Australia is known for its dangerous snakes, and we have a lot of them. However, few people die from bites.
When it comes to protecting themselves, Australia’s snakes are in good shape. We share our land with about 170 types of land snakes. Some of them have poison that is more dangerous than that of any other snake in the world.
But bites are very rare in Australia, and since anti-venom has gotten better, only four to six people die from them each year.
“This is to set it apart from places like India, where over 50,000 people die every year from bites,” says Associate Professor Bryan Fry, a herpetologist and expert on venom at the College of Queensland. “In Australia, snake bites are very rare, and the person who gets bitten is usually to blame. Most chomps happen when people are trying to kill a wind or look off.”
Most snakes would either run away or crawl away from people instead of fighting them. “Snakes don’t eat people, and they don’t bite things hard just because they smell bad.
“Their poison is used to kill prey that a snake couldn’t otherwise eat,” says Dion Wedd, curator of the Territory Wildlife Park, NT. “If their way of escaping is too complicated for a person with a scoop, they are likely to respond in whatever way they can.”
So, if you stand between a snake and its way out, you can expect to see a scary show. Even though all snakes can be dangerous, these are the ones we think are the most dangerous in Australia. Some of them are very poisonous, some are very scared, and some are more likely to be crawling away on your patio.
Check out the list of the most dangerous snakes in Australia below.
Also known as the common brown snake
Found: all over the eastern half of Australia’s mainland
Eastern brown snakes, along with other brown snakes, are responsible for more deaths in Australia each year than any other group of snakes. They move quickly, are strong, and are known for being mean.
Based on tests with mice, their poison was the second most poisonous of any land snake in the world. However, they do well in populated areas, especially on ranches in rural areas where mice live.
When the eastern brown is angry, it lifts its body off the ground and curls into a “S” shape, with its mouth wide open and ready to strike. Its poison slows down movement and stops blood from clotting, which may take several doses of antivenin to fix. People who are hurt may die within a couple of minutes.
Western brown snake
Also known as: gwardar
Found: all over most of Australia’s mainland, with the exception of the wetter edges of eastern Australia and south-western Western Australia.
Even though the western brown snake is said to be less aggressive than its eastern cousin, it is still very dangerous and belongs to the group of snakes that kill the most people in Australia. Browns from the West tend to be quick-moving and nervous. When they are angry, they will run for cover, attack quickly if they turn a corner, and then run away quickly.
Even though their poison isn’t as dangerous as that of the eastern brown, it does three times as much damage. Most bites don’t hurt and are hard to see because of the tiny tooth marks. People who get it will get headaches, feel sick, have stomach pain, have a lot of trouble with their blood clotting, and in some cases, their kidneys will get hurt.
Mainland tiger snake
Also known as: common tiger snake
Found: all along the south-eastern coast of Australia, from New South Wales and Victoria to Tasmania and the far corner of South Australia
Tiger snakes on the mainland are responsible for the second-highest number of bites in Australia. This is because they live in densely populated areas along the east coast, including parts of Melbourne. They are drawn to ranches and outside of rural homes, where they chase mice at night and can be stepped on by people who don’t know what’s going on.
Bites are fatal if not treated. They cause pain in the feet and neck, shivering, numbness, and sweating, followed by trouble breathing and inability to move. Blood and muscles are also hurt by the venom, which can lead to kidney failure.
Adult snakes are usually (but not always) joined, and they have ragged stripes that change from pale yellow to black along a strong, muscular body that can grow to 2m. When they are hurt, they flatten their necks and attack from the ground.
Also known as: fierce snake or small-scaled snake
Found in dry, rocky plains where the borders of Queensland, South Australia, New South Wales, and the Northern Territory meet.
The inland taipan is shy and rare, so it hides in its rough, hard-to-reach environment. This snake is on the list because its venom is so dangerous. It is thought to have the strongest venom of any land snake in the world, and it can kill an adult human in 45 minutes.
The inland taipan hunts in the tight spaces of the long-haired rat’s burrows. It uses its strong venom to quickly wrap up its prey, injecting more than 40,000 times the amount needed to kill a 200g rat. The prey doesn’t have much of a chance to fight back.
Only a few people have been bitten by this species, and they were all people who work with snakes. Each one lived after getting first aid and going to the hospital.
Also known as eastern taipan
Found: in an arc from the north of New South Wales to Brisbane and the north of Western Australia along the east coast. They like sugar cane fields a lot.
Coastal taipans have the longest teeth (13mm) of any Australian snake and the third most poisonous venom of any land snake.
Extremely nervous and careful, they put up a fierce fight when surprised or cornered, “freezing” before throwing their light bodies forwards and biting lightning-fast. But most of the time, they don’t like to fight and would rather run away from danger.
Before a certain antivenin was made available in 1956, taipan bites were almost always fatal and killed many people. The venom affects the blood and nervous system, causing sickness, shaking, internal bleeding, muscle damage, and kidney damage. In very bad situations, a person can die in just 30 minutes.