Eastern Brown Snake The World's 2nd Most Deadly Snake
The eastern brown snake a large, fast-moving Australian snake. It is the second most venomous snake in the world. Its venom can kill a human in less than four hours. It is responsible for the most snakebite deaths in Australia.
The eastern brown snake is not naturally aggressive towards humans. Unfortunately, its fondness for living near human habitation results in a high number of human fatalities and many death of these snakes too.
Eastern Brown Snake – Description What is an Eastern Brown Snake?
The eastern brown snake has a slender body and is about 1.5-2.0 meters in length. Males are generally larger than females.
The snake's colour varies, ranging from very dark brown to light tan to burnt orange. Lighter coloured animals have a uniform colouring, while the very dark ones 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 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.
25 Eastern Brown Snake Facts
- The eastern brown snake is a large, fast-moving venomous Australian snake.
- It has a slender brown body and can grow to 2m in length.
- The eastern brown snake has a small head that blends into its body without any noticeable indentation.
- The eastern brown snake can move as fast as a human can run.
- The eastern brown snake is the second most venomous snake in the world.
- It is responsible for about 60% of snakebite deaths in Australia.
- Even a newly born hatchling has enough venom to kill a human.
- This snake has relatively small fangs, but its venom is highly toxic.
- The initial bite is generally painless and often difficult to detect.
- This snake prefers avoiding humans.
- You are 50 times more likely to die from falling off your bed than from a snake bite.
- It lives in the eastern parts of Australia.
- It prefers open grasslands, pastures, and woodland.
- The eastern brown snake eats frogs, other reptiles, lizards, birds, mammals, and eggs.
- The eastern brown snake can dislocate its jaw to swallow its prey.
- Its skin is stretchable, so it can swallow large prey.
- The snake likes to live close to human habitation because of the availability of its favourite food are rats and mice.
- The eastern brown snake rarely eats during winter, and females may not eat at all while carrying eggs.
- Like most snakes, it is deaf, has a forked tongue, and no eyelids.
- Eastern brown snakes mate in mid to late spring.
- Males aggressively compete with each other females.
- The female lays about 15 eggs and abandons the eggs. The eggs will hatch about 36 to 95 days later.
- Hatchlings are independent from birth.
- Animals that prey on the eastern brown snakes include birds of prey and feral cat.
- An eastern brown snake can live for 7-10 years.
Eastern Brown Snake – Attack & Bite Eastern Brown Snake Strikes
The eastern brown snake is not aggressive towards humans. From the snake's point of view, humans are not a food source, and there is little incentive for it to attack a person.
If approached at a distance, it will choose to flee or remain stationary, hoping to avoid detection. Even at close range, if the human moves slowly and in a non-provoking manner, the snake is most likely to refrain from any aggressive behaviour. If, however, the snake is startled or confronted at close quarters, it will react defensively and will not hesitate to put on a threatening display and strike at any perceived threat, including humans.
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.
In a high-level attack, the snake lifts most of its body off the ground and coils its neck into an "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. The snake may also strike many times from this position. Given the height of attack, these usually result in bites to the thigh in humans.
Eastern Brown Snake - Venom What Happens Once Bitten
Eastern brown snake venom is the second most toxic snake venom in the world. It will kill a human within about 4 hours if untreated. It is 12 times more deadly than that of an Indian cobra. Eastern brown snake venom contains a cocktail of powerful and fast-acting pre-synaptic neurotoxins, procoagulants, cardiotoxins and nephrotoxins that cause progressive paralysis, uncontrollable bleeding, respiratory failure resulting in death.
Because of its small fangs (about 3mm), the initial bite is generally painless and often difficult to detect. Once symptoms appear, however, progression is very rapid, and death can be sudden and unexpected.
Dying from a Snake Bite
You are 50 times more likely to die from falling off your bed than from a snake bite.
Prompt medical attention, with the administration of antivenom, is required to prevent death.
Eastern Brown Snake – Habitat Where Does the Eastern Brown Snake Live?
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.
The eastern brown snake is 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.
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 adult eastern brown snake diet consists almost entirely of vertebrates (animals with backbones) such as frogs, other reptiles, lizards, birds, mammals, and eggs. Since European settlement and the introduction 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 more exothermic prey, such as lizards.
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 instances, 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 too. The eastern brown snake can dislocate its jaw to swallow its prey. Its skin is also stretchable to allow it to swallow large 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 fight back to escape the eastern brown snake’s grasp.
The eastern brown snake is susceptible to cane toad toxins. It appears however, that these snakes have learned to 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 & Life Cycle 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 with one another in an attempt to overpower the other. The stronger usually wins and gains access to the receptive female. Copulation can last 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 reach sexual maturity in about 31 months of age.
An eastern brown snake can live for 7-10 years.
Eastern Brown Snake – Predators & Threats Is the Eastern Brown Snake Endangered?
Animals that prey on the eastern brown snakes include birds of prey and feral cats. Large numbers of these snakes are also killed by humans. Road kills too, claim a large number of these snakes.
Eastern Brown Snake - Conservation Status Is the Eastern Brown Snake Endangered?
Given the eastern brown snake's ability to easily adapt to human environmental activities such as farming and urbanisation, they are not considered endangered.
Eastern Brown Snake Bite – Prevention Helpful Hint to Prevent Being Bitten
Most snake bites occur as a direct result of people trying to kill snakes. 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 dense undergrowth. Wearing long pants, thick socks and solid footwear will greatly reduce the chances of suffering from a snake bite.
All Rights Reserved. (Last Updated: Feb 19, 2022)