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Eastern Brown Snake – Lightning Fast and Highly Venomous

Can Humans Co-exist with these Feisty Rodent Killers?

Ready to Strike - Eastern Brown Snake by Maryse Jansen
Ready to Strike

An unexpected encounter!

I’m squatted at the water’s edge on a hot summer day, filming a beautiful dragonfly, when suddenly I detect a rapid movement in the water in the corner of my eye. I look up and to my surprise I see a snake swim past. It’s moving fast!! I barely manage to point my camera at it as it was fully zoomed in on the dragonfly and the snake is moving close by at such a high speed.

Thankfully it’s not coming in my direction or I would not even have attempted to film it, instead I would have run for my life! Because this is an Eastern Brown Snake! This snake is regarded the most dangerous snake of Australia or even the world!

I had no idea these snakes could swim! But it has no trouble: it’s head lifted above the water, it’s making good pace. It disappears quickly in the vegetation that is present in the water here, in the opposite direction from where I am. I’m safe! Wow! I don’t see them often but I know they are around, so one always has to be careful.

Why are Eastern Brown Snakes Dangerous?

Extremely venomous

Eastern Brown Snakes are so dangerous for a couple of reasons. The first is that they are extremely venomous! They are considered the world’s second most venomous snake (after the Inland Taipan or Fierce Snake, which also lives in Australia).

Their venom is strongly neurotoxic and coagulant, it can lead to brain and nerve damage as well as blood clotting. Symptoms may also include heavy internal bleeding, extreme low blood pressure and collapse, nausea and vomiting. Heart attack or bleeding in the brain are the main causes of death.

The venom acts fast! Even though you may barely feel the initial bite, you may develop severe symptoms within a few minutes, up to 30 minutes. Pretty scary, right?! So if you ever suspect you may have been bitten by one of these snakes, seek medical attention urgently!!!!!

Quick First Aid Tips for Snake Bite

  • NEVER suck out the venom
  • NEVER clean, wash or cut the bite
  • NEVER elevate the bite site
  • DO stay immobilized
  • DO apply a pressure bandage

For more detailed information please visit healthdirect.gov.au/snake-bites

Nervous and Lightning Fast

The second reason Eastern Brown Snakes are so dangerous is their nervous character. Even though they will naturally avoid encounters with humans, they react highly defensive when startled. And their strike speed is lightning fast!

Sharing Habitat with Humans

And the last reason is their habitat. Apart from Tasmania, Eastern Brown Snakes can be found throughout the eastern half of Australia. They live in open grasslands and woodlands, their favourite prey being rodents, especially mice! Consequently, they are well adapted to living on farmland and in semi-urban environments which leads to frequent encounters with human beings!

Putting it all into Perspective

Snake Bites are Rare in Australia

Putting all of this together, it is no wonder that this snake is responsible for the highest number of deaths from snake-bite in Australia. I’d like to put this in perspective, however, as death from snake bites is quite rare in Australia. More people die from accidents with horses or from bee-stings then from snake bites!

And on top of that, it is important to realize that the far majority of snake bites occur when people try to attack, catch or kill the snake! Not a smart thing to do in the first place, and illegal in most cases in the second place! Snakes are protected in Australia and for good reason. They are one of the few larger predators in Australian ecosystems so are very important to keep the balance in check in the food web.

If you need a snake to be removed from your property, always call a professional snake catcher!

Eastern Brown Snake provides Pest Control

Did you notice that the favourite prey of the Eastern Brown Snake is the mouse? Recently published research shows that Brown Snakes collectively remove thousands of mice per square kilometre of farm-land per year!!! In other words, these animals provide amazing, pesticide-free pest control and they do it free of charge! It is a win-win situation. The researchers advise the farmers to leave these snakes alone and find a way to co-exist.

Brown Snakes avoid People

They also note that Eastern Brown Snakes that know their area well are rarely startled by humans because they quickly retreat in their known hiding places when you approach and prefer to avoid confrontation. This must be why I only very rarely encounter Brown Snakes on my bush walks, even though they are quite common in the area. They go in hiding before I have a chance to notice them!

But to be sure, I definitely always wear long pants and hiking boots to give myself protection from possible snake bites. The fangs of a Brown Snake are only very short, so wearing protective clothing absolutely reduces the risk of receiving venom if I got so unlucky that a snake attempted to bite me. More tips on how to stay safe around snakes in my post about Red-bellied Black-Snakes

Variation in Colouring is High

Eastern Brown Snakes can grow up to 2m long. They vary highly in colour, ranging from a pale brown to almost black on top. The underside is a paler cream, yellow or orange and may have blotches in orange, grey or browns. Their head is quite small and the eyes have a black iris with an orange or yellow ring around the round, black pupils.

I have seen a juvenile Brown snake a little while ago. And don’t be mistaken, tiny as it was – only about 15cm and very thin, it can absolutely kill you with its potent venom! I was aware of this so I kept a safe distance. But it was an amazing photo opportunity as the little snake was raising it’s head, ready to strike! Check it out in the featured image. Once again, I was grateful for my zoom lens! 🙂

And the Kookaburra Laughs!

Did you know that while snakes are predators, they are not apex predators? This means that they are also an important food source for the animals that are on top of their food chain. These are birds of prey and in particular – this might be surprising – the Laughing Kookaburra has an appetite for Brown Snakes!

I’ve seen a Kookaburra once which had caught one. It was quite a big snake! I wondered how the bird was going to be able to eat it, but it flew off with the wriggling reptile in its beak, out of my sight. I smiled as I remembered the song ‘The Kookaburra Laughed’ , which you can find in my post about the Kookaburra.

Join me on my little trip to the lake, enjoy the plentiful dragonflies of various species and, of course, see the Eastern Brown Snake swim!!! Here is my latest episode of ‘Come for a walk in the Australian Bush’:

If you are interested in purchasing ‘Ready to Strike’ or would like to see what the image looks like on the various products, please head to my shop.

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