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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

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20 Comments

  1. Leigh 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.

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  3. 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

  4. 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 ;)

  5. Adam 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.

  6. [...] previous article with 9 tips to avoid a snake bite while hiking drew a couple of interesting responses and images from our readers about their encounters with [...]

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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…

  10. [...] A little bit of prevention can go a long way. Here are some simple tips to avoid snakes from Ourhikingblog.com.au – 9 Tips to Avoid a Snake Bite in the Outdoors : [...]

  11. 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

  12. 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.

  13. 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

  14. 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.

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