Category Archives: herping snake hunting

Herping with Rupert Lewis

Yesterday it rained a bit, and had been raining the previous few days. That would be good for snakes, I thought. It was set to be a near-full moon night, and that wasn’t so great for snakes, but I was eager to get back out to see what I could find. The last time I was out herping was 2-weeks ago. I saw a couple cool snakes, and then while trying to get photos of a Homalopsis buccata I fell backward into the mud and water at the edge of a stream. It was late at night, I was soaking wet, and I had a 15 km motorbike ride home. Not so fun, but definitely funny after I quit swearing at my misfortune (and the broken concrete which sent me over backwards).

I got a message from Rupert Lewis from the UK about herping sometime. He said he’d be staying in Trang, and if I wanted to go out, he’d be keen. I wasn’t keen at first. You know, I get about 5 of these requests per month from people that see ThailandSnakes.com or some of my videos online. I just don’t have time to go out with everyone that writes, but more importantly, it just doesn’t make sense most times.

Though sometimes I’ll go out with someone that doesn’t have a clue about snakes, just to be able to introduce them to snakes and teach them a little of what I know. Usually though, I like to go herping with people that I can learn something from… whatever it is. It might not even be about herping. If someone from Tasmania wrote me (and he already has), and wanted to go out – I’d go in a second. Why? I want to find out about his country, the wildlife, the snakes. If a herpetologist (biologist) or other serious enthusiast with a lot of experience writes – I will usually go out.

Rupert is a 17 year old that appeared to have little experience herping in Thailand or anywhere with venomous snakes. He had a real interest, and I figured I’d go sometime after April when the snake-finding activity picked up a bit, as is usual at that time.

As it turns out he contacted me again recently and would be nearby. He sent me a link to his photos, and I was blown away. He has already, in about 6 months, found MANY Thailand snakes and even some that I’ve not seen here before – 2 cat snakes that I really want to find. (nigriceps and jasperidae (spelling?))

So we met up last night and the kid is brilliant. I’ve seen only two other people know southeast Asia snakes to the level of depth Rupert does, and of course that’s a subjective statement. Suffice to say, he impressed the hell out of me with what he knew. I thought he’d be asking questions like, “what do snakes eat”. Instead, he’s explaining to me the difference between the Malayan Bridle Snake and the juvenile Malayan krait. He is almost an encyclopedia of snake knowledge. It was awesome to spend time with him as we picked each other’s brains about snake habits, appearance, and defensive behavior. We found 5 snakes too – near-full moon be damned.

Rupert wants to make snakes his life… I have no doubt that if he sticks to it, he’ll be THE snake authority in Southeast Asia. He’s a sponge with facts. He knew tiny details about snakes that only someone that lived here or studied the place for years knows.

He may have even found a new species of gecko already – I saw photos.  We walked around until about 1:30 AM and found the Mangrove Cat Snake (B. dendrophila) Puff-faced Water Snake (H. buccata) – three of them, and the ultimate southern Thailand find, or one of them, the Malayan Krait (B. candidus).

Anyway, kudos to Rupert… I do hope he goes far in the field and makes a real difference. If he knows this much at 17, it’s scary to think what he’ll be like in a couple years of living in the region! Scary in a good way.

Cheers Rupert, keep it up man, you’re well on your way.

Vern

Homalopsis buccata Almost Rips My Finger Off

OK, exaggerating a bit.

OK, a lot.

There is nothing quite like a bite from a snake, when you’re completely not expecting it. I’ve caught a number of these “Puff Faced Water Snakes” – Homalopsis buccata, and while one bit the tongs, none has ever attempted to strike at me. That changed the other night while on a herping trip with Courtney from North Carolina in the states.

I grabbed it fine the first time, and it death-rolled so fiercely I thought it was going to break it’s own neck. I let it go back on the ground by the pond I’d just picked it up at.

The flashlight was shining right in his face – and I was coming up on the approach from behind, but, in hindsight – a bit too much to the side, and he could still see my hand coming. He twisted and struck backward and sideways to grab my middle finger fiercely. I did the twitch, you know, where you jerk your arm in an exaggerated fashion, twirling the snake around like a circus baton, by the mouth on your finger – putting the teeth MUCH deeper than they were originally? Yeah, I did that.

He was NOT letting go, so I asked Courtney to gently put the snake hook point through the jaw between my finger and the joint. Eventually the top opened enough, and then I snuck the bottom finger out. No re-bite, which I was thankful for.

This was a juvenile, but these snakes have powerful jaws, and 26 teeth (I counted the puncture marks on my finger). I was bleeding good, and Courtney got a few pics. Will put one up when she sends me one.

Though a snake is not “known” to bite… do not take it for granted. Practice the same techniques as always to keep from getting bitten. Twenty-six teeth in your finger is not a good feeling… more importantly, you could break some of them in your finger – harming the snake.

June – July – Best Herping Season in Thailand?

Thailand Snake - Red Tailed Racer, Gonyosoma oxycephalum
Found often in southern Thailand – the Red Tailed Racer, Gonyosoma oxycephalum.

I find June and July of each year to usually be the best months for finding snakes out and about.

We get more requests for ID during those months than any others. I usually find, catch, see more snakes during those months in Thailand than any other months – but occasionally I have a good month some other time during the year that eclipses those summer months.

Lately I’ve not been able to get out to look. I did do a run up a local mountain the other day and heard a couple of swish sounds like they were snakes, but I didn’t have time to stop and look. I saw some amazing lizards though – including the draco winged lizard on the size of a tree – a very decent size too, about as 6-7 inches long (body only), and 4 inches wide. This is before flying!

I have seen a couple of small snakes crossing the road as I flew by on the motorbike. Couple of Golden Tree Snakes… I always check them out to make sure they aren’t the Paradise Tree Snakes – which are pretty rare and make great photos.

We had a Malayan Pit Viper close to the house the other day. I caught a red-tailed racer a week or so back – very small, just crossing the road. Not sure if I posted any photos here, I’ve been using facebook for some of them.

Had a guy come from Australia – ex herpetologist/biologist, and we saw no snakes at all I don’t think. Can’t remember. We did find different geckos and lizards – including a long tailed lizard – the tail was 3 times the body length (or more).

Anyway – a mini-update on what we’ve seen here.

If you are planning on looking for snakes – nearly anytime of the year is good except the hot months. You can still find the usual snakes during the day during the hot months – like golden tree snakes and various rat snakes… sometimes the monocled cobras… but usually the hot months and extreme rainy months are not idea for herping in Thailand.

If you are planning to visit Thailand for a herping field trip, let me know – I might be able to go with you. I know a lot of the local snakes, though admittedly virtually nothing about the frogs, spiders, and lizards.

 

Night Herping in Southern Thailand – Video

Every few days when I either have some free time, or just reach a point in my snake herping addiction where I MUST GO, I romp around the forest in southern Thailand and try to find cool stuff.

This was a perfect Thailand night. The air was cool and there was even a breeze. The air was not thick and wet, and I wore a long-sleeved shirt and military issue cammies, socks, and running shoes – all things I NEVER wear in southern Thailand unless herping and trying not to be eaten by mosquitoes.

It was very dark on this night – and I think that was a reason for my success. It started out with a small snake slithering off the bank and into the water – very fast, and very small – maybe 8 inches long. In another 10 minutes i saw a 2 meter mangrove snake swimming across one of the small pools of water.

It was ALMOST within reach with my 40 inch tongs – but I just missed him twice. I grabbed slowly and didn’t want him to know I was grabbing at him. He didn’t pick up speed or alter his course – so I think he had no clue something was grabbing for him behind…

He went to the bank – covered with greenery, and just inched up in there and sat. I ran around the lake on the sidewalk and then very slowly crept down to spot he was. I just watched and waited for movement. Nothing. I waited 10 minutes. Nothing. I started pulling apart the vines and water plants that were hiding him. Very slowly. Nothing. I stayed for 10 minutes and pulled up everything around. Nothing. Apparently he slipped under the water and safely away. They are great underwater swimmers, and he must have known I was after him. Bummer. Still, it’s a great feeling to see a 2 m snake swimming in the pitch black night air.

I walked further… in 5 more minutes I saw another 2 meter mangrove snake climbing a wall and ready to ease itself into the water. I waited until his head went forward, just over the water, and grabbed with the tongs – GOT HIM.

Unfortunately I couldn’t film the snatch, and now I’m desperate for a goPRO video camera I can strap to my head. This DSLR stuff is for the birds while herping by myself. I asked two guys to come, and neither were interested. WTF! Irrational fears…

Anyway – you see a bit of the snake on video.

Later that night I saw about 4 nice leopard gecko type beasts – catching 2 to show friends. They freeze when the flashlight is right on them – probably totally blind – and they are easy to grab.

I saw a couple of small owls.

I heard a heavy movement on the hill next to the water. I stopped and listened… it was HEAVY, breaking big twigs loudly. WTF? It had to see me – and yet, it was moving to me, not away.

Initially I thought – big monitor. But I heard no footsteps.

Then I guessed – big reticulated python or Burmese python. Maybe it was looking at me as a meal, or maybe didn’t see me – just saw the flashlight.

There are bears in Thailand – but probably not right there where I was. There are some wild cats – but I don’t think it would be stalking me.

Ok then – enjoy the video.

Snakes I’ve Found or Caught in Thailand

I thought I’d write up a list of Thailand snakes I’ve caught – just to keep track. Here’s a list of both venomous and non-venomous snakes I’ve caught.

53 Thailand Snakes I’ve been lucky enough to find:

NEW SPECIES! I found a new Oligodon species that has not been named. I didn’t cooperate with biologists to go through the process of having it classified.

NEW SPECIES! I found another snake that I think is a new species. It is similar to a keelback, but thinner, longer. It was yellow with a white ring around the neck, about 70 cm in length around 400 meters elevation.

Venomous Species

Monocled Cobra (Naja kaouthia)

Malayan Krait / Blue Krait (Bungarus candidus)

Mangrove Pit Viper (Trimeresurus purpureomaculatus)

Wagler’s Pit Viper (Tropidolaemus wagleri)

Malayan Pit Viper (Calloselasma rhodostoma)

Beautiful Pit Viper (Trimeresurus venustus)

Red Necked Keelback (Rhabdophis subminiatus)

Red Headed Krait – (Bungarus flaviceps)

Small Spotted Coral Snake (Calliophis maculiceps)

Observed, but didn’t catch:

King Cobra (Ophiophagus hannah) – 3 occasions

 

Non-Venomous Species

Golden Kukri Snake (Oligodon cinereus)

Reticulated Python (Python reticulatus)

Triangle Keelback (Xenochrophis triangularis)

Common Brown Keelback (Xenochrophis flavipunctatus)

Checkered Keelback (Xenochrophis piscator)

Striped Keelback (Amphiesma stolatum)

Big-eyed Mountain Keelback (Pseudoxenodon macrops)

Oriental Whip Snake (Ahaetulla prasina) green, yellow phases

Malayan Whip Snake (Ahaetulla mycterizans)

Malayan Banded Wolf Snake (Lycodon subcinctus)

Brown Whip Snake / Keel bellied Whip Snake (Dryophiops rubescens)

Red Whip Snake (Dryophiops-rubescens)

Laotian Wolf Snake (Lycodon laoensis)

Common Wolf Snake (Lycodon capucinus)

Malayan Bridle Snake (Dryocalamus subannulatus)

Puff-Faced Water Snake (Homalopsis buccata)

Red Tailed Pipe Snake (Cylindrophis ruffus ruffus)

Sunbeam Snake (Xenopeltis unicolor)

Common Water Snake / Yellow Bellied Water Snake (Enhydris plumbea)

Golden Tree Snake (Chrysopelea ornata ornatissima)

Paradise Tree Snake (Chrysopelea paradisi)

Blue Bronzeback Snake (Dendrelaphis cyanochloris)

Striped Bronzeback Snake (Dendrelaphis caudolineatus)

Common Bronzeback Snake (Dendrelaphis pictus)

Banded Bronzeback (Dendrelaphis striatus)

Copperheaded Racer (Coelognathus radiata)

Malayan Racer (Elaphe flavolineata)

Red-tailed Racer (Gonyosoma oxycephalum)

Banded Cat Snake / Mangrove Cat Snake / Black Cat Snake (Boiga dendrophila)

Green Cat Snake (Boiga cyanea)

Dog-toothed Cat Snake (Boiga cynodon)

Common Mock Viper (Psammodyanstes pulverulentus)

Ridley’s Racer (Othriophis taeniurus ridleyi)

Indo-Chinese Rat Snake (Ptyas korros)

White-bellied Rat Snake (Ptyas fusca)

Oriental Rat Snake (Ptyas mucosus)

Keeled Rat Snake (Ptyas carinatus)

Brahminy Blind Snake (Ramphotyphlops braminus)

Common Bridle Snake (Dryocalamus davisonii)

Rainbow Water Snake (Enhydris enhydris)

Yellow-striped Caecillain (Ichthyophis sp) 

DORs (Dead on Road)

I don’t count these, I have seen another 50 or so species, in addition to most of those above.

 

Fifty-three different species of snake! Well, there are 150+ more out there – so I’d better get herping.

Just to make it crystal clear to those that need it. I catch the snakes and either take them somewhere I can let them go free and take photos-videos in a wide open clearing, or, if none can be found I take them to another place for photos and videos. I let the snakes I catch go usually within 24 hours. Always within 2-3 days. I put the snakes back in the same place I found them, or, if they are venomous and were caught in a house or near houses – I take them to another suitable habitat.

If you want to come and catch snakes in Thailand – give us an email: info[{at}] ThailandSnakes [{com}}. We go primarily (or always) for night herps for a couple reasons: 1. more herps. 2. cooler!

Thailand Snake Journal – Recent Herping Trip

Yesterday I met a lovely husband and wife herping team from Florida, in the USA, and we all went out to see what could be found at a park not too far away.

This is a Thailand national park – and aesthetically – quite beautiful. Day herping is always tough though.  We went for a total of 3 hours – and found many lizards, two scorpions, skinks, and a couple of frogs. One snake – a Rabdophis subminiatus, Red-Necked Keelback that was near the water. These are such beautiful snakes… since it was a national park we didn’t collect it for photos and videos but they did shoot some of it in the natural habitat.

This is my favorite time of year coming up for snakes and herping field trips. If you’re interested in comign to Thailand – or anywhere in southeast Asia – for herping – you must stop in Thailand and we’ll go see what we can find.

At the moment the snakes are hot during the day and there is more action at night.  Sometimes the snakes can be found near water during the day – but, you’re not likely to find snakes roaming around the open, dry forest for now – it’s just too hot.  If it rains you maybe can find snakes out – regardless what time of day or night. They’d be looking for frogs – but this is not frog season yet.

Frogs are probably the number 1 favorite food for snakes in Thailand. They are soft and fat – with some meat. Geckos too – are soft, but have little meat. Geckos are also VERY fast. Frogs are VERY slow. Easier to catch frogs for sure.

Anyway, if you are coming to Thailand and are interested in snakes, lizards, and other reptiles – a herping trip might be called for. Contact me through info@thailandsnakes.com.

Cheers!