Lowland Copperhead Snake

(Austrelaps superbus)

INTRODUCTION

There are three types of copperhead snakes in Australia. The one you should commonly find in Melbourne and surrounding areas is the Lowland Copperhead snake. This snake is not typically known compared to other snakes such as the tiger or eastern brown, however in my experience appears just as often in people’s homes and backyards. The lowland copperhead is NOT closely related to the American copperhead which is an entirely different species of snake.

DESCRIPTION

 

This snake highly variable in colour ranging from light grey, reddish, brown and black. Adults which are black coloured often have a prominent orange/red streak running along the side of the body which causes many to mistake them for red bellied black snakes. The copperhead is usually 1-1.5 metres long. Females tend to be up to 1 metre long and males generally grow up to 1.5 metres long.

VENOM

 

Lowland copperhead snakes can be very dangerous and their bites can kill. The venom contains postsynaptic neurotoxins which affect the nervous system.

FOOD & REPRODUCTION

 

Lowland copperheads feed on small vertebrates such as frogs, lizards, and occasionally small mammals. They will eat smaller snakes and are cannibalistic. If I were to put two copperheads together for mating purposes, I need to be careful the larger snake does not try to eat the smaller one.

 

Females can give birth to up to 30 live young in mid to late summer.

BEHAVIOUR

 

Lowland copperheads are typically docile and very shy with humans. Generally these snakes will retire and retreat if disturbed, however if threatened can assume menacing positions  puffing up their body to appear bigger. When scared they often repeatedly change position with great speed ready to strike out. These are very fast snakes when they bite. However, they are not usually aggressive and bites are uncommon.

DISTRIBUTION AND HABITAT

These snakes are found near damp habitats such as streams or swampy areas. The lowland copperhead is found all over southern Victoria and has a preference for places near water including around ponds, dams, canals, drainage ditches and along the sides of roads. Copperheads have adapted to living in cold temperature climates. These snakes can be active in weather considered to be too cold for other snakes.

 

In and around Melbourne, I mostly come across these snakes in Eltham, Kinglake and Research particularly if there is a swimming pool or pond in the person’s back yard.

Distribution of the Lowland Copperhead - Picture taken from Hoser, R.T. (1989) Australian Reptiles & Frogs. Pierson & Co, Sydney.

CONCLUSION

 

Though bites are uncommon, lowland copperhead snakes are still very venomous snakes and should not be handled. If you see a lowland copperhead, call the SNAKE HUNTER.

 

Call Snake Hunters on 0403 875 409.

www.snakehunter.com.au

Unit 1, 77 Patyah Street Diamond Creek Vic 3089

130 Blair Street Dallas VIC 3047

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