Snake and spider numbers set to explode

Wildlife experts are warning this summer could see numbers of venomous snakes and spiders explode across Australia.

As the La Nina weather system brings more rain and cooler weather, wildlife authorities warn that it presents the perfect conditions for a spike in the number of venomous snakes and spiders.

“We have already seen an increase in snake bites from this time last year,” says Genevieve Adamo, senior pharmacist at the NSW Poisons Information Centre NSW Poisons Information Centre.

“We have some of the most venomous critters in the world, from the brown snake to the funnel-web spider, but thankfully, plenty of antivenom available to treat any bites.

“Snake season usually peaks in late December and January, but we have already seen an increase in snake bites from this time last year.”

Read: Amazing facts about snakes

The La Nina system is a complex set of weather events that occur every few years and is driven by sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean.

During a La Nina event, the surface temperature in the eastern part of the Pacific drops by between 3 and 5˚C. This in turn can cause more wet weather than usual during summer in the southern hemisphere.

The wet weather can cause flooding, which drives animals such as snakes and spiders to seek higher ground, and this brings them into contact with humans more regularly.

Australia is home to 20 of the 25 most venomous snakes in the world. The world’s most venomous snake – the inland taipan – is found only in our part of the world.

Although fatal bites from venomous snakes are rare, they do still happen, with the Australian Institute of Health and Wellbeing (AIHW) recording seven venomous snake deaths in 2017-18.

Read: Keep spiders out of your home

If you are bitten by a snake, NSW Health advises to seek medical treatment as soon as possible, even if you are not sure it was a snake.

“If someone has collapsed following a snake bite start CPR immediately, this can be lifesaving. If someone is bitten you should keep them still, call an ambulance and apply a pressure immobilisation bandage,” NSW Health advises.

“Tight tourniquets should not be applied, and the bite site should not be washed, cut or sucked. Symptoms from a venomous bite can include nausea, vomiting and a headache, however, first aid should be applied regardless of whether these symptoms are present.”

When it comes to spiders, Australia once again punches above its weight playing host to a whole suite of poisonous arachnids.

The deadliest of Australia’s spiders is undoubtedly the Sydney funnel-web spider. Venom from this spider is capable of killing humans if left untreated, but thanks to the development of an effective anti-venom there have been no recorded deaths from the Sydney funnel-web since 1981.

Read: ‘Super cold’ threatening Australia’s post-lockdown summer

Other venomous Australian spiders include the redback spider, the mouse spider, the white-tailed spider and the trap door spider.

The key with any spider bite is to get anti-venom administered as soon as possible.

“Most spider bites are harmless. However, if a person has been bitten by a big black spider or funnel web, it is a medical emergency,” NSW Health advises.

“If someone is bitten you should keep them still, call an ambulance and apply a pressure immobilisation bandage, with a further bandage to the entire limb.”

A bite from a funnel web can cause severe pain, sweating, vomiting, difficulty breathing and muscle twitching, while a redback bite may result in pain and redness, but it is not considered life threatening so does not require bandaging.

Have you noticed an increase in snakes and spiders at your place? How do you think you’d react if you found one of these in your garden? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Written by Brad Lockyer

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