One morning at the beginning of November last year I walked down my back steps at Mt. Crosby to retrieve a sprinkler. As I bent down I realised that there was a fairly large snake lying beside it. The snake didn’t move at all and on closer inspection I saw that it had a toad wedged in its mouth. I thought that was somewhat reassuring at first as I figured that the snake wasn’t going to bite me when it already had a large mouthful!
Then when they didn’t move I presumed that they were both dead. I thought that the snake had killed the toad and the toad’s toxin had killed the snake. So I went back into the house and came back with my camera. The snake still hadn’t moved. However I realised that my first assumption was wrong when an hour or so later the snake had moved a short distance away and then later disappeared altogether.
I sent the photo to the Queensland Museum and was very impressed to promptly receive an answer on a Sunday morning. I was told by the Information Officer that the snake was a harmless Keelback or Fresh Water Snake and it’s the only Australian snake that can successfully eat introduced toads.
“I suspect that the ability of the Keelback to survive toad toxin is a legacy of its ancestry. Keelbacks hail from somewhere in Southern Asia and arrived here recently (in geological terms). Several toxic species of toad also occur in Southern Asia, living with and being preyed upon by snakes related to our Keelback”.
I apparently witnessed an epic battle though because there is a catch to all of this. Trying to eat a large Cane Toad can sometimes have fatal consequences for the Keelbacks as large toads have more toxins than smaller toads. I’m hoping that my snake ended up surviving and will return again for another delicious toad meal. The Keelback is a welcomed snake at our place.
Judi Davis Land for Wildlife member M Crosby, Brisbane