While many Cairns residents spent the long weekend entertaining friends in their tropical yards- a lovely couple from Forrest Gardens were unwittingly hosting a 1.6m Coastal Taipan in their small courtyard!
On arrival it was clear that this Coastal Taipan was lethargic and not as energised as others I have had to relocate in the past. I very carefully pinned the snake behind the neck and picked it up. A closer examination revealed a break in its spine midway down its body – possibly the result of being run over at some point. Unfortunately the snake had to be euthanized due to the severity of the injury.
The Coastal Taipan is a snake that commands respect, equipped with long fangs capable of delivering the third most toxic venom of any land snake on earth. They are renowned for defending themselves with multiple strikes/bites which have resulted in some human deaths over the years. The head shape is quite distinct with an angular brow (which makes it look more angry than angular) and is lighter colored on the face. The eye is a reddish colour and has a round pupil. To appreciate these features however you have to get very close to a Coastal Taipan which I do NOT recommend doing. The Coastal Taipan only eats mammals such as small rodents and is active during the day and in the evenings during hot weather. The Brown Tree Snake is often misidentified as the Coastal Taipan.
While these dangerously venomous snakes are not a welcome addition to most people’s yards, they are native to our area and an important part of local ecology. Coastal Taipan’s have not urbanised well when compared to Scrub Python’s and Brown Tree Snakes and as a result we rarely catch them in surburban areas around Cairns. Habitat destruction poses a significant threat to the local Taipan population and I have included a shot of a new development site in Smithfield to emphasize the point. Land clearing can often result in heighten snake activity for people living on the edge of the new development as the local wildlife is forced to find some new accommodation. Residents living on the edge of this land development should show heightened snake awareness at this time.