RED-BELLY BLACK SNAkE
Is it dangerous?
The Red-Belly is a highly venomous species of snake in the Black Snake Family. As with all Snakes, biting you is its last resort, and Red Bellies are well known to headbutt would be victims multiple times before resorting to a bite! If you do get bitten however, symptoms can include severe local pain, headaches, nausea, sweating and muscle pain. Their venom is neurotoxic and coagulant. This means if you are bitten, the venom will stop your blood from clotting as well as erode muscle tissue. If you are ever bitten, seek immediate medical attention.
Where Would You Find It?
The Red-Belly Black Snake, or more succinctly ‘Red-Belly’ is almost always found close to freshwater where it hunts its preferred prey; Frogs and Lizards. For this reason the Red-Belly rarely finds its way into homes but is more frequently encountered in the backyards of rural areas.
How Do They Behave?
Red Bellies are a very shy and elusive species, preferring to remain undetected even when they are large. When threatened, the Red Belly will flatten out its body to imitate a larger threat, and will hiss loudly. It is known to headbutt attackers and will thrash around like crazy when touched or in close proximity to a threat.
What Does It Eat?
The Red Belly prefers frogs and amphibians as well as a hearty helping of reptiles (including other snakes) for its meals. It is also an excellent swimmer and uses this ability to dart through the water and catch fish.
How Big Do They Get?
Red Bellies are one of the larger species of Australian Elapids. They average around 1.25m in length (about 4 foot long) but can be commonly found at 1.6m. The largest individual ever recorded was an astounding 2.55m long and over 10kg heavy! That’s a big snake!
How Common Are They?
Red Bellies are very common in South East Queensland and especially in areas with abundant freshwater sources. A secretive yet distinct snake, the Red Belly is quite frequently encountered.
What Are Its Similar Species?
The Eastern Small Eyed Snake looks very similar to the Red-Belly and is more venomous. They are very hard to differentiate, but the Small Eyed Snake is much smaller in size, maxing out at around a metre. The Red Belly has a more distinct red colouration on its belly whereas the Eastern Small Eyed Snake can have more of a Pinkish tinge. The Red Belly also has a much larger head and eyes than the amply named Small Eyed Snake.
Did You Know?
- Laboratory studies have shown that cats are remarkably resistant to Red-Belly Black Snake venom, with a lethal dose much higher than the dose for people and dogs.
- Red Bellies are cannibals, which mean they hunt and consume members of their own species!
- The Red-Belly Black Snake is popularly kept as a pet in Australia, with their quiet nature converting well to a trained snake.
- In New South Wales, the Red Belly is responsible for more snake bites on dogs than any other venomous snake.
- The Red Bellies venom can cause you to permanently loose your sense of smell!
- The Red Belly is incredibly adept at life in the water. One Snake has been recorded holding its breath for 23 minutes!
- Early settlers thought that the Red Belly was sexually dimorphic, and that the Eastern Brown was the female form of the Red Belly.
- Red Bellies are slowly evolving to eat Cane Toads! Red Bellies have gradually increased their average length and weight since the 1935 introduction of Cane Toads. This means they are less susceptible to Cane Toad toxin and can eat them without severe ill-effects!
A Snake Catchers Story…
I had a call to a rural household out west. Supposedly it was a Red Belly Black that had made a home underneath a child’s outdoor castle play set. When I arrived I moved aside the play set to reveal a small snake, about 3 feet long curled up in a ball. It was indeed a Red Belly. I moved my hoop bag close to the snake to gage its reaction. As I lay the base of the hoop bag flat on the ground, the snake stared up at me, stared into the hoop bag, and then slithered straight in! Easiest catch ever! He must have somehow known I was there to help him. As I went on to release him later, he was a very calm Snake and did not try to bite even once.