Snakes ….. do you know what to do if you encounter one?

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Death Adder (highly venomous) we saw on Fraser Island earlier this year, he had just swam through Eli Creek

Do you know what to do if you encounter a snake while you are out and about?

We do a lot of outback travel and spend a lot of time in the bush and it may surprise you to know that we very rarely see snakes.  Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of them around, but they are more scared of us than we are of them, they do not sit there waiting for a tasty human to walk by so they can bite them!  Snakes will generally only bite as a last resort, when they are scared.

If you do encounter a snake, don’t panic, don’t go screaming and running through the bush!  Slowly and quietly back away and allow the snake to move.  Snakes do sense your vibration as you are approaching them and will generally slither away by themselves before you even realise they were there.

Snakes gain warmth by using heat sources such as basking in the sun on a warm rock or as quite commonly seen ….. in the middle of the road!  Therefore snakes are generally more active when the weather is warmer and they can raise their body heat.

How to protect yourself

  • Wear boots and long pants when bushwalking. Do not wear thongs!
  • Watch where you are walking and never put hands or feet under rocks or logs, especially important for your children’s wandering little hands!
  • When camping, always check inside your shoes, sleeping bags etc before using them as that might have seemed like a cosy resting place for a snake (or spider for that matter!).
  • Always use a torch when walking around campsites at night, never venture too far into the bush.
  • Do not handle snakes, especially an injured one.  Snakes will and do bite when scared.

Snake Bite First Aid

Australia has many venomous snakes and any bite could therefore be potentially fatal.  As it can be difficult to identify the snake, all bites should be treated as being potentially dangerous and immediate medical assistance should be sought.

What to do if you or someone around you is bitten by a snake:

  • Keep the patient as still as possible
  • Do not wash the bite site
  • Do not give food or drink
  • Do not cut or suck the bite
  • If you do not have a snake bite kit, use a crepe bandage or even clothing or towels torn into strips.
  • Do not apply or use a tourniquet

The Pressure Immobilisation Technique detailed below can greatly buy you time until you can reach a hospital or a medical team can reach you.

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This was George’s first time holding a snake (at the Alice Springs Reptile Centre)

Pressure Immobilisation Technique

Apply bandage to the entire limb immediately. Firmly bandage (with an elastic or crepe bandage) starting from the toes or fingers then continuing up the limb covering as much of the limb as possible.  Do not apply any tighter than you would for a sprained wrist.

After the limb is compressed, apply a splint. Immobilise the bitten limb with a splint, eg: a rolled up magazine, a stick from the ground anything that will help prevent muscle movement.

Keep the patient still and calm. Movement will increase venom flow. Calm reassurance should always be a main ingredient in any first aid situation.  Seek medical attention immediately.

Monitor pulse and breathing. Monitor pulse and breathing and if either cease, apply mouth to mouth or CPR until medical attention arrives.

Please note that, while pressure-immobilisation works for all snake bites, it is not the case for all other bites, so the best thing to do is undertake a first aid course to learn the exact first aid methods for all scenarios.  

Where to get more information

If you need any further information on snakes, or if you would like to buy a Snake Bite First Aid Kit, please check out our mates at Reptile Awareness Displays of Australia (RADOA).  Their website has loads of helpful hints to guide you through.

RADOA sell handy little kits which are small enough to carry on your belt or backpack or in your glove box.  Each kit contains a 15cm wide 2 metre (stretch to 4 metre) bandage, a triangular bandage plus instructions in case of a bite, all in a waterproof bag.   Currently priced at only A$10.00 per kit, plus postage & handling, they are a cheap and handy thing to have.   These can be purchased via the RADOA website http://www.radoa.com.au/shop

We keep one of these in each of our 4WD’s at all times, as well as our standard first aid kits.

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Our boy Sam, checking out the snake bite kit!

Meet Mr Sam!  Meet our pet snake, Sam.  Sam is a Childrens Python.  Now Childrens Pythons are a non-venomous snake, but that doesn’t mean they don’t bite, it just means that we don’t die when he does!  We got Sam as a baby and believe me, baby snakes bite …… a lot!  He was scared, he was in a new home, these huge human hands kept wanting to pick him up, he didn’t know what was going on, so he bit us all the time ……. because he was scared and that was his defence mechanism.

A few years down the track, Sam is the most placid snake and we can reach into the cage and pick him up, wrap him around our neck, let him crawl around the house, he hasn’t bit us in years because he’s now used to being handled.

SamSo I’m guessing you think we must love snakes so couldn’t be scared of them in the bush, well let me say that we are probably more wary of them now that we own a snake than we ever were before!  We now know the warning signs to look out for, we know how unpredictable a snake can be, we know how easily they can be startled and scared, we know how quick they can be and we have seen first hand the tiny little spaces a snake can squeeze it’s self into (yes we’ve had a few ‘lost snake’ moments!).

IMG_2934We are probably more concerned about snakes in the bush now than ever before!  I guess we used to be a little blasé, so it’s good to have a little more awareness.

The bottom line is, be wary of your surroundings and stay away from snakes and they will probably do the same!

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One thought on “Snakes ….. do you know what to do if you encounter one?

  1. Pingback: Warmer Weather = Increased Snake Activity | George and Shelly

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