"Snakes are found all over Australia and there are many different species, some venomous and some not."
Most of us don’t know much about the different Australian species so as a general rule keep away from them all. Snakes tend to hide and do not confront people, they will flee if they can.
It’s not likely you’ll see too many when exploring Australia. Most tend to be sighted on the road, either dead by car or sunning themselves. These cold-blooded creatures need the sun to regulate their body temperature, so warm roads and rocks are where they like to lie. The cooler the weather, the less likely you’ll even see one as they hide away and are inactive.
Only a very small percentage of the 142 Australian species (110 land, 32 sea) are potentially fatal and the chances of an encounter are minute. Not all of our venomous snakes have venom capable of human death or even serious illness.
The most dangerous species in Australia include the Inland Taipan (Fierce Snake), Eastern Brown, Coastal Taipan, Death Adder and Tiger Snake.
The Inland Taipan is found in Australia’s outback, throughout southwest Queensland, northwest New South Wales and north east South Australia. Also known as the Fierce Snake, due to its highly toxic venom, Australia’s number one dangerous snake averages 1.8 metres in length and colours vary with the seasons, ranging from dark blackish-brown in winter to brownish light-green in summer. The head and neck generally appear darker than the body.
The Eastern Brown, or common brown snake, is Australia’s second-most poisonous land-based species. It averages between 1.1-1.8 metres in length and is found all the way along the east coast and inland ranges, from the top of Queensland to New South Wales and the bottom of Victoria and South Australia. It also inhabits arid areas in the Northern Territory and the eastern Kimberley region in Western Australia. This species is generally brown in colour however can come in a variety of other shades from light fawn through to black and some sport speckles and bands of various colours.
Attribution: Peter Woodard at the Wikimedia Commons
The Coastal Taipan is Australia’s largest venomous species, averaging 1.5-2 metres in length. It is found in northern coastal regions from northeastern Western Australia, across the top end of the Northern Territory and throughout coastal Queensland and northern New South Wales. It is generally olive or reddish-brown in colour, with a lighter face and belly, however, some can be predominantly grey to black in appearance.
Attribution: AllenMcC under the Creative Commons
The Death Adder is another of Australia’s venomous species and averages 70cm-1 metre in length. It has a short thick body and a flat triangular-shaped head. It is brown and orange in colour and has a banded pattern which makes it the master of camouflage. This species is found predominantly on the east coast, in both inland and coastal parts of Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, as well as the south coast of Western Australia, western South Australia and eastern Northern Territory.
Attribution: Christopher Watson under the Creative Commons
The Tiger Snake is found in southern Australia in coastal regions and wetlands in Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria, Tasmania and New South Wales. It averages 90cm-1.2 metres in length and has a flat, blunt head. Its colours vary, but generally the base colour is brown, grey, olive or green with crossbands of light-bright yellow and a light belly. There are several morphs of the common tiger snake which grow bigger in size and vary in colour. Morphs are particular to the region of habitat.
Snakes are one of the most feared Australian wildlife around. The thought of being bitten and immobilized by one of these creatures is enough to worry anyone sick. Here are some tips to help prevent being bitten and the first aid procedure required in case of a bite.
Wear socks and boots.
When walking in bushland always keep an eye on the track ahead of you.
If you see one keep calm, stand still and let it slowly pass or retreat.
Do not provoke it by stomping your feet or attempting to catch or kill it.
Do not lift rocks or wood or put your hands in cavities in the bush.
Check your sleeping bag or swag before bedtime if you left it on the ground.
Most importantly do not panic when you see one. They are generally as frightened as you are and a commotion may lead to an attack.
Check that the snake is no longer in the area. Do not try and catch or kill it under any circumstances.
Keep the victim quiet and calm. Have them lay down.
Dial 000 for emergency services or dial 112 from a mobile phone (even if out of reception area).
Remove any clothing and jewellery from the bitten limb if possible.
Do not wash, cut or suck the bite wound. The remaining venom helps to identify the species and the required antivenin.
Do not put ice or any medications on the wound.
Do not give the victim any food or drink. Small sips of water are acceptable.
Do not apply or use a tourniquet. This can cause internal compression injuries.
Apply a wide pressure immobilisation bandage immediately to the bite site and then continue this bandage evenly over the entire limb to the armpit or groin. This helps slow down the spreading of the venom. Don't make it too firm, however, as firm as one would bandage a sprained wrist or ankle. Any left over bandage should be continued down the limb. Additional bandages should be applied over the firs, starting over the fingers or toes, depending on which limb the bite occurred. (If bandaging is not available, use sheets, towels or clothing and tear into strips to substitute as bandages).
Immobilize the bitten limb with a splint, stick, or even a rolled up newspaper or cardboard. Bandage or securely tie the splint to the bitten area. All joints of the bitten limb need to be totally immobilized.
Keep the victim and the bitten limb as still as possible and bring transport to the victim if possible, the less movement the better.
Transport the victim immediately to a major hospital, preferably by ambulance.
In the case that the victim is not breathing…
Lie the victim on their back, tilt head back and commence Expired Air Resuscitation (EAR) – 5 full breaths per 10 seconds.
Check for pulse.
If pulse is evident, continue EAR at 15 breaths per minute and check for pulse again after 1 minute.
If no pulse, start Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) at 30 chest compressions to 2 full breaths per minute and check for pulse again after 1 minute. Repeat method over each recurring minute.
For adult/child compressions – use 2 hands with interlocked fingers.
For infant compressions – use 2 fingers only.
If signs of life are shown, move the victim into the recovery position, on their side. Reassure the victim help is coming, continue attending to injuries if applicable and wait for qualified help to arrive or transport victim immediately to the nearest hospital.