Are textilis really that bad?

Discussion in 'Australian Snakes' started by saximus, Sep 14, 2013.

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  1. saximus

    saximus Almost Legendary

    Oct 4, 2009
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    Windsor, NSW
    I have a query that's been in the back of my mind for a while and I'd like to hear mainly from the field herpers and/or snake catchers if possible.
    I find that even with reptile friends and people who have a healthy respect for snakes that EBs are the only snake they won't trust and that they truly believe will chase you down. I find it difficult to defend them because I've never seen a wild one. The couple I've seen in captivity were nasty but I assume that's partly because I was trying to hook and tail them into a bag (on a ven course).
    So for those who have actually encountered them in the wild, what are they like? Do they S up the instant you get near them? Is their first instinct usually fight rather than flight?
  2. I'd describe them as defensive rather than aggressive. It also depends what your definition of being chased is? I personally don't feel I've ever been "chased" as such. Every encounter is different, they generally choose flight over fight, but will defend themselves if they feel there's no other option. Most strikes even then seem half-hearted IMO. I've found some really large textys (approaching the 2 metres) quiet "confident" and less inclined to choose the flight option. It also depends on how warm they are as to how defensive they become. If kept for any length of time, many have lost alot of their defensiveness (but not all:)).

    All JMO, other's would have different insights, of course.
  3. saratoga

    saratoga Well-Known Member

    Sep 7, 2006
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    This video demonstrates that given the chance they will try to escape, however if you annoy them expect to be challenged!

    Don't chase Brown Snakes (Pseudonaja nuchalis) - YouTube

    After a 3 year study on Common Brown Snakes in the field, Rick Shine and Patrick Whitaker concluded that "Overall, our findings belie this animal's reputation for 'aggression'. Instead, eastern brown snakes are very wary of people and avoid them whenever they can." (Whitaker & Shine, 1999) .

    Another appropriate quote by well known american herpetologist Clifford Pope is that 'Snakes are first cowards, next bluffers, and last of all warriors'

    For interesting reading on Brown Snakes see the following papers

    Whitaker, P.B. & Shine, R. (1999). When, where and why do people encounter Australian brown snakes (Pseudonaja textilis: Elapidae)? Wildlife Research 26: 675 - 688.

    Whitaker, P.B. & Shine, R. (1999). Responses of free-ranging brown snakes (Pseudonaja textilis: Elapidae) to encounters with humans. Wildlife Research 26: 689 - 704.
  4. Firepac

    Firepac Subscriber Subscriber

    Jun 6, 2009
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    Proserpine, Qld
    In my years of catching Eastern Browns up here in N. Qld. I would have to say that their reputation for being aggressive is for the most part greatly overstated. They can be flighty and reactive but not aggressive. They also will give bluff strikes in an attempt to scare away the perceived threat.

    Another paper to add to those listed by Saratoga is The Defensive Strike of the Eastern Brownsnake, Pseudonaja textilis (Elapidae) by P.B. Whitaker, K. Ellis and R. Shine. Functional Ecology 14, 25-31.

    A couple of the conclusions from this paper are,

    Contrary to popular opinion, Eastern Brownsnakes are reluctant to deliver firm bites in response to human harassment even when continuously provoked. It is estimated only 15% of the strikes recorded had the potential to cause significant envenomation, and

    The snakes were surprisingly tolerant of harassment, especially at body temperatures similar to those they exhibit in the field during the activity season.

    I have a copy of this paper if anyone is interested.

    To me this clip typifies wild EB behaviour when they feel threatened. You can see the threat, the 'S'-ing up and bluff strikes. Apologies for the qualtiy but it was hard to film and keep an eye on the snake!
    Easterm Brown 140912 - YouTube
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2013
  5. Daniel, I'd say the fact that you've never seen one in the wild says heaps about their preferred reaction if you get near them in the bush - they're gone before you even know they're there. But as other have said, corner them or interfere with them when they have no escape and you have a different critter to deal with most of the time. It's Ok to suggest that most of their defensive behaviour is bluff - it may well be - but these things are incredibly venomous, so anyone encountering them when they exhibit defensive behaviour needs to be very careful indeed. I only say this because the general tone of this thread is that they mostly mean no harm, and this may imply that it's OK to stir them up. It's not.

    As one who has caught heaps of Dugites (the WA equivalent in SW WA), I believe you should never ever be casual about an encounter with Brown Snakes of any subspecies.

  6. zulu

    zulu Very Well-Known Member

    Sep 14, 2005
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    The common browns ive seen over the years will certainly flee most of the time but not always.It just depends on how the individuals are feeling at the time of year ,day weather conditions etc .Most of the time things go well and they are not all that agro and can be observed, caught and relocated examined etc.
    For some reasons they can get extremely put out on occasion and have had similar experience with tiger snakes ,just the odd ones that want to come at you.
    Have actually jumped up small trees and hung on when snakes found it easier to lunge down a hill than flee up wards.
  7. spud_meister

    spud_meister Active Member

    Jun 22, 2013
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    Considering around 60% of snake deaths in Australia come from Browns, I'd say they're worse than any other snake.
  8. I'd dare say that has more to do with there widespread distribution and fondness for introduced rodents that thrive around human habitation.
  9. andynic07

    andynic07 Very Well-Known Member

    Jul 26, 2012
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    I don't think you can use percentages in this argument. If there was only one venomous snake in he country then it would account for 100% of snake fatalities but you could not say it was aggressive towards humans because of this fact.
  10. The simple rule is leave them alone and they'll give you the same courtesy. A highly under valued species IMO.
  11. Narelle

    Narelle Not so new Member

    Feb 11, 2013
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    Just found this skin at mum and dad's place near the fish pond/creek at Lowood sth east qld. Seems we have a good size brown hanging around! When we see them all they really want to do is get away unless you startle them if they are cornered like in the chook pen or garage. They will always choose flight if they can though.

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    Last edited: Sep 15, 2013
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