Category Archives: Thailand Snake Notes

Thailand Snake Stories

Not a new ebook, sorry to say, but just going back and forth with a guy that worked in Thailand a long time ago and wanted to share a couple stories with me. I shared one back. Thought I’d share it with you all. Thanks to Ray for letting me post his emails.

His 1st email to me:

I am not sure this is the place I should be posting this past experience but I wanted to share the past in Thailand with someone. I was in the military from 1971 to 1972 in Thailand and stayed until 1975 as a civilian contractor. I worked on top of Green Hill national park from 1973 to 1974. We would travel 1 hour up to work and 1 hour down every day after a 12 hour shift. We saw many things during our trips to work. Elephants, tigers, wild chickens (fun to catch) and many many snakes. Previously I was at Thakli for over a year and the road kill of snakes at the beginning of the rainy season was common place. Cobras and rock pythons were the largest and flatest. BUT… in the national park, Khao Yai, Khao Keo the books and the statistics did not apply.

One morning on the way to work up the hill the driver slammed on the breaks. What we saw was a Banded Krait crossing the road. My boss said “yell when its tail is at the center line” I did and immediately looked to the left and its head was about a foot past the asphalt. Now this snake was moving really slow with very little bend in its body. Small head and tail with a body that is more of a triangle in the mid portion. And it was FAT. O.K. we were impressed….off to work.

On the way home that evening John, my boss had Lek stop the car at the same point we saw the snake that morning. (understand, I am young and stupid then) I get out of the car and lay down on the road where the snake crossed. I put my toes on the center line of the road..stretched out my arms…and my fingers just touched the edge of the asphaslt. I was and am 5’4″ tall. Do the math and this Banded Krait was over 6 foot long. From what I have read… they only get a little over a meter long.

I know what I saw in a jungle that was basically indisturbed for decades, if not century’s.

My point is that somewhere in this world there are sitll very dangerous animals and creatures that we may never see. And the books are only a guideline.

Thanks for letting me share.

Ray

My response:

Hi Ray,

Thanks for the story. Enjoyed it!

Banded kraits do, occasionally reach 2 meters. I have seen one almost that big, but not quite. Here is my Banded krait page with what I know about them.

http://www.thailandsnakes.com/venomous/banded-krait-venomous-deadly/

You are right, and I’m with you on the fact that what the books say, what the websites say, and what the self-appointed experts say, is just what people have experienced in the past. Two days ago on a hike up a mountain, I found a new species of snake. It’s probably in the keelback family, but there is no such snake classified up to this point in time. I found another new snake near the top of a mountain about 2 years ago too. Nobody had EVER recorded it. So, I’m just one person that found 2 new snakes in the course of looking in Thailand sporadically. There must be dozens more out there that we don’t know about. That’s a cool thought.

Besides that, the general facts in most books are off. What snakes eat… whether diurnal or nocturnal, whether they mate during these months, or others… there is QUITE a bit that is off in the literature. I use books and scientific studies as a guideline, but I don’t believe much of it to be undisputed fact.

Now, here’s a story for you…

It was almost 2 years ago. I took my motorbike up a mountain that few people ever travel up. It was middle of day, about 11:30 AM. I was looking for snakes on the road, crossing the road, and knew I had half a chance to find one, but didn’t really expect to. I just had some time and decided to give it a shot.

I stopped the bike and parked it. I walked up the road, then back… then turned around where I’d just walked from. About 3-4 meters from me was the tail of a snake disappearing into the dense brush on the side of the road. The tail covered the entire lane of the street – same side as me. My brain told me over and over that my eyes were lying to me, and it refused to process the information. What I was looking at was the largest King Cobra tail I’d ever seen… and I’d seen over 100 adult king cobras at the snake farm where I’m a regular, going every couple days in Krabi.

The reason my brain wouldn’t work, is that the tail DWARFED the largest 5.5 meter king cobra tail I’d ever seen. It was double the size of it. It was almost like a dinosaur was disappearing into the brush. My breathing stopped – i literally couldn’t breath because it all was just too much to grasp. There was no way in hell I could have gone into the rubber tree plantation to look for the snake, I was in shock. I did, after a couple minutes of standing there stunned, walk over to the bushes and give a cursory glance in to see if it was visible. That was the extent of it. I was dumbfounded how a king cobra could be that large. Oh, the biggest king cobra ever was 19 feet and some inches, found in Nakhon Si Thammarat province, also in the south of Thailand.

The reason it was so big, is I think, because that mountain is where the guys that catch snakes for the city of krabi- let their snakes go. Rat snakes, cobras, king cobras, kraits, all of them. All of them are food for big king cobras. This king had been feasting for years on easy meals there, and nobody had caught it yet.

When I told king cobra expert, Luke Yeoman’s in the UK, he was as excited as I was. He trusted my judgement. This was a world record king that would have SMASHED the record. He made plans to come over and we were going to track it down using motion-activated cameras and traps. Luke never made the trip because 2 months before he was due to come to Thailand he was bitten on the arm by one of his big king cobras at home in the UK and died within minutes. He’d had a heart attack after the bite, killing him near instantly.

So, yeah, you made a good point… we don’t know what is in the jungles. We haven’t found all of what is there yet. And another thing I learned was to definitely have a camera with me ready to shoot at a moment’s notice – ALWAYS!

You OK with me turning your email and mine into a post for ThailandSnakes.com?

Cheers,

Vern L.

His 2nd email to me:

Vern,

No problem posting anything I share. You have my mind in a rewind mode talking about Cobras.
Same place, Khao yai Thailand , national park, 1973-74. Stopped on the way to work to let the Elephants wake up and proceed up the mountain. Elephant grass to my left. Sitting in the front seat of a Toyota HiAce. Looked left and I was eye level with a Cobra. I have no knowledge what type but I know really BIG when I see it. As stated before, I was young and stupid so I started to move my head back an forth and my new friend followed my every move. I never thought about it for years until I read your email. One more thing about snake size. When I was at Thakli from 1971 to early 1972 we had an incident with one of the drivers that nearly got him fired…until WE appologized for not believing him.

On two occassions just after the New Year Holidays he was late picking up the day shift and claimed he could not pass the road down the hill from the Tropo site because there was a big snake laying accross the road and he did every thing to get it to move (as long as he didn’t have to get out of the truck). We really thought he just over slept in the truck and was full of BS. Now keep in mind there was a tall tail about a giant snake at the Tropo Hill in Thakli Thailand.

Well, just before he pulled another “big Snake and I am late” he got smart and drove back up to the Tropo site, got really indignant (sp) with me and told me to get in the van. …….Bottome line..the Rock Python was stretched completely accross the asphalt road. We could not see his head or tail….and I was not going to get close enough to push him with even a really LONG stick. We threw rocks at it for nearly 5 minutes before it finally moved…very slowly off the road.

I did note that the middle of the snake was at least 10 to 12 inches with a big bulge of about 15 inches past the half way point. I also remember the driver saying the big snakes like the warm asphalt after sunset.

Needless to say, the day shift didn’t want to believe me either until I threatened to get physical. Of course we all got our little Browning cameras ready for the next time….that never came.

Good chatting with you.

Ray

Thailand Snakes from December to March?

The dry months in Thailand are not usually productive times for herping, or snake expeditions of any sort. It’s just too hot and rain too scarce.

What snakes might you find in Thailand between the months of December through March? Not many, but there are still some snakes out there if you know where to look for them.

So far in December through February I’ve mostly seen rat snakes. Keeled rat snakes, Copperheaded racers (rat snakes), Red-tailed racers, and Indo-Chinese Rat Snakes. During the day these are some of the most common snakes that can be found in thailand. I have seen very little roadkill snakes – which means that there just aren’t the numbers roaming around, as there are during the wet months when frogs are abundant.

During the day I’ve also seen the Golden Tree Snake, and some Monocled Cobras. By the way, if you come across a cobra during this very hot time – do not mess with it. They tend to be so much more angry and fast when the weather is hot. They get aggravated quickly.

During the night I have found a couple of Puff-faced Water Snakes (Homalopsis buccata) as well as a nice 3-4 meter long python, some Mangrove Cat Snakes, and a Red-tailed Pipe Snake. Night time seems to be the right time, as it is cooler and many snakes go in search of water to rehydrate during this, the hottest time of the year (Feb-May).

I have not been able to find any of the Mangrove Pit Vipers lately in the usual spots. I wonder if they go somewhere else during the hot period, or if they maybe hide away higher up in the trees or in hollow logs to sort of hibernate a bit.

How about you, seen any snakes lately?

Steps to Bagging a Small (< 2m) Venomous Snake

I just got a Facebook message from a friend that was out finding snakes last night in Taiwan. He asked how I go about bagging dangerous snakes when I’m alone. I gave him this message:

Good question… I usually do this:

1. Grab the snake anywhere – usually just before mid body, I leave the tongs tight enough that it can just move forward in them a little bit at a time.

2. I move quickly to a wide open grass or dirt spot if one is available.

3. I open the snake bag with left hand and put part on the ground and lift up the top of the bag to open it up. I kind of point the snake towards it. Sometimes it goes right in. If not, sometimes I grab a handful of leaves and put those just on the inside of the bag to make it look more natural – sometimes the snake goes right in then.

4. If he isn’t in yet, I re-grab at the neck – firmly with the tongs and stick his head the whole way to the bottom of the bag. I then try to get his tail in.

5. Once in I seal the bag around the tong handle and let the snake go with the tongs – tongs still in bag. I move tongs up to top of bag and locate snake’s head. I twist the bag to seal off top of bag before removing tongs and tying off the bag.

Hope that helps! It is always a scary feeling to be doing it on your own…

It isn’t ideal to be out looking for deadly snakes at night on your own, but I find myself in that situation quite often here in Southern Thailand. I don’t have one friend that wants to go with me – imagine that!

I take a lot of time to bag the snake, being exceptionally careful when it is a monocled cobra, krait, or something else with extremely toxic venom. I am not in any hurry, and I think if I try to go fast I’m going to make a mistake that could cause me a bite. It might take me 10 minutes or even more, to bag a snake by myself that is giving me difficulty. Take your time, and above all – be absolutely sure where the head is and where it could get to fast if it decided to strike.

Trip to Ubon Ratchathani, Not Intending to Snake Hunt

I just returned from a trip to Ubon in the northeast. Though I didn’t do any active snake hunting, in two days I saw two snakes. The first was a striped keelback that I passed on the road, I thought it was hit by the wheel of a motorbike. I circled around and found it struggling to pull it’s teeth out of a fresh road killed frog on the pavement. It was trapped there, looking at me and frantically trying to unsnag his teeth. Finally it did so and disappeared in the tall grass. Lovely snake…

The second, I had just stopped to put on my rain poncho on the side of the highway and a 2 meter Ptyas carinatus – black as coal, came out of the grass by a pool of water and mud – and crossed the dirt road I stopped on – not more than 3 meters from me. Awesome… I didn’t chase, as it also disappeared into thick vegetation.

I’d say snake hunting in the northeast is probably more productive than it is in the south during the heavy rains.

Another report, this one from down south… While I was away in Ubon, 1600km north east… I got a call from a friend that he had just caught a 2 meter king cobra and did I want to come and pick it up??

HA! Damn me! I could have died… that’s just the size king I wanted to see too…

Oh well, it doesn’t often happen that snakes are found when you’re looking, but even less when you’re not looking. The snakes seem to be out and about at the moment. The ID requests here at Thailand Snakes are going through the roof, but it’s fun seeing all the photos. If you’ve got some – send ‘em!

Cheers,

Vern

How Common Are Snakes in Thailand?

I get a lot of comments at my Youtube videos – people asking whether snakes are all over Thailand. They’re worried that they are going to be seeing snakes at every turn.

Nothing could be further from the truth. In most cases, anyway. There are some people that write me on this site for Snake Identification – multiple times in one year. They do see a lot of snakes. But, nobody has ever sent me more than 6 requests in a year. That means an average of seeing one snake every 2 months. That really is the max. I think if you are not actively looking for Thailand snakes – you will not find them, and they will not find you. Sure you’ll see a snake every year, if you are outside much. If not – you probably won’t. You can probably go for 10 years without seeing ANY snake if you’re not out in the forest, at the waterfalls, at the river, ocean, etc.

Snakes in Thailand are common – but, not commonly seen. You probably won’t see more than 1-2 per year. They almost definitely will not bite you if you do see them. Even if one bites you – it probably won’t be deadly. It probably won’t cause anything more than some redness and slight pain.

I think there are under 20 land-based snakes in Thailand that are deadly. No, I didn’t count – so feel free to correct me.

That’s roughly 10% of all snakes – are deadly.

I think it’s regularly under 20 people that die each year (official stats anyway) from snake bite over the past few years. Some don’t go to the hospital – preferring to rely on traditional medicine or blind luck – and death results.

Here is some information (though dated) about deaths by snakebite in Thailand:

Thailand – between 1985 and 1989, the number of reported snake bite cases increased from 3,377 to 6,038 per year, reflecting increased diligence in reporting rather than a true increase in snake bites; the number of deaths ranged from 81 to 183 (average 141) per year. In 1991 there were 1,469 reported bites with five deaths, in 1992, 6,733 bites with 19 deaths and, in 1994, 8,486 bites with eight deaths. Deaths reported in hospital returns were only 11% of the number recorded by the Public Health Authorities. In a national survey of dead snakes brought to hospital by the people they had bitten, 70% of the snakes were venomous species, the most commonly brought species being Malayan pit viper (Calloselasma rhodostoma) 38%, white-lipped green pit viper (Trimeresurus albolabris) 27%, Russell’s viper (Daboia russelii siamensis) 14%, Indo-Chinese spitting cobra (Naja siamensis) 10% and monocellate cobra (N kaouthia) 7%. In an analysis of 46 fatal cases in which the snake had been reliably identified, Malayan kraits (Bungarus candidus) and Malayan pit vipers were each responsible for 13 cases, monocellate cobras for 12 and Russell’s vipers for seven deaths.

So, in summary, Thailand snakes are common – but, you’ll have to really search hard to find them on a regular basis. They will not find you too often either.

Ptyas Carinatus – Keeled Rat Snake

Ptyas carinatus - Keeled Rat Snake, a non-venomous snake in Thailand.

These are great snakes. They get big. This one is 2.75m. This is another one that hasn’t calmed down since being caught. They are rat snakes, so that’s what they prefer. Unfortunately we don’t see many rats around this area so I couldn’t catch one to feed it to him if I wanted to. If I find a pet store I’ll buy a couple rats and see if he’s hungry. Unfortunately these snakes die quickly after being caught – so it will probably become dinner for one of the big king cobras – if they’ll eat it.

There are some color variations in these snakes. Here’s a Ptyas carinatus I caught that was much more green.

Striped Bronzeback Snake – Thailand – Dendrelaphis caudolineatus

Striped bronzeback snake from southern Thailand
Striped Bronzeback Snake - Thailand - Dendrelaphis caudolineatus

I had a juvenile striped bronzeback a little while back – video here.

These are fast, tree climbing snakes that are active during the daytime and are frequently found in residential areas. They love frogs and lizards, from what I’ve seen them eat.

These snakes are exceptionally beautiful. They are rather nervous – meaning, they are very aware of what is going on around them – like an Indo-Chinese rat snake – antsy and ready to bolt in a second if given the opportunity. This one is in an aquarium, and when I slid the top off to the back just slightly – it was enough for him to fly out of the top and almost lost in the tree next to us. I was able to get his tail and put him back in the cage without any problem, but it reinforced just how fast these snakes are – similar to the golden tree snakes in speed and habit, personality.

Golden Tree Snake – Chrysopelea ornata ornatissima – Common in Thailand

Golden Tree Snake - Thailand - Chrysopelea ornata ornatissima mildly venomous, no danger to humans.
Golden Tree Snake - Thailand - Chrysopelea ornata ornatissima

These are like the road runner of snakes – they are super fast, thin, and agile. They can climb trees and bushes faster than any other snake I’ve seen, and they are wicked fast on the strike. Yesterday I saw one strike so fast I couldn’t see it. That’s fast.

These are very common snakes here in Thailand, they are definitely one of the top 5 snakes you are likely to see in this country. On average I see 1-2 a week – without looking for them. They are constantly snaking across the roads. I have given chase about a dozen times and was only fast enough to catch them 4 out of 12 times. Once they hit the green brush – forget it man – they are impossible to find or catch if you do see them. So, best chance to catch this snake is on the road if you can jump off your motorcycle or out of your vehicle fast enough.

These snakes bite fast and often, and they do have venom, but the venom is only toxic to frogs, lizards, and other small animals – not usually humans. If you happen to be allergic to the venom, you could still go into shock, though I’ve not seen any cases of this in the literature.

More information available at the Chrysopelea ornata ornatissima fact sheet ->

Othriophis taeniurus helfenbergeri (Helfenbergs Racer) Found in Krabi, Thailand

Othriophis taeniurus helfenberger Helfenbergs Racer, found in Krabi, Thailand at the base of a mountain.
New range for this Othriophis taeniurus helfenberger? Krabi, Thailand

Some herpetologists believe this snake only occurs north of Krabi. I found one today – a juvenile, dead on the road (sea level), at bottom of Khao Phanom Bencha mountain chain where it ends near Krabi Town (Krabi Noi).

Here’s the link to Joachim’s page.

Also saw another Malayan Krait – a juvenile this time. It crawled across my friend’s wife’s foot last night. What a way to find a snake, right. Especially a deadly snake like that one is.

Many snakes out and about right now in Thailand. I’m getting MANY requests for identification and answering them as fast as I can – so please be patient. I’m behind by about a week in answering ID questions.

Again, much better if you can send photos by email to info[{at]}thailandsnakes.com – I answer immediately that way.

Cheers!