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Australian Snake Bites

brown Snake

Common or
Eastern
Brown Snake Pseudonaja textilis
The Brown Snake may
be found all over Australia. It has extremely potent
venom, and although the quantity of venom injected is
usually small, this snake causes more snakebite deaths
in Australia than any other. Sudden and relatively early
deaths have been recorded. Its venom causes severe
coagulation disturbances, neurotoxicity, and occasionally
nephrotoxicity (by a direct action of the venom), but not
rhabdomyolysis. The Gwardir is also known as the
Western Brown snake, and the Dugite is a spotted
brown snake found in Western Australia. All need brown
snake antivenom

Western Brown Snake
Dugite

Taipan Oxyuranus scuttelatus
The taipan may be
found mostly along the non-desert areas of north and
north-east Australia (from Brisbane to Darwin). It is an
aggressive, large, slender snake, and may be coloured
any shade of brown but always has a rectangular head
(large in proportion to the body) and red eye. Venom
output is high and causes neurotoxicity, coagulopathy,
and rhabdomyolysis, and the amount retrieved from just
one milking from one taipan is enough to kill many
million mice. Paralysis is difficult to reverse unless
treated early. Untreated, a good bite will almost certainly
be fatal.
taipan

Tiger Snake Notechis scutatus
The tiger snake lives in
the temperate southern areas of Australia. The
characteristic stripes are not seen all year round, and
there is a totally black variant found around the Flinders
Ranges area of South Australia. As well as neurotoxicity
and coagulopathy, rhabdomyolysis (due to Notexin in the
venom) is very likely if treatment is delayed. Untreated
mortality is about 45%.
eastern Tiger snake

Black tiger snake


Death Adder Acanthopis antarcticus
The death adder has
strongly neurotoxic venom; coagulation defects are
usually minor and rhabdomyolysis is almost never seen.
The postsynaptic paralysis is easily reversed by
antivenom. It has characteristic appearance and may be
striped.

Copperhead Austrelaps superbus
The copperhead is
found in Tasmania, Victoria, and the western plains of
NSW. Its venom has neurotoxic, coagulopthic and
myotoxic actions, however, despite its large venom
output, bites are rarely fatal. Use tiger snake antivenom.

Rough Scaled Snake Tropidechis
carinatus
The rough scaled snake
is found mostly in northeastern non-arid areas. It may be
striped, and hence confused with the tiger snake. It is
extremely ill-tempered, and has venom with neurotoxic,
coagulopthic and myotoxic actions.
King Brown or Mulga snake Pseudechis australis
The king brown (or
mulga) snake is found in all arid parts of Australia, and
has the greatest venom output, with neurotoxic,
coagulopthic and myotoxic actions, but of relatively low
toxicity. It has a strongly defined dark crosshatched
pattern on its scales, and is more related to the black
snakes than the brown. The king brown needs black
snake antivenom.

Redbellied Black Snake Pseudechis
porphyriacus
The redbellied black
snake is found in all eastern non-arid areas. While the
venom has neurotoxic, coagulopthic and myotoxic
actions, it is not as potent as most, and no deaths after a
redbellied black snake have yet been reported. Black or
tiger antivenom may be used.
Small Scaled or Fierce Snake Oxyuranus
microlepidotus
The small scaled snake
(sometimes called the inland taipan or fierce snake) has
the most potent venom in the world, but is restricted to
relatively uninhabited areas of south-western
Queensland, so, fortunately, not many people get bitten.
Use taipan antivenom.

Signs and Symptoms
The bite site is usually painless. It may have classical
paired fang marks, but this is not the most common
picture. Often there are just a few lacerations or
scratches, and sometimes these may be painless or go
unnoticed. Bruising, bleeding, and local swelling may be
present, but significant local tissue destruction is
uncommon in Australia.
Regional lymphadenopathy may be marked, even with
non-venomous snake bites, and is not by itself an
indication for the administration of antivenom. It may
contribute to abdominal pain in children.
The usual sequence of systemic symptom development
goes something like this:
(<1hr) Headache (an important symptom),
irritability, photophobia, nausea, vomiting,
diarrhoea, confusion; coagulation
abnormalities; occasionally sudden
hypotension with loss of consciousness.

(1-3 hrs) Cranial nerve paralysis (ptosis,
diplopia, dysphagia etc), abdominal pain,
haemoglobinuria, hypertension, tachycardia,
haemmorrhage.

(>3hrs) Limb and respiratory muscle
paralysis leading to respiratory failure,
peripheral circulatory failure with pallor and
cyanosis, myoglobinuria, eventually death.
This sequence of events is highly variable. Brown snake
bites, even apparently trivial ones, have been associated
with acute deterioration over a five minute period leading
to death. This may occur as soon as 30 minutes to an
hour after the original bite. Acute, severe cardiac
depression may be the mechanism for sudden death.
Paralysis, when it occurs, usually commences with
cranial nerves, then skeletal muscle, then the muscles of
respiration. In small children or with highly venomous
snake bites it may happen much more quickly.
Major bleeding disturbances are, as mentioned before,
rare with Australian snakes, although the development of
coagulopathies and a DIC-like picture are relatively
common. Thromboctopaenia and haemolysis may occur.
Watch for haematuria, haemoptysis, haematemesis, low
bowel haemmorrhage, menorrhagia or haemoglobinuria,
and remember that about 20% of patients who die after
snake bite have cerebral haemmorrhages.
Muscle destruction from myolytic toxins is not
uncommon and may not be associated with muscle
tenderness; it may lead to renal failure and should be
specifically looked for, because early treatment with
antivenom will reduce its severity.
Snake bite should always be considered in any case of
unexpected confusion or loss of consciousness following
outdoor activities in snake country. In Australia, snake
venoms alone cause coagulopathy, so if present you can
rule out other forms of envenomation.
Prognosis depends on the type of snake and the
quantity of venom injected. An angry snake and multiple
bites is associated with greater venom volumes.
Snake bites and domestic pets
Ian Westbrook describes, in this moving story, how an
apparently trivial bite from a tiger snake caused the
death of one of his dogs. In contrast, Donna describes
her experience with a Death Adder bite.
Murdoch University provides a 'pets in summer -
snakebite warning' page with a number of pet safety and
snake information sheets.

First Aid for Snake Bites:
Do NOT wash the area of the bite!
It is extremely important to retain traces of venom for
use with venom identification kits!
Stop lymphatic spread - bandage firmly, splint and
immobilise!
The "pressure-immobilisation" technique is currently
recommended by the Australian Resuscitation Council,
the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons and the
Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists.
The lymphatic system is responsible for systemic spread
of most venoms. This can be reduced by the application
of a firm bandage (as firm as you would put on a
sprained ankle) over a folded pad placed over the bitten
area. While firm, it should not be so tight that it stops
blood flow to the limb or to congests the veins. Start
bandaging directly over the bitten area, ensuing that the
pressure over the bite is firm and even. If you have
enough bandage you can extend towards more central
parts of the body, to delay spread of any venom that has
already started to move centrally. A pressure dressing
should be applied even if the bite is on the victims trunk
or torso.
Immobility is best attained by application of a splint or
sling, using a bandage or whatever to hand to absolutely
minimise all limb movement, reassurance and
immobilisation (eg, putting the patient on a stretcher).
Where possible, bring transportation to the patient
(rather then vice versa). Don't allow the victim to walk or
move a limb. Walking should be prevented.
The pressure-immobilisation approach is simple, safe
and will not cause iatrogenic tissue damage (ie, from
incision, injection, freezing or arterial torniquets - all of
which are ineffective).
See the AVRU site for more details of bandaging
techniques.
Bites to the head, neck, and back are a special problem
- firm pressure should be applied locally if possible.
Removal of the bandage will be associated with rapid
systemic spread. Hence ALWAYS wait until the patient
is in a fully-equipped medical treatment area before
bandage removal is attempted.
Do NOT cut or excise the area or apply an arterial
torniquet! Both these measures are ineffective and may
make the situation worse.
Joris Wijnker's Snakebite Productions has more
information on envenomation and he can supply a
suitable first aid kit and booklet.

Medical Management of Snake Bites
Only 1 in 20 snake bites require active emergency
treatment or the administration of antivenom. Medical
management depends on the degree of systemic
envenomation and the type of venom.
See also the AVRU site for more info on clincial
assessment and management.
Critically ill patients
Maintain immobilisation, splint and bandage
until the situation is under control!
Support airway, breathing and circulation.
Intubate and ventilate with 100% Oxygen if
airway or respiration fail.
Give antivenom immediately (See below for
details). Intravenous adrenaline should be
given only for lifethreatening hypotension or
anaphylaxis - its use has been associated
with cerebral haemorrhage.
Volume expansion may be necessary.
Severe coagulation disturbances, electrolyte
abnormalities, and muscle damage leading
to acute renal failure are likely.
Repeat antivenom as clinically indicated.
General management as for less seriously ill
patients as well (see below).
Less seriously ill patients - no signs of systemic
spread
Admit to ICU for non-invasive monitoring,
strict bedrest and full head injury
observations (wake hourly).
Leave bandages in place.
Obtain appropriate antivenoms and venom
detection kit.
Obtain intravenous access.
Take blood for group and X-match,
coagulation screen (including fibrinogen
levels, and tests for DIC), full blood count,
electrolytes and calcium, creatinine kinase
and arterial blood gases. Perform ECG.
Repeat at appropriate intervals.
Collect urine for microscopy to detect
haematuria and for free protein,
haemoglobin and myoglobin measurement.
Record urine output. Freeze the first sample
for venom detection.
Draw up adrenaline, antihistamine, and
steroids in case of anaphylaxis to
antivenom.
When ready, cut a hole over the wound site,
inspect and take swabs for use with the
venom detection kit.
Once the results of the venom detection kit
are known, slowly and progressively remove
the bandages. Don't rush!
If systemic symptoms ensue:
Re-apply bandages and give antivenom as
clinically indicated.
Ensure the patient is well hydrated (to
reduce the risk of acute renal failure due to
rhabdomyolysis).
Repeat blood tests, ECG, etc at clinically
relevant intervals.
Correct abnormal coagulation; look out for
disseminated intravascular coagulation
(heparin probably contra-indicated in DIC
from snake bite).
Analgesia and sedation - be cautious.
Correct hypotension, if present, with volume
expansion and vasopressors (exclude occult
bleeding).
Watch for development of renal failure -
monitor urine output and composition.
Tetanus prohylaxis is recommended.
Usually, if there are no signs of envenomation four hours
after removal of the bandages, and if repeat blood tests
taken at that time are normal, then it is probable that
significant envenomation has not occurred. If laboratory
tests are not available, 12 to 24 hours is a reasonable
period of observation.
Recovery is usually complete, though the patient usually
develops a sensitivity to equine immunoglobulin.
If the patient develops serum sickness (see below), the
severity is reduced by steroid administration (eg.
prednisolone 1mg/kg every 8 hours) until resolution
occurs. A course of steroids is recommended in all
patients who receive polyvalent antivenoms.

Antivenoms and Pre-Treatment
Antivenom should be given to all patients who exhibit
signs of systemic spread.
If possible choose the appropriate antivenom. Snake
identification is unreliable (unless the person works with
snakes or was bitten in a zoo and they know what bit
them!). Venom detection kits (instructions) may be
helpful; if in doubt use tiger snake antivenom in
Tasmania, tiger and brown snake antivenom in Victoria,
and polyvalent antivenom in all other states and New
Guinea or see the AVRU guidelines. One ampoule (50ml
of 17% protein) should neutralise the average venom
yield from milking a snake of that species, and is usually
enough for all but the most severe envenomations.
Severe bites may require much more and a recent in
vitro study (Sprivulis, Jelinek and Marshall. Anaesthesia
and Intensive Care 1996; 24: 379-381) suggests that
much more is also required to neutralize the
procoagulant effects of Brown and Tiger snakes (up to
20 times the recommended dose!). If the situation
allows, antivenoms should be given slowly (over half an
hour, diluted in an IV fluid). A test dose may be
advisable, particularly following prior exposure to equine
protein.
The AVRU site provides detailed antivenom dosage
information and info on dosage, administration,
premedication, serum sickness, and suggested
quantities to be held by hospitals.
Antivenoms are prepared from horse serum. The risk of
anaphylaxis is very low (less than 1% even for
polyvalent antivenoms), but is increased in people who
have had prior exposure to horses, equine tetanus
vaccines, and a general allergic history. This increased
risk is much more common in people aged 50 years or
more. About 4% of all administrations are associated
with minor reactions.
Pre-treatment with a non-sedating anti-histamine (ie,
promethazine 0.25 mg/kg), subcutaneous adrenaline
(0.25mg for adults, 0.01mg/kg for children), and iv
steroids (hydrocortisone 2mg/kg) is still recommended,
athough severe reactions are rare. In general the risk
from the snake toxins is much greater than the risk of
administering the antivenom.
Each State in Australia has a specifically formulated
polyvalent antivenom to suit local snake species,
however it is preferable to use a snake-specific
antivenom whenever possible to reduce the chance of
reactions. Details of which antivenom to use varies from
state to state, and are found with the packs and test kits.
If an antivenom is administered, ALWAYS advise the
patient of the possibility of delayed serum sickness (up
to 14 days later). This is characterised by fever, rash,
generalised lymphadenopathy, aching joints and renal
impairment. The likelihood of developing this depends
on the volume of antivenom required. It occurs in about
10% of patients who are given polyvalent antivenoms.
Treatment with steroids is usually all that is needed.
Supplies of antivenoms may be obtained from
Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, Australia. Struan
Sutherland has suggested that metropolitan and regional
hospitals should keep 4 ampoules of polyvalent
antivenom and 4 ampoules for each type of snake that is
found in the area. He also suggested that smaller
centers should stock enough antivenom, as approprite
for the local snake population, to manage one bite,
unless the incidence of snakebite is unusually high or
low in that area. In southern Victoria a combination of
tiger (3000 units) and brown snake (1000 units)
antivenoms can be used where the identity of the snake
is unknown, and in Tasmania tiger snake antivenom
alone (6000 units) is suitable. Shelf life is 3 years when
stored in a refrigerator. Antivenoms should not be
frozen.
Other pages of interest include my general
envenomations page (links to other information sources,
antivenoms etc) and my pages on Australian spider and
marine envenomation.
Bardick

A small venomous snake
morphologically similar to a
death adder that attains a
maximum length of 70 cm.
Large individuals potentially
dangerous to children - the
venom of this species is also
death adder-like. Restricted to
southern parts, north to
Greenough and Peak Charles,
then coastal on Nullarbor.



Two colour morphs of the
Bardick (Echiopsis curta) from
Lort River, WA
Black-
striped
Snake &
Black-
naped
Snake

Small harmless, mildly
venomous snakes found over
much of the southern half of
Australia. They spend much
of their time beneath the
ground, but may be
encountered on the surface at
night.



A Black-striped Snake (Neelaps
calonotus) from Ellenbrook,
WA. Restricted to the coastal
sandplain between Dongara and
Mandurah.



A Black-naped Snake (Neelaps
bimaculatus) from Dongara,
WA. It is far more widespread
than the Black-striped Snake.
Blind Snakes

A family of harmless,
specialized burrowing snakes
that feed on invertebrates,
attain less than 50 cm in
length and have well-
developed anal glands they
can really pack a pong.
Usually associated with ants.
Three species are illustrated
below.



Beaked Blind Snake
(Ramphotyphlops waitii) from
Dongara, Western Australia


Southern Blind Snake
(Ramphotyphlops australis)
from Mount Helena, Western
Australia


Black-tipped Blind Snake
(Ramphotyphlops grypus) from
Port Hedland, Western
Australia
A small venomous snake
restricted to the southern
(south of Perth) coastal
(mainly) areas that attains a
maximum length of about 70
cm. Large individuals
potentially dangerous to
children.



Large adult female Crowned
Snake (Elapognathus coronatus)
that measured an exceptional
74 cm from Lort River, WA
Dugite or
Spotted
Brown
Snake
(Pseudonaja affinis)

A dangerously
venomous snake with a
wide variation in colour
and pattern - several
colour morphs are
illustrated below.












Back to Key
Snakes Harmful and Harmless
TM



Neonatal Dugite (Pseudonaja
affinis) from near Perth, Western
Australia

In southern Western
Australia large numbers of
hatchling dugites occur
mid-February through to
mid-April. These are 15-35
cm in length and can be
brown, green or yellowish
in colour, but always hatch
with at least part of the
head black. Although best
treated with caution, the
bite from a juvenile is
unlikely to cause more
than local symptoms in a
healthy adult. Potentially
dangerous to children and
pets.
They may find there way
into the house via the
drain from the laundry,
bathroom and toilet floor -
check these to ensure the
vermin exclusion flap
swings freely and is not
fouled with soil or
vegetation. If encountered
in the house, their small
size allows for the safe
scooping into a box or
similar for relocation
elsewhere.
Few hatchlings survive the
first few months - spiders,
scorpions, centipedes,
birds, lizards, cats and
people are some of the
predators they must
contend with.
The dugite is one of seven
species and two
subspecies of brownsnake
(genus Pseudonaja) found
in Australia. The juveniles
of all of these are very
similar, sharing the dark
head-blotch (or blotches).
Many individuals are
adorned with numerous
dark crossbands.
Other Brownsnakes:-
Ingram's Brown Snake -
Queensland, Northern
Territory and Western
Australia
Peninsula Brown Snake -
South Australia
Speckled Brown Snake -
Queensland, Northern
Territory and South
Australia
Ringed Brown Snake - All
states except Tasmania
and Victoria
Western Brown Snake
(Also called Gwardar in
WA) - All States except
Tasmania
Eastern Brown Snake - All
States except Tasmania.
In Western Australia, only
known from Gordon Downs
Station (individual
collected by Dr Paul
Horner).

Golden
Tree
Snake

A slender, solid-toothed
harmless snake that varies
considerably in colour. Many
Kimberley individuals are
golden and referred to as
"bronzeback", however olive-
green, blue and black
individuals occur. It attains a
maximum length of 170 cm. It
spends much of its life off the
ground gliding through
foliage hunting for frogs and
lizards.



A Golden Tree Snake
(Dendrelaphis punctulata) from
Broome, WA

Gwardar
or
Western
Brown
Snake
(Pseudonaja nuchalis)

A dangerously venomous
snake with tremendous
variation in colour and pattern
- some colour morphs are
illustrated below. This snake
is very abundant in close
proximity to human dwellings
and is involved in most
snakebite deaths in Western
Australia (six of last ten
fatalities attributed to snakes).







Courtship - both individuals are
dark coloured, but it is not
unusual to see different
coloured morphs mating or
fighting.












Neonatal Gwardar - note dark
head typical of young brown
snakes.

Southern
Half-
girdled
Snake

A small harmless, although
technically venomous, snake
that attains a maximum length
of 35 cm. It spends much of
its life below ground and
feeds on small leathery-
shelled reptile eggs.



A Southern Half-girdled Snake
(Brachyurophis semifasciata)
from Parkerville, WA

Hooded
Snakes
Genus Parasuta

An assemblage of small
venomous snakes with shiny
black head and immaculate
pearly-white belly (except
some individuals of P. s.
nullarbor) that attain a
maximum length of 60 cm.
Large individuals potentially
dangerous to children - the
venom of some species (ie P.
gouldii) may cause a false
positive for tiger snake when
using a venom detection kit
(VDK).



Gould's Hooded Snake (P.
gouldii) from Stoneville, WA


Black-backed Hooded Snake (P.
nigriceps) from Lort River, WA


Bush's Hooded Snake (P. s.
bushi) from Scadden, WA


Goldfields Hooded Snake (P.
monachus) from Menzies, WA

Lake
Cronin
Snake

A small (to 60 cm) potentially
dangerous venomous snake
from the inland freshwater
mallee lakes, eucalypt
woodlands and granite
outcrops from Lake Cronin
(80k east of Hyden), east to
Salmon Gums, Peak Charles
and Peak Eleanora.



Lake Cronin Snake
(Paroplocephalus atriceps) from
Peak Eleanora.



Lake Cronin Snake
(Paroplocephalus atriceps) from
Forrestania area.

Little
Spotted
Snake

A small nocturnal venomous
snake restricted to the Pilbara
and Kimberley Regions in
WA. Attains a maximum
length of about 70 cm. Large
individuals potentially
dangerous, especially to
children. It can be quite a
pugnacious little beast when
stirred up.



A Little Spotted Snake (Suta
punctata) from 50 kilometres
north of Port Hedland, WA

Masters
Snake

A very small (to 35 cm)
mildly venomous snake from
the southern coastal area east
of Esperance.



Masters Snake (Drysdalia
mastersii) from Wittenoom Hills
Station

Moon or
Orange-
naped
Snake

A small harmless, although
technically venomous, snake
that attains a maximum length
of 75 cm. It is nocturnal and
feeds on lizards.



A Moon Snake (Furina ornata)
from Leinster, WA
Narrow-
banded
Burrowin
g Snake

A small harmless, although
technically venomous, snake
that attains a maximum length
of 35 cm. It spends much of
its life beneath the ground, is
nocturnal and feeds on
lizards.



A Narrow-banded Burrowing
Snake (Brachyurophis
fasciolata) from Menzies, WA

Pythons
The best known of Australia's
non-venomous snakes,
varying in size from 60 cm to
600 cm, they are found from
the islands in the Southern
Ocean to the northern
Kimberley and beyond.



Black-headed Python (Aspidites
melanocephalus) from Sandfire,
Western Australia


Woma or Sand Python
(Aspidites ramsayi) from Port
Hedland, Western Australia


Pygmy Python (Antaresia
perthensis) from Harding Dam,
Western Australia


Stimson's Python (Antaresia
stimsoni stimsoni) from Broome,
Western Australia


South-western Carpet Python
(Morelia spilota imbricata) from
Two Rocks, Western Australia


Olive Python (Liasis olivaceus)
from Kimberley Region,
Western Australia

Ringed
Brown
Snake
The smallest member of the
brownsnake group (to 50 cm)
and therefore should be
treated as a potentially
dangerous venomous snake.
Active both day and night,
lays eggs and feeds on lizards.
Absent from the southern and
south coastal areas.



A well-marked subadult Ringed
Brown Snake (Pseudonaja
modesta) from Broad Arrow,
Western Australia


A poorly-marked adult Ringed
Brown Snake (Pseudonaja
modesta) from Mt Keith,
Western Australia


A clutch of juvenile Ringed
Brown Snakes (Pseudonaja
modesta) from Meekatharra,
Western Australia

Rosens
Snake
A medium-sized (to 65 cm)
mildly venomous snake with a
python-like pattern and
distinctly unusual eyes.
Active at night. Individuals
illustrated below from
southern population, although
quite variable, many are very
pale. The Pilbara population
is rich reddish-brown in
colour.



Rosens Snake (Suta fasciata)
from Kalgoorlie, Western
Australia


Rosens Snake (Suta fasciata)
from Sandstone, Western
Australia

Sand
Snakes
(Simoselaps bertholdi and
littoralis)

Very small (to 35 cm)
generally harmless, mildly
venomous sand burrowing
snakes that feed on lizards.
Some people may experience
extreme symptoms if
predisposed to being allergic.



A Banded Sand Snake
(Simoselaps bertholdi) from
Caversham, WA


A West-coast Banded Sand
Snake (Simoselaps littoralis)
from Gnaraloo, WA

Short-
nosed
Sedge
Snake
A very small (to 35 cm)
mildly venomous snake from
the extreme south-west corner
of WA. It is a diurnal hunter
of very small frogs.



Short-nosed Sedge Snake
(Elaphognathus minor) from
Rocky Gulley, WA

Square-
nosed
Snake

A small venomous snake
unlikely to cause too much
discomfort to an adult bitten
apart from local swelling.
snake that attains a maximum
length of 45 cm. It is
nocturnal, feeds on lizards
and is often found hiding in
stick-ants nests.



A pale Square-nosed Snake
(Rhinoplocephalus bicolor) from
Lort River, WA

Tiger
Snake

A dangerously venomous
snake from the southern and
south coastal areas, inland
onto the Darling Range and
north to near Gin Gin.



Tiger Snake (Notechis scutatus)
from Perth


Tiger Snake (Notechis scutatus)
from Coomalbidgup, via
Esperance, WA

Whip
Snakes
(Genus Demansia)
This group of slender, fast-
moving, diurnal, lizard-eating
snakes is represented by at
least one species in most parts
of mainland Australia.
Although unlikely to cause
more than passing discomfort
to an adult, large specimens
are possibly dangerous to
children. All but one species
attain less than one metre in
length.



Coppertail, Two-toned Snake,
Green Whip Snake and
Reticulated Whip Snake are all
common names applied to this
widespread species (Demansia
psammophis reticulata). The
above specimen was
photographed at Nullagine, WA
shortly after it had deposited a
clutch of eggs - note the stretch
marks!


The Black-necked Whip Snake
(Demansia calodera) is
restricted to the central west
coast. The above specimen is
from Carnarvon, WA.


The Red or Rufous Whip Snake
(Demansia rufescens) is found
through most of the Pilbara.
The above specimen is from
Dampier, WA.

Legless
Lizards
Family Pygopodidae

Legless lizards are a large
family of snake-like lizards
that are considered by some to
be the ecological equivelants
of the solid-toothed, harmless
snakes, which are poorly
represented in Oz but largest
family elsewhere. Some can
attain almost 60 cm in length
and the Common Scaly-foot
has been recorded over 75 cm
in length. As with all Oz
lizards they are nonvenomous.
Legless lizards have evolved
an elongate, limbless form
more recently than snakes,
therefore all retain some
primitive characteristics. A
combination of 2 of the
following confirms it is a
lizard:

1 - Broad, fleshy tongue
2 - Ear-opening behind eye
3 - Two or more rows of belly
scales
4 - Tail as long as to much
longer than body
5 - If uniform body pattern
present, then longitudinal
(stripes versus crossbands in
Oz snakes.



Southwest Sandplain Worm
Lizard (Aprasia repens)
Northam, WA
A common burrowing legless
lizard dug up in gardens in Perth.


Javelin Lizard (Aclys concinna)
from west of Marchagee, WA


Sharp-snouted Snake Lizard
(Lialis burtonis)) from Menzies,
WA


Fraser's Delma (Delma fraseri))
hatchlings from Lort River,
WA


Common Scaly-foot (Pygopus
lepidopodus) from Lort River,
WA showing polymorhism


Hooded Scaly-foot (Pygopus
nigriceps) from Broad Arrow,
WA
The Australian Pressure Immobilisation
method of First Aid
This method of first aid was developed after clinical and laboratory
experience showed that most venom seemed to be transported from the
bite site, to the rest of the body, in lymphatic vessels. The technique is
designed to slow or stop flow in lymphatic vessels in the bitten limb. It
can only be used on limbs, NOT on the body, neck or head. While local
pressure over the bite site, then the rest of the bitten limb is an
important part of the first aid, it is probably immobilisation of the bitten
limb which is crucial to the success of this first aid technique.
In Australia, where venom detection from the skin is an important
hospital test, it is vital that the bite area is not washed of cleaned in any
way.
The technique for pressure immobilisation first aid is as follows:
If the bite is on a limb, a broad bandage (even torn strips of clothing or
pantyhose) should be applied over the bitten area at moderate pressure
(as for a sprain; not so tight circulation is impaired), then extended to
cover as much of the bitten limb as possible, including fingers or toes,
going over the top of clothing rather than risking excessive limb
movement by removing clothing. The bitten limb should then be
immobilised as effectively as possible using an extemporised splint or
sling.

First Aid
Description:First aid for Australian and New Guinean snakebites
Details:1. After ensuring the patient and onlookers have moved out of range of further strikes by the snake, the bitten person should
be reassured and persuaded to lie down and remain still. Many will be terrified, fearing sudden death and, in this mood, they may
behave irrationally or even hysterically. The basis for reassurance is the fact that many venomous bites do not result in envenoming,
the relatively slow progression to severe envenoming (hours following elapid bites, days following viper bites) and the effectiveness of
modern medical treatment.
2. The bite wound should not be tampered with in any way. The wound must not be wiped or cleaned in any way, as this may interfere
with later venom detection and the wound must not be massaged.
3. All rings or other jewellery on the bitten limb, especially on fingers, should be removed, as they may act as tourniquets if oedema
develops.
4. If the bite is on a limb, a broad bandage (even torn strips of clothing or pantyhose) should be applied over the bitten area at
moderate pressure (as for a sprain; not so tight circulation is impaired), then extended to cover as much of the bitten limb as possible,
including fingers or toes, going over the top of clothing rather than risking excessive limb movement by removing clothing. The bitten
limb should then be immobilised as effectively as possible using an extemporised splint or sling.
5. If there is any impairment of vital functions, such as problems with respiration, airway, circulation, heart function, these must be
supported as a priority. In particular, for bites causing flaccid paralysis, including respiratory paralysis, both airway and respiration
may be impaired, requiring urgent and prolonged treatment, which may include the mouth to mask (mouth to mouth) technique of
expired air transfer. Seek urgent medical attention.
6. Do not use Tourniquets, cut, suck or scarify the wound or apply chemicals or electric shock.
7. Avoid peroral intake, absolutely no alcohol. No sedatives outside hospital. If there will be considerable delay before reaching
medical aid, measured in several hours to days, then give clear fluids by mouth to prevent dehydration.
8. If the offending snake has been killed it should be brought with the patient for identification (only relevant in areas where there are
more than one naturally occurring venomous snake species), but be careful to avoid touching the head, as even a dead snake can
envenom. No attempt should be made to pursue the snake into the undergrowth as this will risk further bites. In Australia and parts of
New Guinea, Snake Venom Detection Kits are available to identify the snake from venom left on the skin.


Main Headings on this Page

First Aid
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9. The snakebite victim should be transported as quickly and as passively as possible to the nearest place where they can be seen by a
medically-trained person (health station, dispensary, clinic or hospital). The bitten limb must not be exercised as muscular contraction
will promote systemic absorption of venom. If no motor vehicle or boat is available, the patient can be carried on a stretcher or hurdle,
on the pillion or crossbar of a bicycle or on someone's back.
10. Most traditional, and many of the more recently fashionable, first aid measures are useless and potentially dangerous. These
include local cauterization, incision, excision, amputation, suction by mouth, vacuum pump or syringe, combined incision and suction
("venom-ex" apparatus), injection or instillation of compounds such as potassium permanganate, phenol (carbolic soap) and trypsin,
application of electric shocks or ice (cryotherapy), use of traditional herbal, folk and other remedies including the ingestion of emetic
plant products and parts of the snake, multiple incisions, tattooing and so on.
Photo



First Aid
Description:First aid for Tick bites (paralysis ticks)
Details:1. The primary purpose of first aid in envenoming is to prevent the systemic spread of venom from the site of inoculation, and limit any deleterious local effects of envenoming. In tick
paralysis, neither of these two objectives is likely to be met by first aid, as by the time there is clinical evidence of envenoming the salivary venom has already attained widespread body distribution
and the local effects are, in comparison, minor. Hence prevention of envenoming by avoidance of bites, and regular body searches while at risk, to expeditiously remove ticks, are of more value than
first aid.
2. In the case of a person, usually a child, developing the early symptoms and signs of paralysis, first aid should be directed towards getting the child to medical care quickly, and maintenance of
vital functions, if imperilled. Particularly watch for developing bulbar and respiratory paralysis, keep the patient fasted, and nurse on the side to avoid the chance of aspiration of vomitus.
3. If there is any impairment of vital functions, such as problems with respiration, airway, circulation, heart function, these must be supported as a priority. In particular, for bites causing flaccid
paralysis, including respiratory paralysis, both airway and respiration may be impaired, requiring urgent and prolonged treatment, which may include the mouth to mask (mouth to mouth) technique
of expired air transfer. Seek urgent medical attention.
4. Do not use Tourniquets, cut, suck or scarify the wound or apply chemicals or electric shock.
5. If there is any evidence of developing paralysis, avoid peroral intake, absolutely no alcohol. No sedatives outside hospital. If there will be considerable delay before reaching medical aid, measured
in several hours to days, then give clear fluids by mouth to prevent dehydration.
6. If there is any evidence of significant envenoming, such as difficulty walking or signs of paralysis, the patient should be transported as quickly and as passively as possible to the nearest place
where they can be seen by a medically-trained person (health station, dispensary, clinic or hospital).
7. If the tick is present, kill it by swabbing it with alcohol, methylated spirits, turpentine, or kerosene. Avoid pressing the tick's body as more venom might be discharged. If a fine pair of forceps
(tweezers) are available, remove the tick by holding the proboscis (mouth-parts) and gently pulling. Usually the mouth-parts come away intact and there will be no inflammation, but it is sometimes
necessary for a medical practitioner to cut the embedded mouth-parts out of a small portion of skin.
Patients with inaccessible ticks such as in the ear should be referred to a hospital.


First Aid

Description:First aid for Funnel Web Spider Bites (Australia)
Details:1. If the spider is still attached, immediately remove it, being careful not to sustain further bites, and place to spider in a jam
jar or other container, so it may be brought to the hospital for identification.
2. After ensuring the patient and onlookers are no longer at risk of further bites by the spider, the bitten person should be reassured
and persuaded to lie down and remain still. Many will be terrified, fearing sudden death and, in this mood, they may behave
irrationally or even hysterically. The basis for reassurance is the fact that many bites do not result in envenoming, and the
effectiveness of modern medical treatment.
3. The bite wound should not be tampered with in any way.
4. If the bite is on a limb, a broad bandage (even torn strips of clothing or pantyhose) should be applied over the bitten area at
moderate pressure (as for a sprain; not so tight circulation is impaired), then extended to cover as much of the bitten limb as possible,
including fingers or toes, going over the top of clothing rather than risking excessive limb movement by removing clothing. The bitten
limb should then be immobilised as effectively as possible using an extemporised splint or sling.
5. If there is any impairment of vital functions, such as problems with respiration, airway, circulation, heart function, these must be
supported as a priority. In particular, both airway and respiration may be impaired, requiring urgent and prolonged treatment, which
may include the mouth to mask (mouth to mouth) technique of expired air transfer. Seek urgent medical attention.
6. Do not use Tourniquets, cut, suck or scarify the wound or apply chemicals or electric shock.
7. Avoid peroral intake, absolutely no alcohol. No sedatives outside hospital. If there will be considerable delay before reaching
medical aid, measured in several hours to days, then give clear fluids by mouth to prevent dehydration.
8. If the offending spider has been killed or caught it should be brought with the patient for identification. Many relatively harmless
spiders may appear similar to the funnel web spiders and there are several species of funnel web spiders, so identification of the
spider is important.
9. The spider bite victim should be transported as quickly and as passively as possible to the nearest place where they can be seen by
a medically-trained person (health station, dispensary, clinic or hospital). The bitten limb must not be exercised as muscular
contraction will promote systemic absorption of venom. If no motor vehicle or boat is available, the patient can be carried on a
stretcher or hurdle, on the pillion or crossbar of a bicycle or on someone's back.
10. Most traditional, and many of the more recently fashionable, first aid measures are useless and potentially dangerous. These
include local cauterization, incision, excision, amputation, suction by mouth, vacuum pump or syringe, combined incision and suction
("venom-ex" apparatus), injection or instillation of compounds such as potassium permanganate, phenol (carbolic soap) and trypsin,

Main Headings on this Page

First Aid
Overview Pages

No Overview Pages
Images

application of electric shocks or ice (cryotherapy), use of traditional herbal, folk and other remedies including the ingestion of emetic
plant products and parts of the snake, multiple incisions, tattooing and so on.
Photo


First Aid
Description:First aid for Widow Spider Bites (includes Australian red back spider)
Details:1. After ensuring the patient and onlookers are no longer at risk of further bites by the spider, the bitten person should be reassured and persuaded to lie down and remain still. Some will
be terrified, fearing sudden death and, in this mood, they may behave irrationally or even hysterically. The basis for reassurance is the fact that many bites do not result in envenoming, death is a
very rare outcome, and the effectiveness of modern medical treatment.
2. The bite wound should not be tampered with in any way.
3. Some victims find the application of a local cold pack may relieve local pain.
4. Do not apply a local bandage, tourniquet, or cut or suck or incise the wound or apply electric shock. Application of local heat has not proved beneficial.
5. If there is any impairment of vital functions, such as problems with respiration, airway, circulation, heart function, these must be supported as a priority. In particular, both airway and respiration
may be impaired, requiring urgent and prolonged treatment, which may include the mouth to mask (mouth to mouth) technique of expired air transfer. Seek urgent medical attention.
6. If the offending spider has been killed or caught it should be brought with the patient for identification.
7. Avoid peroral intake, other than clear fluids, in the first 6 hours, absolutely no alcohol. No sedatives outside hospital. If there will be considerable delay before reaching medical aid, measured in
several hours to days, then give clear fluids by mouth to prevent dehydration.
8. Most traditional, and many of the more recently fashionable, first aid measures are useless and potentially dangerous. These include local cauterization, incision, excision, amputation, suction by
mouth, vacuum pump or syringe, combined incision and suction ("venom-ex" apparatus), injection or instillation of compounds such as potassium permanganate, phenol (carbolic soap) and trypsin,
application of electric shocks or ice (cryotherapy), use of traditional herbal, folk and other remedies including the ingestion of emetic plant products and parts of the snake, multiple incisions,
tattooing and so on.


Common or Eastern Brown Snake Pseudonaja textilis
Found all over Australia. This snake has extremely potent venom, despite only a injecting a small quantity of venom. Responsible for more snakebite deaths in Australia than any other type of snake. Sudden and
relatively early deaths have been recorded.
Habitat: Forests and woodlands, heath. Status: Common Size: 2 m



Taipan Oxyuranus scuttelatus
Found mostly along the non-desert areas of north and north-east Australia (from Brisbane to Darwin). A large, slender aggressive snake. Colouring may be any shade of brown. Always has a rectangular head that is
large in proportion to the body. Venom deposit is high. Paralysis is difficult to reverse if not treated early. Left untreated, a bite will almost always be fatal.
Habitat: Forests and woodlands. Status: Common Size: Over 2.8 m
TRIVIA - The amount of venom retrieved from just one milking from one taipan is sufficient to kill many million mice.


Tiger Snake Notechis scutatus
The tiger snake lives in the temperate southern areas of Australia, extending down the east coast from around Brisbane and along the west coast north of Perth. Dependent upon time of year and age of the snake, the
characteristic stripes are not seen all year round. A totally black variant is found around the Flinders Ranges area of South Australia. The mortality rate of untreated bites is around 45%.
Habitat: Moist, even swampy environments Status: Common Size: Up to 2 m.


Death Adder Acanthopis antarcticus
The death adder is a smaller snake, averaging around 600mm long , but up to 1.1m in some areas. Has a distinctive diamond shaped head with a thickened body tapering to a short stubby tail. Rapid strikers and may
bite several times. It may be striped.
Habitat: Most of mainland Australia, except Victoria Status: Common Size: 1.1 m
TRIVIA
Despite being one of the most dangerous snakes in Australia and the world, the venom from Cane Toads can kill Common Death Adders.


Rough Scaled Snake Tropidechis carinatus
The rough scaled snake is found mostly in non arid coastal areas of Northern NSW and Southern Queensland. It may be striped, and hence confused with the tiger snake. It is extremely ill -tempered. Known to climb.
Habitat: Moist habitats including creek banks and rain forest. Status: Common in some areas Size: Up to 1.07 m


Copperhead Austrelaps superbus
The copperhead is found in Tasmania, Victoria, and the western plains of NSW. Despite its large venom output, bites are rarel y fatal.
Habitat: Swampy or marshy areas Status:Common Size: Up to 1.5 m


King Brown or Mulga Snake Pseudechis australis
The king brown (or mulga) snake is found in all arid parts of Australia, and has the greatest venom output, but with relatively low toxicity. It has a strongly defined dark crosshatched pattern on its scales. Is more
closely related to the black snakes than the brown.
Habitat: Arid areas Status: Common Size: Up to 2.5 m

Small Scaled or Fierce Snake Oxyuranus microlepidotus
The small scaled snake (sometimes called the inland taipan or fierce snake) has the most potent venom in the world. Largely restricted to relatively uninhabited areas of south-western Queensland. Due to its
remoteness, few people get bitten. Use taipan antivenom.
Habitat: Sparsely populated black soil floodplains of south-west Queensland and adjacent areas in South Australia. Status: Rarely encountered Size: Up to 2.5 m

Redbellied Black Snake Pseudechis porphyriacus
The redbellied Back snake is found in all eastern non-arid areas. The venom is not as potent as most. This snake is one of the most common on the south coast of Australia.

Habitat: Forests and woodlands and grassy areas. Status: Common Size: Up to 2 m.


This material is subject to copyright. No reproduction, copying, altering or transmission of the above information is permitted without the prior written consent of the copyright owner.
Common or Eastern Brown Snake Pseudonaja textilis
Found all over Australia. This snake has extremely potent venom, despite only a injecting a small quantity of venom. Responsible for more snakebite deaths in Australia than any other type of snake. Sudden and relatively early
deaths have been recorded.
Habitat: Forests and woodlands, heath. Status: Common Size: 2 m



Taipan Oxyuranus scuttelatus
Found mostly along the non-desert areas of north and north-east Australia (from Brisbane to Darwin). A large, slender aggressive snake. Colouring may be any shade of brown. Always has a rectangular head that is large in
proportion to the body. Venom deposit is high. Paralysis is difficult to reverse if not treated early. Left untreated, a bite will almost always be fatal.
Habitat: Forests and woodlands. Status: Common Size: Over 2.8 m
TRIVIA - The amount of venom retrieved from just one milking from one taipan is sufficient to kill many million mice.


Tiger Snake Notechis scutatus
The tiger snake lives in the temperate southern areas of Australia, extending down the east coast from around Brisbane and al ong the west coast north of Perth. Dependent upon time of year and age of the snake, the
characteristic stripes are not seen all year round. A totally black variant is found around the Flinders Ranges area of South Australia. The mortality rate of untreated bites is around 45%.
Habitat: Moist, even swampy environments Status: Common Size: Up to 2 m.


Death Adder Acanthopis antarcticus
The death adder is a smaller snake, averaging around 600mm long , but up to 1.1m in some areas. Has a distinctive diamond shaped head with a thickened body tapering to a short stubby tail. Rapid strikers and may bite
several times. It may be striped.
Habitat: Most of mainland Australia, except Victoria Status: Common Size: 1.1 m
TRIVIA
Despite being one of the most dangerous snakes in Australia and the world, the venom from Cane Toads can kill Common Death Adders.


Rough Scaled Snake Tropidechis carinatus
The rough scaled snake is found mostly in non arid coastal areas of Northern NSW and Southern Queensland. It may be striped, and hence confused with the tiger snake. It is extremely ill-tempered. Known to climb.
Habitat: Moist habitats including creek banks and rain forest. Status: Common in some areas Size: Up to 1.07 m


Copperhead Austrelaps superbus
The copperhead is found in Tasmania, Victoria, and the western plains of NSW. Despite its large venom output, bites are rarely fatal.
Habitat: Swampy or marshy areas Status:Common Size: Up to 1.5 m


King Brown or Mulga Snake Pseudechis australis
The king brown (or mulga) snake is found in all arid parts of Australia, and has the greatest venom output, but with relatively low toxicity. It has a strongly defined dark crosshatched pattern on its scales. Is more closely
related to the black snakes than the brown.
Habitat: Arid areas Status: Common Size: Up to 2.5 m

Small Scaled or Fierce Snake Oxyuranus microlepidotus
The small scaled snake (sometimes called the inland taipan or fierce snake) has the most potent venom in the world. Largely restricted to relatively uninhabited areas of south-western Queensland. Due to its remoteness, few
people get bitten. Use taipan antivenom.
Habitat: Sparsely populated black soil floodplains of south-west Queensland and adjacent areas in South Australia. Status: Rarely encountered Size: Up to 2.5 m

Redbellied Black Snake Pseudechis porphyriacus
The redbellied Back snake is found in all eastern non-arid areas. The venom is not as potent as most. This snake is one of the most common on the south coast of Australia.

Habitat: Forests and woodlands and grassy areas. Status: Common Size: Up to 2 m.


This material is subject to copyright. No reproduction, copying, altering or transmission of the above information is permitt ed without the prior written consent of the copyright owner.
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