Our Latest News

Bruny Island Quarantine Station - now open five days a week

13/10/2014

The Wildcare Inc Friends of the Bruny Island Quarantine Station and the Parks and Wildlife Service (PWS) are pleased to announce the Quarantine Station will be open five days a week from 10am to 4pm over the summer months.More

Strategic fuel reduction burn for Ansons Bay

08/10/2014

The Parks and Wildlife Service is continuing its fuel reduction burning program with a planned burn of about 425 ha in the Ansons Bay area of Mt William National Park.More

New Cockle Creek bridge completed for tourist season

07/10/2014

A new bridge at Cockle Creek in the far south of Tasmania has been completed, just in time for the start of the busy spring/summer tourist season.More

Tiger snake, Notechis scutatus

Tiger Snake

The tiger snake is a usually timid species which, like most snakes, usually retreats at the approach of a human. They are an interesting snake which despite the name may not have any striping at all.

Description

The Tasmanian tiger Snake has recently been shown to be the the same species as that which occurs on the south-eastern Australian mainland, (Notechis scutatus). The markings are extremely variable and should not be used in isolation to identify snakes. Colours range from jet black, through yellow/orange with grey bands to sandy grey with no bands. There are unconfirmed reports of red-bellied tiger snakes in north-east Tasmania. Typical forms are of a black snake with either no bands or faint yellow to cream bands. Dark olive snakes with yellow bands are fairly common.

Tiger Snake

Generally the belly is pale yellow, white or grey, the enlarged ventral scales often edged with black. The head is broad and blunt. It can be difficult to distinguish the tiger Snake from the copperhead since sizes, habitat preferences and behaviour overlap somewhat. Tiger snakes have 13 - 19 rows of scales around the middle of the body, the usual number being 17. On the mainland of Tasmania, tiger snakes reach a length of 1 to 1.8 m. The Chappell Island population reaches prodigious lengths -- up to 2.1 m. Male tiger snakes reach a greater size than females and have larger heads.

Ecology

Tiger Snake

Wide ranging from dry rocky areas, woodlands, to wet marshes and grasslands. Tiger snakes occur in most habitats in Tasmania. They become inactive over winter, retreating into rodent burrows, hollow logs and tree stumps. Groups of as many as 26 juvenile snakes have been found overwintering in the same place. Generally, tiger snakes do not stay in the same place for more than 15 days, males being especially prone to wandering.

Tiger snakes feed mainly on mammals and birds under 300 g in weight. Tiger snakes habitually raid birds nests and have been found climbing trees to a height of 8 m. A good indicator of the presence of a Tiger snake is the alarm calls of small birds such as honeyeaters and thornbills. They also eat other vertebrates including lizards, smaller snakes, frogs and occasionally fish. Juvenile tiger snakes will use constriction to subdue struggling skinks, a principal food of smaller snakes. Adult snakes are also known to use constriction on larger prey as well. Tiger snakes are important predators of introduced rodent pests and readily enter the burrows of mice, rats and even rabbits in search of their quarry. On a number of offshore islands juvenile tiger snakes feed on small lizards, then as they approach maturity the diet switches to muttonbird chicks. Because these resources are limited competition is fierce and the chances of these snakes reaching adulthood is less than one percent. Occasionally tiger snakes will eat carrion.

Tiger Snake

A slow, careful hunter which may stand its ground if surprised, relying on its impressive threat display for defence. Like most snakes, tiger snakes are first cowards, then bluffers, and only become warriors as a last resort. If threatened a tiger snake will flatten out its neck, raising its head to make itself appear as frightening as possible. If the threat persists, the snake will often feign a strike, producing an explosive hiss or 'bark' at the same time. Like most snakes, tiger snakes will not bite unless provoked.

Breeding

Sexual actvity is sporadic throughout summer and reaches a peak in late January and February. Mating may last for up to 7 hours, the female occasionally dragging the male about. Males don't eat during periods of sexual activity. Females stop eating 3-4 weeks before giving birth. Female litter sizes have been recorded as high as 126 young, and litter size is often related to female body size. Tiger snakes from small islands produce fewer, larger young. Baby tiger snakes when born are 215 - 270 mm in length. Females produce young at best every second year. There is no maternal care amongst Tiger snakes. Tiger snakes do not become more aggressive during the breeding season, but a male snake tracking a female may well have his mind on other things and may be more easily surprised or be in an unfamiliar environment. He may consequently be more nervous if disturbed.

Distribution

Found in most habitats throughout Tasmania and on may of the offshore islands. As well as being found in southeastern mainland Australia tiger snakes have been recorded from the following Islands: Babel Is., Cat Is., Chalky Is., Christmas Is., Flinders Is., Forsyth Is., Great Dog Is., Hunter Is., King Is., Little Green Is., Maria Is., Mount Chappell Is., New Year Is., Seal Rks, and Trefoil Island.

Status

Secure, although some Island populations may decline if offshore activities threaten muttonbird colonies.

Threats

Now legally protected in Tasmania, tiger snakes still face great danger from human activities such as destruction and fragmentation of habitat. Many are needlessly killed on the road when deliberately run over.

Fangs and poison

The highly toxic venom is produced in large amounts. The venom is mainly neurotoxic, affecting the central nervous system, but also causes muscle damage and affects blood clotting. The breakdown of muscle tissue can lead to kidney failure. Information on first aid for snakebite can be found at our Living with Wildlife web pages.