With spring feeling like it’s arrived in Melbourne over the last couple of weeks, the yearly ‘snakes are waking up‘ articles have started to appear on the news websites. Having lived in Melbourne for nearly three years now, but having not yet encountered a snake, it got me wondering – are there snakes in Melbourne, and if so what type and where do they hang out?
Yes, there are snakes in Melbourne. Seven types of snake can be found in and around the city with the most common being the Tiger Snake and Lowland Copperhead, and the least common being the Eastern Brown Snake which is Australia’s second deadliest snake and generally found in more rural parts of the city.
In this post, I cover everything I learned while researching about the snakes of Melbourne.
Which Snakes Are Found in Melbourne?
There are seven types of snake found in Melbourne:
- Tiger Snake
- Lowland Copperhead
- White-lipped Snake
- Red Bellied Black Snake
- Small-eyed Snake
- Little Whip Snake
- Eastern Brown Snake
Are the Snakes in Melbourne Venomous?
All of the snakes found in Melbourne are venomous, but not all of them are deadly to humans.
The Eastern Brown Snake, Tiger Snake, Lowland Copperhead and Small-Eyed Snake all have recorded fatalities
There have been no deaths ever reported from the bites of a Red-Bellied Snake (though it can cause a human to lose their sense of smell), Little Whip Snake (which is virtually harmless to humans) or the White-lipped Snake.
Below is the total deaths in Australia from the snakes found in Melbourne, taken from this article:
- Tiger Snake (31)
- Eastern Brown Snake (12)
- Lowland Copperhead (1)
- Small-eyed Snake (1)
- White-lipped Snake (0)
- Red Bellied Black Snake (0)
- Little Whip Snake (0)
These statistics may not be perfectly accurate though as this article states that 23 of the 35 deaths between 2000 and 2016 have been caused by Brown Snake bites.
Whilst snakes in Australia can seem very intimidating, more people actually die from bee stings in Australia than snake bites, so deaths are incredibly rare thanks to modern anti-venom.
Which is the Most Dangerous Snake in Melbourne?
Whilst the Tiger Snake accounts for the most deaths, the most dangerous and venomous snake in Melbourne is the Eastern Brown Snake. It is also Australia’s (and the world’s) second most deadly snake behind the Inland Taipan.
The venom of the Eastern Brown snake contains many different poisons, with the most powerful being a neurotoxin that paralyses the nerves in the lungs, heart and diaphragm, effectively suffocating its victims.
A single bite from one of these snakes is enough to kill around 200,000 mice!
Which Suburbs in Melbourne Have Snakes?
Most of us who live in Melbourne have probably never seen a snake in the city, however there have been snakes found everywhere, including in the CBD.
Snakes are common around urban fringes, parklands, rural areas and the coast.
Judging by this map produced by vets showing where snakebites have happened around the city, it would seem the suburbs most common for snakes in Melbourne are Werribee, Truganina and Point Cook to the west, around the Maribyrnong and Yarra River valleys, the Dandenongs and down the Mornington Peninsula to Frankston and beyond.
These are all areas that become more rural and have large areas of park or grassland.
What to Do if You Encounter a Snake
The most important thing to do if you encounter a snake while you are out and about in Melbourne is to leave it alone!
According to the NC State University, almost 80% of snake bites in America happen when someone is trying to catch or kill a snake. I couldn’t find a similar statistic for Australia, but it shows how often bites are caused by human provocation in developed countries.
These are wild creatures who are more interested than finding food or a mate, of which you are neither!
Back away from the snake, keeping it in view and stay on a clear path or walkway as there may be others around, especially in mating season. Move very slowly, snakes react to sudden movement. Usually, the snake will move away when it realises there is no threat.
Always assume a snake is venomous, especially in Australia, and don’t think that just because it’s small it won’t do any harm. Even a tiny Brown Snake has enough venom to kill a human.
Don’t make the same mistake this woman did, who posed with a small snake only to find out later it wasn’t a harmless Red-naped Snake, it was actually a baby Eastern Brown Snake!
What to Do if You Are Bitten By a Snake
The good news is that the majority of snake bites are dry and of the 3,000 or more people bitten by a snake in Australia every year, the death rate is normally only one or two.
The majority of snake bites that result in a fatality are due to a lack of treatment or late treatment of the bite.
If you are unfortunate enough to be bitten by a snake while in Melbourne then here are some steps you should take:
- Call 000 for the VIctorian Emergency Services
- Stay as still as possible. Not moving might save your life. The venom moves around your lymphatic system in a fluid which only moves when you move your body. Take deep breaths and stay still.
- If bitten on a limb then apply a pressure bandage tightly around the bite. Any stretchy material will do, such as a torn up t-shirt. Do not use a tourniquet (see below).
- Splint the limb to keep it from moving as much as possible to help stop the flow of venom around the body.
What Not To Do:
- Don’t wash the area, as the leftover venom can be useful in identifying the correct antivenom at the hospital (though with modern antivenom, it’s not neccasraily needed).
- Don’t use a tourniquet as this can isolate the venom to an individual limb which can cause permanent disfigurement and a quick rush of venom when it is removed. It can also put a person at risk of low blood pressure, which can cause more problems than the bite itself.
- Don’t try to suck out the venom, this is an old myth. You will not get enough out for it to be effective, and if there are any cuts in your mouth, you risk it getting into your bloodstream.
- Don’t ice the wound. This causes the venom to stay in one place and can cause massive tissue damage, far worse than if the venom had spread out a little.
News Articles About Snakes in Melbourne
- Red-Bellied Black Snake Slithers Into Family’s Fridge
- Covid-19 Lockdown Lead to Deadly Snake Boom in Melbourne
- Huge Tiger Snake Captured in Melbourne