Skip to content

Meeting a Mulga Snake

Dr Alex Kutt (Ecologist)
Published 02 May 2019 by Dr Alex Kutt (Ecologist)

King Brown. Mulga Snake. Pseudechis australis. The most strine (or strayan) of the Jo Blakes. Almost any snake of size in western Queensland is by default thought to be a King Brown and invariably spoken of with a mixture of fear and deference – the yarn generally ending with how it was killed with a shovel.

But snakes are wonderful creatures. In Australia, they are a significant large predator in a country lacking many large predators. Tiger Snakes instead of Tigers. Species such as Woma Pythons and Inland Taipans evolved to selectively prey on mammals such as Bilbies and Long-haired rats.

As such, snakes are a key component of our ecosystems and their health. They should not be thoughtlessly harmed.

About 20 years ago, the future of Mulga Snakes was a bit uncertain. Cane Toads, as they made their way across northern Australia, wrought havoc on animals that like to chow on small vertebrates such as frogs. The legacy of that careless attempt at a biological control of cane beetles lingers on, with Northern Quolls the most brutalised, and goannas and snakes copping a battering too.

Fortunately, many of these predators survived and recovered having learned to avoid the toads. Mulga Snakes are now one of the more common large elapids that we see on our Queensland reserves. (Elapids being the family of poisonous front-fanged species.)

Edgbaston is a small reserve in central Queensland renowned for its unique Great Artesian Basin springs, and the significant and endemic fauna that live in them, like the Red-finned Blue-eye and Edgbaston Goby. However, the 9000-hectare reserve has many other exciting terrestrial habitats that are largely unexplored.

Bush Heritage Ecologist Dr Pippa Kern has commenced biannual surveys to document the species of those areas. We use this information to monitor the success of our property-wide management so we can improve it to better protect all species on the reserve.

In our surveys we target reptiles by spotlighting, using pitfall traps, and especially with funnel traps. Funnel traps are an ingenious repurposing of a fish or yabby trap into a longer, smaller form. We place these beside the low mesh fences that we use to guide animals into our pitfall traps.

We capture a lot of skinks and geckos but the serpents are the prize – and funnels are particularly adept at snake snaffling.

Snakes enter the funnel-shaped entrance and once inside on the bottom of the trap they're unable to find the exit, which is raised about 10 cm off the ground. So they then curl up and wait for the ecologists to collect them.

Snakes are largely harmless – even the large elapids. If treated with veneration and care, they're more interested in staying away from humans than biting them.

Most, if not all, snake bites occur due to people trying to kill the reptiles, thereby harassing them, making them upset and fearful, and getting into striking range. Or it happens when someone accidentally treads on one, prompting it to strike out.

Think about someone treading on your foot – you reflexively react too. And the fangs of most Australian snakes are tiny and cannot penetrate jeans or trousers or boots or gloves.

In this video there are some key behaviours to note. The flaring and hissing of the snake is not some sort of vicious offensive attack, but bluff and “get me the hell out of here” fear.

If you stand still, snakes will ignore you and go about their business – humans are not snake food, snakes are more interested in snake-mouth-sized prey.

You can see that the snake ignores Bush Heritage Ecologist Dr Pippa Kern as she stands quietly and it calmly passes by to escape into the Spinifex.

And be assured that Bush Heritage ecologists are experts in their field, with training in snake handling. Animal care and welfare is a highly important thing for us.

We don’t actively go out to fiddle with snakes unless we must. Rather, we just trap them, treat them with care, photograph them and release them after identification.

I hope this blog gives people pause for thought – snakes are a wonderful component of our biodiversity.


- Dr Alex Kutt, Senior Ecologist, North Australia

Two funnel traps placed on either side of the drift fence and covered with insulation to protect any captured animals from the daytime sun. Photo by Alex Kutt Two funnel traps placed on either side of the drift fence and covered with insulation to protect any captured animals from the daytime sun. Photo by Alex Kutt
And voila, Dr Pippa Kern, Edgbaston Ecologist, presents a snake in a funnel – as snug as a bug in a rug. Photo by Alex Kutt And voila, Dr Pippa Kern, Edgbaston Ecologist, presents a snake in a funnel – as snug as a bug in a rug. Photo by Alex Kutt
Time to release the snake. Dr Pippa Kern watches the slightly disorientated beast, quietly make its way out. Photo by Alex Kutt Time to release the snake. Dr Pippa Kern watches the slightly disorientated beast, quietly make its way out. Photo by Alex Kutt
A King Brown (Mulga Snake). A King Brown (Mulga Snake).

Related stories

Red-finned Blue-eye. Photo Calumn Hockey.

03/06/2024 03/06/2024

Unique nature reserve in western Queensland granted highest level of protection in Australia

Together with Bidjara Traditional Owners, we've celebrated Edgbaston Reserve’s new Special Wildlife Reserve status.

Read More
Traditional Owners at Edgbaston.

26/09/2023 26/09/2023

Back to Bidjara Country

It didn’t take long before evidence of a rich cultural history was found. Ancient stone tools, rock art and the connecting of storylines and songlines characterised the first Bidjara cultural heritage survey in August.

Read More
Bush Broadcast Live from Edgbaston


Live from Edgbaston

Join staff, Jo Axford, Dean Gilligan and Tony Mayo, as they chat about the interlocking conservation measures protecting this unique landscape and its species.

Read More
A spring at Edgbaston. By Peter Wallis

BUSHTRACKS 27/03/2023

Where the fish flow

The fight to save a tiny fish could hang on efforts to halt the upstream spread of its invasive foe.

Read More

BLOG 12/01/2023

Striped Rocket Frogs expand range

A Striped Rocket Frog has been discovered on Edgbaston Reserve in central Queensland, a significant western range expansion. Normally found on the east coast, it's unusual to see it in the arid zone!

Read More

BLOG 30/03/2021

Autumn fauna at Edgbaston

It’s not how some people would spend their holidays; early mornings and late nights, grappling reptiles, camping in wet muddy conditions… Nevertheless, myself and four other volunteers took time off from our regular work to help Dr Pippa Kern undertake the autumn fauna surveys at Edgbaston Reserve in central Queensland recently.

Read More

BLOG 16/02/2021

Moving day for Australia’s smallest freshwater fish

A new home for some of Edgbaston’s Red-finned Blue-eye fish is good news for the critically endangered species. Last week, 27 fish from our captive breeding program were successfully translocated into one of the naturally occurring artesian springs.

Read More

BLOG 10/11/2020

Edgy fauna survey, spa and salon

It has been a dream come true to spend the last two weeks helping with the spring fauna survey at Edgbaston reserve. I’m resting in the shade of the old, tin shearing shed, like the roos under the trees nearby, with some gusty afternoon breezes keeping it balmy, the sun beating down outside and a 360 degree view of vast open land. How lucky am I?!

Read More

BLOG 21/09/2020

Studying the weird, whacky and wonderful

Over the last year I was privileged enough to study the ecophysiology of the fish at Edgbaston Reserve for my honours project at uni. Below is a little summary of my impressions of Edgy and my work. Let me say, what a year, what a project, what a place!

Read More

BLOG 22/07/2020

A fire management first

Set between the harsh, arid desert uplands and escarpment of the Aramac range and the fertile black soil plains to the south, Edgbaston Reserve is a truly unique and diverse area. Last week Bush Heritage staff began its program of fire management activities on Edgbaston for the first time since purchase of this property.

Read More

BLOG 29/04/2020

Rain at Edgbaston

Travelling through outback Queensland after rainfall is cause for excitement. Semi-arid Australia transforms as the seedbank germinates, floodwaters permeate through Country, and wildlife breeds/disperses while water and vegetation is abundant. Edgbaston Reserve recently provided us an opportunity to witness this transformation in all its glory.

Read More

BLOG 07/04/2020

Getting ecological at Edgy

Having never been this far north-west before I wasn’t sure what to expect from my first visit out to Edgbaston Reserve in Central Queensland.

Read More

BLOG 11/02/2020

Women working hard for conservation

I've been reflecting on how fabulous it is that Bush Heritage provides a workplace where women are urged to succeed in many varying roles, including those in that locals often tell me are 'men’s jobs'.

Read More

BUSHTRACKS 06/06/2019

Museums of evolution

The artesian springs on Edgbaston Reserve are strongholds for ancient life, such as the world’s only population of the Red-finned Blue-eye fish. Thanks to a three-part conservation approach, their numbers are beginning to recover.

Read More

BLOG 02/05/2019

Meeting a Mulga Snake

At Edgbaston Ecologist Pippa Kern demonstrates how snakes are more concerned with escaping and hiding than biting people by watching calmly as a released King Brown slithers past her feet. Snakes are wonderful creatures. Respect.

Read More

BLOG 15/03/2019

How Red-finned Blue-eyes evolved

The Red-finned Blue-eye fish is remarkable for being found in just one small group of artesian springs on Edgbaston Reserve in central Queensland. But how did it get there?

Read More

BLOG 18/01/2019

Volunteering at Edgbaston

Coming from mainly a plant ecology background, it was great to have the opportunity to help out on the recent trapping survey at Edgbaston reserve. We started off the week with digging pitfalls traps. This was a relatively new experience for me and I can confirm its pretty hard work in the high 30˚C heat!

Read More

BLOG 03/10/2018

A holiday with a difference

Hard working volunteers, Ann and Frank Ingwersen share their observations and images from a recent round trip to Edgbaston and Pullen Pullen Reserves in Western Queensland.

Read More

BLOG 10/08/2018

The arrival of baby blue-eyes!

This year Edgbaston has been humming with activity, as we implement the ambitious plan to recreate artesian spring habitat in order to breed the critically endangered Red-finned Blue-eye fish. And we've had an early success!

Read More

BLOG 18/04/2018

Artificial springs at Edgbaston

Out at Edgbaston Reserve we've been busy getting our artificial springs up and running in preparation for the introduction of the critically endangered Red-finned Blue-eye. This has involved plumbing our new bore to three artificial springs, introducing artesian spring vegetation and invertebrates to create wetlands that replicate natural habitat.

Read More

BLOG 23/02/2018

New threatened species at Edgbaston

As the new freshwater ecologist at Edgbaston reserve, I have been spending some time exploring the incredible spring complex. Recently I stumbled across an exciting visitor - an Australian Painted Snipe!

Read More

BLOG 06/12/2017

Saving water to save a species

A new hole we just drilled at Edgbaston is not boring at all. In fact, it's a new artesian bore and we're very excited about it. It'll replace the old one, which has a cracked head and is wasting precious water.

Read More

BLOG 19/03/2017

Gambusia spread after heavy rains

Rain events and flooding at Edgbaston Reserve allow many species to move between the springs. Unfortunately this is how the small feral pest fish Gambusia (Gambusia hollbrooki) invades precious Red-finned Blue-eye habitat. Freshwater Ecologist Rob Wager and volunteer ecologist Christina Kindermann were fortunate to be able to monitor a rainfall event and the dispersal of Gambusia.

Read More

BLOG 14/03/2017

Stumbling onto a Brolga nest

Right behind me something crashed through the spinifex and squawked in a harsh guttural croaking sort of way. I jumped and ran. There was no thought of fight - I thought I was about to be consumed by frogzilla!

Read More

BLOG 13/03/2017

Plum-headed Finches at Edgbaston

Have you ever seen thousands of Plum-headed Finches in one place? Freshwater Ecologist Rob Wager has been watching numbers of this species increase at Edgbaston Reserve.

Read More

BLOG 15/06/2016

Reptile encounters at Edgbaston

Edgbaston Reserve is known for its endangered fish, plants and snails living in the artesian springs. It's also home to a variety of reptiles that make you stop what you're doing until they've moved along. In my recent visits to Edgbaston as a volunteer, I've had a couple of encounters with some pretty cool reptiles.

Read More

BLOG 12/05/2016

Swags, snails & sunrises for the iROOS

In this post, University of Queensland student, John McLaughlin, shares some of the highlights of a recent iROOS trip to Edgbaston Reserve and explains why it's so important to leave the lecture theatre behind for a while and head bush to experience 'real life' conservation work.

Read More

BLOG 22/04/2015

Water works on Edgbaston

We're fortunate to have recently had Dr Ken Tinley volunteer his time on Edgbaston to give advice on measures to repair and restore problematic aspects of the catchment's run off that were causing problems for the endangered red-fin blue-eye fish.

Read More

BLOG 30/03/2015

Edgbaston’s hidden charms

As part of my doctoral research I've spent a lot of time on Bush Heritage Australia's Edgbaston Reserve. I've guided a lot of people through its plains and pockets with an expectant gaze to the faces of my visitors, looking for a reflection of the excitement I feel, but am always shocked when the sentiment expressed is 'underwhelmed'. So, for my first blog post I wanted to share three tips to help one understand why I think Edgbaston is the jewel of Bush Heritage's Queensland crown.

Read More
{{itemsInCart}} Items - {{formatCurrency(grandTotal)}}