The biggest story we got this month is one staff member’s embarrassing tale of being bitten by a yellow faced whip snake and taken to hospital in an ambulance. RSPCA staff are highly commended for their swift and calm attention to the first aid for snake bite i.e. compression bandaging and immobilisation of the affected limb. I am happy to say that the aforementioned staff member is doing well and as a precaution will stay monitored in hospital until this evening, no treatment thus far.
It is timely to consider the Australian climate and the notorious venomous fauna that get around at this time of year. As ectotherms (not cold blooded) but reliant on the outside environment to control their body temperature, snakes are active when it is hot and the hotter it is, the more active they become. Yellow faced whip snakes are not regarded as dangerous to humans. This little guy was all of 12 grams and receiving antibiotics for a cat bite, venomous all the same and not wanting to take any chances with our precious wildlife employee.
In any event of snakebite there are a few things you should do.
- Don’t panic – we people who know people that handle venomous snakes are aware that the guys get bit- ten all the time – follow protocol and they say you have up to 48 hrs to receive treatment and still be okay. But don’t leave it that long please.
- Get someone else to call 000
- Don’t wash the wound – apply a separate covering (swab) to the bite site (the hospital likes to check if venom is in fact present & if the snake hasn’t been identified they can if there is venom)
- Apply a compression bandage starting at the bite site working away from the heart and then back up the limb. Use as many bandages as you need.
- Immobilise the patient (at least the limb i.e. splint)
- Call 000 if not already
- Identify on the outside of the bandage where the wound is and the time of the bite.
Species name: Yellow-faced Whip Snake (Demansia psammophis)
Significance to Humans: Potentially dangerous especially if children involved. Bite may cause localised pain & severe symptoms. Apply correct first aid and seek medical attention.
General description: Very slender snake with long, thin whip-like tail. Large prominent eyes. Colour generally pale olive or bluish-grey, often with rusty flush or longitudinal stripes along front-third of body. Belly greyish- green, often yellowish under tail. Distinctive face markings. Obvious pale cream or yellow rim around eye, with dark comma-shaped marking curving back below eye. Dark bar or line with pale edges runs across front of snout from nostril-to-nostril. Scales smooth. Mid-body scales at 15 rows.
Average Length: 65-70cm, but specimens up to 80cm have been recorded locally.
Habitat in SE Qld: Dry open areas, open forest, woodland, grassland and a frequent species around homes.
General habits: Swift-moving, alert, diurnal snake. Good vision, active hunter
Diet: Swift, fast-moving lizards such as skinks.
Local distribution: Found throughout most suburbs with the exception of the inner city. To the west recorded as close to the city as Toowong and St Lucia.
Around the home: Frequently seen and commonly enters homes during active foraging efforts. Apparently common due to the high densities of favoured skink prey. Will utilise a range of ground localities for refuge including constructed rock and sleeper retaining walls, under rocks, sheets of iron, timber piles and other discarded human litter. Nine individuals were captured under one piece of plastic in a Goodna backyard along side an Eastern Brown Snake. Frequent victim of roaming suburban cats.