Keelback Snake

Identifying A Keelback Snake (Fresh Water Snake)

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Keelback Snake (Tropidonophis Mairii) Also Known as a Fresh Water Snake

The keelback snake gets its name from the distinct, raised longitudinal ridge, or “keel”, on each scale. It is often confused with the highly venomous rough-scaled snake.

The keelback is active at night and during overcast days, and can be found in moist areas or areas with access to water. They are very common on the Sunshine Coast and residents may see several pass through their gardens. Although the keelback snake is not venomous to humans, it may strike out when threatened.


About the Keelback Snake

The water snake, or keelback, is gray, brown, or shades of olive in colour, with irregular dark cross bands along its back that may be broken.

Their bellies are cream, salmon pink, or green with an orange flush. As its name suggests, the back scales are strongly keeled in 15 to 17 rows, at mid-body.

The average size of a keelback snake can range from 60 – 75cm in length, though some have been found at lengths of up to 100cm.


Where can you find the Keelback Snake?

The keelback snake is Australia’s only non-venomous, semi-aquatic colubrid, and it usually inhabits areas close to water, such as riverbanks, creeks, forests, and swamps. However, residents and business owners on the Sunshine Coast may find these snakes in built-up, suburban areas as well. Where there are creeks or drainage lines, you can expect to see more keelback or water snakes, especially if their prey can be found in the area.

Keelback snakes are often spotted foraging among logs, piles of wood, and moist areas.


Is the Keelback Snake Dangerous?

These snakes are non-venomous and usually chooses to flee when frightened. In extreme situations, where the snake make feel threatened or is being incorrectly handled, it may bite or secrete a strong smell from its anal glands to warn off would-be predators.


What Does the Keelback snake eat?

Amphibians, small lizards and fish are common prey for the keelback snake.

The keelback is also one of the very few, native vertebrates that is capable of eating the cane toad, which has poison-secreting glands on its shoulders. Unlike other predators, the keelback snake is impervious to the toad’s toxins and able to ingest it regardless.


What to do if you see a keelback snake

These small, semi-aquatic snakes are common on the Sunshine Coast, and you may find one in your garden or on your property. If you spot a keelback snake, or suspect there may be one living in your home or garden, get in touch with our team. We operate 24/7 and can provide identification, capture and relocation services for wild snakes.

To ensure your safety and the safety of your family and pets, our team always aims to assist you as soon as possible.

Remember to maintain a safe distance from the snake, but keep an eye on it until we get there!

Sunshine Coast Snake Experts

Our Snake Catching Process

When we’re looking for a snake, the first places we look are along the walls and under debris. Snakes try to avoid predators by moving along the walls and beneath cover. Unless they are going from concealment to cover or seeking warmth from the sun, it’s unusual to observe a snake moving out in the open. 

We study their body language once we discover the snake, before we attempt to catch it. This tells us what the snake is thinking and indicates what it might do. We can tell when they are going to run, stand up and fight, or simply be apathetic toward our presence based on their body language. It’s critical for us to understand how to capture and handle snakes using this information.

After they’ve been captured, they’re put in a bag and kept quiet in a dark, tight space. This keeps us safe while handling the snake, as well as allows the snake to calm down.

Following the capture of the snake, they are relocated to suitable bushland and set free. Each snake is assigned its own habitat and food. As a result, we release them into areas that are ideal for each species. Keelbacks and Red-bellied black snakes enjoy frogs and lizards, so we put them in areas near water sources such as rivers or dams.

During an operation, we always want to double-check the snakes for health and remove any external parasites like ticks before they are released. If the snake is not healthy enough to be released, it may be due to injury or sickness; they are taken to Australia Zoo’s wildlife hospital for further evaluation, treatment, and rehabilitation.

As snake catchers, all the snakes we catch are logged with the department of wildlife and science. This is so they can keep track of where each snake has been caught and released, to monitor and maintain the biodiversity in the area.

We have also been keeping a personal log of all the snakes we have caught on the Sunshine Coast that you can view on our website. This way you can see the species and location of each snake we have caught around the sunshine coast and in your areas.

Keelback Snake

Frequently Asked Questions

Keelback snakes are typically green, beige or brown in colour with a yellow or cream-colored belly. They have keeled scales, giving them a rough texture. Their head is flattened and they have large eyes with round pupils.

Keelback snakes are very distinctive in appearance. You may have encountered a keelback if the snake has the following characteristics:

  • Brown, beige or olive-green coloured body with brown spots and small white stripes 
  • Keeled or ridged scales on its back
  • Flat head with large eyes and round pupils
  • A meter in length or shorter


Even though this snake is not venomous, remember to keep a safe distance from any wild snake you come across. Avoid trying to catch unwanted snakes yourself and instead call our professional snake catchers to accurately identify and safely capture and relocate snakes from your home, garden, garage or office.

No, keelback snakes are not venomous. When threatened, a keelback will usually choose to flee. If incorrectly handled or inappropriately antagonised, a keelback may still bite and will secrete a strong smell from its anal glands to ward off predators and threats. 

Keelback snakes are not aggressive towards humans or other animals. They are generally shy and will try to escape when encountered.

Keelback snakes are commonly found near water sources such as creeks, rivers, and wetlands. While they may occasionally be found in urban areas, they are more commonly found in natural habitats away from human populations. They can be found in a range of habitats, including rainforests, woodlands, and coastal areas.

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