BALLARAT Wildlife Park snake expert Stuart Parker says it is a myth that if there are blue-tongue lizards on a property there will be no snakes.
“I don’t know where that comes from, but I’ve caught tiger snakes and blue-tongues under the same bit of tin,” he says.
Ballarat’s most common snake, the copperhead, is continually mistaken by residents for red-bellied black snakes.
Most of the time when he gets a call about a snake around Ballarat, Mr Parker tells people it will be a copperhead.
“And they say ‘no, no, this is a red-belly, we get red-bellies on this property’.”
When Mr Parker catches a copperhead he shows people the matt black and slight orange colour of the snake, different from the glossy black and deep red of the red-belly.
Being big frog eaters, copperheads and tiger snakes will be found around water while brown snakes live in dryer areas.
“Copperheads are pretty tough with cold weather, they come out in cooler weather than most other snakes will be active in. As we start to wear T-shirts they start to come out.
“I’ve found them on really cold days where I’ve been rugged up and they’re out and they can barely move, they look like cow pats,” Mr Parker says.
The only way to be absolutely sure when it comes to snake identification is by inspecting the structure of their scale patterns, counting the number of scales in various places using a dichotomous key chart.
Mr Parker says good first aid and getting to a hospital quickly is crucial but Australians are among the best in the world for survival chances, with only a handful of deaths each year.
“It could be allergic reaction or multiple bites, some sort of extreme case, but if it’s a standard bite and it’s treated properly, I don’t see any reason why anyone in Australia should die from a snake bite – that’s how good our treatment is,” he says.
For people gardening or walking in areas where there are snakes, Mr Parker’s advice is to wear good footwear and gloves, have a bandage handy, and know how to apply pressure immobilisation.
“And if you do see a snake, walk away and give it a good wide berth,” he says.