Facts About Brown Snakes (2023)

ForJessie Szalay

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Scott Dutfield


Meet the two types of brown snakes. One is not venomous, but a bite from the other could be fatal.

Facts About Brown Snakes (1)

Jump to:

  • classification
  • Physical Properties
  • range and habitat
  • Habits
  • Diet
  • Reproduction
  • state of danger
  • toxicity
  • additional resources
  • bibliography
(Video) The Eastern Brown Snake

the brown nameLinerefers to two different genera of snakes found on two different continents. If you are in North America, brown snake is the common name for itLaden, a small, shy, and nonvenomous snake. When found in Australia, Papua New Guinea, or West Papua, brown snake is the common name for itPseudonaia, a genus of highly venomous snakes that includes the eastern brown snake, which has been reported as the second most venomous land snake in the worldBillabong Shrine in Australia(opens in a new tab).


The taxonomy of North American brown snakes, according to theIntegrated taxonomic information system(opens in a new tab)(Website (s:

Storeria (North American Brown Snake): Kingdom:the animalFilo:chordsClass:ReptileTidy:ScalyFamily:ColubridenGender: Laden Species:

  • Storeria dekayi - Dekay's brown snake, brown snake
  • Storeria hidalgoensis – Mexican yellow-bellied brown snake
  • Storeria occipitomaculata – Rotbauchschlange
  • Storeria storerioides – Mexican brown snake
  • Defeated Storeria - Florida Brown Snake

Pseudonaja (Australian/Oceanic brown snake): Kingdom:the animalFilo:chordsClass:ReptileTidy:ScalyFamily:ColubridenGender: Laden Species:

  • Pseudonaja affinis - serpiente marrón manchada o dugita
  • Pseudonaja aspidorhyncha – Brown strap-snouted snake
  • Pseudonaja guttata – speckled brown snake, spotted brown snake
  • Pseudonaja inframacula – brown peninsula snake
  • Pseudonaja ingrami - Ingram's brown snake
  • Pseudonaja mingendi – western brown snake or gwardar
  • Pseudonaja modesta - ringed brown snake
  • Pseudonaja nuchalis – northern brown snake, western brown snake or gwardar
  • Pseudonaja textilis – eastern brown snake

Physical Properties

Facts About Brown Snakes (2)

Laden:In North America, "brown snakes are small, slender snakes and are typically brown to reddish brown or gray in coloration," said wildlife biologist Sara Viernum. They have "two parallel rows of dark spots bordering on a light stripe on their backs [as well as] pale bellies with small dark spots at the edges". (Venter is a zoological term for the underside; in this case, it refers to the snake's abdomen.)

North American brown snakes are small, ranging from 10 to 21 inches [25 to 53 centimeters] long, Viernum said. "Juveniles have a yellowish ruff and are typically darker in color than adults with a lightly mottled dorsal pattern."

These harmless brown snakes are often mistaken for one anothercopperheadsand killed when seen in suburbs. However, brown snakes and copperheads have wildly different colors and patterns depending on the species Savannah River Ecology Laboratory(opens in a new tab). Copperheads have distinctive hourglass-shaped bands down their backs, in contrast to the more subtle black markings found on a brown snake. Juvenile copperheads have bright yellow tail tips, while young brown snakes have yellowish neck rings.

Pseudonym:There are nine Pseudonaja species found in Australia, Papua New Guinea and West PapuaThe reptile database(opens in a new tab). They are all highly toxic; even juveniles can administer fatal bites. The best-known species are the eastern brown snake, western brown snake, and dugita, or spotted brown snake. Another Australian snake called the King Brown Snake, despite its name, is not a species of brown snake.

These brown snakes are long and slender with narrow heads. They are "usually uniformly brown, but some may be patterned. They have mottled or mottled markings on their abdomens," Viernum said. "They are 1 to 2 meters long but can grow up to 2.4 meters."

Some western brown snakes have charcoal heads, while others have a black V on the neck or other color morphs, depending on the species Australian museum(opens in a new tab). Herpetologists have observed that they darken in hot summer.

(Video) Northern Brown Snake Facts: DeKay's Brown Snake Facts 🐍

"Juveniles also vary in coloration and pattern, typically yellow to brown with a black head and narrow black bands along the body and tail," Viernum said.

Facts About Brown Snakes (3)

range and habitat

Laden:North American brown snakes are widespread. They are distributed throughout the eastern half of the United States, although they do not venture to high altitudes. Accordingly, they also occur in southern Canada and northern MexicoUniversity of Michigan Animal Diversity Web(opens in a new tab)(ADV).

Brown snakes are sometimes called "city snakes" because they thrive in residential areas. They are often the most commonly found snakes in urban areas, according to the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory. They spend time under urban debris (garbage heaps, building materials, etc.) and other ground cover such as loose stones and flat rocks. When out of town, brown snakes live in forests, scrubland, and swamps. Brown snakes are fairly common due to their ability to live in a variety of habitats.

Pseudonym:The eastern brown snake is found throughout eastern Australia but not Tasmania. It is also found in Papua New Guinea. According to the Billabong Sanctuary, it can thrive in a wide variety of habitats, although it particularly loves grasslands, forests, and pastures. As it thrives in urban areas, it is responsible for the highest number of recorded snakebites in Australia (about 5 per year of any snake species, according to Billabong Sanctuary).

The western brown snake is found on most of mainland Australia, except for the wetter east coast and south west coast. According to the Australian Museum, it likes dry climates with scrub and savannah forests.

Dugite Brown Snakes live in the coastal dunes, heaths and scrubland of south west Australia and nearby islands. Golf courses are particularly close to his heart, they sayAustralian museum(opens in a new tab).


Laden:Brown snakes spend much of their lives underground or under rocks, foliage, or logs. They mostly venture out in the afternoon or at night when they can sometimes be seen crossing paths. According to James H. Harding's book, they come out of hiding during heavy fall and spring rains.Amphibians and reptiles of the Great Lakes region(opens in a new tab)."

Brown snakes hibernate during the winter and sometimes share burrows with other small, non-venomous snakes, such as snakesgarter snakes, red-bellied snakes and smooth green snakes, according to Harding.

Some predators of brown snakes include raptors, larger snakes, large frogs and toads, weasels, and domestic dogs and cats. "They're shy and reserved snakes, but when threatened, they flatten their bodies to appear larger and release a musky fluid from their cloaca," Viernum said.

Facts About Brown Snakes (4)

Pseudonym:Australia/Oceania brown snakes are fast-acting, fast-gliding snakes, Viernum said. They are primarily diurnal, although they can become nocturnal in hot weather. Snakes in cold climates burrow underground in winter.

PseudonaiaIt comes from the Greek words for "false" and "cobra". The name is appropriate as brown snakes are known to display defensive behaviors similar to that of a cobra. "When threatened, it will hold its head and neck up and open its mouth," Viernum said. Despite this, they usually run away when confronted with humans.

(Video) The King Brown Snake


Laden:"Brown snakes are not venomous," Viernum pointed out; Humans have nothing to fear from them. They use their forked tongues to collect chemicals from the air, which they then "smell". Because they hunt primarily underground and in the dark, brown snakes rely heavily on this sense to find prey, according to the ADW.

Brown snakes eat food that is easily accessible both underground and outdoors. They are the main enemies of snails, snails and earthworms and play an important role in controlling the population of these animals. They are also known to eatSalamander, beetles and soft-bodied larvae. Their teeth and jaws are specially adapted to pull snails out of their homes quickly and easily, Harding wrote.

Pseudonym:Australian/Oceanic brown snakes feed primarily on small mammals and reptiles such as skinks and geckos. They also eat frogs and small birds. These snakes use their speed to snare prey, then use a mixture of venom and constriction to kill them, according to the Australian Museum.


Laden:Brown snakes reproduce once a year. The male follows a pheromone trail left by the female and then uses his tongue to "sniff" to confirm that she is a potential mate. He circles and touches her in what Harding calls courtship gestures, then inserts his hemipenis into her cloaca.

"North American brown snakes are viviparous species," Viernum said. This means that the mothers do not lay eggs and the eggs do not hatch inside their bodies (ovoviparity). In late summer they usually give birth to between 3 and 40 young. They reach sexual maturity at around 2 years of age.

The lifespan of brown snakes in the wild is unknown, but in captivity they live up to 7 years, according to the ADW.

Pseudonym:Snakes mate once a year, usually in the spring, although the timing can depend on the warmth of the weather. According to the Billabong Sanctuary, the males engage in ritualistic fights over the females. Competing males braid their bodies together and press on each other's heads to drop their opponent's head to the ground. The winner mates with the female for several hours. Females can mate with more than one male per breeding season.

"Brown snakes are an egg-laying species," Viernum said. After mating, females lay about 16 eggs, although clutches can have as many as 35. Females sometimes lay multiple clutches a month or two after the first. They lay eggs in damp, abandoned animal burrows. The mother stays with the eggs for up to five weeks, protecting them from predators. Sometimes they share nest sites with other females and return there year after year.

Eggs bear about 2.5 months. Babies measure around 11 inches when they are born.

state of danger

Laden:Brown snakes are quite common and do not appear to be endangered. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) reports that the Mexican yellow-bellied snake in their Red List of Threatened Species(opens in a new tab)It is "Vulnerable" due to its small range in the Sierra Madre and the decline in its forest habitat.

Pseudonym:Brown snakes in Australia/Oceania are not endangered according to the Billabong Sanctuary. They have adapted well to human evolution. The IUCN does not have a list of snakes in the genus.


Facts About Brown Snakes (5)

By most standards, including the Commonwealth Serum Laboratory's lethal dose count, the eastern brown snake is the second most venomous land snake in the world. (The inland taipan snake, also found in Australia, is number 1.) The western brown snake is the 10th most venomous snake.

"Venom from eastern brown snakes consists primarily of neurotoxins, particularly texlotoxin," Viernum said. “Neurotoxins are toxic substances that can destroy nerve tissue and cause central damagenervous systemDamage,Epilepsyand memory disorders. Textilotoxin has the highest lethality of any known snake venom neurotoxin.

(Video) Interesting Facts About Brown Snake

“Its venom also contains powerful coagulants, as well as cardiotoxins and nephrotoxins. A bite from an eastern brown snake can cause dizziness, seizures, kidney failure, cardiac arrest, paralysis, and uncontrollable bleeding. The bite can cause death, although fatalities are rare.

Brown snakes have relatively short fangs compared to Asian and African vipers and cobras, which have a much higher mortality rate. A bite from an eastern brown snake can kill a person, but due to their short fangs, they rarely bite humans. According to the Billabong Sanctuary, most bites are dry, meaning the snake is not injecting venom.

Eggs bear about 2.5 months. Babies measure around 11 inches when they are born.

additional resources

For more information on the snakes of the world, see "Snake: The Essential Visual Guide(opens in a new tab)"by Chris Mattison and"The Book of Snakes: A Life-Size Guide to Six Hundred Species from Around the World(opens in a new tab)' by Mark O'Shea.


  • Douglas A. Rossman and Patrick A. Myer, "Morphological and behavioral adaptations to snail extraction in North American brown snakes (genus Storeria)", Journal of Herpetology, Volume 24, December 1990,https://doi.org/10.2307/1565069(opens in a new tab)
  • Carlos Ernest, "Laden(opens in a new tab)", Catalog of American Amphibians and Reptiles", University of Texas, April 2012.
  • Simone Flight et al., "Comparison of active venom components between eastern brown snakes collected from South Australia and Queensland", Ecotoxicology, Volume 15, December 2005,https://doi.org/10.1007/s10646-005-0047-z(opens in a new tab)
  • P. B. Whitaker and R. Shine, "When, where and why do humans encounter Australian brown snakes (Pseudonaja textilis: Elapidae)?", Wildlife Research, Vol. 26, 1999,https://doi.org/10.1071/WR98043(opens in a new tab)
  • Richard Nun, "Taxonomy of the genus Pseudonaja (Reptilia: Elapidae) in Australia(opens in a new tab)“, Australian Biodiversity Record, March 2002.

Jessie Szalay

living scientific contributor

With contributions from

  • Scott Dutfieldtaxpayer


What is a fact about a brown snake? ›

They are alert, fast-moving, highly venomous snakes that are quite dangerous to humans. Brown snakes are found over most of Australia. The best-known species is the eastern brown snake (Pseudonaja textilis), which grows to about 2 metres (7 feet). Other species in the genus are the western brown snake or gwardar (P.

What does Brown snakes eat? ›

Brown snakes feed largely on earthworms, snails, and slugs, but will also eat small salamanders, soft-bodied grubs, and beetles. They have specialized teeth and jaws that allow them to pull snails out of their shells and eat them.

Can a brown snake hurt you? ›

Although both species can bite, only the eastern brown snake is dangerous to humans. North American brown snakes are small and possess zero venom, making them harmless. They can bite occasionally, but only when provoked.

What is a brown snake called? ›

If you are in North America, brown snake is the common name for Storeria, a small, shy, nonvenomous snake.

How fast is a brown snake? ›

Strike speeds ranged 0.25-1.80 m/sec (mean = 1.11 m/sec; n = 48).

Can brown snakes swim? ›

A Deadly Brown Snake Has Been Spotted Swimming at an Australian Beach Between The Flags. Beachgoers in Australia's New South Wales fled the water on Wednesday when an eastern brown snake, the world's second most venomous snake, swam out - right between the flags.


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