Welcome to Life Images by Jill

Welcome to Life Images by Jill.........Stepping into the light and bringing together the images and stories of our world.
I am a photographer, writer and multi-media artist. Through my blog I am
seeking to preserve images and memories of the beautiful world in which we live and the people in it.



Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Is there a snake in your camp? - Don't get bitten!

It is summer here in Australia and I really don't like getting out in the heat and the sun too much these days, but a photo memory came up on my Facebook page the other day which was a timely reminder that this is the time of year when snakes are out and about. 

A conversation with Bob Cooper, Australian Desert Survival Expert

Way back in 2013 I interviewed Bob Cooper, considered to be one of Australia’s leading desert survival experts and snake handling instructors, for an article about snake awareness for Go Camping magazine. I had interviewed him before about his Outback Survival book and kit, also for Go Camping magazine. Bob was generous with his time and expertise and I thoroughly enjoyed talking with him. 

 So when Bob invited me to come out to his property and interview him about snake awareness, I was very happy to do so, though I must say this highly venomous King Brown snake was a little too close for comfort as it came slithering towards me. I instantly did
 what Bob had told me not to do only an hour earlier—instead of moving back slowly and remaining calm, I jumped back quickly. I should have trusted that this expert snake handler had the situation, and the snake, under control.

Bob's snake handling equipment
King Browns are one of Australia's 10 most venomous snakes and my reaction was a learned response to be wary of snakes, but may have been my undoing in an uncontrolled environment. There are 170 species of snake in Australia of which only 30 have life-threatening venom, but Bob stresses that we should consider all snakes potentially dangerous and just ‘don’t get bitten’.

Bob Cooper's fascination for reptiles started around Perth’s Swan River wetlands and from watching famed Australian conservationist and bushman Harry Butler on television. In his late teens. Bob was known as a snake catcher in his local area. 

Bob says that reptiles are highly intelligent creatures and should be respected not destroyed.  He believes that during the past forty years there has been a positive change in people’s attitude towards snakes but, unfortunately, due to lack of education, many people still believe that a good snake is a dead snake, particularly in Western Australia.

We have seen our fair share of snakes when we have been out bushwalking and camping. We even had one slither through our camp on the Oodnadatta Track in South Australia. I felt he was a little too close for comfort as I didn't know if he was still lurking in the long grass. .

If you are bushwalking or camping in Australia, you are likely to come across a snake or you might even find one in your backyard. So, what are the facts and fallacies surrounding snakes? What should we do when we encounter one? And what first aid should be applied if someone gets bitten?

Western King Brown
Facts and Fallacies
  • ·      Snakes don’t always feel you coming through vibrations. They usually respond by seeing movement and move away.
  •     Snakes will not attack humans. But they will defend themselves if harassed/threatened. Their defensive reaction is their way of protecting themselves.  
  •      Snakes don’t bite things that don’t move; don’t move fast; or aren’t food.   If you come across a snake, move slowly away so you don’t scare it. If you move fast or aggressively they do not know your intention and are likely to defend themselves.
  •      There are no physical features that determine whether a snake is venomous or not. Snakes cannot interbreed, but there can be colour and pattern variations within species, so it is difficult for amateurs to identify them accurately. 
  •     Snakes in aviaries are not after the birds or eggs, they are hunting mice. In snake-prone areas, do not have the aviary on your veranda or a poultry pen close to the house.
Death Adder hiding in leaf litter
So what precautions should you consider when hiking or camping?
    • ·       Include 3 x 10 cm-wide stretch compression bandages in your emergency/first aid kit. These can be used for all snake bites in Australia as well as funnel web spider, sea snake and blue ringed octopus bites and cone shell stings.
    • ·       Wear closed-in ankle-high boots, long trousers or gaiters. An Australian snake’s fangs are only short and cannot penetrate the thickness of a boot and sock.
    • ·       When walking through undergrowth, use a long stick to poke the vegetation in front of you so snakes can get out of the way.
    • ·       Be observant and look where you are walking. Snakes often lay on tracks to absorb heat from the sun.
    • ·       Select an open campsite away from watercourses or rock outcrops. Rock outcrops and dead wood are ‘apartment blocks’ for snakes. Look for snake trails across your planned campsite.
    • ·       Do not throw rubbish on the ground. Food scraps, liquid waste and even toothpaste and soap attract insects, which attract small animals, which attract snakes. (I think the snake at our camp in South Australia were attracted to the bush mice that came out to forage in the evening from the long grass near our camp)
    • ·       Zip-up your tent and keep things off the ground.

     What First Aid should you administer in the case of a snake bite? 

     Bob says everyone should learn how to treat a snake bite. Snake venom may severely damage kidneys and liver and can cause respiratory failure. Antivenin can also have lasting side effects.

    Immediately apply compression and immobilisation - 
    - click here for downloadable Snake Bite Fact Sheet
    • ·       Treat all venomous snake bites as a medical emergency. It can take 30 minutes or more for symptoms to appear. Start first aid immediately and call for an ambulance or transport the victim to a medical facility ASAP. First aid will slow down the venom rate into the bloodstream, greatly lessening the effect and buying them time to reach a hospital.
    • ·        Ninety percent of bites don’t require antivenin, but they do require immediate first aid.
    • ·       Do not wash a snake bite. The venom on the wound will help professionals use a venom detection kit to identify the snake.
    • ·       Do not suck on the bite site. You could absorb the venom, particularly if you have a mouth sore or tooth cavity.
    • ·       Do not apply a tourniquet.
    • ·       Immediately apply the elastic bandage at the same pressure you would a sprain. Bandage the entire limb up to the armpit or groin area to reduce the venom flow to a trickle. No-one has died in Australia once a compression bandage has been applied.
    • ·      Don’t apply ice, elevate the limb or lay the person down, unless they are about to faint.
    • ·       Don’t waste time trying to catch the snake.
    • ·       Completely immobilise the limb and minimise movement. Don’t let the victim walk on a bitten leg: either carry them or have transport come to them.
    • ·       Remember: get the patient to a hospital as quickly as possible, preferably by ambulance. In Australia call 000.
    • ·        If you are in a remote area with no phone reception, drive to the nearest road-house (fuel stop, garage) and ask them to contact Australian Royal Flying Doctor Service.
    • ·       ‘Practise before reality bites’. Don’t let the first time you treat a snake bite be the first time you have used a compression bandage. 

    The most dangerous snake is the one that has hold of your leg

     A snake will not bite you without feeling threatened or provoked, but don’t ever put yourself in a position where you may get bitten. Treat snakes respectfully and they will keep out of your way. 
    After talking to Bob Cooper I’m not going to train to become a qualified snake handler, but I feel a lot more confident about what to do if I encounter one when we’re camping or bushwalking.
    As Bob reiterates, ‘Do not take chances and do not get bitten. Treat all snakes as venomous and all snake bites as a medical emergency. Remember, the most dangerous snake in Australia is the one that has hold of your leg!’

    Our latest snake encounter - a Tiger Snake in our Great Southern

     Please note: I am not an expert. Please refer to reputable websites or emergency agencies. 
    More information
    ·       In the case of snake bite in Australia ring 000.
    ·       Do not attempt to catch a snake without proper training. If you have a snake in your backyard, call Wildcare Helpline (08) 9474 9055 in Western Australia or National Parks and Wildlife Services in other states or your local council.
    ·      First aid training, kits and facts sheets: St John Ambulance
      Techniques and equipment for reptile rescue, not only in Australia but overseas, have changed over time and Bob Cooper has developed a training course and specialised equipment for successful snake rescue, handling and relocation.

     For more information visit:  Bob Cooper's Snake Rescue and Relocaiton Training

    Thank you so much for stopping by. I hope you have learnt something from my blog post today, which is a little different to my usual posts. Have you ever encountered a snake in our travels? 

    You might also like:
     Camp food - exploring Western Australian granite rocks
    The Oodnadatta Track, South Australia
    Kennedy Ranges, Western Australia

    I value your comments and look forward to hearing from you. I will try to visit your blogs in return. Have a wonderful week. 

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    1. I like snakes - but from afar!

    2. Have only encountered small snakes. Good I know more now I've read your post -and thank you for sharing this helpful info with All Seasons! Have a snake-free week!

    3. 30 venomous ones there?!!! Wow, that is a lot! Snakes send willies down my spine! I avoid at all costs. Interesting article and man.

    4. I am very glad we don't really have snakes in the UK


    5. Jill, That is an amazing hillside. Thanks for sharing great information. Sylvia D.

    6. not a fan of snakes :-). very useful post.

    7. Great information! We saw many more snakes in Ohio than here in Montana, but it is always good to have a refresher!

    8. I like snakes but have respect for them.

    9. "The most dangerous snake in Australia is the one that has hold of your leg" has to be the most pithy advice ever given on how to tell if a snake is dangerous or not! Great advice for anyone being anywhere near snakes and very interesting to those of us who, luckily, aren't.

      1. yes, I loved that quote too! The snakes, not so much....

    10. I have tremendous respect for snakes but not the unreasonable fear which some folks seem to have. The only time I remember being truly scared was when I was outside one spring night in pitch black with flip flops on and a snake crawled over my food. I bet you heard me clear over in Australia, although I was in North Carolina.
      Thanks for linking up at https://image-in-ing.blogspot.com/2018/02/some-african-ceremonial-masks.html

      1. Thankfully I've never been that close to a snake - you would have been able to hear me in North Carolina. This one Bob had slithering towards me was a tad too close for comfort.

    11. Yes, add me to the list of folks as described by Sue above: respect and fear are two good words. I've encountered two garden variety snakes in our olive grove although I hear there are worse types out there. This is a handy reference guide and I am going to keep it nearby!

      1. the trouble would be if they are slithering through long grass where you can't see them. I'm guessing from your comment that "garden varieties" are ok?

    12. Yep, good information that I did not know, but had the heebie-jeebies while reading this...was hard to do as it is hard to even look at a snake for me. Thanks for sharing some great information. When visiting my son when he lived in Tennessee, we decided to go exploring in some areas. Heading across a bridge that was grown up a bit and to a trail, my son slowly turned back toward us and said "maybe we shouldn't go this way". Knowing him, I knew why and sure enough, I could see a large snake sunning itself on top of the bridge rail. Good thing we didn't have our hands running along the rail as we walked. We left, and he let us. :) Thanks for visiting Pictorial and sharing.

      Peabea@Peabea Scribbles

      1. yes, best to give them a wide berth when you see them that's for sure.

    13. Very informative! While it isn't a problem here in Germany, we will be going home in a few months and in Georgia we have lots of snakes. Hope you have a lovely weekend!

    14. Ooh, I'm really scared of snakes! Such a fascinating post.

    15. That is such good information. We have to be careful here and walking on some of the trails you can accidentally step on one. Lots of trails are covered with pine straw and the snakes are in that. We don't see snakes very often but we know there are plenty out there!

      1. Yes I can imagine that pine straw would be a good nest for a snake.

    16. Oh we've had our share of snake adventures while camping/hiking. I'm not phoebic, but I learned long ago in the Pacific Northwest to check out warm rocks and places like that carefully before sitting or stepping near them (rattlesnakes like to hide there where the sun hits and warms) -- here in Florida we have cotton mouths and other watery dwelling snakes. I don't see them often, but we have occasionally.

    17. Jill... I had one in our garage on Sat !!!
      I think it was a juvenile dugite. About 60-70cms long ...
      I couldn’t get to it to ‘ dispose of it’... went off to get a good torch & my big camera ... missed the photo opportunity & it left our place on Sat night ...


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