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Australian Snakes, Sharks and Spiders and what to do if you meet one

The cast of Australian Villains

Australian Snakes, Sharks, Spiders and other nasties are responsible for ten of thousands of nightmares and spine tingles every week. Thankfully, the number of actual encounters, bites and fatalities is significantly less.

Are there Snakes and Spiders in Sydney?

If you are here because you considering a trip to Sydney but are worried about snakes and spiders, don't be.

Sydney's Snakes

yellow snake sydneySnakes are rarely found in the centre of Sydney or anywhere around Sydney Harbour. One exception might be Lane Cove National Park but unlikely. Snakes don't like people, noise and concrete.

Sydney Harbour

Most of the top things to do in Sydney are concentrated around Sydney Harbour and the centre of town. So you are quite safe from the snakes if that is where you are likely to be. Follow the link below and the pages that come after it and you'll see what I mean.

The top things to do in Sydney

Snakes in the Bush

The bush and rural areas around Sydney have more snakes living in them. Consequently, the more you travel into these areas, the more likely it is you will meet one of them. Even then, it is unlikely, and even if you are fortunate enough to see a snake, it will be probably as it slivers off into the bush and out of sight.

The world’s deadliest Spiders

You could just stay indoors but Australia boasts some of the world’s most deadliest and poisonous spiders and they aren't all the outdoor type. Australia has world class hotels and better than B&Bs but it still seems a waste to spend all your days inside - although there's skin cancer to consider.

Sydney's Spiders

Spiders are more in your face than snakes in that some quite like hanging around homes and gardens, in particular, the Australian redback spider:

But before you start cancelling your bookings, you are highly unlikely to even see one unless you are staying at someone's house who hasn't had the house sprayed for pests and doesn't worry about it, and even then you'd probably have to go hunting to find one.

Deaths by Spider bite

Hotels, B&Bs, Hostels should all have cleaners and gardeners who are at risk, to some extent, of actually seeing one but very unlikely to be have been bitten. As you will see from the stats below, nobody has died from a spider bite for some time. If you stick to the very top things to do in Sydney you probably won't even see one.

Sharks patrol these waters!

Great White SharkG'day Mate!

The fact is you are far more likely to be hurt in a car accident than getting nibbled on by a shark. If you were to stay on the beach and never cross the road you’d still more likely to be attacked by a beach buggy, a 4wd, jet skis or errant surf board than chewed up by Aussie Jaws. Another way of looking at it, more people die eating shark (food poisoning / choking etc) than being eaten by one.

Risk of Shark attacks and swimming with Sharks

A commonly held belief is that sharks can mistake someone in a wet suit and/or flippers for a seal. I'm not aware of any evidence to back this up. What is proven is you can reduce the risk of a shark attack by staying out of the water from dusk to dawn. Sharks are generally more active during this period. Another precaution you can take is to avoid engaging in any activity where sharks are known to feed, like swimming with them in an aquarium.

Terrorist Attack

If you are really having a bad day you could be abducted by aliens or subject to a terrorist attack. These things happen to people (with the possible exception of alien abduction but who knows, and if they do, they aren't telling.) and maybe that’s the point. You should be mindful of the risks but don't let it spoil your holiday.

She’ll be right

You can't protect yourself against every potential hazard so it is a little daft to worry over it or another of putting it - 'she'll be right - no worries'.

The Facts

So what are the risks? Here are the stats:

Human Deaths in Australia Between 1980-1990, Inclusive (from Stevens & Paxton, 1992)

Cause of Death

Total Deaths

Average per year

Crocodile Attacks
8
0.7
Shark Attacks
11
1.0
Lightning Strikes
19
1.7
Bee Stings
20
1.8
Scuba Diving Accidents
88
8.0
Drownings/Submersions
3,367
306
Motor Vehicle Accidents
32,772
2,979

No deaths by Spider bites?

The killer spiders are the redback and funnel-web spiders. Of the funnel-webs only the males are deadly, not that you want to get close enough to be able to tell the difference. The good news is that since antivenoms have become widely available hardly anyone has died from a spider bite. Of the thousands of people that do get bitten in Australia each year, only a few hundred required the antivenom.

No deaths from Snake bites?

According to recent media reports (because someone unfortunately died due to a snake bite in rural Queensland), there are estimated to be 3,000 snake bites in Australia every year but only two deaths. Of the 3,000 bites, less than a fifth require require antivenom. So what's is wrong with Australia's snake population? Australia is home the world's top 10 venomous snakes but they don't seem to doing a particularly good job in killing us.

Too big to eat

The reality is, from a snakes prospective, we are too big to eat, and too slow to be a real threat.

Handle with care

You should also bear in mind that many of the snake attacks would be of people who handle snakes, keep them as pets or other wise live, or work, in close proximity to the beasties.

Speed wins

In the extremely unlikely event you are bitten or witness someone else being bitten, do not try to attack the snake as it moves faster than you do and will probably have another go. More people die worrying about snakes (‘I think I saw a snake’, heartache –thud) than actually get bitten by them - just a thought.

Alien Abductions

There are few stats on this one but if you do get abducted at least let them know you are on holiday. There are no space tours that I’m aware of and potential for great aerial photography should not be squandered.

What should you do if you witness a Snake, Spider or Shark attack?

If you'd feel more comfortable knowing what you should do here a few tips. In most cases dial '000' and ask for the most appropriate emergency service. (For alien abductions - grab some hard evidence before you call). For more informed advice we have included the opening few lines and links to two excellent articles by apparent experts on the things that bite, sting and swim and then bite.

Article One - The Scoop on Australia's Deadly Animals Cathy Hanan

Sharks, crocs, snakes and spiders — everyone wonders when they come to Australia. But before you get all worked up, it’s important to look at the statistics. Precautionary measures implemented in the last 70 years mean it’s more likely you’ll be killed by lightening or fatal bee sting than by a croc or shark attack, spider or snake bite.. Between 1980 and 1990 only 11 people were killed in shark attacks in Australia. In that same time period, 20 were killed by bee stings and another 19 by lightening. On average there are approximately 3000 reported snake bites in Australia every year, of those, only one is fatal. Since introducing spider anti venom in 1956, there have been no deaths attributed to the highly dangerous red-backed spider.

The “nasties” aren’t waiting around every corner to get you in fact, you’ll probably never encounter them, but if you do, remember most of Australia’s dangerous animals are only unsafe if provoked.

Article Two - Safety Tips for Traveling in Australia By Richard Moore

Australia is one of the world's most popular tourist destinations with everything travelers want from a holiday spot. Spectacular landscapes, some of Nature's greatest creations, sun, surf, beaches, great food and wine, friendly people and relative safety.

However, Australia is also one of the harshest of lands with a climate that can be unforgiving for those who are careless, or who don't prepare themselves well.

And if you think we're exaggerating then keep this in mind - almost 400 tourists die each year in Australia.

There were 363 deaths in 2002 and over the previous six years the annual average is around the 370.

Okay, almost 40 per cent of those were for people older than 55 who had heart attacks or strokes, but that still leaves some 240 people a year who meet their ends in other ways.

It seems that car crashes and drowning account for at least 60 tourists annually, almost four a year die after being assaulted and eight a year kill themselves while here.

But when you consider that more than 400,000 visitors hit Australian shores every month the death rate - a miniscule 0.01% - is statistically harmless.

Still, Australian has more poisonous and bitey nasties than any other nation in both the sea and on land - crocodiles, jellyfish, snakes, sharks and spiders, to name but a few - as well as the occasional felons who set fire to backpacker hostels or ambush tourists on lonely outback roads.

The main thing about traveling around this Great Southern Land is to think about what you are doing and be prepared. Here are a few tips:

Stories

As one guide once told me - if you are lucky enough to see a snake – it is just a friendly aussie saying G'day, just don't try shaking hands or sticking around for a yarn.

Don’t Provoke the Natives

Another story I was told whilst in the Northern Territory was of a tourist who was bitten by a freshwater / Johnson crocodile (which is unusual – Salt water Crocs are usually considered to be the dangerous ones). The park rangers were going to destroy the animal to prevent further attacks until they discovered the tourist had been throwing rocks at the Croc so it would move to make the holiday video more interesting. The Croc moved alright, directly for the tourists leg. Remember wherever you end up – it is their home and you are just visiting – so please don’t provoke the natives.

Your Say

If you have more useful facts on Australian nasties, or if you have encounter one, please let us know what happened. Your experience, or knowledge, could be of great value to visitors and residents alike.

comments@sydney100.com

Comments Received:

G'Day, Last weekend I travelled to Wentworth on the Murray, we were camped 20Ks
down stream. It was a very hot weekend, high 30s if not 40 degrees Celuis. The
first day we landed about 8 Yellow Belly (Golden Perch). I filleted these fish
on the bank of the river and left the fish carcass on the shore to use as bait
the following day.

The next day at about 10:30am a mate observed a snake crossing the river, which is
about 150 metres wide coming straight towards our camp and went straight into the
tree roots where the Yellow Belly carcasses were laying. We removed the Snake
from the area as we had children with use and dogs. This Snake was an Eastern
Brown. Then half an hour later there was another Snake enroute to our camp this
to was removed. Fifteen minutes from then a Snake arrived from behind our camp
heading into the tree roots where the Yellow Belly carcasses are. When this snake
was removed a second snake appeared and darted off.

So four Snakes in less than an hour We removed all the fish Carcasses and didn't
have any more problems. I have travelled through, Outback Australia, for the
past 15 years and never seen so many snakes in one place. I don't know if it was
the fish carcasses or not I am no expert. I strongly recommend don't handle,
play or harassing these critters and only remove them if people are at immediate
risk.

We also seen 3 more Browns Snake crossing the river when we were out
fishing. So my advise is don't keep fish carcasses close or near camp. Good
travel and may you catch plenty of fish Darren

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