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.
Red Tailed Racers (rat snake) are one of my favorite snakes for the coloring, and the attitude. When they are aggravated at you they will flare up vertically the front 1/3 of their body and increase their thickness by double – or more. They look very big and apparently it helps to frighten away predators.
This is a brand new snake – just freshly caught from the wild, at a park nearby – with a waterfall. It’s getting into the hot season, so the snakes are hanging out near water during this time of the year.
These snakes are usually pretty calm when handheld, if they haven’t been played with aggressively much prior to you getting to handle them. It is tempting to tease them a bit and make them flare up because they are so beautiful when they are showing the defense response. I’ve seen it enough that I can just let this one be cool. He got so cool he climbed on my head.
These snakes can give a wicked bite. If you use Google images (images.google.com) to search for Gonyosoma oxychaphalum, you’ll see some bloodied hands. These snakes have big mouths (they eat rats), and they have decent sized teeth that can sink right into you. I know guys that have been bitten on the arm before. I’m pretty cautious with this snake, but I didn’t put too much in front of his face to get him upset about. They bite quickly and hold on pretty well too!
A nice Thailand snake experience today. Hope you’re getting your share too…
The oriental whip snake is a very common rear-fanged venomous snake found here in Thailand’s rain forests. You can find these snakes in the trees during the day, I have even seen them crossing my path twice on trips up a small local mountain in southern Thailand.
The beauty of these snakes is legend. There are green,brown or yellow versions of this snake, all of which are spellbindingly beautiful. The juvenile whip snakes are often brown or yellow.
Ahaetulla prasina (Oriental Whip snakes)
Thai Language: ngoo kee-ow hoo-uh jing joke pa
Length: Up to 190 cm. Girth: Body is finger thin, tapering to a very thin pencil-width neck. The head is spear shaped and bright green.
Range: All over Thailand. The species ranges from India to China and throughout Southeast Asia.
Habitat: During the day you can find these snakes in trees and bushes usually. Occasionally they will be at ground level hunting frogs and small lizards. I have seen these snakes in all kinds of habitat, but usually in trees and leafy bushes. At night these snakes sleep in the same environment.
Active Time? Diurnal – active during the daylight hours.
Food: Frogs, small birds, small lizards.
Defensive Behavior: The oriental whip snake can spread it’s neck area to increase by double in size as a defensive technique designed to scare attackers. It is quite beautiful when either solid green, or with the green, white and black checkered pattern displayed in full defensive posture. Sort of comical is what the snake does with it’s tongue when molested. It sticks the tongue out and holds it there for some seconds, or minutes.
Venom Toxicity: Weak. Although this is considered to be a rear-fanged and venomous snake it is not very dangerous to humans due to it’s non-aggressive nature and weak venom characteristics. The venom would need to be injected into the wound with time – with a chewing motion. Not many people bitten are going to let a snake hang off them for any amount of time. Some do, and they may have severe complications and require hospitalization.
Offspring: In Thailand the Ahaetulla prasina can mate during either of two times. Usually between April and July, and then also between December and January. Gestation period: ~ 6 months. Number of births: 4-10. Lengths at birth of offspring: 400 – 500 mm.
Notes: These are wonderful little snakes to catch and let go. These snakes do not do well in captivity and many die within days of being kept in an enclosure. They are as beautiful as snakes get, but please resist the urge to capture one to keep as they are very sensitive and die easily.
We have not been bitten by these snakes, but in the wild when catching them they will attempt to strike at times. They are fast and have a short striking range. What is really amazing about these snakes is the way they effortlessly glide down a hill or through trees like on ice. They can climb extremely fast and disappear before you have a chance to grab them. See video below!
These snakes are not often confused with other snakes here in Thailand because they are quite distinctive. Their head is long and to a fine point. They are very thin at the neck before the head unless they have flared up in defense.
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