Secret to snake bites is call an ambulance
IF YOU'RE bitten by a snake, call an ambulance. That's the stern advice from WIRES snake handler Paul Jones in reaction to the deadly Coastal Taipan snake bite which claimed the life of a snake handling peer in Queensland this week.
Rockhampton snake catcher Wayne Cameron was on the job catching a Coastal Taipan (Oxyuranus scutellatus) when he was bitten on Sunday night.
Devastated co-worker, Nicole Sloan said Mr Cameron thought the snake had just "grazed" his arm. She said he initially thought the taipan hadn't broken the skin but decided to head to Rockhampton Hospital after performing his own first aid.
Ms Sloan said she believed the hospital had run a series of tests which all came back negative and was about to head home when they took the bandage off the bite. But when his bandage was removed he convulsed and his heart stopped.
Mr Jones said all snake bite victims should call an ambulance, no matter how experienced they are at treating bites.
"The secret is to call an ambulance," Mr Jones said.
"Don't try and drive. So much can happen. Call an ambulance. They'll get you in quick.
"I've called the ambulance to come and pick me up with a minor snake bite and they put me straight into casualty."
Mr Jones said it was the first time he had heard of a snake bite victim dying as a result of taking off the bandage that had isolated the deadly venom to his arm.
"It's the first time I've heard of it," he said. "Especially a snake catcher who is very up on the treatment of snake bites.
"The venom goes back into the lymph system, which is low pressure and that's why the bandage works.
"The lymph system travels though the muscles, so it's important to immobilise the limb. Any movement of the muscles will pump the lymph through which will also pump the venom through."
The Coastal Taipan is native to the coastal regions of northern and eastern Australia and the island of New Guinea.
According to most toxicological studies, this species is the third-most venomous land snake in the world. Mr Jones said sightings are rare in the Clarence Valley, but not unknown.
"There's been sightings at Nymboida and I picked a dead one up from the gorge," he said.
"A few of us went up there a few years ago to see if we could sight any, but we didn't see any which was a shame.
"It's a bit too cool for them here. They like the temperature above 18 degrees and at winter time it gets pretty cold here so the chances of seeing them is pretty remote.
"We often get calls from people who say it's a taipan, but the trouble is it's hard to until you do a scale count."
Mr Jones said the Inland Taipan, or fierce snake, was the most venomous snake in the world.
"But he's a secretive snake. He lives out in the desert. When it rains the rats breed up and he comes out of the cracks in the ground to feed."
On the contrary to its inland cousin, the Coastal Taipan is considered one of the most dangerous snakes in Australia because of its tendency to ferociously defend itself.
"They are extremely nervous and alert snakes, and any movement near them is likely to trigger an attack," Museum Australia's website says.
"Snakes work on movement," Mr Jones said.
"If you don't move they don't see you.
"I've had brown snakes go over my feet and in between my legs and because I haven't moved they haven't seen me."