11 September 2018
As the weather becomes warmer, so the snakes will become more active along the Track. They can be seen almost anywhere, especially in late winter and spring, near the south coast and in swampy areas.
The heavy footfalls of a walker are usually enough to frighten them away before they are seen. An exception to this can be on unseasonably warm days in late winter and spring when any snakes, which curl up for a long sleep during cold weather, will be sluggish if they are around. In this state they are more likely to feel threatened and, if encountered, you should steer well clear of them. Tiger snakes, which are highly venomous, are fairly common near swamps, wetlands and karri forest while dugites occur in drier areas anywhere.
Avoiding snakebite really amounts to common sense: Watch where you are putting your feet, wear gaiters, especially in the southern section of the Track. Don't forage in the bush for things like firewood, take special care with small children and don't go barefoot. Take a careful look before you step over a log or sit down on one. Snakes are not naturally aggressive to humans and will only strike in defence. Don't leave food in the shelters. Food attracts small mammals; small mammals attract snakes.
Most bites occur on the ankle or lower leg, so wearing gaiters, thick socks and sturdy boots will help prevent envenomation from possible snake bites. Surprisingly, they’re often painless and may go unnoticed as tissue damage is mostly light – lacerations, scratches or light bruising along with some bleeding or swelling. Common symptoms include an unexplained collapse, vomiting and abdominal pain, bleeding or paralysis.
Snake bite first aid—the following information should only be used as a guideline and should not replace your first aid training!
- Immediately apply pressure on to the bite.
- Do not wash the venom off the skin, as this will assist in the identification of the snake.
- Keep the person calm and completely at rest.
- If the victim is bitten on a limb, apply a firm compression bandage over the affected area, roll it toward the extremities and then back up over the affected area, as close to the body as possible.
- The bandage should be firm but not tight.
- Put a mark on the bandage indicating the location of the bite.
- The limb should be immobilised with a splint or sling.
- Once applied, the bandage should remain in place until medical care arrives (try to bring transport as near as possible to the patient). Never remove the bandage. Trained medical personnel will do this.
The good news is that recent advances in medication mean any snakebite can be treated with a generic polyvalent anti-venom, so identification is no longer necessary.
Ensure that your first aid kit includes at least two snake bite bandages.