Veteran Snake Handler Bitten By Lethal Snake That Mistook His Hand For Food

A veteran snake handler is recovering after he was bitten by one of the world's most venomous snakes during a cleaning blunder.

David Miles was rushed to hospital after his three-foot-long tiger snake mistook his hand for food, sinking its fangs deep into his skin to release the life-threatening venom.

Miles—who has handled hundreds of snakes over the past 25 years—said the snake lunged out from its enclosure at his home in Mount Gambier, in regional South Australia.

Miles said the snake latched onto his thumb after thinking it was going to be fed, telling ABC News the bite made him "bleed like anything".

The tiger snake, which is common to the region, is one of the deadliest land snakes in the world.

It's fearsome reputation makes the seemingly benign-looking snake more toxic than an Indian cobra.

"People ask me why I handle snakes. The truth is you have more chance of dying driving a car or walking across the road," Miles told the Australian news outlet.

"Most snake bites are the fault of the person who gets bitten—not the snake," he added.

After realising he had been bitten, Miles immediately started to bandage up his hand, walking back to his house to tell his wife he'd been swiped at.

"That did not go down well with my wife, who called the ambulance," he recalled.

In Australia, all snake bites are treated as potentially fatal and at the Mount Gambier Hospital's emergency department, Miles' blood was analysed to check for levels of snake venom.

"The test came back that I had quite a lot of tiger snake venom in my system," Miles said.

The hospital administered tiger snake antivenom and prepared the unusually calm snake expert in case he went into shock.

"They put pads on my front and back and they had two adrenaline needles ready to go. They stood there waiting for something to happen. Staff did a top job," Miles said.

Although tiger snake bites can be potentially deadly, Miles said he escaped the ordeal with nothing more than a sore hand which swelled to nearly "twice its size".

He urged people to be alert by carrying bandages and phones and to keep still and call for an ambulance in case they are bitten.

Tiger snakes are among Australia's most venomous and are widespread throughout the country, though few people will ever encounter one.

"Unfortunately, this species is much maligned because of its aggressive nature and toxic venom," the Australian Museum says.

"However, the tiger snake should be recognized as a great survivor, superbly adapted to some of the most inhospitable environments in Australia."

Around 3,000 people are reported to be bitten by snakes in Australia each year, with an average of two fatalities and around 500 people being hospitalized, according to the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

The aeromedical service provides emergency health care services to Australians unable to access crucial hospital services in regional and remote areas across the country.

There are around 100 venomous snake species in Australia but "only 12 are likely to inflict a wound that could kill you," the NSW government's Department of Planning, Industry and Environment explains.

"Snakes are not naturally aggressive and always prefer to retreat. They will only attack humans if hurt or provoked and most bites occur when people try to kill or capture snakes," the department advises.

A tiger snake
A tiger snake Mark Kolbe/Getty