Brown Tree Snake

We were cleaning out a shed on a property at Hervey’s Range last Saturday.

As farm sheds do, it had gradually accumulated junk, dirt and animal life. We knew about the python – we had seen it in the rafters and picked up sloughed skins – and we thought there was a smaller snake in there too. I found it when I moved a box away from the wall:

Brown tree snake curled up peacefully against the corrugated iron wall
Brown tree snake curled up peacefully against the corrugated iron wall

Treating it with due caution, I stepped back and took some photos. Treating me with due caution, it flopped onto the steel box beneath its resting place, reared up threateningly and then slithered away down to the floor behind the box. It stayed there for the rest of the afternoon while we kept on working … continually making sure it hadn’t moved and wasn’t going to surprise us again since it was big enough, at 50cm or so long, to be dangerous if it happened to be venomous – a young Brown Snake, for instance.

We weren’t sure of its identity until a couple of days later when my Friendly Local Expert (not the bird expert but another one) examined my photos and said:

Definitely a Brown Tree Snake, Boiga irregularis, also known as Night Tiger or Dolls-eye snake. Mildly venomous (most severe symptoms I’ve heard of are a headache and nausea) but rear fanged (so they have to chew on you properly to get any venom in). They’re mainly known as a pest for getting into people’s aviaries and eating the family’s pet budgie as frogs, birds and geckos form a huge part of their diet.

That one is just a baby – nicely coloured, too. They’re known for standing up in that defensive S bend but it is mostly bluff and they’re really as inoffensive as a brightly coloured piece of string. It has probably been eating the Asian House geckos out of the shed.

That made us feel better on a couple of counts – firstly that we hadn’t automatically lashed out and killed a harmless neighbour and secondly that we don’t need to worry about it when we return to finish the clean-up. That said, it is always wise to give all snakes plenty of respect and plenty of space to move away, which most of them will do when given the opportunity.

Brown tree snake in s-bend
Threatening me
Brown tree snake head
Close-up of its head … taken from a safe distance with my 100mm lens
Slithering away
Slithering away

“But what about the python?” you ask. The same considerations apply, since it’s harmless to us. It’s a lot bigger, at 2 – 2.5 metres, but that only means it’s easier to spot and so avoid the sudden encounters which might lead to injurious misunderstandings.

3 thoughts on “Brown Tree Snake”

    1. Hi, Bernie,
      We might not have done, either, except that we already thought it was a Brown Tree Snake and – maybe more importantly – we knew exactly where it was all the time because it left the last few centimetres of its tail in plain view, draped over the top of the box.

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