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Snakes

Small eyed Snake_South Morang Vic_SWatharowf.jpg

Introduction

We understand how difficult it can be to get information for people from the various cultures who have called Australia home. It is our hope that you will find the following information helpful and provide reassurance for you and your family.

FAQs

Does Australia have the most dangerous snakes in the world?

  • Answer: No, that is a myth that is encouraged by misinformed people. Australia has dangerously venomous snakes BUT the rate of deaths in Australia is so low and with great first aid death is rare. Compared to countries around the world an estimated 80,000-120,000 people die in many countries and worse yet many people die from after bite damage (morbidity) and long-term debilitating conditions. Australian snakebites rarely have these conditions. The shy nature of Australian snakes, their skill at avoiding detection, and mobility prevent many bites.

Can I tell a harmless snake from a venomous snake by colour?

  • Answer: Not on your life no. In some parts of Australia snakes are very similar in colouration obviously due to camouflage and habitats they survive in. In Melbourne all snakes are venomous which is great as it removes the idea of a harmless species. 

Why do snakes travel through a yard?
  • Answer: Food is an easy reason. If you have mice and rats living in the region especially common compost bins, sheds, and within kitchens (so bait regularly especially in spring and summer). Shelter: snakes avoid excessive heat within sheds and car ports even office spaces if doors are left open (so keep doors closed), when major habitat disturbance’s e.g. bushfires, grass slashing, flooding, major development for hosuing or land clearing. Often snakes will navigate through several houses in one day so they are passing through.

Are snakes protected by law?
  • Answer: Yes, snakes are protected e.g. Wildlife Act 1975, like all vertebrate native fauna in Victoria. Snakes cannot be interfered with, harmed or harassed. An authority exists for snake catchers to remove snakes in nuisance situations at the request of the homeowner.

What snakes do we have in Melbourne? Are they potentially dangerous?
  • Answer:

  • Yes, and yes, we have two very dangerously venomous snakes: 

  • Common Tiger Snake and

  • The Eastern Brown Snake

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  • There is also the Lowland Copperhead but this species while venomous is a very low risk to people both in venom and nature, it will also eat other snakes.

Do snakes bite and not inject venom?
  • Answer: Yes, often when snakes are surprised or stood on mistakenly they bite as a reflex. We call this a dry bite or fright bite where they bite due to the surprising nature of the confrontation and often they retreat quickly away. The large majority of documented snake bites fall in this category!

How do I keep my family safe if there is a snake in my yard?
  • Answer: Firstly, lead from the front your manner and behaviour will set an example. Snakes are a fact of urban life for many Victorians. Children just want to know its OK. Reassure them and advise them to keep out of the yard for the next two days. Maintain a watch on the snake where possible. Most sightings of snakes are short and often never seen again. Decide whether you will pay for a catcher to remove snake if they can find it. If you choose to just wait out the snake keep pets and kids indoors over next two days and then third day patrol yard and ensure no further sightings. 

Snakes often are never seen again after the first sighting?
  • Answer: true snakes are very good at disappearing from yards after a sighting.

Blue tongued lizards are often mistakenly identified a snake in yards?
  • Answer: Roughly 25% of loose reptile sightings turn out to be blue tongued lizards! Occasionally even rubber snakes are called in!

Can snakes kill you?
  • Answer: Yes, in extreme cases of snakebite in Australia 1 – 3 people may die a year from 28 million people! So very unlikely.

What should I do if someone is bitten?
  • Answer: First call 000 (Triple Zero) an emergency number for an ambulance anywhere in Australia. Then if you have a broad bandage apply it by wrapping the bitten limb from top to bottom as much as possible. Tight as if for a sprain.
     

  • Do not take medication especially aspirin

  • Do not take alcohol or other drugs

  • Do not rush yourself to hospital wait for an ambulance

  • Do not get up and move around

  • Remain still

  • Do not get others to drive you to hospital

  • Do not apply ice or wipe the area the bite occurred

What can I do to prevent snakebite?
  • Do not go out in the bush wearing things, short pants or walk in unclear areas

  • Do not let your dog off lead in natural areas where snakes live

  • Children should only play in open areas with clear line of sight

  • On bush walks for watch where you step

  • Never harass or try to kill snakes

  • On warm nights use a torch when exploring or active

The team at Reptiles Victoria Inc hope this provides you some information and some reassurance. If you have any issues always try to seek further help.

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