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How Not To Be Bitten By Snakes In Australia

My Aussie friend Ann was working in her Queensland garden when she heard her dog barking fiercely. Getting up she wandered over to see what the fuss was, and saw movement under a pile of grass clippings. Thinking she saw a harmless blue-tongued lizard, she bent over and brushed away the grass. Suddenly a venomous brown snake shot out straight at her. Before she could even react her dog leaped in front of her, grabbed the snake mid-air and broke its neck. Her heart pounding a mile a minute, Ann praised and hugged her dog. It wasn’t until a while later that he collapsed in the doorway. In his heroic protection of Ann, he’d been bitten. She rushed him to the vet and $700 later, he was alive and recuperating.

“The funny thing is,” chuckled Neil, Ann’s husband. “if Ann had been bitten, it would’ve cost less to have her fixed up!”

But with a dog like that, you do everything you can to make sure they’re OK.

When I arrived in Australia this January I was scared of two things: snakes and spiders. Reading Bill Bryson’s fabulous book “In A Sunburned Country” had given me a holy terror of venomous things awaiting me at every turn. My Aussie friends thought this was hilarious.

Nearly every person I met had startling stories of snakes leaping at them from the feed bin or slithering down from under the hood of their car, yet they told them with laughter and shrugs of shoulders as if there was nothing to worry about. Heavens!

They assured me that snakes (referred to as Joe Blakes or wrigglies) were hardly ever seen in town and rarely in the city. This afforded me little comfort since I was spending my entire trip in the country, so I did what any sensible person would do: ask for advice on how NOT to be bitten by snakes in Australia.

Their response: “Stay out of Australia.”

Helpful buggers, aren’t they? πŸ™‚

Although Australia has some of the most venomous snakes in the world (click here to see shiver-inducing photos), my friends informed me that more people get injured or killed from honeybee stings and horseback riding accidents than from snake-bite. There are even more injuries from car accidents than snake bites (which doesn’t say much for Aussie driving! ;-)). In fact, according to the splendid Birgit from Outback Australia Travel Secrets, when snake bite fatalities per million inhabitants are compared, they are higher in the United States than Australia. Phew!

So, dear ones, here is how NOT to be bitten by snakes in the Australian countryside:

  1. Wear sturdy shoes/boots. Sandals, bare feet or flimsy shoes are not adequate protection.
  2. Bring dogs with you. They are marvelous snake-hunters and protectors. They’re also excellent at giving warnings, offering you the chance to take a different path.
  3. Carry a good stick. Aussie “bushies” (folks who live in the country) always have “snake sticks” scattered around their farms. The best ones are shaped like a hockey stick giving you both distance from the snake and a flat surface with which to bash him. As my friend Robbie said: “It’s very good at making two snakes out of one.”
  4. Make a bit of a racket. Use your walking stick to pound the ground regularly and don’t be bashful about stomping your feet. The vibrations will warn the snakes of your location and approach, giving them time to scurry away. They are naturally shy creatures and will only attack if they’re startled or feel threatened.
  5. Don’t just stand there. If you see a snake, hoof it in the opposite direction. Their eyesight isn’t so good and they may mistake you for a tree and attempt to hide around your ankles.
  6. Be observant. Snakes are most often to be found near their food source – mice, frogs, and small animals. This includes creeks, ponds and lakes, long grass, deadwood, and feed bins. Don’t go “fossicking about” with your hands in the grass, don’t reach into hollow trees, or stick your hand into dark spaces where you can’t see what’s inside.
  7. Get out of their way. Snakes don’t want to see you any more than you want to see them. If you see one, keep off his path.

After all my fretting, I actually didn’t see a single snake. Not one! I hiked in the bush, tall grass, by creeks, ponds, rivers and lakes, but no snakes. I guess all that stick-pounding, boot-stomping, and dog-guarding really does the trick. πŸ™‚

Are you scared of snakes?

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bweiss - helpful hints on being safe from snakes on a trip to Australia’ bush

Andrea - How funny – when I first travelled to Australia I also read a Bill Bryson book that scared me to death of all the deadly creatures I would meet there. Of course, the most potentially dangerous thing I did come across was a jack-jumper ant. I think most Aussies are pretty relaxed about these things.

darci - yay for heroic doggies! love that first story. πŸ™‚ glad you made it home without a snake encounter..i am with you on that phobia! (and sharks in the swimming pool, as i recall, lol!)

Faith - The story about your friend Ann and her dog is truly heart-warming! I’m glad to hear that in the end both Ann and her dog are ok…and I’m glad you didn’t see any snakes! Great tips, by the way!

Visiting Queensland, Australia’s Warwick Pig and Calf Sale - […] *Editor’s Note: Thinking about traveling to Australia at some point in the near or distant future? You may just want to head over to Krista’s blog to be both informed and entertained by Β How to Not Be Bitten by Snakes in Australia […]

Sommer J - I think I’ll stay out of Australia’s countryside πŸ˜‰ My luck isn’t so good!!

What an amazing story about the dog saving the woman! Amazing! Best 700 bucks spent!

thatssoron - haha good tips… i’ve actually not seen a snake too! its been 7+ yrs

Eric - I actually really really like snakes. The kind that can’t kill you. I love to hold them and play with them. I think they are totally cool. But only the kind that can’t kill you. I don’t think I’d like snakes in Australia. They sound scary not the happy snakes we have here.

Mary - I’ll keep all your tips in mind. Seems like they worked :-). I hope you have a wonderful evening. Blessings…Mary

Anna Johnston - It’s funny, but we Aussies wouldn’t think of tramping around in the bush without a good stick & making a bit of a noise because after all in summer, it is their (the snakes) backyard & I guess when it comes to killer snakes.., I’d have a hard time believing any snake was harmless when I’m o/s, but mostly I’d stay outa their way. Good tips Krista.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella - Aww Krista! I’m so glad that you came to our lovely country! πŸ™‚ I have to confess I’ve never seen a snake and I as born and bred in Sydney. Unless you count at the zoo of course! πŸ™‚ So how to avoid snakes-live in the city! πŸ˜€

Hilda - When I was there I didn’t see any snakes either, but visiting a friend at his country house (which was on the coast so not in the bush), 5mn after we walked in, I was sitting at his kitchen table while he was cleaning some stuff in the sink, and he pulled down the clock that was up on the wall and started cleaning the front of it, and on the side facing me was a brown tarantula-sized spider, which I told him (I’m allergic to insect bites and badly allergic to spider bites so I was terrified) and he just turned the clock around and killed it in the sink. No sweat. I spent the weekend looking for spiders everywhere.

Andi of My Beautiful Adventures - Haha, great tips!!! I traveled all throughout Oz and never once encountered either snakes or spiders, however lots and lots of roos. πŸ˜‰

Barbara - As a child I ran around our farm barefoot. As an adult and especially as a mother it’s shoes for everyone now when we visit the farm.

Mia - OmiGod that was right outa the movies Krista πŸ™‚
Am glad they are both safe!
THose tips are so valuable but i almost dont want to go to Australia now:-)
And ofcourse im scared of snakes:-)still i clicked on the link to see those pics and aint feeling too good about them now:-)lol!

LindyLouMac - Yikes, yes I am and even more so now I have read this. we even have a few snakes in Italy and our neighbours are always warning me in the summer to keep out of long grass!

Are you allowed to have otters as pets? | Taking care of your pet - […] How Not To Be Bitten By Snakes In Australia Β» Rambling Tart […]

bellini - Not too many venomous snakes here in Canada. When we lived up on Sunburn Hill, the year they put in the sewer we came home to find a 3 foot rattlesnake dead on the driveway. Workers had found (him) living in our retaining wall. I wondered what fear he had put into the workers that day but obviously the snake lost:D We often saw hawks and eagles with snakes in their mouths.

Tijmen - Great to have a dog like that around you πŸ™‚ When I was in Australia I did see many snakes and spiders, but I worked at a vineyard for almost 3 months. Which increases the change of running into them a lot πŸ™‚

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