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Dangerous Snakes of Australia

Updated on April 20, 2010

The Truth About Australia's Deadliest Snakes

Australia's snakes have a deadly reputation, with 7 of the worlds 10 most venomous snakes making a home there. In spite of the fearsome and well deserved reputations of these snakes, they are for the most part shy and elusive animals. In fact, Australia has an extremely low incidence of snake bites and fatalities. The incidence of snake bite fatality in Australia is actually much lower than in Africa, Asia, North and South America.

We'll look at the most toxic and aggressive of these Australian venomous snakes and the most commonly encountered, whether in the outback, or the backyard. There is a diversity of opinion when attempting to rank venomous snakes, so I will follow the wisdom and experience of Australia's late reptile ambassador to the world, the sadly missed, Steve Irwin.

The top 4 most venomous and dangerous snakes of Australia include the following: 1). Inland Taipan aka Fierce Snake, 2). The Eastern Brown, 3). Coastal Taipan, 4). Eastern Tiger . These are 4 snakes you definitely don't want to handle, bother or antagonize.

(picture credit Reptile Knowledge.com Handling an Inland Taipan)

Potentially Dangerous, But Important to the Eco-system!

Although these snakes may pose a danger to humans, they are an essential part of their local eco-systems. They are responsible for controlling the population of rodents, which are far more dangerous to humans, since they carry disease and destroy vast amounts of grain and food.

These are snakes to be RESPECTED and avoided, but should NEVER be killed indiscriminately! These amazing reptiles should be protected and left alone to do their job.

Inland Taipan wikipedia
Inland Taipan wikipedia

The Inland Taipan aka Fierce Snake

Deadly Australian Snake #1

With enough neurotoxic venom in one average bite to kill 100 humans, the Inland Taipan's venom is rated as 50 times more potent than a cobra's. No wonder it is considered Australia's, and the worlds most deadly venomous snake!

It's a good thing that this snake is shy, docile and lives in mostly uninhabited areas of central Australia's arid outback, where it quietly hunts rodents in the dry flood plains!

The Inland Taipan is well adapted to its harsh environment and changes color with the change of seasons. It is usually a darker reddish brown in the winter and a lighter olive green in summer. These colors help the snake to retain warmth in the winter season and stay cooler in the summer. This snake typically hunts during the day and finds cover at night in the holes along dry creek beds. It feeds primarily on small rodents and is shy and reclusive. The Inland Taipan averages around 5.9 feet (1.8 m), but can grow as large as 8.2 feet (2.5 m) in length.

Olive Colored Summer

Left untreated the bite of the Inland Taipan can be fatal in as little as 45 minutes. Interestingly, since the introduction of antivenin, there have been very few recorded deaths from the bite of this snake and most bites have occurred among herpetologists, while handling the snake.

Bottom line: this is a potentially lethal snake that avoids humans, lives in arid, uninhabited areas of the Australian outback and would probably go unnoticed if it were not for it's extremely potent venom, which is of interest to herpetologists and the scientific community. The only people really at risk of a bite from the Inland Taipan are those who study and handle it.. A "Fierce Snake" it is not!

Eastern Brown Snake
Eastern Brown Snake

Eastern Brown Snake

Deadly Australian Snake #2

The Eastern Brown Snake is considered the second most deadly snake in Australia and in the World. This snake has a far larger range and is considered by snake experts to be far more aggressive than the Inland Taipan. The Eastern Brown is found in a variety of habitats in central and eastern Australia including savanna, grasslands, woodlands and arid scrublands. This is a fast moving and highly contentious snake who will stand it's ground. It typically adopts a defensive posture when provoked, rearing-up in an s shape and striking repeatedly at its pursuer.

The adult Eastern Brown Snake averages around 4.9 feet (1.5 m) in length and is typically a uniform shade of brown color, from fawn to dark, almost black. It sometimes is found with a slight speckled or banded pattern, as well. Young snakes have black heads with a lighter band behind.

This snake inhabits well populated areas along the east coast of Australia and is often found near farms and houses, where it hunts for rodents. The Eastern Brown Snake is active during the day, which is when it typically hunts and feeds. Because of its disposition, range and potential contact with people, this snake is probably Australia's most dangerous snake.

The Eastern Brown has the second most toxic venom in the world, a combination neurotoxin, blood coagulant. Bites are usually lethal without fast treatment and even the bite of a juvenile snake can be deadly. This snake commonly causes several deaths a year in Australia. Without prompt medical attention, death is likely. Their aggressiveness and propensity to stand their ground, make these snakes even more dangerous to people.

Coastal Taipan
Coastal Taipan

Coastal Taipan

Deadly Australian Snake #3

The next snake on the list of Australia's most deadly is the Coastal Taipan. It is found along the northeastern coast of Queensland and is considered to be the third most venomous snake in the world. This snake preys on rats and other small rodents. So deadly is the venom of this snake, there were no known survivors of it's bite, prior to the development of antivenin. Even with modern medical treatment, survivors usually need extended periods of intensive care. In 1950 herpetologist Kevin Budden was fatally bitten, while capturing a Coastal Taipan for the first antivenin research and development.

The venom of the Coastal Taipan includes neurotoxic and blood clotting agents, causing nerve and respiratory paralysis as well as blockage of blood vessels due to clotting. Not only is this snake highly venomous, but it is the largest venomous snake found in Australia, with adults ranging in size from 6.5 to 12 feet ( 2 - 3 .6 meters) in length. This snake also has the longest fangs of any venomous Australian snake; around 1/2 inch long.

The Coastal Taipan is a very active snake when hunting rats and other small mammals. It thrives around sugar cane plantations where there is a high rodent population, but lives in a variety of habitats within its range. It is generally not aggressive towards humans except in self-defense, so most bites occur when people are handling them. The Coastal Taipan will strike repeatedly when cornered and has an extremely fast strike.

In appearance, this snake is usually light to dark brown on top, with lighter colored sides and a cream to yellow colored underside often with orange spots or flecks. The head is distinctly larger with a lighter colored snout and an orange-brown iris. Stay away from this snake, as the documented bites sound horrific! Although it is found around farms and plantations, it will generally avoid confrontation with people unless cornered or handled.

Eastern Tiger Snake
Eastern Tiger Snake

Eastern Tiger Snake

Deadly Australian Snake #4

The Eastern Tiger Snake also known as The Mainland Tiger is a very dangerous Australian snake. It is commonly found in southeast Queensland, eastern New South Wales and most of Victoria. Up until more recently, it was responsible for the majority of snake bites and fatalities in Australia, which distinction now belongs to the Eastern Brown. This snake is commonly found in populated and residential areas, where it hunts for rodents. The Eastern Tiger accounts for the majority of snake removal requests by residents in and around Sydney.

With an average length of 4 feet (1.2 m) the Eastern Tiger is generally found in a variety of colors, usually brown, olive, gray to black, with alternating light and dark bands, which gives rise to it's name. It has belly colors of yellow, cream, olive green or gray.

The Eastern Tiger is found in a wide variety of habitat and terrain throughout it's range, including rain forest, dry forests and flood plains. It feeds on a variety of small rodents, frogs and invertebrates. The favored habitat is around swamps and fresh water streams. It also has tree climbing ability and can be found in lower lying branches where it hunts for birds.

The Eastern Tiger is primarily a diurnal hunter and is mainly active during the day time, except in extremely hot weather. It is not considered an aggressive snake, but will defend itself vigorously if cornered or provoked. If threatened, the Eastern Tiger will typically raise its head off the ground and flatten it's neck, cobra-like. It will hiss loudly and make several false strikes. This snake delivers a very deadly neurotoxic venom with it's bite, which prior to the development of antivenin, had a 60% mortality rate.

The Eastern Tiger is ranked as the 4th most deadly snake in Australia and is considered one of the top ten deadly snakes in the world. This is definitely another Australian snake to respect and avoid.

Effects and Symptoms of a Snake Bite

Toxic and Lethal Snake Bites!

In reviewing these 4 deadly Australian venomous snakes there are some apparent similarities, which may add to their danger to humans. First, all 4 of theses snakes are very active hunters during the day, except in hot weather. This puts them in potential confrontations with humans, who are likewise more active during the day. The most compelling similarity is in the high toxicity of their venom. These snakes possess the venom potency to kill their prey in seconds! One reptile keeper claims his pet Coastal Taipan was capable of killing a mouse in 3 seconds after one strike.

There is much speculation as to why Australia has such highly venomous snakes, since it seems like overkill. One thought is that hunting during the daylight hours is inherently more risky for these snakes and therefore they need to kill their prey very swiftly to limit exposure to predators. In any case all 4 of these snakes possess very strong neurotoxic venom, along with coagulants and myotoxins. The effects of this toxic cocktail is horrific!.

Some common symptoms of a snake bite with this type of venom, may or may not include, localized pain and swelling at the site of the bite, along with tingling, numbness and sweating. Following this, the rapid onset of breathing difficulties and paralysis may occur. Other common symptoms can include headache, dizziness, nausea, blurred vision, convulsions and in severe cases, coma. Not every bite victim will have the same symptoms, due to different individual responses to the venom, as well as the amount of venom injected etc.

Neurotoxins attack nerve endings, eventually leading to respiratory failure and cardiac arrhythmia's, while myotoxins attack muscle tissue which can lead to kidney failure. If this weren't enough, there are often blood clotting and bleeding abnormalities due to coagulants in the venom. Death from a snakebite is rare with medical treatment and antivenin, but can occur in as little as 5 minutes, though more often it occurs after 3+ hours.

There is a standardized treatment process in Australia for dangerous snake bites, the Pressure Immobilization Method. This method has proven highly effective with all Australian venomous snake bites. The PIM is designed to inhibit the flow of venom through the lymphatic system. Wide pressure bandages are applied to the bite site and to the back of the limb up to the armpit or groin. Splinting of the affected limb is accomplished to prevent unnecessary body movement. and to keep the bite victim sedentary. The bite site is kept unwashed so that venom traces can be used to positively identify the snake. The victim is kept quiet and immobilized in this manner until reaching emergency medical services, at which time the bandages are removed and antivenin treatment can begin.

In spite of having some truly heavyweight venomous snakes, which need to be respected and avoided, the fact remains that the most dangerous and lethal creature in Australia, as in most places in the world, is the common honeybee!

The Most Deadly Animal in Australia - What's Your Opinion?

What Australian Animal in Fact, is the Most Deadly?

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    • SuzieJames profile image

      SuzieJames 4 years ago

      Will never forget the day we found a brown snake at the bottom of our swimming pool...very frightening!

    • profile image

      Tasmania-australia 5 years ago

      Great info

    • potovanja profile image

      potovanja 5 years ago

      I like your lens. So much i give you LIKES:). Thank you to stop by

      to see my lens...

    • profile image

      RuralFloridaLiving 5 years ago

      Very interesting! You folks have a lot of snakes there to contend with!

    • MartieG profile image

      MartieG aka 'survivoryea' 5 years ago from Jersey Shore

      We are planning a visit and this is a very informative lens - Blessed-

    • ITCoach LM profile image

      ITCoach LM 5 years ago

      Thanks to share this useful information and no doubt its useful for others

    • profile image

      andyrew912 5 years ago

      Great insight into some of these incredible snakes. Since living here, I am constantly hearing about the Eastern brown but have been fortunate enough to not come across any.

      I have just started a lens on Australian slang so check it out and help me add to the growing list!

      http://www.squidoo.com/australian-slang

    • traveller27 profile image

      traveller27 6 years ago

      Very well done - and very informative.

    • profile image

      hclaway 6 years ago

      @SidneyMorgan LM: Well just make sure you know that the fact are correct!!! See.. the deadly BROWN SNAKE in this article is a harmless brown tree snake.. and my pet.. The top photo is taken in my garden!

    • profile image

      hclaway 6 years ago

      Hey.. Nice to see that THE HARMLESS BROWN TREE SNAKE from my garden found her way to yet another article... Your TOP DEADLY BROWN SNAKE is my pet BROWN TREE SNAKE!! Don't know where you got the photo from?!?! Poor Night Tiger ( as we call them here).. yet again with a wrong ID!!!

    • newbizmau profile image

      Maurice Glaude 6 years ago from Mobile, AL

      In the poll I chose the jellyfish. I guess I was right. Cool, I do know something, unless 43% of us are wrong. In that case oops.

    • Blackspaniel1 profile image

      Blackspaniel1 6 years ago

      Great lens

    • SidneyMorgan LM profile image

      SidneyMorgan LM 7 years ago

      I swear I learn more about Australia on Squidoo then anywhere else. Thank you for the great information about which snakes to watch out for when it comes to poison and the deadliest snakes out there. I feel better informed now to wander the outback and inform others which snakes to avoid at all costs.

    • nickupton lm profile image

      nickupton lm 7 years ago

      Great lens, nice work.

    • FlynntheCat1 profile image

      FlynntheCat1 7 years ago

      Fantastic lens! I had great fun reading here ^_^

    • WildFacesGallery profile image

      Mona 7 years ago from Iowa

      Very thorough lens also a little creepy. Where I live we don't have snakes like that. I think I'd wet myself if I ran into a 12 foot snake. It would even have to be poisonous. :) 5*

    • profile image

      inkserotica 7 years ago

      Just a quick note from a Squidoo Greeter! Terrific lens on a very interesting reptile :) 5*

    • GonnaFly profile image

      Jeanette 7 years ago from Australia

      Very nicely presented lens with some interesting info.