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Lowland Copperhead (Austrelaps superbus)

November 13, 2016

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.

 

 Holding my pet lowland copperhead snake named "Basil"

 

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.

 

 Black coloured copperhead snake. Notice the difference in colour from the pics above and below.


VENOM

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

 

 Up close and personal with a copperhead snake during a release

 

FOOD AND 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.

 

 Copperhead snake removal.

 

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.

 

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.

 

 Mark captured a lowland copperhead (dark coloured - notice the red band along the side).

 

For more information contact Snake Hunter on 0403 875 409

www.snakehunter.com.au

 

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