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LOWLAND COPPERHEAD SNAKE
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.
The lowland copperhead snake highly variable in colour ranging from light grey, reddish, brown and black. Adult copperheads can be 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 snake is usually 1-1.5 metres long. Females tend to be up to 1 metre long and male lowland copperheads generally grow up to 1.5 metres long.
Lowland copperhead snakes can be very dangerous and their bites can kill. The venom of the lowland copperhead snake contains pre and postsynaptic neurotoxins which affect the nervous system.
FOOD & REPRODUCTION
Lowland copperhead snakes 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 lowland copperhead snakes together for mating purposes, I need to be careful the larger snake does not try to eat the smaller one.
Lowland copperhead snakes 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 lowland copperhead snakes often repeatedly change position with great speed ready to strike out. Lowland copperhead snakes are very fast snakes when they bite. However, they are not usually aggressive and bites are uncommon. Female lowland copperhead snakes can give birth to up to 30 live young in mid to late summer.
DISTRIBUTION AND HABITAT
Lowland copperhead 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. Lowland copperhead snakes have adapted to living in cold temperature climates. Lowland copperhead snakes can be active in weather considered to be too cold for other snakes. In and around Melbourne, I mostly come across Lowland Copperhead Snakes in Eltham, Kinglake and Research particularly if there is a swimming pool or pond in the person’s back yard.