Eastern Brown snake (pseudonaja textilis)
Other common names: Brown Snake, Common Brown Snake
Toxicity: Highly venomous. Approximately two thirds of snakebite fatalities in Australia are attributable to the Brown Snake genus.
Description: Slender body with indistinct head. The eyebrow is very evident, giving the snake a fierce look. Colours vary from grey, through olive, light brown, dark brown to almost black. The lighter shades are the most common in the Tweed. Underside is a dirty white often with conspicuous grey, brown or orange spots. Can grow to over 2.5 metres in length.
Juvenile Eastern Brown Snakes look nothing like the adult. They are generally banded (although the number of bands and their weight varies) with a distinct heavy black band on the neck and a black mark on the head. The venom of a juvenile Eastern Brown Snake is as venomous as the adult.
The Eastern Brown Snake is a member of the front fanged venomous Elapid family.
General habits: The Eastern Brown Snake is distributed widely throughout the eastern half of Australia. It is active during the day, fast moving, capable of climbing but normally found on the ground. Eastern Brown Snakes spend approximately 90% of their time underground however, during summer they will remain above ground overnight.
Eastern Brown Snakes have an undeserved reputation as an aggressive snake that will attack humans. There are may anecdotal stories of people being chased by Eastern Brown Snakes, however, several studies have shown that the snake will only strike as a last resort (after raising it’s head in an S shape and hissing in warning). Occasionally the snake will follow up the strike but then quickly turn away and flee. Adult snakes can withhold venom during a strike. One study was conducted examining Eastern Brown Snake defensive strikes over a number of variables including ambient temperature, size of snake, speed of strike, whether venom was released, accuracy of strike etc. Over 80% of defensive strikes were dry strikes where no venom was released.
Fortunately Eastern Brown Snakes have some of the smallest fangs of the Australian Elapids. Wearing solid shoes and long trousers when out walking is a good defence against Eastern Brown Snake bites (although not infallible). Venom released during a bite will enter the lymphatic system rather than directly into the blood system. This gives the victim time, providing the correct first aid actions are applied.
Diet: Lizards, frogs, mice, rats, birds, small mammals and other species of snakes. The Eastern Brown Snake will strike and hold its prey, wrapping it’s body around the victim.
Locally: Found in all locations in the Tweed, though very seldom in cooler months. Eastern Brown Snakes are relatively common around houses, especially where they back onto bush or open spaces. They will flee if approached but, if cornered, will raise up in a classic S shape and hiss. They feel threatened and react to quick movement. By remaining still, the snake will relax and move away.
Reducing the likelihood of mice and rats being around by keeping gardens tidy and bird and chook feed cleaned up will go a long way to reducing the chance of an Eastern Brown Snake frequenting your property.
Reproduction: Eastern Brown Snakes lay 10-30 eggs in a burrow at a depth of about 30cm.