SnakeSense: Conserving Australian Snakes and Lizards through Education

Sharing knowledge, conserving reptiles: snake catching, education, research, conservation.

False Alarm!

Eastern Brown Snake Skin

Eastern Brown Snake Skin

There’s always a rush of anticipation when the telephone rings with a snake-call … will we get it?  What will it be?  How big will it be?  Will we get some fabulous photos? 

Well, sadly the rush died upon arrival this time around, as we were pointed towards the offending “snake”, only to see that it was, in fact, only a snake-skin.  “Yes,” we told the disturbed landholder, “you have a snake here.  But this is no longer him.”

The skin belongs to an Eastern Brown Snake, just over 1 metre long, and was shed within the last 24 hours.  Snakes grow continuously throughout their lives, developing new skin under the old as they outgrow it.   The regularity of this occurence varies between species, and even between individuals, depending on how well they’re eating and thus, how fast they’re growing. 

Dangerous snake you've got there!

Dangerous snake you've got there!

Usually, Australian elapids shed their skins every two months or so. Two or three weeks beforehand, the old skin grows dull and the snake’s eyes become opaque, as a milky substance is secreted between the new and old skins to help the latter separate.  Snakes do not have moveable eyelids, and instead, have a transparent scale – part of their skin – covering the eye.  Hence, when the skin is shed, this includes the scale of each eye.  This means the snake is almost blind leading up to shedding, making them particularly edgy. 

Just before shedding, the eyes clear, and the snake seeks out rough stones or similar in order to work the old skin loose from around its head.  It then slides along the rough surface, peeling the old skin off inside out (like a stocking!), to reveal the glossy new scales underneath.

So, somewhere in Taggerty is a very handsome Brown Snake feeling very snazzy in his brand new outfit - maybe we’ll get to meet him personally sometime soon!

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Did you know?

    Mulga SnakeThe ‘King Brown’, a.k.a. Mulga Snake, is in fact a member of the Black Snake family.

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