CSIRO Publishing blank image blank image blank image blank imageBooksblank image blank image blank image blank imageJournalsblank image blank image blank image blank imageAbout Usblank image blank image blank image blank imageShopping Cartblank image blank image blank image You are here: Journals > Wildlife Research   
Wildlife Research
Journal Banner
  Ecology, Management and Conservation in Natural and Modified Habitats
blank image Search
blank image blank image
blank image
  Advanced Search

Journal Home
About the Journal
Editorial Board
Current Issue
Just Accepted
All Issues
Special Issues
Sample Issue
For Authors
General Information
Notice to Authors
Submit Article
Open Access
For Referees
Referee Guidelines
Review an Article
Annual Referee Index
For Subscribers
Subscription Prices
Customer Service
Print Publication Dates

blue arrow e-Alerts
blank image
Subscribe to our Email Alert or RSS feeds for the latest journal papers.

red arrow Connect with us
blank image
facebook twitter youtube


Article << Previous     |         Contents Vol 26(5)

Responses of free-ranging brownsnakes (Pseudonaja textilis : Elapidae) to encounters with humans

P. B. Whitaker and R. Shine

Wildlife Research 26(5) 689 - 704
Published: 1999


Eastern brownsnakes (Pseudonaja textilis) are large (to 2 m), slender, dangerously venomous elapid snakes that cause significant human mortality. We recorded the responses of free-ranging brownsnakes to 455 close encounters with a human observer, using 40 snakes implanted with miniature radio-transmitters, plus encounters with non-telemetered animals. Our study area (near Leeton in south-eastern Australia) is typical of many of the agricultural landscapes occupied by P. textilis. Contrary to public opinion, the snakes were rarely aggressive. About half of the encounters resulted in the snake retreating, and on most other occasions they relied on crypsis. Snakes advanced towards the observer on only 12 occasions (<3% of encounters) during initial approach, and only three of these advances were offensive. The snakes’ responses to an approach depended on the observer’s appearance (e.g. snakes were more likely to ignore an observer wearing light rather than dark shades of clothing) and behaviour (e.g. snakes were more likely to advance if approached rapidly, and touched immediately). Snakes were more likely to retreat if they were sub-adult rather than adult, if they were warm, or if they had been moving prior to an encounter. Weather conditions (air temperature, wind velocity and cloud cover) also influenced the snakes’ responses, as did season and time of day. The snakes’ response was relatively predictable from information on these factors, enabling us to suggest ways in which people can reduce the incidence of potentially fatal encounters with brownsnakes.

‘Snakes are first cowards, next bluffers, and last of all warriors’ (Pope 1958)

Full text doi:10.1071/WR98042

© CSIRO 1999

blank image
Subscriber Login

PDF (171 KB) $25
 Export Citation
Legal & Privacy | Contact Us | Help


© CSIRO 1996-2014