A great egret looks for breakfast at Calamvale Creek


Scientific stuff

Keelback snake
Also called
freshwater snake, swamp tiger, and Australian keelback

Tropidonophis mairii
Family: Colubridae
Suborder: Serpentes
Order: Squamata
Class: Reptilia

The Australian keelbacks can be a variety of colours, but are generally a sort of olive brown or rusty grey with dark blotches that form indistinct bands around the body.

The keelback's upper body scales are strongly ridged, or keeled, which gives it its common name.

The keelback has moderately large eyes with round pupils, and a pale underbelly. Its tail tapers off to a fine whip-like end.

It is non-venomous, but amateurs may not be able to distinguish the keelback from the similar-looking but very venomous rough-scaled snake, Tropidechis carinatus.

Common adult length is about 75 centimetres (36 inches), but they may grow to just under one metre.

Not aggressive, and if you leave it alone it may not worry about you being nearby. If you go near it, it may give a feeble attempt to look like it will attack, and it can let off a pungent stink as a deterrent.

Using our photos

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Mr Cool's photos

The photographer said:
“I called this keelback Mr Cool because it didn't seem to worry about me being near it, taking flash photos near it, or stepping over it.

“I stepped over it as it rested along my back door step one evening, not knowing it was there. Only when I went to come inside a few seconds later did I see it lying a few centimetres from the back door.

“I had to step over it again to get my camera from inside the house, but it wasn't concerned by my presence at all.”

Critters of Calamvale Creek

Mr Cool, the keelback snake

Also called:
Freshwater snake, swamp tiger, or Australian keelback.

Tropidonophis mairii

keelback_1 (27K)

This keelback was lying across the doorstep outside my back door late one evening.

I had gone outside to throw some bread to the birds and, without knowing the snake was there, I stepped over it. When I turned around to come back inside, only about 10 seconds later, I noticed the keelback lying across my doorway only a few centimetres from the back door.

Tropidonophis_mairii_2 (30K) “How do I get inside to get my camera?” I wondered. Then I decided that if it hadn't worried about me stepping over it before, it probably wouldn't worry if I stepped over it again.

As I moved toward it, the snake slid slowly out of the way, and I went inside and got my camera.

When I came out, it was slithering along the side of the house, stopping briefly to check between each pair of bricks as though it was looking for lizards. It was about 64 centimetres (26 inches) long.

Mr Cool

keelback_4 (31K)

The light was terrible, as it was almost dark and was cloudy weather anyway. My camera wouldn't focus properly either with or without the flash, so I just took a lot of photos of it on various settings hoping that some would be in focus enough to be worthwhile. The white eyes are a result of the flash.

The keelback seemed quite unconcerned that I was there taking photos, and I was very close to it for most of the time. Because it was so cool, I called it Mr Cool.

keelback_tail_3 (45K)

At one stage it paused behind a pot plant, probably thinking I couldn't see its tail. But it was soon off again, searching the cracks around the house for lizards I guess.

Time to go

Eventually, after maybe 10 or 15 minutes, it gained speed and darted under my back fence. I lost sight of it as it headed towards the creek.

keelback_5 (43K)

More about keelbacks

— Robert Doolan