Green Tree Snake

Green Tree Snake

The Australian green tree snake (Dendrelaphis punctulata) is also known as the common tree snake because of the wide variety of habitats where they can live and the frequency in which they can be found within those habitats. These long, slender snakes are non-venomous but very fast and agile. They have relatively large eyes in comparison to other species of snakes.


Classification

Green tree snakes are of the Colubridae family in the order Squamata. The Dendrelaphis genus is comprised of over 20 different species distributed throughout Asia, New Guinea, and Australia. Dendrelaphis punctulata was first classified in 1827.

Physical Characteristics

The green tree snake varies in colour. While most are green, they can also be coloured brown or black. They have a yellow throat, but beyond the throat, the underside can be blue, green, gray, brown, or remain yellow. They also have blue flecks on their flanks. When threatened, the snake raises its head and inflates its neck, exposing the blue flecks that are partially hidden under their scales. Green tree snakes have a very slender body and are extremely agile climbers. The average adult is 1.2 metres in length, but it is not uncommon to find specimens of up to 2 metres. Green tree snakes are not poisonous, and they have no fangs. They have only small teeth, and their bite is usually harmless to humans.

Distribution and Habitat

Green tree snakes are primarily found in northern Australia from Kimberly to Cape York, and in eastern Australia from New South Wales and extending north into New Guinea. Some of the habitats where they can be found are the bush, heathland, the edges of Australia’s tropical forests, and along riverbanks. However, they can also be found in any location in their distribution area with trees and water, including urban areas.

Behaviour

Green tree snakes are in elevated arboreal settings most of the time, but can also be found on the ground. When they are near water sources, they prefer to stay hidden in long grass or other growth. This not only affords them some protection, but it is a good area to find prey. Their diet consists of frogs, small reptiles, small mammals, and fish. Green tree snakes are diurnal, meaning they are active during daylight hours and rest at night in a safe place such as a tree hollow, under a log or rock, or in heavy foliage.

Female green tree snakes lay eggs in numbers of 5 to 12 per clutch. The eggs are elongated ovals in shape. New hatchlings grow quickly and molt every 6 to 8 weeks. As they grow into maturity, molting only occurs once every 1 to 2 years. If they become cut or injured, the snakes will immediately secrete a milky fluid and grow a new skin. The old skin is then shed in approximately two weeks.

Captivity

Any closed terrarium can be used to keep a green tree snake in captivity as long as there is a perpetual source of fresh water and branches to climb. A tubular structure is also recommended to give them a place to hide should they feel it necessary. Because they are avid climbers, it is recommended the terrarium be a minimum height of 1.5 metres. It has been noted that the more elements included in the terrarium, the more the snakes will thrive while in captivity. Hot spots of 29C to 31C should be available ambient temperatures slightly cooler.

When handling green tree snakes, care must be taken because they are very fast and agile. They can easily escape a loose grasp and hide in very confining spots, making it difficult to retrieve them. Otherwise, they are harmless.


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