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Commonly Encountered Snakes Around The Greater Brisbane Area
It can be difficult to positively identify a snake as they will often rush for cover as soon as they detect human presence, leaving no more than a swiftly retreating tail tip to go by. Additionally, snakes have a uniform body plan with highly variable colours and patterns, which means that it can be hard to distinguish between very different snake species. Sometimes virtually harmless and highly dangerous species look alike.
Even if you see a photo of a non-venomous snake that resembles your scaly visitor, always treat the snake with extreme caution. You should NEVER approach a snake unless accompanied by a licensed professional who understands the temperament of different species and can ensure an accurate ID. With this in mind scroll down for examples of Brisbane's more commonly seen snake species.
Eastern brown snake / Pseudonaja textilis
A skittish, fast-moving, highly venomous species that is responsible for more human fatalities than any other Australian snake. Highly variable in colour and shading, this species ranges from olive to brown to black and its pattern can be uniform, banded or speckled. The belly is cream to yellow and generally flecked with orange dots. The eastern brown is found in a wide variety of habitats favouring disturbed areas where its primary prey items – small mammals and reptiles – are plentiful. It can grow to over two metres.
Red-bellied black snake / Psuedechis porphyriacus
A jet-black snake with a distinctive red flush to the flanks which fades to a cream belly. Despite having never been linked to a human fatality, this snake is highly venomous and should be treated with extreme caution. The red-belly is associated with water systems such as creeks, wetlands or swamps where frogs – its preferred prey item – are common. Large individuals can reach two metres in length.
Carpet python / Morelia spilota
This robust, slow-moving snake is highly variable in colour and pattern and is a common visitor to homes around Brisbane, often taking up residence in roofs. Carpet pythons predominantly prey on mammals and birds, while the smaller individuals will eat lizards and frogs. Although non-venomous and generally placid, larger individuals can deliver a nasty bite if provoked. Can reach well over three metres but are more commonly closer to two metres.
Common tree snake / Dendrelaphis punctulatus
This partly arboreal, fast-moving, rear-fanged snake is non-venomous and regarded as harmless although it will bite when provoked. Highly variable in colour over its range, the Brisbane population is most commonly green with a yellow belly. It occurs in a wide variety of habitats and, like the carpet python, is a common visitor to suburban homes. Its diet is varied but predominant prey items include frogs and skinks. The common tree snake can reach up to two metres.
Yellow-faced whipsnake / Demansia psammophis
This venomous, fast-moving snake is commonly encountered around the Brisbane suburbs and is capable of delivering a very painful bite. Variable in colour but most often a brilliant shimmering olive-yellow with a distinctive ‘teardrop’ below the eye. It hunts during the day using its speed to prey on lizards. This thin whip-like snake can grow to over one metre.
Keelback / Tropidonophis mairii
Although variable in colour, the Brisbane population of keelbacks is most often grey-green and speckled with strongly keeled scales. Despite being non-venomous and considered harmless, the keelback bears a strong resemblance to the dangerously venomous rough-scaled snake (Tropidechis carinatus) and should be treated with caution. The keelback is associated with water systems such as creeks, wetlands or swamps where its preferred prey item – frogs – are plentiful. This species can reach one metre in length.
Brown tree snake / Boiga irregularis
Found in a large variety of habitats including the urban fringes, this rear-fanged weakly venomous snake is very slender with a distinct large head and bulbous eyes. The Brisbane population of brown tree snake is generally patterned with shades of brown in irregular banding. The northeastern ‘night tiger’ variety has striking white and red stripes. Brown tree snakes are generalist feeders with larger individuals often taking birds or eggs. Mainly arboreal the brown tree snake can reach up to two metres in length.
Eastern small-eyed snake / Cryptophis nigrescens
The eastern small-eyed snake with its uniform black coloration and visible red belly flush is often misidentified as a juvenile red-bellied black snake. Contrary to the red-belly, the red flush does not extend up its flanks and is more defuse or, on occasion, fully absent. The eastern small-eyed snake is dangerously venomous and has been responsible for one recorded death and a number of serious bites in Australia. This nocturnal lizard specialist is found in association with woodland and is widespread around Brisbane. It commonly shelters under timber or loose bark during the day. The eastern small-eyed snake can reach lengths of more than one metre.
Golden-crowned snake / Cacophis squamulosus
The golden-crowned snake is weakly venomous and preys predominantly on lizards. It is most commonly found in moist, timbered areas such as rainforest or waterways. The golden-crowned snake is dark brown with distinctive yellow streaking on the face and neck and a brightly coloured belly in shades of orange or pink with dark splotches around its mid-line. Larger individuals can reach up to 70 centimetres.
Marsh snake / Hemiaspis signata
As the name suggests, the marsh snake is associated with wet environments such as creeks, swamps, marsh or rainforest. A venomous snake with a painful bite, the marsh snake feeds primarily on skinks and frogs. Its colouration can be extremely variable, from black to pale olive and everything in between. It has two distinctive white stripes on each side of its head. Larger individuals in this species can reach lengths approaching one metre.
Rough-scaled snake / Tropidechis carinatus
This dangerously venomous snake has been responsible for a number of Australian fatalities and will readily bite if provoked. It inhabits wet areas such as creeks or moist forest – the same environments as the harmless keelback that it closely resembles. This snake is patterned in shades of brown with darker irregular banding, and has an angular head and keeled scales. The rough-scaled snake is an able climber and can achieve lengths of up to one metre.
Bandy-bandy / Vermicella annulata
Its black and white stripes make the bandy-bandy one of the more easily identifiable Australian snakes. Although weakly venomous this snake is very disinclined to bite, although with sufficient provocation bites have occurred. The bandy-bandy is highly adapted for a life below ground where it hunts its prey – blind snakes. It is well known for its alarm response, the ‘hoop’ posture, where it lifts the middle third of its body off the ground into an impressive raised loop. Large individuals have been known to reach a length of one metre.
White-crowned snake / Cacophis harriettae
This weakly venomous snake favours moist habitats and is a frequent visitor to suburban gardens around Brisbane where its primary prey item – small skinks – are abundant. This dark grey snake with its distinctive white crown is generally placid and very disinclined to bite. This is a diminutive snake that rarely reaches lengths above 50 centimetres.
Red-naped snake / Furina diadema
This skink specialist is widespread, thriving in both moist and dry environments. Its venom is weak but it will repeatedly ‘mock’ strike with a closed mouth when threatened. The red-naped snake is a reddish-brown colour with dark-edged scales forming a reticulated pattern. It has a distinctive red splotch on its nape. A diminutive snake with large individuals reaching 40 centimetres.