List of fatal snake bites in Australia

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The Eastern brown snake is responsible for around 60% of deaths caused by snakebite in Australia.[1]

Below is a list of fatal snakebites that occurred in Australia. Omitted incidents include cases where someone died from falling after receiving a bite. Some of the comments include the first aid or treatment that was attempted. For the older fatalities, the term ligature meant wrapping a limb or finger with a string to act like a tourniquet, and the term scarify meant cutting the skin so blood flows out of the body, presumably to flush venom. Current practice advises not washing the affected body part so that medical personnel can sample venom residue on the skin to determine which type of snake was involved.[2]

Although Australian snakes can be very venomous, comparatively little is known about the protein compositions of venoms from Australian snakes, compared to those of Asia and America. Wide access to antivenom and adequate medical care has made deaths exceedingly rare with only a few fatalities each year. Australian snakes possess potent venom: 5 of the world's top 10 most venomous snakes live in Australia.[3]

The estimated incidence of snakebites annually in Australia is between 3 and 18 per 100,000 with an average mortality rate of 0.03 per 100,000 per year,[4] or roughly 1 to 2 persons,[5] down from 13 persons per year in the 1920s.[6] Between 1979 and 1998 there were 53 deaths from snakes, according to data obtained from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.[7] Between 1942 and 1950 there were 56 deaths from snakebite recorded in Australia. Of 28 deaths in the 1945-1949 period, 18 occurred in Queensland, 6 in New South Wales, 3 in Western Australia and 1 in Tasmania.[8] Globally, 1.8–2.7 million people are envenomed annually, with more than 125,000 people dying, and for every fatality there are another 3 to 4 people permanently disabled.[5] In 2017, the World Health Organization added snakebite envenoming to their list of Neglected tropical diseases, requesting the cooperation of antivenom agencies worldwide.[9]

A Queensland Government occupational health publication says that "Snakes are not usually aggressive and do not seek confrontation with humans but may retaliate if provoked. The important thing to remember is to never attempt to catch or kill a snake – most snake bites occur when people are trying to do this."[2]


19th century[edit]

Date Species Name, age Location; Comments
1867 Tiger Snake William Drummond, police magistrate Melbourne, Victoria; A showman named Shires performed an act in which he allowed himself to be bitten by a deadly tiger snake. Drummond, convinced that Shires was a fraud, demanded to be bitten by the snake himself. Shires complied – and Drummond died. Shires was acquitted of manslaughter on the grounds that he had been denied the opportunity to treat Drummond using a home-made antivenom.[10][11]
5 November 1875 Undisclosed Mrs. Falconer Swan Hill, Victoria, treated by injecting ammonia and died 50 hours after being bitten.[12]
December 1878 Tiger Snake M'Fadden, 12yo boy Alexandra, Victoria; bitten on the hand while planting potatoes, first aid was ligature and scarifying, later a doctor injected him with ammonia. He died 20 hours after being bitten.[13]
February 1887 Black snake Unnamed Chinese gardener Wangaratta, Victoria; bitten on heel, they killed the snake and rubbed its head on the wound (a Chinese antidote).[14]
April 1893 Tiger snake Charles Mason, 10yo boy Stawell, Victoria, stepped on the snake in a bush pathway. First aid: a ligature was applied, the wound scarified, and stimulants administered. The boy was taken to hospital where he died 8 hours after being bitten.[15]
May 1893 Tiger Snake Victor Hullar Victoria, was bitten on the hand during a snake demonstration. First aid: Brandy with some unnamed antidote, and washing the wound. Later a ligature was applied, the victim was injected with strychnine, and he was sent to hospital where he died.[16][17][18]
February 1895 Tiger Snake Armit, 8yo boy Inverary, New South Wales, near Bungonia, bitten on the ankle while crossing a paddock barefooted. First aid: ligature and scarified. Later, strychnine.[19]
January 1896 Undisclosed Miss Kelly, 8yo girl Strzelecki, Victoria, near Korumburra, bitten on the finger, arm, and throat while asleep. The snake was killed, the wound scarified and sucked, but the child died on the way to hospital.[20]
September 1898 Undisclosed Miss Jaeshkie, young girl Waikerie, South Australia; girl put her hand in a log that a rabbit ran into and was bitten by a snake.[21]
January 1899 Undisclosed Dudley, 13yo female Bruthen, Victoria; trod on snake while carrying parcel.[22]
January 1899 Undisclosed Gordon, 9yo boy Congbool station, Balmoral, Victoria, bitten twice on the thumb while removing some rails to get a rabbit.[23]
March 1899 Tiger Snake Patrick O'Rourke, 74yo male Kilmore, Victoria, bitten on little finger when he went to the barn for some hay. The wound was bound, scarified and sucked. He sought medical treatment and was later sent home where he fell comatose and died.[24]

20th century[edit]

1900s[edit]

Date Species Name, age Location; Comments
November 1900 13yo girl Bendigo, Victoria[25]
October 1902 Tiger Snake 15yo boy Coonong, New South Wales; bitten on the calf while bird-catching, died four hours later[26]
November 1906 small boy Yea, Victoria[27]
1907 Frances McKnight Middle Harbour, New South Wales; snake bit her three times on ankle while gathering wild-flowers[28]
1908 Walter Harden Maroubra, New South Wales[29]
1908 Ronald Whitechurch Seymour, Victoria[30]
1909 Hugh McDay Deloraine, Tasmania[31]

1910s[edit]

Date Species Name, age Location; Comments
1910 Brown snake Howard Thomas Queensland[32]
March 1910 14yo male Casterton, Victoria; was rabbiting with friends, bitten when put hand in a burrow to get a rabbit[33]
1913 Eastern brown snake Garnett See La Perouse, New South Wales, snake show.[18]
1913 Tiger snake Harry Deline Melbourne, snake show.[18]
1914 Tiger snake Alex Rolfe No further details.[18]
November 1915 21yo male Laverton, Victoria[34]
1917 Vogel boy Tintaldra, Victoria[35]
1917 Tiger snake George Vowells Sydney, Antidote vendor.[18]

1920s[edit]

Date Species Name, age Location; Comments
13 March 1920 Tiger snake Teresa Caton, 26yo female Sydney, a carnival girl was bitten while 'playing' with some snakes belonging to snake showman Thomas Wanless. The wound was scarified, a ligature applied, and Wanless' antidote administered. The victim refused further treatment until 12 hours after the bite, which was too late.[36] Wanless died the following year in South Africa from a Green mamba bite.[37]
13 December 1920 Unknown Colleera Telford, 3yo female Apollo Bay, Victoria; Bitten while at her parent's dairy farm. Puncture marks found on leg after death.[38]
December 1925 Tiger Snake Charles McPherson Molesworth, Tasmania; bitten while sitting on a taurpaulin, reading, on a camping trip. The wound was incised and cleansed and a ligature applies. He died in hospital 12 hours after being bitten.[39]
July 1926 Tiger snake Maud Frances Byden, 29yo female Queensland, the woman was trying to bag a 4ft long brown snake and it bit her above the knee.[40]
October 1927 Tiger snake Ernest Pollack, middle-aged male Fitzroy, Victoria, having collected and bagged several specimens earlier in the day, he was found at home having been bitten.[41]
1928 Tiger snake Dot Vane Perth, snake show, wife of Rocky Vane.[18][42]
May 1928 Tiger snake C.J. French Adelaide, bitten on the forearm while giving a demonstration to children at the Adelaide Zoo where he was the curator of the snake park which was opened just two months earlier. Ligature, cut and sucked wound, applied permanganate crystals. He later died at hospital.[43][44][45]
February 1929 Tiger snake Harry Melrose, 42yo male Perth, William Henry Melrose, a partner of Rocky Vane's, was showing off with a bag of snakes he was bitten on the hand. He was taken to hospital where the wound was scarified and other remedies applied. He died two days after being bitten.[46][47]

1930s[edit]

Date Species Name, age Location; Comments
1930 Tiger snake Pegleg Davis Snake handling.[18]
February 1930 Death adder Rachel Pratt, 11yo female Toowoomba, Queensland, bitten on the foot, brought to hospital but died 3 hours later.[48][49]
20 March 1930 Undisclosed Dulcie Joan Wilson, 5yo female Laceby South.[50]
August 1930 Brown snake Ernest Christian Neimi, 25yo male near Ingham, Queensland, stepped on the snake and bitten on the ankle, he cut the wound and applied a ligature and antidote. He was rushed to hospital where he died.[51][52]
April 1931 Tiger snake James/Jimmy Murray, 19yo male Marrawah, Tasmania, was giving a demonstration. Murray was a snake dealer who caught numerous snakes and sold them to Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research for venom extraction and research.[53][18]
1932 Tiger snake John Graves Whittlesea, Victoria, Snake handling [18]
February 1932 Undisclosed Mrs. Mervyn Cole, 43yo female Horsham, Victoria; was bitten on the foot while fishing and died several hours later.[54][55]
March 1932 Undisclosed Raymond George Barham, 13yo male Gosford, New South Wales, testimony at a coroner inquest: a ligature was applied and a half-hour later the doctor said black snakes weren't venomous and they removed the ligature.[56]
15 March 1934 Brown snake Mr Archibald Thompson, 56yo male Greta, New South Wales; bitten while in the bush, scarified, ligature applied.[57]
December 1934 Tiger snake Julius Mitchell, 58yo male Kurri Kurri, New South Wales, known as "Milo the Snake Man", he was exhibiting his snakes when one bit him on the hand as he was trying to put it back in its box. He made incisions and applied a liquid, tied a loose ligature, and refused further medical treatment.[58]
24 October 1935 Sea snake Maso Fukami, 23yo male Thirty mile offshore Bathurst Island, Northern Territory, a Japanese pearl diver was grasped by an 8ft sea snake on his wrist. The diver tore the snake off him, was hauled aboard, a ligature applied.[59][60]
8 October 1936 Death adder Luigi Valese, 4yo male Mossman, Queensland; Bitten on his cane farm while in the fields with his father.[61]
August 1939 Brown snake Oley J. Kalloch, 52yo male Queensland, found five to seven days after his death by a fellow miner and friend, Kalloch had written his will in charcoal on a piece of newspaper, saying he was bitten by a big brown snake. There was a ligature on his leg and his big toe was lanced for scarifying.[62]

1940s[edit]

Date Species Name, age Location; Comments
October 1940 Unidentified Miss Norma Wells, 19yo female Bitten on the foot while walking beside the Goulburn River, died later in hospital.[63]
September 1946 Undisclosed Norman James Boyd, 4yo male Hampton, New South Wales; He was bitten while playing outside his home and later died after doctors failed to revive him.[64]
January 1948 Tiger Snake Miss Dorothy Vera Townson, 39yo female Pelion Hut, Overland Track, Tasmania; She had been bitten twice on the lower right leg by a snake, believed to be a tiger snake, about 11.30 am on Wednesday. The snake hung on and bruised her leg after the second strike. The punctures were lacerated and tourniquets applied, but the treatment was ineffective, and Miss Townson died at 4.30 am on Thursday. Numerous hikers took turns carrying her body by litter 24 miles in 18 hours to get her down off the mountain.[65]

1950s[edit]

Date Species Name, age Location; Comments
28 July 1950 Coastal taipan Kevin Budden, 20yo male Cairns, Queensland; specimen captured and subsequently milked by David Fleay in Melbourne to produce first antivenom.
1956 Tiger snake Curley Bell Haywood swamps, snake collecting.[18]

1970s[edit]

Date Species Name, age Location; Comments
January 1972 Undisclosed Mark Turner, 6yo male Lowmead, Queensland, bitten on his shin on his father's property.[66]
January 1973 brown snake Leonard Sacco, 38yo male Glenlyon, Queensland, was bitten while out shooting rabbits.[67]
June 1973 brown snake John Murphy, 55yo male Charters Towers, Queensland, did not consider the bite serious and didn't seek care until he collapsed five hours later.[68]
1977 Tiger snake Gordon Kennedy Brighton, Tasmania, snake exhibition.[18]
1977 P. australis? Fred Duffy Darwin, Northern Territory, snake exhibition.[18]

1980s[edit]

Date Species Name, age Location; Comments
1986 Western brown snake 61yo female Cervantes, Western Australia, bitten on lower leg, walked a distance, no first aid[44]
1989 Western brown snake 33yo female Carnarvon, Western Australia, unnoticed, no first aid, discovered at autopsy[44]

1990s[edit]

Date Species Name, age Location; Comments
1993 Eastern brown snake 50yo male Bundaberg, Queensland
24 February 1993 Western Brown Snake/Gwardar 31yo male Derby, unwitnessed, snake in bucket, victim found unconscious with head injuries. Assumed to have been bitten, resulting in a fall. Antivenom administered at Derby Hospital but with no improvement. Patient air-ambulanced to Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital where he died.[44]
6 February 1994 Northern death adder Richard Scott, 2yo male Fitzroy Crossing, Western Australia, bite not witnessed but confirmed by autopsy.[44]
1 December 1997 Western Brown Snake/Gwardar Murray Plane, 33yo male Tarmoola Gold Mine, North of Leonora, Western Australia; Man inebriated and handling snake which he and his friends found in miners' quarters during the night of 1 December. Air-ambulanced to Royal Perth Hospital where he subsequently died on 4 December.[18]
31 Oct 1998 Desert Death Adder Michael Ross, 9yo male Broome, Western Australia, bite not witnessed. Died en route to hospital 180 km away.[44]
5 Nov 1998 Tiger Snake Tony Patterson, 14yo male High Wycombe, Western Australia, bitten on hand while photographing snake. Initial first aid, followed by collapse, hospitalization with antivenoms.[44]
1999 Tiger Snake Joey McGlashan, 7yo male Kennett River, Victoria
29 Nov 1999 Western Brown Snake/Gwardar Male, 35yo Broome, caught snake on 27 Nov. and was bitten while showing snake being placed in a bag. Received antivenom at hospital shortly after.[44]

21st century[edit]

2000s[edit]

Date Species Name, age Location; Comments
2003 Tiger snake Unnamed, elderly female Kew, Victoria; bitten while pruning vines.[69][70]
2 January 2006 Brown snake Bevan Corbett, 20yo male Cobar, New South Wales; bitten repeatedly while jogging.[71][72]
16 April 2007 Whip snake Ron Siggins, 37yo male Harcourt, Victoria; bitten on the finger by a snake considered no more deadly than a bee-sting. The victim had been handling snakes for over 30 years and had been bitten by Whip snakes before.[73]
14 January 2007 Eastern brown snake Undisclosed name, 16yo boy Whalan, New South Wales; bitten on hand, it is believed his trek to find help in hot conditions may have advanced spread of venom.[74]
10 March 2007 Eastern brown snake Milena Swilks, 9yo female Rocky River, New South Wales, bitten on her foot in a vegetable patch and died two hours later.[75]
15 January 2009 Western brown snake Undisclosed name, 60yo female Carnarvon, Western Australia[76]

2010s[edit]

Date Species Name, age Location; Comments
26 November 2010 Western Brown Snake/Gwardar Michael Thorpe, 43yo male Gingin, Western Australia, bitten on the toe by a 50 cm snake and died 2½ hours later after being transported to hospital and receiving antivenom.[77][76][44]
11 September 2011 Eastern brown snake Ben Steers, 17yo Warwick, Queensland
2 November 2011 Eastern brown snake Narelle Pails, 42yo Warwick, Queensland[78]
17 November 2011 Eastern brown snake Andrew Smith, 35yo Emerald, Queensland[79]
8 October 2012 Eastern brown snake Ashley Leishman, 26yo male Miles, Queensland[80]
1 November 2012 Coastal Taipan Andrew Vaughan, 57yo male Yeppoon, Queensland
3 December 2012 Brown snake Colin Field, 80yo male Wilsons Plains, Queensland[81]
10 March 2013 Stephen's Banded Snake Hoplocephalus stephensii Undisclosed name, 60yo male Kalang, New South Wales, man was bitten on the hand. It took three hours to rescue him due to flooding and he didn't reach hospital until 7 hours after the bite.[82]
23 April 2013 Western brown snake Pseudonaja nuchalis Karl Berry, 26yo Darwin, Northern Territory[83]
2 November 2013 Unknown Undisclosed name, 59yo female Glen Oak, New South Wales; most likely bitten by an Eastern brown snake Pseudonaja textilis[84]
8 October 2014 Western Brown Snake/Gwardar Undisclosed name, 41yo male Laverton, Western Australia, bitten multiple times on hand and arm while trying to grab and kill snake. Refused first aid and collapsed 45 minutes later.[85][44]
6 November 2014 Tiger Snake Shane Tatti, 27yo male Jarrahmond, Victoria, bitten on the wrist while weeding along a river bank. Tatti died despite getting the ordinary antivenom dose, but later testing revealed he had active venom in his system after his death, leading to debates in the toxicology field about antivenom protocols.[86][87]
December 2014 Unknown Dane Kowalski, 27yo male 95 km south of Coober Pedy, South Australia; presumed bitten. His body was found 3 months after his vehicle was found after he went missing.[88]
3 January 2015 Tiger snake Mrs. Z., 70yo female Melton, Victoria, bitten on her toe in her sleep in bed. She received two vials of antivenom within 3 hours after the bites, and a third vial later.[87]
17 August 2015 Unconfirmed, Speckled brown snake or Tiger snake or Dugite Snake Anne Wortham, 75yo female South Fremantle, Western Australia, bitten on heel while out walking.[89][44]
25 October 2015 Brown Snake or Taipan (Unconfirmed) Undisclosed name, 62yo male Townsville, Queensland[90]
5 February 2016 Eastern brown snake Undisclosed name, 6yo female Walgett, New South Wales[91]
10 April 2016 Coastal Taipan Wayne Cameron, 54yo male Rockhampton, Queensland[92]
26 December 2016 Coastal Taipan David Pitt, 77yo male Yorkeys Knob, north of Cairns, Queensland[93]
10 January 2018 Eastern brown snake (Unconfirmed) Undisclosed name, 24yo male Tamworth, New South Wales[94]
5 February 2018 Unknown Sinita Martin, 27yo female Meekatharra, Western Australia; The 27-year-old victim's unborn baby also died as a result of the snake bite.[95]
19 April 2018 Eastern brown snake Aaron Bryant, 46yo male Deeragun, Queensland; A man carried the snake over to a neighbor to see if he could identify it, saying it had bitten him. He collapsed shortly afterwards.[96][97][98]
4 October 2018 Unknown Sea snake species Harry Evans, 23yo male Offshore, near Groote Eylandt, Northern Territory; Bitten while pulling in a net. First sea snake fatality in Australia since 1935.[99]
9 October 2018 Unknown Mary Nicholls, 83yo female Koorda, Western Australia, bitten on ankle while pushing a wheelbarrow. Victim told her son she felt the snake brush past but didn't think she was bitten. Upon examination, there was blood. Bandaged, taken to hospital and flown to Perth, she succumbed.[100]
29 December 2018 Tiger Snake Callum Edwards, 20yo male Lardner, 5 km south-west of Warragul, Victoria; Bitten whilst attending the Beyond the Valley music festival on 29 December 2018 and was airlifted to hospital, where he died on 1 January 2019. His death was initially suspected to have occurred from a drug overdose, however medical staff later found traces of tiger snake venom in his system.[101]
17 March 2019 Unknown Nathan Scattini, 45yo male Champion Lakes, Western Australia; Nathan Scattini telephoned emergency services, saying he had been bitten by a snake on 17 March while bushwalking in the Kelmscott area. Emergency services were unable to locate Scattini or make further contact and a search operation commenced. Police located Scattini's body in bushland on 19 March.[102][44]
30 October 2019 Western brown snake Undisclosed name, 68yo male Northern Territory; A tourist died while camping in the Garig Gunak Barlu National Park. He sought help at the ranger's station, but lost consciousness and died.[103]

2020s[edit]

Date Species Name, age Location; Comments
30 January 2020 Brown Snake Roger Taylor, 76yo male Vale View, Queensland; Died in Princess Alexandra hospital several days after being bitten approximately 4 times by a Brown Snake while moving tree nets at his Vale View property. Initially unaware of severity, the victim drove approximately 30 minutes to Toowoomba to attend a gathering where he collapsed and hit his head.[104]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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