Types of Snakes in Australia

So what different types of snakes are there in Australia?

Australia is world-famous as a country of most venomous snakes. And it is true – Australian venomous snakes outnumber the non-venomous ones, but not all kill humans.

Most of the venomous of snakes in this country are relatively small and only have enough venom to kill small mammals and reptiles. Also they are shy and rarely seen. Here is some information about what do snakes eat, and the different types of snakes in Australia.
Jungle Carpet Python
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Types of Snakes in Australia: Python Snakes
But let’s start with the non-venomous ones. The most impressive types of snakes in this country are pythons. Pythons are a mostly tropical group of non-venomous snakes with 13 (of the world’s 25) species found in Australia. Pythons are often classified in the same family with Boas, because of their large size and ability to kill and consume large mammals (there are exceptions like Pygmy Python that is only 60cm long). Like Boas, they are non-venomous because they kill their prey by constricting the ability of the prey to breathe until it suffocates. Pythons are so large that they can control their body temperature by shivering, and unlike most other snakes they take care of their young.

Amethystine Python, Native to Philippine Islands
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Types of Snakes in Australia: Python Snakes
Amethystine Python (Morelia amethistina), Australia’s largest snake, is five metres long and eats large wallabies. It is found in the eastern coast of far north Queensland. Some of the commonest pythons in Australia are Stimson’s Python (Antaresia stimsoni) and Woma (Aspidites ramsayi) which live in large areas of Australian inland; and Carpet Python (Morelia spilota) that lives in large areas in Queensland; coastal and inland areas in New South Wales, South Australia, south-western WA, Kimberley and the Top End of Northern Territory. Black-headed Python (Aspidites melanocephalus), Water Python (Liasis mackloti) and Olive Python (Liasis olivaceus) live in coastal and inland areas of northern Australia. Childern’s Pyhton (Antaresia childreni) is restricted to Kimberley and the Top End of Northern Territory; Spotted Python (Antaresia Maculosa) to the east coast of Queensland; and the tiny Pigmy Python (Antaresia perthensis) to the Pilbara region in Western Australia. The rest are very rare and occur in small locations: Rough-scaled Python (Morelia carinata) is found in Kimberley, Oenpelli Rock Python (Morelia oenpelliensis) in the Top End of Northern Territory, and Green Tree Python (Morelia viridis) in Cape York in north Queensland.

Green Tree Python, , Chondropython Viridis, Heat Sensory Pits, Australia, New Guinea
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Types of Snakes in Australia: Colubrid Snake Group
The second group of non-venomous terrestrial snakes is colubrid snakes. Colubridae is the largest family of snakes world-wide, but because there are only 10 species of colubrid snakes found in Australia, it is believed that they have developed elsewhere. Australian colubrid snakes are all found in northern and eastern parts of the continent, none are found in the cool southern temperate or the inland arid habitats. None of Australian colubrids are dangerous to humans, but they look more like Australian venomous snakes than do the pythons. The three most common colubrid snakes are Brown Tree Snake (Boiga irregularis), Common Tree Snake, aka Green Tree Snake (Dendrelaphis punctulata) and Keelback (Tropidonophis mairii) which are all found in quite large areas along Australian northern and eastern coasts between Broome in west and Sydney in east, and in northern areas they’ve spread a fair bit into the inland. Macleay’s Water Snake (Enhydris polylepis) and Slaty-grey Snake (Stegonotus cucullatus) are restricted to the Cape York Peninsula in northern Queensland, and the Top End of Northern Territory. Australian Bockadam (Cerberus australia), White-bellied Mangrove Snake (Fordonia leucobalia), and Richardson’s Mangrove Snake (Myron richardsonii) are found only on the coastal areas of northern Australia between the tip of Cape York peninsula in east and Port Headland in west. And finally, the Slate-brown snake (Stegonotus parvus) is only found on Murray Island in western Torres Straits.
A Snake Skin on a Fern in the Blue Mountains
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Types of Snakes in Australia: Venomous Snakes
All the rest of the different types of snakes in Australia are venomous – they constitute a large group of 91 described species (out of the total of 130 snake species in Australia). But the large majority of Australian venomous snakes are only slightly venomous - only 25 species are capable to kill humans.

Close-Up of a Western Taipan (Oxyuranus Scutellatus)
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Types of Snakes in Australia: Taipan Snakes
Two of the most lethal and feared Australian snakes are taipan snakes. Both are large, two metres long, feed exclusively on mammals, and are diurnal, often active during hot weather. Taipans inject a massive dose of highly toxic venom in their prey, then release it and follow it until it dies. The so-called Coastal Taipan, or just taipan, (Oxyuranus scutellatus) is an extremely alert yellowish-or-reddish-brown-to-black snake with a paler head than body. It is found along the whole eastern coast of Queensland, on the northern coast of the Top end in Northern Territory, and on the coast of Kimberley in Western Australia. Its habitats include but are not limited to canefields, woodlands and monsoon forests and it is often found on well-timbered grassy slopes. It will flee when approached but defend itself when cornered, and it can deliver many quick bites. Western Taipan, also called Inland Taipan or Fierce Snake (Oxyuranus microlepidotus) is a variably coloured snake with a seasonal colour change from pale yellowish to dark brown. Its head and tail are glossy black in winter and fade in summer. It is a rare snake, found in inland south-western Queensland in Cooper Creek drainage, around Coober Pedy and in north-eastern areas of South Australia. Its venom is the most toxic known for any terrestrial snake in the world, but it is a shy snake and rarely willing to bite, even if provoked.

A Captive Taipan, One of the Worlds Ten Most Poisonous Snakes
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Types of Snakes in Australia: Copperhead Snakes
Many copperhead snakes may be harmless in the Northern Hemisphere, but in Australia they are venomous. They are moderate to very large snakes that shelter under logs and rocks and eat various vertebrates, but mostly frogs and skinks. Copperheads are restricted to Australia’s southern and eastern areas, often occupying habitats that are too cool for most other snakes. The two largest species have caused fatalities and should be considered dangerously venomous. The largest, Lowlands Copperhead (Austrelaps superbus) is up to 1.8 metres long and either brown, grey or almost black. It is found in southern Victoria, Bass Strait Islands, and most of Tasmania (except the south-western corner), often in moist areas and near water in forests, woodlands and heath. The next largest copperhead, Highlands Copperhead (Austrelaps ramsayi) is not longer than 1.1m long and its colour varies from reddish brown to dark grey. It is found in eastern Victoria, and in New England Tableland and other, southern, areas in New South Wales, often in moist habitats in cool upland. The smallest of the copperheads, the 87mm-long Pygmy Copperhead (Austrelaps labialis) is pale brown to dark grey. It is found on Kangaroo Island, and in a small area in South Australian mainland - on Fleurieu Peninsula. The island populations are often found in coastal dunes and farmland, while the mainland snakes inhabit high-altitude stringybark forests.

Close Up of a Bandy Bandy Snake Head with Tongue Out
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Types of Snakes in Australia: Death Adders
The name of types of snakes called Death Adders speaks for itself - some species are amongst the most fatal of Australian snakes, but it’s best to consider them all dangerous. They are widespread, slow-moving snakes with a stocky appearance and stripy pattern, and a common hunting strategy: they lie under grass or leaves with their tail-top out and when a prey approaches, the move their tail-top mimicrying a small worm and luring the prey into the range of a fast strike. Common Death Adder (Acanthophis antarcticus) is the largest and most dangerous, up to one metre long snake with reddish brown stripy and stocky body, and powerfully neurotoxic venom. It is found in coastal and inland areas of Queensland and New South Wales, and along the southern coast of Australia from Yorke Peninsula in east to Perth in west. Northern Death Adder (Acanthophis praelongus) is 60cm long, grey to dark or reddish brown, and found in woodlands and grasslands on eastern coast of Cape York in northern Queensland, and the Top End of Northern Territory and the Kimberley in Western Australia. Desert Death Adder (Acanthophis pyrrhus) is a 70cm long pale reddish brown to red snake that lives in Spinifex deserts in large areas of inland and Western Australia. Pilbara Death Adder (Acanthophis wellsi) is the smallest, 50cm-long reddish brown snake that lives in spinifex grasslands on stony soil in Pilbara region and North West Cape in Western Australia.

Close Up of a Central Death Adder on Ground
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Types of Snakes in Australia: Tiger Snake
Australian Tiger snakes belong to the same species (Notechis scutatus), although they live in isolated populations in south-western WA, southern South Australia, most of Victoria (except north), the whole coast of New South Wales and the whole Tasmania, and they vary widely in colour and size. The specimens from South Australia tend to be black, Tasmanian specimens grey to yellow, in Western Australia they vary from olive to black, and in south eastern areas of Australia they tend to be paler, brown to olive. Size varies from 90cm to 2m. Tiger Snakes are diurnal and generally favour cool moist areas and tussock. They are abundant near human settlements and have caused many fatalities, but the taxonomy of Tiger Snakes is still not sorted.

Colletts Snake Spread Out on a White Studio Background
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Types of Snakes in Australia: Black Snakes
Australian Black snakes include six large to very large species which despite the name of their group, are mostly brown. They eat mammals, birds, reptiles, frogs and fish, and they are all dangerously venomous. The largest and the most common of the group is King Brown Snake, also called Mulga Snake (Pseudechis australis) which is up to 2.5m long and is found everywhere in Australia except the cooler and moister areas in south-eastern and south-western Australia. Its colour varies from pale brown to olive and reddish brown. Its habitats vary from tropical woodlands to arid desert, and it is nocturnal or diurnal depending on the temperature. All the other types of snakes in this group are less common, but not less poisonous. The infamous Red-bellied Black Snake (Pseudechis porphyriacus) is found in eastern Victoria and New South Wales, south-eastern Queensland and the coastal areas between Cairns and Mackay in north Queensland. It is one of Australia’s most attractive types of snakes with a black back and a red belly, often seen in swamps and other moist areas like riverbanks. Red-bellied Black eats mostly frogs, and its populations have been decreasing since the introduction of the poisonous cane toad. The 1.5m-long Collett’s Snake (Pseudechis colletti) is a shy snake and seldom seen, found in the arid areas in inland Queensland, where it lives in grasslands and clayish plains. Its colour varies from grey to reddish brown and it has got cream or pink bands across its body. Spotted Black Snake, aka Blue-bellied Black Snake (Pseudechis guttatus), also 1.5m long, is a grey to pale brown or reddish brown snake that is found in woodlands, river floodplains and temporary wetlands in north-eastern New South Wales and south-eastern Queensland. Spotted Mulga Snake (Pseudechis butleri) is a dark grey to black, 1.6m long snake and it is found in scrublands and mulga woodlands in the interior of Western Australia. The huge, 2.14m-long Papuan Black Snake (Pseudechis papuanus) is brown to black and it is only found in freshwater and saltwater wetlands on the little Saibay Island in Torres Strait.

Snake Sign at Museum of Modern Art in Heidi, Melbourne, Australia
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Other Types of Snakes in Australia
Other poisonous Australian snakes (such as Whipsnakes, Shovel-nosed Snakes, Crowned Snakes, Hooded Snakes and others) mostly contain species that may be poisonous but they are harmless to humans except that their bait can be painful. The few that do have enough poison to be dangerous for us include Myall Snake (Suta Suta), Eastern Small-eyed Snake (Cryptophis nigrescens), and Rough-scaled Snake (Tropidechis carinatus). Myall Snake is the only one that is widespread - it is found in large areas in inland Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and Northern Territory. But it is a fairly small snake, 60cm long, olive brown to reddish brown, and only larger individuals pose a real danger. Eastern Small-eyed Snake is also a small snake, up to 1m long. It is glossy black with no pattern and it inhabits woodlands, heaths and rocky outcrops along the whole coast of eastern Australia between Melbourne in south and Cooktown in north. Although there is only one recorded fatality, the species is dangerously venomous.

A Canyoneer Watches for Serpents in Tiger Snake Canyon
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Where to See the Different Types of Snakes in Australia?
Don't use this guide to decide whether a snake is poisonous or not – Australian snakes are so numerous and variable you need to be a specialist to recognise them for sure. An excellent way to see Australian snakes but still stay safe is to visit Australia’s many animal sanctuaries and zoo parks where you can get close to non-venomous snakes such as large pythons. Alice Springs Reptile Centre is definitely to recommend for snakes and also thorny devils and other Australian reptiles.

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