A keel back snale devours a toad at Terranora.
A keel back snale devours a toad at Terranora. Bill Power

Toad in the hole for a hungry snake

TERRANORA resident Bill Power got a bit of a shock when he walked onto his balcony and witnessed a case of snake vs. cane toad.

Last week Mr Power spotted the keel back snake snacking on a rather plump cane toad.

"It was on the concrete and all I saw was a pair of legs hanging out of its mouth," he said.

A quick thinking Mr Power rushed up to the house to grab his camera before the snake, with toad in mouth, snuck away in a bush.

"I was surprised," he said.

"I didn't think anything could eat a cane road."

Originally he believed the snake was an eastern brown but Tweed Valley Wildlife Carer reptile coordinator Sue Johnson identified the hungry snake as a keel back.

"They are common in the Tweed," she said.

"They're found mainly near fresh water such as creeks, rivers and swamps.

"Not only do they feed on cane toads but also our native frogs, fish, garden skinks, and small mammals."

Ms Johnson said keel backs are non-venomous and found in the family called the Colubrids which includes snakes such as the green tree snake and the slightly venomous brown tree snake.

"Often they're mistaken for the venomous rough scaled snake as they live in the same habitat and look similar," she said.

"They are immune to low doses of cane toad toxin because their biogeographical range originated in Asia where Asian toads exist.

"The encounters with Asian toads and keel backs have evolved over a long time and the keel back has adapted a physiological tolerance to the toad toxin.

"This has enabled the current keel back to be better suited for the cane toad toxin."

They're called a keel back because of the strongly keeled scales that produce a ridge along the body.

If you spot a reptile in your backyard make sure not to touch it and contact Tweed Valley Wildlife Carer's hotline 6672-4789 or visit tvwc.org.au information on reptiles in the area.


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