Common Thailand Snakes
When visiting Thailand on vacation or for a long-term stay there are certain snakes you are likely to see and others that you will probably never see, even if you’re looking very hard to find them. For instance, an uncommon snake is one of the blue coral snakes. I have only seen one blue coral snake crossing a highway between Surat and Krabi – and I was lucky to see that.
Red-tailed Racer (Gonyosoma oxycephalum) This is a fairly large rat snake reaching over one meter in length. It has no fangs to deliver venom, and can be considered harmless for humans. It does bite, of course, so stay out of reach. This is an incredibly beautiful snake with green hues, blue-green eyes, and black and blue tongue. Stunning!
Radiated Rat Snake / Copper-headed Racer (Coelognathus radiata) – These are very common and may even qualify as the most commonly seen snake in Thailand. Non-venomous, not dangerous except they are big biters! Many small teeth. A bite can hurt and get infected.
Red-necked Keelback (Rhabdophis subminiatus) Brightly colored snakes that become more so when agitated. These brightly colored snakes are found in captivity across the globe. They were previously considered non-venomous and not dangerous until recently. Death has occurred as a direct result of envenomation from this species, though not in Thailand. In Thailand we have had a number of close calls. Renal failure after bites is one of the possible potentially deadly outcomes.
Other Keelback snakes – Keelbacks are very common ground snakes and love water. You might see them in the water or on the ground moving around. Keelbacks are generally easily identified by distinct black (dark) lines from the eye area toward the jaw. Most keelbacks in Thailand are not very dangerous, but you wouldn’t want to let one bite down for more than a second or two. Remove immediately – even if you have to hurt the snake to do so, especially those in the Rhabdophis genus.
Golden Tree Snake (Chrysopelea ornata) A very common tree snake and their favorite food appears to be Gekko gecko, the Tokay Geckos, so you may see one at your home. These snakes have a mild venom that doesn’t generally affect humans at all. These snakes do traverse across the ground but quickly find a tree when threatened. Masterful climbers!
Bronzeback Snakes – also incredible climbers, I first saw one as it came over my six-foot concrete wall in the back of the house in Surat Thani. Very thin snakes, not that afraid of humans. Bite quickly – as you might guess from the photo, but in all honesty I’m holding his tail – so it’s to be expected! Mildly venomous colubrids, and not dangerous to humans.
Oriental Whip Snakes (Ahaetulla prasina) A very common snake, and usually found in trees, but the last two I found were on the ground probably hunting lizards or frogs. The bright fluorescent greens in this snake are awesome, yes? These have a mild venom, but again, no serious results of envenomation have occurred in humans.
Malayan Pit Viper (Calloselasma rhodostoma) A very dangerous pit viper whose venom is severely cytotoxic and potentially deadly. Causes the death of more people in Thailand than any other snake. Bites quickly. Lazy to get out of the way if you’re walking toward it, usually just lays still. Always found at ground level, and often on top of, or under leaves.
Green Cat Snake (Boiga cyanea) This snake is almost 2 meters long when fully grown, and resembling the vipers – except it’s too long to be a viper. Be very careful with any green snake as there are many vipers with strong venom that are green and look very similar to this one. This Green Cat Snake is harmless, and didn’t even try to bite as I interacted with it.
There are other common snakes not pictured here. Some of the black rat snakes – Ptyas korros, are especially common, but they look very much like the monocled cobras to the untrained eye. Do be very cautious of any snake that is solid brown, grey, black, or that is mostly dark with some white spots – speckles or odd pattern. Cobras are quick to bite and one of the most deadly daylight snakes you’ll encounter.
Be especially careful of cobra snakes which can spit venom 2-3 meters away (farther with a strong wind!). They can temporarily blind you as they make their getaway, but the problem is your eyes will be burning until you can flush them with water for 10-20 minutes.
Kraits are snakes active by night for the most part. The banded krait and the Malayan blue krait are both deadly snakes – the former with yellow and black bands about the same thickness, and the latter with black and white bands, the black bands are thicker near the neck, and more evenly spaced farther down on the tail.