Red-bellied Black Snake


The red-bellied black snake is a medium-sized venomous snake with a glossy black upper body and bright red or crimson sides and belly. It prefers to avoid humans. But it is one of the most frequently encountered snakes on the east coast of Australia. It accounts for approximately 16% of all snake bites.

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

Red-bellied Black Snake —Attacks & Consequences


Red-bellied Black Snake - Description What is a Red Belly Black Snake?

Photo: Red-bellied black snake standing up

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, 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 maintain its body temperature.

The red-bellied snake is typically diurnal but may become nocturnal during hot or dry weather.

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.

25 Red-Belly Snake Facts

  1. The red-bellied black snake is a medium-sized venomous Australian snake.
  2. It is about 1.5 - 2m long.
  3. Some have grown to 2.5 metres in length.
  4. It lives along the east coast of Australia.
  5. The red-bellied black snake prefers moist habitats close to water.
  6. They rarely venture more than 100 meters away from water.
  7. It hunts on land and in water and can even climb trees.
  8. It is usually active when it's dark.
  9. Red-bellied black snakes mostly eat frogs and tadpoles, lizards, fish, eggs, small mammals.
  10. But sometimes, it also eats other red-bellied black snakes.
  11. It can stay underwater for 23 minutes.
  12. Like most snakes, it is deaf and has no eyelids.
  13. The red-bellied black snake belongs to the elapid family of snakes.
  14. It has small hollow syringe-like fangs to inject its venom.
  15. It is non-aggressive and avoids humans.
  16. It only attacks under extreme provocation.
  17. But it is the snake most frequently encountered by humans.
  18. It accounts for 16% of all snake bites.
  19. Red-bellied black snake venom is low in potency and output compared to other snakes.
  20. Bite symptoms include swelling at the site of the bite, nausea, vomiting, headache, diarrhoea, muscle pain, and general weakness. And passing red-brown urine.
  21. No deaths have been recorded from its bite.
  22. Do not attempt to handle a red-bellied black snake even if it appears dead. It can reflex-bite up to several hours after death.
  23. It shelters in thick grass clumps, logs, burrows and under rocks.
  24. Females are ovoviviparous. That means females give birth to live young.
  25. A red-bellied black snake can live for up to 6 years.

Red-bellied Back Snake - Habitat Where does the Red-bellied Black Snake Live?

Photo: Red-bellied black snake distribution map

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 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 parts of the Mount Lofty Ranges of South Australia. They can be found in small areas of north-eastern Queensland. (See map).

Red-bellied black snakes have 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 burrows and in clumps of grass. They seem to be territorial and have several shelters within their domain. They are active mostly during the day and warm evenings and nights.


Red-bellied Black Snake - Diet What do the Red-bellied Black Snakes 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.

Photo: Red-bellied black snake swallowing egg

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 underwater or, if large, brought to the surface to be consumed.


Red-bellied Black Snake - Reproduction & Live Cycle Baby Snakes are Born Alive

Red-bellied black snakes usually mate during spring, around 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.

Red-bellied Black Snakes
Fighting Video

Video: Watch Red-bellied black snake fighting

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 as 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.

Photo: Cane Toad

There was some initial concern about the rapid decline in the population of the red-bellied black snake after the introduction of the Cane Toad in 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 1937. While a single cane toad could poison a smaller snake the large snake, due to its bigger body mass, may survive a single cane toad ingestion. So natural selection has favoured bigger snakes.

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.

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


Red-bellied Black Snake - Attacks Why Red-bellied Black Snake Attacks People

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

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

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

Video: Red-bellied black snake attack

This snake is a 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 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, 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 —Attack Video


Red-bellied Black Snake - Bite How the Red-bellied Black Snake Attacks

red belly black snake moving

Photo: Red-bellied black snake profile

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

If provoked further, it will attack in self-defence, delivering a quick bite and injecting venom into its victim. In some circumstances, it may also cling to its victim and chew vigorously.

Red-bellied black snake venom is low in both potency and output compared so some other more venomous snakes in Australia. 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.

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

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

What to Do – If Bitten by a Snake


Red-bellied Black Snake Bite Prevention How to Avoid Being Bitten

Photo: Red-bellied black snake mouth and fangs

Most bites occur as a direct result of 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 significantly reduce the chances of suffering from a snake bite.