You are more likely to be struck by lightning than you are to die from a snake-bite.
I thought I should point this out because it seems like a lot of you have a skewed perception of the risks attached to going hiking in Australia. I hear people, especially international visitors, expressing their fears about snakes all too regularly. I’d hate to think that this was unnecessarily keeping people from enjoying our beautiful wild places.
We most certainly do have some deadly snakes in Australia. However, part of the reason that we have relatively few snake-related deaths is because of the healthy respect that most people (especially those who have some outdoors experience) have for the reptiles. By respecting them and knowing a little bit about them, we can be a whole lot safer when we head outdoors.
The majority of those killed or injured by snakes in this country are bitten when they either accidently step on a snake, or try to capture (or kill) a snake. Which is a nice segue to my 3 simple tips for avoiding a snake-bite while hiking…
1. Leave them the hell alone!
It’s illegal to injure or kill any of Australia’s native wildlife, so don’t even think about it. What would that achieve, anyway?
If you’re hiking in the warmer months, there is a fair chance you will come across a snake at some point. I see them all the time and I still freak out, even after all these years. It’s hard not to freak out, but as long as you give them some space there’s nothing to worry about.
It’s not like snakes are slithering around all sinister-like, looking for humans to kill. The best thing you can possibly do, as long as you’re not too close when you see it, is stand still and let it go about its business. It will get out of your way soon enough. They are very unlikely to strike unless they feel threatened.
2. Watch where you’re putting your feet!
This is probably the best piece of advice I can give you. I used to have a terrible habit of reading my map while walking. Then one day I happened to stop and look down at my feet, only to find that my foot had landed about an inch from a very large tiger snake. Fortunately, it just took off into the scrub. I probably should have bought a lottery ticket that day. I’ve taken a lot more care ever since.
Aside from that, there are a few other things to bear in mind:
- If you’re approaching a log or rock, step onto it rather than over it. You never know what could be lying on the other side.
- Snakes won’t hear you coming but they will feel your vibrations, so it pays to be heavy footed or to bang the ground with your walking pole.
- Avoid any long grass or scrub that could be obscuring a snake. If you have to walk through something like this, give it a bit of a shake with your walking pole first.
- If you find a dead snake, leave it alone. Once dead, a snake’s biting reflex can still remain intact for hours.
- Lastly, it’s not just your feet you need to worry about. If you’re climbing over rocks or using logs to help pull yourself up an incline, make sure you check where you’re putting your hands.
3. Cover those pins!
Snakes are much less likely to successfully envenomate through a fabric of any kind, so pants are always preferable to shorts on a hike. Gaiters are even better. The thicker the material, the more protected you are. Don’t forget about your feet, either. Sturdy shoes or boots are a must on any wilderness excursion.
So next time someone asks you to go for a hike, don’t be put off by snakes. They’re actually amazingly beautiful creatures, so if you get to see one you’re very lucky. Statistically, even your significant other is more likely to harm you than a snake is.
No matter how aware we are, or how much we protect ourselves, accidents can happen. So stay tuned for another blog post on snake-bite first aid in the not too distant future.
Do you have any safety tips to add? Or a snake encounter story you’d like to share? If you have anything to say, please let us know by commenting below.