Adult Common (or Eastern) Brown Snakes, Pseudonaja textiles, are uniformly brown. Juveniles have a black head, with a lighter bar behind, a black nape, and numerous red-brown spots on the belly. Occasionally they have dark cross-bands. The Common Brown has 17 rows of mid-body scales, a divided anal scale and 45–75 divided subcaudal scales. In some specimens a few anterior subcaudal scales are single. It is a relatively slender species and can grow to just over 2 m long.
Adult Common Brown SnakePhotographer: Peter Robertson / Source: Wildlife Profiles Pty Ltd
This species is widespread over most of Victoria except for the Otways and most of Gippsland. In the Melbourne region it is restricted mostly to the western and northern suburbs. It prefers dry, open habitats.
The Common Brown Snake is active both day and night. It will eat a wide variety of vertebrates but prefers lizards up to the size of the Stumpy-tailed Lizard. Females lay up to 35 eggs in cracks in the soil.
This is a fast-moving snake and is extremely dangerous. Even subadults have caused fatalities. If bitten on a limb, apply a pressure bandage, immobilise the limb and seek medical advice immediately. If bitten elsewhere, apply continuous direct pressure to the bite site. Do not wash the wound, as the venom on the skin can be used to identify the appropriate antivenom.
Juvenile Common Brown SnakePhotographer: Peter Robertson / Source: Wildlife Profiles Pty Ltd
Coventry, A. J. and Robertson, P. 1991. The Snakes of Victoria – A Guide to their Identification. Department of Conservation & Environment/Museum of Victoria.
Cogger, H. 2000. Reptiles and Amphibians of Australia. Reed Books.
Wilson, S. & Swan, G. 2003. Reptiles of Australia. Princeton University Press.
Hi Jarrad - in most cases a permit is required to keep native animals depending on the species, and in all cases the animals kept in captivity should come from captive stock such as from keepers or pet suppliers rather than capturing the animal yourself.
You shouldn't capture a wild native animal and keep it as a pet for a number of reasons, so we strongly recommend you let the snake go in the same location you found it for its best chance at survival. You can read more about wildlife permits, animal welfare considerations and regulations at the DSE website here.
Snake deterring sprays are available on the market or are made at home from recipes on the internet, and they usually contain fox urine, ammonia, moth balls (naphthalene) or sulfur, or a combination of these. Independent research suggests that none of them work.
Both garlic and geraniums are reported to keep snakes away, but this is undoubtedly a myth. Particularly as there are reports of Copperhead snakes being found basking in garden beds alongside geraniums.
A snake will be attracted to a location by food more than anything else, and any deterrent must be overpowering to keep the snake away from a food source. And anything so overpowering to a snake will also be overpowering to us.
The best option is to make your house unattractive to snakes:
- remove as many rodents as possible, which are the snake's primary source of food;
- remove sources of shelter, such as sheets of tin or wood piles;
- prevent snakes getting under the house or into other cool dark locations;
- cut the grass low around the house - snakes don't generally like to cross open areas without shelter.
Eastern Brown Snakes (Pseudonaja textilis) don't have a nest and the mother doesn't stay with or care for the young after they have hatched. If there is sufficient food available, the young will remain in the same area as their mother, but if food is scarce they will have to move off and find their own hunting grounds. The large one you saw may be the mother or, if food is abundant, may be another snake living in the same area.
Snakes generally bite only to catch prey or defend themselves, but if a snake perceives itself to be under threat, it will bite even if the threat is accidental or inadvertant (eg someone gets to close without knowing the snake is there).
The best way to avoid coming into contact with snakes is to eliminate their sources of food and shelter. Rats and mice are a favourite food, so do everything you can to get rid of them and the snakes will seek food elsewhere. Eastern Brown Snakes also like the protection of long grass and will shelter under sheets of tin, wood piles etc. Keep the grass cut short at least 10m around the house and yard, and don't store items large enough for snakes to hide in or under around the house.
Female Eastern Brown Snakes (Pseudonaja textilis) lay clutches of up to 35 eggs but the female does not stay with the eggs and they hatch to make their own way independently. Consequently the snake you encountered may have siblings, or it may be the only one to have survived or to have remained in the area. It depends on the local environment and other factors, so there is no real way to tell. Local snakecatchers (found in the phonebook or on the internet) will remove venomous snakes but only if their location can be readily identified.
Hi Claire- we checked with our Live Exhibits experts about this, and they have responded as follows:
The snake is most likely to be an Eastern Brown Snake. The female produces a clutch of eggs then moves on, leaving them to hatch on their own and fend for themselves. So the presence of a juvenile doesn’t mean there are any more around, although the vineyard might be an attractive habitat. You’re doing the right things to keep your house snake-free – removing all food, cover and potential hiding places.
Hi Jen - we checked with our Live Exhibits experts about this, and they have responded as follows:
The snake is most likely to be an Eastern Brown Snake (if it has black markings on its head) or a Copperhead. In either case the snake would be a juvenile and therefore there won’t be any eggs to worry about. There are no other snake species that fit that description in Victoria.
Hi Trish! Check out the identification guidelines, and send your image to the firstname.lastname@example.org and we will see if we can identify it for you.
Hi Stephanie, Museum Victoria’s Information Sheet is available online here, which should have some useful info for you. In addition, the Department of Sustainability and Environment fact sheet here contains the following specific information: “Brown Snakes cannot maintain a constant body temperature without help from the environment. This means that they use the sun’s warmth to raise their body temperature. They spend the duration of the cold weather in shelter.”
Hope this helps
Hi Danny. although Brown Snakes can lay up to 35 eggs in a single clutch, the average number is around 15 so the group of 12 eggs you found certainly could be from the local Brown Snakes. The eggs are laid in cracks in the soil or in abandoned animal burrows, unless the soil is particularly sandy or friable, in which case the snake may dig its own hole. Because the female snake will only leave its eggs in holes that are easy to get into, this makes it easy for the hatchling snakes to emerge from.
Brown Snakes are responsible for the majority of venomous bites (and fatalities) in Australia each year. If the snake is causing concern, your best option is to contact a professional snake catcher. There are a number of them available online or in the phone book.
Hi Bee, the best option you have is to contact a local snake catcher. There are a number of professionals available, and they can be readily found online or in the phone book.
Hi Theresa, Eastern Brown Snakes lay their eggs in cracks or depressions in the soil, or in old animal burrows, and abandon them once laid, but will remain in the general area. Therefore the eggs may have been laid by the snake in your yard, or by any other snake in the area. The average clutch size is about 16 but may be as high as 35, and take approximately 75 days to hatch.Brown Snakes feed on vertebrates such as rodents and lizards, so the best way to keep them away is to remove anything that may shelter either the snakes or their prey.
The species you have is most likely Caenoplana, which has been accidentally introduced to other parts of the world from Australia.
We hope this helps!
It sounds as if you've done what you can to keep them away. In lieu of any other measures, you may want to call in a local snake catcher whenever a snake is spotted.
A large blackish snake is most likely to be a red-bellied black snake, but it may also be an eastern brown snake or tiger snake (the latter species can sometimes appear dark at first glance). Snakes start to appear around this time every year, and for the last few years the abundant rainfall and warm summers have produced a higher than usual number of snakes, causing concern for many residents in the greater Geelong region.
Hi Meredith, thanks for the question. We have contacted the Live Exhibits Team for their advice, and they have provided the following information for you.
Brown Snakes feed on rats and mice and prefer relatively open, grassy areas. They are most likely to stay out of the house, but if the rodent population is high indoors, they may venture in. Brown Snakes tend to shelter in long grass or under sheets of tin, or even under the house, but are less likely to come inside. They are no more common in inland areas than they are at the coast, but are more common in rural and remote areas (and particularly in wheat-growing areas due to the high rodent population).
Brown Snakes prefer to stay in sheltered areas and are more comfortable in long grass than in areas of short grass and exposed territory, where they are vulnerable to predators such as birds of prey. Motorbikes and dogs don't tend to keep snakes away, but if you keep the grass around the house very short and keep the rodent population down, your house will be less attractive to them.
Also, wear thick boots when outside the house and make sure your presence is felt when moving about. Remember too that snakes are protected wildlife in Victoria, so it is illegal to one. However, if the snake is in a place that it could be a problem for people or pets (e.g., near a house), residents can arrange for a licensed commercial snake catcher to remove them. Snake catcher contacts are available through Department of Sustainability and Environment on Ph. 136 186 and local councils.
We certainly hope this helps!
Hi Cody - we've posed this to our Live Exhibits team, who have the following reply for you:
Snakes, like other animals, sometimes give rise to a range of unusual forms. This may be a one-off, or a genetic variation such as leucism, which often gives an animal blue eyes. However, in leucistic animals the rest of the body tends to be white or at least paler than usual.
Although this is possible, the more likely explanation is that the snake is sloughing. As the skin of the eye starts to separate, it can become cloudy and give the appearance of a bluish sheen.
Hi Maia,The Australian Venom Research Centre has a great website with information about Brown Snakes and their venom.
Marianne - All snakes are protected wildlife in Victoria; it is illegal to kill a snake. If the snake is in a place that it could be a problem for people or pets you should arrange for a licensed commercial snake catcher to remove them; apart from it being illegal to kill a snake, it is also potentially very dangerous as the animals naturally would behave in an aggressive defensive manner. Snake catcher contacts are available through Department of Sustainability and Environment on Ph. 136 186 and local councils.
We are not able to suggest an identification on the basis of what you have described here; in the absence of a specimen (hacked up or otherwise), it is impossible to suggest if there are likely to be more.
Hi Michelle - we have checked with our expert keepers from the Museum's Live Exhibits crew, who have the following reply for you:
A little dog will succumb to the effects of a brown snake bite very quickly and the chances of survival are fairly small. One of the Museum’s staff members had a Jack Russell that was bitten by a Brown Snake and it died in less than ten minutes. Larger dogs have a better chance but the difference tends to be marginal. Even in humans the death rate from Brown Snake envenomation can be quite high. Early symptoms are usually vomiting and frothing at the mouth.
Brown Snakes generally prefer drier areas but it’s unlikely that soaking the area would have much effect. If the snake is no longer around it has more than likely moved on by its own accord.
Hope this info helps
Hi Robyn - it appears that the snake reaches maturity at about 3 years of age; as the size of an adult Eastern Brown Snake is about 2 metres and you mentioned that your snake was about 1.5 metres, we would say that your snake would be close to fully grown. As to whether it has a mate, this is difficult to be certain; we advise you take care walking in that area, treat the area as if it has a mate close at hand. Females lay 10 to 35 eggs , and when hatched the young would certainly spend some time in the immediate vicinity
Regarding the red blotches are concerned, snakes in general often have variable colour patterns even in similar species, so the markings you describemay not be an indication of age. The following websites may be of interest: http://www.avru.org/general/general_eastbrown.html and http://www.qm.qld.gov.au/Find+out+about/Animals+of+Queensland/Reptiles/Snakes/Common+and+dangerous+species/Eastern+Brown+Snake
Hope this is of some help
Hi Meryl, apologies for the delay in getting back to you. Brown Snakes are about 27cm in length upon hatching from the egg. A Brown Snake 5 feet in length is likely to be an adult.
A female Brown Snake is capable of laying anywhere from 10-35 eggs. Females remain in the nesting burrow for up to 5 weeks after laying their eggs, possibly defending them against predators such as lizards or mice. Several females may lay their eggs in the same nest site, and return year after year to use the same location. If conditions are favourable, the female may lay a second clutch of eggs later on in the summer.
Brown Snakes are more common in dry country and as these snakes are attracted to things like mice, rats and birds can be common around farms and barns.
Hi Brittany, it could be that the snake you found on your property was trying to find a resting place and under wood is a perfect spot. If it is still resting under there you may want to have the individual removed from your property as it sounds like it has taken up residence on the balcony. If it has moved on already maybe it was just using it as a resting place as it was moving through the area. To stop it happening on the balcony or other places close to the house the best thing you can do is remove the hiding places that they want to stay in. By providing habitat away from your residence will help keep the snakes away from where you are.
Here is some information from the DSE;
Whilst the Eastern Brown Snake occurs throughout much of Victoria, including the north-east of the state, there are few reliable records above 1000 m, and it is not considered to be a resident species in the alpine and sub-alpine parts of the state. Snakes that occur in the alps include the small White-lipped Snake (Drysdalia coronoides), Highland Copperhead (Austrelaps ramsayi) and the Tiger Snake (Notechis scutatus). The first two species are very common in the alps. Tiger Snakes are less common, but have been observed in recent years around Dinner Plain and on the Dargo High Plains Road. It is always possible that snakes can be inadvertently transported around the landscape, so it is not out of the question for Brown Snakes to appear in the alps. However their breeding biology (they lay eggs, whereas the other 2 species give birth to live young) is not well suited to a cold and unpredictable environment, where eggs left to the mercy of the prevailing conditions would be likely to fail. All 3 of the snake species that reliably occur in these areas can be variable in colour. Although most Tiger Snakes are banded, unbanded forms do occur, and their uniform brown colour often leads people to believe that they are Brown Snakes. Similarly, the White-lipped Snake can vary from greyish to brick-red. The Highland Copperhead is usually a dark charcoal colour, but lighter variations do occur.
My advice would be to leave the snake alone, as you are more likely to get bitten if trying to move or contain it. Make sure kids and pets are kept well away from the snake – the best bet would be to stay indoors – until a registered snake catcher can come to remove the snake.
We love receiving comments, but can’t always respond.
Hi Liam -
A juvenile brown snake is highly venomous. And the best thing is to leave them alone – you are more likely to get bitten trying to kill them, so it is not a good idea to try to kill a snake. If you see a snake move away from it slowly and tell an adult immediately.
Snakes are protected wildlife in Victoria, so it is illegal to kill a snake. However, if the snake is in a place that it could be a problem for people or pets (e.g., near a house), residents can arrange for a licensed commercial snake catcher to remove them. Snake catcher contacts are available through Department of Sustainability and Environment on Ph. 136 186 and local councils.
I am so sad I couldn't attend tonight's function because of work, so please please please, do this Smart Bar again soon so I can go!!!!!
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Found a baby copperhead today that is about 15 cms long. How old would it be and would there be a nest of them close by?