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S is for Snake

4 March 2012 No Comment

Snakes in TasmaniaEvery October through March, my house has visitors who come to stay. We have dubbed them ‘The Twins’. They can often be found basking in the searing Tasmanian summer sun, and although they seem placid enough, I give them a wide birth. I don’t mind them being there, but staying out of their way is imperative – ‘The Twins’ are a pair of Tiger Snakes.

One of the saddest regular sights I see on the road around here is snakes which have been run over. I’d like to think that these accidents were unavoidable, but anecdotal evidence would suggest otherwise: a common local catch phrase goes something like this: ‘the only good snake’s a dead snake.’ The people who use this phrase obviously don’t know that there hasn’t been a death by snake bite is Tasmania for decades.

Too many Tasmanians don’t respect these important animals. Because they are so (potentially) dangerous, fear takes over, especially for those that have lost pets to snake bites or had unwanted contact with them.

Every Tasmanian has their own personal snake story: there was one in my mother’s bedroom recently; the big black tail he saw flick under the bed was enough to turn my brother, a born and raised ‘country kid’ who once caught a baby tiger snake and was most upset when told he couldn’t keep it as a pet (‘But he’s so cute!’ he had exclaimed), white as a sheet. A few weeks ago a friend’s elderly grandmother received a nice surprise from the one camping out in her pantry.

A lovely group of young Americans on a hiking trip stayed at our hotel a few weeks ago, when the weather was just starting to warm up. One of them asked a very prudent question: which snakes should they look out for? Her face was priceless when I replied, ‘All of them.’!

I was not joking.

There are three different species of snake found in Tasmania: the aforementioned Tiger Snake, the Lowland Copperhead, and the White-lipped Snake. All three are highly venomous, but so long as you are smart about your bushwalking attire and do not try to catch any snakes you happen upon, you should be fine.

Tasmanian snakes will try their best to stay out of your way, as all three species are very shy. If you do get bitten, apply pressure bandages as far up and down the limb as you can, remain calm and seek medical attention ASAP. There is no need to identify the snake that bites you, as the anti-venom used to treat snake bites is the same regardless of the type of snake. Remember, more people die from eating peanuts than from being bitten by snakes in Tasmania!

I like this except from the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment webpage on Snakes of Tasmania:

Get Real!

If you are concerned about the danger that snakes pose to you or your family, there are many other things you can do to increase life expectancy far more realistically than not bushwalking for fear of snakes. These include:

  • Stop smoking.
  • Install smoke alarms in your house and make sure they are working.
  • Do a first aid course and keep your certificate up to date.
  • Do a defensive driving course and apply what you learn.
  • Practice safe boating.

When it comes to snakes in Tasmania, remember: be careful, not fearful.

Koby Blizzard is a  born and bred Tasmanian who has grown up around snakes (and other Tasmanian wildlife). She lives and works in the Cradle Mountain area of Tasmania and always avoids any snake on the road.

Image: Arthur Chapman via Flickr

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