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