...so you don't need to panic about Australian snakes. Really!
There are about 2500 snake species in the world. In Australia live only 110 land and 32 sea snakes.
Now, why is everyone talking about the dangers of snakes in Australia?
Well, Australia is the only country, or region, that has more venomous snakes than non-venomous species. But not all of the snakes considered poisonous have venom that is capable to kill humans, or even cause severe illness.
Correction: I got a message from Peter Comber who currently works for Zoos Victoria (Healesville Sanctuary). He also served on the committee of the Victorian Herpetological Society. Peter informed me that the "snake" in the above picture actually is a Common Scaly-foot (Pygopus lepidopodus), one of the many Australian legless lizards. Thank you Peter for the information.
Snakes can be found all over Australia, not only in the Outback. However, you will hardly see them. On all my trips I only saw a few snakes and I nearly stepped on one when I was walking along the Eyre Highway (At least I thought it was a snake at that time).
But this won't happen every day. Sadly enough, most snakes you will see in Australia are dead snakes, run over by cars.
I am going to introduce you to the most common Australian snakes, their habitat, how to prevent snake bites, and what to do when the rare case happens, and you get bitten.
As usual my motto is "Know what to expect in the Australian Outback, and you'll be safe".
Snakes are cold-blooded. They can't regulate their body temperature internally like mammals do. Snakes need the sun, or at least warm air temperature for their body heat. The colder it is, the more inactive snakes become. That's why snakes like basking in the sun.
Senses: Snakes can see, smell and hear. Most snakes have fairly good eyesight, at least over short distances. They hear with an inner ear that picks up vibrations from the ground. But their most important sense is the sense of smell. Snakes smell by flicking their tongues in and out their mouth.
Breeding: Some snakes lay eggs, while others give birth to living young.
Non-venomous Australian snakes include pythons, file snakes (a sea snake), and blind snakes. The amethystine python is by far the longest snake in Australia, it grows up to 5 - 6 m. They live in northern tropical Queensland, mostly in rain forests.
The Taipan (Oxyuranus scutellatus) is Australia's most notorious snake, and the longest of the venomous snakes. It can grow up to 3m, the average taipan is 2,5 m. Before the development of antivenom in the 1950s bites from the taipan where mostly fatal. The taipan inhabits the coastal areas in Australia's north and north east, from Brisbane to Darwin.
The Fierce Snake (Oxyuranus microlepidotus) is also called the inland taipan. It is not as big as the taipan. As the name tells, this is a snake of the Australian Outback. The fierce snake can be found in south west Queensland, north east of South Australia, and in the north west of New South Wales.
The Death Adder (Acanthophis antarcticus) is the only Australian snake that won't budge an inch, even if you're about to step on it. It lies camouflaged on sand, gravel or leaf litter so that its body is covered. It is most active at night, and can be found all over Australia except Victoria and the very south east of South Australia.
Don't miss this story and read why even an experienced wilderness traveller has got a fear of snakes. It is worth reading.
The Common or Eastern Brown Snake (Pseudonaja textilis) can be found in the eastern half of Australia, but perhaps in the west as well. The output of venom is low because of its undersized fangs. However, brown snakes cause more deaths in Australia than any other snake. The Dugite and Gwardar belong to the same snake family. Victims of these Australian snakes respond quite well to the anti-venom.
Also, refer to the First Aid Kit Checklist and take the necessary items with you.
It is a good idea that all members of your travel party know what to do if the rare case does happen, and someone in your travel party gets bitten by a snake. First of all, stay calm.
I am afraid, I had to say "don't do this and don't do that" a few times. I hope it helps you to do the right thing, and most
importantly, you feel well informed and don't worry about Australian snakes anymore.
Enjoy Australia and the Outback. Respect the snakes in Australia, they belong to the unique fauna in this beautiful country.