The golden tree snake is one of the most commonly seen snakes in Thailand. Their favorite food appears to be tokay geckos. Here a reader, Scott Mallon, took photos and a video of this hungry snake (Chrysopelea ornata) getting ready to enjoy his favorite meal.
A reader wrote in to have a snake identified – and he sent an awesome photo that I wanted to share. The snake is a very common tree snake, called a Golden Tree Snake. They are excellent climbers and you’ll see them on palm trees, and in the ceilings of houses and bungalows – often. They have a strange skill. When they jump from a high tree – they can glide horizontally through the air – and land unharmed. They are sometimes called a “Flying Snake”.
These snakes are common, but, uncommonly fast. They are super-fast, whether on the ground in brush, or climbing something. They are excellent climbers and you won’t believe how fast they can climb.
Anyway – here is some information about this snake submitted by the copyright owner of this image – Kim Briers.
1. Location in Thailand – city, area the snake was seen
KOH YAO YAI
2. Environment found? Near water? In a Tree? On the ground? Under wood or something? On a wall? On the roof?
It was hiding inside a lantern of the hotel resort. We lifted the lantern and it came out really very fast and move up the table.
3. Estimate snake length and girth (thickness) of snake – was it thick as your finger? Arm? Calf? Thigh?
About 1 meter in length – girth, about 4cm
4. Found during night or daylight? What time?
Around 9.30 am at breakfast
5. If no photo is sent by email please describe the colors of the snake, patterns, anything you can remember.
6. Did the snake attempt to strike at you?
Not really but it was in strike position and could jump pretty well and was really fast. I was hoping it would move in a tree or so to make a nice natural shot but it was so so fast and disappeared under some stones…
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 ->
Another reader submission – Rich Lindie found this near his apartment in Bangkok, on a palm tree it appears.
These golden tree snakes are very common all over Thailand. In fact, they might be Thailand’s most common snake. They are often found in the leaves of palms, and climbing up the trunk of palm trees. They also love vines and sometimes fences.
These snakes have a diet that consists of nearly everything that moves – but they really love geckos, and in particular – the big Tokay Geckos.
These snakes bite quickly – but their venom is not very toxic to humans. I have been bitten numerous times by these snakes, and as long as you don’t let them hold on and clamp down for a while – the venom shouldn’t affect you.
Beautiful snake – right?
Here are two Thailand snake photos by reader, Kevin Shupe, from Cape Panwa, Phuket.
The first is a Golden Tree Snake, Chrysopelea ornata ornatissima. These snakes glide through the air – they can jump off a tree on a cliff and glide down to the ground. One got away from me yesterday by jumping off the stand he was on. Great snakes. Common. Cool colors. Venomous, but not very toxic to humans.
The second is a reticulated Python. I didn’t add retics to the Snake Poll on the right column there – as one of the most common snakes. I maybe should have. I think I will. See how the retic needs just the smallest ledge to put itself over… balancing on it? In the jungle they are often sitting just like this on a small limb – one you wouldn’t think they’d be sitting on.
I was hanging out with the snake guys today for a few hours and they got a call to come out and pick up a king cobra. I was excited – but, once we got there the cobra had moved from where it was hiding and we couldn’t find it. We did however see the tracks of a very large – 4+ meter python that came the past night to steal a chicken from the guy’s pen. Guy said the chicken was about 4kg. That’s 9 lb. That’s nothing for a 4 meter python, or bigger. We’re guessing the size based on how deeply it sank into the soft dirt.
So, we’re on the way back to the snake place and Yaya stops the truck and points left out my window and says – green snake! I jump out and find it among the leaves and grab it’s tail as it’s trying to get away.
He turns to strike at me – but, can’t reach because too many vines in the way.
Nang jumps out of the back seat and grabs the snake so I can film.
They are called “Golden Tree Snakes”. They are sometimes called “Flying Snakes”. They can jump from 100 meter heights and glide down into the bough of another tree or even just hit the ground. They flatten out when they fall – and they are unharmed when they hit. Amazing, huh?
These pics are from today. The guys went out before I arrived and caught a grey rat snake, as you can see here. Also a beautiful specimen. Shame someone whacked it with a stick at the house it was found at!
These Golden Tree Snakes are also known as Flying Snakes. They glide very well, perhaps the best of any snake in the world, and even better than some squirrels and lizards. Golden Tree Snakes are a lime green and black checkered type patterned snake. They are tree dwellers but can climb anything, even walls. They appear to have a favorite food – the Tokay Geckos that reach sizes of 12 inches long in adulthood. They are frequently seen eating Tokays.
Chrysopelea ornata ornatissima (Golden Tree Snake)
Thai language: Ngoo kee-ow ly dok mak
Appearance: Chrysopelea ornata in Thailand is lime green with some black and green cross hatches. This snake’s head is rather flat with a thin neck and atypical blunt nose, large eyes which sometimes are red depending on the angle.
Length: Up to 140 cm (almost 5 feet). They only get about as thick as 2-3 fingers held together.
Range: All over Thailand and many countries in Southeast Asia.
Habitat: Golden Tree Snakes can be found just about anywhere – in an apartment in Bangkok, or climbing bushes at 500 meters vertical elevation. Typically I see them at sea-level crossing the roads, or laying flat out along the stem of a low-lying palm tree branch.
Notes: If you’re trying to catch one of these snakes it can be very difficult. They are excellent escape artists and once they get into a clump of bushes or up a tree – forget it. Go look for something else, you won’t catch it. They can disappear in trees so fast it’s hard to believe.Occasionally you can find these in caves – they eat bats too.
Active Time? Diurnal – daytime.
Food: Small geckos, lizards, large Tokay geckos, rodents, bird eggs, insects, another snake occasionally, and bats. Golden Tree Snakes kill by squeezing the neck of their prey, crushing it.
Natural Enemies: King cobras and Kraits will eat these snakes when they can catch them. When they are small, birds eat them.
Defensive Behavior: Golden Tree Snakes (flying snakes) bite quickly when played with. As adults they may not lose that temperament. As babies – I have one now, they lose it quickly – and are OK with being held. They are very fast snakes when escaping.
Venom Toxicity: Rear fanged venomous snake – but the venom is not very dangerous to humans at all. Just the same, don’t let it bite down on you more than a second or two before you remove it. Don’t give this snake a chance to inject a lot of venom and you’ll likely be just fine if no allergies to it. There have been no confirmed cases of medically significant envenomation with Golden Tree Snakes.
Offspring: Little is known about the breeding habits of these snakes because nobody can seem to get them to mait while captive. Being oviparous it lays 6-12 eggs in May-June and they hatch in June. Baby snakes are 11-15cm long (4-6″)
Species: C. ornata
Binomial name: Chrysopelea ornata
Discovered, classified by Shaw, 1802
Golden Tree Snake Photo:
Video: My Baby Golden Tree Snake in Thailand: