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Australian Snakes
  Australian Snakes - Overview
       




In Australia most people are well afraid of snakes. And with good enough reason. If you step on one accidentally you might well be bitten. And that has consequences. Perhaps that is why Australians even in snake free countries such as New Zealand canít relax in long grass.

Because we live in a house in Southern Australia with a largish garden near a river, snakes are frequent visitors. If they are about the house we try to kill them. But if they are down the river end they will just go on their way. One of our dogs was bitten by a four foot tiger snake and had to spend the night at the vets. Because he was a big dog he survived.

However snakes are protected species in Australia.

The most common Australian snakes that people come across include: (Click on the name for more detailed information)

The Red Bellied Black Snake

Scientific Name: Pseudechis porphyriacus

Not hugely venomous and it lives in the Eastern ranges and along sand dunes near the coast. It is very common.

Tiger Snake

Scientific Name: Notechis scutatus

It is often striped with lighter bands running around its body hence its common name.

It is quite venomous but will generally only attack if surprised or threatened.

It is common even in newer suburban areas. I have seen them on remote beaches, as well as along rivers where there can be high populations. People going fishing along rivers and estuaries need to be on the lookout for them.

Brown Snake

Scientific Name: Demansia textilis

A very common snake of mainly inland Australia which can grow quite large. Browns of nearly two metres have been seen in Western Victoria. It is very venomous.

King Brown Snake

Scientific Name: Pseudechis australis

A very common snake of the desert and Northern Australia which is as thick as a manís forearm, and often grows to three metres in length. It is very venomous.

Aboriginal children will throw good sized rocks at a king brown until its back is broken. These snakes are too big and too dangerous to approach with a shovel or the like. A shot gun might be used to kill them if they are in a house or about a garden.

The Taipan

Scientific Name: Oxyuranus scutellatus

A very dangerous snake which grows to over 2 metres. It lives in the dry interior and is widespread. 

Death Adder

Scientific Name: Acanthophis antarcticus

This is found across the desert areas and along the coast of NSW and Queensland, and is very venomous. It is not as common as the other snakes listed.

Dugite

Scientific name: Pseudonaja affinis.

This is related to the brown snakes and is common across the south western section from the SA gulfs to the Indian Ocean. Like the other browns its venom causes paralysis and has a powerful agent which interferes with the blood clotting.

They have very variable colours and patterns.

Copperhead

Scientific name:

This snake is generally found in the inland areas of Victoria and parts of NSW.

Sea snakes

Yellow bellied Sea snake

Scientific Name: Pelamis platurus

These are found mainly in the warmer areas but sometimes can turn up on Southern beaches. They are not usually regarded as a danger in the water unless you accidentally touched one. They are venomous.

Death from snake bites:

Death is less common these days because usually medical help is at hand

and antivenenes have been developed. Also most people who are out in the bush know the basic first aid measures of dealing with snake bite.

First aid for snake bite.

  • Use the pressure immobilisation technique for a bite on a limb.
  • -apply firm pressure over the bite site

  • -apply broad bandage to keep pressure on bite site.

  • -immobilise limb

  • (for bites on the head or trunk do not use this technique but keep thepatient still and get medical aid asap)

  • Monitor the airways, breathing and circulation of the patient. Be ready to give Expired Air Resuscitation (mouth to mouth)or CPR.
  • Keep the patient very still and reassure.
  • Start transport to the nearest medical centre or call and meet an ambulance.
  • Do not cut the bite
  • Do not suck the bite.

  • Do not wash the bite.

  • Do not apply a tourniquet.

Snake Stories

Many Australians can tell stories of nearly treading on a snake, being frightened by a snake, or even killing a snake.

One of the best known snake stories is ĎThe Droverís Wifeí by Henry Lawson which tells of a womenís all night vigil to protect her children knowing that there is a snake in the wall of their slab hut.

Although deaths from snake bite do occur, (eg one elderly women was bitten by a tiger snake while she pruned the ivy on the fence, in Kew an inner suburb of Melbourne, in 2003), many more deaths from snake bite occur in Asia and Africa.

Further Information on Snakes:

 

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