Rupert Lewis from the United Kingdom was out herping in Thailand a couple nights ago and came upon this little beauty. It’s Gongylosoma baliodeirus or possibly a subspecies. I say possibly because I can’t find any information about the snake online at all. A Google search on image and text of the name of the snake produces nothing but the name, classification and who first found it (Boie). I did find one report of this snake being found in Borneo at 2,000 feet elevation on Mt. Penrissen, Sarawak, Malaysia.
Rupert had an illustration he found in a book that identified it as Gongylosoma, but that’s about all we know from information found in books or online.
The snake was caught at night in Krabi Noi rainforest (Krabi province, Thailand) after midnight on a half-moon night. The elevation was roughly 100 meters above sea level.
This snake is about 40 cm in length and under 5 cm in girth at its thickest. It is smooth-scaled and Rupert counted 8 diagonal scales to the vertebral column.
The snake was cooperative and did not attempt to bite.
This is a new range for this snake, as previously they have not been found in Krabi province. They are rare in Thailand at all, and have only been found in some of the southernmost provinces.
The photos are copyright 2013 Vern Lovic, with many thanks to Rupert Lewis for sharing this snake with me. First published May 22, 2013. Updated Aug 15, 2015.
Description: Fusca comes from the latin, fuscus, meaning dark or dusky. In adults, the body and head are brown. The head is long and distinct. The head resembles Ptyas korros quite a bit, unless they are side-by-side, I don’t think I could tell them apart by head shape. Eyes are large and pupils are round. There is occasionally a red stripe down the vertebral column. Some light banding can be seen laterally in some snakes. The tail can be black. There is a black lateral stripe that stands in contrast to the whitish of the venter, unlike other rat snakes.
In juveniles of this species, the head, neck, and almost to mid-body can be a green tint. There can also be a noticeable pattern / banding that disappears with age.
Range: This rat snake has been found in Peninsular Thailand in Nakhon Si Thammarat, Krabi, Trang, and Phang-Nga provinces. It is likely resident in many forests in Southern Thailand.
Habitat: Found in primary and secondary evergreen forest and rubber plantations.
Behavior: This snake is terrestrial and diurnal, sleeping at night on tree branches. When disturbed it raised up vertically and holds position, almost like a cobra. I have also seen this snake do this on the sides of roads to look up over the grass to see if the coast is clear to cross.
Active Time? Diurnal.
Food: Primary prey is birds, rodents, and lizards..
Defensive Behavior: Quick strikes, not necessarily from a coiled position or S-shape. After some handling, some of these snakes will calm down and cease striking.
Venom Toxicity: No fangs to deliver venom.
Danger: No danger from venom, but these are biting snakes that may inflict some lacerations / puncture wounds.
Notes: I have not caught this snake in Southern Thailand yet, but I have seen them occasionally on the side of the road. I have also handled one in captivity. They are quite different looking from the other rat snakes of the area.
Description: This is a thin snake less than the thickness of a finger. It has a yellow mask and comes in one of two color pattern variations. Shown here is the pattern with a brown background and longitudinal stripes running from neck to tail. There is one along the vertebral ridge and one on each side. The eyes of this snake are rather large compared to the very small head. The head is slightly smaller than the neck of the snake. There are two very small rear-fangs seen upon inspection of the mouth. The head of this snake is not elongated in a long triangle like the Lycodon family of snakes – which is one way to tell the difference.
Range: Thailand’s southern provinces. This snake was found in Krabi province at 450 meters elevation at 2200 hours two meters high on a thick tree covered with moss (see photo below).
Habitat: Bushes, trees, and dwellings. This snake is not as common as the Laotian Wolf Snake, but likes the same kind of habitat. It searches trees and structures for geckos primarily. They are excellent climbers and love vines and light brush.
Active Time? Usually nocturnal.
Food: Small geckos and frogs primarily.
Defensive Behavior: I have yet to see this snake strike, even after handling a half-dozen of them. Usually they are very calm.
Venom Toxicity: Weak or none. Ineffective for humans if there is any venom. The fangs are quite small – less than the diameter of a regular stick pin.
Offspring: Nothing known about this area.
Notes: These are great snakes for first time snake hobbyists to handle for a short time in the wild. If they are striking initially, they quickly calm down when held for a short time. There is a very real danger of mistaking these harmless snakes with a Malayan, Many Banded, or Banded krait – all of which are deadly. Kraits can get bigger than 1 meter. This snake, and the other harmless black and white banded snakes – will not get over 70 cm generally.
These snakes resemble black worms in Thailand. They have a lot of energy when you pick one up. You will likely find them in soil in your potted plants or climbing up through your drain in your restroom.
Brahminy Blind Snakes are completely harmless.
Ramphotyphlops braminus (Brahminy Blind Snake)
Thai: (ngoo din ban)
Length: Up to about 6 inches (15cm)
Range: All over Thailand and much of the world, native to Southeast Asia. Transported across the world in potted plants.
Notes: These are ground dwelling and burrowing snakes. They are shy. They are easily eaten by many other predators like birds, monitors, and other snakes. The Red Tailed Pipe snake eats these snakes often. The blind snakes have very small eyes covered with a thin skin that protects them as they burrow through the dirt.
Active Time? Anytime.
Food: Ant and termite eggs primarily.
Defensive Behavior: Trying to get away. The mouth is too small to inflict a bite on humans.
Venom Toxicity: No venom or means to inject it.
Offspring: An interesting twist here. Brahminy Blind snakes are all born female and need no males to continue the species. They are parthenogenetic. When they reach sexual maturity they lay fertile eggs – and hence, are fully self-perpetuating the species. If there is one – soon there will be more! These snakes have populated much of the western world and can be found in Hawaii, Louisianna, Boston, and other places in the USA now.
My Brahminy Blind Snake Videos:
Species: R. braminus
Thailand has around 200 snake species considered non-venomous, or mildly venomous and not a threat to human beings. Though these snakes are not known to be dangerous to humans, that doesn’t mean that they are not. The red-necked keelback, for instance, was a snake kept in aquariums across the world for years before the first deadly bites occurred. Turns out that they have a very strong venom that can be delivered with prolonged or multiple bites. Do be careful with all snakes.
Chrysopelea ornata. Golden Tree Snake.
These snakes are very common and it is probably the most commonly seen snake among tourists and Thai locals. They are at home in the bushes and on the ground during the day. They are excellent climbers and prefer to eat the tokay geckos and other geckos. These snakes have a mild venom that can kill or disable birds and other small animals. It is not likely to affect your dog or cat, if bitten.
Paradise Tree Snake Video – Catching Chrysopelea paradisi from a Tree in Southern Thailand:
Ptyas korros. Indo-Chinese Rat Snake.
This rat snake is also very common no matter what type of weather or season. These are terrestrial (land-based) snakes with excellent climbing skills. They hunt lizards and other small animals on the ground during daylight hours. Rat snakes have no fangs, but their saliva is known to contain venom proteins. Nobody has been recorded in the literature as having been envenomated significantly by these snakes. Color varies from brown to grey or black.
A Juvenile Rat Snake – Brown with Light Banding Typical of Young Ptyas korros in Southern Thailand:
Coelognathus radiata. Copper-headed Racer / Radiated Rat Snake.
These rat snakes are common around trash bins, and anywhere rats and other rodents can be found. Though they are primarily terrestrial, I have seen one 3-4 meters up a palm tree raiding a bird nest of its young or eggs. These are strong, very fast striking snakes with a lot of nervous energy. Like the other rat snakes, it has no fangs with which to deliver venom.
The red-tailed pipe snake is a beautiful snake, though at first glance you might wonder if it is a snake at all! It has a very flat appearance for the tail region, and very black on the top. The head is so small you might think it’s a large fat worm. The eyes are very small. This snake spends a lot of time in the dirt looking for grubs, maggots, and very small larvae and things.
Range: All over Thailand on flat ground and at some elevation up to 1700 meters.
Notes: I had one of these red-tailed pipe snakes at my home to photograph and shoot video of for two days. They are beautiful snakes. Their top is black and has a radiance like a sunbeam snake – you know that rainbow appearance when the sunlight hits it? Beautiful. Then, on the underside the bands of black and white don’t line up – so it’s very different. The bands will turn red and black as the juvenile red tailed pipe snake ages. The head is very small and the eyes – almost impossible to see.
Habitat: The snake lives on the ground and in rat holes and termite mounds, under stumps or rocks and in other cool, damp places. I find them in a tangle of roots in the water sometimes.
Active Time? The snake is mostly nocturnal and is active at night.
Food: Brahminy blind snakes, insect larvae, small frogs and worms.
Defensive Behavior: This pipe snake hides the head under loops of it’s body and flips it’s red tail end up in the air – flattening it – as if like a cobra. Thais call this the 2-head snake because it wants you to think it has two. In an hour of handling this snake, it made no move to bite at all. That doesn’t mean it won’t, but they are not all that inclined to bite. Their mouth is VERY small and they’d have to catch you just right to bite you.
Venom Toxicity: None that affects humans.
Offspring: This snake has 5-10 young, born live, about 20 cm long (about 8 inches).
Red Tailed Pipe Snake’s Scientific classification
Species: C. ruffus
Binomial name Cylindrophis ruffus
Classified by Laurenti in year 1768
When I say the “Laotian Wolf Snake” is “not dangerous” I mean, it’s not going to kill you or send you to the intensive care unit of a Thailand hospital. But, though this snake isn’t venomous it does have a biting problem. It bites very fast because it’s small and thin – and doesn’t give much warning when it strikes – unlike some other snakes – mangrove snakes, or monocled cobras.
Caution: There is another, highly venomous – and deadly, snake that looks similar to this harmless wolf snake. It is the yellow Banded Krait. It has thick yellow and black bands, and can grow to about 2 meters long. See this krait page >
There is another snake that you might think resembles this one. It’s called a mangrove snake. This is a type of cat snake, and it has some venom, and bites hard and deep. Here is video: Mangrove snake striking.
Lycodon laoensis (Laotian Wolf Snake)
Thai: (ngoo plong chanwan lao, or ngoo kan plong)
Length: Up to about .5 meters (50 cm, or 19 inches).
Range: All over Thailand (and Laos!).
Notes: These are ground dwelling snakes. They are rather shy and like to hide under things. They are easily eaten by predators because they have no strong defense (venom). Laotian Wolf Snakes prefer mountains and hilly regions but also can be found close to dwellings at times.
Active Time? Night & evenings cruising through leaf litter or just sitting on a porch curled up and waiting for a gecko to walk by.
Food: Small insects, frogs, small geckos.
Defensive Behavior: Pretty calm until they are scared or angry. They bite fast, and repeatedly. Their mouth is very small so you wouldn’t end up with much of a bite, but be cautious anyway.
Venom Toxicity: No venom that affects humans. But, as with any bite, if you’re bitten and it affects you – get to the hospital. You may be allergic to it.
Laotian Wolf Snake classification
Species: L. laoensis
Binomial classification: Lycodon laoensis
Laotian Wolf Snake video:
If you were looking for snakes of Laos – try this report of snakes found during field-herping trips in Laos.
The Copperheaded Racer snakes are so named because their head is copper colored. Though much of the body of this snake is also copper colored, there are also more yellow and brown color variations among this species. These snakes have no relation to the highly venomous “copperhead” snakes of America, and elsewhere. Thailand’s Copperheaded Racers are large rat snakes that feed heavily on large rodents and are frequently found near houses and markets where a rat population exists. These snakes will rarely bite you if you are walking by, but if you are pursuing a copperheaded racer – it will turn and move toward you with many folds in it’s neck, ready to strike. See the video below of the large 2 meter + racer I found crossing a Thai highway in southern Thailand.
There is another rat snake – the Common Malayan Racer that is a much darker color, but very much resembles the Copperheaded Racer. It generally will not bite even if handled.
Coelognathus radiatus, usually referred to as the Copperheaded Racer, Rat Snake, or Jumping Snake
Thai: Ngoo tang ma-prow ly keet
Appearance: A copper colored head with black lines on the top and neck, leading into some lateral lines that run down some of the length of the body. This snake often looks yellow as the dominant color. Because this snake is rather large it has a large mouth to match.
Length: Up to 230 cm (about 7 feet maximum). They can get as thick as an adult male’s wrist. Obviously thicker if they just ate.
Range: All over Thailand and many countries in Southeast Asia.
Habitat: Copperheaded racers are ground-dwelling snakes and prefer to live where rats are. Anywhere rats are. These snakes can be found at some altitude (1500m) as well as sea-level.
Notes: These snakes bite at the slightest provocation. They strike repeatedly, but eventually tire. The Cobra show in Ao Nang, Thailand uses these snakes in a demonstration because they are great strikers. I’ve only seen these racers on the ground – not climbing anything.
Active Time? Diurnal – daytime. Occasionally found active at night.
Food: Rats, mice, lizards, frogs, birds.
Natural Enemies: King cobras seem to prefer these and other rat snakes, probably because the teeth are not large and they cannot inflict any damage on the cobras.
Defensive Behavior: They will come at you if you’re bothering them, with a raised head – vertically inflated neck, and open mouth. See video of one crossing road and coming at me. They love to strike, and the big ones can reach over a meter when striking. If they can’t deter the aggressor they roll over and play dead with their tongue hanging out. If they can get away they are very fast snakes on the ground.
Venom Toxicity: Venom in the saliva, but no means to deliver it with fangs – no fangs at all.
These Red Tailed Racers are beautiful green snakes with a grey or reddish tail. They are non-venomous but big enough to give you a strong bite. These snakes live for about 15 years on average – if they don’t encounter a predator like the King cobra.
Gonyosoma oxycephalum (Red Tailed Racer)
Discovered by Boie in 1827
Thai: (ngoo kee-ow kub maak)
Length: Max length about 2.5m (7.5+ feet) They are thick like your wrist and very strong, muscled snakes.
Range: All over Thailand.
Habitat: Red Tailed Racers prefer lowland and up to about 750m above sea level in jungle, agricultural (farmed) land, mangrove forests. They spend most of their time in trees and bushes.
Notes: These are common tree snakes that are also found in caves. They have beautiful greens, with white and black mixed in to their main body color. Their belly scales are rough and ideal for climbing trees. Their top scales are smooth. Identified easily by the dark streak across the eyes, and, if you’re close enough – the blue tongue that flickers in and out when aggravated. The tail is not always or even usually red… the ones I’ve seen are grey. They don’t always do well in captivity and can strike at anytime, though usually much more when aggravated first.
Active Time? Daytime.
Food: Rats, mice, birds, bats and lizards.
Natural Enemies: King cobras love to eat Red Tailed Racer snakes!
Defensive Behavior: They flare up their body vertically – not horizontally like the cobras. They puff themselves up vertically and turn this part sideways to you so they can strike fear into you. They do bite when pestered. They can strike from nearly any position, head facing away from you too. Be careful they have strong jaws.
Venom Toxicity: No venom dangerous to humans.
Offspring: Red tailed racers reach sexually maturity at 4 years. Between September and January this snake deposits small clutches of 3-8 eggs that hatch 45cm long baby red tailed racer snakes in 91 to 112 days.
Species: G. oxycephalum
Up until yesterday I’ve only seen small sunbeam snakes – about 15 inches long. They are fat and can be found under plastic or other things in muddy water, or anywhere near water. I found one small sunbeam crossing the street at night during a rain in Sisaket – so I pulled him off the road and up into the brush. Yesterday I saw a 1+ meter snake at a friend’s. The big ones are really impressive. Thick, smooth like glass, and with an unbelievably cool rainbow iridescence that you must see.
Sunbeam snakes get their name because they beam in the sunshine… so to speak. Their scales reflect a luminescence – like a rainbow of colors – and it’s surreal to see a sunbeam snake in the bright sunshine (I have a video for you below, but it doesn’t give justice to the intensity of the rainbow of colors).
Xenopeltis unicolor (Sunbeam Snake)
Thai language: Ngoo sang ateet, Ngoo leu-um deen
Appearance: Sunbeam snakes are thicker than a large banana (with skin) as adults. Their scales are very smooth and the snake has a texture like rubber. Dirt doesn’t appear to stick to the scales. The head is like a shovel blade, tending toward flat. The eyes are small and designed for burrowing in dirt.
Length: Both male and female sunbeams are usually about a meter long with the female growing up to 1.3m for the maximum length (about 4 feet).
Range: All over Thailand. I’ve found them in Trang, Surat, Krabi and Nakhon Si Thammarat provinces. Also found all over Southeast Asia from the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, to Burma (Myanmar), China, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, and the Malaysian Peninsula and over to the Philippines.
Habitat: These snakes love the shallow water, muddy areas where they lie hidden under leaves or junk waiting for nightfall. They can be found close to human habitat as well as any lake or other body of water. They are fossorial – meaning, they hide under things – like leaves, dirt, just about anything.
Notes: These sunbeam snakes rarely bite. They do not do well in captivity and quickly die because they get stressed out. If you keep one – be sure to have soft substrate they can burrow (dig) into to cover themselves. They need cool shade and water. Don’t put them in the sun for long.
Active Time? Nocturnal – night.
Food: Frogs mostly, lizards, geckos, and other snakes. Sunbeam snakes kill prey by squeezing (constricting) it like a python.
Natural Enemies: King cobras and kraits would probably eat these snakes, though I don’t have evidence that they do.
Defensive Behavior: Curl tail. Rarely bite. Very low-key, mellow snakes if you’re not provoking them. They move very slow and their scales are good for water but not so great for street, rocks, and other hard smooth surfaces.
Venom Toxicity: None. No danger to humans except possibly a strong bite if you anger it. I’ve heard about only one person ever being bitten by this snake. It just doesn’t typically happen.
Offspring: Little is known. Tough to keep very long – they die quickly in captivity.