Ron Siggins, 37, of Pascoe Vale, died yesterday afternoon after being bitten by a whip snake at Harcourt North, 120km north west of Melbourne.
Mr Siggins was collecting scorpions with a friend at Mt Alexander about 2.30 pm when he was bitten on the finger by the snake. He bandaged his finger with a handkerchief, but later became woozy and his friend went to his car to call an ambulance. When the friend returned a few minutes later, the 37-year-old had collapsed. Mr Siggins had gone into cardio arrest by the time paramedics arrived. They were unable to revive him.
Police will prepare a report for the coroner in relation to the man's death. Mr Siggins caught the snake that had bitten him.
Bite 'like a bee sting'
The snake was later identified as a whip snake, a species which is considered harmless in comparison to more venomous species such as brown snakes and tiger snakes. "You read any reptile book, they're classified as harmless, it's like a bee sting,'' said Steve Macgregor, a reptile enthusiast and friend of Mr Siggins.
While the exact circumstances of Mr Siggins' death remain unclear, it is believed he may have experienced complications as a result of medication he was taking for neck and spinal injuries.
Friends said he had been bitten by whip snakes in the past. "Probably what happened is he knows they're not that deadly, he's been bitten by it and didn't think much of it,'' Mr Macgregor said.
Another friend, Sheryl Longstaff, said Victoria's community of herpetologists could not believe what had happened to Mr Siggins, who had been around snakes for 30 years. "It's a shock to the system ... everybody's devastated,'' she told theage.com.au. "Ron's got venomous and non-venomous snakes at home, he knows what he's doing, he knows how to handle them,'' she said. "He's got bitten by something that would normally just make you feel a bit sick and give you a bit of a headache but he's had a reaction to it.'' Mr Siggins leaves behind a wife, Helen, and school age daughters Emily and Stephanie.
Snake catcher Raymond Hoser said people should not fear snakes. "All the deaths from snake bite in Australia in the past year have actually been people catching them or killing them," he said. "Provided you do neither of the above, you've got basically no chance of dying from snake bite.''