Eastern Brown Snake What is an Eastern Brown Snake?

The eastern brown snake is found throughout eastern Australia, usually close to human habitation. It is the second most venomous snake in the world and is responsible for the most snake bite fatalities in Australia. A large adult eastern brown snake, with a slender body between 1.5-2.0 meters in length and moving with surprising speed – as fast as a man can run – It is a scary and formidable creature.

Eastern Brown Snake - Description What is a Eastern Brown Snake?

The eastern brown snake's colour is variable, ranging from very dark brown to light tan to burnt orange. Lighter coloured animals have a uniform colouring while the very dark one have a lighter head colouring. Its belly is typically cream, yellow or light orange with darker pink or orange spots. It has smooth and slightly glossy body scales. The eastern brown snake has a small head that is blends into its body without any noticeable indentation. It has medium-sized orange eyes with round black pupils below an obvious brow-ridge. The eastern brown snake belongs to the elapid family of snakes which means it has hollow syringe-like venom injecting fangs located in the front of its mouth. This snake has relatively small fangs (approximately 3mm), but makes up for this with the toxicity of its venom. Like most snakes it is deaf, has a forked tongue, and no eyelids. An eastern brown snake can live for 7-10 years.

Eastern Brown Snake – Danger to Humans Is the Eastern Brown Snake Venomous?

Snake Bite

Fast moving and aggressive when provoked, the eastern brown snake is the second most venomous snake in the world and responsible for the most snake bite fatalities in Australia. This is a result of two factors. Firstly, this native snake has acquired a taste for small introduced animals such rats and mice that are most prevalent around areas inhabited by humans, such as agricultural and urban areas. As a consequence there is a higher chance that there will be an encounter with humans. Secondly, the eastern brown snake's venom is one of the most potent. Because of its small fangs, the initial bite is generally painless and often difficult to detect but the venom contains a cocktail of powerful and fast acting presynaptic neurotoxins, procoagulants, cardiotoxins and nephrotoxins that cause progressive paralysis, uncontrollable bleeding, cardiac arrest and death within about 4 hours if untreated. Prompt medical attention with the administration of antivenom is required to prevent death.


Most bites occur as a direct result people trying to kill these snakes and are subsequently been bitten. The simplest safety precaution is the leave the snake alone. Move away slowly and calmly and let it slither away on its own accord. Call a snake-catcher if necessary to remove it. Do not attempt to handle a snake even if it appears dead as it can reflexly bite up to several hours after death.

When travelling through areas the snake is likely to inhabit, avoid going off the beaten track and into areas with dense undergrowth Wearing long pants thick socks and solid footware will greatly reduce the chances of suffering from a snake bite.

Related Article: What to Do – If Bitten by a Snake

Eastern Brown Snake – Attack How the Eastern Brown Snake Attacks

Research has clearly demonstrated that the eastern brown snake is not naturally aggressive towards humans. From the snakes point of view humans are not a food source and there is little incentive for it in attacking a human. If approached at a distance, the eastern brown snake will choose to flee or remain stationary hoping to avoid detection. Even an close range if the human moves slowly and in a non-provoking manner the snake is mostly likely to refrain from any aggressive behaviour. If however the snake is startled or confronted at close quarters it will react defensively and not hesitate to put on a threatening display and strike at any perceived treat, including humans.

Low Level Attack

During a low level attack the snake flattens its neck, raises the front part of its body horizontally just above the ground, and strikes its victim. Given that the snake is probably moving, the angle of attack these low level strikes are not optimal and less likely to deliver an envenomed bite (venom rich bite). These bites usually occur around the feet, ankles and calves of a human.

High Level Attack

Dying from a Snake Bite

You are 50 times more likely to die from falling off your bed than from a snake bite.

In a high level attack the snake lifts most of its body off the ground and coils its neck into a "S" shape, opens its mouth wide, fully exposing its fangs and strikes with great accuracy and power, injecting its venom very effectively into its victim (envenomed bite). The snake may also strike make times from this position. Given the height of attack these usually result in bites to the thigh in humans.

Eastern Brown Snake - Habitat Where Does the Eastern Brown Snake Live?

The eastern brown snake are found throughout eastern Australia, from northern Queensland to South Australia, and extending towards the central deserts. Two isolated habitat pockets are also found in the Barkly Tableland and the MacDonnell Ranges in the Northern Territory. They inhabit a wide range of habitats with the exception of rainforests and alpine regions. They are also absent from the island of Tasmania.

The eastern brown snake prefers open grasslands, pastures and woodland and is common in farmland and on the outskirts of urban areas. The snake's affinity for areas close to human habitation may be due to the presence of its favourite food — rodents.

When inactive it shelters beneath any structure under which it can creep such as fallen logs, large rocks, fissures in the earth and animal burrows. Many human structures, and rubbish also provide excellent hiding spots and areas in which to hibernate for these snakes.

Eastern Brown Snake - Diet What Do Eastern Brown Snakes Eat?

The eastern brown snake hunts during the cooler hours of daylight. It relies mostly on sight to find its prey, lifting its head up, from time to time, like a periscope to survey the landscape. Once a victim has been sighted it gives chase, racing along at high speed to catch its victim and subduing it. It kills its victim by both injecting venom and in some instance, for large more thick skinned prey, such as the blue tongued lizard (in photograph), where its relatively short fangs might not pierce the animal’s skin, it constricts and suffocates its prey. While most animals attacked by the eastern brown snake succumb to it, it has been observed that the breaded dragon lizard may actually be immune to its venom and will usually give battle to escape the eastern brown snake’s grasp.

The adult eastern brown snake diet consists almost most entirely of vertebrates (animals with backbones) such as frogs, other reptiles, lizards, birds, mammals and eggs. Since European settlement and the introducing of rats and mice these have become one of its favourite delicacies. Rabbits too fall prey to the eastern brown snake. Snakes larger than about 7cm in length predominantly eat warm-blooded animals. Those smaller than this length eat proportionally more ectothermic prey, such as lizards.

The eastern brown snake is susceptible to cane toad toxins. It appears however that these snakes have learned to actively avoid these poisonous toads.

The eastern brown snake rarely eats during winter and females may not eat at all while carrying eggs.

Eastern Brown Snake - Reproduction Eastern Brown Snake Babies

Eastern brown snakes mate in mid to late spring. Males engage in ritual combat where they intertwine their bodies and wrestle one another in an attempt to overpower the other. The stronger usually wins and gains access to the receptive female. Copulation can last to up to two hours and the female may store sperm for several weeks after mating. The female lays a clutch of about 15 eggs and abandons the eggs. Depending on the incubation temperature in the nest, eggs will hatch about 36 to 95 days after being laid.

The size of hatchlings varies greatly, from 189-275mm and 4-10gm. All hatchlings have a common head banding but differ greatly in the patterns and bandings on their bodies. These markings fade as they mature. Hatchlings are independent from birth and acquire the distinctive threat display characteristic of their species within 15 minutes of hatching. Eastern brown snakes can reach sexual maturity in about 31 months of age.

Eastern Brown Snake - Threats and Predators Is the Eastern Brown Snake Endangered?

The eastern brown snakes predators include birds of prey and and feral cats. Large numbers of these snakes are killed by humans. Road kills too claim a large number of these snakes. Given the eastern brown snakes ability to easily adapt to human environmental activity such as farming and urbanisation, they are not considered endangered.

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