Snakes can be something that most people fear when setting off on a hike but in reality they are not to be as feared as most people think. Putting in some simple safeguards can make sure you stay safe while hiking and avoid snake bites, if you ever wondered what the real risk of snake bites are and how to avoid them then this is the right place for you.
So what danger do snakes pose?
Well in reality snakes aren't as much to be feared of as you would first think they are, the fear of snakes is drawn from inaccurate assumption of the risk posed by them. The snakes in Australia are dominated by three main snake varieties which are Brown Snakes, Tiger Snakes and Red-bellied Black Snakes. Most Australian snakes have very small fangs compared to snakes overseas, coming in at around no longer than 4mm which is something most people would not expect. On top of this there is on average far more deaths from hypothermia than from snake bites; in fact hypothermia deaths outweigh deaths from snake bites by nearly 99.9% which is just staggering. So it's safe to say that snakes aren't as dangerous as they were once thought to be, but this doesn't mean we shouldn't still be cautious and take precautions to avoid getting bitten, some of the following suggestions are all great ways to reduce the risk of you getting bitten and if applied can lower the risk to near zero.
Our five tips on preventing snake bites:
1. Follow open Trails
The simplest thing you can do to reduce the risk of you getting bitten by snakes is to hike through open trails which are well defined and easy to navigate. Snakes love to hide in bushes and tall grass which is close to a water source such as a river, creek, lagoon or even swamp so setting your sights on a hike that avoids these areas is a great idea for reducing your risk.
2. Hike in Lightweight Long-pants
Wearing long pants while hiking is another great idea for reducing the risk of snakes along with irritation on your skin from the brushing against different plants such as stinging nettles. Lightweight hiking pants in this situation are a must and can be a little pricy but buying ones which can be detached into shorts can mean you are getting two for the price of one while reducing weight in your pack.
3. Wear Gaiters
If you are really worried about snake bites then having a good set of Gaiters around your ankles can almost completely eliminate the risk of getting bitten. Most new hikers won’t be too keen on spending on a pair of these but if going into areas of dense bush it would be a great suggestion for keeping safe from snakes.
4. Make some noise
The truth is that most snake attacks happen due to snakes being surprised by your presence, if you walk up to a snake quietly it might not even know you are there until you are so close that it's only reaction is to attack. To avoid this don't be afraid to make some noise as this can give the snake more warning of your arrival.
5. Watch for Snake Season
Finally, time your walks away from peak snake bite season which is around October to January (around the warmer months). This is doesn't mean don't hike at these times as they can provide for some of the best weather for hiking you will get all year but rather for you to be a little more cautious and put a few more of these precautions into practice.
What to do if you get bitten?
Well we aren't going to go into detail about how to treat each case of snake bite from all the different species but there are typically a few simple things to do that are priority.
Keep the patient as still and quiet as possible, movement will move the venom through the body and speed up its effect.
Avoid washing or cleaning the area and DO NOT try suck out the venom from the wound.
Wrap the area in compression bandages if any are available to try slow the movement of the venom.
Try get help as quickly as possible so that the anti-venom can be applied, this could involve the use of a PLB or EPERB.
If possible take down as much detail of the snake as possible including size, colour, species or anything else.
Remember that this is only a guide and is not to relied upon in every situation but one thing is for sure which is that snakes are something to be mindful of but not afraid. So long as you take the right precautions you should have a great time out on the trail and hopefully without a snake bite in-between.
Written by Josh Welch