it up or tease him if you face a snake in front of you as it will compel him to bite in self-defence. The best thing to do while you encounter a snake is to let him pass by.
What to do if a snake bites?
If you or your friend gets bitten by a snake, get away from the snake as soon as possible. If you are at school, tell your teacher about it, or if you are at home or anywhere else, tell some adult that this has happened. It is of immense importance to get medical attention as soon as possible.
Steps to protect kids from snakes:
By following the simple steps mentioned below, one can prevent their kids from being attacked by the snakes:
It is very important to wear thick clothes, like leather pants, long boots and jackets if possible for kids when you are aware of the fact that the area you are moving in the snake prone area. It does not provide the full security but can be very helpful as thick clothes will avoid the snake teeth to get into the skin of your kids.
Control your hands
It is very important to put your hands inside a bush or long grass with care as there can be a possibility of a snake behind those. Always try to keep your hands away from holes in the walls or the ground, bushes, etc.
Stand still, don't move
If you encounter a snake, it is very important to stand still in front of him. For a snake, body of a kid is too big, and if you move, they might bite you in order to protect themselves. It is always a good practise to stand still while confronting a snake as it will never attack unless you move.
Tell an adult quickly
If you have been bitten by a snake, it is very important to tell the adults of the house as soon as possible because any delay in this may lead to death. Children should be given properly training and must be taught that if they see any snake in the home or at school, they should inform the adults immediately to minimise the risks involved.
How to stop Snakes?
Living in Australia you will find that snakes can be a bit of a problem so it's always important to try and prevent snakes from coming near your property as best as you can. The fact remains that we house some of the World's most poisonous snakes so you never know which snakes will be there that are capable of killing you or seriously injuring you. By following some simple steps you can easily prevent snakes from coming into your home and also know what to do in the event you are bitten by a snake.
- Get rid of all debris around your property in which snakes could easily hide out in. Snakes love dark places so anything such as wood piles or leaf clippings could be a potential snake hiding spot. Always be careful when checking them obviously for snakes first, but then remove them as soon as you can so that you will avoid finding a nasty snake down the line. A good idea might be to burn them so that they aren't just dumped somewhere else for a snake to go too and have another problem for you later on down the track
- Seal all gaps in your house in which a snake may fit through. These include gapes in your wall, in the floorboards and even under your doors. You would be surprised at what size holes a snake can fit through so make sure even the smallest of gaps and holes are covered and filled in. Never be too cautious with this as it always remains a fact to be safe rather than sorry so always keep this in mind also. A snake is the last thing you want to find in your house when you come home from work isn't it?
- Invest in some snake traps in areas where snakes may frequent so that you can catch them before they enter your house. You can get glue based traps so that you can have the snakes stick to them and die or even get some funnel based traps so that the snakes will be trapped in the funnel for you then to take to your nearest snake handler to do what they can with it. You should always put traps in place as well as following the above steps so that you can cover all relevant bases in case of a sudden influx of numerous snakes in your home.
- Fence your property with snake proof fencing to stop them coming on to any part of your property! If you are unsure of what fences are snake proof then you should speak to your local fencing expert as they will no doubt be able to inform you as to which fencing is best for snake prevention. Generally it will need to be a specific height with limited amounts of holes in it for the snake to get through as well as being made of strong durable material to prevent this also.
- Purchase some snake repellent. These are available in a wide variety of types and sizes and each have their own benefits and drawbacks. Have a read of the packaging to see if it will best suit your property as well as finding out how effective it really is by doing some research online and through other people who have had similar problems. Speak to the shopkeeper in the shop where the product is being sold as they may be able to inform you of other methods to prevent snakes. You could even contact your local snake handler and ask them some advice as they are bound to know a lot of information when it comes to snakes.
The best option is to always do your research no matter what and keep finding solutions that will best suit your property as well as do it in the most effective manner. A few simple steps may then prevent snakes from entering your home and keeping your family safe.