Watch out! Snakes on the slither

Beware of snakes this summer. Queensland Ambulance Service is urging residents and tourists to exercise caution when outdoors, in particular when walking through long grass.
Beware of snakes this summer. Queensland Ambulance Service is urging residents and tourists to exercise caution when outdoors, in particular when walking through long grass. Claudia Baxter

SUMMER means snakes are on the move, and Ipswich folk are being urged to be on the lookout for them.

Snake expert Brian Robinson said the most important thing to do was leave the snake alone, and if your dog was barking at it, call the dog back rather than approach the snake.

"Snake usually respond in a defensive manner; definitely don't try and kill them as it's illegal and can be prosecuted by law," Mr Robinson said.

"It's not just there to protect the snakes; it's there to protect people too.

"They are reclusive animals and while they're common in suburbia they're not commonly seen.

They prefer to avoid detection from things that are larger than them and a negative reaction is purely a defence mechanism.

QAS Local Ambulance Service Network (LASN) assistant commissioner Dee Taylor-Dutton said prevention was better than a cure when it came to snakebites.

"Queensland is home to some of the deadliest snakes in the world, including the red-bellied black, eastern brown and common death adder," Ms Taylor-Dutton said.

"It's important to be cautious when working outdoors or in a snake's habitat. If you're cleaning up your property, be careful shifting timber, iron sheeting or similar materials as a snake may be lingering nearby.

"Avoid walking through long grass, but if you have to, wear enclosed shoes and long pants and carry a compression bandage with you.

"When camping, ensure your campsite is well lit at night. It is also important for someone to have a clear understanding of first aid and what to do in an emergency situation."

Ms Taylor-Dutton said if someone was bitten, call triple-0 immediately, and keep the patient as calm as possible.

"It's best to assume the snake is venomous and call for help. Panicking will cause the heart rate to increase and spread the poison around the body quicker," Ms Taylor-Dutton said.

"Knowing first aid can make a real difference for the patient. The QAS offers comprehensive first aid courses that ensure people are prepared for a wide range of emergency situations."

Two weeks ago an 80-year-old man from Wilsons Plains, 30km south of Ipswich, died after being bitten by a 1.5m brown snake that he killed.

Nearby resident Paul Roderick said brown snakes were common in the area. He had last seen one just before the elderly man died.

Mr Robinson said in his 30 years of handling snakes, he had never heard of them chasing a human.

"Snakes won't chase you," he said. "I've been working with snakes for 30 years and never had one notion of a snake chasing you.

"The key is about people realising chasing a snake will escalate level of conflict.

A snake left alone is perfectly harmless, but to handle them you need a specialised-type permit as it can be a risky business.

Snake First Aid

  • Avoid washing the wound as hospitals may test the bandage for poison to help identify the snake;
  • If you only have one bandage, start binding over the bite site and then work up the limb. If more bandages are available, bandage over the bite site, and then with a second bandage start at the extremities (fingers or toes) and work up the limb. Bandage the limb firmly, as you would for a sprained ankle and;
  • Splint the limb to keep it straight and do not allow the patient to move around.

Topics:  snakes



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