Living among snakes in Queensland, Australia

by Diana MacDonald

In the pandemic, I moved ~2,000km north to a subtropical part of Australia and began seeing snakes immediately. Highly. Venomous. Red-bellied Black Snakes.

What else will I see around here?!

As a curious critter myself, I wanted to know how often I might expect to see snakes, and how dangerous they might be. So I started recording sightings. This data will help answer an important question…

Am I going to be eaten by a snake?

Visualisation of individual snake sightings

For your comfort, there are no photos of snakes shown on this page unless you boop a button to see one

Turns out I see snakes fairly frequently! On average, every 2½ weeks

There are snake sightings around most of the time from April 2021 to April 2023 except for a big gap from July to August 2022.

Most snakes see me too. I won a staring contest with one noodle boi

3 snakes were staring, yeah 25 saw me, nah 5 didn't see me, not sure about 10 of them.

A long dark common tree snake with a yellow belly poking its face up at a floor-level window.

No seasons are free of snakes but the noodle bois are more boisterous in warmer months

There were 12 snakes in Summer, 11 in Autumn, 7 in Winter, and 13 in Spring.

At least some slithery ones are not venomous

Nope, 12 were not venomous, 13 were mildly venomous, 10 were highly venomous, and 8 unknown snakes were probably venomous.

I've seen at least 7 species of caution ramen and I've enjoyed learning about each one and how to identify them

Whip snakes have the largest eyes of Aussie snakes, which are surrounded by comma markings

There were 12 yellow-faced whip snakes.

Red-bellies are one of eastern Australia's most commonly encountered snakes

There were 9 red-bellied black snakes.

Keelbacks have keeled scales and a smiley mouth. They're one of the few snakes that can eat the poisonous, introduced cane toads without harm

There were 7 keelbacks.

Tree snakes can be lumpy! They commonly have parasites that are mostly harmless to them

There were 2 common tree snakes.

Small-eyed snakes look similar to red bellies but with smaller eyes, a fully black snoot, and without red scales visible from the side

There was 1 eastern small-eyed snake.

Marsh snakes have racing stripes on their faces and they are shy and secretive

There was 1 marsh snake.

Carpet pythons are chonky, 1.8–2.4m long, and like to constrict and swallow prey whole (not humans)

There was 1 carpet python.

Snake identification is hard and involves inspecting scales, so I shall assume — as is tradition — that the rest are all Taipans

There were 8 unidentified snakes.

I've enjoyed many fascinating snake sightings

These two were making love! Oh no, that's how they make more snakes!

There were 2 smoochy yellow-faced whip snakes.

Two olive, blue-ish grey, yellow-faced whip snakes mating. They are mostly stretched out and connected to each other towards the end of their tails. The slightly larger snake has strong red colouring.

These two were courting! In the garage!

There were 2 yellow-faced whip snakes looking to cuddle.

A worrying number were close to home…

There were 15 snakes in the yard.

A yellow-faced whip snake lying on the concrete directly under where the garage roller door normally closes.

Birds like to eat snakes, but I've only once seen a snake fly (carried by birb)

3 snakes were attacked by birds. 1 snake attacked by a bird was flying.

A young whip snake took refuge from Butcher Birds by the garden bed

1 snake attacked by a bird was cowering.

A small, exhausted yellow-faced whip snake tucked up against a garden bed.

One of the Magpies gulped a little snake down

1 snake attacked by birds was gulped down by a Magpie.

Tree snakes like to zoom up trees. I've seen 1 in a frangipani tree and 1 on a fence post

I've seen a lot of snakes now. Seeing them flee or hide or watch me cautiously has made me less scared of them

25 snakes were caught on camera.

An adult keelback sprawled in the grass.

How scared should I be? It turns out snakes aren't really aggressive

A red belly flattened its neck (from 3m away)

1 red-bellied black snake with its neck flattened.

A red-bellied black snake among leaf litter with its neck flattened.

A few snakes slithered away from me (no doubt in terror)

10 snakes fled.

Most bend frends are pretty chill

17 snakes remained still or left slowly.

I wondered if I could avoid snakes in certain conditions, but nope ropes enjoy all weather

21 snakes were seen in sunny weather, 18 were seen in cloudy weather, and 4 sightings were in unknown weather conditions. Every species with more than 1 sighting was seen in both sunny and cloudy conditions.

Whip snakes like it hot, but spicy pasta are seen in all temperatures

Whip snakes were seen from 23–32℃, red bellies from 18–29℃, keelbacks from 19–30℃, tree snakes from 28–32℃, small-eyed snake at 25℃, marsh snake at 20℃, carpet python at 22, and unknown snakes from 18–32℃.

I see Keelbacks only at dusk, but all times are fair game for slippery tube dudes

Whip snakes and red bellies were seen throughout the day, keelbacks at dusk, tree snakes and the small-eyed snake around the middle of the day, marsh snake and carpet python at night, and unknown snakes throughout the day.

As a result, I've become used to seeing the wriggly, little serpents and I've come to enjoy spotting and identifying them

And yet there are more to discover! There are many kinds of hazard spaghetti in the Sunshine Coast/Jinibara country

I've met just 7 of them

But how venomous are the species I've seen versus other Sunny Coast murder noodles?

Some have shabby fangs, but even non-venomous reptile bites can result in serious complications so don't get bitten by anything

9 Sunny Coast snake species are non-venomous, including 3 I've seen.

Some of them are full of weak sauce, including the Brown Tree Snake and all 3 crowned snakes

6 Sunny Coast species are weakly venomous, none of which I've seen.

Three of them are mildly venomous, including my marsh and yellow-faced whip friends

The two bandy snakes (Stephen's Banded Snake and the Bandy Bandy) are a bit nippy

These 2 Sunny Coast species are moderately venomous.

Many of them are “highly venomous” or potentially dangerous, including my red and black boop noodles

19 Sunny Coast species are highly venomous or potentially dangerous, including 2 species I've seen.

But many species are in the sea and rarely encounter people

Of the 13 sea snakes, 1 is non-venomous, 1 is weakly venomous, and the rest are highly venomous.

Blind snakes are harmless, cylindrical, and smooth with rounded, blunt, spike-tipped tails and tiny black dots for eyes

All 5 blind snakes are non-venomous.

In addition to the Carpet Python, there's also a Spotted Python I'd like to see

Both pythons are non-venomous.

There are 3 rear-fanged snakes, including my Keelback and Common Tree Snake friends, as well as a Brown Tree Snake or “Night Tiger”

The Brown Tree Snake is weakly venomous.

17 species are venomous, front-fanged, terrestrial snakes, including the infamous Eastern Brown Snakes, Coastal Taipans, and Tiger Snakes

8 land snakes are highly venomous, 2 of which I've seen. 2 land snakes are moderately venomous. 3 are mildly venomous. 4 are weakly venomous.

Over time, I've become much less afraid and far more delighted by the cute, wiggle sticks. They won't eat me!

And that's the story of how I learned to enjoy living among snakes

The end

About bites and deaths

About 2–3 people die from snake bites each year in Australia…

I believe this is remarkably low and was comforted to learn this. It seems like most bites result from startling, cornering, or trying to handle a snake. Snakes are protected by law in all states and territories of Australia and you cannot kill them unless they threaten life.

Eastern Brown Snakes are truly alarming and cause the most fatalities in Australia.

Snakes have caused about as many deaths in Australia as hornets, wasps, and bees, but far fewer hospitalisations.

Identifying snakes is hard. What looks like an innocent keelback might be a highly venomous rough-scaled snake. Play it safe, don't get bit.

Before you ever need it and even if you never need it, learn about what to do after a snake bite. For bonus points, you can also buy a “snake bandage” (compression bandage).

Other reptiles

Snakes are not the only reptiles I've seen…

There was the Pink-Tongued Skink, dangling from the garage roller door.

There was the “Verreaux's skink” (a legless lizard) zooming around in the dark by the footpath. Legless lizards look like snakes with lizard tongues. Sometimes they have stumpy leg nubs and pointy snouts.

And there were also several goannas!

Other fun facts

Here are some silly details I learned about snakes in South-East Queensland…

Wikipedia is a good source of snake nonsense.

About the data

You can download my snake sightings data in CSV format and the Sunny Coast species data in JSON format.

I've excluded snake skin sightings, dead snakes, snakes seen by people outside my household, and snakes I've seen while travelling. I'm hardly a snake expert, so some snakes may be mis-identified.

I found this book, Snakes of the Sunshine Coast Region by Mike Donovan, a valuable reference, which taught me fun facts not found on the Internet.

There's some great info on these sites…

About the code

You can see the code on GitHub.

About Di

👩‍💻 Front-end data viz & design systems engineer

✍️ Author of Practical UI Patterns for Design Systems

⌨️ Creator of Typey Type for Stenographers