Grey snake

Common name: grey snake

Scientific name: Hemiaspis damelii

Conservation status: The grey snake is listed as Endangered in Queensland (Nature Conservation Act 1992) and it is ranked as a medium priority under the department's Back on Track species prioritisation framework.

Description

Grey snakes are uniform olive grey to grey above and their belly surfaces are white to cream, usually flecked with dark grey, with the top of the head being black in juveniles. This dark patch reduces to a narrow bar in adults, or sometimes may disappear completely. They have large eyes and generally grow to a total length of about 0.7 m.

Habitat and distribution

The grey snake favours woodlands, usually on heavier, cracking clay soils, particularly in association with water bodies or in areas with small gullies and ditches. It shelters under rocks, logs and other debris as well as in soil cracks.

Its distribution extends from central inland New South Wales, north to several isolated populations near Rockhampton in Queensland. Within Queensland, records are known from the Goondiwindi area and the adjacent Darling-Riverine Plain, from the Darling Downs and from the Lockyer Valley. The core area for the grey snake in the Brigalow Belt is south of the Great Dividing Range between Dalby and Glenmorgan.

Life history and behaviour

Grey snakes are active during the night when they feed on frogs and lizards. They bear 4-16 live young, usually between January and March. Young are born fully formed and individuals take about 12 months to mature.

Threatening processes

Threats which are believed to be impacting on the grey snake include:

  • Pasture improvement and cultivation disrupts soil structure in cracking clay soils, potentially reducing the availability of shelter for the grey snake.
  • Impacts from feral animals such as cats and foxes which potentially prey on juvenile snakes. Frog-eating snakes such as the grey snake are also at risk of poisoning through the ingestion of cane toads. Feral pigs compete with the grey snake for food (frogs) and destroy wetland habitat.
  • Hydrological changes to waterways has the potential to impact on those species that rely on these types of habitats for survival, including species such as the grey snake which is found on floodplains and near watercourses in low lying areas.

Recovery actions

  • Negotiate management agreements for the protection of priority areas and key habitat areas in line with management guidelines.
  • Work with local governments to protect snake habitat on the stock route network and on shire roadsides and reserves.
  • Encourage landholders to protect potential wetland habitat from disturbance.
  • Coordinate feral pig control measures around identified habitat.

Further information

Cogger, H. 2014. Reptiles and Amphibians of Australia. Seventh edition. CSIRO Publishing, Victoria.

Couper P and Amey A. 2007. Snakes of south east Queensland. Pocket guide. Queensland Museum, Brisbane, Queensland.

Richardson R. 2006. Draft Queensland Brigalow Belt Reptile Recovery Plan 2008-2012. Report to the Department of the Environment and Heritage, Canberra. WWF, Australia.

Ryan M (Ed). 2007. Wildlife of Greater Brisbane. Revised edition. Queensland Museum, Brisbane, Queensland.

Wilson S. 2015. A field guide to reptiles of Queensland (second edition). New Holland, Sydney, New South Wales.