Red-Bellied Black Snake

(Pseudechis porphyriacus)

INTRODUCTION

My favourite snake to catch is the red bellied black snake. These snakes are very beautiful and typically have a great temperament. They are the most easily recognised Australian snake in the world.  The first time I encountered a red bellied black snake was as a child and my fascination continued until this day.

Shadow on Concrete Wall

DESCRIPTION

 

The red bellied black snake has a unique and distrinctive appearance. It has an immaculately shiny (glossy) black back and head with a deep read or cream red belly (underside) with a more prominent red on the flanks.

 

Typically they grow up to 2 metres long. A recent one was caught in Queensland that was reportedly twice the size of an average adult and weighed over 10kgs. Generally though, they rarely reach this size.

Red bellied black snakes are a larger snake, thick bodied and are generally very beautiful.

Tropical Leaves

DISTRIBUTION AND HABITAT

Red Bellied Black Snakes snakes are found all the way from north east Queensland through New South Wales to Victoria and south eastern parts of South Australia. They are typically found in areas with good water supplies such as rivers, creek banks, swamps, rain forests and dams. In Melbourne, I typically find red bellied black snakes patchily distributed on the eastern and northern suburbs outside of Melbourne. I have caught one in the middle of Whittlesea shopping strip and another red bellied black in a car dashboard in Mernda. They show up in the most random of places unexpectedly including in an apartment in Essendon.

Marble Surface

BEHAVIOUR

 

Red Bellied Black Snakes are usually active by day. They are typically a very shy snake and will often freeze (if hidden) to avoid detection. When approached, the red bellied black snake will almost always try to flee at first instead towards the nearest hiding spot. When unable to escape, these snakes can spread their neck, hiss, make mock strikes with a closed mouth “head butting” the target but I have only seen this on one occassion.

If severely provoked, injured or made to fear for its life, red bellied black snakes can deliver a very fast bite whereby they hang on and continue to 'chew' the victim.

Gradient

VENOM

 

Unlikely many other Australian venomous snakes, bites from red bellied black snakes may be associated with significant local damage, including necrosis (tissue death). In multiple cases, fingers, toes and even limbs  have had to be amputated following bites from these snakes. Another unusual consequence of bites from black snakes is either temporary or permanent anosmia (loss of sense of smell).

It is a myth that black snakes keep away brown snakes. While red bellied black snakes can eat brown snakes, there is no guarantee of this. An interesting point is that red bellied black snakes seem immune to the venom of eastern browns and other venomous snakes.

FOOD & REPRODUCTION

 

Red bellied black snakes love to feed on frogs, reptiles (including other snakes), fish and will also eat small mammals. They search far and wide for food on land and in water and can climb over fences and houses to try to find food.

These snakes typically mate in spring and mid-summer and females give birth to up to around 12 live snakes.