Snakes on an urban plain: Temporal patterns of snake activity and human–snake conflict in Darwin, Australia

Tom Parkin, Chris J. Jolly, Alana de Laive, Brenton von Takach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Globally, cities and urban areas are expanding rapidly, leading to increased human–wildlife conflict. To reduce human–snake conflict in Australia, ‘snake catchers’ are employed to remove and relocate snakes detected by the public in urban or rural areas. Where records of human–snake interactions are being collected, these data can inform our understanding of human–snake conflict and, potentially, snake urban ecology. In this study, we analysed 5210 snake–human interactions collected over a 7-year period (2011–2017) in Darwin, Australia, to investigate temporal patterns in species activity and identify environmental drivers of human–snake conflict. Encouragingly, about 90% of recorded human–snake interactions during this period in Darwin were with harmless snakes. While there was no clear effect of human activity biasing snake callout patterns at temporal scales greater than one day, reduced callouts between 00:00 and 06:00 may be driven by either reduced human or snake activity. We found population trends of all taxa investigated, except for elapids, to be stable. Elapids appeared to have suffered a small, yet statistically significant, decline. We also found that all taxa showed strong cyclical patterns within years, with considerable variation between species in the timing of annual peaks in activity. This study proves that consistently collected and carefully analysed datasets of urban wildlife reported by citizens can be used to inform our understanding of urban wildlife ecology, as well as potentially providing insights that improve wildlife management in urban environments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)449-462
Number of pages14
JournalAustral Ecology
Issue number3
Early online dateDec 2020
Publication statusPublished - May 2021


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