What is an Eastern Brown Snake?

Henry Gaudet
Henry Gaudet
Veterinarian with a puppy
Veterinarian with a puppy

The eastern brown snake is a venomous snake native to the eastern and central portions of Australia. This snake’s bite contains a powerful neurotoxin is extremely dangerous. Without immediate medical attention, the bite of the eastern brown snake can be fatal to humans.

Despite the name, the eastern brown snake is found with a variety of colors, and it might be deep brown, tan, gray or black. Young eastern brown snakes have black bands, either near the head or over the whole body. The snake’s belly is pale, white or cream. A typical eastern brown snake will reach about 5-6 feet (about 1.5–2 m) long at maturity, and specimens of up to 8 feet (about 2.4 m) have been observed.

As a native to the more densely populated eastern and central regions of Australia, the eastern brown snake has often come into contact with humans. Eastern brown snakes are found in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Northern Territory and South Australia. This snake can also be found in New Guinea and is believed to have been introduced to the island by man.

The eastern brown snake does intrude on population centers and can be found in suburban areas, but it generally prefers more rural areas where food is plentiful. Small mammals, lizards, frogs and birds make up the diet of the eastern brown snake. The snake is not typically found in urban areas.

In springtime, male eastern brown snakes engage in a ritual combat dance to assert dominance. After forcing challengers to retreat, the victorious male mates with the local females, each of which will lay a clutch of as many as 30 eggs. Mothers do not guard these nests and will leave the eggs unattended. Newborns hatch 11 weeks later and must fend for themselves, never having any known contact with their parents.

When agitated, the eastern brown snake will rear up in an "S" shape with its head held high. Compared to most other species of snakes, it is quite aggressive, but even so, it is unlikely to attack if retreat is possible and will strike only to defend itself. This snake responds to motion and is unlikely to attack a human if the person remains still.

Eastern brown snake venom is an extremely dangerous neurotoxin. In the event of a snakebite, one should call for an ambulance immediately and keep the victim as still as possible until emergency help arrives. A rapid heart rate could speed the venom through the bloodstream before the antitoxin can be administered.

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    • Veterinarian with a puppy
      Veterinarian with a puppy