I have lived in Australia for 25 years, and never once been in a dangerous situation with a snake.
While Australia is known for it’s dangerous, venomous snakes, the reality is that few people actually die from bites. Most snakes would choose to slither away than fight a human, and don’t aggressively bite things out of malice. Snake venom is used to subdue prey which would otherwise be impossible to eat, so they don’t generally like to waste their venom. That being said if their only escape route is a past a human with a shovel they are likely to react aggressively.
Likewise, as we found out last week, if you step on one they’re also likely to strike out and bite you!
For anyone who knows my husband, you’re most likely surprised that it’s taken him this long to have received a snake bite. Although Mike’s passion for wildlife and wildlife photography has seen him get up close and personal to some pretty deadly creatures in the past, he does have the knowledge and the common sense for how to avoid a dangerous situation. He somehow always manages to pull off that fine line between stupidity and genius!
However last week we genuinely did not see a cottonmouth snake in the middle of the path while hiking, and he stepped right on it. Luckily because of the position of his shoe the snake could only bite into the sole, so didn’t actually break any skin, however it was an incredibly close call which could have ended very easily in disaster! (I find it ironic that we move from the country most renowned for 140 species of the world’s most deadly snakes and within 5 weeks in Florida we get into trouble)!
While there are around 50 species of snakes found in Florida, Cottonmouth snakes are one of the 6 species which are venomous and dangerous to humans – lucky us…if only we could convert those odds into a lottery ticket!! The remaining 44 species are harmless and are protected as they play a beneficial role in natural ecosystems, eating insects, rodents, rabbits and other small prey.
Yes, you read correctly – a lot of snakes here in Florida are actually harmless. The safest thing to do if you’re not sure if a snake is venomous is to leave it alone, and regardless of what people may say, Florida snakes are not actually aggressive. We have seen first hand over the last few weeks that if they feel cornered they will most likely flee when they see you.
As excellently put by the Florida Museum of Natural History, “you may be able to safely feed squirrels in a city park, but if you grab one of the squirrels, chance are it will bite and scratch you out of fear. Most people would not condemn squirrels because they defend themselves by biting and scratching. Snakes defend themselves mostly by fleeing, but they might bite if captured or harmed. However biting is not a sign that they are dangerous, it is just the only way that most snakes have to defend themselves. Some snakes might also exude a smelly musk or defecate on the human or other animal that is threatening them.”
So what would we have done if Mike had received a proper bite which pierced his skin?
FIRST AID ADVICE: IF YOU ARE BITTEN BY A SNAKE
The most important thing to do if you are bitten by a snake is to stay calm…easier said than done, I know!
Ensure that movement is restricted, and keep the affected area below heart level to reduce the flow of venom. Creating a loose splint will help restrict the movement of the area.
Be sure to remove any rings or constricting items so that the affected area does not swell.
If the area of the bite begins swelling or changing color the snake was most likely poisonous.
Monitor the person’s vital signs (temperature, pulse, rate of breathing and blood pressure if possible). If signs of shock are showing (i.e paleness) lay the person flat with their feet raised about a foot and cover them with a blanket.
Get medical help immediately. The only acceptable treatment for venomous snakebite, involves the use of antivenin.
Most people are bitten on the hands and arms handling or trying to kill a snake. Therefore, if you are uncertain of its identity do not try to catch or even kill a snake. People don’t realize that for a short time after a snake is killed, its reflexes may continue to work. A snake can actually bite for several hours after it’s dead.
Which reptiles have you come across overseas?