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March 2014

Tiger Snakes like it cool

I was hoping that you could tell me what type of snake this is??

We saw it on a trail in the Border Ranges.


Tiger Snake in a mountain rainforest. Images courtesy Shelly Coombs.

The snake is a Tiger Snake (Notechis scutatus). Tiger Snakes are widespread across southern Australia, including Tasmania and many off-shore islands. They are particularly common near creeks, rivers, swamps and other water bodies.

Tiger Snakes are adapted to cool climates. Some populations are even subjected to regular winter snowfall. The further north Tiger Snakes occur, the more their distribution becomes fragmented. In subtropical far northern New South Wales and southern Queensland, where conditions are generally too warm for Tiger Snakes, they are mainly isolated on mountain tops. In these upland refuges they live in cool, moist habitats such as rainforests. Locations include the Bunya Mountains, Border Ranges and Carnarvon Ranges. They also occur in a few swampy lowland areas of coastal Queensland north to about Maryborough.

The presence of isolated upland populations of Tiger Snakes in Queensland probably reflects a bygone era when cooler conditions prevailed. With warming climates the Tiger Snakes became increasingly restricted to higher altitudes where their distribution eventually became fragmented.

Tiger Snakes are often widely reported in Queensland. However, ‘Downs Tigers’ of the interior and ‘Swamp Tigers’ of the coastal lowlands are names wrongly applied to other kinds of snakes including venomous and non-venomous species. There is also a tendency to name any snake with a banded pattern as a Tiger Snake. In this part of the world, the true Tiger Snake is uncommon and highly restricted. To encounter one foraging on a Border Range walking track is a stroke of luck.

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