Small-eyed Snake Cryptophis nigrescens

Snakes of Victoria series


The Small-eyed Snake, Cryptophis nigrescens, is uniform black or dark grey on the head, back and sides, with a silvery-white opalescent belly and very small eyes. It has 15 rows of mid-body scales, a single anal scale and 30-45 single subcaudal scales. It grows up to 50 cm in length.

Photo of Small-eyed Snake

Small-eyed Snake
Photographer: Peter Robertson / Source: Wildlife Profiles Pty Ltd

Distribution and habitat

The Small-eyed Snake is widespread in the warm, dry forests of southern and eastern Victoria.

Biology and bite

A secretive, nocturnal species, the Small-eyed Snake preys predominantly on scincid lizards. Females produce up to 7 live young.

Although small it is regarded as dangerous. If bitten on a limb, apply a pressure bandage, immobilise the limb and seek medical advice immediately. If bitten elsewhere, apply continual direct pressure to the bite site. Do not wash the wound as the venom can confirm the identification of the snake.

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 (22)

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Lynette Warn 11 October, 2010 23:48
Small eyed snakes are not only found in Victoria, we got rid of one out of our laundry today, and we are in the Gulf of Carpentaria, QLD.
diana 17 October, 2010 15:22
Can they be all black? I think this is what i found in my loungeroom a couple of days ago. it was very slender and fit into the track for the sliding window.I live in Cairns
Discovery Centre 18 October, 2010 11:51
Hi Diana - Melanism (dark/black colouring) is very common in snakes, and this snake can be a dark colour as part of its natural variation. They have small live litters, and this is breeding season, so it is possible you had a juvenile in your window. However, there are many species with small, dark juveniles! Please note, this is a venomous species, and as with all snake encounters, if you are unsure please contact a local snake handler or your local council for assistance.
Micah 15 February, 2011 08:40
hey snake catchers have got a few callouts for these guys lately as the humid weather is apparently bringing them out. i have seen them on the peninsula once. I was wondering if there were a few spots or spots that u could tell me so i could take photographs of them in the wild. i no a few places one in south east melbourne one to the north east of melbournes suburbs one to the east and one the the west which that population is not so good. Generally there distribution around melbourne is the north east and the east a few spots on the mornington peninsula and a spot out west and a few uncomfirmed records south west
Phil Jackson 23 March, 2011 17:56
Think we had one to day in Langwarrin...we're on 4 acres, Mornington peninsula area. Grey with a yellowish undertinge, timid...slid away quickly under a building, about 750cms long. Is that what it is most likely to be? Definitely grey.
Discovery Centre 24 March, 2011 11:04

Hi Phil, thanks for the question.  Unfortunately, the herpetologist is not able to identify the snake from your description along, she would need an image, did you manage to take a photograph?  If so, send it in to us in the Discovery Centre, if not, keep the camera ready for the next time you are out on your property.

Shai 30 November, 2013 07:34
Hello, Does Cryptophis nigrescens have any natural predators? I'd really appreciate any information you might have on the spatial distribution of this species. Thanks!
Discovery Centre 7 December, 2013 11:59

Hi Shai,

There a number of predators for snakes including butcherbirds, goshawks, harriers, ibises, kites and kookaburras. Snakes are also parasitized for example by various ticks, nematodes and flukes. Humans of course have real impact on the success of their population – both positive and negative.


chris 5 February, 2015 17:05
I found a dead possibly small eyed snake on back path, crushed head and broken spine. All our animals were inside, what could cause these injuries? Early morning in far south coast.
Bob & Adrian 24 May, 2015 09:38
Sarsfield, 15 km NE of Bairnsdale: Found a (almost certainly) small-eyed snake (approx 40cm)in grass in front of house this morning.Temperature only about 5C. It was lethargic though got somewhat more active as sun shone onto it. Became somewhat aggressive when probed. Very noticeable white tongue.
Bob 18 June, 2015 17:14
[See initial report -Bob & Adrian - above)Found **another** small-eyed snake today on a freezing cold afternoon in exactly the same position as the previous one. I was altered by a group of white-wing choughs being very agitated and noisy and then saw the snake at their feet. Snake was either injured or inhibited by the cold; it writhed and contorted. I was able to pick it up on a plastic lawn rake and return it to the bush. Was it brought there by the choughs? Did the choughs bring it (to in front of the house) the previouys time? But, if so, how do the choughs find a hibernating snake? Perhaps, perhaps the snakes hibernate in deep leaf litter and choughs find them while foraging as they do across the ground in the open bush?
Discovery Centre 30 June, 2015 15:09

Hi Bob,

White-winged Choughs (Corcorax melanorhamphos) feed on litter-dwelling invertebrates such as insects, worms and snails, as well as seeds. They may encounter snakes during foraging, including hibernating snakes, particularly as they move through the undergrowth in a group, but they are unlikely to feed on them. Choughs, like many birds and other animals, will produce alarm calls and exhibit excitable behaviour when snakes are encountered, which may explain the behaviour you observed.

Bob and Adrian 3 July, 2015 07:45
Thank you for your feedback on our finding of the small-eyed snakes. Makes sense. Choughs are amazing birds to watch - in their social behaviour and in the way they express alarm and communicate with each other. Will post re any further sighting of small-eyed snakes.
Delia Gregg 17 October, 2015 22:44
Hi I noticed 2 snakes entangled in our verandah yesterday. I live in a hobby farm. I managed to take photos and video of them . I was alone and scared but did watched them entangled like a plait of long hair, like playing . Even took a photo of a rabbit watching near them in the grass and a black bird flying across them. This was my entertainment for the afternoon. My husband saw it too in the afternoon and nearly step on it. Quickly disappeared thru the concrete on the verandah. Saw the other one again when I was driving out.
Sarah 16 November, 2015 14:47
Do eastern small eyed snakes climb trees? I'm in North East Vic and had a snake sitting partly on top of a colour bond fence and bottle brush tree. Drop to the ground would be about 2 meters.
Discovery Centre 5 December, 2015 14:25

Hi Sarah, our manager of Live Exhibits has said Small-eyed Snakes (Cryptophis nigrescens) feeds on skinks, as well as dragons, legless lizards, other snakes and reptile eggs. But the majority of their prey is skinks, and they are thought to be active hunters. We don’t know of any records of Small-eyed Snakes climbing trees, but a surprisingly high number of snake species do climb, often in search of prey. As this species has similar habitat to others that prey on lizards, it would not be unusual if it were to be found in shrubs and other elevated positions. Keep in mind that this species is venomous and is known to have caused at least one fatality.

Jessica 14 March, 2016 22:33
hi, The local snake catcher just found on small eyed snake inside my house - living room close to the garage. our house is well protected- nor broken screen door or window. We recently adopted a kitten and have cat food in the garage ( normally sealed well. How it come inside my house? How can I stop it come inside of my house? I am in Toowoomba, 200km west of Brisbane. Thanks.
Discovery Centre 23 March, 2016 11:13
Hi Jessica, our manager of Live Exhibits says that the snake in question is probably looking for shelter and possibly escape from the hot weather, so there is little you can do to stop the snake wanting to come inside. The best option is to prevent the snake coming inside the house - seal gaps around the bottom of doors and any other gaps or cracks at the base of the building. Any opening higher or wider than 5mm is a potential entry point.
Nelly 18 April, 2016 08:53
Good Afternoon, I need an answer as soon as possible so my question is what is the population of the Eastern Small-Eyed snake?
Discovery Centre 19 April, 2016 10:49

Hi Nelly,

The eastern small eyed snake occurs along the entire eastern seaboard of Australia, from Cape York to Victoria, and is not considered a threatened species. It is not possible to know the exact population numbers of this species. Most population based research focuses on species that are endangered or threatened.

Amargi 6 February, 2017 11:05
Could you please tell me or point to where I might find information on possible symptoms of Sm-Eyed snake bite on a cat?
Discovery Centre 6 February, 2017 13:21
Hi Amargi, 

If you are concerned about the helth and safety of your pets you should proceed to a vet without delay. 
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