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Watch Your

Step - It's

a Bad Snake Season

FEATURES    

                   

By A STAFF CORRESPONDENT

THE ODDS on someone being bitten by a snake to- morrow - Australia Day - are higher than they have been for years past. The odds will be higher still if the day is sultry, dull and grey.

THIS summer has been

classed by Mr. George Cann, Curator of Snakes at the Taronga Park Zoo, as one of the best he has known - the best for the snakes, that is, not for their

victims.

Birds normally, according to Mr. Cann, thin out the ranks of the reptiles each sea- son. The young ones are an easy target in the dried grass. Since the last drought, how- ever, snakes have been pro- tected from Iheir enemies by thick green growth and fat- tened up on an extra ration of frogs and tadpoles.

I bagged six tiger snakes

in one ' afternoon at La Perouse," he commented last week. "In an ordinary season you might take three days to land a couple."

Already this season three persons have died of snake- bite in New South Wales alone. For many years past the average number of snake- bite deaths in all Australia has been only five or six.

The snakes, and the warn- ings, are out. So this is what you should do on a bush walk or picnic:

First, avoid the places where you are more liable to come suddenly on a snake;

Secondly-and emphatically -if you do see a snake, go the other way;

Thirdly, if someone is bit- ten, apply proper first aid swiftly and get a doctor.

A relatively cool, dullish day to-morrow will bring slid- ing from cover the highly venomous death adder and tiger.

If it is hot we will still be troubled-but by the rather less venomous copperhead and brown and black species.

Of the dangerous snakes in

The common brown snake - fasr mov- ing and easily

aroused

This is what the highly dangerous tiger snake looks like. Its back is usually banded-but not always.

A "Herald" photographer took this picture of a 5ft brown snake at Taronga

Park Zoo on Thursday striking at the hand of the Curator of Snakes, Mr. Cann.

New South Wales, those are the five most common, the ones the uncautious bushwalk- er and picnicker is more likely to meet.

A LEADING Australian

snake collector and ex-

pert, Mr. Eric Worrell, of Woy Woy, whose book "Dan- gerous Snakes of Australia," was published recently, advises no one to tarry for the sake of identifying a chance-en- countered snake. In any case the identifying markings arc often not clear. But here are descriptions of the evil five:

The death adder-broad,   flat, greyish in colour, and something under three feet is at home anywhere in the State. It is temperamental if disturbed, Mr. Worrell says, but not, as is commonly be- lieved, invariably lethal.

The tiger, also highly     venomous, is the State's most dangerous snake because it is so common. Widely distri- buted ┬ín New South Wales, it grows usually three to four feet long, is brownish-grey, usually banded with creamy yellow, and has a fiattish,

muzzle-rounded head.

It is widely reputed to be more aggressive than most other snakes when cornered, but Mr. Worrell says that is "mostly bluff." Still, he ad- vises people to keep well away

from it.

The brown snake is   easily aroused and strikes swiftly when it is angered. Brownish in colour, of course, it grows to a length of about six or seven feet, and has a special liking for the dry, sandy areas of this State.

The copperhead does   not pick a fight, Mr. Worrell

says. It is gregarious by nature and, along with dozens ot its brothers and sisters, likes to lurk peacefully on the grass-fringed borders of     swamps. It can be stumbled upon anywhere in swampy areas of the mountain regions south of Lithgow. Its colour is variable, but its muzzle is always striped.

The black snake, less   venomous, grows to seven feet, and has a red or bright orange belly

[In the Sydney area a small species, the black-bellied swamp snake, is common ]

Another leading authority, Mr J R Kinghorn, of the Australian Museum, last week

The copperhead

The black snake

The death adder (its bite is not always fatal).

listed the death rating of the venom of those five snakes.

He said that of all persons known to have been bitten by death adders about 40 per cent have died, by tiger snakes 35 per cent, by brown snakes and copperheads, eight per cent, and by black snakes only one per cent

He adds, however, that since the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories have been pro- ducing a tiger snake antive- nene, deaths from "tiger" bites have been reduced al- most to nil The antivenine is also helping to save the lives of victims of other snakes, though it is not as effective m those cases.

AND here (in brief so that

it can be remembered easily) is the bush treatment

for snake-bite

Tie a ligature or band be- tween the wound and the heart to stop the poison from circu- lating (but loosen it for 30 seconds after the first half hour, and then after every 10 minutes), wash away any sur- plus venom from the skin, slash the wound deeply, apply suction, call a doctor.

For checking the flow of venom towards the heart a ligature aiound the thigh or the upper arm is more effec- tive than one around the lower leg or the forearm, Mr Wor-

rell advises

For a body bite there is of course, no ligature. Medical attention becomes all the more urgent

The patient should be made to rest The old idea that a snake-bite victim should be forced by every possible means to stay awake has been found to be dangerous, be- cause physical activity tends to speed up the action of the

venom.

To this advice, Mr. Wor- rell would add a rider Pre- vention is better than cure. If vou meet up with a snake, take the other turning. The majority of people bitten were trying to kill or capture snakes

Where a battle is inevitable, four feet of fencing wire is probably the best weapon, and the most effective method of attack is a blow across the middle of the snake's back to break the backbone

After 43 years of handling snakes, that is the method George Cann recommends,

anyway.

His final recommendation on the subject concerned to

morrow

1 Keep your hands out of hollow logs, your eyes on the path, avoid the banks of creeks and the fringes of swamps.' he said, "and you should be safe from bites "

Digitisation generously supported by
Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation
Digitisation generously supported by

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