Australian Reptile Myths Busted: Snakes!

By Reptile Encounters/08 October 2014

Australia’s reptiles are notoriously nasty, but what danger do they really pose on our day-to-day lives? Statistics indicate that you’re far more likely to be offed by a horse (or a common ladder, for that matter) than a crocodile. Crocs, in fact, are to blame for less than one fatality on average a year, while snakebites account for less than two. In truth, reptiles present a positively miniscule threat to our wellbeing, but there’s many a myth to the contrary. Bluetongue lizards have a couple of doozies. Apparently, if you’re bitten by a bluetongue it won’t let go, and you’ll have to chop its head off. And that’s not all – the wound is fabled to reappear on the anniversary of the bite.

But it’s our snakes that have the real crackers to contend with. What with the legendary species of ‘hoop snake’, holding its tail in its mouth and wheeling along. And how about those ones that hypnotise their prey? My personal favourite – tiger snakes holding a grudge. As the myth goes, if you happen to kill one, its mate will hunt you down to get its revenge! While these claims are easy to identify at total baloney, Australian snakes have a pretty bad rep, solely (and sadly) based on our lack of understanding of their natural behaviour. Let’s clear some things up:

Snakes are more flight than bite.

Australian snakes are inoffensive and terribly shy. As far as they’re concerned, we are the predators, so they flee when humans venture near.  If, by some ill-fated miracle you manage to step on one, a snake’s tail-jerk reaction is to escape, and second is to bite in order to defend itself.

Aggressive, they are not.

Snakes are ever so polite. They don’t generally defend territories, guard their young or even squabble over food.  In other words, they have no inherently aggressive tendencies in their nature, and will only consider biting if they feel threatened or trapped.

And they don’t hate us, really!

But they’d rather avoid us, even more than we might want to avoid them. And while we mean no disrespect, they have a lot more slither than smarts, and certainly don’t have the mental capacity to concoct plans of attack on humans.

If these home truths aren’t enough to persuade you, here’s some food for thought. A snake can’t chew its dinner – it has to swallow it whole. Think we’re safely off the menu then, ey?

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