Australia is understood for its dangerous snakes, and that we have many – but actually few people die from bites.
10 most dangerous snakesImage credit: Kristian Bell/Shuttershock
WHEN IT involves self-defence, Australia’s snakes have things pretty much covered. We share our continent with about 170 species of land snakes, some equipped with venom more toxic than the other snakes within the world.
But bites are literally quite rare in Australia and, since the event of anti-venom, fatalities are low – between four to 6 deaths a year.
“This is in contrast to India, for instance , where bites may reach a million a year, with over 50,000 deaths,” says professor Bryan Fry, a herpetologist and venom expert at the University of Queensland. “Snake bites are very, very rare [in Australia] and sometimes the fault of the person being bitten. Most bites occur when people try to kill a snake or boast .”
Most snakes would rather slither faraway from humans than fight them. “Snakes don’t perceive humans as food and that they don’t aggressively bite things out of malice. Their venom is employed to subdue prey that might rather be impossible for a snake to eat,” says Dion Wedd, curator of the Territory Wildlife Park, NT. “If their only escape route is past a person’s with a shovel, then they’re likely to react within the only way they will .”
So if you’re standing between a snake and its escape route, steel oneself against a fearsome display. Although all species are potentially dangerous, here’s our pick of the ten most dangerous snakes in Australia – a number of them highly venomous, some extremely nervous, some you’re just more likely to ascertain slithering away in your backyard.
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Related: Australia’s most dangerous predators
Australia’s Most Dangerous Snakes
From the gwardar and therefore the refore the python to sea snakes and the red-bellied black snake, slither through the stories of Australia’s most dangerous snakes. Packed filled with detailed illustrations, beautiful images from the Australian Geographic image library, interesting fact files and knowledge about what snakes eat, where they live, how they see and listen to , what their eggs appear as if and far more!
10 most dangerous snakes in Australia
- Eastern brown snake
Also known as: common brown snake
Found: throughout the eastern half mainland Australia
Fast-moving, aggressive and known for his or her ill temper , eastern brown snakes, along side other browns are liable for more deaths per annum in Australia than the other group of snakes. Not only is their venom ranked because the second most toxic of any land snake within the world (based on tests on mice), they thrive in populated areas, particularly on farms in rural areas with mice.
If disturbed, the eastern brown raises its body off the bottom , winding into an ‘S’ shape, mouth gaping open and prepared to strike. Its venom causes progressive paralysis and stops the blood from clotting, which can take many doses of antivenom to reverse. Victims may collapse within a couple of minutes.
- Western brown snake
Also known as:gwardar
Found: widespread over most of mainland Australia – absent only from the wetter fringes of eastern Australia and south-western Western Australia
Said to be less aggressive than its eastern cousin, the western brown snake remains highly dangerous and a part of the group of snakes that causes the foremost fatalities in Australia.Western browns tend to be fast paced and nervous in temperament. When disturbed, they’re going to run cover, striking quickly if cornered, then making a fast getaway.
Though their venom isn’t as toxic because the eastern brown’s, they deliver 3 times the maximum amount . Bites are usually painless and difficult to ascertain thanks to the tiny fang marks. Victims will experience headache, nausea, abdominal pain, severe coagulopathy (blood clotting disorder) and sometimes kidney damage.
- Mainland Notechis scutatus
Also known as: common Notechis scutatus
Found: along the south-eastern coast of Australia, from New South Wales and Victoria to Tasmania and therefore the far corner of South Australia
Mainland tiger snakes are liable for the second-highest number of bites in Australia, as they inhabit highly populated areas along the East Coast , including some metropolitan areas of Melbourne. they’re interested in farms and outer suburban houses, where they hunt mice nocturnally and may easily be trodden on by unsuspecting victims within the darkness.
Bites are fatal if untreated, causing pain within the feet and neck, tingling, numbness and sweating, followed by breathing difficulties and paralysis. The venom also damages the blood and muscles, resulting in kidney failure .
Adult snakes are usually (but not always) banded, with ragged stripes varying in colour from straw to black along a solid, muscular body which will grow to 2m. When threatened, they flatten their necks and strike low to the bottom .
- Inland taipan
Also known as: fierce snake or small-scaled snake
Found: in cracks and crevices in dry rocky plains where the Queensland, South Australia, New South Wales and Northern Territory borders converge
Reclusive and rare, the inland taipan hides call at its remote, rocky habitat. This snake only makes the highest 10 due to its highly toxic venom, considered to be the foremost potent of any land snake within the world; it’s the potential to kill an adult human within 45 minutes.
Hunting within the confined space of the burrows of the long-haired rat, the inland taipan uses its potent venom to end off prey quickly, injecting quite 40,000 times the quantity needed to kill a 200g rat. The prey has little chance of fighting back.
Only a couple of individuals (all snake handlers) are bitten by this species. Each survived with care and hospitalisation.
- Coastal taipan
Also known as: eastern taipan
Found: in an arc along the East Coast from northern New South Wales to Brisbane and northern Western Australia . they’re keen on sugarcane fields.
Coastal taipans are equipped with the longest fangs of any Australian snake (13mm), and have the third most toxic venom of any land snakes.
Extremely nervous and alert, they put up a ferocious defence when surprised or cornered, ‘freezing’ before hurling their lightweight body forward to inflict several lightning-fast snapping bites. However, they’re not usually confrontational and would much rather escape any threat.
Before the introduction of a specialised antivenom in 1956, taipan bites were nearly always fatal and caused many human deaths. The venom affects the systema nervosum and therefore the blood, with nausea, convulsions, internal bleeding, destruction of the muscles and kidney damage. In severe cases, death can occur in only half-hour .
Australia’s Most Dangerous
Packed filled with interesting and useful facts, this handy reference will assist you to understand and avoid these often misunderstood animals. A concise, accessible guidebook to our remarkable but sometimes lethal snakes, spiders, insects and marine creatures, including up-to-date first-aid advice. Whether you reside within the city or the bush, this book may be a must – you never know when you’ll cross pa…
- Mulga snake
Also known as: king brown snake
Found: throughout Australia, except in Victoria, Tasmania and therefore the most southern parts of Western Australia – the widest distribution of any Australian snake
The mulga is that the heaviest venomous snake in Australia and has the largest-recorded venom output of any within the world – delivering 150mg in one bite; the typical Notechis scutatus only produces 10-40mg when milked.
Their temperament seems to vary with locality. Southern mulgas are reported to be shy and quiet, whereas northern specimens are far more agitated if disturbed – once they throw their heads from side to side and hiss loudly. Mulgas bite savagely, even hanging on and chewing as they inject massive amounts of highly toxic venom, which destroys blood cells and affects the muscles and nerves. Though commonly referred to as a king brown snake, the mulga is really a member of the black snake Pseudechis , and black snake antivenom is required to treat a bite.
Related: Watch a king brown snake take its first breath
- Lowlands copperhead
Also known as: common copperhead
Found: in relatively cool and cold climates in south-eastern Australia, southern Victoria, Tasmania and therefore the islands of Bass Strait
The lowlands copperhead is that the only venomous snake found above the line , active in weather usually considered too cold for snakes. A water lover, copperheads snakes are reception around dams, soaks, canals, drainage ditches and along the verges of roads.
Copperheads are shy and like to avoid humans, though they sleep in populated and agricultural areas. If cornered, they’re going to hiss loudly, flatten their body and flick or convulse , usually without biting. With further provocation they’ll attack , though they’re slow to strike and may be inaccurate.
Copperhead venom is neurotoxic (damaging nerves), ruptures the blood cells and damages the cells and muscles – but rarely causes fatalities.
- Small-eyed snake
Also known as: eastern small-eyed snake
Found: cosmopolitan along the East Coast , from Victoria to Cape York
At about 50cm long, the small-eyed snake could also be petite but its venom can pack a punch and shouldn’t be underestimated. Little is understood of its toxicity, but bites have caused illnesses in snake handlers and there has been one known fatality. The venom contains a long-acting myotoxin that continues to attack muscle tissue (including the guts muscle) for days after the bite.
Though common, small-eyed snakes are secretive night-dwellers and thus don’t often inherit contact with humans. Coloured black or dark grey with a silvery belly, they blend into the night. When disturbed they’ll convulse aggressively, but aren’t usually inclined to bite.
- Common Acanthophis antarcticus
Also known as: southern Acanthophis antarcticus
Found: in eastern Australia (except the far north and south), southern South Australia and Western Australia
The common Acanthophis antarcticus is an ambush predator that sits motionless, concealed in leaf litter, sand or gravel, twitching the worm-like lure on the top of its tail to draw in prey.
Unlike other snakes that flee from approaching humans crashing through the undergrowth, common death adders are more likely to take a seat tight and risk being stepped on, making them more dangerous to the unwary bushwalker. they’re said to be reluctant to bite unless actually touched.
About half Acanthophis antarcticus bites proved fatal before the introduction of antivenom. The venom contains a kind of neurotoxin which causes loss of motor and sensory function, including respiration, leading to paralysis and death.
Related: Australia, land of pythons
- Red-bellied black snake
Also known as: common black snake
Found: distributed down the East Coast (though to not Tasmania) and slightly into south-eastern South Australia
The red-bellied black snake is somewhat less venomous than many other Australian snakes, but you’re more likely to return across it in urban areas and its bite is certainly no picnic, causing significant illness and requiring medical attention.
Red-bellied blacks are one among the few large venomous snakes still found within the Sydney region, and at 2m-long are capable of eating other snakes. they’re not particularly aggressive and can shake humans if possible, but when threatened will flatten their bodies and hiss loudly.
The venom causes blood-clotting disorder and muscle and nerve damage, enough to knock you off your feet, but rarely deadly. No deaths are confirmed from bites by this species.