Snake bites: how to avoid them and key safety tips

Before you read this, check out my full review of hiking the Overland Track here and money-saving tips here

Love hiking. Hate snakes. That’s me. So when I headed to Tasmania to walk the famous Overland Track I was more than a little nervous about the prospect of encountering the slithering reptiles and, of course, snake bites. I actually saw about 10 tiger snakes – black-coloured snakes with venom that can kill (read more about the SCARY experience here) – but it wasn’t quite as bad as I had feared. Plus having key facts about snake bites, which I’d researched prior to starting the trek, proved really useful. Below is everything you need to know about snake bites on the Overland Track in Tasmania.

What types of snakes are found on the Overland Track?

Three species – tiger snake, white-lipped snake and copperhead – are found in Tasmania. They are all highly venomous and their bites can kill. Find out about the top 7 wildlife encounters on the Overland Track here.

Are the snakes aggressive towards walkers?

No. They rarely attack unless provoked or stepped upon. Only an insane/idiotic person would provoke a snake – and probably deserves whatever comes their way. Accidentally stepping on a snake therefore is perhaps more of a concern for hikers. The only way around this is to (a) be vigilant and keep a careful eye out for snakes and (b) never walk off the main path, where vegetation may make spotting hiding reptiles trickier. The other good news is that snakes generally dash for cover as soon as a hiker’s footsteps are heard – most of my sightings were of the back half of a tiger snake slithering away into the forest.

How to protect yourself against snake bites?

The best option is to wear thick, good-quality gaiters which can provide some protection against the possibility of snake bites to the ankle or leg. I was a maverick (or fool, or cheapskate backpacker!) and didn’t bother (and everything worked out fine), but it is strongly advisable. Another key safety tip is to always walk with others so that someone can raise the alarm and provide care in the event of snake bites. Alternatively carry a personal locator beacon or emergency whistle.

What should I do if I see a snake?

Stay calm (easier said than done) and don’t make any sudden movements. Slowly back away a few feet and then simply wait for the snake to do its own thing. Invariably it will simply slither away, clearing the path for you to continue.

What to do if you are bitten by a snake?

According to the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service, “if bitten you should lie down and not move. Do not wash the site. Apply a broad bandage over the bite area, two turns above and below the bite site, then bind over the bitten area. Continue spiral bandaging above the bite for the full length of the affected limb and back to the limb’s extremity. The bandage should be firm but not tight. Immobilise the limb by splinting. Do not apply a tourniquet. The same antivenom is required for all Tasmanian snakes so do not attempt to kill the animal for identification.

How common are fatal snake bites in Tasmania?

Many decades have passed since anyone died of a snake bite in Tasmania.

Disclaimer: I am not a snake expert but have collated this information through online research in July 2016 and by reading guidance provided by official bodies. If in doubt please conduct your own research.