9 tips to avoid a snake bite in the outdoors

One of the common concerns many bushwalkers and hikers have in the heat of Australian summer is the risk of a snake bite.  In reality this risk is incredibly small.

Most people who get bitten by a snake have broken some simple rules. John, a great mate of ours, has shared the following tips from an article in a recent Great Walks magazine December/January 2011 edition:

Tiger snake Tasmania in duck boarding

1.Snakes don’t hear noise so if confronted by one you can alert others by sound without concern that it will increase aggression from the snake. However, don’t waive arms around or make sudden movements which the snake could interpret as being hostile.

2.Research indicates that 90% of snake bites are to the ankle area which is a good reason to wear gaiters. Some bites also occur to the hand so be very careful in picking things up in an area where you can’t see what is on the ground.

3. If you are too close to walk around a snake and there is no escape path, back away very slowly.

4. Snakes don’t lie in wait for people, and mostly try to escape contact.

5. A snake can strike from any position and may curl itself up slightly in preparation to strike to gain extra distance. If the snake’s head is raised this may indicate that it feels threatened.

6. Snakes are hard to identify so don’t try and catch the  snake to ascertain whether they present a risk or not.

Remember in Australia you do not need to kill and identify the snake if someone has been bitten.  Snakes are protected wildlife in many States.

There are detection kits available that can help identify the type of venom / snake or the  available anti venom may cover snake bites for the common species.

7. Step onto rather than over logs – a snake may be basking on the other side.

8. Be alert at all times when in the bush, especially in the early morning during the warmer months when snakes are more likely to be sunning themselves but are slow to react i.e. slide away from you

9. Avoid walking through long grass or reeds.

If you want to read more snake information and check out some more great Tiger Snake images, just click here to view the article.

There is also a great article on treating snake bite (although a bit lean on first aid techniques) over at this University of Melbourne / Australian Venom Research site.

Do you ever see snakes when you are hiking?

What is your “worst” snake story?

Have you aver treated anyone for snake bite?

We would love you to share your story, just shoot us a couple of lines below.

Image: Ben Tubby – Flickr

Comments

  1. says

    I have never been bitten by a snake but because I am so fearful I think they are attracted to me. I have jumped over rattlesnakes in Colorado (my husband came next and usually it’s the second person who gets bitten…but he didn’t), ridden over countless snakes on my bike (totally by accident going down hills fast)screaming the whole way over the snake and finding harmless ones in my garden when no one else does. I have a April 2010 post on my blog on what happens after you get bitten by a rattlesnake. It’s not pretty.

    Fortunately I never saw a single snake in my 3 months in Australia and I have only seen dead snakes in Africa.

    One of the worst is seeing water snakes swimming in the Georgian Bay – ugh.

  2. Steve Cockburn says

    We have a myth in our bush walking club in Qld that if going into a snakey area , don’t be third in line . The first wakes em up , the second gets em very annoyed and the third one cops it. Have a Happy Christmas Frank to you , Sue and your family . Regards Steve c

  3. Sarina says

    My husband was in our tent one afternoon having a catnap when I saw a GIANT brown snake slither under the tent and it didn’t come out the otherside. Ahhhh! Wasn’t sure what to do – wake him up, wait, panic? I think I chose option 3 ;)

  4. says

    Seen plenty of Tiger snakes here in Tassie, none bigger than this one…
    http://www.tasadam.com/pics/v/Wildlife/Tiger+snake+on+Arm+River+Track_+Tasmania.jpg.html

    This photo was after I had backed away a number of paces, it totally spun me out, I wasn’t watching the track in front of me.

    Another close encounter I had was another tiger snake that had its head sticking out of the bushes, I didn’t see it until I was very close, and if I had taken another step, my foot would have landed right beside its head. Funny how easy it is to go from “forward” to “instant reverse” with a full pack on when there is a snake to encourage such a change.

  5. Ryan says

    Was hiking up at Jagungal one year, wearing Gaiters for the scrub bash that we were about to make from Mawsons Hut to the back of Jagungal, and feel this heavy tapping on my calf, almost like being whacked by a hammer. Turns out that I wasn’t watching where I was putting my feet, and I had stood on a brown, the little bugger was trying to bite, but couldn’t get through the gaiters.

    Was a bit of a scary moment. Generally not too worried about snakes though, in most cases, they dart when they feel the vibration of your feet, although I have a few times now been forced off track by a stubborn Tiger Snake though.

    • Frank says

      Good one Ryan? What is that tapping on my gaiters???? Can almost picture the scene……

      We always wear gaiters, just like that level of security round my legs.

  6. says

    Last February I was doing the cliff top walk between Govetts Leap Falls and Evan’s Lookout at Blackheath in the Blue Mountains. I was just stumbling along when a reasonably sized tiger snake shot out from the scrub on my right, through my legs and across the track! It happened so quickly I didn’t have time to react and I don’t think the snake even noticed me. I just kept walking and shrugged it off. I’ve encountered plenty of snakes over the past 38years, mainly red-belly blacks and about a dozen tigers and browns, but not many snakes really,considering the amount of time spent in the bush. I’ve yet to encounter one that was openly aggressive, though I’ve had a couple of scares.

    • Frank says

      Hey Allan,
      Great story, not many people would have had that experience (nor want to)

      I notice you have bushwalkingintheupperbluemountains in the website section but the link is not working. Can you reply with the url so I can fix it?
      Thanks for dropping by and taking the time to comment.

      Frank

  7. Hakman says

    I am forced to camp in a no no spot for snakes. Tall grass, piles of rocks close to a watering hole you name it. My only saving grace is that I’m near a train depost with trucks and trains going by constently. Do you think the big viberations are keeping the snakes away? Although I have seen lizards and frogs…

    • Frank says

      Hi,
      Not sure if the vibrations would keep the snakes away. They would get used to them so it may not worry them at all. I’d be more worried about sleeping when a train went past!

  8. Andre says

    Interesting… the fear that snakes instill in some of us… I have had the occasional “heart-stopper” here in Tassie when bushwalking… though, realistically have not really encountered any aggressive Tiger snakes here… I give them the respect and admiration they deserve and like most of us I prefer to keep my distance…

    There’s a chap up North in Ulverstone (Bill Flowers) who paints and rescues Tiger snakes… he has some interesting YouTube clips (search his name or Tiger snakes Tasmania)….

    I find the fear irrational as none of the snakes are out to get us… driving from Hobart to Launceston is something no-one would be fearful off… yet, there’s only white lines (white snakes?) dividing two cars driving at each other at the speed limit of 110km/h… mmm

  9. Lilly says

    Hi,
    I do a lot of bushwalking and haven’t seen any snakes. Although I’ve seen a few harmless water dragons and blue tongue lizards.

    I grew up in country NSW and only ever saw one black snake in the distance. In Lennox Head I saw a snake, but I stayed away from it and it slithered by.

    There is a good product from this site: It doesn’t hard any other animals or the environment. I just keeps the snakes away from you.
    http://www.sureguard.com.au/products/Snake-Repellent?gclid=CL37_dyOqbkCFSE6pgodoV8AMw

    I’m not a big fan of snakes, although they a part of our eco system and play an important role in the environment.
    Being the scardey-cat that I am, I’ve used the battery operated stick when camping. Lots of interesting facts on snakes also from the site too.
    The 9 tips to avoiding snakes is the key too.

  10. Kelly says

    Hello everyone,
    I’ve only just joined a bushwalking club and reading the above has me now a little paranoid.
    I’m sooo scared of snakes. I absolutely love nature and the outdoors and environment. I have completed a few bushwalks with friends in the Blue Mountains and lots of walks around Sydney Harbour. No snakes yet. I’m going out now to buy those gaiters.
    K

  11. says

    Got another tip for you. Don’t stray off the beaten track. I did and I almost stepped on a HUGE red belly black snake. I freaked and legged it, albeit backwards, and ended up on a rock surrounded by thick scrub. I thought I was going to have to spend the night there. I rung my friend whilst having a massive panic attack, he told me to find a stick and make a lot of noise and put it down in front of me before each step, which I did. But, have just read that snakes are deaf so that probably did’t help as much as I thought it did. When I got home my daughter was JEALOUS of my experience. Can you believe that? It was horrific I tell you. Nightmare material. I nearly didn’t see it as my eyes were bleary from crying, I was fighting with my boyfriend and had told him I wanted to die – well that changed in a split second when I saw Mr Snake. Believe me, I wanted to live.

  12. Mookie says

    Hi all
    We were out bushwalking yesterday in Binna Burra QLD, when my husband spotted a Python sunning himself. We quite a way back when he must of sensed us and slithered away, we thought he had moved enough to walk past, as hubby just got past him, it lunged within a half a metre of him, I have never moved so quick in my life. It then laid there with its head up, hasten to say we turned around, not finishing the walk. I am a little paranoid now.

      • Michelle says

        We have just been hiking in Binna Burra and a nearly 2 m carpet snake was slithering in the long grass beside us and stopped to sun itself right beside the path. With rock cliffs/ caves to one side and steep descend on the other, we felt stuck. We stamped our feet but it did not move, we were too worried to pass it with our children so also turned around. We saw another small snake and then told of a black snack along the road and to be cautious. I was starting to get freaked out. Luckily did not see third. I need my children to go hiking with snake lovers as my reactions and words of, only hiking in winter when snakes hibernate, will make them fearful too.

        • Frank says

          Oh boy Michelle, never seen a carpet snake in the wild! 2m is huge…..

          We really don’t know too many snake lovers ;-(

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