Be savvy on snakebites

Tristan WheelerBusselton Dunsborough Times
St John Ambulance is urging all South West residents to brush up on their first aid skills as snake season approaches.
Camera IconSt John Ambulance is urging all South West residents to brush up on their first aid skills as snake season approaches. Credit: SJA

With snake season fast approaching, health professionals, vets and wildlife experts are giving tips to the public to keep themselves safe this summer.

St John Ambulance WA is warning those exploring the State not to be complacent about the risk of snakebites.

Despite falling numbers of snake bites, St John WA head of first aid Aaron Harding urged all West Australians to learn basic first aid.

“It is important to call triple-0 immediately if you suspect you have been bitten by a snake, even if you are unsure of the snake type,” he said.

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“People should remain as calm as possible, immobilise the victim, and then bandage the bite starting from the fingers or toes and wrapping firmly upwards.”

Between June, 2019 and June this year, the South West led the State in snake bite cases, recording 51, with Margaret River having the highest number of emergency calls — 11.

Mr Harding suggested downloading the St John First Responder smartphone app, which would allow triple-0 operators to pinpoint a person’s location using GPS co-ordinates. Manjimup veterinarian Jodie Pearce said the amount of time snakebite symptoms took to appear could vary.

“Some animals will show signs straight away as soon as they’re bitten, and some can take up to several hours to show signs,” she said.

“They can vomit, collapse, they might have difficulty breathing.

“Dilated pupils and salivating a lot are probably the more common signs.

“The main thing is if you suspect your pet has been bitten by a snake to give us a call and get them in to us as soon as possible.”

Dr Pearce said avoiding contact with snakes was the best way to keep pets safe from snakebite.

“Whenever you are walking dogs somewhere there is likely to be snakes, if you can, have them on a lead, just so you have control of them,” she said.

“Cats, you can’t really train them as well, so probably the best option with them is trying to keep them on your own property or inside if at all possible. That obviously eliminates that risk of them getting bitten and keeps them safe from other things.”

Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions ildlife officer Ian Wheeler said people should leave snakes alone.

“They are aggressive if antagonised or if they are trying to defend themselves,” he said.

“Most people who are bitten by snakes are generally trying to handle them one way or another, either to kill or remove them, and they are the ones that generally get bitten.”

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