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.
(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.
It 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.