Management Wildlife

Snakes of Tasmania

Tassie snakes may be seen in surprising places, including towns and industrial areas, especially in summer when water is in short supply.

Do you know how to tell the difference between the three species of Tasmanian snakes, and what to do in an emergency?

You will find a Downloadable Guide to the Snakes of Tasmania (including Emergency Numbers, First Aid, and Safety) at the bottom of this page. Please feel free to share the guide with attribution to Human Animal Science.

Types of Tasmanian Snakes

There are three types of snake species in Tasmania – the Tiger snake (Notechris scutatus), Copperhead (Austrelaps superbus) and White-lipped snake (Drysdalia coronoidies):

Types of Tasmanian Snakes
Tasmanian Snakes

All three species of Tasmanian Snake are venomous.

⚠️ First Aid for Snake Bite

First Aid for Snake Bite - Snakes of Tasmania

Snake bite is an acute medical emergency and it is important to act quickly and effectively.

In the event of a snake bite:

  • Stay calm, safety comes first – check that the snake is not still near the victim.
  • Keep the victim as still as possible and immediately apply a pressure bandage.
  • Start the bandage over the bite site and continue to the end of the limb leaving fingers or toes exposed. Work back over the bite site to the top of the limb until the entire limb is covered. Immobilise the limb.
  • Ring 000 for medical assistance.
  • Mobile phones: ring 112 (please see important note under Contacts section below)
  • Bring transport to the victim if possible, or carry the person on a makeshift stretcher. It is important that the person is kept as still as possible.
  • Identification of the snake is unnecessary as the antivenom is effective for all three species of Tasmanian snakes.
  • Once the pressure bandage is in place, treat the victim for shock; i.e. keep warm, monitor breathing and heart rate. Do not give food or drink.
  • If person loses consciousness, place victim in coma position on the unaffected side and keep airways clear.
  • Monitor fingers/toes – if they turn blue or white and go cold, the bandage is on too tight.
  • Do not cut or suck the bite site.
  • Do not release the bandage until victim has received advice from qualified medical practitioner.

⚠️ What not to do in the event of a snake bite!

  • Do not apply a tourniquet
  • Do not suck or cut a snake bite
  • Do not attempt to catch the snake
  • Do not let the victim walk about

Encountering Snakes of Tasmania

Snakes may be seen in the most surprising places including towns and industrial areas, particularly during summer when water is in short supply.

If possible, it’s always best to leave snakes alone.

Although most snakes will only be passing through, they do occasionally take up residence in suburban yards.

During prolonged dry periods, snakes are attracted to gardens in search of water, shelter and food (i.e. lizards, frogs, goldfish and mice/rats).

To minimise the presence of snakes around your home:

  • Keep your lawns mowed.
  • Minimise rubbish and garden waste.
  • Stack wood away from the house.
  • Do not have standing water in bowls or ponds close to the house.

If you have a pet dog or cat you must take extra precautions. Your pet cat may even bring a snake indoors to show it off to you – keep cat flaps closed!

Most people get bitten when they attempt to kill or handle a snake, or may have accidentally trodden on it. The last person to die from snake bite in Tasmania was bitten by a Tiger snake in 1966.

The best thing to do if you see a snake, is to stand very still and let it go on its way or if safe to do so, back away from it very slowly.

Contacts & Assistance with Reptiles*

North West Coast

Central North Wildlife Care & Rescue Inc: 0409 978 064


DPIW Wildlife Management Branch: 1300 368 550 (or office hours only): 6233 6556

RSPCA: 1300 139 947

Emergency (Snake bites only): 000

Emergency Mobile Phones: 112


If your carrier does not have service but another carrier does, the emergency number will automatically use that.

However, if there is no service at all in the area you won’t get through.

If you are going into the bush, always let someone know when you are leaving, due to return and where you are going.

Always carry an EPIRB and two bandages if you are going into remote areas.

* Please note: snake relocations will incur a fee

💡 Tasmanian Snake Facts

Below are a set of answers to commonly asked questions about the snakes of Tasmania.

  • Tasmania has three species of snakes, the Tiger snake, Copperhead and White-lipped snake (formally known as whip snake), which are widely distributed throughout the State.
  • All three types of Tasmanian snakes species are venomous.
  • Snakes cannot regulate their body heat. They need to warm up in the sun, and become sluggish in cold weather.
  • Snakes breed and birth in March/April and then go into hibernation for the winter, emerging in spring when temperatures warm up. Snakes will hibernate anywhere that is warm and dry and do not eat until they emerge from their torpor.
  • Tasmanian snakes give birth to live young and do not lay eggs.
  • Snakes generally give birth every second year.
  • Copperheads give birth to 6–12 young; Tiger snakes between 20-30 and White-lipped snake approximately 2-6 young. Only a small percentage of the young survive to adulthood.
  • Baby snakes are as venomous as adult snakes (just produce less venom).
  • Snakes usually hide from the hot sun between 10am and 2pm, but will move around on cloudy days.
  • Some snakes can live up to 30 years.
  • Snakes will eat each other, frogs, tadpoles, lizards, small birds and marsupials, mice, rats and rabbits.
  • Most snakes are good climbers and have been found in roofs and up trees.
  • Tiger snakes and Copperheads are amongst the top 10 most venomous snakes in the world. Their venom is designed to quickly kill their prey in order to minimise the potential for injury to the snake.
  • Both Copperhead and Tiger snakes have wide colour variations ranging from black to yellow, red and brown.
  • Snakes are immune to their own venom.
  • According to the records, no Copperheads have been responsible for any snake bite deaths in Tasmania.

What to do if you find a snake at home

If you find a snake on your property, make sure you take the following steps:

  • Stay calm.
  • Do not approach the snake. Secure children and pets safely away from the area.
  • Keep the snake under constant observation if safe to do so, and ring for help.

Lizard or Snake?

The completely harmless lizard, the She-oak skink (Cyclodomorphus casuarinae) is only found in Tasmania and is often mistaken for a small snake.

She-oak Skink in Tasmania

This is mainly because as well as flicking its tongue, it can tuck its legs and move along the ground with snakelike motion.

Roles and Values

Like most native mammals, birds and reptiles, Tasmanian snakes are protected by law.

They are an important source of food for the larger birds of prey and do an excellent job of controlling introduced pests such as rabbits, rats and mice which have a detrimental effect on farms and natural bushland.

Habitat Loss

Reptiles depend on native bush for their survival.

As more bushland is cleared for homes, agriculture and industry, animals have to adapt to the new environments to find food, shelter and breeding sites.

Unless areas can be reserved to provide habitat, snakes will be seen more often in gardens and urban areas.

First Aid for Reptiles

Snakes frequently get caught up in strawberry netting. If this happens, do not attempt to free them.

If it is a hot day, throw a towel over them, keep them shaded, cool and moist (light spray with water) and call an expert snake handler.

Bluetongues may also get caught in netting, and although they may bite it is more safe to attempt to free them yourself (with care).

Bluetongues may be injured by family pets or lawnmowers, or other items around the home or garden.

Related: Keeping Blue Tongue Lizards

Carefully scoop the animal into a secure cardboard box with a towel in the bottom to prevent sliding, and keep in a cool dark place and call wildlife rescue.

Injured snakes should only be handled by experts. Keep the snake under surveillance and ring for help from a handler.

Snakes on the Move!

Increasing day length and warmer temperatures in late spring tempt Tasmania’s snakes out of winter torpor.

All three Tasmanian species (Copperhead Austrelaps superbus, tiger snake Notechis scutatus and white-lipped snake Drysdalia coronoides) are now on the move.

While all are venomous, only tiger snakes have claimed human lives, although this was mainly before the development of antivenom in the 1930’s.

While Tasmania’s snakes have a reputation for aggression, most behaviour that people find threatening is largely bluff.

This is borne out by a very simple fact; in most rural areas snakes are present in very high densities, but bites to people are very rare.

Snakes will always retreat if given the opportunity to do so and even in very rare cases when tiger snakes feel sufficiently threatened to advance towards a person, they will not bite but veer away.

Most snake bites occur when people are attempting to capture or kill snakes.

If you see a snake at a safe distance simply walk away or around it.

If a snake is disturbed very close to you, the best thing to do (but also the hardest for many people) is to stay completely still.

With poor eyesight limited to about 1 meter, if you are not moving the snake will crawl passed you without being aware of your presence.

While the potential negative side of having snakes in your environment often receives plenty of press, the positives rarely do.

Tiger snakes have a very broad diet which includes introduced rodents such as mice, rats and juvenile rabbits.

These rodents are responsible for a lot of agricultural damage and few land owners appreciate the enormous numbers of these pests that snakes consume every year.

Copperheads also consume rats and mice but tend to specialise on frogs.

The ecological health of your dams, creeks and lagoons can be very quickly gauged by the presence or absence of healthy copperhead populations.

Without exception, high copperhead densities reflect high frog densities and high frog densities reflect a healthy ecosystem on your property.

While many land holders are not overly concerned by snakes away from homesteads and stock yards, there are a number of things you can do to deter snakes from choosing to take up residence close to human dwellings.

Most reptiles are very good at conserving water, mostly by absorbing moisture from prey and having a slow metabolism and scaly skin.

During dry weather, snakes often move closer to homesteads and urban areas in pursuit of prey such as frogs and rodents.

While snakes may not need lots of water in hot weather, their prey generally does.

Snakes can be discouraged by reducing cover for them as well as their prey.

Keep grass very short, stack timber, roofing iron etc well off the ground and away from residences and above all, eradicate rodent populations quickly. Nothing will encourage a large tiger snake around your house like an outbreak of rats.

While all Tasmanian snakes are protected, they can be destroyed if deemed a threat to people or livestock.

Given the many positives of having these snakes on your property, an alternative response should be considered.

There are a range of people around the state who will relocate the snake to a more remote part of your property without any of the risks of trying to kill the animal yourself

Downloadable Snakes of Tasmania Guide + Safety & First Aid (PDF)

The below guide to the Snakes of Tasmania (including Safety & First Aid) may be printed or shared. If sharing, please link to this page as the source.

Research Wildlife

Keeping Blotched Blue Tongued Lizards

Our experiences with blotched blue tongue lizards demonstrate very clearly how well suited to outdoor enclosures these lizards are.

Their large size, longevity, willingness to breed and ease of maintenance make them ideal for novice reptile keepers (especially children) to gain competence and experience in reptile husbandry

This study of keeping blotched blue tongue lizards (Tiliqua Nigrolutea) represents the knowledge and experience of Michael and Jacqui Throw, with photography from Michael Throw.


Blotched blue tongued lizards Tiliqua nigrolutea are truly cool climate
lizards being widespread in Tasmania (including the larger Bass Strait islands) as well as cooler, higher rainfall districts in south eastern South Australia, southern Victoria and mountain habitats in New South Wales.

Distribution of Blotched Blue-Tongued Lizards

Within Tasmania blotched blue tongues are common and widespread, occurring in most habitat types from coastal heath to highland forests. They are very familiar to the general public because of their abundance around towns and cities throughout the State.

This article outlines our successful strategies at keeping and breeding this species outdoors at Ulverstone in northern Tasmania.

Our breeding adults have all been wild caught or were injured animals removed from hostile urban situations (eg. dog attacks).

They are maintained in outdoor enclosures of various shapes and sizes, for the most part dictated by the shape of our block and the absolutely essential requirement of 7-8 hours of sunlight during the summer months.

As with all captive reptiles, thermoregulation is the most important consideration in positioning of outdoor enclosures and should reflect, as closely as possible, the natural activity patterns of the reptiles involved.

Failure to achieve this will result in poor feeding, stunted development, and a lack of reproduction or the failure of embryos to develop properly in gravid females.

This is particularly important for large, sun loving species like T. nigrolutea that will forage in the midday sun in mid-summer (in Tasmania) when most self respecting reptiles have retired to shady retreats.

We have captured blotched blue tongue specimens in the wild with body temperatures as high as 36°C.


Our enclosures are essentially a sturdy wooden frame with short lengths of recycled wooden fence palings nailed to it to form a wall from just below ground level to a height of 60cm.

Our smallest enclosure is approximately 1.5 m square and the largest is 6 x 1m.

Keeping Blotched Bluetongue Lizards - Enclosure
Blotched Blue-tongue Lizard Enclosure

The enclosures have small shrubs and low ground cover plants planted in them as well as plenty of cover in the form of rocks and curved slabs of thick eucalypt bark.

Such varied ground cover is essential in providing a range of micro-habitats with varying temperature regimes that allow the lizards to precisely
maintain their preferred body temperature simply by moving from site to site within the enclosure during the course of the day.

Over winter, dens are plastic bins loosely filled with dry grass with entrance holes cut into the sides.

These are hidden from view behind vegetation and slabs of bark.

Heavy, earthenware water bowls are present in each enclosure and water
is changed regularly.

Reproduction & Breeding Behaviour

We house both blotched blue tongue sexes together all year round but no more than one adult male is present in a single enclosure during the courtship and mating period from October through to the end of November.

This is because sexually active males will savagely attack one another for access to females.

Attacks may include biting around the rival’s head or attempting to damage or remove limbs by biting them firmly and spinning around crocodile fashion.

Our breeding blotched blue tongue males are rotated around the enclosures weekly during the breeding season to increase our chances of reproductive success.

Mating is a somewhat violent affair with many people including some novice reptile keepers, misinterpreting it for fighting.

Male blue tongues grasp the female’s body tightly in their jaws just behind the front legs and can remain attached in this way for hours at a time.

If receptive, the female blue tongue will raise her tail off the ground to allow copulation to occur.

Males routinely break the females skin while holding on with their teeth and older females can often be seen in the wild with considerable scar tissue on their backs just behind the front legs from numerous matings during their lives.

Such scar tissue can be a very reliable indicator of sex when collecting these lizards.

Male blotched blue tongues are generally shorter and lighter than females with relatively larger heads and front legs.

Gestation in gravid females takes place over a a 4-5 month period with births in our collection taking place from mid-February to late March.

Our clutch sizes have ranged from one to ten and are directly related to the size of the female with our largest specimens (435mm, 640g) giving birth to the largest clutches.

Rearing Young

Because blotched blue tongue neonates are born in or close to autumn and the onset of cold, wet weather, we keep them indoors in heated cages for the first 5-6 months and return them into the outdoor enclosures the following spring.

Indoors, the neonates are maintained in glass fronted melamine cages 40x30x30cm in dimension and heated with a single 25 watt globe set on a timer.

The temperature gradient ranges from 25°C at the warm end to 18°C at the cool end.

Growth over the first 6 months is rapid with neonates ranging from 125-150mm and 13-17g at birth to around 300mm and 170g when taken back outside to the enclosures.

In five years breeding the same blotched blue tongue adults, we have found that generally, females will only reproduce every second year with only one female reproducing in consecutive years with the second clutch being half the size of the first one. (numbers in each clutch??)

There does not appear to be any reliable data on growth rates of blotched blue tongues in the wild or their size at sexual maturity but captive bred specimens in our collection have reproduced at one year of age.

One female gave birth to a single baby when only 302mm in total length and weighing 178g.

This indicates that wild specimens probably reproduce in their second or third year.


One of the factors that makes blotched blue tongues (and all blue tongue species in general) so popular with reptile keepers and especially children, is their very catholic omnivorous diet.

Blotched blue tongue lizards will eat almost anything we do, from fruit and vegetables to fungi and meat.

While the docility of these lizards is legendary, most people do not realise that in the wild they can be savage predators, attacking a range of small animals from nestling birds and juvenile rodents to animals as large as leverets (baby hares), 120mm in length (Spencer, 2004).

We have found the best results are obtained by offering these lizards an approximately 50/50 diet of protein and vegetable matter.

Early in the season when our lizards first emerge from winter torpor (August/September) they are fed once a week but with increasing day length and warmth into summer, feeding is increased to every two days.

Meals are alternated between protein (pinky mice and rats, snails or tinned dog food) and fruit (eg. banana, strawberries) and simply offered on a flat tray placed in the enclosure.

Neonates are fed pinky mice for their first couple of feeds to give them a good head start with alternating protein and fruit meals from then on in exactly the same way as for our adults.

Frequent Questions About Blue Tongue Lizards

For completeness, below you will find some of the common questions about blotched blue tongue lizards and keeping them as pets. Most of these questions and answers are applicable to blue tongue lizards in general.

Are blue tongue lizards dangerous?

Blue-tongue lizards are not venomous, and although they can and do bite their teeth are used more for crushing rather than tearing. If you are bitten, such as on your finger, it is unlikely they will break the skin or cause real harm. They can, however, be quite persistent and refuse to release their bite.

How to tell the age of a blue tongue lizard

Telling the age of any lizard can be difficult due to many variables. Two lizards born on the same day may grow at vastly different rates. Some may grow to full size within 6 months, whereas others can take 2 years.

Quite often a blotched blue tongue lizard will be born between 15 to 20cm, and have been known to grow as much as 70cm.

How to tell the sex of a blue tongue lizard

Telling the sex of any blue tongue lizard may also be difficult. A male blue tongue will usually have a more triangular-shaped head, thicker tail, and often thinner sides than a female. Eye colour for male blue tongues is usually more orange and brighter than the brown eyes common with females.

It is common to confuse a larger female, especially those with greater fat storage within their tales, with a male blue tongue. Quite often people buy a blue tongue believing it is male, and accordingly find themselves frustrated when trying to breed.

Behaviour can offer a good indicator, especially when the blue tongue is placed with a known female. If the lizard of unknown sex begins to chase and mount the female then you very likely have a male!

For more accurate sexing it is possible to check for sperm plugs of a male, also known as a mating plug, copulation plug, or seminal plug. These plugs consist of coagulated semen which would be deposited into the genital tract of the female after mating.

During the process of excretion the eversion of hemipenes is a clear indication of a male. Hemipenes are a pair of intromittent organs common with male lizards, usually inverted, will at the time of excretion become everted. If you consider the human penis enlarging and retracting this is a similar example.

How often do blue tongue lizards eat?

As a general rule, feed your blue tongue lizard every other day during warmer weather. In colder whether they will be less active and will only need to be fed once every three days.


Spencer, C. P. (2004). Bluetongue attacks hare. The Tasmanian Naturalist 126. 18-19.

If you have further questions about botched blue tongue lizards then you may leave a message in the comments section below.