Australian Snakes: The Inland Taipan
Australia’s most infamous land snake is also one of its most deadly. The Inland Taipan, known as the ‘Outback Taipan’ due to its preference for desert habitats, is the world’s most venomous snake, capable of delivering a venomous dose fifty times as powerful as the ultra-deadly Indian Cobra. A shy and fairly rare snake, the Inland Taipan is rarely observed by humans outside of captivity.
It’s this immense shyness that makes the Inland Taipan, despite its incredibly strong venom, a fairly minimal threat to humans. While bites do occur and are typically not fatal, the likelihood of meeting an Inland Taipan in the wild is very low. Habitation ranges are small and primarily located in areas of the Outback that are rarely visited, with Inland Taipans rarely reaching inhabited areas or cities.
While the Inland Taipan is capable of killing most creatures in a single bite, it prefers to stalk its prey before attacking. Common targets can include mice, rats, and other small rodents, which the Taipan stalks and tracks into enclosed spaces before biting. Due to the incredible strength of the Inland Taipan’s venom, most of its prey targets die almost instantly after being bitten.
Amongst humans, the Inland Taipan’s reputation for instant death appears to be undeserved. While bites have the potential to kill adults in under an hour, all have been treated with anti-venom and no deaths have been recorded. As the snake is one of Australia’s most shy and reclusive, very few bites have been reported â€“ while many snake handlers have been bitten, in-the-wild encounters are rare.
That said, the potential for death is certainly there, and those that encounter the Inland Taipan in the wild should take steps to ensure it isn’t provoked. Most Inland Taipan encounters are brief and fairly uneventful, with the snake disappearing from sight as quickly as it appeared. Do not move quickly or stamp your feet to scatter the snake â€“ doing so could scare it and prompt it to act in defence.
A much better strategy is to remain still, keep your distance, and allow the snake to disappear on its own will. The Inland Taipan has no interest in attacking a human, as it is both too small to consume such a large creature and generally only interested in small rodents. At approximately two metres in length, the Inland Taipan is neither a particularly large snake nor a small, invisible predator.
The Inland Taipan changes its appearance depending on the season, with cooler months prompting the snake to employ a dark brown camouflage, and warmer months a light yellow and olive tone. A selection of small visual variations have been reported in the snakes, including a slight grey tone in its scales. Most Taipans are less than two metres long, although some have reached 2.7 metres.
Despite being Australia’s most notorious predator, the Inland Taipan is unlikely to threaten humans and even less likely to encounter them in civilized areas. While the risk of being bit remains real, a confirmed Inland Taipan bite is an incredibly rare sight. This is, in many ways, a snake that’s more often seen in books than in reality, as its ‘killer’ reputation makes it a common fear amongst adults.