With the weather warming up in the southern hemisphere (sorry northerns), we have started seeing our scaley friends becoming more active. There are a few of our instagram friends who have some photographic evidence of that. We thought it would be an ideal time to speak about venomous snake safety.
For trail runners this is a very real risk, so taking certain measures to ensure you are safe is a logical move. We have done our research and put together a solid start on strategies to prevent a potential venomous snake bite whilst out running, and how to best manage a snake bite. If you have any experience or incidents involving snakes on your runs we would love to hear about them. And we aren’t going to advise “Don’t run trails” because thats never an option for anyone. We can however do it snake smart.
-snake safety starts at home. Leaving your running shoes outside may make a nice, cosy house for a snake. If you don’t keep them inside then it may pay to have a safe look inside or poke with something that isn’t a limb, prior to putting them on.
-talk to other runners. Asking if there has been any snake activity and informing others where and where you have seen snakes can help raise awareness
-keep to the trail. It may help with visibility
-if it’s a high risk area or you have seen a snake already, consider slowing the pace down and give yourself a better reaction time
-stay out of the bush. Consider how deep in the bush to go if nature calls
-avoid running at night and if so use a quality, charged headlamp
-allow for change. If something changes out on the trail and you have to walk back, account for that as it may mean you will be heading back in the dark.
-this one is applicable to so many running safety and security risks. Run with others. To have a friend who can administer first aid, contact medical professionals, and help keep you calm
-carry a phone and ensure the phone can get reception. This may be useful not just so you can call someone in an emergency but it may be able to act as a torch.
-be aware of obscured views from shadows and consider quality, suitable, fit for purpose running sunglasses
-keep scanning the trail. Most snakes camouflage well
-carry a snake compression bandage on you
-buy a hydration vest. Most have pockets which are great for carrying bandages and other safety equipment
-know the types of snakes in your area and what they look like
-treat every snake as dangerous and venomous
-complete first aid training and have a first aid kits available. These can make great gifts
and never ever never try handle, kill or approach a snake
Managing a snake bite care of St John Ambulance.
What to do:
1. Follow DRSABCD.
2. Reassure the patient and ask them not to move.
3. Apply a broad crepe bandage over the bite site as soon as possible.
4. Apply a pressure bandage (heavy crepe or elasticised roller bandage) starting just above the fingers or toes of the bitten limb, and move upwards on the limb as far as can be reached (include the snake bite). Apply firmly without stopping blood supply to the limb.
5. Immobilise the bandaged limb with splints.
6. Ensure the patient does not move.
7. Write down the time of the bite and when the bandage was applied. Stay with the patient.
8. Regularly check circulation in fingers or toes.
9. Manage for shock.
10. Ensure an ambulance has been called.
Note: Know the closest intersection and road names where you are planning to run and have the local emergency contacts readily available.
DO NOT wash venom off the skin.
DO NOT cut the bitten area.
DO NOT try to suck venom out of wound.
DO NOT use a tourniquet.
DO NOT try to catch the snake.
We asked our trail running friend and frequent snake spotter Rob Wallace (Instagram: @Robskeewally) for a contribution to our article. He has a strike rate of many snake sightings, zero snake bitings and runs trails in some of the countries most snake prevalent areas;
“Ok you’ve decided you want to be a trail runner (of course you have, it’s beautiful, peaceful and there’s so much to explore) but before you head out I cannot agree more with the information above! It is imperative you go over it once or twice and familiarise yourself with snake bite first aid. My tip is to print it out, chuck it in a sandwich bag and keep it on you at all times.
Now saying all this, the reality in Australia is a lot of things out there are pretty grumpy, bitey, venomous creatures, it is as much their environment as it yours, a little preparation and respect out there goes a long way.
Jump on google and search your local snakes, a lot of snake catchers in your area will have a fair bit of info on what lurks around. You won’t feel as surprised when you come across one and if the worst case scenario happens you will be able to manage the situation with a calmer approach. Also your run mates will appreciate your new found knowledge in snake identification on any snake encounters.
Biggest rule ever KEEP YOUR DISTANCE! You may appear as a huge, scary shape to a snake and they are probably more worried about you than you are of them. It is imporatant that the snakes feels calm and not in a threatening situation. If the snake feels like you are not a threat, it will most likely go happily about its day or night and before you know it that snake shall be a distant heart felt moment 😀
If a snake makes an S shape and backs up you are getting to close, time to safely distance yourself keeping eyes on the snake at all times, always ease yourself out of the situation (fast movements may intimidated the snake more)
If bitten the above first aid guidance is everything. You can pick up compression bandages at your local chemists and they pack quite small and fit easily into you running pack. Pack a couple if possible.
A buff can act as a second bandage or worst case rip your thing running shirt with a rock and use that as your bandage. Always make sure you mark where the bite was so paramedics can assess you faster.
Right so you’ve got you bandages packed, a little print put of your first aid, you are armed with some knowledge on the local snakes (and some fun facts for on the run banter), a solid headlamp that can pick up shadows at night, those lumens are everything people! And yep even a good pair of sunglasses will assist your vision when it comes to day time contrasts.
You are ready to head out!
Preparation prevents poor performance.
Things to be mindful of is noises through dry leaves, a lot of the time it’s a skink or gecko but sometimes those rustling, dragging noises can be pre-warning of snake movement in the area.
It’s important to keep your distance and avoid the noisy area where possible. Curiosity is best left for the cat in this situation.
Keep out of tall grass, it’s their safe haven where they are able to curl up safely and soak up the sun before heading out for the day. If nature calls be very weary of that. Pick your spot wisely.
If it’s an overgrown trail, step large so that you make large vibrations to scare off any animal neighbours.
9 times out of 10 snakes will feel you coming their way before you get there and will have usually cleared off the path.
If you are in a group, the vibration will more than likely clear off any local snakes.
With my snake planning, I focus on respect and preparation. If you do these things you are much more likely to have a great time out there. Every now and again you might come across something scary but the main thing is to keep your distance and remain calm. Always make sure you have a solid phone connection out bush, they are able to track your gps via phone if the connection is good allowing a fast retrieval if the worst should happen.
So, eyes and ears always open. But most important enjoy the trail for what it is, every trail has something magical to offer. Don’t have a bad experience because you didn’t prepare enough.
Happy Trails to all 🙂
Great words. Thank you Rob.