South West Snakes – Western Australia – Carpets and Tigers.

Whilst living in Exmouth 2008 – 2010 I set myself the target of seeing wildlife. One of my targets was a snake, any snake I didn’t care I just wanted to see a snake. I searched high and low in all sorts of places and at all times of the day and night without luck.

I then found a book in the local newsagent that became my bible “Reptiles and Frogs in the Bush: Southwestern Australia,” by Maryan, Bush, Browne-Cooper and Robinson a book that gives excellent advice on finding and photographing reptiles as well as species identification.

Just before I finished work in Exmouth, I found my first snake, a Stimson’s Python under corrugated iron on the town golf course.

Stimson’s Python (Antaresia stimsoni.)

When I moved to Perth for work, I didn’t really find many snakes the first few years, a few Dugites at Swanbourne Beach was about it. Rottnest Island is another hotspot for this very venomous snake.

A visit to Rottnest for a week in February 2013, at the height of Summer, produced huge numbers of this species. Even in the heat of the day (35C) they were hunting out in the open through the sand dunes that cover the island.

Rottnest Island Dugite (Pseudonaja affinis.)

On a visit to my friend Gordons farm near the Boranup Forest I was busily turning over rocks on a granite outcrop when I came across the little fellow below. Initially I thought it was a Gould’s Hooded Snake, this was undoubtedly the most defensive snake I have ever come across.

If I got too close with the camera it would strike out at me. I discovered when cross-referencing my photos with the guide book, this was actually a Juvenile Dugite, being such a small snake, it is necessary for it to be defensive for survival.

Juvenile Dugite (Pseudonaja affinis.)

Another common name for the Dugite is the Spotted Brown Snake and the adult snake photographed below on Salt River Road in the Stirling Range shows why, unfortunately I often find these snakes deliberately run over on this road by misinformed people.

The snake was hunting and was definitely on the scent of dinner, it ignored me completely and it was a real thrill to lie on the tarmac of this quiet road and watch the approach of this normally skittish snake, though at 2m I figured it was probably best to give way!

Dugite (Pseudonaja affinis.)

This final Dugite was a beast of a snake I found lying on Mowen Rd near Nannup. At first I thought it was roadkill until I turned around for a better look and it slithered into the burnt bush at the side of the road. I followed it for a short period of time before photographing it. The reason it looks so fearsome is that after its recent dash into the bush it has its mouth open gasping for air! The biggest Dugite I have seen for sure.

Dugite (Pseudonaja affinis.)

Another common snake around Perth is the Tiger Snake and any of the larger wetlands throughout the city contain this species. Alcoa Wellard Wetlands, Herdsman Lake and Yanchep are three wetlands that I have explored finding good numbers of Tiger Snakes.

The picture below taken in August after a warm 28C Saturday the previous day. Sunday was 23C with a cold front approaching. It is an observation of mine that this seems to be the best time for viewing reptiles because they sense the approaching deterioration in weather and so seem to bask to soak up the last of the heat before the weather change.

The specimen below was basking on the path round Herdsman Lake (one of four Tiger Snakes seen on this day.) I was delighted to get such a great photographic opportunity and got down to take some pictures. When I looked around for my snake fearing partner Lorenz I discovered him five metres away hiding behind a tree! Contrary to his belief the snake didn’t jump up an attack us it merely slithered off into the bush once it was alerted to our presence.

Tiger Snake (Notechis scutatas.)

Alcoa Wellard Wetlands is one of my favourite spots for frogs and during my first year at this site as the cold Winter nights turned into the first warm nights of Spring I came across two species I have never seen since.

The first species (pictured below) a Crowned Snake is a small snake. I was unsure at the time if I was dealing with a Juvenile Tiger Snake so I kept my distance, but I needn’t have worried, despite being classed as a venomous snake they are only considered potentially harmful to children. Crowned Snakes are usually diurnal although they can be found at night during hot weather as the particular night I saw it was.

The second snake was a Fat Blind Snake (Ramphotyphlops pinguis) which writhed off at great speed as soon as it sensed the spotlight. Blind Snakes are active on the surface on warm nights after rains and this was the case when I saw this snake.

Crowned Snake (Elapognathus coronatus.)

North of Perth is an area that was fantastic for herping at night. This is because a road in this area passes through dune habitat making it the domain of the Burrowing Snakes, sadly this area is being swallowed up by atrocious urban sprawl.

The first warm nights of September and October can be worthy of a herp although the temperature tends to fall very quickly after the sun has set. Species at this time of year are less varied but the first species encountered on these nights is the Bardick that is a cold tolerant species.

Other reptiles reliably seen this early in the season are Yellow-eyed West Coast Spiny-tailed Gecko (Strophurus spinigerus) and Burton’s Legless Lizard (Lialis burtonis.)

Bardick (Echiopsis curta.)

November with its hotter days and therefore much warmer evenings is the first month that I have found Burrowing Snakes. My favourite is the stocky Jan’s Banded Snake a very attractive snake indeed.

Jan’s Banded Snake (Simoselaps bertholdi.)

Other species seen on the road at night in November have included Bardick, Gould’s Hooded Snake and the beautiful but intimidating Common Mulga Snake.

The King Brown Snake pictured below had a tail injury from a vehicle strike and was curled up on the road. A car approached shortly after this photo was taken but I was able to direct the vehicle around the snake. When it passed the vibrations from the car alarmed the snake so that it fortunately moved off the road and into the safely of the surrounding dunes.

King Brown Snake (Pseudechis australis.)

During the month of December species variety increases as temperature increases and reptile species I have seen over December North of Perth include Burton’s Legless Lizard, Southwestern Spiny-tailed Gecko, Bardick, Side-barred Delma (Delma grayii,) Fraser’s Delma (Delma fraseri,) Black-naped Burrowing Snake, Marbled Gecko (Christinus marmoratus,) Jan’s Banded Snake and finally Western Bearded Dragon (Pogona minor.)

Black-naped Burrowing Snake (Neelaps Bimaculatus.)

The Darling Range whilst not particularly rich in snakes does have some interesting species. Pictured below is a Blind Snake, found turning over rocks. At first I thought it was an earthworm until a closer look revealed distinctive but primitive eyes. The reason the eyes are primitive is that their food source are ants and so they feed underground.

Southern Blind Snake ( Ramphotyphlops australis.)

The species below was found during a warm November night (18C) at Canning Dam. I have also found this snake at night on a road passing through sandy dune habitat North of Perth.

Gould’s Hooded Snake (Parasuta gouldii.)

The SouthWest snake I most wanted to photograph in the was always the Carpet Python. I spent many years at Dryandra Woodland hoping to see this elusive reptile and I even came close once when the caretakers John and Lisa called me to their cottage where one was disappearing into their roof cavity (where it lived happily for many years!) Regrettably the head of the snake was already in the roof by the time I arrived.

In hindsight I always searched too early in Spring for this reptile looking on the first hot days of September when I would have increased my chances looking on the first hot nights of November instead.

My first lasting encounter with a Carpet Python was while I was walking the Cape to Cape Track. I was in the Boranup Forest when out of the corner of my eye just on the right on the path lay this well camouflaged Python.

A well camouflaged Carpet Python on the Cape to Cape Track.

It was a warm 25C day before a cold front moved in and the snake was basking as it was immobile and even unaware of my presence when I first started taking photographs.

When I moved in for pictures the Python moved its head alerted to my presence. Then it started to move off very slowly. I then made use of the stick in the foreground of the picture above to gently reposition the snake in the middle of the path. Here I observed and photographed it for a further hour.

Southern Carpet Python (Morelia spilota.)

My second encounter with a Carpet Python was once again on a long distance walk but this time the Bibbulmun Track. It was a warm morning, the previous day being 36C and this snake was basking on the path again immobile as per the previous python.

A well camouflaged Carpet Python in the River Murray Valley.

Southern Carpet Python (Morelia spilota.)

This final Carpet Python was seen at Canning Dam on a warm December night (16C.) It was lying with its tail anchored around a shrub and was in the strike position waiting for dinner, possibly a Rabbit or Brushtail Possum, medium sized mammals that are found at this location.

Southern Carpet Python (Morelia spilota.)

#NatureNeverFailsToImpress!

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