As a Brit living in Australia now, the Outback intrigues me. It’s almost unthinkable that the world’s largest cattle station in it is almost the size of an entire country. The Outback isn’t only about desert like vegetation – there are other parts like creeks and canyons and even waterfalls. In spite of the sometimes pretty inhospitable temperatures, there are some deadly creatures living here. I joined an Outback Adventure tour toward the end of last year and thankfully was introduced to the Western Brown Snake. Our leader casually informed us that they have venom that kills and that we should simply watch where we put our feet and to stand dead still if we do meet one.
When we boarded our 4×4 again, he saw me scratching around my neck and said it may be the red back spider. Once again he casually announced that this spider can inflict severe pain to its victims and sometimes death. My horrified expression quickly made him admit he was just teasing. He said that the Outback has lots of creatures that have adapted to the extreme temperatures and weather extremes. Well that was my introduction to the Outback, but I promise to keep you posted about the many fascinating facts about this interest land.
In a recent study it was found that humans are naturally afraid of snakes. It is imprinted in our genes. Only few snake species are poisonous. Australia has largest collection of deadly and poisonous snakes.
Some of the most deadly snakes are:
- Common Brown snake – This snake is found in eastern side of Australia and is responsible for most number of Human deaths. It is fast, aggressive and easily roused. When angry it rises up from the ground in an “S” shape and strikes. Its venom is one of the most toxic and leads to progressive paralysis. If the victim is left untreated for more than 10 minutes, death is imminent.
- Common Tiger Snake – Tiger snakes are responsible for second highest number of bites. They are found in highly populated areas along the east coast and even in some urban areas of Melbourne. Their venom damages blood and muscles, and leads to kidney failure. When angry they strike low on feet.
- Inland Taipan – This snake has the most toxic venom of all terrestrial snakes. Found in Queensland, South Australia and New South Wales it is very reclusive. They are deadly but due to rarity very few bites have been reported.
- Common Death Adder – The unique toxins in the venom of the common death adder makes it deadly. Around 50 percent of bites result in deaths. The venom causes loss of motor functions which includes respiration, leading to asphyxiation and eventual death. It is found in Eastern, Southern and Western Australia.
- King Brown Snake – It is the most aggressive snake found in Australia. They bite savagely and chew muscles injecting large amounts of venom (Up to 150 mg). They hiss loudly and are frightening when they sway. It is found all over Australia.
I mentioned in my last post how I had never seen a snake until I ventured out of my safe little city life. Most Australians are the same, we go about our normal life without any fear. Those who live in more rural areas or near bush may have higher experiences, but again they’re not running around all day screaming. The truth is it is not that big an issue. A bit of common sense when in bushland settings is your best friend.
As this article points out, there are roughly 3000 snake bites a year (stop panicking – think population numbers!) of that only between 200-500 need anti-venom, and one or two are fatal. One or two..think how many people die from random acts of stupidity, we need perspective. The main reason people die is lack of treatment, and how many of us are going that far out in the bush. Snakes dislike us more than we dislike them – they will sense us coming way before and move out of our way in general. If you do happen to be walking through bush, they’ll feel your movements, so walk heavy! What may seem strange to some, but is truthfully quite normal in rural areas – certain snakes are actually not discouraged from a property. Pythons are not dangerous to humans, but will attack Brown snakes which are deadly – having a Python is often seen as a safety net. Generally people living in snake prone areas will also have the number for a local snake catcher, and some good general knowledge about snake types.
Australia is a scary place in some regards – a harsh environment that could leave you dead in a short time without preparation. But, the reality of that statement is far from the truth. I’ve lived in Australia for most of my life and, as I like to point out to ny friends, I’m still here!
Most Australians encounter nothing more dangerous than sun-burn or mosquito bites – we live in comfortable cities surrounded by mod-cons to keep nature at bay. In fact, until I travelled to Queensland one year, I had never seen a snake in the wild. When we do go out of our comfort zone we go prepared, you wouldn’t just drive into the desert without sufficient water and supplies, or jump into a lake in the Outback without knowing if there was a crocodile danger. And in the main, most animals are more scared of us than we are of them – they’ll here you coming and disappear.
Preparation and knowledge, like in most things in life, are our companion, when venturing outside our safe environment. There are wonderful websites explaining how to identify poisonous animals and what to do in the unlikely event of a snake or spider bite, how to treat dehydration, safe swimming spots. Most of these I had never read or needed in my blissful ignorant city life. Remember the truly most dangerous animal in Australia is actually- the horse!