Snakes alive!

It is the time of year when sightings of snakes in the Pittwater area become more regular as temperatures rise. Given the variety of snakes we are lucky to share our environment with, we may see a few I will mention here.

The small Blind Snake is rarely seen but often inhabits outdoor flowerpots where its diet of ants sustains it. Harmless to humans.

Golden Crown Snake – Photo: Joe Lipson

The Crown Snake has a halo of white or gold around the head, hence the name. It feeds on skinks, small lizards, frogs and tadpoles. It is harmless to humans but may bluff with mock strikes.

Eastern Bandy-bandy, Vermicella annulata, Photo: By Will Brown

The Bandi Bandi name traces back to the indigenous dialect of the Kattang people of the Taree region. An unmistakable snake with hoops of black and white the length of its body, it is nocturnal and can be seen along walking tracks after rain. The venom is more potent on lizards and other small snakes which form their main diet.

A little Green Tree snake enjoys a change of scenery. Photo by Sara Nimmo

Green Tree Snakes or the common Tree Snake have the most beautiful colouration ranging from grey to olive green and from brown to black on the dorsal (back) areas. This contrasts with the belly ,which can be lemon yellow, blue or white and olive. It feeds on a variety of animals, fish, stranded tadpoles, frogs, skinks, small mammals and lizards. Harmless to humans but will strike without biting.

Diamond Python Photo: Deborah Jones

Our most abundant and non-venomous snake is the Diamond Python. The coloration can vary quite widely but always with the distinctive diamond pattern which covers the body from head to tail. They are usually very placid and can be picked up, but always do so from underneath – not from above, as they may mistake you for a predator such as hawks, kookaburras and so on and strike at you. They grow to about 3m in length and can live for 20 years. If you have vermin in or around your house these snakes will move in, clean them up, then move on to the next feeding ground.

The population is hard to estimate but a rough idea would be eight to 12 from the waterfall to Rocky Point. Two years ago a female python was on the Ferry Wharf at Elvina Bay North. She had released pheromones, attracting the local male pythons from around the area. At one point she had six males wrapped around her body, each attempting coitus. The female can lay from 10 to 30 eggs laid in a rough nest she has constructed. After laying she curls around the clutch to protect the eggs from predation. She will intermittently vibrate her body to generate heat if the eggs start to cool.

I have only mentioned the non-venomous snakes but bear in mind we have some which, if you are bitten by them, can result in health problems or even death. Death Adder, Red Belly Black and Brown snakes are all local venomous snakes and can cause serious problems if bitten.

All snakes are protected by law in NSW under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974. Please enjoy them and do not harm them they are a special feature of Pittwater life.

Story By: Robin Haigh

Feature Image: Australian Museum, Sydney NSW.

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