The tiger snake is a large, heavy-bodied species of elapid snake found in Australia. It belongs to the genus Notechis. Tiger snakes are found throughout Australia but are most common in coastal regions. They are also found in urban areas, where they prey on rats and mice, which often congregate in homes and commercial buildings.
Tiger snakes are semiaquatic, meaning that they spend parts of their time both on land and in water. Unlike most snakes, they have webbed feet for swimming. They can grow up to two meters long (6 ft 7in) but usually, only reach an average length of about 1 meter (3 ft 3in).
Tiger snakes come in different sizes, from small to large. They have tiger-like stripes that run along their back that may vary in darkness depending on the time of year. Some people confuse them for juvenile brown snakes because of their similar coloring and patterning.
When threatened, Tiger Snakes will flatten themselves out and try to appear bigger than they really are. They also shake their heads from side to side to create a rattling sound.
What is a Tiger Snake?
Tiger snakes (Notechis scutatus) are often called “red belly” snakes because they are typically brown or orange (yellow, light brown, etc.) with only a faint iridescence.
Tiger snakes have 12 eyes in each eye – 8 (mechanosensory) and 2 (ocular) – that are covered by dark venetian blinds, hence the common name, “blind snake.”
Tiger snakes are extremely territorial. The number of eyes does not mean the snake can see far; they are nocturnal, and mainly use the 2 eyes for scanning their surroundings in daylight.
Their front teeth are modified to aid in gripping food.
How to identify a Tiger Snake
The most obvious identifier is the distinctive yellow and black pattern, also known as ‘panther stripes’. This common pattern generally serves to differentiate between this snake species and the eastern diamond snake, though there are no definitive features to be identified with it.
The Tigerskill Tiger Snakes, however, do have a deep and wide head with small eyes and a distinct black tip to the tail. Tiger Snakes are found predominantly on the mainland of Australia, with Tasmania as their eastern continental limit.
Where to find a Tiger Snake
This snake species is found in the northern areas of Tasmania. The scaly skin helps them escape the desiccated ground near forest and urban areas. They also like to spend time in bird nesting boxes, stock yards, and enclosed areas of forest.
What to do if you see a Tiger Snake
Tiger snakes are known for their fierce bite and rapid movement. They are attracted to brightly coloured objects and objects that make an audible sound. They tend to avoid eating just about anything, so keep a safe distance and keep them away from any physical contact.
If you think you see one, stay calm and do not panic. The first step is to make an escape plan: walk away slowly, and take one of your hands behind your back or behind your waist, so you can close the fingers around your key or your bag, etc.
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2) Spiny Water Snake (Notechis carinatus)
Images showing the flexible body of the Spiny water snake, which is commonly found in Victoria and South Australia. In South Australia, they live in the regions around the Spencer Gulf.
Where can they be found?
Most tiger snakes can be found in the Australian deserts and semi-arid areas, but Tasmania can boast an extreme diversity in its distribution. Their limited diet means they can survive anywhere with adequate water availability, but will usually inhabit regions that can support a sustainable population.
These snakes also inhabit land areas that are affected by dry seasons, drought, and the occasional cyclone. Rainfall is most crucial to the survival of the species, as it’s the main driving factor that determines the abundance of food that the snakes need to sustain themselves.
Where can I see one?
Although their Australian habitats are very limited, tiger snakes are rarely found in the city.
How big are they?
The average adult Tiger Snake can reach a length of around 2.5 meters (8 feet).
What do they look like?
The common pattern is dark brown, grey, or olive-green with an irregular pattern of yellow markings. They can also vary from green to grey and sometimes even have a darker grey and/or black colouration.
What do they eat?
Feeding habits are variable amongst species, but in general, most Notechis will eat amphibians, small mammals, lizards, small birds, and even some birds of prey. There is a surprising broad spectrum of diets, including plants, carrion, eggs, and young, worms and other invertebrates, snails, and even small fish. They can be opportunistic feeders in the wild.
Their diet is often very reliant on habitat – both wetland and arid environments have diverse fauna, including insect larvae, small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds, and crustaceans. Some Notechis populations are very adaptable to a wide range of habitat types, including forest, rainforest, sclerophyll forest, and even suburban gardens.
What do tiger snakes look like in Tasmania?
They have long, very thin necks, and slit-like eyes with vertical pupils, and short protruding heads which show two ridges running from the back of the skull, with the lower one is usually longer. They are very rarely green but can be chestnut or purple, and may have a red dorsal fin with blue inside.
Their skin is usually pale or pale brown, with alternating pale yellow spots and red stripes. They have yellow eyes, which are above the eye-slit and sometimes merged.
The first part of the name ‘Notechis’ comes from the Greek word ‘Notechis’ which means “broken, damaged or worn”, “this”, in reference to a scale or chunk of the skin that runs down the side of the head. A male specimen of the species. Another common name for this species is gladiator snake.
A Tiger snake’s venom
1. Callipers or rattlesnakes
Hierodoncids are often called snakes in the trees because they love to burrow in them. Their venom contains a potent neurotoxin that can cause paralysis, difficulty breathing, and in more severe cases death. Their venom is somewhat less toxic than many others in the family.
Hierodoncids are found in tropical areas from Asia to Australia, and although the ones in the northern hemisphere are generally not venomous, they are a very striking predator of mammals. The python (Morelia sp.) is probably the most venomous of all the python genera, although only small amounts of their venom are potentially lethal.
Differences between tiger snakes and other species
The most noticeable characteristics of the tiger snake are its stripes and the stripe patterns. Tiger snakes are often considered subspecies of the more common yellow-tailed black snake (Notechis melanocephalus), but were (until 2013) considered a separate species (Notechis scutatus).
The tiger snake is often cited as being more colorful than other types of snake.
Members of the yellow-tailed black snake, including the tiger snake, are known to coexist in southern Australia and are common on both the mainland and its many islands. However, while the two snakes share similar characters, a number of behavioural and ecological differences have been noted. For example, the tiger snake is more active during warmer weather.
A number of authors in their respective treatises note that the common tiger snake (Notechis scutatus) and the eastern tiger snake (Notechis erythraea) should be considered the same species, with few differences between the two.
The salient difference is morphological with the eastern tiger snake being slightly larger than the common tiger snake and having more extensive orange markings on its body. On the other hand, this species has little to no venom and its bite is unlikely to cause serious effects.
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