Snake Species

Red Bellied Black Snake

Pseudechis porphyriacus

Description
The Red Belly Black Snake is commonly and distinctively glossy black, and sometimes has a very lightly tipped brown snout.  The outer sides and ventral surface (belly) is bright red fading to dull pinkish red.  Northern species can have reduced red colouration, which is sometimes replaced by blueish to gray ventrals.

Distribution & Habitat
Red Belly Black Snakes are found from the Northern parts of Victoria along the Eastern coast of NSW and southern parts of Queensland.  There are also small pockets found South East of Cape York Peninsula, Central Eastern Queensland and South Eastern South Australia.

Usually associated with water ways, and often observed along streams, rivers, marshes, swamps, creeks and wetland habitats.  They can forage widely and males in particular will travel some distance in spring looking for potential mates.  Although the habitat of this snake is usually in the vicinity of water, they can be found away from such areas.

Behaviour
Usually seen to flee away from disturbance and often take flight into water where it may remain submerged for some time. When threatened this snake will hiss, flatten its neck and sometimes thrash violently. While this snake may bite if injured or attacked it still commonly will hope to bluff its way out of trouble.

Diet
The Red Belly Black Snake is largely a frog predator, but will also take lizards e. g Garden skinks. Occasionally ophiophagus and takes snakes of various species. Queensland and northern NSW populations appear to have rapidly declined since the introduction of the Cane Toad Bufo Marinus although it appears these populations may be on the increase again.

Reproduction
A maximum-recorded number of live young were 80. However the average is 8 - 40 usually born in membranous sacs form which they emerge minutes after.

Conservation Significance
Some local populations suffer in North Queensland from the spread of cane toads due to its poisonous glands which secrete a toxin. The urban sprawl also seems to affect the Red Bellied Black Snake whether from lack of home sites or food losses is not clear. Rarely seen in Metropolitan Melbourne, remains common in Sydney regions. Frog numbers if adversely affected will also affect this snake in it's habitat.

Myth
This snake has the reputation of chasing away Brown Snakes or of keeping them away.  The truth is that they live in different habitat types; the Brown preferring arid dry habitats, and the Red Belly preferring wetland areas.  This snake will eat smaller snakes if given the opportunity, but does not have a preference of Brown Snakes, and will even eat its own kind.

Eastern Brown Snake

Pseudonaja textilis

Description
The Eastern Brown Snake can be highly variable in colour; while commonly uniformly light to tan brown, other colours may be blackish or reddish. Smaller snakes 300 - 600mm may have faint or indistinct bands occasionally confusing them for Tiger Snakes. The head is indistinct from its body, with the belly usually faintly dotted with orange or small black spots.

Juveniles have a dark blackish head (except for nose) with a black nuchal band. Also may have bands or rings partially or through out body. These fade with age and seem to be more common in Northern states.

Distribution & Habitat
Common to abundant over much of its eastern range; found in most areas of Victoria, NSW and Queensland, also found in SE South Australia, Eastern & Southern NT and some areas of NE WA. Well known and established in rural areas and along agriculture communities.

Habitats tend to grasslands and Dry Scheropyll forests situated in dry locations especially with rocky outcrops. However it can be widespread and found in many habitat types.

Behaviour
The Eastern Brown Snake has highly developed eyesight, is diurnal and heliothermic (sun-basking) but can also be seen at night especially on warm humid evenings. A highly nervous, swift moving and alert snake which usually prefers to prevent confrontations with home owners.

It is very quick to flee when seen or threatened but when cornered or attacked can be an explosive snake which will repeatedly lunge and defend vigorously. If attacked will inflict multiple bites in quick succession. 

Often confused with the Lowlands Copperhead, as they have similar colouration, but completely different behavioural patterns.

Diet
An excellent House mouse predator with no peers, these snakes forage and can devour a family of mice in a single meal when they trap the group in their holes. Essential in their ability to control pest species it is ignorant of Australian farmers to persecute this snake around the farm.

The Eastern Brown snake is well known to forage widely and can travel several kilometers while hunting or during mating season. 

While largely a predator of the common House mouse, it also preys heavily on rats, lizards, frogs, other snakes, bird nestlings and baby rabbits, its slender body enabling it to actively chase lizards and other quick moving prey.

Also a common predator of Eastern Blue Tongue lizards, particularly juveniles, which does tend to disprove the theory that these lizards keep snakes away.

Reproduction
Mating occurs in October to late Spring females oviduucal eggs are seen in late November to December. Male combat can be seen in this species. An egg layer with clutches of 10 -35 eggs.

Conservation Significance
Not considered to be under much pressure from urban development and are quite successful in agriculture regions. It is one of the few Australian native animals which has thrived on an introduced species, and has had a significant increase in numbers due to house mouse numbers, which are abundant in these regions.

Myth
A common predator of Blue Tongue lizards, particularly juveniles, which does tend to disprove the theory that these lizards keep snakes away.

Lowland Copperhead

Austrelaps superbus

Description
Highly variable in colour with brown being the dominant shade it is also frequently found in shades of black, light brown and red.  Juveniles are usually lighter in colour and can have a vertebral stripe, which may also be present in some adults. Head is almost indistinct in shape from body and in most snakes is distinctively lighter than the rest of the body colouration. Frequently mistaken for Red Belly Black Snakes and Eastern Brown Snakes.

Distribution & Habitat
Common to abundant over much of Eastern Australia, Sydney, Melbourne and Hobart. Its abundance often encouraged by dense tussock grasslands in its range. Commonly seen in Melbourne metropolitan South Eastern suburbs and along the Mornington Peninsula: one of the only snakes found on Phillip Island.

Commonly observed in areas of large water bodies , dams, swamps, wet paddocks and wet grasslands. Diurnal, heliothermic and terrestrial, with occasional crepuscular and nocturnal foraging on hot evenings. An essential snake to control populations of frogs and lizards and even its own populations.

Behaviour
Essentially timid and shy snake, an almost impossible snake to entice to bite. Clients have stood on these snakes for thirty seconds and not been bitten which is testament to it largely inoffensive nature. Exception to this is on very hot days 30+ degrees, where it can become cantankerous.

Defense consists of mock closed mouth strikes and hissing inflating its body and flattening of neck to lesser degrees than Tiger Snakes.

Essentially seen around premises foraging for lizards and frogs, this snake is commonly removed in the hottest months inside premises due to excessive temperatures outside which can be fatal.

Diet
An ectothermic predator which preys on frogs, lizards, snakes (including its own species) and occasionally in larger specimens mice.  In Tasmania this species has been observed to take flightless grasshoppers.

Reproduction
Mating in Lowlands Copperheads occurs in early spring, with live young born in late summer (February to April) They have an average of 15 live young, with records of up to 31. The young are seen in February to April, although it is largely dependent on weather variables.

Conservation Significance
While under pressure in local populations due to land clearing they have flourished in most rural areas around dams and large ponds. Areas of grasslands and swamps can support good numbers and should provide safe havens for the short term.

Myth
This snake is most commonly persecuted because it has the unfortunate resemblance to the more dangerous Eastern Brown Snake.  Most people sight this snake in their backyards where pets or children could play, and assume it is the Brown Snake.  In truth if an Eastern Brown Snake was cornered in a backyard, this would most often result in a snake bite, and sometimes death of the pet due to its willingness to bite regularly and inject venom repeatedly.

All snakes are best left alone and only removed by a professional licensed snake catcher.

Eastern Tiger Snake

Notechis scutatus

Description
Highly variable in colour with range from grey, brown, black, red and yellow. While commonly banded this is not always apparent in all snakes.  The belly can be cream, yellow, grey and olive green with the head dark grey blueish or blackish and very distinct from the body.

Distribution & Habitat
Common to abundant over much of its eastern Australian range. Widespread in New South Wales, Victoria and local populations in South Australia and Queensland. This snake is usually common to abundant in regions it is found, predominantly common in well watered areas such as swamps, wetlands, creeks and river beds.

The Eastern Tiger Snake is a diurnal snake which is normally terrestrial but commonly seen climbing shrubs, small trees and fences. Usually seen basking in the morning on footpaths and walkways in large suburban parks. Crepuscular and nocturnal on warm evenings.

It is easily observed due to its ability to survive in habituated regions, and its terrible eyesight it is an easily identifiable species due to its distinct banding.

In particular this snake has made use of pest and exotic vegetation e. g. Ivy, Agapanthus sp, Fishbone Ferns which can potentially protect smaller snakes from predation. Common in suburbs of Melbourne, Hobart and Perth.

Behaviour
The Eastern Tiger Snake has the unfortunate detriment of poor eyesight; and is the main reason people stumble accross them unawares, and it also has the legendary reputation for aggression and viciousness, which comes from its defense when being attacked or threatened. All snakes when captured would flee except when injured, had large food items (restricting flight) or were cornered.

These snakes then rely on bluff by open mouth strikes or hissing explosively. Tiger snakes will bite when physically touched (restrained by hand) or injured by sticks, rocks or other animals.  Further proven when dogs or cats bail them up that these snakes will not bite until an animal bites them.

However most bites from Tiger Snakes arrive from accidentally walking on them, placing hands on them when gardening or by people deliberately trying to harm them.

Diet
The Eastern Tiger Snake is largely a frog predator when young, but they have evolved to prey on the now abundant House mouse and Black Rats. This snake will also take nestlings, small birds (especially in aviaries) and lizards e. g Garden skinks.

Reproduction
Maximum recorded number of live young was 80. However the average is around 22 but quite variable. Mating is seen from September through till November but occasionally seen in December. Males do have ritual combat.

Conservation Significance
Some populations appear to decline due to the natural expansion of residential estates and commercial premises. Drainage of swamplands, irrigation from rivers and unsustainable agriculture have a heavy effect on these snakes. Habitat disturbance such as mowing, flooding, fires, rock removal also contribute.

Myth
The Eastern Tiger Snake is commonly called aggressive.  However this usually stems from its highly defensive nature and its willingness to defend itself by attacking; this can be from something thrown at it, or from a dog or cat.  When attacked this snake will defend itself quite viciously, often chasing its attacker and biting repeatedly. 

Unfortunately for the Eastern Tiger Snake it has poor eyesight; giving it a disadvantage when large would be predators seemingly attack it.