You’ve probably encountered an animal or two you wished you hadn’t while out on your adventures. And if you haven’t, well let’s just say you’re one of the lucky ones. Here in Australia, we are ‘lucky’ enough to be home to several dangerous species and while most stay clear of us you need to be aware of what to keep an eye out for and what to do if you do spot them, when you are camping in the bush.
We are all familiar with the Azaria Chamberlain story. Unfortunately, dingoes aren’t as friendly as they are cute. While they appear to be friendly dogs, it’s important to remember they are wild. While we often forget that this native animal descends from the wolf line and often international tourists are not aware of their potential temperament.
If you do see a dingo near your campsite, do not feed it. Keep your campsite as clean as possible to avoid luring them in. Do not keep food in your tent as they have been known to tear them apart to get to it (they have a very strong sense of smell). Generally, the best call is to be as clean as possible, because even smelly clothes will intrigue them.
Spiders and Scorpions
Being on alert for spiders and scorpions on your travels will be instinctual. They are so small they can be hidden anywhere, so being cautious (not crazily) is your best method to avoid any nasty stings. While generally you are very unlikely to die from a spider or scorpion bite, it certainly will hurt.
So what can you do to avoid an encounter? Don’t leave any clothes on the ground, tap out your shoes before putting them on, keep your tent or caravan shut at all times and make sure you don’t set up camp right on some sort of nest or burrow. Be aware of the types of spiders that are likely inhabitants in the area you are travelling in as well as first-aid protocol so you are prepared just in case.
Ticks are prevalent in most areas of Australia. They most likely habituate in warm, moist conditions where lots of warm blooded mammals are present. Tick bites while they aren’t deadly (generally) they can be serious if they aren’t treated straight away. A tick bites by attaching itself into skin. It injects an anticoagulant (a substance that prevents blood from forming clots) saliva which allows it to feed on our blood without the clotting.
Ticks tend to latch onto humans around the head and neck area so be sure to check yourself and your friends at least once or twice a day when you’re camping. If you do find one, seek medical attention right away. If this isn’t possible, try and remove it with fine tweezes as quickly as possible being sure to remove the entire tick. Wearing light coloured clothing also makes them easier to spot before they make their way to your skin.
This one is a no brainer. If you see a snake, do not approach it. Even if you know it isn’t poisonous, it’s not a good habit to get into, especially if you have children watching you intently. There are several poisonous species that call Australia home and while they all have anti-venom it may be difficult to get to it in time if you are in remote locations. Snakes don’t see humans as food, so they only attack if stepped on or provoked in some other way. Most of them will flee from the vibrations of an approaching human, so don’t get in the way of their escape plan and you will be fine. Avoid showing off to your mates and be on your way. Oh and keep your tent zipped shut!
On top of all of the above listed animals, us Aussie’s are even more lucky because we share our home with crocodiles too. Not just one type either. Both fresh water and salt water crocs. The general rule is to look and not touch if you are ever close to an encounter. Crocs will not chase you, however if you’re splashing around in their territory (especially if it’s breeding season) you’re asking for trouble. Male saltwater crocs can grow up to 7 metres long and live for 50 years or more. Yikes! To avoid being a crocs main course, avoid swimming, paddling or even getting too close to the water’s edge if you see a ‘Caution Crocodile’ sign or think it’s likely to be a crocs home. Signs are there for a reason. You shouldn’t even sit in a tree above the water, crocs and get you up there too. When camping you should choose to set up at least 50 metres away from the water and don’t use the water as your water supply.
While emus aren’t known on the usual list of Aussie dangerous animals, they have certainly caused some human deaths over the years. Emu’s feed on seeds and fruits, but due to their long legs and size they can pack a decent kick if they are provoked. They also know how to jump high with their strong legs and stamp on any sort of predator, which is typically a dingo. It will be unlikely you will encounter an emu in the wild, but if you do enjoy its beauty from afar and don’t be tempted to pat them.
So as we all know, Aus is home to some magnificently dangerous species. While they are so intriguing, leave the heroics for the guys on the television and stick to what you know. In case there is an emergency while you are out in the bush, it’s vital you have a GPS/ satellite phone so you always have access to help. They are worth the investment and certainly the peace of mind. Happy camping.