Chances of being bitten by a Snake, Shark or Spider
Australian Snakes, Sharks and Spiders and what to do if you meet one
The cast of Australian Villains
What are the chances of being bitten by a Snake, Shark or Spider in Australia? Australian Snakes, Sharks, Spiders and other nasties are responsible for tens of thousands of nightmares and spine tingles every week. Thankfully, the number of actual encounters, bites and fatalities is significantly less.
Chances of being bitten by a shark
The long-run average is one death per year and about four times as many attacks. More recently fatal attacks have increased to around 3 a year. You are still far more likely to drown or die in a car crash than be killed by a shark. The very recent increase in attacks and fatalities is worrying and no-one seems quite sure why. It could just be that over the next few years the numbers will decline again.
Number of Shark Attacks in Australia
Who do sharks attack? Surfers appear to be most at risk:
Source – Number of Shark Attacks in Australia
You could say the numbers reflect what we might regard as common sense. Relatively speaking, the more time spent in the water and further from shore you venture the more likely it is you’ll be attacked. The key word is relatively. It is still very, very unlikely.
Sharks patrol these waters!
The fact is you are far more likely to be hurt in a car accident than getting nibbled on by a shark. You’ll find more stats further down the page.
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.
Snakes in Sydney
Snakes are rarely found in the centre of Sydney or anywhere around Sydney Harbour. One exception where you might come across a snake is Lane Cove National Park but again, unlikely.
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.
Snakes in the Bush
The bush and rural areas around Sydney have more snakes living in them. 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.
World’s deadliest Spiders
You could just stay indoors but Australia boasts some of the worlds most deadliest and poisonous spiders and they aren’t all the outdoor type. Australia also has world-class hotels but it still seems a waste to spend all your days inside – although there’s skin cancer to consider.
Spiders can be more in your face than snakes. Some quite like hanging around homes and gardens. Australian Redback Spider’s (below) red markings are a warning. I’m poisonous, leave me alone.
But before you start cancelling your bookings, you are highly unlikely to even see one unless you are staying at someone’s house that hasn’t been sprayed for pests.
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.
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 and Average per year
- Crocodile Attacks 8 and 0.7
- Shark Attacks 11 and 1.0
- Lightning Strikes 19 and 1.7
- Bee Stings 20 and 1.8
- Scuba Diving Accidents 88 and 8.0
- Drowning / submersion 3,367 and 306
- Motor Vehicle Accidents 32,772 and 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 antivenom has become widely available hardly anyone has died from a spider bite. Of the thousands of people who 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 antivenom. So what’s 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 of 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 otherwise live, or work, in close proximity to the beasties.
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.
What should you do if you witness a Snake or Shark attack?
Dial ‘000’ and then get help from those nearby if you can.
Safer in Bed?
We should also mention that there are other members of the Australian Assassins Club including crocodiles and beds. Beds in particular are not to be taken laying down… They wait till you are asleep and then they strike. More people have died from falling out of bed than by a crocodile attack. That doesn’t mean you should swap your hotel room to camp by croc infested waters. Too many bugs…