Walking along the boardwalk at the Tamar Island Wetlands Reserve in Launceston, Tasmania, I thought these were red-bellied black snakes, common in my home area …
… but they were in fact lowland copperheads (Austrelaps superbus). The copperhead is one of only three snakes in Tasmania; the other two are the white-lipped ( Drysdalia coronoides) and the tiger snake (Notechis scutatus), so there are no red-bellies in Tasmania.
There were about six copperheads, resting at intervals in the warmth of the sun on the ground between the reeds. The dark colour helps them absorb heat and remain active in cooler weather; they become inactive in Tassie winters and go without food for months.
Copperheads are venomous enough to kill a human, about the same as an Indian cobra. They are shy and retiring, though, so if you let them get away from you, both parties will benefit. Snakes don’t want to waste their precious venom on humans (after all they can’t eat us and venom is mostly used for catching food). Wearing good boots and watching where you walk in the bush is also good for both the snake and you. Healthy respect, not excessive fear, is the key. Remember:
I prefer to see wildlife in the wild (but not going as far as Dr Mike Leahy in his TV series “Bite Me”, where he travels to exotic wildlife places in search of interesting ways to get himself bitten or infected – sheesh!), but sometimes it’s too hard and a visit to a wildlife sanctuary is a softer option.
So I visited Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, about one and a half hour’s drive from my place, to see what I could see. It used to be privately owned, but now the National Trust of Queensland runs it.
Let’s start with mammals, just because I am one. The night-house had sugar gliders (Petaurus breviceps) leaping all over tree branches and potoroos (rat kangaroos) scuttling around the floor. Andrew has seen a sugar glider at our place, but I’ve not had that privilege.
Sugar glider contemplates its next leap into the dark