5 poisonous Australian snakes to avoid.

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By Matt from Melbourne, Australia – Eastern Brown Snake eating an Eastern Blue tongue.Uploaded by SunOfErat, CC BY 2.0, Link
There are around 2500 differing species of snake in the world, with roughly 170 of these residing in Australia. 140 land dwelling and 32 sea dwelling snakes to be exact. More than half of all snakes that live in Australia are poisonous, so no matter where you go in Australia, if it’s summer you’ve got a chance of bumping into a variety of snakes. In this article we are going to focus on 5 of the most poisonous Australian snakes.



A few facts about poisonous Australian snakes.

 

Squished Red Belly Black snake
Squished Red Belly Black snake

Snakes are cold-blooded. This means that they’re unable to regulate their body temperature, which is why if you go out driving as the sun comes up, you’ll likely see then basking in the early morning sun. Well if they’ve not been squished yet that is!! Also, when it gets to mid-day they’ll slither off into a burrow/under a rock to try to stay cool.

A snakes eyesight isn’t all that good at distance. Being able to see an ant from 3000 yards ain’t much use when you can’t see over the top of a blade of grass.

The vibrations on the ground are what snakes use to hear what is coming.

Also, their sense of small is a little alien, every time a snake flicks it’s tongue out it’s effectively tasting the surrounding air for signs of rodents and other prey that may be nearby.

In hotter climates the snakes will be fully nocturnal, preferring to hunt at night.



So if I get bitten is it game over!?

 

This depends on a lot of factors:

  • What type of snake bit you?
  • how many times you were bitten?
  • How far away is the anti-venom?
  • Do you/people you’re with know to deal with a snake bite?

 

To give you an idea of how many people in Australia actually die in comparison to how many are bitten, I’ve found a few facts and figures from a study conducted by Conversation.com:

 

Between 2001 and 2013 more than 42000 people were hospitalised from venomous bites and stings in Australia.

Of those 42000 people hospitalised, 12,351 were from bees, wasps and hornets. 11,994 were from poisonous spiders and 6,123 hospitalised from poisonous Australian snakes.

So over the 12 years of the study, it equates to just over 510 per year. Not really that many!

So out of those numbers how many actually died!?

27 from the bees, wasps and hornets died from anaphylactic shock.

0 for the poisonous spider bites

27 for the poisonous snakes – So out of 6,123 bites only 27 died or just over 2 per year. Although that being said, one thing that can be taken from those numbers is, being chomped by a poisonous snake means even after admittance to hospital you’ve got the biggest chance of not making it compared to the others.

According to the World Health Organisation, people traveling to India should be the worried ones. Apparently over one million bites occur yearly, with a death toll of around 50,000. India accounts for half of all estimated yearly deaths from snake bite across the world.



How do I avoid being bitten by these slithering nasties!?

 

Some answers are just plain obvious but seen as some of us tourists don’t engage our brains sometimes, I’m going to include them anyway. (Notice how I said “us”? Yes I’m a culprit of one or two of these).

 

  • Don’t try to catch one; You are not the legendary Steve Irwin in his heyday! These things are faster than you.
  • Don’t try to kill one; Well, why would you!?
  • Don’t start lifting boulders/logs; If you came along and ripped my roof off, I’d be hitting you with the full dose as well!
  • Don’t put your hands in cracks/crevices; Again, why would you?
  • Don’t stamp your feet if you see one; As mentioned earlier, snakes hear through the vibrations in the ground. You start stomping around and the snake feels threatened, just prey to god you’re not in striking range!

 

And now the do’s

 

  • Do make plenty of noise; When walking around the outback don’t be creeping round like you’re the protagonist from Assains Creed. Don’t know about you but I’d rather not sneak up and surprise a “king Brown”
  • Do use a torch at night; If you must go walking around the campsite at night, take a torch, you might at least see the snake before you step on it.
  • Do wear appropriate footwear; Yep this is the one I’m guilty of. Flip flops/thongs if you’re Australian, just don’t stop venom laden fangs from puncturing your feet. A good pair of walking boots and the odds are you’ll be right.


Here’s what you need to worry about – 5 poisonous Australian snakes!!

Eastern Brown snake a.k.a Common Brown Snake

 

Eastern Brown snake eating blue tongue lizard
Eastern Brown snake eating blue tongue lizard

By Matt from Melbourne, Australia – Eastern Brown Snake eating an Eastern Blue tongue.Uploaded by SunOfErat, CC BY 2.0, Link

 

Habitat; Across the eastern side of mainland Australia. Lives in rural areas, quite often found on farms.

Appearance; Grows up to 2m in length, although the longest was recorded at 2.4m. The colour ranges from pale to dark brown, sometimes with an orangy hue.

Prey; Anything from field mice to other small rodents.

Rate of envenoming; 20-40%

Danger rating; The Common Brown snake is bad-tempered and aggressive. Once agitated, it will raise its head and coil its neck, mouth open, fangs out ready to sink them into your leg.

It carries the second most toxic venom of any snake worldwide. Once bitten, its highly potent venom starts causing paralysis and stops blood from clotting. You can be collapsed/unconscious within minutes of being bitten.

 

Mainland tiger snake a.k.a Common Tiger Snake

 

photo of eastern tiger snake
Eastern Tiger snake

By TenecheOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

 

Habitat; Lives anywhere along the South Eastern coast from the western edge of South Australia to New South Wales and Tasmania. The Common Tiger snake is involved in a high percentage of snake bites due to the fact that it resides in highly populated suburban areas of Melbourne and nocturnally hunts mice around houses, which means it is easily stood on.

Appearance; The Common Tiger snake can grow up to 2m in length and has black and yellow stripes the full length of its body.

Rate of envenoming; 40-60%

Danger rating; Immediately after being bitten, you’ll feel severe pain in limbs and neck, then come the cold sweats which then moves on to paralysis, breathing difficulty and eventually death. Untreated bites are fatal.

 

Inland Taipan a.k.a Fierce snake

 

photo of Inland Taipan
Inland Taipan

By BjoertvedtOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

 

Habitat; The Inland Taipan is found around where the corner of South Australia meets Queensland. It spends most of its time in cracks of rocks (remember this is why you don’t put your hands rocky cracks) and under boulders. The Inland Taipan is pretty rare and you’ll have to go looking for one to see one.

Appearance; They grow up to 2.5m in length although the usual max length would be around 1.8m. The colour varies from a light sandy brown to dark brown.

Prey; The Inland Taipan’s primary source of food is the long-haired rat, which it hunts in their burrows. Once the Taipan catches a rat it bites and pumps 30,000 times the venom needed to kill the rat. The reason being that rats can cause serious damage to snakes so it’s best to bite them and then release. The rat won’t get far before the venom renders it paralysed.

Rate of envenoming; 80%

Danger rating; The Inland Taipan has the most potent venom of any land snake in the world. Surprisingly, there has never been a death caused by the Inland Taipan, although according to the Australian Venom Reasearch Unit one drop of its venom is enough to kill 100 men. Untreated, it could kill an adult within 45 minutes.

 

Coastal Taipan a.k.a Eastern Taipan

 

picture of a Coastal Taipan
Coastal Taipan

By Denise Chan from Hong Kong, China – Taipan, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link

Habitat; Lives in abandoned animal burrows and hollow logs from the Kimberley mountains all the way across the north coast and down the east coast, as far south as northern New South Wales.

Appearance; Grows up to 2m in length but the longest ever recorded is 2.9m. It is from light brown to almost black with a yellow/cream belly.

Prey; The Coastal Taipan will eat almost anything it can catch. Mainly, rats, mice, birds and the occasional lizard.

Rate of envenoming; 80%

Danger rating; Can be ferocious if cornered and is happy to deliver multiple bites in quick succession. The Coastal Taipan’s bite causes internal bleeding, convulsions, destruction of muscle tissue and even kidney failure. Before the curation of a Taipan antivenom was introduced in 1956 nearly all Coastal Taipan bites were fatal, with death occurring in as little as 30 minutes.

 

Mulga snake a.k.a the King brown snake

 

picture of a king brown
Mulga snake (Pseudechis australis)

By SmacdonaldOwn work, CC BY 3.0, Link

 

Habitat; The “King Brown” can be found in every state apart from Victoria and Tasmania. Likes to live under rocks, logs, cracks in the soil and abandoned burrows.

Or as in my experience, under the washing machine in the laundry room. Sat outside in the sun, having a couple of beers, looked across the car park to watch a small, maybe 2-3 foot king Brown slither under the washer. Obviously, I let everyone in the hostel know, as well as notifying the management. Only to be told, “don’t worry about it, just make sure you’ve got some shoes on”. There’s that “she’ll be rite” Australian attitude.

Appearance; The King Brown is a fairly slender snake with golden brown glossy scales. They grow up to around 2.7m.

Prey; The “mulga” isn’t too fussy at all. It’ll eat anything it can find, including birds, eggs, lizards, snakes, small mammals and frogs.

Rate of envenoming; 40-60%

Danger rating; The King Brown has the largest dose of venom of any snake on the planet. Up to 150mg per bit compared to 10-40mg of the Tiger snake. The King Browns aggression level depends on whereabouts you encounter it, meet one in the south and it’ll probably just try to escape. Meet one further north on a bad day and you’ll know about it, they’ve been known to clamp down and chew as they try to inject as much venom as possible. The venom breaks down blood cells and affects the function of the nervous system. Bite must be treated in hospital.

 

First aid

So if you are unlucky enough to get bitten by one of the above, let’s be serious, you’re in the brown stuff! A little first aid might just save your bacon! So let’s see what the main things you should do if, yourself or someone around you is bitten.

  • Stay calm; Easier said than done eh!?
  • Reassure the victim; If I get bit and someone comes over with their best soft voice on and says “don’t worry it will be OK” I’m sorry I’ll still be freaking out. Well that’s what the experts say so you should do it.
  • Don’t disturb the wound; Cleaning the wound won’t help the victim but will wash away the excess venom which could be used to identify the culprit to ensure the correct antivenom is administered.
  • Apply pressure to the wound; Slows the spread of venom. (not too tight though).
  • Try to keep the limb still; Getting bitten on the leg and then hiking back to the car will only spread the venom faster. Ideally the victim should be stretchered.
  • Know where the hospital is; Soon as you know you’re going into the outback you should research the nearest hospital incase the worst was to happen.


Conclusion

So there you have it! Even though these snakes are extremely dangerous, the odds of getting bitten by one is extremely slim (well as long as you’re not being a fool) and the chance of dying even slimmer. You may not even see any, well not as many as those freaky spiders anyway.

Getting bitten by a poisonous Australian snake doesn’t look like fun but follow the advice above and “she’ll be rite”.

 

 

 

 

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2 thoughts on “5 poisonous Australian snakes to avoid.

  • February 6, 2018 at 7:10 pm
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    Yikes! I was helping out on a farm in Adelaide and came across a deadly snake and spider on the same day. They look so normal, no warning signs.

    Reply
    • February 9, 2018 at 9:07 pm
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      Hi Laurel,

      The snakes I found to pretty illusive but the spiders are everywhere. Suppose after a good while you just get used to them to be honest.

      Reply

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