Are Australian Eastern Brown Snakes Aggressive?

It seems ages since I last wrote anything about snakes in Australia, let’s put that straight today. Of course, today is Friday which means we get a YouTube video, except today we are going to get three.

Different people will tell you different things about snakes and there is a massive difference between snakes being aggressive and NOT being aggressive. So which is true?

Only the other day I was talking to somebody who investigated a noise in his back garden (his garden backs onto the bush) and saw a snake which simply slithered away.

At work the next day he described the experience to be told by a colleague…

You were lucky, that sounds like an eastern brown, I’m surprised it didn’t chase you. They are very aggressive you know.

Poppycock!” I said when I heard this story.

Poppycock, by the way, is a quaint little British term for nonsense and although I could have said nonsense, sometimes I prefer to say poppycock.

Are Australian snakes aggressive?

And the reason I say its poppycock is because the eastern brown snake isn’t naturally aggressive, if it were then Australia would be a scary place in which to live. We would have one of the worlds most venomous snakes aggressively attacking humans on a daily basis, wouldn’t we?

But we don’t.

Snakes, I suspect, are probably just like any other species, including humans. Some may be aggressive when they feel threatened, but the vast majority I’m sure are not.

Here’s our first video. Although snake deaths have risen slightly in recent years here, snake expert Rex Neindorf explains why you shouldn’t be scared of snakes in Australia. This is a fresh video on YouTube, only went live last week…

Well, that’s something isn’t it? Australian snakes don’t have heat sensors, that’s good! But the idea of “standing still” if a snake is nearby, he’s got to be joking, hasn’t he?

Well, this guy puts it to the test with one of Australia’s ‘most aggressive’ snakes, the eastern brown…

Finally, let’s take a look at an expert catching an eastern brown. As you probably know, I’ve done a little bit of ‘snake catching’ of my own before, although mine wasn’t so much snake catching as snake shooing away; with a broom.

If you haven’t seen that before, I suggest you make a cup of tea, coffee or if it is your preference, grab a tinnie of your favourite brew and head on over to my post What Happens When a Snake Enters Your House?

Then sit back, relax, and have a good laugh at my full-length video of exactly what did happen when a snake entered my house.

Then you can come back here and see how an expert does it. Here’s George the Byron Bay Snake Man…

See, that’s better, another post about snakes. I looked it up, it has been a long time, you have to go way back to 25 September, that’s over two months ago, for my last post on the subject which was called The Australian Snake Season Part 2: Avoiding Snake Encounters.

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{ 12 comments… add one }
  • Cowboy Bill October 4, 2018, 12:50 pm |

    Many interesting perspectives on this matter. In my experience the smaller browns flee, and on a few occasions have observed browns actively attack horses, cattle and even chase after me without initially provoking the snake. Only Taipans and Eastern Browns have i seen behave this way, blacks, red bellies, tigers react in a defensive manner, pythons clearly even more passive. Why is it people continuously seek to completely dismiss other people’s experiences? There is plenty of footage of people provoking browns which does not help. The most aggressive i have seen was an Eastern Brown, over 2m I length with a fist for a head, beautiful snake, came across is working on a fence line before aggressively chasing us, this was short grass and very dry with no where for a snake to go? As we were in rural qld in the middle of the paddock we had to just wait out the snake to leave the quadbikes and fencing gear. The cattle dogs didn’t even bark at this snake… we have a large population of these snakes, in my experience the younger snakes can strike if stumbled upon but using usually flee, the nature larger snakes are a lot more confident, confident enough to not be concerned about the birds of prey. We have lost a lot of stock to snakes, Usually bitten around the face a bull or horse seem to be lucky to make an hour.

    • BobinOz October 4, 2018, 9:18 pm |

      I suppose snakes must be just like humans, every one is different. Some humans are aggressive, and some aren’t, so probably the same with snakes. Provoking a snake or a human probably isn’t going to end well, but sometimes humans can be aggressive for no reason at all.

      I’d like to bet that happens more with humans than it does with snakes, but I take your point, some eastern browns may be aggressive for no reason and without provocation, but I think it is far less common, mostly they will retreat.

      I’ve never seen a taipan in the bush, but I have heard that they are naturally aggressive, luckily pretty much all of our other snakes in Australia are quite timid.

      Having said all that, I’m still not sure I like the idea of standing still with a brown 2 feet away. Running seems to be the natural choice.

  • John April 21, 2018, 7:39 pm |

    I must have been dreaming about all those times brown snakes chased me.

    I mean. I wouldn’t never think of arguing with a snake expert, that thinks shooing snakes away with a broom is a good idea

    • BobinOz April 23, 2018, 6:21 pm |

      Good to see sarcasm is still alive and well.

  • Peta November 18, 2016, 2:36 pm |

    From what I have observed of the snakes around my house, you are absolutely right about them. Even Browns are much more interested in getting away than striking at anything, including dogs unless they attempt to actually bite the snake. Many years ago when our kelpies were pups, I was alerted by hysterical barking to a brow snake rearing and weaving feet in front of the frantic pup. Eventually the dog obeyed the call to come away and all was well. Unfortunately, for indiscriminate aggression against other creatures, humans are streets ahead.

    • BobinOz November 18, 2016, 5:48 pm |

      Yes, Australia may have some of the world’s most dangerous snakes, but we also have the world’s most timid snakes, I’m convinced of that. By and large, the majority of our snakes really don’t want any kind of human contact, they are more than happy to retreat in silence if you give them the chance.

      In my 2009 post Australian Snakes and Death: Continued I looked at the statistics for 41 snake bite deaths in Australia since 1980. It was estimated that over half of them occurred when people accidentally trod on the snake, in other words the snake didn’t have a chance to get out of the way. Very unlucky.

      Five of them were because the victims were trying to kill the snake. That’s not unlucky, that’s very foolish. Eight deaths were due to people handling the snake.

      None of the deaths, as far as I could see, were attributed to simple aggression from the snake. As you suggest, humans are far more aggressive, but I’d say not just toward other creatures, but also towards other humans.

  • Doug October 24, 2015, 3:42 pm |

    Hi Bob
    Thanks for your reply and I agree with you all the way. Its sites like this that help educate and dispel myths about snakes in general. A hell of a lot of us aussies could learn a few things from it as well as anyone considering moving here. I often go looking for them in my spare time to photograph as we have some beautiful reptiles in this country. I have encountered many eastern browns and tigers in the last 30 years or so and have never been chased by any. I work in a rural area in south eastern NSW where we see a lot of browns and have honestly found them quite inoffensive ,in fact I practicaly have to corner them and stir them up to get them to strike and even then its mostly bluff. By the way I don’t make a habit of stiring them up just to find out. For the record I am not a professional herp or snake handler , I have just been fascinated with them for as long as I can remember. so please keep up the great work.

    • BobinOz October 26, 2015, 11:21 pm |

      Thanks Doug, and like yourself I have become a little bit fascinated by snakes as well. I’m also always looking around for them hoping to catch a photograph, but they do keep themselves to themselves, don’t they? I hardly ever see them.

      And when I have ever seen a snake, it just wants to get away from me. I still don’t know why Australia has this reputation for killer critters when most other continents have carnivorous creatures roaming around who are more than happy to track you down and eat you.

      Doesn’t make sense to me.

      Cheers, Bob

  • Doug October 18, 2015, 10:49 pm |

    Hi Bob
    What’s the big fuss ? Personaly I believe that most people are conditioned to fear or hate snakes from an early age. Same with spiders. An example: I was at a friends house one day helping work on his car. His 6 year old daughter who was hanging around watching suddenly screamed , jumped into the car and locked the door. I asked what’s wrong ? In a terrified voice she said there’s a spider and pointed at the ground just below the passenger side door. I looked but couldn’t see any spider. I asked where ? She pointed to the ground again so I got down on my knees for a closer look and sure enough there was a tiny spider with a leg span of no more than 4 millimetres. I assured her there was nothing to worry about , scooped it up with a piece of cardboard and flicked it into the garden. It amazed me how such a tiny critter could inspire such terror. Later that day I mentioned it to her mum who said Oh she’s just naturaly scared of spiders. During a visit several weeks later we were sitting in their lounge room when her mum suddenly pointed to the curtains and shouted to her husband in a panic ” there’s a spider,,,, kill it ” then
    curled up in foetal position in the corner of the lounge and said ” kill it, just kill it ” . It was just a daddy longlegs for goodness sake. Completely harmless.

    • BobinOz October 19, 2015, 5:32 pm |

      I think fear of snakes was even written into the Bible, wasn’t it? Yes, you are right, it almost does seem a precondition for many people, but thankfully not all.

      Fear, as you have illustrated, can always be passed down through the generations as well, kids can learn to fear the same things their parents do.

      I think it’s a great pity when anybody considering a move to Australia is put off by either snakes or spiders, or both. I’ve written many many pages on the subject trying to put people’s minds at rest on this, because in my view it is an irrational fear, the real dangers of both snakes and spiders in Australia is minimal.

      For my money, the Huntsman spider, one of our biggest spiders, is a true gentleman and our friend. But for many people it’s just a big spider and something to be feared, but that’s just how phobias work. I believe if people take the time to understand the Huntsman, the fear will disappear. Same with snakes.

  • Emily March 31, 2014, 7:01 pm |

    I apologize if I’m posting on the wrong page or if you’ve already answered it but at least I’m on a post about snakes. I have a very bad fear of snakes but I don’t understand what the big deal is about them in Australia? I mean how often do you see them? Sure we have snakes in America and right now I’m nervous one could be in my room. However in reality I’ve only seen one every 5 years. ( outside of zoos ) KNOCK ON WOOD! How often do you see snakes? Are they ever in buildings??

    • BobinOz April 1, 2014, 1:51 pm |

      Hi Emily

      Precisely, what is all the fuss about? I’ve been here over six years and you can see a list of all of my snake sightings on my post called The Australian Snake Season Part 2: Avoiding Snake Encounters.

      Bearing in mind though that I am actually looking for them, not trying to avoid them. In the list, you will actually see that (and this is quite unusual) a snake did enter into my house. You will find a link there to the video I made of it.

      Snakes are here, yes, but most people do not regard them as a day-to-day problem, in many ways I can’t imagine it being much different here than it is in America.

      Cheers, Bob

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