Snakes Alive!

This article was published in Newsletter 119, January 2007. An entrant was bitten by an eastern brown snake at the WRC in October and recently a child died in the Sydney area following a snake bite. Mike Hotchkis wrote of it in the last president’s piece of October 2006.

I felt it was important to reprint the information provided to WRC entrants. Thank you to Rod Phillips, IRF Secretary for this version.

“As the organisers-WRC- have said, the risk of snakebite is extremely low. I am unaware of any snakebite in any Australian rogaine ever. Even if bitten, you are likely to have a good outcome if you manage it appropriately.
Do not follow advice given for USA snakebites. All the advice I could find on North American websites for snakebite treatment is out-of-date or wrong for Australian snakes.”


  1. Carry at least three crepe bandages per rogaining team or when setting, vetting or other wise helping with a rogaine out on the course.
  2. The bitten person should lie still. Do not move the limb. Do not walk back to the Hash House. Do not wash the bite site. Do not cut the bite site. Just lay still.
  3. Apply crepe bandages firmly to the entire limb, starting at the toes or fingers and working up to the body, particularly over the bite site. Not too tight, about as firm as a bandage for a sprained ankle. Do not remove this bandage. (If the bite is on the head, neck or back, apply constant firm pressure if possible.)
  4. Immobilise the limb with a splint.
  5. Get help. Bring help to the bitten person. Attract another team by blowing your whistle. Repeated blasts of three whistles, is the accepted distress signal on a rogaine.

Extra information on pressure immobilisation first aid for those who are interested. Pressure immobilisation first aid for venomous bites and stings was developed in Australia in the 1970s by Professor Struan Sutherland, who was head of immunology research at the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories (CSL). Venom is spread via the lymph system, so applying a bandage (as tightly as you would strap a sprained ankle) slows the movement of venom from the bite site into the lymphatic system. Immobilisation - with a splint, e.g. a piece of wood/timber to the limb - also slows lymphatic drainage. This gives the bitten person more time to reach hospital and medical care, although obviously the situation is still an emergency.

Research with snake venom has shown that very little venom reaches the bloodstream if firm pressure is applied over the bitten area and the limb is immobilised. It is currently recommended for most life-threatening venomous bites and stings in which the venom travels by the lymph system, for example, funnel web spider bites, snakebites and blue-ringed octopus and cone snail envenomations.

Alan Mansfield with thanks to Rod Phillips

Eastern Brown Snakes

Brown Snake curled up

The Eastern Brown Snake is one of Australia's most dangerous reptiles. It is fast-moving and aggressive. However, like most snakes, it is most likely to retreat. The Eastern Brown Snake was probably once widespread in the Sydney region, but it has not been recorded in the inner urban areas around the harbour for more than 50 years, and nearly all recent records (25 years or less) have been from bushland in the upper reaches of the harbour's northern tributaries.

The name 'Brown Snake' is a bit misleading. Colours are variable and range from tan through dark brown, russet-orange to almost black, with a cream or white belly. Juveniles have black bands. In some individuals, the bands cover the entire body while others have bands only to the head. Both variations may be born in the same clutch. The black bands fade with age but may still be evident in some adults.

The Eastern Brown Snake lays eggs and feeds on lizards, frogs, small mammals and birds.