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GoSeeAustralia looks at How to Live with Wild Australia and learns Australian snakes are scared of you

December 28, 2005
GoSeeAustralia looks at How to Live with Wild Australia and learns Australian snakes are scared of you

By Karen Guillen, Australia Reptile centre, Canberra

The majority of Australias reptiles will flee or freeze (so you won't see them) when we come across them in the wild.

If you do happen on a venomous snake the best thing is to stand still until it moves away. If you can't stand still, then back away slowly.

It is important to remember that the venomin Browns, Tigers,and the Taipan is not there to causehumans harm but to immobiliseand digest prey.

Thevenomoussnakes of Australiaareshyanddo not want to deal with something as large as a human. It is only when severely provoked (someone trying to kill it), stepped onor cornered that the snake may try to defend itself. By the way, most dogs or cats would do the same.

When in the bush, especially in warm weather that brings snakes out, wear sensible clothes (shoes and long pants) and don't put your hands in logs, down holes or under rocks.

If you see a lizard or turtle in the middleor at the edge of a road you could help it across so it does not become a casualty. A safe way to pick up a lizardis topick it up in atowel so you won't be bitten or scratched.

This won't work for a goanna.When picking up a turtle hold it away from you as it may spray out asmelly liquid to defend itself.Also hold it securely as it may put out its head and/or legs quickly and throw itself out of your hands.

Always put the reptile in the direction it was travelling and preferably a safe distance from the road -well over the fencefor example or in a nearby lane or side road. If you decide to rescue a snake from a roadmake sure you know your snakes and that it is not venomous.

Editor's note: Please hold your cursor of pictures to read the captions.

Coastal taipan courtesy EPA Please don't bring a reptile home unless it is injured. Reptiles do not need their mums or us, even if they are small. If the lizard or turtle is injured put it in a box with a towel in the bottom and with a lid (they will try to escape no matter how damaged they are).

If the reptile is a snake put it in a pillow case if possible. Thencall the nearestwildlife group who will care for it and release it when it has recovered.

In the Australian Reptile Gallery, exhibits take visitors through the three dominant Australian habitat types the northern tropics, the temperate south-east and west, and the arid interior.

A variety of Australias snakes are displayed. The biggest, most colorful and deadliest reptiles including Taipans, Death Adders and other venomous snakes, and constrictors such as the Scrub Python of North Queensland the longest Australian snake known and one of the largest in the world

Ross Bennett, the Director of The Australian Reptile Centre Canberra, is well known through his previous role as a Ranger and Wildlife Officer with the ACT Parks and Conservation Service, his Snake Tales presentations to schools and community groups over many years and the recent publication of his book Reptiles and Frogs of the Australian Capital Territory.

His commitment and knowledge stem from a lifetime of hands-on experience with reptiles across Australia and overseas.

Be snake smart -

Wear boots and trousers or gaiters when bushwalking. Do not wear sandals or thongs.

Be aware of where you are placing your feet.

Do not put hands or feet in or under logs, rocks, hollows, crevices or debris without checking first that there is no snake there.

When in the bush, check inside your shoes, clothes and sleeping bag before using them.

Use a torch when walking around campsites or the bush at night.

Do not interfere with a snake if pets or other people have already provoked it.

Do not handle injured snakes. A hurt animal is a much more dangerous animal, as it is fighting for its life.

Know appropriate first aid for treating snake bites.

First aid for snake bites

If you are unlucky enough to be bitten, here is what you should and should not do. Assume ALL snakes are venomous, and take the following action:

Eastern Tiger Snake pic by Karen Guillen Do not panic. Try to remain calm, lie down and immobilise the bitten area. It is unlikely that the bite will be life-threatening.

Apply a bandage but do not block circulation. Take a broad bandage and bind along the limb starting at the bite area, at the same pressure as for a sprain. Then bandage down the limb and continue back up the entire limb over and above the bite area. This will help prevent the spread of the venom through the body. Do not remove the bandage. It is often easier to go over the top of clothing such as jeans rather than remove clothing. In an emergency, strips of clothing or pantyhose can be used instead of a bandage.

Immobilise the limb with a splint. Lie down and keep the limb completely still until help arrives. Do not elevate the limb or attempt to walk or run. Movement will encourage the spread of the venom through the body.

Do not attempt to catch the snake. All too often, the snake will bite again if an attempt is made to catch it. Identification of the snake species can be obtained through samples of the patient's blood or urine, and from venom around the bite area. If the species of snake still remains uncertain, a poly-antivenene may be used, which is suitable for treatment of all venomous snake bites.

Do not wash the wound. Venom left on the skin will help doctors identify the snake and administer the appropriate antivenene.

Do not cut the wound. This will spread the venom into the bloodstream and can cause more serious injuries than the snake bite itself.

Seek medical help. An antivenene may be required.

Snake bite first aid information courtesy Environmental Protection Agency (Qld).