The size of snakes is changing! Doubling in size means double the danger, double the amount of venom in a bite.
Snake catchers have warned that the higher temperature have caused some of Australia’s top venomous snakes to double in size.
As unseasonable hotter summers take hold, Aussies need to be vigilant!
1. What is causing Snakes to get bigger?
When temperatures drop, snakes go into brumation, which means they stop eating, their metabolism slows down and they look for somewhere warm to hide.
This year winter has had times when it was 20-23 degrees Celsius causing the snakes to come out of hibernation and become active. At the same time their prey like lizards, rodents, frogs, birds, and small mammals were rapidly breeding in the warmer temperature, providing an abundance of food for the snakes to catch and gain weight making them longer and more robust.
Early warm and sunny conditions have meant more people are out and more dog walks. As the venom is at its most toxic in spring and early summer, curious animals are getting bitten and there has been surge in reported snake bites for pets and humans!
While the average length of the eastern brown — the second most venomous snake on the planet is 1.2 metres. Already snake catchers are finding even thicker snakes at 1.8 metres.
2. Why do Snakebites spike during very hot weather?
Heat waves can make not only humans more irritable and aggressive but also snakes!
Human and snake encounters increase, as people enjoy warmer weather outside, increasing the chances of being bitten. Whether hiking or gardening Aussies and visitors must stay vigilant
Snakes are cold-blooded animals and need to regulate their body temperature and their behaviour! Making them more active to cool down in a shady spot. It is the same for venomous and non-venomous snakes. They will seek shade and even head indoors for it causing more risk of people getting bitten in their home!
3. How often do snakebites cause death in Australia?
The estimated incidences of snakebites annually are approximately 3000 bites a year. 90% of these bites are from people trying to catch a snake.
The average mortality rate in 1920’s was around 13 people per year. Nowadays in Australia fatal snake bites are relatively rare with only an average of 2 people a year dying due to the national antivenom program. Of the same magnitude in comparison to many countries snake for example South Africa there are around 480 snakebite deaths a year.
Eastern Browns are responsible for most snake bite deaths.
4. How do Australian doctors treat Snakebites?
Aussies have great access to excellent antivenom and other treatments. For snakebites, antivenom is the only specified treatment. Getting the antivenom as quickly as possible is crucial.
Luckily for any victim, Australia has the only snake venom detection kits! Using the wrong antivenom would lead to problems especially when the victim might not be able to identify the snake correctly.
In 1979 Australia was the first country in the world to produce a commercial snake venom detection kit which made antivenom choice more accurate.
5. How is Snake venom collected?
The venom is collected holding the snakes head on a container then pressing down on the back of the snake’s head. The automatic response is for the snake to bite and as it does so the snake’s fangs drip venom out for at least 15-20 seconds.
In the venom glands of a venomous snake are an abundance of therapeutic drugs as well as lifesaving solutions for snakebites. A toxin from the venom of the Eastern Brown Snake is being considered to reverse a life-threatening bleeding complication.
In the wild snakes use this venom to kill their prey and by preying on rats and mice they are playing a vital role to keep down the numbers.
6. Do Snakes flee from your path and escape?
Snakes usually try to avoid humans and slither away. They are alerted that humans are coming by feeling the vibrations that people’s walking causes. If a person was really thumping as they walk, it would scare most snakes. If a person is walking through the bush and doesn’t see a snake until they are very close, most Australian snakes will rapidly slither away as if they were cowards! Snakes usually won’t attack anything that is too big to swallow.
Unless cornered, snakes do not chase people and then if cornered, they will first look for the quickest avenue of escape.
Australian snakes are more likely to retreat if they are young adults or if they have been moving prior to the encounter.
The fast moving, aggressive Eastern Brown Snake found across most of East Australia, are known for their bad temper and are responsible for around 65% of fatalities.
7. Should you run or walk away from a Snake?
If you come across a snake in your path, your first thought is to run but that is not the best thing to do.
Slowly back away from the snake so that you don’t startle it. If you cannot go back in the direction, you came from, and it is possible to give the snake a wide berth, most snakes have no desire to be around people.
Snakes do not have very good eyesight so if a person stands still, they will not feel threatened or scared. They will then be less likely to bite.
If you see a snake inside your home, it is best to not provoke them and get all people and pets out of the room before you call a professional to help.
8. What so you do if a Snake bites you?
If a snake successfully injects venom through a bite, it will travel through the lymphatic system to the bloodstream, causing resulting in the nerves and muscles to react to cause paralysis.
If a person collapses from a snakebite and does not seem to be breathing, you must immediately provide CPR.
- Lay the casualty down on the ground and ensure that the patient remains still.
- Apply a pressure immobilisation bandage, by wrapping a broad pressure bandage around the bite as soon as possible.
- Then apply a heavy elasticised bandage just above the fingers or toes and work your way upwards on the limb. Wrap the bandage past the snakebite and as far up the limb as possible.
- Check the bandage is applied firmly enough but without hindering the blood circulation.
- Splint the bandaged limb.
- Make certain the patient understands to remain still.
- Call 000 for medical emergency.
- Record the time the bite occurred and when bandage was applied.
- Wait with the casualty and monitor any changes in their condition.
9. What does a snake bit look like?
A snake bite varies depending on the type of snake you may have: –
- Puncture marks at the wound or small, visible scratches
- Redness, minor swelling or blistering around the bite
- Severe pain and tenderness around the bite
Venomous bites may lead to nausea, vomiting, numbness, weakness, paralysis and difficulty breathing.
10. What does a non-poisonous snake bite look like?
These bites may appear as a semi-circular pattern of small teeth marks. The small teeth of these snakes do not leave a puncture wound, you would only see a scrape, as non-poisonous snakes do not have fang.
As no venom is released it is a dry bite, but they are also painful and may cause swelling or redness.