The Eastern Brown Snake (Pseudonaja textilis), often referred to as the Common Brown Snake, is an elapid snake native to Australia, and there is a subspecies (Pseudonaja textilis pughi) in parts of New Guinea. It is one of the world's deadliest land snakes. This, combined with a native habitat which includes the well-populated East coast of Australia, has resulted in fatalities.
Adult Eastern Brown Snakes are highly variable in colour. Whilst usually a uniform shade of brown, they can have various patternings including speckles and bands, and range from a very pale fawn colour through to black, including orange, silver, yellow and grey. Juveniles have a black head, with a lighter band behind, a black nape, and numerous red-brown spots on the belly. Occasionally they have dark cross-bands. They have 17 rows of mid-body scales, a divided anal scale and 45–75 divided subcaudal scales. Most specimens reach around 1.5 metres in length, with very rare animals exceeding two metres.
Large Eastern Brown Snakes should not be confused with "King Brown" snakes (Pseudechis australis), whose habitat they share, in many areas.
Distribution and habitat
The Eastern Brown Snake is found all the way along the East coast of Australia
, from the tip of Cape York
, along the coasts and inland ranges of New South Wales
and South Australia
. They are also found in arid areas of the Northern Territory
, the far east of the Kimberley
in Western Australia
and, in very limited numbers, in Papua New Guinea
. Due to their mainly rodent
diet, they can often be found near houses and farms.
It occupies a varied range of habitats from wet to dry sclerophyll forests (Eucalypt forests) and heaths of coastal ranges, through to savannah woodlands, inner grasslands and arid scrublands. It is not found in rainforests or other wet areas.
The Eastern Brown snake is diurnal
(meaning it is active during the day). When highly agitated, they hold their necks high, appearing in an upright S-shape. But despite their fearsome reputation, brown snakes are reluctant to bite and react only to movement; standing still when in close proximity to one will result in it ignoring you. They are attracted to rural and farming areas, probably due to the large numbers of associated rodents. Such areas also normally provide shelter in the form of rubbish and other cover.
Being an opportunistic feeder, the Eastern Brown will consume almost any vertebrate animal, including frogs, lizards, snakes, birds and rodents.
The Eastern Brown Snake is the second most venomous land snake in the world after the Inland Taipan
. Although Eastern Browns will seek to avoid confrontation, their venom is very toxic, and can be fatal; even juveniles have caused human fatalities. The venom contains both neurotoxins
and blood coagulants
Despite the potency of the venom, the pressure immobilisation first-aid technique is highly effective (as it is for all Australian venomous snakes). If correct first-aid and safety protocols are followed, the chances of death from Eastern Brown Snake are minimal.
- A 16-year-old boy from Sydney died on 13th January 2007 after being bitten on the hand in a reserve at Whalan.
- 9-year-old girl Milena Swilks from Rocky River, south of Armidale in rural New South Wales, died on the 8th March 2007 after being bitten on the foot whilst picking corn. She collapsed and was taken to hospital unconscious, with the cause not known until after her death two hours later.
Eastern Brown Snakes mate during spring. Males engage in 'ritual combat' with other males for control of territory. The most dominant male will mate with females in the area. The females produce a clutch of 10–40 eggs in late spring or early summer. They do not guard the nest after the eggs are laid — the juvenile snakes are totally independent of the mother.