A well-grown Tiger snake was soaking up the warmth of the path.
A well-grown Tiger snake was soaking up the warmth of the path.

3 snakes to watch out for right now on the Northern Rivers

SPRING has sprung, and with it come snakes - lots of them.

With recent rain making the Northern Rivers even more fertile than usual, the amount of prey available to snakes has multiplied.

Where small mammals thrive, snakes will hunt.

And having just emerged from their long winter of semi-dormancy, snakes are hungry, horny, and on the move.

Here are three snakes you need to keep a lookout for, and some tips for how to be prepared.

DEATH ADDER

 

Death Adder
Death Adder

THE stocky death adder is probably the most unique deadly Australian snake.

Instead of actively hunting, the death adder sits completely still, except for the twitching of the lure-like end of its tail to attract unwary prey.

Then it strikes - the fastest in the world - in just 0.13 of a second. It also has the longest fangs of any Australian snake.

It's neurotoxic venom once killed half of all human victims, although that rate has dropped with the introduction of antivenom.

Unlike other snakes, it doesn't move away from approaching people, and is well camouflaged.

This makes it a particular problem for unwary bushwalkers moving through its preferred terrain of eucalypt forests, woodlands and coastal heaths.

TIGER SNAKE

 

A Tiger snake, Notechis scutatus, photographed in the Coochin Creek Riparian Reserve.



Photo Contributed
A Tiger snake, Notechis scutatus, photographed in the Coochin Creek Riparian Reserve. Photo Contributed Contributed

The tiger snake is common in swamps, wetlands and water courses, is also common around farms, and coincides with the majority of human habitation in the southeast of Australia.

When threatened, it will usually engage in a characteristic hissing display before striking.

Tiger snakes are responsible for the second-highest number of snake bites in Australia.

In August a heavily pregnant Northern Rivers mother was bitten by a Tiger snake, leaving her with much more than the usual pre-birth anxiety.

Because it hunts at night, it can easily be trodden on accidentally.

Their potent venom can cause paralysis and internal bleeding, and must be treated immediately or else death can result.

EASTERN BROWN SNAKE

 

EXTREMELY VENOMOUS: Byron Shire snake catcher George Ellis with a rather large Eastern Brown snake he caught on a Nashua property earlier this month,
EXTREMELY VENOMOUS: Byron Shire snake catcher George Ellis with a rather large Eastern Brown snake he caught on a Nashua property earlier this month, George Ellis

The worst of the lot, because it's the most common and has the most dangerous venom.

It is also considered more aggressive or at least prone to making pre-emptive strikes if it feels threatened and has no escape route.

The Eastern Brown is responsible for the majority of snake bite fatalities in Australia.

It is common around rural properties, under houses, and in gardens.

It's venom contains potent anti-coagulants and a number of other toxic agents, which make it the second most deadly venom in the world.

Victims can quickly descend into severe symptoms, leading to death, unless prompt wrapping of a pressure bandage followed by medical attention is provided.

Only 50% of brown bites contain venom - but always assume the worst.

BE SNAKE SMART

  • Be on the lookout at all times for snakes. Move gently, and if you see a snake stand still. Most Australian snakes can only sense movement.
  • Snakes are usually always mellow if they don't feel threatened and will slither way given time and space.
  • Never walk around your property in darkness without a good torch. Even then, walk carefully.
  • Many Australian snake bites do not hurt and often go unnoticed as a result. The fangs of Australian snakes are particularly small - the Eastern Brown's fangs are less than 5mm. If you suspect you or a child has been bitten do not assume it is just a prickle or a stick - pay attention.
  • Always have at least two good pressure bandages available and know how to wrap them. You need practice, and you need to buy the right kind. Setopress compression bandages are recommended for the job. They are available here. Here is a link to the best available snake bite first aid instructions from the University of Melbourne.
  • Have an emergency protocol in place for your family if there is any snake bite. A snake bite victim should immediately stop moving and someone else should administer the pressure bandage.
  • Always call triple-0 in an emergency. If you are going to be out of range at all, consider buying or renting a personal locator beacon which will enable emergency services to track you and make an urgent pickup, usually by helicopter.
  • Avoid a snake interaction as an absolute priority. You don't want to be bitten because the effects of a bite are different every time and anti-venom, while it might save your life, can also have unintended side effects.


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