10 Brown Snakes in Australia: What They Are and Where They Live

Written by Alan Lemus
Updated: July 17, 2023
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Australia is globally known for venomous snakes. The country has more than 140 recorded land snake species and 32 sea snakes.

An infographic about brown snakes in Australia
Brown snakes are the most venomous and are responsible for over half the snake bites in Australia.

Australia’s large land mass and diverse woodlands provide enough habitats for the different snake species. Besides, it is believed Australia is geologically old, so there has been enough time for the snake to evolve and breed. 

Australia’s snakes come in many colors, from brown to black, and even patterned. This guide focuses on brown snakes only. They are the most venomous and are responsible for over half the snake bites in Australia.

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Some species, like the eastern brown snake and the inland taipan, are dangerous and won’t hesitate to bite back when provoked.

Keep reading to discover Australia’s top ten brown snakes, what they eat, and where they live. 

Eastern Brown Snake

Eastern Brown Snake

While the eastern brown snake is indeed brown, it often changes to pale, black, or red for camouflage.

©Ken Griffiths/Shutterstock.com

The eastern brown snake, also known by its scientific name Pseudonaja textilis, is a dangerous, brown-colored snake found in the eastern parts of Australia. The snake’s body is brown colored, but it often changes to pale, black, or even red for camouflage.

The eastern brown snake has a slim body and a small round head, distinguishing it from the taipan species. The snake is super active during the day, so you can only encounter it during the day unless you accidentally bump into it in its sleeping zone at night.

This snake species is prevalent in grasslands, woodlands, and other bushy areas. As with many snakes, the eastern brown snake is calm and does not attack unless it is the last self-defense resort.

The snake feeds on many vertebrates, including birds, frogs, geckoes, and other small snakes. It hunts by sight, so it occasionally raises its head to look around for prey during the day. It is more active in summer than in winter.

Western Brown Snake

Western brown snakes have brown scales, but change color based on the weather. For example, their scales are a darker shade in the winter to help them absorb more heat.

©Kristian Bell/Shutterstock.com

The western brown snake is another dangerous snake widespread in the western part of Australia. It belongs to a group of snakes known as elapid, prevalent in the northern and western parts of Australia. Its scientific name is Pseudonaja nuchalis.

These snakes have a general brown appearance but periodically change their color to cope with the weather. In winter, they adopt dark skin to absorb heat and stay warm.

Western brown snakes are long and slender, with small heads. They are found in arid and semi-arid areas, including savanna woodlands, grasslands, and shrubs. Usually, the snakes hide on anything, including timber, iron sheets, fallen timber, rocks, or slabs. They spend the most time on the ground, although they can still climb trees when following their prey.

These snakes feed on vertebrates, including geckos and small mammals like rodents, birds, lizards, rats, and many more. They have sharp eyesight and are quickly alerted by the movement of their potential prey.

Western brown snakes are fast, nervous, and very dangerous to humans.

Inland Taipan

Inland Taipan, a snake similar to the Central Ranges Taipan. The Central Ranges Taipan a species of highly venomous, deadly, and fast-moving taipan snakes.

With the most dangerous venom in the world, don’t mess with an inland taipan if you see one. Encounters with them are rare, though.

©Ken Griffiths/Shutterstock.com

The inland taipan, scientifically known as Oxyuranus microlepidotus, is considered to have the most dangerous venom in the world. It is a fierce, small, slender snake found in cracks or crevices in rocky areas. The snakes are prevalent across Queensland, South Wales, and some parts of South Australia.

Unlike most brown snakes in Australia, the inland taipan is rare because of its habitat. It prefers to stay in hot, dry, and remote areas with few people; hence, it is rare to encounter it.

Inland taipans feed on mammals only. They hunt early in the morning but remain active for the rest of the day. Usually, the taipans detect their prey through odor and sensing movement while underneath rocks.

They can swallow big mammals, even those bigger than their diameter. But, despite being the most venomous snake, very few people have been bitten by this snake species, and most were hunters.

 Coastal Taipan

Coastal Taipan, a snake similar to the Central Ranges Taipan. The Central Ranges Taipan has a brown body with pale head.

Coastal taipans frequent caves and the underside of roots.

©Ken Griffiths/Shutterstock.com

The coastal taipan is a long, slim snake with a uniform brown skin color. The belly part is yellow or creamy. This snake species is prevalent in the eastern area of the Queensland coast. Some of them can be found in the Kimberly area in Western Australia.

Coastal taipans, known scientifically as Oxyuranus scutellatus, occupy a wide array of habitats, and the most popular are shrubs and woodlands. You can easily spot them in caves, under roots, discarded construction material, and dumpy areas.

Usually, these snakes feed on mammals and birds. They are attracted to domestic rats, lizards, and other small mammals. They detect their prey by seeing body movements and are fast when running after their prey.

Coastal taipans resemble the black mamba in size, color, and toxicity. They are considered the third most toxic snakes, after the inland taipan and the eastern brown snakes.

Lowland Copperhead

Like some other snakes in Australia, lowland copperheads change their skin to camouflage.

©Austrelaps superbus/Shutterstock.com

Copperheads are known for their ability to survive in cold and high rainfall zones where many snake species can’t survive. They are known scientifically as Austrelaps labialis. These snakes are found in the lowland areas of Tasmania, South Victoria, and the southeastern parts of South Australia.

Some species are found on Kangaroo Island in the coastal dunes. 

Lowland copperheads enjoy grassland habitats, woodlands, and even agricultural areas in the forest. You can easily spot them on thick grass zones, fallen timber, and other hidden places.

Copperheads have muscular bodies with uniform scales on the upper body parts. Most have brown and creamy belly colors like other snakes. 

Lowland copperheads easily change their skin color to camouflage. They feed on insects, lizards, frogs, and other small snakes. They are primarily ground dwellers but often climb trees to bask.

Lowland copperheads are secretive, prefer to stay away from humans, and only bite when provoked. 

Mulga Snake

mulga snake

The color of mulga snakes can vary depending on the individual’s habitat.

©Ken Griffiths/Shutterstock.com

The mulga snake, known by its scientific name Pseudechis australis, is distributed in all of Australia’s states except Tasmania and Victoria. The snakes are commonly found in New South Wales, Queensland, and most parts of Western Australia.

These snakes have a brown identification color, which can sometimes vary depending on the natural habitat for the snake. 

For instance, some mulga snakes have a reddish-brown color; others are coppery brown, while some have a dark brown appearance. In most snakes, the tail tends to be darker than the rest of the body.

Mulga snakes occupy many habitats, including tropical forests, grasslands, shrublands, and sandy areas. The snakes can also be spotted under fallen timber, caves, rocks, or any other confined space.

Mulga snakes feed on multiple vertebrates, such as frogs, lizards, birds, bird’s eggs, and other small mammals. They remain active day and night. However, in the hottest months, mulga snakes are only active in the evenings or at night when the temperatures are low.

Carpet Python

Close up of carpet python with its tongue out

The patterns of carpet pythons vary from one to the other.

©Michelle Marks/Shutterstock.com

Carpet pythons are prevalent in all states in Australia except Tasmania. Known scientifically as Morelia spilota, the snakes live in forested areas and avoid arid and semi-arid zones. They are semi-arboreal snakes that frequently climb trees to bask or follow prey. But they do not wholly rely on trees as they sometimes move around elsewhere on the ground.

Carpet pythons are large, brown snakes with beautiful markings on their skin. Their patterns vary from one snake to another. Some have gold patterns, and others have cream, black, or white ones.ย 

They are considered one of Australia’s largest snakes, as they can weigh over 30 pounds.

These snakes are carnivores, so they feed on small mammals, birds, and lizards. An average carpet python weighs 33 pounds and can reach 13 feet in length.

Australian Scrub Python

Australian Scrub Python

In the far north side of Queensland, one may find Australian scrub pythons.

©reptiles4all/Shutterstock.com

Australian scrub pythons are tree-dwelling snakes found in far north Queensland. Also known by their scientific name Simalia kinghorni, these snakes are prevalent throughout the tropical rainforests and other bushy areas in north Queensland. 

Australian scrub pythons are considered the biggest brown snakes, as they can grow to 26 feet in length and up to 55 pounds in weight.

Most of these snakes have brown skin with varying patterns of black, gray, white, and other colors. They prey on all small mammals, reptiles, birds, and other small snakes.

These snakes are non-venomous and mostly spotted during the night, hunting for food. They have large teeth and masculine bodies, which help them attack and wrap up their prey. 

Despite their sizable masculine body, Australian scrub pythons are calm and only bite when provoked.

Olive Sea Snake

The Olive sea snake has special valves in its nose to keep water out while its swimming.

Along the coral reefs of Australian coasts live olive sea snakes.

©DNC40/Shutterstock.com

Olive sea snakes are found in warm coastal areas and along the coral reefs of Australian coasts. They live in coral reefs, under rocky shores, and in lagoons. Known scientifically as Aipysurus laevis, the snakes have brown skin and a pale brown appearance under the belly. 

Only a few of the snakes have creamy scales scattered over their skin. They can grow up to six feet in length and weigh 6.6 pounds.

Olive sea snakes spend their entire life underwater but can sometimes be thrown by heavy winds and storms to the shores, which is usually fatal.

They feed on small and medium-sized fishes, crabs, prawns, and other underwater invertebrates. They prefer to hunt and feed overnight and only come out during the day to take occasional breaths. 

Sharks and big birds like ospreys are the main predators of olive sea snakes. Other names for olive sea snakes are olive-brown sea snakes or golden sea snakes. They are venomous.

Dugite Snake

Dugite Snake - Brown Snakes in Australia

With venom that is dangerous to humans, it’s wise to avoid dugite snakes.

©Uwe Bergwitz/Shutterstock.com

The dugite snake, also known by its scientific name Pseudonaja affinis, has three main subspecies, which have an almost similar appearance. They have long, slender bodies with soft glossy scales. Their skin is primarily brown, although some subspecies have light gray or orange patches.

The dugites are prevalent in Western Australia. They inhabit shrubs, coastal dunes, and woodlands in Perth.

Usually, these snakes cope well with heavily degraded areas like golf courses and industrial regions.

They feed on various vertebrates like frogs, lizards, small birds, and mammals. Further, they are cannibalistic and can swallow snakes as big as themselves. They are diurnal, so they are only active in the early morning and late evening.

Dugite snakes are venomous and dangerous to humans. In Perth, Australia (where they are prevalent), they are responsible for more than 70% of all snake bites reported in hospitals.

Final Thoughts

Australia is home to many brown snakes, thanks to its woodlands, trees, and scrubs, which create perfect breeding zones for them. Most brown snakes are venomous and vary in size and appearance, as some have patterns.

Nevertheless, the dangerous brown snakes in Australia shouldn’t stop you from visiting the county. The snakes see humans as predators, so they only attack defensively when provoked. So it’s best to remain calm around them and only watch them from afar. 

These reptiles significantly impact the ecosystem since they control rodents and other problematic species, reducing the use of chemicals.

Summary of 10 Brown Snakes in Australia

Let’s take a look back at 10 different snakes you can find in Australia with brown coloring.

RankType of Brown Snake
1Eastern Brown Snake
2Western Brown Snake
3Inland Taipan
4Coastal Taipan
5Lowland Copperhead
6Mulga Snake
7Carpet Python
8Australian Scrub Python
9Olive Sea Snake
10Dugite Snake

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Ken Griffiths/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

Alan is a freelance writer and an avid traveler. He specializes in travel content. When he visits home he enjoys spending time with his family Rottie, Opie.

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