Are you aware that there can be a lot of colour variation between individuals within a single species of snake? It can be difficult to positively identify some snakes if you are not an expert in this field. Never approach a snake and don’t ever assume that they are non-venomous.
There are twenty-seven species of terrestrial snake found in the Brisbane area, at last count. Some snakes you will find in suburban backyards and perhaps in the city centre. The most commonly encountered snake in our area is the carpet python. Then you will find the common tree snake, keelback and yellow-faced whip snake. There are also a fair number of the white-crowned snake and eastern small-eyed snakes.
There are some highly venomous snakes found in the greater Brisbane area. These include the eastern brown snake, red-bellied black snake, small eyed snake, stephens banded snake, rough scaled snake and to a much lesser degree death adder and tiger snake. Of these snakes, only the eastern brown, red-bellied black snake and small eyed snake are commonly found in our suburbs.
Front-fanged venomous snakes (family Elapidae)
Although this family includes highly venomous snakes, the venom of most is non-life-threatening to us (unless you’re one of the few that has an allergic reaction). The venom is modified saliva used to immobilise or kill and digest their prey. Sometimes a snake uses both toxic venom and constriction to disarm their prey.
Common Death Adder (Acanthophis antarcticus)
The common death adder is variable in colour, usually with contrasting cross-bands. It has a large, almost triangular head and stubby body. It has a thin rat-like tail which ends in a curved soft spine with a cream or black tip. It feeds on reptiles, frogs, mammals and birds. It has a clever trick of using its tail to lure in dinner! It is rare almost to the point of absence in Brisbane. It can be spotted, though from Mt Nebo and Mt Glorious. The usual size of one of these fellas is 0.4 metres (m) but he can get up to 1m in length.
Eastern small-eyed snake (Cryptophis nigrescens)
This snake closely resembles the red-bellied black snake with a shiny black back and sides and a pink belly. He will often have a row of dark spots. The pink on his belly does not extend to the sides as it does in the red-bellied black snake, though. His eyes are tiny, hence his name. They are black and difficult to spot. His favourite hangouts include dark areas under sheets of tin. He loves to hide under rocks and the bark on fallen logs. His main food sources are small reptiles and on occasions, he is known to enjoy frogs. This snake is often spotted across Brisbane. He will grow to an average length of 0.5m.
Red-bellied black snake (Pseudechis porphyriacus)
The red-bellied black snake is shiny black above with a red belly. It is like the small-eyed snake. You will find these in a variety of habitats. Usually near water but more often encountered in wetter vegetation communities. They tend to be active during the day and are often found basking in sunny patches in the grass. Red-bellied blacks feed on frogs as their first choice but also eat small mammals and reptiles. This species was once common across Brisbane. Because of its enjoyment of preying on cane toads, its numbers been seen to reduce considerably. It is now restricted to the cooler areas north and south of Brisbane and will grow to an average length of 1.5m.
Black-bellied swamp snake or marsh snake (Hemiaspis signata)
Venomous—treat bites from adults with caution
The marsh snake is olive to grey above with a grey to black belly. She has two narrow pale lines on each side of his face. These run along the upper lip and from the eye onto the neck. This snake feeds on frogs and skinks. She gives birth to up to 20 live young at a time. You will find this specimen in wet areas. These will include rainforests, creeks and wetlands across the Brisbane region. This is a small snake growing to just 50cm.
What to do when you see a snake
Again, we want to reiterate, you should never approach a snake and you should never assume it will not hurt you. As a general rule, a snake will not attack BUT if he feels threatened by you many of our resident snakes will have a go!
You should always assume you are in trouble if you have been bitten and get call 000 (even in the absence of pain). They will advise you the best course of action. Please familiarise yourself with the Pressure Immobilisation Technique (PIT) as this will buy you considerable time by slowing down the movement of venom.
As professional snake catchers in Brisbane. It is fair to say that we are in a great position to confirm that very few people get bitten by snakes. Usually, people who come across a snake are sensible and give it a wide berth. If the snake is in your home or you are worried about pets or children being scared or hurt then give Pat a call, 0407 129 260. He is based in Warner, but he and his peers cover the whole of the Brisbane region.