Snakes Harmful and HarmlessTM

Often not seen until trod on.


Snakebite can happen at any time of the year although, because a snake's body temperature is externally dependant, little activity occurs during the cooler months. In the south-west an increased potential for accidental bites occurs from September to January. The cool nights and warm days causes a lethargy in snakes making them less responsive to approach, particularly in the morning. This is compounded by the winter proliferation of grasses. Both human and snake visibility in grassed areas is impaired.

Juvenile Dugites abound in February and March and often find their way into buildings. Although unlikely to be dangerous to adults the bite from one of these can cause quite severe swelling and anxiety. They are typically greenish or brownish with dark head and when disturbed they quickly attain a defensive stance.

All elapids are venomous but many are too small to be considered dangerous. Their bites cause no more discomfort than a bee or ant sting. About 75% of Australia's elapids fall into this category. The larger species are more inclined to have venoms evolved for mammal prey and therefore their toxic effect on humans maybe greater. Even as juveniles the venom has this high toxicity. Immature individuals of the Gwardar or Western Brown Snake (Pseudonaja mengdeni) have been responsible for some of the quickest deaths from snakebite in Australia. One such case occurred just north of Perth at Jurien. An adult male died in the car trying to get to the local nursing post shortly after being bitten. This was an exceptional case. Death from untreated snakebite in Australia is rare under 1 hour and uncommon under 6 hours.

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