Mainland Tiger Snake Notechis scutatus

Snakes of Victoria series

Identification

Perhaps Victoria’s best-known snake, the Mainland Tiger Snake, Notechis scutatus, varies in colour from uniform light brown to black. The most frequent pattern is alternating light and dark bands, which gives rise to the common name. It normally has 17 mid-body scale rows, although there may occasionally be 15 or 19 rows. The anal scale is single, as are the 35–65 subcaudal scales. The frontal shield scale is almost square. Adults can reach 1.5 m.

Photo of Tiger Snake (light-banded form)

Tiger Snake (light-banded form)
Photographer: Peter Robertson. Source: Wildlife Profiles Pty Ltd

Distribution and habitat

This species is common in some metropolitan areas of Melbourne, particularly the basalt plains of the western suburbs. It is widespread in Victoria although is absent from the non-riverine areas of the semi-arid north-west.

Biology and bite

Active both day and night, Mainland Tiger Snakes feed mainly on frogs, but also on a wide variety of other small vertebrates. Females usually give birth to 20–30 live young in late summer or early autumn.

Mainland Tiger Snakes are extremely dangerous and can inflict fatal bites, although they are aggressive only if aroused. 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.

Photo of Tiger Snake (grey-banded form)

Tiger Snake (grey-banded form)
Photographer: Peter Robertson. Source: Wildlife Profiles Pty Ltd

Further Reading

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.

Comments (36)

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micah 29 November, 2010 20:33
hey umm i was just wondering if u could tell me any good bushlands around ivanhoe that i will likely find these guys. I known these guys can be common even in inner suburbs like this and i think brown snakes are around ivanhoe to. They are really in there numbers around this place in summer i think. do u no of any gd bushland around ivanhoe or nearby.
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Discovery Centre 2 December, 2010 12:06

Hi Micah,

You could try around the creek systems like the Yarra Bend parklands – they like to bask on the asphalt walking tracks in summer. Tiger Snakes are highly venomous, so it is best to leave them alone – look but don’t touch! It is also illegal to capture native wildlife without permits from the Department of Sustainability and Environment. 

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Bee 6 April, 2011 16:02
Hi, I was trying to identify a snake I saw on the bike path along the Yarra river in Ivanhoe today, I assumed it was a tiger snake, but reading up i'm not so sure. It was a beautiful light silver with rather distinct, thick grey stripes (about 3 cm wide) and was about a metre long. the thing that made me question whether it really was a tiger is that it had a tiny little head, practically indistinct from it's body. It sat across the path, completely still with its head up for at least 3 minutes without moving - at 3pm on a really sunny day. i stopped someone coming the opposite direction because you couldn't get past without treading on it, and we stood right back and threw a few sticks near it. It eventually, and very very slowly moved off into the bushes. it was so different from the snakes I have seen there before (typical looking tiger and brown snakes), and such odd behavior.
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Discovery Centre 8 April, 2011 14:53
Hi Bee, unfortunately we can't do identifications without an image but if you see one again that's similar, take a snap and send it to us through our Ask the Experts Identifications page. Meanwhile you might want to look at our Bioinformatics site to see if you can identify the snake you saw.
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Claire 28 April, 2011 19:26
Hi, We live in Flowerdale, 40km north of Kinglake. Our daughter has just seen a suspected tiger snake. We had a warm day and now it is rather cold (sighting was at 5.45pm, 28/04). My two questions are a) How cold does it have to be before snakes hibernate? and b) How true is the talk of seeing snakes after earthmoving, because the day before we were excavating a proper driveway/ spillway for the nearby dam (no brainer for seeing a snake near a dam, I know :) )? We have only seen ever an old red belly, who has sadly passed away, in the same area, a year ago. Thankyou, Claire
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Discovery Centre 6 May, 2011 15:55

Hi Claire, Elapid snakes, like Tiger Snakes, usually overwinter under logs or rocks, but can be active periodically throughout winter depending on the temperature. They have a preferred body temperature of between 30 and 35 degrees and will find warm spots to bask to maintain that body temperature. Research on copperhead snakes has found that alpine copperheads can be active and hunting even when their body temperature is as low as 12.5 degrees. Activity also depends on the species and where they live. Copperheads that live in colder areas emerge from hibernation earlier in spring and in the morning and retreated earlier in the evening and in autumn than copperheads from warmer localities. I couldn’t find a specific temperature at which snakes will hibernate as they respond to the environment. I assume the tiger snake you saw was still nice and warm after basking during the day.

I am not sure about snakes being more active after earthmoving, but you may well have disturbed the snake and thus it was on the move looking for somewhere quieter to hang out.

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Drew 21 July, 2011 21:54
Hi,I have been doing some land conservation work in Maldon Vic where I am out all day on a 200 acre area.The landscape is very hilly, is covered with huge rock boulders and has long grass and plenty of fallen trees, perfect playgroud for snakes.During last summer in 2 months I saw 5 Brown snakes all quite large. Today I was up on the hill working and saw another Brown snake. It is july 21st the middle of winter, I thought snakes hibernated in Vic this time of the year. Why would snakes be out now, is it because of our mild and wet summer? Thanks Drew
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Discovery Centre 24 July, 2011 16:25

Hi Drew, Snakes don’t hibernate in the way some mammals do; instead, they go into a torpor in winter because of the cold temperatures (and remain inactive for long periods). If there is an extended warm patch in winter, which allows a snake to get warm enough, it may indeed have periods of being active in winter. So, yes in a mild winter, if the temperatures are high enough for long enough, you may see active snakes (& lizards). Read more about when snakes are active in our article "Cold Blooded" Snakes

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dean 1 August, 2011 17:54
last Sat30/7/11 at Lake Bullen Merri, I saw a snake that looked identical to the Black Tiger snakes I used to see In Tasmania and the Bass Strt islands. It was black with a creamy underside and very solid , as thick as a adult males wrist and about 1.5mts long . So , is it possible ? Are there black tiger snake in Vic?
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Jacinta 14 September, 2011 20:52
Hi,i'm doing a research report on Tiger snakes and T've been looking through books and websites but i cant find one specific answer. Help please? The question is: What is the average size of the female and the male (length, height and weight). Thanks :)
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Bonnie Kenny 16 October, 2011 06:15
Hi there, As tiger snakes are active both day and night, just wondering if they swim at night as they are often seen swimming through the day in rivers, or would it be too cold for them.
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Matthew Dykes 16 December, 2011 17:36
Hey there, how's it going? I've got a very strange fact for you which maybe has been done before. My parents live in central Wangaratta. There is a creek which runs behind their house. They used to have a late Labrador. Sadly last year she got put down by the vet after breaking her leg. About 2 years ago my Dad was digging for worms out the back near the creek with Rosie (dog) running free. Then my Dad saw her attacking a snake and Dad called her inside, in the backyard. Then my Dad went and investigated the scene. Have a guess what happened to the tiger. It was bitten in half!
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Bob Soutter 24 December, 2011 12:46
Just was out walking the dog in Yarra Bend Park, near Dights Falls and came across about a 1m long Tiger snake as depicted in this site. A very warm day today expected top temp about 32deg. Obviously out for a bit of sun baking, but headed for a dense green bush when approached. The parks people have created a new waterhole close by, so the snakes will have a constant supply of frogs and other animals.
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Tarryn 17 January, 2012 13:01
I've just spotted a second tiger snake in my back yard. I have 2 dogs and are worried they might get bitten. How can I prevent them coming in my yard? Or how can I get them removed once they are in my back yard.
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melissa 16 January, 2014 23:23
Hi Tarryn now that is a real worry!! Do you live in farming area or surburban?There could be a few reasons why snakes are attracted to your home.You certainly do not want tigers anywhere near your home.They are an extremly venemous and if bitten often fatal.A dog wouldnt stand much of a chance with a tiger.Dogs often get bitten as they try to play with snakes if seen in the yard.Call for snakes to be removed straight away they also help you with getting rid of reasons why snakes are attracted to your home.Keep all your doors closed at all times as given the chance they will come inside! Tiger snakes are very dangerous and if bitten often fatal.
lucy .S 16 February, 2012 12:24
i was wondering how do they kill their prey do they use their venom?
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Discovery Centre 19 February, 2012 16:28
Hi Lucy, tiger snakes do use venom to kill their prey, (unlike species of pythons which use constriction to kill their prey). Tiger snake venom contains neurotoxins that cause paralysis.

 

  
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Janina 9 April, 2012 08:56
Hi, I live in Nutfield Victoria, yesterday around 11am close to my house I saw the black tail of a snake disappear into some bricks in the garden and then about 4 hours later I saw a tiger snake, light brownish with a very bright yellow surrounding its head and about 1 meter long moving quite slow on a brick gutter coming from a different direction from where the first one was, it then went under my house. Is it possible that there can be two different snakes in the same area?
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Discovery Centre 13 April, 2012 11:21
Hi Janina, researchers have found that tiger snakes are territorial and remain in an area. However, it is difficult to tell if the snake seen was the same snake or a different one. If you are worried about them should contact your local council for the name of a registered snake catcher – they should be able to help you.

 

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Adrian 26 October, 2012 07:07
seen a snake the other day in the kinglake area that looked like a tiger snake but its tail was rather stumpy compared to what most discriptions show. it has been hotly debated since what sort of snake it was. any ideas?
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Discovery Centre 26 October, 2012 16:10
Hi Adrian, unfortunately without an image our Herpetologist can't say for sure what species it may have been. You may want to have a look at the Museum's Bioinformatics website which has images of all the species of snake found in Victoria, you might recognise it on this site.
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Jennifer 21 January, 2013 16:06
Caught a small, young snake in our first floor walk through wardrobe. It is striped with a small black head, approx 30cm long; very feisty. Don't know how it got there. We presume it's a tiger snake (we live near the Maribyrnong River). Are the young more venomous than the adults and is there likely to be another young one in the house somewhere?
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Josh 13 October, 2013 15:20
Hi, I saw a small (50cm), skinny snake (1.5cm) swimming in the Yarra river yesterday being chased by a Dusky Morhen bird. The snake did have stripes. Would this have been a tiger snake?
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Arni 2 December, 2013 06:10
Hi. I live in newport n yesterday dec 1st 2013 my dog found a snake n the backyard ut was 1meter long n it did have brown n white stripes. I do live around some bushland n a lake. Just want to know if it might ne possible if d anake is going to comeback for some unknown reason I dont have any birds frogs or rats or mice...please help
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Discovery Centre 4 December, 2013 12:42

Hi Arni,

Research has found that tiger snakes are territorial, so if the snake you found is a tiger snake chances are it is likely to remain in the area.  If you are concerned about the snake you should contact your local council for the name of a registered snake catcher.  

Doggy 15 December, 2013 17:35
Hi can tiger snakes swim in a pool?
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anne thornton 10 January, 2014 15:00
yesterday I observed a snake had scaled a nearby tree, killed two baby rosellas, slithered out with one of the killed rosellas, and proceeded to engorge its prey. I had great difficulty identifying the snake, no stripes, and seemed to have white around the mouth. Can copperhead snakes "climb" trees; I know that tigers can. I did take a movie of this event as best I could with my small digital camera.
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Discovery Centre 13 January, 2014 14:16
Hi Anne, if you are able to email the film or some shots of the film to discoverycentre@museum.vic.gov.au we can show them to our herpetologist and try and get you an identification. If you could quote your enquiry number which is 31316 that would be great. 
chris 31 January, 2014 07:51
i have at least two adult tiger snakes - one at back door area and one at front. There is definity two - different sizes and markings. they have given birth - saw two babies yesterday. how long do adults stay with their young? How can I get rid of them? I have just moved into the house and am afraid to move about in my garden.
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Discovery Centre 1 February, 2014 16:20

Hi Chris,

Research has found that tiger snakes are territorial, so if the snakes you found in your yard are tiger snakes they are likely to remain in the area.  The average litter size is 30, and the young are totally independent once they are born.  If you are concerned about the snakes you should contact your local council for the name of a licenced snake catcher.

mbsdavis 2 February, 2014 12:30
Hi, We live on 3.5 acres in Batesford, Victoria (8 mins drive from Geelong). Our dog was bitten & died by a tiger snake bite, 2 weeks ago, understandably we are devastated. There have been 4 dog attacks (1 lived) & 3 cat attacks, this is just in our estate! How do I protect my children? They need to be able to go outside to play & swim in our pool & I need to water our very extensive garden. I'm not sure a snake wrangler would be able to handle the amount of snakes there must be around this area. Please reply.
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Discovery Centre 4 February, 2014 12:49
It's certainly understandable to be upset about losing a family pet in these circumstances. As Museum Victoria doesn't provide information on animal control, we can't really comment except to say that perhaps your local council's environmnt officer should have some contacts that can assist with snake control.
Bob 19 October, 2014 12:50
I recently saw a bright green snake with bright yellow bands,it was swiming in the goulburn river just below the weir wall. Can anyone tell me what type it is as I have never seen one before.
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Discovery Centre 27 October, 2014 11:30

The snake is most likely a Tiger Snake (Notechis scutatus), which is one of the most variable snake species, varying from plain yellow-brown to black and many variations in between. Tiger Snakes commonly swim across the Goulbourn River at this time of year, and their darker bands often appear greenish in the water.

Alex 22 October, 2014 16:48
I just found a 30cm long what I assume is a Tiger Snake. Is this a juvenile, if so do they stay in close proximity to the parents. Should I be concerned that the adults will be close by? If they are born with so many siblings, do they stay together as they mature? I live in Humevale or Kinglake West area and have heard accounts of nearby residents losings pets to Tiger snake bites. I am sincerely worried for my dogs.
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Discovery Centre 24 October, 2014 16:23
Hi Alex - if you've seen a juvenile snake, you may see others as they disperse after hatching. As with any snake presence, keep yourselves and your pets safe by reducing hiding places (long grass, wood piles, etc) around the house, and not interfering with any snake you see, as most bites occur when people attempt to move or kill the snake. Call your local council or an approved snake removal service if you need a snake moved!
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