Facts or Fallacy
Some of the myths and truths regarding snakes
Overpopulation this year
You often hear people say that because we've had a good year, there will be lot's of snakes around this year. This is largely untrue. Despite the potential to increase their numbers quickly, it does take a number of years to grow from a baby snake to an adult. The ultimate population of snakes in any area is also limited to the resources of food, refuge and predators. These features oscillate from year to year which impacts on snake numbers. The average female brown snake may reach maturity in her third year and produce a clutch of 15 eggs for every year of her life. Assuming she lives to the ripe age of 30 years, she has the potential to produce over 400 baby brown snakes in her life. On average, all that survive over that time would be 2- one to replace her and the other to replace a male. If more survived, they would quickly use up all the resources that sustain populations.
Removing a snake solves the problem?
This generally only offers temporary respite from snakes because other snakes surrounding the area breed and their offspring will find the ecological void left by the snake that is removed.
Relocating snakes is good for conservation?
Many people decide not to kill the snake preferring rather to call a snake removal provider who captures the snake and relocates it to another area. This concern for the snake's welfare is commendable but unfortunately, relocating it to another area is probably not going to make much difference in the long term. Only a few properly managed studies have been conducted and experience from these studies is sufficient to raise concerns about this practice. All that may happen is that the snake is placed into a new unfamiliar area and as it seeks to survive there, it will have to compete with existing snakes for food and refuge. Presumably a balance will already exist prior to the new release and so the new addition, in theory, will only upset that balance. Ultimately, in all probability, the population will settle back to the same numbers it had before the release so nothing is gained. In and around Adelaide, the number of snakes caught and relocated by snake removalists, numbers from 500 to 1500 per year. Some of these snakes are retained in captivity for education, venom production, reptile parks and private keeping. No one likes the alternative of having to euthanase the snake but it may, in some instances, be the best solution. The new NPWSA royalty laws, which place a government fee of ~$30 on each snake that is retained, only complicates the issue of whether or not snakes should be relocated, retained in captivity or euthanased.
Snakes are more poisonous earlier in the year?
This could be true but proper studies haven't been conducted on most species to confirm this claim. There was one study carried out on the venom from a single brown snake over a period and it did show seasonal variation. This needs to be repeated with larger numbers to verify it is general. We carried out studies using Lake Alexandrina tiger snakes and whilst there was some variation over time, the variations were not consistent from individual to individual.
Snakes are more poisonous when younger?
There is some truth to this saying in some overseas snakes but it does appear that Australian snake venoms are fairly consistent in toxicity over all ages. We looked at tiger snake venom, and the venoms of the 2 taipan venoms (coastal and inland taipans) and there was no significant change in venom activities from juveniles to adults. This is probably due to the fact that, at least in these 2 snake species, there is no significant prey item changes from juveniles to adults whereas in some overseas vipers, prey items shift from reptilian prey when young to mammalian when older.
Blue-tongue and sleepy lizards keep snakes away?
Blue-tongue and sleepy lizards may eat young snakes, if they can catch them. Tiger snakes, brown snakes and black snakes, have been known to eat fully-grown sleepy and bluetongue lizards. So, I would conclude that the existence of sleepies and bluetongues in no way guarantees you'd be free of snakes. It's probably more like dog eat dog.
Ropes repel snakes?
It is said if you lay a rope on the ground around the perimeter of your camp, snakes won't enter the area surrounded by the rope. In fact, there is no logical reason why such a measure could work.
A saucer of milk attracts Snakes?
Snakes do not normally drink milk. Any liquid may attract them during dry spells but normally a saucer of milk will not attract snakes.