Red Bellied Black Snake What is a Red Belly Black Snake?

The red-bellied black snake is a medium-sized venomous snake with a glossy black upper body with striking bright red or crimson sides and belly. It one of the most frequently encountered snakes on the east coast of Australia, and accounting for approximately 16% of all snake bites. It is a very shy and non-aggressive snake which prefers to avoid humans rather than attack. The red-bellied snake is typically diurnal, but may become nocturnal during hot or dry weather.

It is also called the Red Belly Black Snake or Common Black Snake. Its correct non-scientific name is Red-bellied Black Snake. Its scientific name is Pseudechis porphyriacus.

Related: Red-bellied Black Snake — Danger to Humans, Attacks & Consequences


Red Bellied Black Snake – Description What does a Red Belly Black Snake Look Like?

The red-bellied black snake's head is barely distinguishable from its body. That is to say, there isn't a clearly visible constricted neck area. Its snout is usually a pale brown colour. The scales on its body are smooth and glossy. It has medium sized, very dark eyes with round pupils that sit below a noticeable brow-ridge.

The average adult is about 1.5 - 2m long, with males growing slightly larger than females. Some have been known to grow up to 2.5 metres in length, making it one of the largest venomous snakes in Australia. The red-bellied black snake likes to maintain a body temperature of between 28 to 31º C during the day. Being a cold blooded animal, it does so by moving from sunny positions to shady positions to main its body temperature.

The red-bellied black 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. The fangs on this snake are relatively small. Like most snakes it is deaf, has a forked tongue, and no eyelids. It is a very shy creature that prefers to avoid humans. A red-bellied black snake can live for up to 6 years.


Red Bellied Back Snake – Habitat & Distribution Where does the Red Bellied Black Snake Live?

Geographic Distribution of the Red Bellied Black Snake

Red-bellied black snakes are found along the eastern seaboard of Australia, from south-eastern Queensland through eastern New South Wales and Victoria. They can also be found in in parts of the Mount Lofty Ranges of South Australia. They can be found in small areas of north-eastern Queensland. (See map).

Red Bellied Back Snake Range

Red-bellied black snakes live in moist habitats within forests, woodlands and grasslands close to bodies of shallow bodies of water such as rivers, streams, swamps and wetlands. They have also adapted to the modern rural environments and can be found close to irrigation canals and dams. They rarely venture more than 100 meters from water. The snakes shelter under large rocks, in logs, in animal burrows and in clumps of grass. They seem to be territorial and have a number of preferred shelters within their domain. They are active mostly during the day and during warm evenings and nights.


Red Bellied Black Snake – Diet What does the Red Bellied Black Snake Eat?

Red-bellied black snakes predominantly eat frogs and tadpoles. They also eat lizards, fish, eggs, small mammals and other snakes—including members of their own species. Red-bellied black snakes may sometimes slither up trees for several meters in search of prey.

The snake is known to forage in water where it may submerge itself completely and swim underwater in search of prey. It can stay submerged for as long as 23 minutes. It may also intentionally stir up underwater sediment to flush out hidden prey. Captured prey may be swallowed while still under water or, if large, brought to the surface to be consumed.


Red Bellied Black Snake – Reproduction Baby Red Bellied Black Snakes are Born Alive

Red Bellied Black Snakes
Fighting Video

Red-bellied black snakes usually mate during spring, around the months of October and November. During the breeding season they will fight other males to gain access to a female. Jousting involves the two rivals spreading their necks and rearing up their fore-bodies and twisting their necks around each other and getting entwined during the struggle. The snakes may hiss loudly and bite each other (they are immune to their own species' toxin). This jostling usually lasts for less than half an hour with one of the contenders conceding defeat by leaving the area.

The female gives birth about four to five months after mating. Red-bellied black snakes are ovoviviparous. That is, they do not lay eggs like most other snakes. Instead they give birth to between 8 to 40 live young each in their own individual membranous sac. The young break through this membranous sac soon after birth. They are about 122mm in length at birth. The babies are born with well-developed venom glands. Their bite is just as toxic as that of their parents. Most young do not survive to adulthood. They fall prey to birds such has the kookaburra, other snakes and frogs, etc. A red-bellied black snake reaches sexual maturity at around 2 to 3 years.


Red Bellied Black Snake - Threats and Predators Is the Red Bellied Black Snake Endangered?

The red-bellied black snake does not have any significant predators. It is not a threatened species. There are many of these snakes in the wild. They are, however, susceptible to the following threats.

Cane Toad Poisoning

There was some initial concern about the rapid decline in population of the red-bellied black snake after the introduction of the Cane Toad in the 1935. The snake was eating the highly toxic toad and dying. It appears however that the snake and cane toad seem to be co-existing in the wild. There are two theories put forward. The first is that the snake has learned to avoid eating the toad. The second is that natural selection is at play as it appears that the snakes have gradually got longer since the 1937. While a single cane toad could poison a smaller snake the large snake, due to its bigger body mass, could survive a single cane toad ingestion. So natural selection has favoured bigger snakes.

Feral Cats & Raptor Birds

Feral cats are known to attack and kill red-bellied black snakes. They also fall prey to large birds of prey such as the brown falcons. Juvenile snakes also fall prey to kookaburras.

Humans

Given the human fear of any snake, many of these harmless animals are killed when humans encounter them.

 


Red Bellied Black Snake Attacks Red-bellied Black Snake – Danger to Humans

Do red-bellied black snakes attack humans? Yes they do!

But they only attack under extreme provocation. From the snakes point of view humans are not a food source, and there is little incentive for it in attacking a person.


Red Bellied Black Snake – Attack Why the Red Bellied Black Snake Attacks People?

Red-bellied black snakes are one of the most frequently encountered snakes on the east coast of Australia and account for approximately 16% of all identifiable snake bites.

This snake is a very shy and non-aggressive animal. When approached, the red-bellied black snake will choose to flee or remain stationary hoping to avoid detection. As a consequence humans may get a lot closer to the snake before they realize their predicament and literally come face to face with the snake. The snake's first response will be to try to flee to the safety of its closest retreat. This could in fact be in behind the person, giving the impression that the snake is attacking.

It is far less dangerous than the eastern brown snake and no deaths have been recorded from its bite.


Red Bellied Black Snake – Snake Bite How the Red Bellied Black Snake Attacks

Bluff Posturing

The red-bellied black snake’s first instinct is to flee from humans. If it is unable to escape, the snake will try to bluff its way out of the situation by flattening its body and lifting its body up in a striking stance and hissing loudly. It may even make a few mock strikes with a closed mouth hoping to scare its assailant away

Snake Bite

It provoked further, it will attack in self-defence, delivering a quick bite and injecting venom into its victim. In some circumstances it is also known the cling to its victims and chew savagely.


Red Bellied Black Snake – Venom Red Bellied Black Snake Toxicity

Red-bellied black snake venom is low in both potency and output compared so some other more venomous snakes in Austria. Its venom consists of a cocktail neurotoxins (destroys nerve tissue), myotoxins (destroys muscle tissue), coagulants (makes blood clot) and also has haemolytic properties which rupture and destroy red blood cells.


Consequences of Red Bellied Black Snake Bite What Happens Once Bitten

Symptoms

Red-bellied black snake bites are rarely fatal. Many victims experience mild to negligible symptoms which include bleeding and swelling at the site of the bite, nausea, vomiting and headache, diarrhoea, muscle pain and general weakness. The victim may also pass red-brown urine as a result of muscle damage caused by the cytotoxin in the snake's venom. There is no record of any human dying from a red-bellied black snake bite

First Aid

As an individual reaction the snake's venom may vary it is prudent that any bite be taken seriously and medical attention be sort as soon as possible.

Related: What to Do – If Bitten by a Snake


Red Bellied Black Snake – Bite Prevention How to Avoid Being Bitten by a Red Bellied Black Snake

Most bites occur as a direct result people cornering the snake and trying to kill it. 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 reflex-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 footwear will greatly reduce the chances of suffering from a snake bite.


Our Other Fantastic Pages

Koala

Cute animal with soft fur and large nose. It carries its baby in a pouch. It sleeps a lot.

View More

Blue Tongued Lizard

This lizard with short legs scares off predators by flashing its blue tongues.

View More

Musky Rat-kangaroo

Smallest kangaroo and only one that doesn't hop. Has very unusual characteristics

View More

Frilled Dragon

Has a huge umbrella-like frill that it pops open to scare off attackers.

View More

Cassowary

A huge rainforest bird with a deadly karate kick. It is endangered.

View More

Saltwater Crocodile

The world's largest and deadliest reptile. Growing up to 6m. Does attack humans.

View More

Kangaroo

Large animals that carry their babies in a pouch and hop at speeds of 70kph.

View More

Dangerous Animals

Australia has some of the most deadly and dangerous animals in the world.

View More

Platypus

Has a beak like a duck, a tail like a beaver, webbed feet like an otter & it lays eggs!

View More

Funnel-web Spider

A large, deadly and aggressive spider with large menacing fangs.

View More

Tasmanian Devil

A boisterous carnivorous marsupial with a shriek that sounds like a devil.

View More

Snapping Turtle

A bum-breathing turtle? Yes, that's right. It is critically endangered.

View More

Dugong

Marine mammals that ancient sailors thought were mermaids.

View More

Echidna

An odd little animals that lay eggs, but feeds their babies milk like a mammal

View More

Emu

The 2nd tallest and the 2nd fastest bird in the world. A very curious bird.

View More

Introduced Animals

Animals brought to Australia by humans. Many have become invasive and pests.

View More