My Secret Snake Sighting


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One sunny day in the middle of Winter in the Northern Rivers of NSW, my husband and I stumbled upon a small snake, basking in the sun on a rather chilly day.

He was beautiful! Quite small, and brownish in colour, with large eyes - all the better to see us with! We knew he was a bad bitey snake (ie: toxic) but he was little and apparently cold, so we decided to grab the camera and get some good shots of him.

He didn't much like us being there, disturbing his sunbaking. He raised his body off the ground and flattened his head, a sure sign of a cranky snake. But I wanted photos for Fourth Crossing Wildlife, so happily we snapped away. Zooming in quiet close for detailed shots.

Later that afternoon I fetched my reptile book, The Complete Guide to Australian Reptiles, and we flipped through the pages to identify our little snake friend. We found him! Then we looked at the text - oh shit! Big bold, capital letters greeted us - DANGEROUSLY VENOMOUS!!!!

The snake we had been up close and personal with and photographing at close range was indeed a bad bitey snake, actually one of Australia's most venomous snakes - the Rough-Scaled Snake. Aren't we lucky he was cold and not anxious!

The reason we were fooled (apart from never seeing one before) is because the Rough-Scaled Snake is mainly crepuscular or nocturnal, although it can come out in the day at times.

The Rough-Scaled Snake - an Australian elapid - is also known as the Clarence River Snake, its scientific name is Tropidechis carinatus and it is the sole member of its genus.

It is a slender snake and grows up to 900mm's in length. Its eye is moderately large with a pale iris and round pupil. The scales are matt-textured and strongly keeled in 23 midbody rows. Its colour varies from yellowish brown, olive and dark brown with irregular darker bands or blotches along the body. The belly is paler in colour, normally grey or cream.

The subtropical population of Rough-Scaled Snake can be found in the north east of New South Wales and the south east of Queensland. There is also a tropical population in north-east Queensland. It prefers areas of wet schlerophyl forest, rainforests and creek margins. The Rough-Scaled Snake feed mostly on frogs, lizards, small mammals and birds. It generally feeds on the ground, but it can climb shrubs to hunt for food as well. It is thought that the snake breeds from mid Spring to late Summer and it produces live young and one litter can have up to 18 individuals, in late Summer.

Snakes are often persecuted and this is mainly due to fear. Snake bites are often received while attempting to kills snakes.

But humans can live with snakes! Check out Simon Watharow's book "Living with Snakes and other Reptiles".


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