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Bushwalking - Safety



Snakes are protected under the Nature Conservation Act 1992 and it is an offence to kill, injure or take snakes from the wild. Snakes play an important role  in maintaining the natural environment.


Along with other reptiles, they make up a significant proportion of the middle-order predators that keep natural ecosystems working. Without them, the numbers of prey species would increase to unnatural levels and the predators that eat snakes would struggle to find food.


Snakes usually prefer to retreat when encountered but, if they feel threatened, they can become defensive. Most snake bites  are received by people who try to capture or kill a snake.


If you encounter a snake, don't panic. Back away to a safe distance and allow the snake to move away. Snakes often want to escape when disturbed. When left alone, snakes present little or no danger to people.

Source: NPRSR Qld Gov Web Site Downloaded Jan 2015


First aid for snake bites

If you are unlucky enough to be bitten, here is what you should and should not do. Assume ALL snakes are venomous, and take the following action:

  • Do not panic. Try to remain calm, lie down and immobilise the bitten area. It is unlikely that the bite will be life-threatening.

  • Apply a bandage but do not block circulation. Take a broad bandage and bind along the limb starting at the bite area, at the same pressure as for a sprain. Then bandage down the limb and continue back up the entire limb over and above the bite area. This will help prevent the spread of the venom through the body. Do not remove the bandage. It is often easier to go over the top of clothing such as jeans rather than remove clothing. In an emergency, strips of clothing or pantyhose can be used instead of a bandage.










  • Immobilise the limb with a splint. Lie down and keep the limb completely still until help arrives. Do not elevate the limb or attempt to walk or run. Movement will encourage the spread of the venom through the body.










  • Do not attempt to catch the snake. All too often, the snake will bite again if an attempt is made to catch it. Identification of the snake species can be obtained through samples of the patient's blood or urine, and from venom around the bite area. If the species of snake still remains uncertain, a poly-antivenene may be used, which is suitable for treatment of all venomous snake bites.

  • Do not wash the wound. Venom left on the skin will help doctors identify the snake and administer the appropriate antivenene.

  • Do not cut the wound. This will spread the venom into the bloodstream and can cause more serious injuries than the snake bite itself.

  • Seek medical help. An antivenene may be required.

  • Source: NPRSR Qld Gov Web Site Downloaded Jan 2015



Stinging Tree

Botanical name 

Dendrocnide excelsa, Dendrocnide moroides,


Other common names 

Giant stinging tree, Fibrewood, Gympie, Gimpie-gimpie




General description 

These species are common in Queensland rainforests especially on the edges or in disturbed areas. The two species are similar, but can be distinguished by the leaf stalk, which is attached at the margin of the leaf in giant stinging tree (Dendrocnide excelsa), while in the stinging tree or Gimpie-gimpie (Dendrocnide moroides), the leaf stalk is attached some distance from the margin.



The flowers are very small and held in open bunches in the forks of the leaves.



The leaves are quite conspicuous, very large, broadly ovate, pale green, hairy and often heavily chewed by insects. The young leaves have more stinging hairs than mature ones. 



The fruit is small, nut like and borne on fleshy stalks.

Other The sap is clear, stinging hairs are present.



Contact with the leaves or twigs causes the hollow silica-tipped hairs to penetrate the skin, causing a severe stinging or sharp tingling sensation which can last for days or even months. Pain may also be referred to other areas of the body. The injured area becomes covered with small red spots joining together to form a red, swollen mass. The affected area can remain intermittently sensitive for a long period of time. It may be possible to remove the hairs by applying sticking plaster and pulling it off, or using a warm depilatory wax. Source Qld Health

Experience and Fitness Level
The group leader must be experienced in navigation, bush first aid and bushcraft skills. The groups fitness must be considered before the walk starts and planning is critical. Walking around your local area is the best preperation for a bushwalk, start small and increase the distance and incline at least two weeks before a serious bushwalk.
Individual Health Issues- The leader should be aware of personal health issues of individuals in the group, it's too late to find someone has diabetes or a heart condition ten kilometres into a walk.
Group Size
Never go on your own; three or four is a good number as, in an emmergency, someone can stay with the injured party while someone goes for help. Too large a group can damage the environment and tend to be counter productive for the reason of being in the bush in the first place.
Appropriate Gear and Equipement
This can make or break a bushwalk. If you have brought gear or equipment that's not up to the task, someone can get hurt. There is no excuse today with a plethora of good quality equipment available online or in store.  Don't buy cheap stuff as you will have to replace it a number of times while the quality gear can last a lifetime.
It can be expensive so borrow it from a friend. Things like personal emergency beacons can be borrowed from some police stations and some Parks and Wildlife Offices.
Foot Wear & Gaiters
Foot wear and gaiters have been separated from the above heading because it is fundamental to the success of any bushwalk. If you're going into rugged country on routes NOT tracks, you need good quality boots and gaiters full stop. Make sure new boots are worn in before you start. Carry cloth band aids at all times.
Navigation Skills
The group leader MUST be be proficient in navigation and must carry a map, compass and GPS (optional) and know how to use them. People get 'bushwhacked' (lost) in the easiest situation like going off trail for a toilet stop or getting water from a creek. The group leader must manage these situations when dealing with the group. Each member of the group should carry a whistle. Some people have a 'natural ability' to navigate in the bush but usually they are extremely experienced individuals.
Weather Forecast
Check the weather before you go Learn how to read the weather. The best bushwalking conditions, generally speaking, for North Queensland are May - November, with the months of July, August, September and October being the clearest for views from mountain tops. Any bushwalking west of the Great Dividing Range or Coastal Range is clearer and drier for longer.
In the wet season (Nov - April) the bush becomes ALIVE with life and is a fascinating time to get out and have a look around, choose smaller walks on designated tracks and, because of the heat and humidity, most choose just to get wet if it rains.
The skies are clearer before the cane crushing starts. Check with your local mill.
Rescue Plan
Leave detailed track notes with a responsible individual and give accurate ETA's back at home. Carry a mobile phone if you think you will get reception.
Before the group starts, the group leader should go through the emergency plan with the group. It could be as simple as pointing out the potential dangers: cliff face, stinging tree, crocodiles, snakes, heat exhaustion, bush fires etc. The group leader must make sure the group stays together at all times and, if it is going to be split because of the slowest walker, a capable, experienced person must stay with the slow person and meet at a predetermined location.
An emergency meeting point could be mentioned e.g. meet at creek, hill top, ridge, large rock if people get isolated. The group leader could also nominate a quicker exit point if things go wrong like a nearby road, track, trail, creek, ridge etc.
Personal Emergency Beacons
If you're going to do a lot of bushwalking, canoeing etc a personal emergency beacon is fully recommended. They are now affordable and light and your partner and kids will love you for it.
Quite simply, they are licenced to you personally and, when activated, alert emergency services to your location via satelite technology. The signal is identifiable as coming from you personally so individuals that you have nominated will be contacted and the plans that you have left with your emergency contacts can be given to emergency services. This helps them pinpoint your location because the beacon can be a few metres out at times.
First Aid Kit
Always carry a first aid kit and, as a minimum, take:

St John’s basic first aid kit.


• Compression Bandage (I always carry x three (3)

• Hypo-allergenic Tape

• A Triangular Bandage

• Sterile Gauze x 2

• Gauze Pad x 9 (these are small)

• Non-Adherent Dressings x 2

• Band-aid 'Elastoplast band'

• Non-sharp scissors

• Small forceps

• 'Space Blanket' emergency blanket

• Safety Pins x 12

• Note-pad & Pencil

• Disposable Towel x3

• Zip-lock Bag

• 'Fake Skin' aka Adhesive shapes

• Latex Gloves

• Quick reference first aid guide

• Betadine or similar antiseptic wipe


In addition to these  kits, I personally like to add the following:

• Panadol / Analgesic pain killers

• An Anti-inflammatory; like Neurofen


  • Tea Tree Oil

• Mars Bars (for the energy)



















   Obey Warning Signs at All Times

New and Novel treatment


The recommended treatment for skin exposure to the hairs is by applying diluted hydrochloric acid (1:10)


Dr Hugh Spencer

Cape Tribulation  Tropical Reserach Station

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