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Tiger Snake Care Sheet

Scientific Facts

Common Name:Tiger Snake
Scientific Name:Notechis scutatus
Life Span:10 to 15 years in captivity
Size:Can reach up to 2.1 meters
Habitat:Coastal environments, wetlands, and creeks
Country of Origin:Southern Regions of Australia, Tasmania

Physical Description

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The Tiger Snake got its name for having markings like that of the Tiger. However, most of them will have different colors and markings, there are also reports that pattern-less species are seen in the wild. The upper part of their body will have color that ranges from bright ones like yellow, orange-brown, olive to being almost black.

The bottom part of their body will always have a light yellow to an orange color. One would normally see banding in the young Tiger Snakes, but these will just vanish as they reach a mature stage. Compared to other snake species, these can be shorter with stout bodies. They can easily be found in Chappell Island, and their estimated size may reach over 6ft (1.9m) or 9.5ft (2.9m).

Distribution

This snake species can be located on the south-eastern coast of Australia like Queensland, eastern and southern New South Wales, and Victoria. Some people living in Victoria, Australia have reported seeing a large population of Tiger Snakes. They can also be seen roaming around the suburbs of Melbourne.

Evolutionary Relationships

Climate changes, especially the sea-level changes have also made an impact on the population of Tiger Snakes. Those who have lived in isolation have experienced alterations when it comes to color markings, size, and in their ecology, this was their natural way of responding due to environmental pressures.

Types

The Eastern Tiger Snake (Notechis scutatus) and the Black Tiger Snake (Notechis ater) were the only commonly known species of Tiger Snake. However, more research needs to be done on these two to really pinpoint their exact differences.

Krefft’s Tiger Snake (Notechis ater ater)

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The Krefft’s Tiger Snake has been located in South Africa and their distinguishing factors including having a small size, usually black in color and the color of their venom. The entire body can have brown-black-gray color and the scales and found to be relatively smooth. The young ones will often have light cross-bands.

Tasmanian Tiger Snake (Notechis ater humphreysi)

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This snake has been found crawling in King Island and Tasmania. Its head is brusque with the body looks hardy. The juvenile Tasmanian Tiger Snake may be elongated, and just like other snake types, it can reach up to 1.5m in length. Their color is usually jet black with light-colored crossbands, like grey flecks.

Chappell Island Tiger Snake (Notechis ater niger)

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One of the most famous subspecies of the Tiger Snake is the Chappell Island Tiger Snake that lives in the offshore islands of South Australia. This is the largest of the Tiger Snake species, and it also has a rough head with a hard body. Their body will usually have an olive-brown that almost look like black with a light crossband.

These can be seen feeding on muttonbirds, chicks, frogs and even small mammals.

Western Tiger Snake (Notechis scutatus occidentalis or sometimes N. ater occidentalis)

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One can easily spot this snake as it has a very distinct head with a sturdy body. This can be found in Western Australia and reaches up to 2.0m in length. A good indicator of this Tiger Snake type is their color that is usually steel-blue to black paired with bright yellow bands. There are species that appear to be unbanded, but their ventral surface tends to be yellow all the way to the tail.

Peninsular Tiger Snake (Notechis ater niger)

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These will also have a short head with a sturdy body, but it can only reach 1.1m (3.5ft) in length. It will normally have a jet-black color with an additional white or cream pattern that can be seen around its lips or chin. They have been found in South Australia and Kangaroo Island; the species that have been found in the latter will have different colors. They will display banding yet with a uniform of brown color, and some of them will even have red-colored stomach scales.

Hunting and Eating Habits

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The Tiger Snakes are meat-loving species, and reports from different locations have mentioned that they can be seen feeding on frogs, lizards, mammals, and even birds. Considered to be one of the world’s deadliest snake and they can be active at night yet found to be hunting during the nighttime. 

They always had a reputation as one of the aggressive snakes because of the formation they do when they feel confronted by a potential predator. They are also good at holding their breaths underwater, thus they will stay for at least 9 minutes just to successfully look for food. 

Some reports have shown evidence that Tiger Snakes love feeding on bats, hence they were found inside the Tiger Snake’s stomach. This evidence may very well suggest that these snakes have a great ability to climb.

They will utilize the powerful chemicals in their venom paired with constriction to make sure their prey is really dead before they swallow them whole. However, there will be instances that the Tiger Snake will just break down the prey in their stomachs using their venom.

Their maximum size can also help determine the size of the prey they would want for dinner. An example of which is the Chappell Tiger Snake that can grow usually large, that’s why they have been seen feeding on fat mutton-bird chicks.

Predators

Believe it or not, as dangerous as a Tiger Snake seems in the wild, they still have their own share of being equally eaten by predators. One of their known predators is the elapid snake, butcherbirds, harriers and kookaburras. Humans will have to be included on this list as they have been routinely killed via road accidents.

Wild Tiger Snakes are also a favorite host of parasites such as tapeworms, roundworms, tongue worms, and flukes.

Danger to Humans

Even though the Tiger Snakes can grow to be relatively large snakes, not to mention that they are pretty aggressive in combination with toxic venom, these snakes can become really shy, and if given the opportunity, they will find a way to escape rather than to engage in conflict.

 However, if the Tiger Snake is cornered in its territory, you might see them putting up a great body formation that imposes a great threat to anyone who bothers it. It will slightly raise its head and make sure that it’s pointed on the possible danger.

You will hear it making a loud hiss noise, and it will slowly inflate, deflate its body. If it felt provoked, it will not hesitate to lash out and eventually release a powerful bite. This will cause its venom to be released on the bite area and the effect can be highly neurotic and will coagulate blood. That’s why people who suspect to have been bitten by a Tiger Snake needs to have medical attention as soon as possible.

Prior to humans using antivenoms, it was estimated that 50% of all the Tiger Snake bites were presumed to be fatal yet this is still considered the main contributor for snakebite deaths until now. A typical indicator of a Tiger Snake bite is that it will start with local pain in combination with redness, swelling, and bruising. 

Our eyes can easily notice the small part of damaged skin, fang puncture, and even scratch marks (if there is any). The victim will then report feeling other symptoms such as headache, nausea, vomiting, slight to severe abdominal pain and these may lead to a collapse in the long run.

Paralysis is also a common symptom of a Tiger Snake bite, and ptosis will form one to several hours after the bite. Severe symptoms like progressing paralysis that will occur on the facial, peripheral and glossopharyngeal muscles and this will result in having the airways constricted.

A victim who failed to receive proper medical attention within just a few minutes to the first hour after the bite will fall into full paralysis of respiratory muscles and possible damage in the kidney may follow.

Development and Reproduction

A good way to gauge that your Tiger Snake is ready for reproduction is that it should have a minimum of 30-33 inches in length. This is a good length to initiate breeding and being pregnant. Mating behavior can be seen all throughout the Australian Summer, and you may already prepare two snakes of different sexes for reproduction.

It’s common for their mating process to last for 7 hours, and during this time, the male will refuse to feed. An estimated 112 days is needed for the whole gestation period to be successful. The female will then lay young snakes after.

Tiger Snakes will also give minimal parental care compared to other snake species who will not give any at all. They do this by welcoming their offspring into the world once the summer ends or at the start of fall. The female can give birth to 20-30 young ones, and they have been reports that a single female Tiger Snake has given birth to 70 offspring. 

They will also not give birth a lot as they are known to reproduce only once in two years. The babies will be covered in membranous sacs. The parent Tiger Snakes will usually leave the site as soon as all the young ones have come out.

How to Breed

Breeding two Tiger Snakes can become a lot easier compared to the breeding process of other snakes. The breeding process will start with the mandatory cooling of the male, this process helps in them, making sure their sperm is healthy. A full breeding session will always include both a winter, and a summer peak and their mating will begin after the summer temperature peak.

Place the make in a container that has below 8 degrees Celsius, and you should not provide them any form of heating, you need to schedule this as this may be done in at least seven weeks. Their light cycle should also be put on 12-12 schedule with a temperature of the high 20s or low 30s degrees Celsius and do this for the next 12 weeks, and this will ensure breeding success.

Just after a month of the 12-12 on-off heating routine, you might notice that the male Tiger Snake becomes enthusiastic about breeding with the female in just a few hours of their introduction. You should also consider separating your Tiger Snakes before they actually mate as this also increases your chances for breeding success.

You might notice that the male mounting the female within a few minutes; however if the male does not do this, separate them and try again after 2 days. The good thing about Tiger Snakes is that they have higher chances of mating in late summer and early fall. If the sperm is of good quality, the female will hold it until her next ovulation cycle.

Common Health Problems and their Treatment

Noticing that your pet snake is already sick or not feeling well may take a long time since they are known to not show the symptoms that they are sick. Reptiles, including snakes, will always on slow movements, you can see them eating and digesting their food slowly. However, sick snakes can also be seen as being less active and even being lethargic. Common signs to look out for to know if your pet snake is sick is that they have little to no interest in their food.

Infectious Stomatitis (Mouth Rot)

A snake that has mouth rot will be often seen with a large amount of thick mucus that sometimes contains blood or pus, and it affects the mouth and lips area. In severe cases of the Mouth Rot, one may see that the mouth has become severely swollen and the snake breathes through its mouth.

Snakes may become anorexic by constantly refusing food. Mouth Rot is not a primary disease and can be a result of having injuries in the mouth section or poor nutrition, unclean enclosure, or even overcrowding.

This infection in the oral cavity disease may be treated by administering injectable antibiotics and using a mouth rinse that is also an antibiotic solution.

Parasites

Your pet snake is commonly at risk for both internal parasites like worms and external ones such as ticks and mites. These are normally discovered if they undergo an annual physical examination together with fecal tests. 

The common indicators that your pet snakes have parasites on them have diarrhea, difficulty in breathing, regurgitation, internal organs have swelled up, infected skin, anemia, weight loss and this will include mouth rot.

You may need to identify the type of parasite that has been pestering your pet snake to know what drugs will work in getting rid of them. As a general rule, you can utilize deworming medications that are available as oral or injectables.

Blister Disease

Keeping your pet snakes in an enclosure that is either too moist or too dirty will have serious consequences to them. Their blisters can be easily found in the bottom or tail end of their bodies; that’s why they are difficult to notice. A regular physical examination is needed to ensure that they are free of blisters.

If not treated properly, these may eventually become infected with bacteria and will lead to severe tissue damage and death. Although antibiotics can work, the first thing that you need to do is prevention by placing them in an environment that has been properly sanitized with the appropriate temperature.

Respiratory Disease

Mouth rot can often be associated with respiratory diseases in snakes. Common symptoms in respiratory diseases will have snakes with excess mucus located in their oral cavities, nasal discharge in large amounts, they will lethargic and doesn’t want to eat.

You will notice that the snake will make a gurgling, wheezing sound, and they breathe with their mouths open. Snakes with respiratory disease may be mandated to undergo X-rays, blood and culture tests to find out what really brought the infection. Antibiotics given as nose drops, orally or injectable form may be given.

Septicemia

This dangerous disease happens when the bloodstream or other body organs of the snake have been invaded by bacteria or toxins. If your pet snake has this, they are already in critical stage or near death. You might observe that they feel lethargic, refusing to eat, breaths through their open mouth and they will have a red color in their stomach scales.

This is categorized as a true emergency among snakes, and they will need to undergo aggressive treatment in the hospital for animals. Antibiotics with fluid therapy may be needed, you may also force-feed your snake to increase its chances of survival.

Brumation Cycle

The Tiger Snakes will always look for ways to get their bodies warmed up as winter approaches. They will often result in brumation when the climate becomes too cold for them. If you are housing a captive Tiger Snake, once they feel that an area is warm enough, they will become more active. 

If they are in the wild, they will just remain hidden if the temperature is still cold, but once it becomes warm, Tiger Snakes can be seen basking in the sun and looking for food. While in areas that’s been constantly cold, this will force the metabolism of the snake to slow down and they brumate naturally. They will use their stored fats for survival until the warm weather has returned.

Tiger Snakes in Australia will not properly brumate, they will only enter a semi-dormant stage if it’s not too cold and hear sources can be found anywhere. This is the reason behind a few snake sightings that normally happens in the warmer days of winter.

Shedding

Shedding, with the scientific term of Ecdysis, happens to snakes who needs to have continuous growth. Compared to us, humans wherein we grow with our skin, snakes don’t have this capacity as it will only have a limited volume for growth and enlargement. The process will just simply involve the older outer layer of the skin shedding and starts fresh.

Tiger Snakes are expected to grow all through its life, so it’s expected to shed a lot. It will never stop with the shedding process until its death although the number of times that it will shed will differ. The young ones will always have a faster growth rate so it’s really expected for them to have a higher frequency of shedding while the adult snake will often have fewer instances of shedding.

Shedding Problems

Tiger Snakes might encounter shedding problems regardless of where they live. Shedding, while kept in captive will not really pose a danger to Tiger Snakes since the owner can help them by using several methods. A pet snake owner can opt to have their snake soaked, misted with lukewarm water or even to increase the humidity in the room.

In the wild, shedding problems may be more severe since there’s no human intervention. Accumulating dead skin, especially around the eye and tail area is very common to snakes. If left unshed, the multiple eye caps will result in blindness and in the wild, a blind snake has always been regarded as a dead snake.

Snakes who have failed to shed their skin completely may be giving off signs of dehydration, or their living environment has become too dry.

Habitat

Although the Tiger Snake can live basically anywhere, they have been often located near the creeks, rivers, drains, lagoons, and swamps. They dwell on the ground most of the time, but there are some that have been seen climbing shrubs and small trees. They will also make old timber with deep vegetation as their habitat.

Seasonality

As mentioned above, the Tiger Snakes love being active on warmer months, but one can also see them going out of their natural habitat on the warmer days during winter. On cold seasons, they can be hiding away in animal burrows or under large boulders even in standing dead trees. They love burrowing as deep as 1.2m underground. One study has shown that 26 neonates have been found in a winter shelter altogether.

Setting up Your Tiger Snake’s Habitat

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Purchase a terrarium that will suit your Tiger Snake

This can be made of glass, and it looks like an aquarium of course with no water inside. Go for the ones that have been specially designed to be a snake enclosure since these can be great escape artists so they will need cages with a secure lid.

Tiger Snakes will need a lot of room, you might want to try purchasing tanks that are taller and wider as this will assure them of plenty of space to climb around. It’s a general rule to only keep one snake in a terrarium since they are not known to be social animals. 

Put a hiding home in the terrarium

Tiger Snakes can be usually seen crawling into dark, enclosed areas. This is its way of feeling secure, and it instantly provides a hiding spot. Proving a safe hide spot for your pet snake will guarantee you of their health. You need to assure that space is wide enough to fit the whole body of the snake yet still be a snug area.

A hollowed-out log is the recommended hiding place to be placed in an enclosure that you can still use rocks. You can also DIY by using a plastic container that might look like a cat litter box.

Select a substrate material to line the bottom of the terrarium

These are what you put at the bottom of the tank, and they serve a special purpose of soaking in urine and feces. There are specifically made substrates for pet snakes available in pet stores. But a cheaper alternative is using newspapers or even paper towels.

It’s most recommended to use wood shavings like aspen and pine, but you have to confirm that these do not contain any timber treatments or oils since they can be toxic to your pet snake. Another option is for you to buy a special carpet to be placed at the bottom of the tanks and never use sands, cat litter or even dirt since there is a possibility that your snake will end up eating them.

Put some rocks and climbing branches

Your Tiger Snake may not be the most agile climber in the snake industry, but one thing is sure, they do love climbing on branches and basking in the sunlight. Placing rocks or climbing branches in their tanks will help encourage in mimicking their lives in the wild. If you want to make them happy, head on over to the nearest pet store or you can simply look around your garden and grab any fallen branch.

If you intend on using rocks that you have gathered from the outside, sanitize them by warm water. For the branches, you can use water for the initial cleaning the put them in the oven for 30 minutes with 200-250 degrees Fahrenheit.

Set up the heat lamp

Snakes should be kept warm since they are cold-blooded animals, you may be required to place at least one heating lamp to ensure this. You will not have any issue finding this as the ones that you can find in pet stores have already been designed to be placed in a tank.

Another option is that you can place a heating pad underneath the enclosure since this will give warmth at the bottom. You need to check that your pet snake never comes in direct contact with the heating pad or any other heating devices since this may lead to having serious burns.

Place a thermometer and hydrometer to keep track of heat and humidity

Depending on the snake type, their requirements for heat and humidity levels will also differ. If you have a thermostat inside your house, you need to know that this may not be enough to know the accurate temperature inside the snake’s tank. You can place both a thermometer and hydrometer in their tanks to ensure that temperatures are optimal for the Tiger Snake.

Once the temperature drops, you should be able to counter this by placing an additional heating lamp or bulb that comes with a higher wattage. If their tanks do not come with enough humidity, put a wet towel, or even an additional water bowl to increase the humidity level.

Feeding Your Tiger Snake

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Stock your freezer with the prey items

Prey items like dead mice or rats are readily available in pet stores, and some Tiger Snakes are known to willingly eat these. It’s essential that you keep a healthy amount of prey items in your freezer to ensure that your pet snake never gets hungry.

It’s never advisable to keep the prey items in the same freezer where you keep your own food. You can opt to buy a small freezer that is only intended for your pet snake’s food.

You should feed small Tiger Snakes more often than a mature snake

Some may find it hard to believe, but the small Tiger Snakes have a heartier appetite compared to the large or older ones. The small ones will need to be fed twice a week while the older ones will need to eat once every 1-3 weeks. It’s also given that the female sake will require more food once the breeding season has begun.

Always be observant of your snake’s behavior as this will give you information if you have fed it well enough. A Tiger Snake who ignores its food may imply that it’s not that hungry. While a Tiger Snake who eagerly devours its food as soon as it has been fed will have an implication that you need to feed it more often. 

Try wiggling the prey item if your Tiger Snake refuses them. Hopefully, this will catch its attention and help your pet snake to become more enthusiastic about eating. One way to help your pet snake when its eating is by covering the tank put a dark cloth over the terrarium and leave them alone for a good 30-60 minutes.

If you notice that your Tiger Snake continuously refuses any dear prey, make the decision to provide it with a live one. You can easily purchase these in pet stores but keep in mind that the Tiger Snake will have to catch the prey. A panicking rodent may initiate attacking your pet snake, and this is not just a nasty sight to see but also one that could lead to serious injury.

A water dish filled with clean and fresh water should always be provided in their terrarium. Change their water on a daily basis and closely monitor that the substrates are not inside the dish.

How to Properly Handle your Tiger Snake

If you are housing a new Tiger Snake, you should know that you can hold it after eating 4 meals in its new habitat. This will give you the notion that they have become comfortable in their new home. Never hold them if they are just digesting their food as this may become uncomfortable, you need to wait until the bulge is no longer visible.

A way of holding that will totally irritate your Tiger Snake is by holding it in its head or tail. The most recommended way of holding is them is underneath their stomach or in the middle 1/3 area of their bodies. If you know how to use a snake hook, we recommend those as it will only help you get the job easier and faster.

Keeping your Tiger Snake Healthy

Always have close monitoring if your snake is in the shedding stage. As we have discussed earlier, the young snakes will shed more often compared to the older ones. You can keep a tab on how often they shed, and if you have observed that your Tiger Snake has not shed in a long time, you can bring it for a veterinarian consultation to rid of any possible diseases.

Their habitat should be sanitized always. You should spot-clean their cages at least once a week a full-on tank cleaning should happen at least once in every month. If you see feces or dirt, this should be spot-cleaned immediately since the accumulation of these may lead to future illness. It’s best to replace their water daily and use protective gear like gloves and goggles. Also, clean all your cleaning tools after use since they may harbor harmful bacteria.

It’s always recommended if you have pet snakes to bring them over to a veterinarian if they have any health concerns. Having a regular check-up will always ensure the safety of your snakes. The veterinarian will also give you additional tips on how to properly care for your snake. 

Your pet snake should be brought to the veterinarian immediately if you notice that it hasn’t eaten for weeks or months, pink color in their underside, haven’t shed completely, sunken eyes, limp posture and seems lethargic.

Interesting Facts about a Tiger Snake

  • Male Tiger Snakes are relatively larger than the females.
  • Their colors and patterns vary and depend on the location they came from.
  • The name Tiger came from the dark-colored species covered with yellow stripes.
  • They are diurnal animals; active during the day.
  • Tiger Snakes are carnivores, and they love meat of mammals.
  • They can be seen basking in the sun during the winter season to gain energy and increase body temperature.
  • Aggressive males during the mating season are quite normal. While their bodies are intertwined, they will fight, and the winner will be given a chance to mate with a female.
  • They will employ a cobra-like posture to fend off predators.

What Humans can do to Help

Snakes are an important part of the ecosystem as they act as the natural predators of pests like rats and mice. They don’t pose any possible harm and will always try to avoid humans unless they feel threatened or provoked. Once they feel cornered, they will not hesitate to bite any predator they see in front of them.

Although the Tiger Snakes is regarded to be dangerous because of the venom they possess, what humans can do to lessen the chances of encountering one is keeping the grass short in their lawns and get rid of any rubbish piled up including unused wood.

If you see them lurking around in your garden, never make the foolish attempt of removing them by yourself. Get in touch with snake control centers located in your area as they are licensed to move any snakes. 

Availability – Where to Get One

Most states will give permits on having Tiger Snakes as pets, but local laws vary, it’s recommended that you do your research first. Also, these can be easily purchased in pet stores, but just like what has been mentioned, they may look for permits before selling it to you.

FAQ Section

How does a Tiger Snake Move?

They usually move with ease, but when they feel threatened, they will make a changing action of raising themselves off from the ground and flatten their heads and neck mimicking the cobra.

Are Tiger Snakes endangered?

No. In fact, they have been listed as an animal of least concern in the list of conservation status. This means that they have a stable population both in the wild and in captivity.

Is it legal to own a Tiger Snake?

In most states, it has been declared legal to catch and keep a venomous snake as a pet, but this can only be done by having a special permit.

Can Tiger Snakes kill you?

If you have recently been bitten and no medical treatment has been given to you, the answer to this is Yes. But for people who have been given immediate medical attention with the administration of anti-venom, their chances of dying because of the snake bite is low.

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