Snakes

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Snakes are commonplace in all Australian States and Territories. They can be found anywhere; from urban areas to the deserts of central Australia. Bushwalkers can expect to see a snake from time to time.

Several thousand people are bitten by a snake each year, although fatalities are rare.

For the bushwalker, a snake bite is a serious medical emergency: 

  • Stop immediately.  The victim must rest and restrict all movement.
  • Apply first aid treatment swiftly.
  • Seek medical assistance straight away. See Emergency communications.

While not all snakes have a venomous bite, attempting to locate and identify a snake after someone has been bitten is asking for trouble. Medical treatment does not depend on knowing the species of snake.

Assume that any snake bite is from a venomous snake. 

Preparation and prevention:

  • Complete a first aid course that includes specific practice in snake bite treatment.
  • Carry several compression (or pressure immobilisation or elasticised roller) bandages in the group, including when on any side trips.  These bandages are essential for first aid treatment.
  • Carry an effective emergency communications device. See Emergency communications.
  • Wear boots and gaiters. They provide excellent protection.
  • Long pants offer better protection than shorts.
  • Children should be taught to be alert for and to avoid snakes.

On the trip

Be especially careful:

  • When a snake has already been sighted.
  • On warm, sunny days in spring, summer and autumn. Snakes are unlikely to be sighted in cold weather or during the winter months.
  • Near creeks, rivers and swamps. They are a good food source for snakes.
  • Around campsites, which are often near water, and people are relaxed and not wearing protective clothing or footwear.
  • When collecting firewood or water

If a snake is sighted

Give the snake space and time to get away. Snakes will normally move quickly away from people, but can become aggressive if a threat is perceived or it is trapped. For this reason, do not attempt to take a close-up photograph or crowd a snake for a better look, or to identify it.

Do not:

  • Walk around campsites or anywhere else in bare feet where there is no clear view of the ground.
  • Attempt to kill a snake. That really will cause the snake to become aggressive, and, in any case, snakes are a protected native animal.

Treatment

Treatment should be learnt by doing a first aid course.  Three key elements are:

  • Stop. The victim must immediately rest and restrict all movement.
  • Apply first aid treatment swiftly.
  • Seek medical assistance straight away. See Emergency communications.

References and external links

This information is no substitute for doing a first aid course that includes snake bite treatment.