A highly variable species, which does not always display the distinctive tiger stripes suggested by its common name. The body can be grey, olive-brown or almost black. In most specimens’ darker bands are visible. The pale areas between the bands are usually light brown or cream in colour but in some specimens, they may be bright yellow. The underside is usually creamy-yellow but again may be a distinctive bright yellow in some snakes. The banding in juvenile snakes is often much more conspicuous, fading gradually as the snake matures. Tiger snakes are relatively short, and stout bodied with a broad head. Most specimens reach around 1.2-1.6m in length, although particularly large animals may exceed 2m.
The tiger snake is a very dangerous species and is ranked the fourth most toxic land snake in the world. Its range coincides with the highest human population in Australia, so encounters are common. Tiger snakes will usually act out an impressive threat display before attempting to bite. This begins with flattening of the neck and loud hissing followed by mock strikes.
Tiger snakes used to be the most common cause of snake bite fatalities in Australia. This position has now been taken over by the eastern brown snake.
A common species of the swamps, wetlands and water courses of south-eastern Australia. In some areas where food is plentiful large numbers of tiger snakes can be found in close proximity to each other.
Tiger snakes love frogs. This is their main diet, however, given the opportunity, they will also readily take lizards, birds, small mammals and fish. In hot weather feeding often takes place at night with daytime foraging predominating at other times.
As an adaptation to the temperate climate of its range, the tiger snake produces live young instead of laying eggs. The female normally produces 20-30 wriggling babies in late summer after mating in spring, although some litters as high as 70 have been recorded.