White-lipped snakes are the smallest species of snake in Tasmania. They feed on small skinks and because of their shy nature and small fangs a bite from one of these snakes is an unlikely event. They are found throughout Tasmania where they are also called whip snakes.
White-lipped snakes are slender snakes with a gently tapering tail. Tasmanian specimens are usually dark olive green to a green-grey on the back with a pale grey under-surface. Juveniles are often very dark and may have a deep orange underside. This species gets its name from a thin, white line bordered above by a narrow black line that runs along the upper lip. The head is narrow and rounded at the front. Tasmanian specimens reach a larger size than their mainland counterparts with a head and body length of 25 cm - 40 cm.
These small snakes are active hunters, feeding mainly on small skinks, but occasionally taking frogs. They are a shy species, tending to hide at the approach of people. White-lipped snakes shelter beneath ground debris, rocks and logs. They can forage in winter on fine days since their small size allows them to heat up quickly.
Ovulation occurs in late spring to early summer and 2-8 young are born live around March or April, at a time when baby skinks are most abundant. Tasmanian white-lipped snakes may only breed once every two years in the wild. When born these snakes have a head and body length of 8-11 cm. Tasmanian white-lipped snakes mature at about three years of age.
White-lipped snakes are a sun-loving species generally found in heaths, grasslands and open woodlands from sea-level to about 1300 m. They are also found in south-eastern mainland Australia.
Domestic and feral cats kill white-lipped snakes. The laughing kookaburra, introduced to Tasmania, also takes a heavy toll on these small reptiles.
Fangs and poison
White-lipped snakes have small fangs and small venom glands. While they are unlikely to cause serious injury to healthy adults, some people may be sensitive to the venom and in case of a bite first aid should be applied and medical assistance sought. For further information see our Living with Wildlife web pages.