It may sound grotesque but stopping to inspect roadkill is a great way to find those little oddities you may not otherwise see. Much information has been garnered from roadkill specimens of poorly known species. Many times you will encounter common species, but you never know…sometimes you hit the jackpot.
I was recently on the Cape York Peninsula conducting fauna surveys. After an underwhelming night of spotlighting my boss and I drove back to camp, straining our eyes on the dirt track ahead, hoping to catch sight of snakes crossing.
Instead we found a snake that had unfortunately been run over: a Taipan (Oxyuranus scutellatus). Although they are widespread along the QLD coast, we considered this ‘roadkill gold’ and were excited to examine this species at close quarters.
In life they are extremely alert and amazinging fast snakes with excellent vision. They tend to keep well away from approaching humans. The taipan (or Coastal Taipan) is recognized as the third deadliest snake in the world. Even when handling this dead one we were careful not to touch it’s fangs to avoid contact with any residual venom.
When hunting, the Taipan delivers large doses of venom to the unlucky rat, bandicoot or small mammal on the menu. It will release and follow the envenomated prey until it succumbs and then begin ingestion.
We set this snake up for photos, obviously you can tell it’s dead but he demands respect all the same!