Carpet Pythons in Captivity and Nature


Carpet Pythons - these Australian beauties weave a spell over all who see them.

Carpet Pythons In The Wild

by Charles Acheson

Australian carpet pythons are unquestionably popular pythons among the general public, and most Australians have at some stage seen one of them in the wild. Usually, these people can recollect seeing one while on holiday - often, unfortunately, as roadkill. Throughout much of Australia, people in the countryside report seeing carpet pythons on ceiling beams in old sheds, in chicken roosts or even draped over their balconies.

As a "Sydneysider", I regularly get calls from people in the suburbs adjoining bushland, asking me to remove diamond pythons (Morelia spilota) from their dwellings. I've found carpets under residents' roofs and even basking at poolside, enjoying the morning sun. Ironically, the majority of herpetologists who live in diamond python areas have seen relatively few in the wild. Like the eastern  blue-tongued skink (Tiliqua scincoides), these pythons are more often seen on the fringes of suburbia than they are when purposely sought in the wild.

Carpet pythons are usually seen in the wild, either basking during the cooler months in an attempt to get warm, or at night during the summer. It is quite common to see carpet pythons in Northern Australia basking in "windows" of sunlight on the forest floor, or with a few coils hanging out of a tree hollow.

Types Of Carpet Pythons

Several species of carpet python have been identified across Australia, including Morelia spilota, M. macdowelli, M. variegata, M. cheynei, M. imbricata, M. metcalfei and M. bredli. The "type species" in the carpet python is actually the diamond python; this is due to its having been first described rather than to any revolutionary theory.

Morelia spilota has a limited range on the coast of New South Wales (NSW), from Port Macquarie on the midcoast to the border of Victoria in the south. Considered by some to be one of the most beautiful pythons in the world, the diamond python varies considerably throughout its range. It inhabits dry and wet sclerophyll forests and sandstone escarpments throughout its range.

In general, it exhibits less patterning in the south, with increasing degrees of mottled pattern as it reaches its northern extralimital range. The juvenile diamond is colored like the carpet python as a neonate and develops its "diamond" pattern as it reaches maturity. Around the midcoast of NSW, the carpet/diamond distinction becomes vague. Often the animals are clearly a mixture of both forms, ranging from predominantly carpet to mostly diamond. This coastal area is officially known to have natural populations of hybrids. These animals are fertile and reproduce readily in captivity.

Morelia macdowelli inhabits southeast Queensland and finds its way down into NSW, to the "hybrid" area of the mid-coast. The "coastal carpet" is the biggest of the carpet python species, occasionally reaching lengths nearing 10 feet and regularly attaining about 8 feet. It is common within its range and does not appear to be secretive like the diamond python. It exhibits a dark, mottled mustard, brown and black pattern, in general, which is an extremely effective camouflage. Once again, these snakes inhabit forested areas.

Morelia variegata, the top-end carpet python, is the most widespread of the carpet pythons, ranging from Cape York in the north of Queensland to the Kimberley Ranges of northern Western Australia. The types of forest that these animals can be found in is variable. Within their range they can be found marauding in most habitat areas. This species' coloration is often lighter and more colorful than its southeastern relative's.

Morelia cheynei, or the jungle carpet python as it is more commonly know, is a very distinctive creature not only because of its striking coloration, but also because of its nature. The jungle carpet comes in two main color phases: the cream and brown phase (less well known) and the spectacular and popular gold and black phase. These animals predominate in the Atherton Tablelands behind Cairns in Queensland, making their way in some areas to the coast. Within most of its range the winter overnight temperatures can be in the low-30-degree Fahrenheit range. Strangely, they are occasionally seen in undulating farmland, as these areas were once regal stands of rain forest. Along with its striking coloration, the jungle carpet is also known for its secretive, sometimes "snappy" nature. Herpetologists have found this snake to be an occasionally finicky feeder, particularly straight out of the wild.

Morelia imbricata, or the southwestern carpet, has, as its name implies an imbricated pattern (that is, its scales appear to overlap, like roof tiles). It is found in Western Australia to the south and on some islands off the southern Australian coast.

Morelia metcalfei, the Murray/Darling carpet, is named after the two rivers that transect the region in which it is found. This species inhabits areas adjacent to these rivers in Victoria, NSW and South Australia. It is a smallish python, rarely exceeding 6 feet, and is known for its good temperament. Its creamy mottled pattern, particularly around the head, is clearly different from its counterparts. This creamy gray coloration continues down the dorsal surface in blotches.

Morelia bredli is a striking python, distinctly different in its coloration. Isolated by thousands of miles of desert and not commonly seen, it inhabits rocky areas and dry riverbeds of central Australia, where it lives in hollows or rock crevices. This snake exhibits some magnificent shades of red and is favourite of many herpetologists.

All the carpet python species eat a variety of food items, including mammals, birds and bats, as well as lizards. Neonates in captivity prefer to eat small lizards, although they can be coaxed into eating pinkies quite readily.

Carpet Pythons: Winter In The Wild

In general, carpet pythons seek north-facing rocky outcrops, tree hollows or fallen timbers in which to spend the winter months. During the overnight drop in temperature they will withdraw into their crevice or hole to retain their body heat as possible.

A common way to see carpet pythons in Queensland is to walk along the "windrows." These are stands of trees that have been felled by property owners in the process of clearing lands. These trees are then bulldozed into rows ready burning. Often, windrows are left untouched for years and become microhabitats for many snakes and other animals.

During winter, one might discover the coils of a carpet python extending out of a burrow within the windrows, soaking up some sun. This lends itself to effective thermoregulation as the snake can simply maneuver itself around from time to time to maintain its exposure and vulnerability. These areas are also a haven for rodents and other mammals that provide food for carpet pythons and a multitude of other predators.

Old barns are another wintertime "hangout" for carpets. In Australia, corrugated iron is still a primary roofing material. Carpet pythons regularly inhabit the roofs of barns where they use the sheet iron as a sort of radiant thermal pad. Many times, I have entered an old shed to see loosely wrapped coils of carpet pythons draped over beams. Usually, these farm sheds are quiet places and harbor a ready supply of rats and bats as food items. Even on an overcast winter day in the Atherton Tablelands of northern Queensland, when the daytime temperature may be only 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit, it only takes a few minutes of sun on some sheet iron roofing to allow a carpet python to warm up markedly.

In warmer areas - for example, Darwin, in the top of the Northern Territory, where the overnight lows during winter may only drop to the high 60s and the days may still be over 80 degrees - carpet pythons are more likely to be seen loosely coiled on the forest floor or in hollows.

In spring, most readily found carpet pythons are male, due to their tendency to patrol the forest floor looking for mates during breeding season. Sub-adult specimens are often mobile and easily discovered, as they are yet to establish territories. Females are more sessile in nature, although they will move to various habitats throughout the year to facilitate thermoregulation and egg laying.

Females usually lay eggs on the floor or in hollows and then carefully guard them for the duration of the incubation process. A female may release herself from the clutch in the early morning to bask and then return to her eggs. Depending on the species and the size of the individual, a clutch may number as few as six (in the case of young adult M. cheynei) or more than 20 eggs. While coiled around the eggs, the female can "shiver up" her body temperature above ambient to maintain an optimal temperature for the eggs (as mentioned in the captive care section).

There have been sightings of aggregations of diamond pythons in the spring, where numerous males will collect around a single female in an attempt to mate with her. According to those who have witnessed such spectacles, it can come as quite surprise to an unsuspecting bushwalker, although I must stress that this is not commonly seen.

Generally hardy in captivity, the carpet python is the species that's most commonly kept by Australian hobbyists.

Carpet Pythons In Captivity by Bob Clark

Carpet pythons are slender, medium-sized pythons with prehensile tails. They have proportionately large heads and narrow necks. Carpet pythons have an extensive range across Australia and in neighboring New Guinea and Irian Jaya. Adults range from 4 to 9 feet or more, depending on type. There is also considerable variation in color and pattern among the different varieties and within each type. They make great captives and have become very popular in recent years.

Popular Python

A major reason for their popularity is the carpet pythons seem especially well suited to life in captivity. The very large number of this species currently being kept and bred in this country is a testament to this. I got my first pair of carpet pythons in 1980, but before that time, I'd never seen a live one!

Although most of the non-native reptiles that became established in captivity were, and continue to be, imported in large numbers, this is not true for the carpet pythons. Australia has not allowed the export of its wildlife since the 1960s. The animals in captivity in this country today are descended from only a very few animals that have found their way to America, probably as imports from other countries. The fairly recent availability of the Irian Jaya carpet pythons is more typical of the way new types of pythons become established in captivity. First a few are imported, followed by increasing numbers as the buying public becomes familiar with them. Eventually, some of the animals acclimate well enough to breed and these form the basis for the captive-produced population.

Part of my job as a breeder and seller of snakes is to answer questions and give advice on how to care for animals I sell. I noticed recently that even though I deal with many species of boas and pythons, the information I gave was remarkably similar for all of them. Most members of the family Boidae thrive in captivity under fairly similar conditions. Carpet pythons can be maintained under the same conditions that are suitable for most other boas and pythons.

Enclosure Basics

Let's start with the snake's cage. The enclosure serves several purposes. First, and most obvious, is to keep the snake confined. Second, the cage must comprise an environment suitable for the snake. The enclosure must also allow easy viewing of its inhabitant. As long as the cage fulfills these requirements, the specifics of its construction are not important.

I favor some of the plastic cages with sliding glass fronts. These cages are easy to clean, readily available - and someone else has made them already! I'm not especially handy, so the ready-made aspect really appeals to me. Those with ability in this area can construct enclosures from plywood. Paint the wood and seal the joints to help maintain humidity. Allow for ventilation, but be aware that too much ventilation will make it difficult to maintain a proper environment inside.

I like to have a couple of small vents in the sides of the cage, as vents place on the top of the cage can cause the cage to lose heat unnecessarily. Adding additional heat not only wastes energy, but it also dries the cage's interior. Glass aquaria are adequate if they are fitted with a solid top; screen tops are generally not suitable because they do not retain moisture. Act Natural

We keep snakes because we like them. We are interested in their behavior and all aspects of their lives. For this reason, I like enclosures with a large viewing area. The snake's perspective on this, however, may differ a little. In the wild, a snake may not spend much of its time out in the open during daylight. This exposes the animal to predators and makes its search for food less effective. Although our captive snakes are not in the wild, they are still programmed by instinct to behave in and react in certain ways. Departures from a snake's expectations or "programming" may stress the animal and ultimately interfere with its health.

A large viewing area is great for us; for the snake, however, the loss of privacy may be a source of excessive stress. Providing the snake with a place to conceal itself is a compromise that can work for both parties. A snake that feels secure in its cage will be more likely to exhibit normal behaviour, including feeding and even breeding, if given the opportunity. Many husbandry and acclimation problems can be traced back to improper caging.

How Big Is Big Enough?

The size of the cage depends on the size of the snake. But contrary to popular opinion, bigger isn't always better. I start my baby carpets in plastic containers measuring 13 inches by 7 inches by 3 inches. It is easier to maintain a warm, humid environment for the little snakes in small enclosures, and it's more likely that they will have frequent contact with food items during their first few feedings. Larger snakes will require larger cages, of course. Most adult carpets will be comfortable in a cage measuring 48 inches by 24 inches by 18 inches.

As a commercial producer of reptiles, I have objectives different from most snake keepers', but as long as the minimum requirements are met, the snakes do well. At my facility, accommodations are fairly Spartan. Enclosures are the minimum acceptable size and sparsely furnished to say the least: Each size has a water bowl and a hide box, and that's all. Even under these conditions, the snakes will thrive and breed.

Temperature and Humidity

Carpet pythons, like most boas and pythons, are from tropical areas. They require conditions of temperature and humidity that are higher than most of us would consider comfortable in our homes. To keep them successfully in captivity, we need to provide them with the proper conditions. This will, in most cases, require supplemental heat in the enclosure. Cages can be heated by a variety of means, including light bulbs, heat pads or tape, or ceramic heaters. As long as the proper temperatures are provided, the heating method doesn't really matter.

In the wild, snakes can choose a desired temperature. A snake seeking warmth can bask, for example. A snake that wants to cool off can retreat to the shade or to a burrow. We can give captive snakes some choices as well. By placing the heat source on one end of the enclosure it is possible to provide the snake with the maximum thermal gradient. The snake can choose a position near the heat source if it wants to be cooler. A temperature range of 80 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit is optimal.

In some cases, the heat source itself will be much warmer than 90 degrees. The temperature directly over a heat pad or under a light bulb may be much warmer. As long as the snakes can retreat to a cooler place, there is benefit in making the choice available.

Although we must, at minimum, reproduce the essential aspects of a snake's habitat to be successful in maintaining it, reproducing some of the non-essentials might enhance the captive experience for both the keeper and the kept. Carpet pythons will utilize a cage's vertical dimension if given opportunity. Providing branches for climbing makes watching the snakes more enjoyable, and I like to think that the snakes think it's a good thing as well. variously sized branches, logs for hiding and artificial foliage might serve to make the snake's environment more attractive, but they make it more difficult to service the enclosure and keep it clean. Naturally planted vivaria with soil and live plants are nearly impossible to maintain for snakes the size of carpet pythons.

Feeding and Breeding

Captive carpet pythons eat the full range of available warm-blooded food items. Baby carpets can be started on pinkie or fuzzy mice. As the snakes grow, they will eventually take adult mice, small rats and eventually large rats. Some of the larger individuals will take small rabbits.

Generally, if a baby carpet can eat a couple of pinkies it can easily take a fuzzy mouse. If it can eat more than one fuzzy mice it can probably take a weanling mouse and so on, until you are offering the largest rat. I don't worry much about trying larger and larger food items. It it's too big, the snake won't it eat, and no harm done.

Often the snakes don't know either and try to eat something that is too big for them. We all learn as we go.

Breeding carpets is simple and straightforward. As with most boids, they respond well to a slight drop in temperature at night in the fall. Copulation occurs between sexually mature animals throughout the winter. In my facility, carpets lay eggs in April and May; the eggs hatch in June or July. Clutch size varies from 6 eggs to 25 or more. Incubation time is relatively short for pythons, lasting 55 days or less. Carpet pythons are what we humans would classify as "good mothers." Females coil around their eggs during the entire incubation period, leaving only occasionally to bask.

Carpets are able to increase their body temperature during incubation. The process of shivering thermogenesis is similar to shivering humans: Small muscle contractions generate heat that is used to incubate the eggs. Carpet pythons may also bask during the incubation period, absorbing heat from the sun and then transferring it to eggs.

Even though they are cold-blooded animals, female carpet pythons can keep their eggs at a fairly constant temperature throughout incubation. Alternately, eggs can be incubated artificially in damp water vermiculite at 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Good results can be obtained with either method. If the necessary temperature and humidity requirements are met, the eggs will hatch. Hatchling carpets are about 15 inches long.

These pythons make great captive subjects and are becoming increasingly available in the pet trade. Carpets can be obtained in reptile specialty stores or from any of the many breeders of the species. Carpet pythons are interesting and attractive animals.

Venomous Snakes: Steer Clear


Most Top End's venomous snakes are not considered deadly. by Graeme Gow

The northern half of Australia is home to many species whose bite requires medical treatment - so it is wise to steer clear.

Venomous Snakes Profile: Secretive Snake: Cryptophis pallideceps

Description: Head slightly distinct from neck, moderately slender body. Dorsal coloration is blackish, often with a paler head. The ventral surface can be creamish to pink.

Its maximum length is about 630 mm. It is found in the Top End of the Northern Territory.

Remarks: The secretive snake is a nocturnal species that shelters beneath rocks, logs, and other debris. It is probably a live-bearer. It mainly feeds on small lizards but will occasionally take frogs. It is not considered dangerous to humans, but a bite from a large specimen may require medical treatment.

Venomous Snakes Profile: Little Spotted Snake: Denisonia punctata

Description: Head depressed, slightly distinct from neck, moderately slender body. Dorsal coloration is light to reddish brown, often with a darker spot on each scale. The head and neck have prominent dark blotches. Ventral surface is white or creamish.

Maximum length is about 520 mm.

It is found in Northern Australia, with the exception of eastern Queensland.

Remarks: The little spotted snake is a nocturnal species usually associated with red desert areas. It is a live-bearer. One litter of five has been recorded.

It preys mainly on small lizards, but has also been recorded feeding on blind snakes.

Although it is not considered dangerous, its bite can be painful.

Venomous Snakes Profile: Black Whip Snake: Demansia atra

Description: Head deep and narrow, distinct from the neck, long slender body. Dorsal coloration is black, becoming reddish. The head is dark coppery brown. Dark posterior blotching may be present. The lips, chin, throat and undertail can be pinkish to whitish.

The maximum length is 1.8 mm.

It is found on the coast and adjacent areas of northern Australia, from the East Kimberleys Western Australia through the top end of the Northern Territory to central eastern Queensland. It is also found in Papua New Guinea.

Remarks: The black whip snake is an active diurnal species, which is occasionally semi-nocturnal on warm nights. Considered to be Australia's fastest moving snake, it is nervous and retiring. It will not bite unless provoked. It is an egg layer and may produce up to 20 eggs in clutch. It feed on small reptiles, frogs, mammals and insects. Although the exact potency of its venom is unknown, bites from large specimen are regarded as potentially dangerous to man.

Venomous Snakes Profile: Demansia papuensis:

This species, which is similar to the black whip snake, may be distinguished by its higher ventral and subcaudal scale counts, spotted head and its anterior ventrals not being black edged.

Venomous Snakes Profile: Yellow-face Whip Snake: Demansia Psammophis reticulata

Description: Head barely distinct from neck, elongate body. Dorsal coloration is greenish grey merging to coppery brown. Each body scale has prominent black edging, giving a distinctive reticulated appearance. The head is olive green or coppery brown, with a pale edged dark line running from the rostral to the eyes, where it meets a pale-edged, narrow comma-shaped marking surrounding the eye. The throat is yellow and the remainder of the ventral surface is yellowish white.

Its maximum length is about 900 mm.

It is found in all of Western Australia, apart from the far south and far north, southern Northern Territory and northern South Australia.

Remarks: The yellow-face whip snake is a fast moving, diurnal species which feeds on small reptiles and frogs. It is an egg layer, but there are no records of clutch size. Although it is venomous, it is not regarded as dangerous to man.

Venomous Snakes Profile: Curl or Myall Snake: Suta suta

Description: Depressed head distinct from neck, robust body. Dorsal coloration may be any shade of brown, occasionally olive green, often with dark tips on the scales, giving a reticulated appearance. The head and nape are dark brown to black. A dark line extends from below the eyes to the snout. This line is bordered by white scales. These marking are barely discernible or completely absent in aged specimens. The under-surface is white or cream.

Its maximum length is about 900 mm.

It is found in most of South Australia, New South Wales, Queensland and the Northern Territory, extending into eastern Western Australia. It is also found in the north-west corner of Victoria.

Remarks: This nocturnal, terrestrial species ranges through a variety of habitats, but is most common in dry arid areas. It shelters in earth cracks or under logs and other ground debris. It is a live bearer and may produce about six in a litter.

These venomous snakes feed on lizards, frogs, and small mammals. Of unpredictable nature, this snake derives its vernacular name from its threat display, which consists of flattening the body, curling tightly, then lashing from side to side. Although it was not previously regarded as dangerous, the toxicity of its mainly neurotoxic venom is not fully known and bites from large specimens may require medical treatment.

Australia to the venomous snakes

While Australia is home to some of the most fascinating and unique creatures in the world, its beautiful settings also attracts some of the world's most venomous snakes.

Road Testing Aussie Pythons


A Short Guide To Snake Selection Text & Images (except where indicated): Doc Rock

Australian Pythons: Southern Cross Reptiles


Since I can remember, the late summer and early autumn months have been traditionally the busiest time for python sales in Australia. It is a period when young newly-bred pythons are starting to feed and breeders are keen to reduce their cleaning and husbandry responsibility by selling the fruits of the last 12 months labour.

The aim of this article is to provide a timely and brief overview of the traits, husbandry quirks and personalities of the various types of python as a quick matchmaking guide when faced with the onslaught of options which are presented to the reptile shopper these days.

Types of Australian Pythons

Australian pythons can be split into a number of groups. The largest group is the genus Morelia which includes the carpet pythons, the green tree pythons, rough scales, the Oenpelli python and Australia's largest snake, the scrub python. Carpet pythons are the most popular Australian pythons in captives. They include the coastal, jungle, diamond, in-land, south western, and north western forms, as well as the centralian carpet which is a different species and often just called by its scientific name of "Bredli".

The second most popular type of captive python belongs to the Children's group which includes the spotted python pr maculosus, the large-blotched python pr stimsoni, and the Children's python or childreni. The taxonomy of these snakes has been in perpetual change for decades with various author's placing them in the genus Antaresia, Bothrochilus, and Liasis, so don't be confused if you see any of these names used as the snakes are still the same. These pyhtons are not large animals and include the world's smallest python, the ant-hill or pygmy python (also called perthensis) which is currently uncommon in captivity.

The third group of snakes belong to the genus Liasis which contains the popular olive and water pythons. these quite large and robust snakes are closely related to the Children's group (they used to belong in the same genus.)

The fourth group and final group occupies the genus Aspidites. This genus includes the spectacular black-headed python, often called BHPs for short, and the woma. They used to be uncommon in captivity because of the difficulties in keeping wild caught animals and then in getting them to breed. Today, having passed through a number of captive generations, they are bred in increasing numbers and their popularity is rapidly growing.

Australian Pythons: The Carpet Group

When considering how best to summarise the various forms of carpet pythons for this article, I decided to start with the ones that we have found the easiest to keep and then work through to the ones that can be more challenging to maintain and breed.

Inland Carpet Python Morelia spilota metcalfei

Without a doubt and by almost any yardstick, the inland carpet python (Morelia spilota metcalfei to some) is a stand out captive python among australian pythons. Typically found along the inland river systems and surrounds over the eastern half of inland Australia, they are a medium sized carpet which has a lovely placid nature once adult size and is extremely hardy in captivity. I have captured numerous inland carpets through my involvement in various research projects and I'm always amazed at how placid they are as wild caught adult animals.

We have kept the Murray-Darling form of inland carpet for the last two decades and have found nothing easier to keep and to breed. They handle cold well, not minding if their environment gets down at night to a few degrees in winter as long as they have somewhere to bask for an hour or two during the day. If their cage gets a bit hot, they don't seem to mind either. They are not very sensitive to humidity and providing they have something to drink and the cage is not soaking wet they seem to thrive.

Inlands are also excellent subjects when learning to breed snakes. They will mate with minimal fuss, their eggs are extremely resilient to ignorant abuse and their babies are generally quick to start feeding. About the only thing negative I could say is that they are snappy as babies (like most pythons), but they quickly settle down.

Australian Pythons: Coastal Carpet Python Morelia spilota mcdowelli

For many years, the most numerous Morelia in captivity were the coastal form of carpet python (Morelia spilota mcdowelli to some). This is probably because they are the most common non-venomous snakes encountered in the wild around densely populated areas and so were easy to source for captivity. Coastals live along the central to northern coast of Australia and can vary markedly in colour and size, but generally they are one of the largest carpets with animals in excess of nine feet not uncommon. In March of 2002, a coastal carpet was collected from the mid-north coast of NSW that had a total length of 3.47 metres (nearly 11.5 feet) and weighed in at 22.3 kilo making it the third heaviest snake caught in Australia!

We have kept many coastals and if I was to try and sum them up, I would have to say "highly variable." I have known some placid beautiful giants and some unattractive, weedy little so-and-sos. While some feed happily in captivity, I have known far too many that are patience-testing nightmares when it comes to being finicky. We have also found that they are less tolerant to extremes of temperature and humidity than their inland compatriots. Similarly, while temperament is highly individual, as a general rule they are also a more nervy and irritable snake. From a breeding perspective, they are not difficult and their eggs are fairly forgiving. One strong point in their favour is that they are about the least expensive pythons on the market.

Centralian Carpet Python Morelia Bredli

A close second to the inland carpet for suitability in captivity would have to be the Centralian python (Morelia Bredli). These carpets tend to grow larger and to be a bit more irritable than the inlands, but on the whole they are a hardy, tolerant species. They can be a bit trickier than inlands to breed too, but still are by no means difficult and their eggs can survive quite a bit of mismanagement. I must confess that they are probably my favourite carpets not only because of their pleasant nature, but also because of their striking appearance with all the earthy colours which mimic their habitat in the red centre around Alice Springs and the McDonell Ranges.

Australian Pythons: Darwin Carpet Python Morelia spilota variegata

The north-western or sometimes NT or Darwin carpet (Morelia spilota variegata) is a medium to small member of the group that is quite slender to suit its arboreal nature. They have a reputation for being an aggressive snake and like many northern species they certainly are inclined to be quite highly strung and assertive in nature. We have kept numerous coastals and most have been willing to bite when given any provocation. The flip side to this coin, however, is that they are generally great feeders and are not terribly difficult to breed.

Darwin carpets like warm humid conditions and will not tolerate prolonged cold. One annoying habit shared by most is their love of soaking in their water bowl so that water is spilt everywhere and the cage is constantly wet. However, they do not handle ow humidity and will have trouble shedding if their cage becomes too dry. Some NT carpets can be very attractive with their bright orangey markings. Recently, we developed the albino form of this carpet which displays bright yellow/gold and white banding. For a reason completely unknown to me, these albino carpets generally have extremely placid natures, even more so than the inlands and Bredli.

Australian Pythons: Jungle Carpet Python Morelia spilota cheynei

When it comes to an irritable nature, few snakes can top a narky jungle python and gold jungle for natural good looks, they can be both the beauty and the beast all wrapped into one. We have been breeding jungles for 15 years now and have been selecting them for colour, pattern, and temperament. While the strain has definitely got more placid over time, it seems that the better looking the snake the greater the tendency for them to be stroppy with their keeper.

Like the NT carpets, jungles require a cage with reasonable humidity to do well. Unlike the NTs, they do not like their cages kept too warm and can become temperamental if not kept in conditions that allow them to escape the heat sometimes. For this reason, we keep all our jungles in the lowest and coolest cages in our main breeding room. To finish on a positive note, jungles are generally good feeders, quick growers and will breed in captivity.

Australian Pythons: Diamond Python Morelia spilota spilota

The last of the carpets I will cover is the Diamond Python (Morelia spilota spilota) which is kept in large numbers in Australia. Diamonds are a medium to large carpet. They are a challenge to breed indoors in captivity and keep healthy and even more of a challenge to breed indoors. Because of this, the majority of diamonds are kept and bred in outside aviaries, or at least in cages that have access to an outside enclosure. When kept inside they tend to suffer from a condition which has become known as "Diamond Syndrome". This syndrome can express itself as problems with feeding and/or shedding, a reduced immune system and in extreme cases neurological and muscular disorders which invariably result in death.

Many years ago, we kept diamonds in our main breeding room only to watch them die one by one. Since then, and after much research and experimentation, we learnt that they cannot handle constant warm conditions. You may hear that they need UV light or that they must live outside, but this is not our experience. As long as you keep them cool most of the time and only provide basking temperatures for short periods during the day, they can thrive. We have kept them for nearly 20 years and they now flourish indoors, although we have been selectively breeding our stock from animals that tolerate the indoor life best. Currently, we have a beautiful female that is 10 years old and breeds regularly indoors (we have a clutch of eggs in the incubator as I write). Needless to say, breeding diamonds regularly indoors is not an activity for the novice though.

Australian Pythons: Water and Olive Pythons

Olive Python Liasis olivaceus

Before describing Olive Pythons (Liasis olivaceus) in captivity, I must declare a possible conflict of interest and confess that my favourite pet snake in the world is my male olive called Brutus. He is big, powerful, alert, inquisitive and as gentle as a snake of his size can be. In my view, a large placid olive python is very difficult to beat as a scaly companion.

However, anyone contemplating buying an olive must allow for the fact that they grow very quickly (still a youngster at 2 metres) and that they can easily reach three to four metres and weigh over 15 kilo in captivity. My wife, Diane, is also fond of Brutus, but will not handle him unless I am within screaming distance just in case he makes a mistake and thinks she is food instead of a friend. Although he is yet to make that mistake, he can get very excited when hungry and he would be a handful if ever he wrapped around a human neck with thoughts of juicy rats on mind.

Not all olive pythons are gentle giants either. We have kept a number and one of them is particular considered that its role in life was to rip the face off anyone that came near its cage - and that's a lot of face ripping snake to control. So to some extent, it is a bit of a lottery when you buy a baby olive. Although by far the majority turn out to be gentle giants, the odd one that doesn't will be a snake to remember.

Unless you live in a place like Darwin, olives can be very challenging to breed, especially if you live in the southern half of Australia like we do. It took as many attempts before we were able to breed them consistently in Adelaide. When we questioned some of the most successful breeders of olives about how they did it, there seemed to be no commonly agreed method and most had little idea why individual snakes bred some years and not others. While I just love olives, they are not an ideal snake for the first time keeper, for a child, for a home without the room for decent cage or for someone to learn how to breed snakes.

Australian Pythons: Water Python Liasis Fuscus

I must also confess that I am rather fond of water pythons (Liasis Fuscus) too, although we don't keep any these days. Compared to other pythons, they are a medium length, heavy bodied snake and are often called "rainbow pythons" because their skin is highly reflective and has a prismatic effect on light. The first species we ever bred was a water python and that is a testament to just how easy they are to breed. We knew nothing at the time about any aspect of breeding and I shudder at the way we incubated the eggs, but in the end half the clutch hatched and we managed to raise a whole lot of baby waters.

Back in this dim, dark past, we learnt that there are two distinct types of water and that they are like chalk and cheese to keep. Firstly, there lovely bright yellow belly which come from Queensland. Then, there are the more brownie coloured ones with white bellies from the Northern Territory. The Queensland ones are usually quite well mannered. In contrast, our experience is that the NT waters are generally spawn of Satin and will bite and scent their keeper (i.e. smear foul smelling tail secretions on you) at the drop of a hat.

Often, I'm asked about python bites and which ones I think are the worst. Putting aside scrub pythons, I would say that for power and determination it's hard to beat a big BHP and for razor sharp teeth and deep penetration it's hard to beat a large GTP. However for all round deep penetrating power and tenacity, there is nothing worse than a large NT water python. I have caught many bites in my life, but remember my few big water python bites above all others.

I do not want to put the reader off his species by talking about bites. Water pythons can be beautiful, well-handling snakes which some argue are much more interesting and active than the Morelia group. However, bloodline is important when buying a L. fuscus, because as the advert goes "waters ain't waters."

Australian Pythons: The Children's Group

Australian Pythons: Spotted Python Antaresia maculosus

When it comes to describing the Children's group of pythons in captivity it is probably best to discuss the spotted pythons (maculosus, or sometimes just maccies) separately from the Children's and Stimson's pythons which are both very similar to keep and to breed.

Maccies are found in the wild from north-eastern NSW to the tip of Cape York Peninsula. Although relatively small compared to other pythons, they are the largest of this group and average about 75 to 90 cm with the biggest reaching well over one metre. On the positive side, spotted pythons are generally good feeders, breed easily, maintain their bold markings throughout their life, are hardy and can thrive in most cage setups. On the negative side, they are generally the feistiest members of the group and often can take quite a bit of work to quieten down sufficiently to stop them constantly snapping and scenting their keepers. However, once settled into their captive home, they can be an excellent snake for responsible keepers of any age or skill level to keep.

Australian Pythons: Children's Python Antaresia childreni


Australian Pythons: Stimson's Python Antaresia stimsoni

Children's pythons are found along the top part of Australia from the Gulf of Carpenteria though to the Kimberly district of Western Australia. Stimson's pythons are found from the West Coast of WA through central Australia to the area east of the Great Dividing Range. They are both small pythons with childreni averaging a slightly larger size than the stimsoni, but with either exceeding one metre often. The colourful patterns on childreni tend to fade more with age than those on stimsoni, so that as adults stimsoni are usually the more attractive snakes.

Both these snakes, and particularly the Stimson's pythons, are more challenging pets to keep and to breed than their maculosus cousins. Many varieties are extremely difficult to establish as feeders when babies. We have force fed non-feeding Stimsons for three years before finally giving up. If they are sold when too young and before they are feeding well, they can go off their feed and be almost impossible to start again. If they get a little too cool in their cage environment (because of the cage itself, or the place they choose to hide), they can stop eating too. So, vital pre-requisites when buying a young Stimson's or Children's python, are firstly to make your object of desire is feeding and growing well and secondly to take careful note of the cage conditions and temperature regime it is being kept under successfully. Providing this advice is taken, then these snakes are a joy to keep. Once grown up, they rarely bite and can become very relaxed even with frequent handling.

The Children's group do not like to bask in the open, but prefer to position themselves in a tight warm hideaway. For this reason, their cages are extremely easy to set up and all they need is thermostatically controlled heat tape, a water bowl and something to hide under which is a warm at one end and cool at the other. A plastic tub with tape under it and newspaper inside as a substrate and for hiding under is all they require to thrive.

One of the other great advantages of the Children's group is that, because they are small and thrive in compact vivaria, you can have lots and lots of them in a small area! These days there is an enormous variety of forms in captivity and a keen collector can have a dozen different forms from a range of habitats on a few shelves instead of the half a house that larger species would require.

Australian Pythons: The Aspidites Group

Australian Pythons: Black-headed Python Aspidites melanocephalus

Black-headed pythons Aspidites melanocephalus are found across the northern third of Australia and would have to be one of the most impressive looking pythons that our country has to offer. Their large size, shiny jet back heads and striped bodies look very imposing and to the average, snake-uneducated member of the general public they are safe, or that there is no food on offer, then they are generally pussycats.

However, the trick with BHPs is getting them into your hands without mistakes. One of their quirks is that they love to sleep on their basking site. When they are touched in this state, they almost jump out of their skin and can go immediately into a full defensive threat display. Once picked up they will usually calm down straight away. Alternatively, sometimes when they are touched, they assume food is on offering - and a hungry snapping BHP is a site to behold. One day I opened the cage of a very large female BHP and upon being woken from a sound sleep she decided that I was food and, rushing out of her cage at head height, she proceeded to try to grab me. She succeeded in forcing me back into the cages behind where upon she nailed my hand (which was protecting my face) and then set about hauling me back into her cage for digestive purposes and without having a say in the matter. "Diane,#$%@# .......Help me,%$#@!"

Research has shown that in the wild BHP prey consists of a high proportion of reptiles. Probably for this reason, frequently they can be nightmares to start feeding as babies. Like the Stimsoni pythons, my strong advice when buying a BHP is to make sure it has been feeding well and consistently for some time. We won't sell ours until they have been feeding well for at least two months and have shed a couple of times.

Summing up BHPs, while they are beautiful snakes and will handle well, they are not for the faint hearted and not to be taken lightly when approaching them in their cages. Once feeding well on rodents, they are easy to maintain in captivity, although they are one of the harder snakes to breed consistently. Also, being natural reptile feeders, they are not a snake you should keep with others of their kind if you wish to avoid accidents.

Australian Pythons: Woma Aspidites ramsayi

The final specie in this short guide to snake selection is the Woma (Aspidites ramsayi). My partner, Diane, adores womas. We have ended up with so many types and forms now that by number they are the most numerous type of snake we keep after carpet pythons.

Womas are found all over central Australia and the coastal region of the Pilbara in WA. They are wonderful captive snakes for many reasons; they are a stocky and compact terrestrial python with very simple cage needs; feeding problems are rare; they are not difficult to breed; they are inquisitive animals and put on great feeding displays with frantic caudal luring and head bobbing behaviours and; they redefine the concept of being laid back. Once they are more than six months old, womas become completely relaxed about captive life. They are a joy to handle and as long as they know there is no food on offer, they are safe in the hands of the whole family.

Diane loves them as babies because "they are so feisty with great threatening displays but don't bite and only head butt you say stay away". Sine Di does 90% of the husbandry care these days, she also likes them because they are amongst the most trouble free of captives.

An ordinary run-of-the-mill woma used to coast about $2,000, but recently they have dropped in price to somewhere between a half and two thirds of this price. This trend is opening up the species for more people to enjoy. The majority of State Authorities (not SA) classify them as specialist animals and place all sorts of restrictions on keeping them. This is understandable given that there were very few in captivity until eight or so years ago and their needs were poorly understood. However, today with 3rd and 4th generation captives readily available, they are one of the easiest and most enjoyable pythons to keep and are less of a specialist animal than BHPs, certainly less than many of the Children's group, and less than some of the Morelia species too. Hopefully, the authorities will catch up with advances in the hobby soon and let them take their rightful place in Australian herp society.

Australian Pythons: The Won't Bite; Cuddly Group

Snakes are predators and obligate carnivores. They don't live in a complex social structure and have had no need to develop affectionate behaviour. As babies most things eat them and so being handled by a human 3.2 million times their weight is not an experience they seek out. With careful attention and patience some pythons can become quite relaxed with captivity. However, there are no snakes that won't bite on occasion and certainly there are none that like to cuddle their keeper. At best, they become indifferent to their handler and enjoy the stimulation removal from their normal cage surroundings and exposure to new stimuli.

It is not uncommon for us to receive e-mails at Southern Cross Reptiles asking which snakes won't bite and would make a lovely pet. recently, a person told us that they had to sell their baby maculosus because it was too aggressive and scared them. They wanted to know if we thought their buying a young olive python was a good idea!!

Hells, bells if you want to buy a snake, but you want it to act like a cat on valium, then be honest with yourself and ask why do I really want to take on custodial responsibility for this animal. If you want a snake to be a cuddly little pet rather than enjoy it as a the magnificent predator for that it has evolved into over the last tens of millions of years, then I recommend you would better off keeping earthworms or sticking with non-biting and cuddly type pot plants.

Australian Pythons: Summary

Pythons can be fascinating and wonderful creatures to care for and observe in captivity. Each species has its own quirks and characteristics and each snake its own unique personality. When buying a new snake you should think carefully about your objectives and be honest about your skills and abilities too. I suggest you spend time doing research about a species pr form or interest so that you know what you are getting into. Many folk that contact us are in a blistering hurry to buy "a snake". Don't be. Part of the unique attributes of snakes is their slow metabolism and the very frugal way they approach life. If you want to experience the full benefit of owning them, you need to slow down when dealing with Australian pythons and take the time to enjoy the acquisition process.

Keeping Advice Sheet

Northern Death Adder.jpg

Venomous Snakes

  • Southern Death Adder (Acanthophis antarcticus) -- Maximum length 100 cm. Category 5.
  • Desert Death Adder (Acanthophis pyrrhus) -- Maximum length 75 cm. Category 5.
  • Pilbara Death Adder (Acanthophis wellsi) -- Maximum length 70 cm. Category 5.
  • Western Tiger Snake (Notechis scutatus) -- Maximum length 160 cm. Category 5.
  • Mulga Snake (Pseudechis australis) -- Maximum length 300 cm. Category 5.
  • Spotted Mulga Snake (Pseudechis butleri) -- Maximum length 180 cm. Category 5.
  • Dugite (Pseudonaja affinis) -- Maximum length 180 cm. Category 5.
  • Gwardar (Pseudonaja nuchalis) -- Maximum length 100 cm. Category 5.

NOTE: All species listed here are dangerously venomous snakes and are listed as Category 5. only the experienced herpeculturalist should consider keeping any of them. One must be over 18 years of age to hold a Category 5 licence. Maintaining a large elapid carries with it a considerable responsibility. Unless you are confident that you can comply with all your obligations and licence requirements when keeping dangerous animals, then look to obtaining a non-venomous species instead.

Natural Habits of Venomous Snakes

Venomous snakes occur in a wide variety of habitats and, apart from Death Adders, are highly mobile.

All species are active day and night.

Housing of Venomous Snakes

In all species listed except death adders, one adult (to 150cm total length) can be kept indoors in a lockable, top-ventilated, all glass or glass-fronted wooden vivarium of at least 90 x 45cm floor area. The height should be a minimum of 30cm if front opening and 45cm if top opening. Adult death adders require less room, 50 x 30 cm floor area being adequate, but for safety it is preferable  to use a top opening vivarium to house these rapid-striking snakes. It is recommended that all venomous snakes be housed separately (except during mating) to avoid problems associated with removal for cleaning, or when feeding. Juveniles (less than 40cm long) may be kept in smaller cages be strongly constructed, escape-proof and kept locked.

Captive Environment of Venomous Snakes

Furnishings should be kept simple. Try not to clutter up the cage too much. The floor covering should be easily removed for cleaning. Some alternatives are newspaper, pea-gravel, woodchips and indoor-outdoor loop-pile carpet. Do not use sand or soil, as this is unsuitable and will harbour disease-causing pathogens. Provide an enclosed shelter such as a wooden constructed hide box, shoebox or wine cask. The snake must be accessible when hiding, and a means to trap it there can reduce the need for handling when cage cleaning. All that is required for Death Adders is an area of leaf litter 3-4 centimeters deep. Before cleaning the cage, the snake should be removed and placed in a spare enclosure or secure bag.

Venomous snakes can be ascertained on tail shape, or with probing by a competent herpetologist. Breeding success is improved by allowing a cooling off period in both sexes for a month or so in winter. Mating occurs in late winter to late spring. All the above species, apart from viviparous Death Adders and Western Tiger Snake, are oviparous, depositing eggs 40-90 days after mating. The live bearers give birth 120-210 days post mating.


Adhered skin after sloughing is common in dry environments when humidity is too low. Try a larger water container. Soaking snake in wet bag for 30 minutes or so will often cause the adhered skin to come away in the bag.

Lack of appetite may be normal seasonal fasting, but is also caused by a too low cage temperature.

Regurgitation can also be a sign that the snake cannot get warm enough to digest its food.

Venomous Snakes Diseases

A clean artificial environment with the appropriate husbandry mentioned above will usually result in your pet reptile remaining healthy. Quarantine newly-acquired animals for at least a month before introducing them to those already being kept.

Reptile Mites on Venomous Snakes

Reptile mites are the scourge of many keepers. They can rapidly multiply and quickly kill a reptile. If an infestation is found, it is imperative that you take immediate action to eradicate it. Although small (a large female may be one-third the size of a pin head) they will be obvious on white paper as miniature black tick-like animals. If you find you have an infestation, it is important to kill it in situ. This can be achieved by placing a Sureguard Ministrip® within the respective cage for at least 8 hours before cleaning. Then follow up with two 8-hour cycles two days apart. DO NOT expose your pet to the pest strip for any longer or you may kill it.

Ticks on Venomous Snakes

When first obtaining your reptile, check it for ticks. These are often seen tucked up under the scales. They can be removed using tweezers and the bite site dabbed with antiseptic.

supported by Western Australian Society of Amateur Herpetologists Inc. (WASAH) and Department of Conservation and Land Management

Care of Australian Reptiles in Captivity - John Weigel Reptile Keepers Association, Gosford, NSW Understanding Reptile Parasites - Roger J Klingenberg, AVS, USA -

Further Reading on Venomous Snakes

Care Sheet: Children's Python


Introduction on Childrens Python

This care sheet is for beginners and covers the basic maintenance of this group of pythons. You should join your local herpetological society, where you can meet others and obtain more detailed information on the keeping of these pythons.

The term "childrens python" is used to describe a group of small, rock dwelling pythons known as Childrens Python (Antaresia Childreni), Small Blotched Pythons (Antaresia Maculosa) and Large Blotched Pythons or Stimsons Python (Antaresia Stimsoni). Contrary to popular belief these pythons are not known as Children Python because it is the snake for children but because Antaresia Childreni was named after Mr. J.G. Children, an English naturalist. The Eastern Small Blotched Python and Childrens Python are most commonly bred by reptile keepers and hence most readily available, although Stimsons Python is also sometimes available.

Childrens Python: Caging

Childrens python need to be kept indoors. An aquarium with a close fitting and secure lid is the simplest type of cage. Wooden cages with glass fronts retain heat better and are preferred by some keepers. Remember that snakes are expert at escaping and can squeeze through very small spaces, so you must make quite sure there are no gaps or holes. Small snakes do not need big cages.

One or two adult Childrens Python can be housed in a 1 meter long cage which is 40 to 60 centimeter wide. Hatchlings can be kept in smaller cages or plastic containers 30cm x 20cm and be moved to larger cages as they grow.

The bottom of the cage can be covered with aquarium gravel, coarse sand, leaf litter or bark. Some keepers just put down newspaper or butchers paper. Whatever material is used must be kept dry and clear. Faeces must be removed promptly and the floor covering material replaced it it gets damp or soiled, and certainly completely changed every few months.

Cage furniture should be kept to minimum. A stable water dish is essential and should be of a type that the snake cannot push under and spill the water. A suitable hiding place for each snake is also essential. This can be a cardboard box which provides a snug fit for the snake. Even curled pieces of bark under which the snake can curl are suitable. Plants, rocks, logs, etc. are optional. They can be dangerous for the animal if not secure, and they can make it difficult to retrieve and remove the snake from the cage safely. The more the cage is cluttered up, the more it takes time to clean and the greater the risk of accidents.

Childrens Python: Lighting and Heating

Childrens pythons are nocturnal although they will come out during the day. If the cage is situated in a room that gets plenty of sunlight then the lighting in the cage is mainly to provide heat. A word of caution, do not place cage in direct sunlight as temperatures within the cage could reach lethal levels. It takes only a few minutes for a snake to die from overheating.

As incandescent globes give off heat, these can be used to raise the temperature in the cage which should provide a range of temperatures so that the snake can move to a warmer or cooler spot as it wishes. The temperature range should be from about 35 to 25 degree Celsius and can be accomplished by placing the light source at one end of the cage to create a hot spot and by the use of heating devices such as hot rocks, heating pads or heat strips. A thermometer must be used to check the temperature levels in the cage until these are stabilized. Don't try and guess the temperature.

Childrens Python: Feeding

Adults can be fed every 10 to 14 days. One fully grown mouse will usually be sufficient. Juveniles should be fed at least weekly starting off on one or two new born "pinkie" mice and progressing to larger mice as they grow.

Hatchlings that are reluctant to take mice can usually be encouraged to do so by washing and drying the mouse to reduce the mouse scent. Another method is to scent the mouse by rubbing it with a lizard. It is not necessary to feed live animals to snakes. Almost all snakes will take dead mice, either freshly killed or thawed frozen mice. It might be necessary for the first couple of feeds to wriggle the mouse around a bit to get the snakes attention.

Frozen mice must be completely thawed out before being offered to the snake and if not eaten must be discarded. Do not refreeze mice that have been defrosted.

Childrens Python: Diseases/Illnesses

These are outside the scope of this basic care sheet. Any unusual behaviour or signs of illnesses should be discussed with an experienced keeper or with a veterinary surgeon. If you suspect something is wrong, act immediately, don't leave it. Early diagnosis and treatment is important.

Weigel, J. (1988) Care of Australian Reptiles in Captivity, Reptile Keepers -

Further Reading on Childrens Python.

Keelback Snakes


Tropidonophis mairii or Keelback Snakes

Keelback snakes are non-venomous snakes that love to eat frogs, tadpoles and lizards. Unlike most other Australian animals, keelback snakes can eat baby cane toads. They appear to be immune to low doses of cane toad toxin. This species, also know as the freshwater snake is very widespread, and variable in colour. Keelback snakes shelter and forage under debris, especially fallen timber and bushes; under clumps of vegetation, and even in the water.

Keelback snakes look very similar to the highly venomous Rough-scaled snake. The keelback snake is the only member of this genus found in Australia. There are 17 other species found throughout Malaysia, Indonesia, and New Guinea. When disturbed, keelback snakes can emit a foul-smelling odour from anal scent glands.

Did you know...

  • Keelback snakes are non-venomous snakes that love to eat frogs, tadpoles and lizards.
  • Unlike most other Australian animals, keelback snakes can eat baby cane toads. They are immune to low doses of cane toad toxin.
  • Keelback snakes look very similar to the highly venomous rough scaled snake.
  • The keelback snake is the only member of this genus found in Australia. There are 17 other species found throughout Malaysia, Indonesia, and New Guinea.

Where to find Keelback Snakes in Australia:

When disturbed, Keelback Snakes can emit a foul-smelling odour from anal scent glands.

Rough-scaled Snake


Tropidechis carinatus or Rough scaled Snake

Rough scaled snake is often confused with the harmless Keelback Snake. Both have rough scales that help them to climb. The Rough scaled snake has relatively long fangs, and a highly neuro-toxic venom. Recipients of a Rough scaled Snake bite often fall into unconsciousness within minutes of being bitten. Rough scaled Snake is closely related to the Tiger Snake group, and Tiger Snake anti-venom will effectively neutralize their venom.

The Rough scaled Snake species grow up to about 1 metre. They're one of the few venomous Australian snakes that can regularly be found climbing trees.

To locate their prey a rough scaled snake will actively hunt, or wait to ambush, any small mammals, frogs, birds, or reptiles they can find. As with virtually all snakes, it is a shy, nervous creature that would rather flee than fight, but if provoked it can become quite aggressive. From 5 to 18 large, live young are produced every second year.

Did you know...

  • Rough scaled Snake is often confused with the harmless keelback snake. Both have rough scales that help them to climb.
  • The rough scaled snake has relatively long fangs, and a highly neurotoxic venom. Recipients of a rough-scaled snake bite often fall into unconsciousness within minutes of being bitten.
  • Rough scaled snake is most closely related to the tiger snake group, and tiger snake antivenom will effectively neutralise their venom.
  • From 5 to 18 large, live young are produced every second year.

Where The Rough Scaled Snake dwell in Australia:

Rough scaled snake can grow up to about 1 metre, and they're one of the few venomous Australian snakes that can regularly be found climbing trees.

Slaty-grey Snake


Stegonotus cucullatus or Slaty grey Snake

The non-venomous Slaty grey Snake is found on Cape York Peninsula of North Queensland and the northern part of the Northern Territory. They feed on fishes (including eels), tadpoles, frogs, lizards, reptile eggs and small mammals. When feeding on small mammals, the Slaty grey Snake constricts its prey in a python-like fashion. When hunting they will happily climb into low shrubs or rocky banks in the vicinity of frog breeding sites.

If cornered or grasped Slaty grey snake will respond by biting repeatedly and emitting a pungent, unforgettable odour. The female is an egg layer. These snakes are found in coastal plains and dunes, watercourses, slopes and ranges in tropical shrublands, woodlands and forests, including rainforests. They are normally found near swamps, billabongs and water courses that contain frogs and small fish.

Did you know...

  • The non-venomous slaty grey snake is found on Cape York Peninsula of North Queensland and the northern part of the Northern Territory.
  • The female Slaty grey Snake is an egg-layer.
  • If cornered or grasped, Slaty grey Snake will respond by biting repeatedly and emitting a pungent, unforgettable odour.
  • When feeding on small mammals, the slaty grey snake constricts its prey in a python-like fashion.

Where to find Slaty grey Snake in Australia:

Slaty grey Snake feed on fishes (including eels), tadpoles, frogs, lizards, reptile eggs and small mammals.

Eastern Brown Snake


Pseudonaja textilis or Eastern Brown Snake

This is a large, diurnal (active during the day), dangerously venomous snake. We often get carried away with the potency of a snake's venom, but the distribution and temperament of the animal is also an issue. In the last decade the Eastern Brown Snake has become the cause of most snakebite deaths in Australia. This is not because these animals are more aggressive - quite the contrary. When an Eastern Brown Snake is confronted it will lunge at the aggressor out of fear.

The Eastern Brown Snake increased its numbers thanks to man, due primarily to an increase in prey items. Mice and rats are a favourite food, and the increased numbers of these inhabiting rubbish left by humans provide more than enough food for these snakes. They will also happily consume lizards and frogs.

The Eastern Brown Snake is perhaps the most important species of snake from a medical point of view. Textilinin is a derivative of this animal's venom. Textilinin is an inhibitor of plasmin, which is important in dissolving blood clots. Inhibiting plasmin with agents like Textilinin can be used to stop bleeding during major surgery. The Eastern Brown Snake is another snake that is often not true to its name in colour, with shades of brown, grey and black being as common as plain brown. Juveniles can be speckled with orange and are very pretty. Females are egg layers, producing up to 24 eggs.

Did you know...

  • The eastern brown snake is a large, diurnal (active during the day), dangerously venomous snake.
  • The eastern brown is one snake that has increased its numbers thanks to man, due primarily to an increase in prey items - rats and mice.
  • The eastern brown snake is perhaps the most important species of snake from a medical point of view. Textilinin is a derivative of this animal's venom which can be used to stop bleeding during major surgery.
  • The eastern brown snake is another snake that is often not true to its name in colour, with shades of brown, grey and black being as common as plain brown.

Distribution of Eastern Brown Snake in Australia:

Juvenile Eastern Brown Snake can be speckled with orange and are very pretty.

Western Brown Snake


Pseudonaja nuchalis or Western Brown Snake

Western brown snake can be found over most of mainland Australia, being noticeably absent from the moister areas of the east, south east and south western Australia. Western Brown Snake shelter in disused mammal burrows and deep soil cracks, and under fallen timber and rocks. During warmer weather these snakes become nocturnal. They feed on small mammals, birds and reptiles, including other snakes.

Western Brown Snake species includes 12 to 16 colour variations, some of which may turn out to be different species. The phylogenetic relationships of the brown snake group are still being investigated. It may turn out that this black-headed form of the western brown snake is actually a separate species. 9 to 38 eggs are laid in a clutch from November to January. Once the babies hatch they are completely self-sufficient, and are capable of delivering a dangerously venomous bite to humans.

Did you know...

  • During warmer weather Western Brown Snake become nocturnal.
  • Western Brown Snake includes 12 to 16 colour variations, some of which may turn out to be different species.
  • The phylogenetic relationships of the brown snake group are still being investigated. It may turn out that this blackheaded form of the western brown snake is actually a separate species.
  • 9 to 38 eggs are laid in a clutch from November to January. Once the babies hatch they capable of delivering a dangerously venomous bite to humans.

Distribution of Western Brown Snake in Australia:

Western Brown Snake feed on small mammals, birds and reptiles, including other snakes.



Childrens Python Breeding

by Matt & Nicci Turner

Despite confusion over its name, the small and easily kept Antaresia childreni is a snake for all.

We think that most biologists, ecologists, paleontologists and other scientists have daydreamed at one point or another of having the honor of being immortalized with the assignment of their surname to describe an organism to science. What a great thing it would be to be among the scientists who have plants and animals named after them -- the D'Albert's python, the Bibron gecko, the Colett's black snake and others. But to what benefit would that honor be to the understanding of the plant or animal? It is neither descriptive nor geographic, and as is the case for Antaresia childreni, often confusing or misleading.

Childrens Python: A Problematic Honor

In naming new species, it was once common to recognize an individual who acted as a mentor or who has had a profound impact to the scientific development and maturation of the person giving the official description. Unfortunately, this great honor is usually only apparent to a small percentage of the population who study the newly named organism, and it means little to the common observer. Such is the case with the Childrens Python (A.childreni).

At first glance, the name can have several meanings. This could be a small python, equating the word "Children's" to small like a child. This could be a python suited for children and one that is often owned as a pet by kids, as evidenced by the apostrophe "s." Or perhaps this is a large and dangerous python rumored to feed upon ill-mannered children of north-central Australia. Indeed, not many people associate the word "Children's" with the English chemist, mineralogist and zoologist J.G.Children, who was the keeper of the zoological collection of the British Museum from 1822 to 1840. Children's successor, John Gray, described the Children's python in 1842 based on a preserved, non-cataloged specimen in the museum's holdings.

Childrens Python: A Natural History

The Childrens python is a member of the genus Antaresia, which it shares the closely related spotted (A. maculosa), large blotched (A. stimsoni) and pygmy (A. perthensis) pythons. Members of this genus are characterized as being of small stature and thin-skinned with earthy coloration and a blotched or spotted pattern. Prior to 1985, all of these species were thought to be forms of the same species and not recognized as distinct. This renders pre-1985 data on childreni essentially useless because it isn't clear which species was actually being studied.

At least one of the preliminary assumption about the Childrens python can be viewed as accurate. It is certainly one of the world's smallest pythons. The adult Childrens pythons on our cage average about 30 inches in length, with one very large female growing to 38 inches. Females are generally larger than males in terms of both length and weight.

These are subtly attractive pythons. While they lack the loud, boisterous colors and patterns of many other species, Childrens python have a quiet beauty. They possess thin, silky skin that reflects a beautiful purplish iridescence in the right lighting. Their eyes are copper to gold with a well-defined pupil. The head is distinctly python in shape with pitted, labial scales around the mouth and the large plate-like scales adorning the top of the head. Adult coloration and pattern varies with the origins of the original bloodline founder animals. All Children python can be colored in earthy tones of brown, tan, rust, and terra cotta. Depending on locality, some retain significant amounts of blotching, and others become nearly patternless with age and maturity. Hatchlings are often boldly patterned with many fragmented blotches of a darker brown or bronze over a pale base color. As soon as they begin feeding and growing, this color pattern begins to fade and the contrast between the blotches and base color begins to decrease.

Children python can be s are found across the north-central portion of Australia, from about the 22nd parallel to the Timor Sea and among several offshore islands. They are found in a variety of habitats ranging from the dry interior to the humid coast, but they are most often found along water-ways within these areas. their preferred micro-habitat seems to be rocky hillsides, outcrops and cave systems, where they hunt other small reptiles and amphibians. Interestingly, The children python is often found in caves, adopting a semi-arboreal lifestyle along the crags and crevices for hunting the many species of small bats in the area.

Childrens Python In Captivity

Captive Children python can make great captives as pets or for study. They are undemanding and low maintenance. They are easily housed and fed because of their diminutive size. They generally have a calm disposition and are easily bred, making them terrific subjects for research too. Fort the last 15, years or so, an abundance of these fascinating small pythons have been available to herpetoculturists, which has also made them quite affordable for most budgets.

Housing childreni can be very basic. They don't require a lot of special treatment to do well. Our adults are housed simply in 32-quart tubs measuring approximately 23 inches long by 16 inches tall. These tubs are contained in a rack system that allows us to eliminate the need for lids. The racks have a section of heat tape at the back of each level providing an 88 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit hot spot on the back floor of the cage. For a substrate, we use shredded aspen bedding at a depth of about 2 inches. We provide a hidebox in the rear of the tub and a water bowl on the cooler end. (Excess humidity should be avoided; humidity needs are naturally met with this setup.) It's that easy. Children python thrive in this simple setup.

If you are more interested in naturalistic vivaria, Children python can be the perfect vivarium occupants. Pythons are often simply too large to be efficiently housed in a showcase-type setup. A pair of adult childreni will do great in a display cage of approximately 48 inches long by 18 inches deep by 24 inches tall. Let your imagination run wild with this setting up a naturalistic cage for this small python. They are at home in a variety of habitats, so sub-desert, woodland and rocky outcrop themes all apply. They will utilize rocky cliffs and large branches, so make sure to stabilize these to prevent them from falling and harming your snakes. Captive Children's are perfectly content to live on mice and small rats. Hatchlings should start on the smallest of pinky mice and quickly graduate through the sizes. Our adults are offered full-grown mice or a couple of rat pups each week. Adult childreni in our care have also readily accepted small chicks.

Making Children Python

The Children's python is one of the easiest pythons to breed in captivity. Feeding should be halted around November 1 to allow them to clean out their gastrointestinal tracts in preparation for their winter cycling. On November 15, we begin to lower the nightime cage temperature weekly, and reduce the ambient light levels and the number of hours the hot spots are on. By the end of November, nightime temps should be down to 68 to 72 degrees, with the daytime temps in the upper 70s. We provide a daytime hot spot of 86 to 88 for about six to eight hours, but it will probably not be utilized much, if at all.

Over Thanksgiving weekend, the pythons are paired up, and the breeding season officially begins. Copulations most often occur at night and are frequent. It is not uncommon to observe breeding activity almost every night for the next couple of months. Breeding activity seems to taper of during the coolest periods from around New Year's Day to February 1. Renewed interest occurs in mid-February as the temperatures begin to return to the usual summer levels.

Ovulation occurs around the lower third of the female's body, and is often witnessed in mid-March through mid-April. Relative to the snake's size, the ovulation swelling can seem huge. At this time, the animals are separated, and feeding soon resumes for the males.

After ovulation, the females soon begin a shed cycle. This shed will seem prolonged and typically lasts five to seven days longer than a normal shed. Once the shed completes, expect eggs in about 28 to 30 days.

The female should be given a secure nestbox in which to deposit her clutch. A small cat litter pan or large butter tub filled with moist sphagnum moss can be used successfully. The average clutch size for us is about a dozen eggs, but other breeders have reported as many as 20 in a clutch. We recommend moving the eggs to an incubator after they are laid to allow the female to regain lost weight for the next breeding season.

If the female is not scheduled to breed again the following year, we recommend trying maternal incubation. This is an intriguing part of python life that is frequently forgotten about in captivity. Female childreni make excellent mothers, and it is most rewarding to see them so what comes naturally. This also allows hobbyists to gain a lot of insight into the incubation process of pythons by taking temperature, humidity and observational notes. Trust me, your findings will lead to more questions, more hypotheses and more knowledge of what happens during python egg incubation.

If artificially incubated, the eggs should only be set up on slightly damp vermiculite. These small eggs have a tendency to absorb too much water and weep yolk if exposed to overly damp conditions. A good vermiculite-to-water ratio is 2-1 for these eggs. At an incubation temperature of 88 to 89 degrees, the eggs should hatch in about 55 days.

Childrens Python: Neonate Care

Hatchling Children's are very tiny snakes, and some extra precautions should be mentioned when setting up the hatchlings. First of all, their small girth should be noted when housing them in rack systems. They can easily squeeze through the tiniest gap, and this makes keeping them in a lidless rack system difficult.

We found what works best is tp house them individually in 6 1/4 inch-diameter deli cups. The cups can be punched around the rim with tiny ventilation holes for air exchange. They can be the placed on a thermostat-controlled strip of 3-inch heat tape to provide a hot spot. Make sure only a third or so of the cup is directly on the tape to prevent overheating. A 2-ounce soufflé cup makes a great water bowl, and a folded piece of newspaper on top the aspen creates a sufficient hide.

Feeding new hatchlings can also be tough because of their small size. We generally offer food about three weeks once they shed and fully digest their yolk. No more than a day-old pinky mouse can be offered. Fortunately, this size is easy to come by if you breed your own mice, and most frozen rodent distributors will fill orders for one-day-old pinkies.

Most of our hatchlings have started feeding on live newborn mice, but a few need some assistance. There is a percentage of each clutch that holds out for foods that smell more like their natural prey, and lizard scenting becomes necessary. Anoles work well for this, as does the shed skin of skinks and geckos. Sometimes one or two babies in a clutch will be extra rebellious and require a few assist feedings. We use pieces of mouse tail for this. Just break the tail off of a frozen rodent, let it thaw and cut it into 1-inch sections. Insert the piece into the snake's mouth, and most often the baby will do the rest. This is not very nutritious, but it provides a good calcium boost and has saved many baby snakes for us over the years.

Final Thoughts on Childrens Python

The Children python is a great small species to keep. These pythons are undemanding in care and easy to breed. These factors make them terrific study subjects as well as pets. They also offer great change of pace for breeders working with larger snakes and provide a back-to-basics project for even the most seasoned herpers.

We believe that true herpetoculturists can find interest and fascination with any reptile, whether they are "money makers" or not. While Childrens python is considered investment animals, they are great, easy-to-care-for snakes that deserve recognition.

Red-bellied Black Snake


Pseudechis porphyriacus or Red-bellied Black Snake

The Red-bellied Black Snake is a diurnal (day time) predator. The average length for this snake is 1.5 metres, but they can reach a length of 2.7 metres. They enjoy living around watercourses and marshy grounds, as their favourite foods (frogs, eels and lizards) are usually found in these areas. The introduction of the Cane Toad almost wiped this species out. Fortunately there seemed to be a number of Red-bellied Black Snakes that chose not to eat toads. These animals seem to have passed this trait on to their offspring, resulting in Red-bellied Black Snake population numbers becoming more secure.

The Red-bellied Black Snake is a shy and docile snake. Red Bellies have been known to strike with their mouths closed to scare off unwanted attackers, which is contrary to their reputation as ferocious animals. The venom of the Red-bellied Black Snake is quite low in potency compared with most other venomous species. Its venom possesses procoagulant (blood-clotting) and myolytic (muscle-destroying) activity. It is not unusual for necrosis (tissue death) to occur at the bite site.

The Red Bellied Black Snake bears live babies, with litters of up to 20 not uncommon.

Did you know...

  • The average length for the red-bellied black snake is 1.5 metres, but they can reach a length of 2.7 metres.
  • The venom of the red-bellied black snake is quite low in potency compared with most other venomous species.
  • Red bellies have been known to strike with their mouths closed to scare off unwanted attackers, which is contrary to their reputation as ferocious animals.
  • The red-bellied black snake bears live babies.

Where Red-Bellies can be found in Australia:

The introduction of the cane toad almost wiped the Red-bellied Black Snake species out.

Tiger Snake Envenomation

First Aid for tiger snake envenomation is pressure-immobilization

The snakes in the group defined here are grouped together because of similarity in clinical aspects of the envenomations they may cause. Several genera are represented, and among the species included are:

  • Mainland Tiger Snake
  • Black Tiger Snake
  • Rough-Scaled Snake
  • Copperheads
  • Pale-Headed Snake
  • Broad-Headed Snake
  • Stephen's Banded Snake
  • Small-Eyed Snake

Signs and Symptoms

Tiger snake venom has a wide range of effects on humans. It contains pre-synaptic and post-synaptic neurotoxins, myotoxins and procoagulants. Significant envenomation by any species of this group may result in:

  1. Neurological impairment
  2. Paralysis
  3. Incoaguable blood
  4. Rhabdomyolysis
  5. Renal failure secondary to myolysis


First aid for tiger snake envenomation consists of a pressure bandage and immobilisation. In cases where a pressure bandage has been applied correctly, it can be left in situ indefinitely while the patient is feeling no discomfort as a result. If it becomes appropriate to remove a pressure bandage, it is necessary to have antivenom and haemostatic support ready. In severe cases, a patient may require ventilatory support.

Antivenom is indicated for any clinical manifestations of neurotoxicity, myolysis or severe coagulopathy.


Tiger snake antivenom can be used effectively for envenomation by any of the species listed above.

Tiger snake antivenom supplied by CSL Ltd is equine in origin.

Spotted Black Snake


Pseudechis guttatus or Spotted Black Snake

When is a black snake NOT black? Colour variation among most species of black snake is extreme. The Spotted Black Snake can range from cream to orange to black, with speckling or without. As with other members of the Black Snake family, the Spotted Black Snake is not an aggressive animal. When provoked, they will often flatten their heads to appear larger and more threatening.

The Spotted Black Snake grows to an average length of 1.2 metres. Their diet consists of lizards, frogs, small mammals, and other snakes. They are an egg laying snake, with the female producing approximately 13 eggs in a clutch.

The venom of the Spotted Black Snake contains a coagulant, an anticoagulant, haemolysin, a haemorrhagin, and a neurotoxin. The preferred antivenom is specific Black Snake. If this is unavailable, Tiger Snake antivenom will give adequate cross protection.

Did you know...

  • The spotted black snake can range from cream to orange to black, with speckling or without.
  • Even though there is a specific black snake antivenom, tiger snake antivenom is used to treat bites from the spotted black snake.
  • As with other members of the black snake family, the spotted black snake is not an aggressive animal. When provoked, they will often flatten their heads to appear larger and more threatening.
  • The spotted black snake grows to an average length of 1.2 metres.

Where in Australia Spotted Black Snakes dwell:

The spotted black snake has a diet consisting of lizards, frogs, small mammals, and other snakes.

Brown Snake Envenomation


First Aid for brown snake envenomation is pressure-immobilisation

Brown snake is widespread outside urban areas, and particularly common around buildings in rural environments. The group is the most important in terms of fatalities, being responsible for more deaths in the last twenty-five years than any other group. The fact that brown snakes are very fast-moving also adds degree to the danger they present. While all snakes are generally variable in appearance, brown snakes are remarkably so, leading to possible problems with identification.

Among the toxins contained in their venom is a very potent presynaptic neurotoxin, one of the strongest of toxins found in snakes. The venom also contains a postsynaptic neurotoxin and a procoagulant. Unlike the venom of most dangerous Australian elapids, that of brown snakes has littles or no myolytic activity.

Signs and Symptoms

Early collapse, a few minutes after the bite, is not infrequent in cases of brown snake envenomation, possibly due to haemostatic disturbance resulting from coagulopathy. Bloods will typically indicate prolonged clotting times. Thrombocytopenia is also evident from haematology. One diagnostically distinct feature of brown snake enevenomation is the absence of rhabdomyolysis, which in cases involving other species manifests as myoglobinuria. Coagulopathic effects can also result in disseminated intravascular coagulopathy, putting the patient at risk of cerebrovascular accident.


First aid for brown snake envenomation consists of a pressure bandage and immobilisation. In cases where a pressure bandage has been applied correctly, it can be left in situ indefinitely while the patient is feeling no discomfort as a result. If it becomes appropriate to remove a pressure bandage, it is necessary to have antivenom and haemostatic support ready. In severe cases, a patient may require ventilatory support.

Brown Snake Antivenom

It is generally accepted that the initial treatment for syptomatic brown snake envenomation involves administration of two ampoules of monovalent Brown Snake Antivenom. Brown snake antivenom supplied by CSL Ltd is equine in origin.

Collett's Snake


Pseudechis colletti or Colletts Snake

An inhabitant of the Black Soil Plains of central western Queensland, Colletts Black Snake is considered one of Australia's most beautiful snakes. The colour of individuals ranges from brown to cream to red, with dark bands or spots. The environment in which this snake lives is harsh and arid, where during the summer months the ground temperature often exceeds 45 degrees Celcius. The only way to escape from the extreme heat is to go deep underground. The snakes achieve this by utilising the deep cracks that appear in the ground. The Colletts Snake can reach a maximum length of 2.5 metres. Mature animals often become very thick in the body and as a consequence are heavy and strong.

As with all members of the Black Snake family, the Colletts Snake is not inclined to bite. Their venom has a number of low molecular weight toxins and two separate myolytic proteins. It has the potential to produce myoglobinuria. There is also high phospholipase activity. Colletts Snake feed on rodents, other reptiles, birds, and frogs.

On rainy nights when the burrowing frogs come up from underground, these snakes will come out to feast. This is a rarely-seen animal in the wild and there are possibly more of these animals in captivity than now live on the Plains. Females are egg layers, producing approximately 8 to 20 eggs in a clutch.

Did you know...

  • Colletts snake is considered one of Australia's most beautiful snakes.
  • The environment in which this snake lives is harsh and arid, where during the summer months the ground temperature often exceeds 45 degrees Celcius.
  • The Colletts snake can reach a maximum length of 2.5 metres. Mature animals often become very thick in the body and as a consequence are heavy and strong.

Where in Australia Colletts Snake can be found:

As with all members of the Black Snake family, the Colletts snake is not inclined to bite.

Black Snake Envenomation


The First Aid for black snake envenomation is pressure-immobilisation

Black Snake Envenomation: Signs and Symptoms

The venom of mulga snake is somewhat less toxic than that of many other Australian venomous snakes, among them the black snake. Mytoxicity is a major feature, and the venom also contains anticoagulants and possibly neurotoxins. Swelling and pain at the bite site may be seen, and are unusual in bites by other Australian snake genera.

Red-bellied black snake bite may cause coagulopathy, neurotoxicity, and myolysis. No human deaths have been confirmed, although animals have died after bites by this snake.

Bites from the blue-bellied black snake may cause severe local pain and regional lymphadenopathy.

Black Snake Envenomation: Treatment

First aid for black snake envenomation consists of a pressure bandage and immobilization. In cases where a pressure bandage has been applied correctly, it can be left in situ indefinitely while the patient is feeling no discomfort as a result. If it becomes appropriate to remove a pressure bandage, it is necessary to have antivenom and haemostatic support ready.


Black snake antivenom should be used for envenomation by the mulga snake and Collett's snake.

Tiger snake antivenom is just as effective in treating envenomation by the red-bellied black snake and blue-bellied black snake, and is preferable because of its lesser volume.

Black snake and tiger snake antivenom supplied by CSL Ltd are equine in origin.

Spotted Mulga Snake


Pseudechis butleri or Spotted Mulga Snake

Did you know...

  • Spotted mulga snake, sometimes called Butler's mulga snakes, are found in a small area in central Western Australia.
  • Spotted Mulga Snake is named after Harry Butler, well-known TV naturalist.
  • Spotted mulga snake is related to common mulga snakes, or king brown snakes. the same antivenom is used to treat bites from both species.

Where Spotted Mulga Snake can be found in Australia:

Spotted Mulga Snake eat a mainly reptiles, but will also take mammals.

Mulga Snake


h2<>Pseudechis australis or the Mulga Snake

The Mulga Snake is the heaviest of Australia's venomous snakes, and they also have the widest distribution. A large adult can reach a length of 3 metres. They have the largest venom output of any Australian snake. A 1.65 metre specimen once delivered 5 mL in one bite, which equates to 600 mg of dried venom. The Mulga Snake is in the Black Snake family, but because of its brown colour these animals are often thought to be in the Brown Snake family. Mulga Snake venom affects the skeletal musculature, being mainly haemolytic and cytotoxic, but it's also mildly neurotoxic and myotoxic.

Mulga Snakes will feed on any small animal, though they do have a preference for other snakes and lizards. Research is currently being undertaken using the Mulga Snake venom to help people suffering with blood clots. The Mulga Snake venom has strong anti-coagulant properties, which prevent the blood from clotting. The Mulga Snake is an egg layer, with females producing on average 12 eggs per clutch.

Did you know...

  • Mulga snakes have the largest venom output of any Australian snake.
  • The Mulga Snake venom has strong anti-coagulant properties, which prevent the blood from clotting.
  • Mulga snakes will feed on any small animal, though they do have a preference for other snakes and lizards.
  • The mulga snake is in the Black Snake family, but because of its brown colour these animals are often thought to be in the Brown Snake family.

Distribution of Mulga Snakes in Australia:

A large adult Mulga Snake can reach a length of 3 metres.

Coastal Taipan


Oxyuranus scutellatus The Coastal Taipan is Australia's longest venomous snake. The maximum length recorded was from a 3.3-metre-long snake caught at Tully in the early 1960s. The average length of a Coastal Taipan caught nowadays is about 2 metres. The venom of the Coastal Taipan contains a potent procoagulant, and a presynaptic neurotoxin called taipoxin. This toxin also attacks muscles, releasing myoglobin and muscle enzymes, such as creatine kinase. The Coastal Taipan is mainly diurnal (active during the day) and crepuscular (active at dawn and dusk), though is sometimes nocturnal. The only record of a Taipan from Brisbane was in 1958 from the suburb of Runcorn.

The Taipan is people-shy and rat hungry. Through this diet of rats the Coastal Taipan has evolved a unique hunting technique, that, when coupled with a venom powerful enough to subdue large rats quickly, aids in the hunter not being killed by its prey. The Taipan uses a 'snap and release' bite. Once the Taipan bites the prey item it quickly pulls back from the animal, and waits for the prey's demise. When hunting rats this snap and release biting techniqueprevents the rat from inflicting a fatal bite on the Taipan's slender and vulnerable neck.

The Taipan is an egg layer, producing up to24 eggs in a clutch. These hatch in about 60 days. The newly-hatched snakes, being approximately 36 cm in length, will begin feeding on small mice.

Did you know...

  • The coastal taipan is Australia's longest venomous snake. The maximum length recorded was from a 3.3-metre-long snake caught at Tully in the early 1960s.
  • The venom of the Coastal Taipan contains a potent blood thickener, and it also attacks muscles and the nervous system.
  • Not one to be messed with! The only record of a Taipan from Brisbane was in 1958 from the suburb of Runcorn.
  • The Taipan is an egg layer, producing up to 24 eggs in a clutch. These hatch in about 60 days. The newly-hatched snakes, being approximately 36 cm in length, will begin feeding on small mice.

Where Coastal Taipans are found in Australia: