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Saturday, April 17, 2021

Spike in snake bites on Mt Stromlo and what to do if it happens to you

Following several snake bite incidents on Mt Stromlo in recent weeks, ACT Ambulance Service (ACTAS) chief officer Howard Wren is urging all Canberrans to call Triple Zero (000) immediately in the case of a suspected snake bite.

“Venom can be fatal if left untreated,” he said.

“Always assume the snake is venomous and apply a firm pressure bandage over the bitten area and around the affected limb, using a bandage or other suitable material.” 

Mr Wren said correct treatment was applied while waiting for an ambulance during all the recent Mt Stromlo snake bite incidents.

He warned against giving alcohol, food or drugs to the patient and said to keep them still by lying down. 

“It is also critical that movement is limited in an affected limb.”

Do not wash the wound, as excess venom may be used to identify the species of snake.

ACT Minister for Police and Emergency Services Mick Gentleman said snakes were emerging from hibernation to bask in the sun thanks to recent warm weather, and many were searching for food and water. 

“The recent wet weather means longer grass, which is creating the ideal environment for snake encounters,” he said. 

“Knowing the symptoms and how to treat a snake bite could mean the difference between life and death.”

Mr Wren said symptoms following a snake bite can include headaches, nausea and vomiting, blurred or double vision, limb weakness, paralysis, and difficulty speaking, swallowing or breathing. 

There are eight species of snakes in the ACT, five of which are potentially dangerous – the Eastern Brown snake, Common Tiger snake, Red-bellied Black snake, Highlands Copperhead snake, and the White-lipped snake which is common at higher altitudes. 

Snakes are known to visit suburban areas in search of water, especially during dry periods. 

The most common domestic guest is the Eastern Brown snake, which contrary to its title, can be brown, grey, orange or almost black. 

Thankfully, snakes are naturally shy and instinctively move away from humans.

They are more likely to strike when provoked or cornered and experts say bites most frequently occur when people attempt to kill or handle a snake. 

To prevent a backyard snake encounter, and to protect pets and children, make sure your yard is tidy and well maintained to make it less attractive to slithering visitors. 

Under the Nature Conservation Act it is an offence to capture, harm or kill snakes. 

If you find a snake somewhere it shouldn’t be, give it plenty of space and call Canberra Snake Rescue and Relocation for assistance. 

Do not attempt to catch or kill the snake yourself; instead, try to keep an eye on it from a safe distance to point an expert in the right direction when they arrive. 

For more information about snakes in the ACT and how to keep safe if you see one, click here.

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