Snakes Of the Atherton Tablelands

There are over 40 species of snakes found in Tropical North Queensland, and the Atherton Tablelands offers a range of varied and unique habitat types for many of them. These include the highly venomous Coastal Taipan, and the largest of Australian pythons the Amethystine. Some of the most frequently encountered species are included here.

BLIND SNAKES – Ramphotyphlops species

These snakes are small and glossy, with reduced eyes capable only of detecting light and dark. They vary in colour from red-brown to black. Often found in termite chambers where they feed on termites and eggs, larvae, and pupae; but are most often encountered on the surface after rains. All blind snakes lay eggs, are non-venomous, and are incapable of biting humans. Found in a variety of habitats across the region. Length to 40cm.


This is the dominant family of snakes in all part of the world except Australia, it includes non-venomous and venomous species. The Common Tree Snake, Dendrelaphis punctulata; Freshwater Snake, Tropidonophis mairii and Slatey Grey Snake, Stegonotus cucullatus are harmless.  Brown Tree Snakes, Boiga irregularis are rear fanged venomous. These snakes are known to feed on small mammals, birds, reptiles (including other snakes) and amphibians.

Green Tree Snake

COMMON TREE SNAKE – Dendrelaphis punctulata

These are extremely slender with a whip-like tail, and vary in colouration, including olive, green, black, yellow, tan, and sometimes bright blue. They are usually yellow on the throat and belly, but some have dark belly patterns.  Pale blue flecks are visible on the sides and become more visible when the snake is agitated. Common Tree Snakes are active during the day and found in a variety of habitats, from Rainforest to open forest and urban areas. They are the most encountered species on the Atherton Tablelands, and they are inoffensive and harmless. Common Tree Snakes prey upon frogs, fish, and small reptiles. They produce up to 8 eggs in a clutch. Length to 2m.

Freshwater or Keelback S
Freshwater or Keelback Snake

KEELBACK or FRESHWATER SNAKE – Tropidonophis mairii

Freshwater or Keelback Snake Keelbacks are generally brown to olive with indistinct, ragged-edged, darker cross bands. Each scale on the back and sides has raised, longitudinal lines, forming prominent parallel keels down the length of the body. The belly is cream, often flushed with pink. They are often seen near water and are active both day and night, so are commonly encountered across the Tablelands. They are non-venomous and prey on frogs, skinks, and tadpoles, and are known to eat small cane toads. They produce up to 12 eggs in a clutch. Length to 1m.

SLATEY GREY SNAKE – Stegonotus cucullatus

Slatey grey snakes are often found near water and are more likely to be seen at night or after rain. Their backs generally range from grey to black in colour and their belly is very striking glossy white. They are able climbers and prey on frogs, lizards, and small mammals.  Slatey grey snakes are normally inoffensive by nature, and are non-venomous.  Approximately 12 eggs in a clutch. Length to 1.5m.

Banded and Brown colour forms of the Brown Tree Snake

BROWN TREE SNAKE – Boiga irregularis

This is the second most sighted snake in the region, is usually nocturnal and often encountered in trees and buildings. It is a rear-fanged, mildly venomous species that feeds on birds and mammals, and has decimated native bird populations on the Island of Guam. Bites from large specimens should be treated with caution. Brown Tree Snakes can be defensive when alarmed. Clutch size of up to 12 eggs. Length to 2m.

Amethystine or Scrub Python

AMETHYSTINE PYTHON – Morelia kinghorni

The Amethystine python is Australia’s largest snake. They live in rainforest and woodlands but often venture into urban areas in search of food, especially poultry.  They have an iridescent amethyst sheen, and the colour pattern varies from almost plain tan to boldly patterned greenish, grey, brown, and yellow, with irregular streaks and lines. They are distinguishable from Carpet Pythons by their large head scales. The feed mainly on ground birds and mammals up to the size of wallabies. Amethystine Pythons will bite if threatened. Clutch size of 15 eggs. Length to 5m.

Carpet Python

CARPET PYTHON – Morelia spilota

This boldly patterned snake is found in many habitats, including farms and urban areas. They vary greatly in colour, ranging from pale to dark greyish green or brown, with irregular spots, lines of lighter or darker colours from yellow to tan through to white. In the Wet Tropics a distinct jungle pattern occurs of bright black and yellow. The head scales are small and granular. They are often found crossing roads or making home in a roof space. Carpet Pythons feed on birds, mammals, reptiles, and frogs, and they will bite if antagonised. Clutch size of 5 to 47 eggs. Length up to 4m.

Spotted Python

SPOTTED PYTHON – Antaresia maculosa

Spotted Pythons are light to dark brown, with irregular blotches which may form bands or stripes. This nocturnal species may be seen in a wide variety of habitats from wet coastal forests to cane fields, open forest, and rocky areas. They are non-venomous and prey upon small mammals, geckoes, birds, and small reptiles. Up to 15 eggs may be produced in a clutch. Length to 1m.

Water Python on Eggs

WATER PYTHON – Liasis mackloti

Water Pythons are always found near permanent water, especially around the Mareeba area. Their backs are usually uniform glossy brown to olive with distinctive iridescent sheen to the scales. They are white under the chin and throat, with yellow bellies. They feed upon mammals and birds, and may behave defensively if alarmed. Length to 3m.


This family includes front-fanged, venomous land snakes, and encompasses the most highly venomous snakes of Australia; however, the venom of many smaller species is considered harmless to humans. The venom injected by these snakes is used to immobilise or kill prey – sometimes a combination of toxic venom and constriction is used. These snakes are known to feed on small mammals, birds, reptiles (including other snakes) and amphibians.

Northern Dwarf Crowned Snake

NORTHERN CROWNED SNAKE – Cacophis churchilli

Northern Crowned Snakes are unique to the Wet Tropics, preferring rainforests and wet open forests. The back is dark metallic brown with a distinctive narrow yellow band on the top of the neck. It preys upon skinks, is generally inoffensive and a reluctant biter, and has low venom toxicity. Produces 5 eggs. Length to 30cm.

Eastern Small Eyed Snake

EASTERN SMALL-EYED SNAKE – Cryptophis nigrescens

These small snakes are nocturnal and are superficially similar to the Red-bellied Black Snake. They have a black back, and a pink or white belly.  The pink does not extend onto the sides as it does in the Red-bellied Black Snake.  Their eyes are minute, black, and barely noticeable from surrounding scales. They favour dark areas under sheets of tin, rocks, and bark on fallen logs and feed on small reptiles and occasionally frogs. Eastern Small-eyed Snakes live in open forest, rainforest, pasture, and agricultural land. They give birth to up to eight young. Average length of 50cm.

Yellow Faced Whip Snake

YELLOW FACED WHIP SNAKE – Demansia psammophis 
These are slender snakes with tapering whip-like tails. They have grey to brown backs, a dark, yellow-edged bar around the front of the nose, and a dark comma-shaped streak from the eye to the mouth. They are active during the day and are very agile, fast-moving snakes that are quick to escape. They prey upon skinks and frogs, and produce up to 9 eggs. Length to 1m. Other whip snakes found in the region include the Collared (low danger), Black and Papuan (highly dangerous).

Red Bellied BlacSnake

RED-BELLIED BLACK SNAKE – Pseudechis porphyriacus

Red-bellied Black Snakes are distinctive glossy black above, with red extending up their sides. They are found near water and are common across the Tablelands. The underside can also be white to pinkish, with dark edging to the belly scales. When disturbed they will behave defensively by flattening the neck and body, but will retreat if possible. They are considered dangerously venomous, with the venom having strong haemotoxic effects. Their normal prey consists primarily of frogs, but they also eat reptiles and small mammals. Cane toads have devastated some populations. They are live bearers, giving birth to up to 12 young in jelly like eggs, from which the young emerge. Length to 2m.

NORTHERN DEATH ADDER – Acanthophis praelongus

Death Adders have unique short, stout bodies, with broad heads and are variable in colour, usually with contrasting cross-bands. The thin rat-like tail ends in a curved soft spine and the tip is cream or black. The shape and colouration mean that it could initially be mistaken for a blue-tongued lizard or one of the larger ground-dwelling skinks (and vice-versa). They favour dry forest and grassland and often lie camouflaged in leaf litter. When disturbed, they remain motionless and rely on their camouflage for protection. They have a lightning-fast strike. Prey which includes reptiles, mammals and birds is attracted by using the tail as a lure. The average size of a death adder is 0.4m with a maximum of 1m.

Rough Scaled Snake

ROUGH-SCALED SNAKE – Tropidechis carinatus

The Rough-scaled Snake is olive to greyish above, with black flecks forming irregular bands or blotches, and a greenish-grey belly. The head is clearly distinct from its neck. Rough-scaled Snakes get their name from raised lines or keels on the scales covering their backs and sides. This snake can be confused with the Keelback or freshwater snake, which also has strongly keeled scales, as both occur near water. They are mainly found in cool, high-altitude rainforests, and moist open forests and pastures. Rough-scaled Snakes feed on small mammals, birds, reptiles, and frogs. They are one of the few venomous snakes which regularly climb trees. Length to 1.2m

Eastern Brown Snake

EASTERN BROWN SNAKE – Pseudonaja textilis

Eastern Brown Snakes vary widely in colour from light tan to almost black. The belly ranges from cream to orange, always with darker orange blotches. Hatchlings may have a darker head and neck band or can have dark cross-bands along their entire length. These patterns gradually disappear with age. They occur in a variety of habitats ranging from grassland through to Eucalypt forests. Active during the day, the Eastern Brown Snake feeds on frogs, birds, mammals, and reptiles. With little provocation, the snake will rear up and adopt an S-shape strike posture, they are ready biters with highly neurotoxic venom, and are considered dangerously venomous. Eastern Brown Snakes are egg layers producing a clutch of up to 28 eggs. Adults reach an average length of 1.5m, but can be up to 2.2m long.

COASTAL TAIPAN – Oxyuranus scutellatus

Coastal Taipans are variable in colour, from pale brown to black, and their bellies are cream, sometimes with orange spots. The head is large, rectangular (coffin shaped) and distinct from the neck.  The snout and lower jaw is always more pale. Coastal Taipans’ eyes are large with a reddish-copper iris, and round pupils. They are normally encountered during the day, in a range of habitats including open forest, grasslands, grassy beach dunes, pastures, and cane fields.  Taipans are nervous, alert, and fast and ready biters. Given the opportunity Taipans will retreat quickly, but will also defend themselves aggressively if provoked. They are extremely dangerous, the venom is highly neurotoxic, but also myotoxic and a coagulant. Coastal Taipans produce up to 22 eggs. Length to 2.6m.

Living with Snakes

Snakes play an important in maintaining the natural environment. Along with other reptiles, they make up a significant proportion of the middle-order predators that keep natural ecosystems working. Without them, the numbers of prey species would increase to unnatural levels and the predators that eat snakes would struggle to find food. All snakes are protected under the Nature Conservation Act 1992 and it is an offence to kill, injure, or take snakes from the wild.

Snakes usually prefer to retreat when encountered but, if they feel threatened, they can become defensive. Many snake bites are received by people who don’t see the snake, and come into close contact with it, or try to capture or kill the snake.

If you encounter a snake:

  1. Don’t panic.
  2. Back away to a safe distance and allow the snake to move away. If the snake is inside call Tableland Snake Catchers on 0473169779 or 0498438912
  3. Snakes often want to escape when disturbed and when left alone, snakes present little or no danger to people.

Tips to stay Snake Safe:

  • Stop snakes entering your home by screening doors and windows, and blocking all potential entry points.
  • If a snake finds its way into your home, close your internal doors, open your external doors, and give the snake a chance to leave.
  • Never interfere with snakes. They will defend themselves. A high proportion of snakebites have resulted from people trying to handle, interfere with or kill snakes.
  • Always ensure that timber piles are neatly stacked preventing shelter for rodents and snakes. Tidy up your yard during the colder months when snakes are less active.
  • Place food scraps in closed compost bins to make sure that rodents aren’t attracted to your home.
  • Keep your gardens, plant nursery and greenhouse tidy. The warm environment can attract snakes.
  • Poultry and birds attract snakes. Their feed also attracts rats and mice. Make your bird aviaries rat and snake-proof. Talk to us about ways to prevent snakes entering aviaries. Store bird seed in rodent-proof containers
  • When gardening, wear gloves, long pants, and covered shoes. Always lift objects so that they face away from you. This reduces the likelihood of putting yourself in a dangerous situation if a snake is sheltering underneath.


Tableland Snake Catchers is a locally owned, North Queensland business offering snake removal and damage mitigation services for problematic wildlife, as well as public education services across the Atherton Tablelands. Tableland Snake Catchers are licensed by the Department of Environment and Science, and as fully qualified snake catchers they have over thirty-five years of experience in handling a variety of wildlife including venomous snakes. Tableland Snake Catchers are available 24hours/7days for snake removal. They also offer a range of innovative solutions for problem Brush-tail Possums and other wildlife.  Currently servicing the Atherton Tablelands, including Ravenshoe, Herberton, Millaa Millaa, Malanda, Yungaburra, and all outlying areas of the Tablelands Regional Council.

Tableland Snake Catchers provide a friendly local service, including information on the identification of the various snakes, reptiles, and other wildlife of the region. They also offer advice on how to minimize snake encounters and ways to reduce the chance of snakes taking residence in or around your house and garden.

This is a fee for service business and charges apply for removal of snakes and other animals.

Tableland Snake Catchers contacts:

Leslie Brown 0473169779.

Ruth Brown 0498438912.

For more information on the various species of snakes and other wildlife who call the Atherton Tablelands home check out their Facebook page @tablelandsnakecatchers2021