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!
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 call these rat snakes their favorite food!
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.
Length: up to 2.5 meters. I have caught 5 of these, all of them under 2.25 meters.
Range: Chumpon, Thailand, south to border of Thailand-Malaysia
Habitat: Usually caves, though at times found outside caves. Recently I found a number of them in a bungalow at a nature resort and an empty wooden cabin in a rubber plantation. Then recently someone wrote me to ID one that was climbing around the limestone cliffs in Krabi.
Active Time? The snake is mainly nocturnal. The snakes are active during the day only after heavy rainfall.
Food: Bats, birds, and maybe even rats if they happened to be on the ground.
Defensive Behavior: These Thailand snakes are calm and move slowly unless provoked substantially.
Venom Toxicity: None. Member of rat snake group – so no venom at all, no venom injecting fangs in the front or rear. They have rows of teeth in the upper jaw, but very small – less than 1/8th inch long.
Offspring: Nothing known – still updating this article.
Notes: These are often found in Thailand caves, they are excellent wall climbers. A Buddhist monk walked me through some pitch black caves at a temple with a cave in Southern Thailand and showed me this amazingly colored Ridley’s Racer. This non-venomous snake, part of the rat snake family was calm and let me take video with the camera just 12 inches from her head. Ridley racer snakes hang on cave walls and snatch flying bats out of the air. I have also caught them inside bungalows and on limestone cliff faces.