How To Deal With Snakes (And Their Bites) In The Wild
By the Wild Women On Top Team
Snakes have a heart-stopping way of popping up when you least expect them!
If you hike for long enough, you'll probably come across a snake at some point. Those slithery, slippery creatures may be shy, but they're cold-blooded, so they love basking in the warm sun. And their little ones don’t know the rules yet and sometimes do random things... like sleeping across a trail at night.
Brown snakes, tiger snakes and red-belly black snakes are quite common in the Aussie bush but for the most part, they’ll hear your footsteps and hide before you notice them. Most snake bites aren’t lethal but their venom can sometimes produce long-term health issues, so it's important to know what to do if you or one of your hiking buddies think you've been bitten. A bite from a brown or tiger can kill you if you don’t respond immediately and appropriately.
So... all good hikers must be alert, but not alarmed, when out in nature. You need to be observant and prepared. Here are some of our top tips for dealing with snakes when you're in the wild.
Do Not Touch!
If you see a snake on the track, stop, freeze and quietly alert your friends. Slowly back away from the snake. DON'T try to poke it with a stick or throw rocks at it. DO make a lot of noise and stamp on the track – at least two meters away from it. If it doesn’t move (which it probably will), take a large detour around it.
When you're hiking, it can be easy to get lost in conversation and lose focus on what's around you. With practice, you’ll develop the ability to be a chatterbox as well as a snake spotter, but this requires practice. For snake safety, this is especially important in mating season, which differs in different locations, and on hot Australian summer days (when they like to come out and get some sun).
Wear Protective Clothing
When you're hiking in known snake prone areas, wear knee-length gaiters, long pants and boots. Yes, even in summer.
Be Careful Where You Put Your Hands
Snakes are shy creatures and like to hide. They especially love hollow logs, holes, and rocks. Be careful where you're putting your hands. Don't reach into holes and take extra care when climbing on vegetated rock. Be cautious when you're collecting fire wood or moving rocks.
If you're camping and you've left your gear or clothes outside, check them first before you put them on.
Know Your First Aid
Rule number one of snake bite is to keep the patient completely still … as in … do not let them move at all. Call 000 immediately.
We should all carry a snake bandage in our backpacks just in case. The SMART bandage is a great option as it shows you when you've got the correct tension on the bandage. For the most part, snakes are super shy but you should know what to do in an emergency situation.
If you do get bitten, here's what St Johns Ambulance recommends you do.
Follow these tips and you'll be well prepared to enjoy the magic of going wild.
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