The Everything You Needed To Know Guide To Snakes

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  • The Everything You Needed To Know Guide To Snakes

    I'm copying part of my post from the other forum over here, as I put a lot of work into it, I think it's quite relevant and important, and I want it transcribed before it is all lost. I must also apologise for any obvious "disjointedness, as it has been directly copied from a number of seperate posts.[/i]

    I thought it timely to share a few of the things I've learned about snakes, with the hopes that when you have an encounter, it will be a pleasant experience rather than a danger.

    I'm gonna do a lot of rambling on, coz there's just so much to cover,and so much to read, but in the process I hope that I can open your eyes to a lot you never realised before.

    I trust you are not afraid or bored by long posts, if so, turn away now.

    We are ALL going to encounter snakes at some stage in our travels. We have all been in close proximity to snakes (whether we realise it at the time or not). Here in Australia snakes are part of the furniture we must learn to co-exist with, and there are endless misconceptions, myths, fears and stories revolving around snakes.

    I do not wish to debate or argue the point with anyone, but instead I hope to enlighten you to a few things, inform you a little on how to deal with them, safeguard yourself, and allay any unjustifiable fears or misconceptions about them, as many people have inherent fear fo snakes, which have been ingrained and drummed into us since childhood. We have misconceptions, we are told untrue stories, people exaggerate, myths develop, and for some reason people are determined to persue and take as gospel these misbeliefs, rumours and fantasies!

    There is far too much to go into fully here, or this post would end up being a book. I can and do go on endlessly about them, but I couldn’t hope to type everything out here, as I simply do not have the endless hours it would take, so I’ll just discuss a few things I consider important, taking it only in small bites at a time, and then maybe answer any individual questions should they arise, or discuss any tales you wish to convey. I wont go into any great depth on any individual points, as it would be far to lengthy, it is not required here, and it would merely bore you will largely irrelevant detail, facts and figures.....we will merely brush over the subject to provide a little understanding and safety, unless of course someone requests more detailed information on any aspect.....if so, feel free.

    A bit about myself to start with. I hold a diploma of applied science (animal technology) amongst other qualifications, and I've worked in the animal industry for around 20 years or more in total. My time has been split amongst reptiles, farm animals, native animals, poultry, companion animals and zoo/exotic animals. I've worked as a veterinary nurse, a field technician, a laboratory assistant, an animal attendant, a farm manager, plus involvement in research projects and field surveys, also dabbling in microbiology as a consultant for the food (meat) industry. My experience and knowledge is still limited, and there is still much I can learn.

    I've been lucky enough to work both here in Australia and also overseas (Hong Kong). I've spent the last 13 or 14 years running two small businesses with companion animals (dogs) and I now also lecture at TAFE college on a casual basis.....yet you'll never get rich from working with animals. I do it for the enjoyment.

    I may be something of an oddity, as I have a love of animals and the environment, I make my living from animals, and I care for animals. Yet I also kill and eat animals. I hunt ferals for sport, I bow hunt, and I fish, although I always attempt to kill swiftly and humanely, and make use of anything I kill.

    I dont want it to sound like I'm a know it all blowing my own trumpet, but I spent seven years as a snake catcher (Adelaide Snake Catchers Inc) and amateur herpetologist, and during this time also trained snake catchers and performed lectures, public demonstrations and displays. I've been engaged by the governnment as a herpetelogical field technician, to partake in a complete conservational park flora and fauna survey. I've owned, housed and bred many species of both venomous and non-venomous, and dedicated much of my time to the study of snakes. Snakes are a big passion of mine.

    I was fortunate enough, through my association with Adelaide Snake Catchers, to have been taught and educated by Professor Julian White. Down here in the southern end of the country, he is the head toxicologist who all snake bite victims in this state were treated by (although that has since changed as he now acts in a purely advisory role) and probably one of the most passionate and knowledgable people I have ever met. To have just a small fraction of his knowledge passed along is something I consider a great gift.

    I also received the benefit of being taught by Harold Cogger, undoubtably Australias leading and well published reptile expert.

    I can only thank these people for the knowledge they have passed along, and can only hope to aspire to retain a fraction of the knowledge they already possess.

    The first thing I’d like to discuss is snake identification! What IS a dangerous or venomous snake, and how do you tell the difference?

    Most importantly, DO NOT try to judge a snake by colour, which is a mistake many people make! That harmless python may NOT be quite what you expect!

    Brown snakes can be anything from almost black to a sky blue colour, black snakes can be brown, tiger snakes do not neccesarily have stripes, etc, and for the uninitiated it is very difficult to make a positive identification on most snakes.

    Have a look at this! These snakes are ALL the same! They are all Eastern Brown Snakes, one of the most common snakes we are all likely to encounter, and one which rates amongst Australian (and the worlds) ten most deadliest!

    Down this way in Adelaide where I live, the two most common species we are called in to catch would be the Eastern Brown (egg layer) by far the most common (and very very dangerous), and to a lesser extent Red Bellied Black (livebearer) but these are always found near water sources where their main diet consists of frogs and lizards.

    The only way to correctly and positively identify a snake is by capturing them and counting scales. Body scales running diagonally mid-body, caudal scales (single or divided), sub-caudal, and anal scale (single or divided). Then as you get further into speciation, the absence or presence of individual head scales such as preocculars, subocculars, etc.

    When you know what you are looking for, and are familar with different family and Genus you can pretty much accurately guess at most from a distance, although guessing at the correct species within the Genus can be somewhet more difficult.

    If you are not sure about snakes or positive identification (which most people are not), always play safe, treat them ALL as venomous, and always keep your distance.

    I once made what could easily have been a fatal mistake myself! Whilst travelling in a vehicle on a government survey, I spotted what I thought to be a Red Bellied Black Snake (a relatively docile and easily handled snake) basking alongside the track. I yelled to the driver to immediately stop as Red Bellied Blacks were a rarity in the area, and something which needed to be positively identified if they did in fact inhabit the local area.

    I jumped out the door and attempted to tail the snake (grab it by the tail), suddenly realising my mistake far to late, when confronted with the much more aggressive Eastern Tiger Snake which very nearly had me for lunch due to my own stupidity and haste!

    The snakes of concern for us are what is known as “Elapids”. This is a term which simply means Front fixed fanged, venomous, terrestrial snakes!

    A few things immediately come to light in this description!

    All our venomous snakes have fixed fangs at the front of the mouth, as opposed to exotic snakes such as the viper family, where the fangs can actually swivel to point forwards or blow venom at you.

    All our venomous snakes are terrestrial! They live on the ground, so you will not find them in the trees or bushes waiting to jump out at you.

    Snakes are grouped by the same scientific classification that applies to all other animals. Snakes are part of the Squamata order of reptiles -- an order that also includes most lizard species. All types of snakes fall into one of 18 families within the Squamata order, and each snake family is further broken down into genus and species.
    Snakes are a type of creature which tends to break all the rules of taxonomy though. Some have fangs while others dont, some have organs which others dont, some have liveyoung while some lay eggs.

    Here’s what Wikipedia have to say about them:
    Snakes are elongate, legless, carnivorous reptiles of the suborder Serpentes that can be distinguished from legless lizards by their lack of eyelids and external ears. Like all squamates, snakes are ectothermic, amniote vertebrates covered in overlapping scales. Many species of snakes have skulls with many more joints than their lizard ancestors, enabling them to swallow prey much larger than their heads with their highly mobile jaws. To accommodate their narrow bodies, snakes' paired organs (such as kidneys) appear one in front of the other instead of side by side, and most have only one functional lung. Some species retain a pelvic girdle with a pair of vestigial claws on either side of the cloaca.

    Living snakes are found on every continent except Antarctica and on most islands. Fifteen families are currently recognized, comprising 456 genera and over 2,900 species.[1][2] They range in size from the tiny, 10 cm-long thread snake to pythons and anacondas of up to 7.6 metres (25 ft) in length. The recently discovered fossil Titanoboa was 15 metres (49 ft) long. Snakes are thought to have evolved from either burrowing or aquatic lizards during the Cretaceous period (c 150 Ma). The diversity of modern snakes appeared during the Paleocene period (c 66 to 56 Ma).

    Most species are nonvenomous and those that have venom use it primarily to kill and subdue prey rather than for self-defense. Some possess venom potent enough to cause painful injury or death to humans. Nonvenomous snakes either swallow prey alive or kill by constriction.
    There are 5 different families of snakes inhabiting Australia:

    • Colubridae -- The Colubridae family of snakes (known as colubrids) is by far the largest family, accounting for nearly two-thirds of the world's snakes. The vast majority of colubrids are non-venomous, though a few rear-fanged colubrid species are able to produce venom (such as the lyre snake of California). But even the venomous members of the Colubridae family are considered harmless to humans. So it's safe to say that colubrids, as a whole, pose no threat to humans.

    • Boidae -- The Boidae family of snakes (known as boids) includes python and boa species. The three largest types of snakes in the world -- the anaconda, the reticulated python, and the African rock python -- are all members of the Boidae family. But smaller species like the royal python / ball python are also found in this family of snakes. All boids are non-venomous, powerful constrictors. Thus, they rely on strength instead of venom to kill their prey.

    • Elapidae -- The Elapidae family of snakes (known as elapids) includes cobras, mambas, coral snakes and taipans. All elapids are venomous, and some of the most venomous snakes in the world are found within this family. Elapids produce a neurotoxic venom that attacks the central nervous systems (breathing) of their prey).

    • Viperidae -- The Viperidae family of snakes (known as viperids) includes rattlesnakes, vipers, adders and other species. All types of snakes in the Viperidae family are venomous.Nearly all members of this family produce hematoxic venom that attacks the tissue and blood of their prey.

    • Hydrophiidae -- As the name suggests, the Hydrophiidae family includes sea snakes. Most sea snakes are venomous, and some species produce an incredibly powerful venom, a drop of which could kill a grown man. Fortunately for humans, sea snakes are reluctant to bite unless provoked (though you should still leave them alone).

    The Elapidae are the venomous family which concern us here in Australia, which pose a direct threat to us, and are the ones I wish to discuss!

    Elapids also are further grouped in genus:
    Brown Snakes
    Black Snakes
    Tiger Snakes
    Death Adders
    These genus are then broken down further into individual species.

    There is also a specific antivenom designed for the treatment of bites from each of this group, along with a broad spectrum (polyvalent antivenene, should identification not be possible). Something I will go into detail about much later.
    Another very interesting point for anyone with an interest in snakes, is their method of birth! Some animals have live young, some animals lay eggs! Snakes actually do both, which is something unique within the animal kingdom, and something I find fascinating! Livebearers (such as Black Snakes) are known as viviperous, while egg layers (such as pythons and Brown Snakes) are known as ovoviporous.

    Did you know male snakes have two sex organs (hemipenes) instead of one? Which they choose to use at any given time will depend on which side the the female they are currently laying.

    Contrary to beliefs, snakes are by nature, quite shy and timid. They do not wish to interact with us, will make all attempts to get away from us, and do not go out of their way to bite us or chase us.

    The one thing I have learn about snakes though, is that they can prove unpredictable (even though certain traits and behaviours can be predicted amongst different families and genus) and you should always expect the unexpected.

    So far I hope you all understand to treat ALL snakes as venomous, and do not ever try to identify one based on their colour!

    As I’ve already typed quite a bit, this post is already getting quite lengthy, and I could go on endlessly as there’s just so much to convey in one short post/thread.

    Let’s just look at this as a bit of an initial introduction so far, to start get you thinking about them. Then, if the interest is here, I will go on much much further in an ongoing discussion to learn a bit more about their behaviour and habits, what we should do if we encounter one, what NOT to do, how to safeguard ourselves, venoms, toxins and antivenoms, first aid, treatment, and much much more to answer any and all questions, with the hope to reassure you all that we are in no direct danger, we do not need to fear them, we just need to be aware, be responsible and act sensibly in their presence.

    I have dealt with people initially terrified of snakes, and those same people have also ended up handling venomous snakes confidently themselves. I certainly don’t intend this to be you, or expect to convey that level of knowledge here, but I can certainly help you to feel confident in their presence, and know what to do to keep yourselves safe, while destroying myths surrounding snakes.

    All our native snakes are protected, and we all know you cant kill protected species right?


    Due to the danger snakes pose, you may kill them......IF you fear for your own safety!

    You may have a park ranger standing alongside you, but as long as you state the snake appeared a direct threat, you feared for your, or your families safety, you may kill the offender!

    The trick is being able to kill it without being bitten yourself!

    Many people underestimate the speed of a snake! They can strike in 1/25th of a second (faster than you can blink), so you have little chance of getting out of the way.

    Shovels, rakes, etc place you within the danger zone, so I'd suggest if you do need to kill one, use a shotgun from a distance!

    It rarely comes to this though. Snakes do not want confrontation! Give them space and an exit, 9 times in 10 they will seize the opportunity to flee.

    Our venomous "elapids" are generally only on the move during daylight hours (diurnal) where they will move to forage, breed or regulate their temperature. All snakes can break the rules though!

    People think snakes are out in hot weather, and this is untrue. Being cold blooded they certainly rely on the sun, basking themselves to warm to an operative temperature, but if their body temperature reaches 40 degrees they begin to die, so they must move off to also cool themselves. For this reason snakes are generally seen in the morning between about 8am and lunchtime. After this midday heat forces them to shelter....possibly on the cool concrete floor of your verandah.

    Unfortunately, in populated areas, we provide great havens for snakes with rockeries (crevices to hide), bird aviaries (a ready supply of mice), ponds (a water source), and long grass/ground covers (cover and shelter).

    As a safeguard against snakes, you need to make your property snake "unfriendly". You cannot prevent entry by snakes, it's an impossibility, but you can ensure when they move through, they keep on going to somewhere friendlier to their needs and requirements.

    Clear all junk from the floor of your shed and yard. Store it up on wooden bearers, or get it onto shelves. Mow down long grass or ground cover plants, and this will serve to make the place a little less snake friendly. Clear up any junk around the yard such as sheets of iron, woodpiles, etc. Snakes love corrogated iron, so it's always the first place to look!

    A snakes ribs are not fixed to it's backbone. It can flatten it's body to invade small spaces. If the head can fit through, the entire body can fit through, and that only requires about a 7mm gap (the thickness of a pencil), so they can easily squeeze in under doors to enter homes.

    If you ever see one on your property, stay well clear, remove any pets from the area, try to watch it from a safe distance, and contact the local snake catcher. A snake in a shed, under the house or even indoors is generally simple to remove, just as long as someone is around watching to see that it doesn't move off elsewhere where a lengthy search may have to commence.

    If it can't be found, devices such as bird netting can be laid around by the snake catcher to entrap it if it is still around.

    Over short distances snakes can outrun a human. I have had a brown snake outrun both me and a friend me while trying to catch it, but they do tire quickly.

    As previously mentioned, snakes actually strike in 1/25th of a second! That's faster than you can blink, so don't anyone go thinking you are quicker than it when armed with a shovel or rake. Most people actually get bitten during their attempts to kill snakes, so make sure that first lunge at it is a bl**dy good one, coz there may not be a second!

    I guess the next step is what a snake actually is? Is it a snake I'm looking at?

    That's another one which can prove difficult, as we also have many species of legless lizard in this country, which can look remarkably similar at first glance, and I'd hate to think how many of these harmless reptiles have been killed under the misconception of them being snakes!

    It is difficult to tell the difference unless you get up very close, as the things which differentiate the two are minor variances, on a very small animal.

    Snakes have a forked tongue, lizards have a soft fleshy tongue.

    Snakes lack eyelids, while lizards do have eyelids.

    Lizards have external ear openings, while snakes are deaf and have no outer ear structure.

    Lizards have small vestiges of hind legs, but some snakes also have these small protuberances.

    Once again, you don't want to get close enough to pick these differences, so unless you are certain on exactly what you are looking at, treat it as dangerous, and give it a wide berth!

    Legless lizards:

    Harmless Whip Snake:

    Juvenile Brown Snake:

    Could you pick the difference?

    Unlike lizards and small mammals, snakes do not make any noise as they move through the undergrowth, so most of us would have passed in close proximity to snakes without ever realising they were even there.

    With snakes though, there is always an exception, and in this case it is the Death Adder family!

    Death Adders do not normally move away! They just freeze hoping to camoflage themselves, and they are very very good at this! They can blend into their surroundings almost un-noticed by most!

    Most people who get bitten by Death Adders have actually failed to see them, and have trodden directly on them!

    Some people mistakenly call them "deaf" adders, which raises another interesting point!

    ALL SNAKES ARE DEAF! They do not have external ears! We can shout and scream, but that will not scare them off!

    Instead, snakes rest their lower jow onto the ground and pick up vibrations from our footfalls, relaying the vibration to an inner ear structure.

    We do not need to stamp our feet either! Just walking normally will be detected, and most snakes, unless surprised, will move away!

    The danger to us is being unaware and stupid! When walking around a campsite or bushwalking, if you must pass a rock, log or similar, DO NOT step directly over it, where you may surprise a snake on the other side! Instead, step up onto it, and LOOK before stepping over!

    Much of co-habitating with snakes are simple precautions such as this!

    Pets are a big problem with snakes, as the average dog has no snake sense and many have been lost to snake bite.

    Surprisingly, CATS are remarkably resilient to the effects of snake venom, and in a situation where a dog would certainly die, many a time a cat will pull through, even without administering antivenene. Lasting and permanent effects along with organ damage are another matter entirely though!

    I had a small brown snake here for a time, delivered to me by a local veterinary clinic.

    A cat was presented with the snake in it's mouth, which it plain refused to release. Most local vets are not equipped or experienced to deal with venomous snakes, so they cared for the cat and the snake was delivered to me for ongoing care.

    Unfortunately it refused to eat. They can be and are forcefed, but this could not not be performed over a prolonged period (far too dangerous) and it eventually died.

    I see this as no great problem though, as brown snakes would be one of the most common amongst populated areas, and even as snake catchers who generally relocate snakes, we are by law now allowed to euthanase (in a freezer) if required, as rehousing creates a whole new set of problems. Introduction of disease to a colony, population explosion and/or threat to other endemic species, etc.....we simply dont know what effect relocating a number of snakes to another area will have on the environment, other snakes and other species. We just HOPE we are doing the right thing, by removing a potential threat from populated areas, and releasing it in safe areas to go about it's business. Men have screwed up many times in the past through interfering with nature!

    Most ELAPID (fixed front fanged, venomous, terrestrial), are solitary and territorial (occupying an area on average of about football field size).

    We see most early in the warm season, after a long period of torpidity (not hibernation) after the cooler seasons, when they emerge, are hungry and ready to breed.

    The males follow a pheremone scent exuded by the female and compete to mate.

    Many have seen two snakes intertwined and apparently mating! This is in actual fact two males competing for the right to mate.

    They do not bite each other but instead play a little game of attempting to pin the head of their competitor to the ground, using their own lower jaw.

    I believe this picture actually displays two males vying for the right to mate, not actual mating as described:

    The victor moves off winning the right to mate, the loser slinks off to try again another day.

    Copulation can last many hours, with the snakes joined by the many spikes upon the males hemepenis.

    Young snakes are born self sufficient and are on their own from birth, to head off and find a territory of their own, or mum may just teach them a valuable lesson by eating them!

    Every summer you will see some fool on television telling you all about how deadly snakes are, to beware and watch out, and to hide the children, as snakes are about...........because he actually makes his living catching them, and the more people he can scare the more work he gets, the more money he takes out of YOUR pocket, and he makes a very tidy sum from each snake he catches (I believe a simple call out these days is in excess of $150, and then you can also add the time it takes to do a complete search of the area, which could take a few hours)!

    Do NOT call the police, the housing commission, or the council for assistance, as they are not equipped to deal with snakes, they are powerless to assist, they will not come to your aid. They will merely refer you on to appropriate snake catching businesses.

    I actually had the Police contact me to attend the local park to relocate a venomous snake found under a rubbish bin. The police merely stood back watching the bin until I arrived.

    Snakes certainly need to be respected and treated with extreme caution, but there is no need to fear them! You are much larger than they, they cannot eat you, and they will only bite as a last resort if confronted, cornered or threatened! Remove the threat, provide an escape route, and the snake will slink away faster than you can say "gee, I nearly #%@* myself!"

    As well as being deaf, snakes have very poor eyesight!

    If you inadvertantly stumble upon a snake, your best coarse of action is to simply FREEZE!.......ANOTHER OF THE VERY IMPORTANT THINGS i NEED TO PASS ALONG TO YOU!!!

    When you stop moving, you remove the direct threat to the snake, you become nothing more threatening than a rock, bush or tree, and snakes do not bite trees!

    The snake may even pass over your feet, but you MUST remain still.

    When training potential snake catchers, we would get them to all stand in a circle on the first day of the course, dump a bin of venomous snakes in the middle of the circle, and use our jigging hooks to place the snakes on their feet. This demonstrates the importance of being still, and the fact that even the deadliest of snakes will make no attempt to bite. Anyone who couldn't cope with this was instantly dismissed from the course then and there for safety reasons.

    Once you have removed the threat by freezing, allow time for the snake to move off.

    If it does not move off, then you SLOWLY take a step back.

    Should the snake adopt a threatening strike posture, you simply freeze again and repeat the process!

    It can also be a benefit to lift your foot, presenting the snake with the sole of your shoes if you are within striking distance......the fangs cannot penetrate the shoe. You MUST still remain still should your balance prove reliable.

    For those of us who may encounter snakes, this lesson is about the most important I can stress on you!

    Do not turn and run, do not back off, do not try to jump over the snake, do not try to wave it away, do not try to hit it with a stick............simply FREEZE, all will be well, and you will have a story to relate around the campfire.....and I can guarantee the size of the snake will grow slightly each time you tell the story!!

    Snakes only have one functioning lung, which takes up approximately one third of their gut cavity, and a very slow metabolism and respiration rate. Hence they can hold their breath for a very long time.

    ALL snakes are competent swimmers. Many a swimmer has been directly approached by swimming snakes. The snake mistakes the swimmer as a rock or resting place, and makes a beeline directly towards the person. In this scenario, simply splash water towards the snake, it SHOULD turn and flee.....if not, remain completely still, as difficult as that may be!

    Although we have many aquatic and semi aquatic species, and the fact that ALL snakes are competent swimmers, most of them prefer drier conditions. The water will drive them out of any borrows, cracks and crevices they are utilising (snakes don't dig their own holes or burrows) and send them packing to drier and more friendly areas!

    Red Bellied Black snakes are a bit of a favourite of mine. They are always found near water sources, where their diet consists mainly of frogs and lizards.

    Although regarded as deadly, they rate a fair way down the list. A healthy adult, if bitten, even though you may feel as though you are dying, can generally pull through without the aid of antivenom.

    They do look very scary though, being irridescent black with a sharp red flash (sign for danger), and they flare their neck in a fantastic SHOW of aggression like a cobra! This is mainly bluff though! Very reluctant to bite, quite timid, will make every attempt to flee after their display, and for the experienced they can actually be free handled quite easily, although I would never recommend this.

    A friend of mine WAS actually bitten on the finger attempting it, another was bitten on the thigh as the so called "pet" snake I gave him travelled up the leg of his trousers while handling it! He was not a well boy, had been drinking alcohol prior to handling (which is a big no no and stupid error for a snake handler), was severely reprimanded at the hospital as he of all people should have known better, and he was quite embarrased by his faus paux. He now has lasting effects thanks to the incident (loss of taste and feeling) along with quite a big scare at the time.

    An interesting fact about Red Bellied Blacks is a defence mechanism they exhibit, which is not found in other species. When threatened they exude a foul odour from anal glands. It's like a mix between a dead rotting carcass and poo. Once you have smelt it you do not forget it.

    Red Bellied Blacks dont actually have red bellies! The red flash is actually down each side of the belly, with the belly itself a light pink to grey colour.

    Red in nature is a warning sign, alongside the irridescent black this creature sends a fearful fact far more fearful than the true nature of the species!

    How DO we safeguard ourselves and keep snakes away?

    The bottom line cant! It's impossible to make a place snake free, and as mentioned earlier, snakes can get in through gaps 7mm wide (the thickness of a pencil)!

    Snakes do not have fixed ribs like ours. Instead their ribs are hinged on the backbone, which means that if they can fit their head through a gap, the body will also flatten to go through, regardless of how unlikely it looks.

    We camp in areas which snakes love. Lots of animal burrows, rockwalls, heavy undergrowth, a water supply, fallen trees, etc, etc, and we must learn to coexist with them instead of eradicating them. They play a role in nature, and they have their place amongst the food destroying snakes we can upset that balance and in turn affect far larger numbers of animals.

    Again, we can make our homes snake unfriendly (not snake free) by mowing lawns, removing rubbish, clearing ground covers and avoiding rockeries, but this really isn't possible when camping, so we are certainly likely to encounter snakes in this scenario, especially in nice weather over about 25 degrees (when they become active) and when we are also on the move exploring and walking.

    We already know that they are deaf, have poor eyesight, and will normally attempt to get out of our way.

    We know to be aware when walking, to step up onto objects instead of over them, and we naturally will not stick our hands into animal burrows, under rocks or other likely hides.

    We know that if we freeze, the snake will normally try to leave, and we know if this doesn't happen we take a slow step backwards. This can be very difficult to do when a snake is moving towards you, posturing at you, or even striking towards you in bluff, especially if you are in a bit of a panic, but it must be done!

    I've already mentioned that the most likely snakes we will frequently encounter (Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide) will be Eastern Browns around 3-4' in length, and this is where the good news starts for us.

    These brown snakes have very small fangs and very small venom glands! Fang length on an adult sized snake is only about 2.5mm long, and even though they have one of the most potent venoms on earth, with the relatively small venom glands, they are also likely not to waste this venom.

    They are predictable, and ALWAYS strike low to the ground (ankle to calf height). This is because when striking they generally lift the front third of their body off the ground, then use the remaining 2/3rds of the body to launch themselves forward....length of snake will indicate striking a 6' snake will strike up to about 2' high maximum, falling downwards as it progresses forwards. 6' is a VERY VERY large brown snake!

    This all works in our favour, as a decent pair of hiking boots, long socks and long trousers provides a relative degree of safety, from these small fangs penetrating! Along with our knowledge on how to react if surprised, things aren't looking too bad for us now, and our confidence will grow the first time this newfound method proves itself!

    Near water we can also add Black Snakes and Tiger Snakes. Coastal and desert areas Death Adders. Northern and inland areas Taipans.

    Different snakes, different habitats, different characteristics...............but we still use the same set of general rules for all! It is proven, and it works!

    In the event that you are careful, wearing long pants and hiking boots, keep your eyes open, freeze when confronted, but still happen to get bitten, what happens now?


    The first thing you will do is panic! It's only natural, but you MUST make a conscious effort to allay this panic, because it can be the thing which kills you!

    When we panic our heart rate rises, our blood pressure goes up, adrenalin kicks in, we make silly decision, and this is all the sort of stuff which will move any venom around our bodies faster, and the thing we MUST do is slow the process and travel of any venom!

    It is rare that you will ever see two distinct bite marks as always shown on television!

    In actual fact, you may see one fang mark, a small scratch, maybe even only a bruise!

    At this stage, you still don't even know that the snake was venomous, and even if it was, you may not have even been envenomated!

    Snake venom is held in small glands at the rear of the head. It it like saliva for us, in that a snake never runs out of venom, and the choice is up to the snake as to whether to envenomate or not!

    They ARE however, reluctant to use this venom, except for on prey items or to protect themselves!

    Going back to the Eastern Brown again (the snake most of us are likely to encounter) along with very small fangs (2.5mm) they also have very small venom glands! They are reluctant to use this venom, and many times the initial strike is what we call a "dry bite". No venom has been injected, and the bite was merely a warning, to back off, or more serious action will be taken!

    Unfortunately, when fired up, these snakes can also be quite aggressive, and do tend to strike repeatedly, so the second, third, fourth or fifth bite DOES envenomate!

    In contrast to the Eastern Brown, snakes like the Tiger family have very large venom glands, long fangs (15mm) are aggressive, and inject huge quantities of venom!

    Regardless of all this, with any and every bite, we must always treat it as venomous, and possibly fatal, taking immediate action for our own well being!

    Do not ever try to catch the snake for identification! It is not required, as hospitals have venom identification kits for this purpose, and the act of attempting to catch it can result in far worse bites, and also speeds your own metabolism, forcing any venom around your body much faster!

    You must rest! Lay down, move as little as possible, slow your heart rate, and be calm.

    You will certainly NOT wash the wound! Very important! You will not cut it, apply anything to it, or interfere with it in any other way!

    You will not go for help, drive or walk off unless there is absolutely no other option, and instead you require help to come to you, and you will be carried out! You will not walk, and you will move as little as possible, for reasons I will now explain!

    Venom does not travel in the blood! Another myth busted! Venom actually travels in the lymph system. This "lymph" is the fluid portion of blood, which separated from the red and white cells as they travel through our body. The lymph system is just below the surface of our skin, and lymph is moved around by our muscular contractions............each time we move, we push the lymph a little further.

    This is why old age methods like sucking the poison out are not effective!

    We need to slow the movement of lymph, and the way to do this is by pressure and immobilisation, commonly known simply as the pressure-immobilisation technique!

    The first step is to apply pressure to the entire limb, and this is done by applying a broad elasticised bandage to the ENTIRE limb!

    We should ALL carry two of these brad elasticed bandages in our first aid kit if we intend to camp anywhere, so if you don't have any, get them on your shopping list now, coz if you ever need it, it's these inexpensive bandages which ARE gonna save your life!

    Begin applying the bandage directly over the bite site, and leave a little tag (one corner of the bandage) poking up in the air to identify the site of the bite. I will explain the reason for this later, but it is most important!

    Bandage all the way down the entire limb, then all the way up the limb, past the bite site until the entire limb is covered.

    If one bandage isn't enough, then use the other one as well, this is why you bought two of them!

    No need to remove clothes, just go over them, as it's important to apply this pressure as quickly as possible, and you will apply the bandage as tight as you would for a sprained ankle. Tight enough to feel the pressure and support, but not so tight that it cuts circulation and your toes/fingers turn blue!

    If you are bitten on the chest or neck, obviously you cannot bandage that with pressure, so just apply direct pressure to the site with your hand, and hold it there.

    Now that the pressure is applied, step two is immobilisation, by way of a splint, sling or strap, to prevent the limb from moving!

    This first aid is critical, because time is against you, and unless you can slow the movement of venom, you may not make it to the hospital at all!

    Now the good news! With correct first aid, you now have plenty of time! In fact, you may be hospitalised, and not show any effects at all, as long as that bandage is not removed! So stay calm, rely on others for help, and make all attempts to get the help to come to you!

    Next step is off to the nearest hospital!

    Not all hospitals have stocks of snake antivenom! It is very expensive stuff, you may need large quantities, and it has a very short shelf life, so it is not always practical to stock large quantities of all the antivenom types, just in case a bite case presents. Every few months all the stock would have to be thrown away and replaced, and this is hundreds of thousands of dollars constantly being throw away!

    At the hospital they will insert a fluid IV line into your vein in preparation, and possibly send you to a larger and better equipped hospital if they are not able to assist there, and this is no problem, just remain calm and let them do their job, as you are now in safe and competent hands. The one thing they will NOT do, is remove that bandage! That bandage MUST remain on!

    Now remember that little tag, the corner of the bandage you left poking up over the bite site? This now comes into play, even if you've passed out! At the hospital they will cut away ONLY this small section to identify the bite.

    Once they see the site, a swab from a venom detection kit will be taken, to identify the presence of venom, and the specific type of snake venom! This will take a little time, but it is most important!

    Antivenom is very dangerous stuff, and there are different types for different snake families! You preferably want something specific for the type of snake which bit you if possible!

    If NOT possible, all is not lost! There is also a broad spectrum antivenene to treat all types of snake bite, but you will need far more of this broad spectrum stuff, and that in itself is not desirable for reasons I will now explain!

    Antivenom is made from horse blood (although research is currently underway using sheep, as they are considered cleaner and more adaptable than horses).

    Horses are injected with very small quantities of snake venom over a period of time, to develop antibodies to the venom. Horse blood is them collected, spun down in a centrifuge, where the clear portion is withdrawn, and this is what is used to make the antivenom.

    The problem is, horse blood and people blood aren't really compatible. We can develop an allergy to the antivenom, go into anaphylactic shock when it is administered, which can kill us faster than the snake venom would!

    This is a very real risk for those of us who deal with reptiles, and make suffer multiple bites over the course of our careers. We get a bite, go to hospital, get antivenom, but develop an allergy, an allergy which we dont even know about at this stage! Next bite, we get antivenom again, immediately have a severe allergic reaction..........and drop dead!

    For you though, the detection kit has now identified the type of snake, quantities of antivenom are prepared (as you may actually need a few ampules of the stuff, not just one), everyone is on hand with rescuscitation gear and other cool hospital stuff, and NOW is the time the bandage will be removed!

    If you do not show signs of envenomation, you will only be monitored, but at the first signs, the first ampule of antivenom will be administered.

    So what are the signs?

    I cant tell you! They are many, varied and dependant on the type of snake and quantity of venom! They may include, pain, swelling, blurred vision, chest tightness, ptosis (drooping eyelids), vomiting, diarrhea, loss of smell, headache, or so much more. Snake venom contains many hundreds of different complex proteins, and has many varied effects!

    The good thing is, that due to the efficiency of our technology, these days there are very few deaths from snakebite, so as long as you got that first aid quickly, you now have a very good chance!

    You may have lasting and ongoing effects. Organ damage, loss of senses, and a lifelong reminder of you experience, but all being well you will be alive!

    Keep in the back of your mind though, it may not have even been a venomous snake, or even if it was, you may not have been envenomated, so stay calm and rely on the hospital. They will also be consulting and talking with professional toxicologists (by phone, or they will attend themselves if possible) in the background, which you wont even know about, who are the best in the world at dealing with this type of thing!

    Another thing I should discuss is dead snakes!

    I mentioned snakes have a very slow metabolism, which becomes even slower in cold weather. On a cold day, what appears to be a dead snake can very quickly come to life with shocking consequenses, an injured or dying snake may have enough energy left for one last strike, a basking snake may become startled and strike out.

    Even a dead rotting carcass or desicated skull is still dangerous, so treat it as such!

    Snake venom crystalises when dried, it does not go away, so even a small prick from a dead skull can prove fatal, and this venom can also be absorbed through the skin or eyes! Don't mess with what you dont fully understand!

    I hope I've managed to convey enough to you, in simple and plain english that everyone and anyone can easily understand, but really, the bottom line is that they can be deadly, so don't mess with them if you don't know what you are doing, show them a healthy respect, do not make an attempt to kill them which may backfire, and take some simple and common sense precautions to safeguard yourself! Be wary, but do not be afraid, they mean you no harm, and are just as scared of you! Give them a chance to get away from you, then 9 times in 10 they will seize that oppurtunity!

    I would be a little dubious about eating snake, as they are full of parasites. Not just gut parasites either, as snakes do suffer from skin worms, a nasty small parasite which burrows through the tissue under the surface of the people as wellas snakes!

    If eating snake I'd strongly recommend that you ensure it's well cooked before having a taste.

    Another good one to discuss is the Tiger snakes.


    There are two species of tiger snake:
    Notechis scutatus - eastern or mainland Tiger
    Notechis ater - black Tiger

    Also responsible for a significant proportion of snake bites in our country.

    A live bearer with very large fangs, huge venom glands, known to inject large quantities of venom, robust bodies and a bit of a bad attitude. They can be quite aggressive when provoked and tend to strike repeatedly. Be very cautious with these little guys, and don't think for a minute that a tiger snake will always have stripes!

    The tail of a snake actually provides an indication as to the sex, although to be conclusive it requires that a small probe is inserted under the anal scale. If the probe goes in approximately 3 scale lengths it is a female, but as the male hemipenes are inverted inside the tail when not aroused, the probe will go in about 8 scale lengths on males. Yes, they turn their two penis's inside out! hock:

    Males have slightly longer tails which run fairly straight in line with body width for these first 8 scales lengths, while the female tail is shorter and tapers from the beginning.

    I would suggest this picture is a female, although probing would be needed to "correctly" identify that assumption.

    I was brought up thinking that when you have lizards you will not have snakes! INCORRECT, it is one of those common myths I was discussing!

    They share the same habitat types, and snakes eat lizards! In the wild Copperheads live on a diet almost exclusively of lizards, and in captivity can prove quite difficult to wean onto a diet of mice and rats (as we cant kill native animals to feed our snakes).

    Here's some proof:

    Do a quick google search on "snake eating lizard" and you will find hundreds upon hundreds of pictures, along with pictures of snakes eating snakes....especially the canabalistic Black Snakes.


    It is highly unlikely you will ever be struck, unbitten, and see venom on your person. Should it ever be the case though, this stuff is dangerous!

    It can be absorbed through the skin and the eyes, and it doesn't go away. When dried it can also be inhaled.

    This is why it can be dangerous even handling a snake skeleton or carcass. The venom crystalises when it is dried, but it still retains it's potency.

    When snakes are milked for their venom, the venom is then dried (crystalised) and then sent to CSL (commonwealth Serum Laboratories) where it can be stored in crystalised form, and later used to create antivenom.

    It is dangerous in the snake, dangerous in dried laboratory form, and just as dangerous on your person!

    I know a well renowned herpetologist who operates his own venom supply company to provide CSL with the venoms. Over the years from inhaling dried venom, it is now to dangerous and life threatening for him to continue with this work.

    Another point of interest. What is the "deadliest" snake?

    Australia is certainly home to the 10 deadliest snakes on the planet, although we hear much about the American Rattlesnakes, moccasins and cottonmouths (some of the deadliest in America). Equally, the asian cobras, african vipers, mambas, etc.

    When it comes to the "deadliest" snake, that is not the same as the most "toxic" snake. That accolade undoubtably goes to the Inland Taipan.

    Deadliest is another mattter altogether, as rating on a scale of deadliness, there is a lot to take into account, ie: how toxic is the venom, how large are the venom glands and how much venom is injected, what is the temperament of the snake, fang length, distrubution and contact with humans, etc, etc.

    This is why you may read half a dozen different reference sources, and the order will be listed in half a dozen different orders.

    Certainly Taipan, Inland Taipan, Brown Snake, Death Adder, Tiger Snake all rate very highly in order of deadliness.

    The inland Taipan although extremely toxic, resides in outback areas, where humans rarely encounter the snake, hence it drops a way down the list.

    Brown snakes, living in close proximity with humans in highly populated areas, also with a very highly toxic venom then moves up the list, as encounters are frequent and the risk of bites multiplies.

    For my money, I'd suggest the vast majority of us are going to have encounters with Brown Snakes, that is why I've attempted to concentrate on them, and that is why I would rate them as one of the least in the top three deadliest snakes on the planet (many sources list it as number 2).

    As for the lethality of the snake venoms themselves, vemon is rated on a scale known as LD50.

    LD50 simply means "lethal dose 50%".

    Venom is tested on colonies of mice for it's efficacy. What researchers are looking for, is the lowest volume of each venom type, which will kill 50% of the test subjects (mice) injected with it. The less venom used to kill 50% of the mice, the higher the LD50 rating.

    Brown snake venom again rates very very highly, at least number 2 or 3 on the scale after the Inland Taipan at number 1. Brown snake venom is also a highly complex venom, containing many hunreds of different proteins, so it also has many very different effects on the human body.

    Different venoms cause different effects. Some clot the blood, others prevent the blood from clotting. Some cause localised necrosis (massive death of living tissue) others affect both voluntary and involuntary muscular movement. The list of effects is extensive, and different for each family of snakes.

    Each individual snake can choose how much of this stored venom to exude when it bites. Some may use it all, some may use a little, some may choose not to envenomate at all (which can be common with brown snakes who sometimes prefer to withhold venom to instead be used on a prey item rather than in self defence).

    Another thing about the venom, is that they are largely immune to the effects of their own venom type (although this is not "definately" settled). Should a brown bite another brown, no effect. Should a venomous snake of another species bite them, they will display the same effects as any other prey animal,although snakes do have a "level" of immunity to the bite from another species.

    Another thing, I've eaten and drank snake. Quite palatable, although nothing extraordinary, big in asian culture as a winter warmer, especially in soup, I wouldn't go out of my way for it, as mentioned earlier, always ensure it is well cooked to kill parasites. I've never tried snake blood.

    Chinese snake wine is not all it's cracked up to be, I have a bottle here, tastes like petrol.....try it at your own risk!

    The Black Snakes are certainly the most docile, easily handled, and calmest temperament of all the venomous snakes. Along with one of the prettiest of the elapids.

    I've even witnessed one bite, and rather than the lightening fast stike of other species, this Black prefered to just slowly open it's mouth, leisurely move forward, sink in the teeth and have a slow chew.

    Don't be put of by the shiny red and black colours. Not half as dangerous as they appear.....naturally, they are still toxic venomous snakes, more than capable of inflicting serious injury in healthy adults (death in the young and aged) so they all must be treated with utmost respect and caution.

    Here's another close relative, also from the Black Snake family, the Colletts:

    Another pretty one, same docile temperament. Both livebearers, both canabalistic, same venom, same antivenene if required.

    I guess there's a whole lot more I could go into! Possibly sexing a snake by probing, exotic snakes, pythons, breeding, etc, etc, but I don't really think any of that stuff is relevant here, so I guess the next step is:
    "what else do you want to know...........if anything? What stories or encounters of your own do you wish to share, what questions can I answer for you? How can I help? What are your beliefs in regards to snakes?"

    Bearing in mind, I cannot identify snakes you have encountered via pictures. To do that I need exact areas, habitats, and close examination of the animal itself to perform scale counts, which can only be done hands on with the animal or carcass.

    As mentioned in my opening statements, I apologise in advance for any inaccuracies, which are purely my own failings. I have done my best to provide accurate information, based on my own teachings, my own research and my own experiences, with all information being true and correct to the best of my knowledge......things DO change though, we learn more, text books are re-written, and animals evolve. It's an ongoing process, I'm doing my best to provide the best information I can for you, I can only refer to scientific studies, reference works, herpetological text books and taxonomic studies, plus my own experiences in doing this.

  • #2
    Here's a list from 10th to 1st, of the 10 deadliest snakes in Australia based on "LD50" (venom toxicity):
    This list is based on the research conducted by the Australian Venom Research Unit (AVRU). The ratings are based on the LD50 level, which is the amount of venom that a snake would need to cause death. The lower the LD50, the less venom the snake would need to kill someone. All of the snakes on this list are found in Australia.

    10 – Spotted Brown Snake (LD50 = 0.360 (in bovine serum albumin))
    Posted Image
    This snake also goes by the name of Speckled Brown Snake. It is commonly found in central Queensland and the Eastern Northern Territory. The Speckled Brown Snake lives on grassy, black-soil plains. If bitten administer first aid immediately and seek urgent medical attention.

    9 – Gwardir (LD50 = 0.473)
    Posted Image
    Otherwise known as the Western Brown snake, this tricky species has many different colourings across the Western portion of Australia. One such variation is the Black-headed Western Brown snake, which has the top 20-30cm of the snakes body is black in colour and the rest is brown.

    The Gwardir is found over most of the mainland of Australia, excluding Victoria and Tasmania. It also turns up in the North Western of New South Wales. It loves to live in dry, open forests and grassland and is most active at day time, but when the heat is right up, it can be nocturnal.

    If bitten administer first aid immediately and seek urgent medical attention.

    8 – Death Adder (LD50 = 0.400)
    Posted Image
    The Death Adder is found on the Eastern coastline of New South Wales and Queensland, but is also prevalent on the Southern points of South Australia and Western Australia.

    The Death Adder lives in wet and dry eucalypt forests, woodlands and coastal heaths. It is active both day and night and often hides among leaf litter on the ground, waiting to attack possible prey.

    If bitten administer first aid immediately and seek urgent medical attention.

    7 – Black Tiger Snake (Chappell Island ssp.) (LD50 = 0.194 – 0.33
    Posted Image
    Found over most of Chappell Island (A small island off the North Eastern coastline of Tasmania) is a little less deadly than its mainland cousin.

    You will find it in moist, grassy plains, where there are a large amount of rocks for it to take shelter.

    If bitten administer first aid immediately and seek urgent medical attention.

    6 – Beaked sea snake (LD50 = 0.164)
    Posted Image
    Usually found off the coast of the Northern Territory and Queensland, this beautiful snake has also been spotted on the North Eastern coastline of Western Australia, loving the warm ocean.

    If bitten administer first aid immediately and seek urgent medical attention.

    5 – Black tiger snake (LD50 = 0.131)
    Posted Image
    This species is mainly found in moist areas; rainforests, heaths, open forests and river floodplains. It is mainly located on the Southern points of Australia (mainly South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria), but has been also spotted in Western Australia and New South Wales.

    If bitten administer first aid immediately and seek urgent medical attention.

    4 – Tiger snake (LD50 = 0.11
    Posted Image
    Like its other cousins, this species is mainly found in moist areas; rainforests, heaths, open forests and river floodplains. It is mainly located on the Southern points of Australia (mainly South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria), but has been also spotted in Western Australia and New South Wales.

    If bitten administer first aid immediately and seek urgent medical attention.

    3 – Coastal Taipan (LD50 = 0.099)
    Posted Image
    Found in northern and eastern Australia. It is known from north-western Western Australia, the northern Northern Territory, across Cape York Peninsula and coastally through eastern Queensland to Grafton (New South Wales). In southern Queensland it is common near Beaudesert, Esk and Gympie.

    The Coastal Taipan loves to live in open forests, dry closed forests, coastal heaths and grassy beach dunes. It also favours cultivated areas such as cane fields.

    If bitten administer first aid immediately and seek urgent medical attention.

    2 – Eastern Brown Snake (LD50 = 0.053)
    Posted Image
    Found over most of Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. It also occurs in southern South Australia and there are isolated populations in the Northern Territory. This species is also present in southern Papua New Guinea.

    The Eastern Brown Snake loves to live in all habitats except rainforest. It has adapted well to farmed, grazed and semi-urban lands. In South-eastern Queensland, this species is particularly common around Beenleigh and Ipswich.

    If bitten administer first aid immediately and seek urgent medical attention.

    1 – Inland Taipan (LD50 = 0.025)
    Posted Image
    The Inland Taipan (Or Western Taipan) is the world’s and Australia’s deadliest land snake.

    It is found between Boulia and Hamilton (western Qld) and Goyder’s Lagoon (SA). There are old records from Bourke (NSW) and, possibly, the junction of the Murray and Darling Rivers. An isolated population occurs near Coober Pedy (SA).

    It loves to live on the ashy downs of Cooper Creek and the Diamantina and Georgina Rivers.

    It is active by day and shelters in deep soil cracks, so be sure not to be sticking your hands anywhere near them.

    If bitten administer first aid immediately and seek urgent medical attention. Then pray for your life because if you have a large dose of the Inland Taipan’s venom in you and you’re more than 100km away from help, you’re probably going to die.
    I must reiterate, this list is compiled using LD50 (venom toxicity) as the criteria. You will see other top ten lists which will vary, as other lists will take other things into account, such as distribution, fang size, temperament, etc, which will naturally alter that order.


    • Guest's Avatar
      war_machine commented
      Editing a comment
      Mate! That's a long post, aha but very good and thank you for posting, I've seen it on the other forum but as of yet haven't read over it, I spend most of my time in the bush so this information will prove to be very valuable, thanks

  • #3
    You may recall earlier, I suggested to never try to judge the type of snake using colour as the criteria, as colour variations can be great. Tiger snakes do not always have stripes, brown snakes can be black blue, striped, etc.

    Many snakes have similar markings to others, sometimes it can be incredibly difficult to differentiate the two.

    Here's a deadly juvenile brown:

    Here's a relatively harmless whip snake:

    Highly unlikely that you could tell the difference!

    The same goes for inland Taipans. Here's a few, including a black headed one:

    Black headed python for comparison:

    One is unboubtably the king of snakes! The most toxic snake in the world, the other a completely harmless and non venomous resident. Stumble across them in the bush, are you now sure which is which? It's why all snakes are best left well alone, unless you are absolutely certain of it's identification......sometimes that harmless python turns out to be something much more!


    • #4
      it might be a good opportunity to talk about the flicking forked tongue thing and other senses!

      Snakes we know are deaf, and they have very poor eyesight (we have already discussed that earlier).

      They do however have a very acute olfactory sense (sense of smell/taste).

      Inside the roof of the mouth are two small pits (organs) known as a Jacobsons organ. It's used for sensitive chemical detection.

      Each time the forked tongue flicks out, the snake is actually picking up small molecules from the air, and using the two forks of the tongue to insert these molecules into the Jacobsons organ up in the roof of the mouth....they are tasting and smelling it.

      An effective tool for hunting prey both day and night.

      While we are on this subject, we already know the venomous snakes (elapids) are diurnal (mainly active in daylight hours).......but what about other species of snake who are night hunters?

      PYTHONS! No venom, they kill by constriction.

      Pythons dont actually crush their prey......another common myth! A python intends to bite it's prey over the head/snout when it strikes, a method of restricting air flow to the lungs, although they are not always very successful at this and may bite the prey animal anywhere on the body. Unsuccessful attempts at biting the head/snout, also often result in prey animals (mice, rats, etc) defending themselves by biting back, which can see reptiles with frequent injuries. Again, shedding will repair this damage, the risk of infection in wounds is great though....a very good reason why reptiles in captivity should never be fed live prey.....needless to say the feeding of live prey is also a breech of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act!

      Following this initial strike, they wrap coils of their own body around the prey item and tighten all their muscles (a large python is actually very strong, and you could have difficulty removing it should these coils wrap around your arm).

      They wait for the prey animal to breathe out, and then tighten further, effectivly suffocating the animal when it cant expand it's lungs to draw another inwards breathe, rather than crushing it as many believe.

      Pythons are described as one of the least evolved types of snake, yet they are one of a small number of snakes around the planet, with a distinct advantage for night hunting, and an extra little tool uncommon in the snake world.

      Along the bottom of the top lip on MOST (not all) pythons, is a series of small pits. Some species of Viper are also equipped with these.

      These pits are known as "labial pits".

      You can clearly see three of them in this image. Also note the blue spectacle scale over the eye (as discussed earlier)......this snake is preparing to shed it's skin.

      These labial pits are heat detectors, accurate to within a fraction of a degree.

      Being night hunters, the pythons can detect minor temperature variations, actually picking up on the body heat exuded by prey animals.

      This enables effective hunting even in complete pitch black conditions within a rain forest, cave or similar......clever for what's considered a largely unevolved animal huh?

      A little more on eyesight!

      We have species of snakes here which are most active in daylight hours (diurnal), species which are most active in hours of darkness (nocturnal), and species which are most active at dusk and dawn (crepuscular).

      This differing activity time is benefitted by different eye types to suit.

      A snake may have a slitted eye (either vertically or horizontally), a largely black eye, a distinct pupil, even a camouflaged eye which matches the body colouration.

      The different eye types are suited to the differing light conditions the snakes normally operate in, but the one thing they all have in common is the lack of eyelids. They all have a clear scale over the eye to protect it, and they all have relatively poor eyesight in comparison to other animals.

      All of our elapids (venomous snakes) are diurnal though (operating mainly in daylight hours), although as mentioned earlier, always be ready for a snake to break the rules and act out of character!

      Are snakes colourblind or do they have colour perception? That one I'm afraid I can't tell you.......I simply don't know enough myself!


      • #5
        Great read. Thank you very much for sharing your knowledge.
        "Time is a companion that goes with us on a journey. It reminds us to cherish each moment, because it will never come again. What we leave behind is not as important as how we have lived."
        Captain Jean-Luc Picard


        • #6
          In Bass Straight there is an island called chappel island. It has been cut off for thousands of years. On the island live only 2 aminals The shearwater (mutton bird) chicks & tiger snakes. The tigers have developed into a sub species Chappel island tiger snakes. They are stubbier & eat big fat shearwater chicks. They are very aggressive & territorial & because they are armed THEY CHASE YOU . You become the hunted. There is an automatic lighthouse on the island that does require periodic maintance by AMSA people. If you go in by boat the tigers will come down to the beach to meet you. I accidentally went ashore there in 1998 (the bad year for Sydney - Hobart fleet ). I was crew on the radio relay ship "WYUNA". Big mistake. As for Shy I killed one last summer that came into my man cave. We get tigers all around the place here. Sorry mate " I kill all snakes" Would make a nice rifle sling though.


        • #7
          That is one hell of a thread there ranger. Well done.


          • #8
            WOW I believe I may have learnt something today big thumbs up ranger thank you.


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              war_machine commented
              Editing a comment
              Hey ranger, after thoroughly reading the thread I've deleloped a new respect for snakes and now armed with new information, changed the way I think of poisonous snakes, so for that, I thank you. While on YouTube a while ago I found a documentary that I found sort of interesting, it is of this guy that has made a habit of injecting himself with snake venom, apparently he
              Has been doing it for 20+ years, It would be interesting to hear your informed opinion on the matter. Here is the video,

          • #9
            Yep I remember that post well from the other forum .
            Looking at this again reminds me i need a PLB!

            Thanks again Ranger


            • #10
              Great work, very important read and I'll read it all again tonight if I get the chance.

              January this year I spent a week with my friend on his property in the Darling Shire area. A few days after I returned home I received a picture of a western taipan that was shot out the front of the house. I will see if I can get that picture back as the colour of it was a bit different to what you would expect at that time of the year, however it did have the dark glossy black head.
              This snake first appeared coming out of a gap around the mantle piece of the fire place while his missus was folding the washing. She was pregnant at the time but quite calmly fluttered a towel in front of her and the snake retreated back where it came from which was presumably back into the wall. We suspect the snake had been living inside the walls and under the house preying on rodents and was rarely in the sunlight which might explain its bolder it was a stronger brownish colour on top but its belly and flanks were yellow and red as well. I googled the snake type confirmed that it was known in their region and its colouring etc, also known as the fierce snake, from what I read.
              20mins after the snake retreated the dogs started barking out the front, it was the same snake moving around behind the kennels so it was quickly despatched.
              I only post this in regard to the great information you have provided and to confirm that appearance and colouring can be quite different, and to also show that snakes when treated calmly will move away as you have said, but equally, that they can show up when the least expected.
              Unfortunately I must have deleted the pictures of the snake but if I can get them again I will post them.
              One more thing, many snakes have been caught on this property and provided to JC in Sydney..that's not Jesus Christ of course, but I,m sure you know who I mean.

              Again, thanks for the great read.


              • #11
                Should you encounter a problem with a snake popping out of a hole or crack, cover the area with bird netting (as used to protect fruit trees from birds) and weigh down the edges with anything heavy. As the snake emerges it will become entangled in the netting, and easy for a snake catcher to come retrieve. It's the safe way of doing things, coz you dont have to get close to the snake, and you dont have to try quickly grabbing it before it again retreats.

                JC would have to be Jeff Coombes. If so, give him my regards if you happen to see him again, as he was the bugger who first got me addicted to playing with these little buggers, and the guy who first gave me a start in the field!


                • #12
                  great read mate, thanks for the useful info.


                  • #13
                    Great post, thanks for all your work. Well worth the read


                    • Guest's Avatar
                      Burp commented
                      Editing a comment
                      I read the guide once but didn't have the chance to thank you for the excellent article! I just had a thought...if a snake attempts to bite a person, can it wind up getting its fangs caught on a loose bit of fabric eg. shoelace, hem of pants, thick glove etc and be unable to pull itself free? If that occurs, what should you do? Is it even possible to catch a snake by getting it to lunge at a piece of cloth at the end of a stick and then trying to toss the cloth around the snake and get it wrapped up? Not suggesting that an untrained person actually try it, I'm just wondering if its possible.

                  • #14
                    Glad you copied your info, Ranger. Very good info indeed.

                    As a side note - this is interesting to see what some snake venom can do to blood!


                    • Guest's Avatar
                      Ranger commented
                      Editing a comment
                      Originally posted by Frenchy" post=14426
                      this is interesting to see what some snake venom can do to blood!
                      Snake venom is made from literally hundreds of different proteins, and the venom from each family of snakes can be quite different to the next.

                      The one displayed in the video has "coagulant" properties. Our Australia Tiger Snake venom does a similar thing.....causes death through clotting (amongst other things)

                      The venom from another family of snakes (such as the Brown Snakes) instead has "anti-coagulant" properties, which prevents the blood from clotting. This can instead lead to death through internal hemorrhage, as the bleeding starts and will not stop.

                    • safeshot
                      Free Member
                      safeshot commented
                      Editing a comment
                      at the end of the snake venom footage was a story of a little boy whose face was a series of hideous tumors and how the medicos in several countries gave him and his family his face back. A double hanky job this one.

                  • #15
                    As above, Ranger, thanks for an informative and useful thread.

                    Just want to add a little on a couple of points mentioned. While you are obviously far more qualified than I to comment, I might mention that I am a snake magnet. If there is a snake around, it will find me. My first face to face (and i do mean face to face) experience with a brown snake was at 8 y/o. About the same age, i ducked my head under water just in time as a tiger snake swam over the top of me. I can still see the image in my mind over 30 years later. As i spend a great deal of time slinking quietly around water courses, I encounter snakes quite commonly but in 40 years have only ever seen one in the "poised to strike" posture.

                    Point #1:
                    While our Australian snakes of concern are all terrestrial, i have personally seen snakes basking on riparian vegetation (stream side shrubs) at chest height. Not saying it's common, but can happen and people should be aware of it,as copping a bite, as mentioned, around chest height could be very difficult to deal with, especially in the upper arm/arm pit area as this is where a high concentration of lymph glands are.

                    Point #2:
                    I have had a snake attached to my waders while fishing. While working for a winery in NE Vic, a team member had a snake "entangled" in his thick explorer socks as he was topping up the "angels portion" in the barrel shed. So the snake entanglement thing as also possible, though probably not common.

                    Point #3:
                    Just re-iterating. Always carry two compression bandages when in the bush (carry mine in thigh pocket of cargo pants). Always wear loose fiting LONG pants and THICK knee high socks, pulled up! I would rather be hot than deal with a snake bite. I've now been living in Tas for a couple of years and the tendency for local hikers/outdoor types is to wear shorts and gators. To me, this is not sufficient protection as most gators only cover to mid calf area. LONG LOOSE PANTS & THICK SOCKS!

                    Point #4:
                    On keeping you property snake "unfriendly". Please tidy up anything that may attract rodents. Keep grain in rodent proof bins, etc. Not a good idea opening a snake cafe in your shed/chook house, etc.

                    Also, if you have to lift/roll a piece of tin/log/rock, move the object so that it is between yourself and any impending "wrath of the wild" that may be laying peacefully beneath. I get pretty cranky when rudely woken from an lovely afternoon nap and I reckon snakes do too!!!

                    Thanks again, Ranger.
                    List to tick off:
                    - TICK!!! NEW SCOPE: Sightron S-tac 2.5-17.5 X 56mm
                    - TICK !!Left handed 223rem, Zastava M85
                    - wildcat build in progress: 223McShort
                    - TICK!!! Rebarrel Howa to 7mm-08
                    - TICK!!! case trimmer/turner
                    - Comp dies for 7mm-08
                    - Case annealer
                    - Custom dies for wild cat