Not To Be Trifled With

On a recent Outback trip, I noticed a snake on the road which appeared to be dead. Because my passengers were all enthusiastically snapping away with their cameras at anything which moved – and also at lots of things which didn’t move – I stopped the car, and, after a closer inspection of the said reptile using the toe of my boot, concluded it was in fact deceased, and so picked it up by the tail to provide yet another photo opportunity.

inland taipan

(Photo: J Shailer)

I’ve never really come up to speed on identifying snakes, largely due to not having seen a lot of them. I’d have a rough chance of identifying a red-bellied black or a king brown or a tiger snake, but beyond that I’d be glad if they’d just move away without waiting to be identified. One of the reasons I don’t travel outback in the summer is that I’m happy to let the snakes do their hot-weather thing without me being there.

Of course, snakes – like dingoes – tend to get rather bad press. They’re the baddies before they’ve even bitten anybody. But let me ask you this: have you ever heard of one of the early Australian explorers being bitten by a snake? In spite of being out in the bush or the desert for long periods of time, they seldom seemed to have any snake problems.

Inland taipanIt was only after showing the photo of me with the snake to an Outback resident that it was identified as an “inland taipan” (see picture), also known as the “fierce snake”. Wikipedia tells me it is regarded as “the most venomous land snake in the world”. I’m told that one drop of its venom is enough to kill 100 adult men. The good news is that although it’s called “fierce”, that refers to the strength of its venom, and not its aggressive behaviour. It is normally “shy and reclusive”, which is probably just as well.

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About dazzlerplus

Writing about the things that interest me helps me to discover what I think. One of my loves is the Australian Outback, and I travel out there often, and when possible take friends with me.
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13 Responses to Not To Be Trifled With

  1. roobark says:

    I think you were very brave to pick it up. What if it were playing possum, or a game called ‘dead snakes alive’?

    • dazzlerplus says:

      Was I brave, or perhaps stupid? It did have a couple of serious-looking kinks in its back which suggested it had been run over, and it failed to respond to a few nudges from my boot. I concluded that even if it wasn’t dead, it was certainly not feeling well.

  2. Mandy says:

    Surprisingly in all the time I worked in the deserts in WA I rarely came across a snake. I find more of them now on our cattle farm. Just a few days ago there was a blue-bellied black snake on the porch, and a few days before that a brown in the garden. In the paddocks – fine; around the house – not so good.

    • dazzlerplus says:

      No,I don’t like snakes around the house either. I suppose you could say that one of the benefits of city life is that you don’t see snakes too often. Although I have seen a feral fox here in suburban Sydney.

  3. Jo says:

    I agree that snakes get bad press. It is rare to see a Fierce Snake in the bush because they don’t seek trouble. It makes me sad when people think it is their duty to run over snakes in the outback. Mind you I do have a healthy respect for distance between myself and a snake, especially if I think it can do me damage but have seen far more in my garden on the edge of town than in the bush. There is an old wives tale that horses will keep snakes away. Don’t think it works, we have two horses and are surrounded by horse paddocks. Four brown snakes relocated from the garden last summer.

    • dazzlerplus says:

      Jo, when you say “four brown snakes relocated from the garden …”, do you mean the snakes chose to move elsewhere (into the house?), or that they were “assisted” to move?

  4. Yorick Lewis says:

    Regarding the early explorers, they are often depicted wearing riding gear, gaiters etc. which would act as protective gear. They were also not in such a rush as present day folk, which would give them more time to see the snake, or for it to get away.

  5. Gillian says:

    A good caption for this story Rob. Like the story of the recent tragic death of a young man who left his car against all outback warnings and advice, we trifle with nature at our uninformed peril. Glad you knew the snake was dead before you picked it up.

  6. Gillian says:

    or should I say, thankfully it was enough that you thought you knew…

  7. dazzlerplus says:

    A reader from western Victoria sent me this anecdote:

    The other day there was a brown snake at the back door. This did not cause alarm because the snake was upside down and not moving. Some time later I left the house and noticed our cat sitting on the snake’s head and trying to engage its tail in some hunting fun, so I figured that the cat was probably the reason said snake was upside down and not moving. Concern set in when the cat went missing that night and despite a thorough search of the neighbourhood we couldn’t locate the cat (dead or alive), but after 10 days the cat came back!! A bit thinner and limping but other than that it seems fine.

  8. Where did you find the snake? Do you (or any of your passengers) have any close up photos of it?

    • dazzlerplus says:

      Thanks for your enquiry. The snake in question was observed about three or fours years ago, near the Strzelecki Track is South Australia, and as far as I can remember, a bit south of the Strzelecki Creek crossing.
      Unfortunately, the photo you saw in the blog was the only one taken. I didn’t know at the time that it was an inland taipan. The people travelling with me were not enthusiastic about even getting out of the car (the photo was taken from the car window)! And I relied on the identification by a person who has lived near Cameron Corner for many years.
      Does it look to you like an inland taipan?

      PS: You’ve got some great pictures on your blog!

      • Thanks for the kind words about my photos! I’ve done many trips to western Queensland in search of inland taipans, but have so far been unsuccessful. Maybe I should try looking in SA. It’s hard to be sure from that photo, but it does look like an inland taipan.

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