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Are There Snakes in New Zealand? What You Need To Know!

Nicole Cosgrove

New Zealand shares a unique feature with Ireland, Newfoundland, the Antarctic, and the Arctic. None of these places have snakes, at least, not native ones. Hawaii also lives a snake-free life. It’s even considered a felony with a fine of up to $200,000. The reason is that local wildlife populations of these areas haven’t evolved with these reptiles and have no defense against them.

However, that doesn’t mean the country is devoid of snakes altogether. There are two venomous snakes in New Zealand that sometimes pay an unwanted visit. Fortunately, they are not land animals, which would prove ecologically destructive. Instead, the species are two water snakes in New Zealand.

divider-snake2 Snakes Found in New Zealand

1. Banded Sea Krait

Banded Sea Krait side view_Rich Carey_Shuttertock
Image Credit: Rich Carey, Shutterstock
Species: Laticauda colubrina
Longevity: Unknown
Good to own as a pet?: No
Legal to own?: No
Adult size: 3–12’ L
Diet: Carnivorous, primarily eels

The Banded Sea Krait or Yellow-Lipped Sea Krait lives near the small islands of the Western Pacific and Indian Oceans. It lives in several countries in these waters, including Fiji, China, and Thailand. It only exists in New Zealand and Australia as a vagrant species. Scientists use this term to describe animals that are well outside of their typical range, most often with birds.

In this case, the ocean water may play a role in bringing the Banded Sea Krait to New Zealand. These reptiles venture on land as adults, which makes them a potent threat to wildlife. Its venom is deadly and can even kill humans. It’s not an animal that any country would welcome, let alone one where they don’t typically inhabit.


2. Yellow-Bellied Sea Snake

Yellow-Bellied Sea Snake_Ken Griffiths_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Ken Griffiths, Shutterstock
Species: Hydrophis platurus
Longevity: 8–10 years
Good to own as a pet?: No
Legal to own?: No
Adult size: 2–3’ L
Diet: Carnivorous

The Yellow-Bellied Sea Snake or Leaf-Scaled Sea Snake lives in warm and tropical ocean waters all around the world, including the seas close to New Zealand. Interestingly, the species doesn’t live in the Atlantic Ocean, presumably, because it’s too cold. It prefers shallow depths, often around reefs and small islands. Little is known about this elusive animal.

Like the previous species, the Yellow-Bellied Sea Snake feeds on eels that it supplements with small fish. While it isn’t as large, it still poses a threat to the wildlife of New Zealand. It is a venomous snake that stuns its prey, hiding in rocks or debris. This reptile is dangerous to humans, too. Since it uses currents to move, that’s likely the way it makes it to shore occasionally.

The Absence of Snakes

You may wonder why some places don’t have any snakes, including New Zealand. Even their zoos can’t keep them. Some areas never had them to begin with for various reasons. It’s apparent that a cold-blooded animal would have a tough time in cold places. After all, many snakes burrow or find refuge in rocks during the winter.

Places like Vatican City don’t have any snakes, either. It’s not as much a factor of ecological isolation as it is a matter of no habitat or prey. If any animals made it there, they likely won’t survive very long to reproduce and become a problem. Another factor is adaptability. Some snakes can live alongside humans and survive. Others, not so much.

The global distribution of snakes is also uneven. While some places don’t have them, others are overrun with them, such as the Brazilian island, Ilha da Queimada Grande. Its nickname of Snake Island says it all. It has more venomous snakes per yard than any other place in the world! We’ll leave that island off of our list of places to visit.

Sometimes, snakes make it ashore accidentally on cargo ships. That’s what happened in Guam. Other times, the pet trade is to blame. Reptile owners might release snakes that get too big. That’s how Florida got stuck with large populations of pythons that have forced the state government to hold competitions to get rid of the invaders!

Like the case with the sea snakes we discussed, Nature played a part in bringing some unwanted visitors to New Zealand. It’s not an unusual occurrence for drift to provide a ride to the coast. No matter how it happens, it’s a problem. For example, Florida has seen double-digit drops in many once-common species, such as marsh rabbits, bobcats, and raccoons.

divider-snakeConclusion

In a way, we can’t blame snakes for wanting to visit and perhaps live in New Zealand. It’s a beautiful country with magnificent views and scenery. For good or bad, the country doesn’t welcome these reptiles, and neither does the wildlife. After all, it’s easy to see how a stowaway or two can wreak havoc on an ecosystem. Hopefully, it won’t happen to New Zealand.


Featured Image Credit: Ethan Daniels, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.