Our hikers often ask about snakes on the Cape to Cape Track. The Track runs through the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park, which is a pristine coastal wilderness and a recognised World Biodiversity Hotspot. That means it’s packed full of wildlife, and snakes have their role to play in a healthy and balanced ecosystem.
Luckily, snakes usually do their best to avoid hikers and encounters are not common! In this Q&A, Cape To Cape Explorer Tours head guide and our resident snake expert Heather Schofield answers your questions about snakes. That includes which species you might encounter. How to tell them apart. And what to do if you’re lucky enough to spot one!
How often do you see snakes on the Cape to Cape Track?
Snakes are a rare sight for much of the year, but in the warmer spring months we do see them sometimes. I think it’s an absolute privilege to see a snake on the Track! Your guide will be at the front of the group and your guide will see the snake, hopefully from a good distance out. So you’ll stop. Take your photographs. And see that snake in its natural environment. That, to me, is the real highlight of seeing a snake on the Cape to Cape Track.
Should I be worried about snakes? Has anyone been bitten?
Most people have only seen a snake when the snake and the person are both feeling threatened and scared. A scared snake is a dangerous snake. But we see a snake on the Track in its natural environment. If we’re not threatening them, they’re not scared and it’s a real privilege to see them and share space with them.
In more than 10 years operating tours on the Cape to Cape Track, we’ve never had any instances with snake bites. Snake bites are incredibly rare in Western Australia, particularly if the snake is not provoked. Wherever you are on the whole Cape to Cape Track, a helicopter can get to you pretty quickly. There is no need to panic. Our guides always have a compression bandage, full medical kit, satellite device and they’re fully trained. If you’re doing our self-guided hiking option, we give you a satellite device in case of an emergency. We also recommend carrying your own compression bandage with you as well. They can come in useful for absolutely everything, I don’t leave home without a compression bandage!
A legless lizard crosses a sandy patch
Wildlife spotting at Sugarloaf Rock
What type of snakes are most active on the Cape to Cape Track?
Interestingly enough, what we see a lot of is legless lizards. They look a lot like a snake. They have pretty bands. And they stay quite still. So they’re perfect to get some photos. In the photos it can look like a huge snake but it’s actually a small little legless lizard, completely harmless. We also see the bardic snake quite often, which is another small coastal snake. It varies in colour quite a lot from a light brown to olive and again, it will stay quite still on the Track so you can get a good look at it.
We do also see tiger snakes, which are striped, and dugites, which are generally brown in colour. Both are venomous. We also see the occasional crowned snake. And – my favourite – are the carpet pythons. The carpet pythons are such majestic snakes. They’re not venomous so people tend to be a lot more relaxed about them. The snake senses that lower vibration – so if you’re quite relaxed, you get to share that space with them. They’re just so beautiful, really beautiful! You can tell them apart with their larger size and the beautiful mottled pattern. It’s almost like a leopard skin print.
What should I do if I see a snake on the Cape to Cape Track?
If you see a snake, stop. Always. That’s the first thing to do. Just stop. Take a few steps back. Identify it if you can. You certainly don’t want to get any closer, particularly if it is a tiger snake or a dugite as they can be slightly more aggressive in nature. Breathe, relax. They can pick up on that energy and anxiety. So the calmer you are, the calmer the snake is going to be. Quite often they don’t want to move off the Track because it’s open to the sunshine and that’s why they are there. They’re sunning themselves. If they don’t move, stamp your feet a few times and that often does the job. We don’t see many of them and that’s because they move off when they feel us coming.
A crowned snake in the undergrowth
Heath monitors: another common reptile
If someone is bitten by a snake, what is the medical procedure to follow?
In the event of a snake bite, stop what you are doing. Don’t panic. Remain as calm as possible. The main thing is to stay calm and get some compression on it, either with a bandage or you can use jumpers or clothing if that’s all you have. Apply as much pressure as possible from the bite all the way up the limb. Send for help straight away by dialling the ‘000’ emergency hotline and wait for ambulance officers to arrive.
What is your most memorable snake encounter on the Cape to Cape Track?
Over spring I guide the same section of the Cape to Cape Track from Cosy Corner to Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse. There are a lot of limestone shelves through that section. And we find the carpet pythons like to hang out in that limestone. I love to see a snake in the same area so you get to know the markings and identify it. You can keep an eye out for them and see them week by week. That’s an amazing thing!