There is nothing quite like a bite from a snake, when you’re completely not expecting it. I’ve caught a number of these “Puff Faced Water Snakes” – Homalopsis buccata, and while one bit the tongs, none has ever attempted to strike at me. That changed the other night while on a herping trip with Courtney from North Carolina in the states.
I grabbed it fine the first time, and it death-rolled so fiercely I thought it was going to break it’s own neck. I let it go back on the ground by the pond I’d just picked it up at.
The flashlight was shining right in his face – and I was coming up on the approach from behind, but, in hindsight – a bit too much to the side, and he could still see my hand coming. He twisted and struck backward and sideways to grab my middle finger fiercely. I did the twitch, you know, where you jerk your arm in an exaggerated fashion, twirling the snake around like a circus baton, by the mouth on your finger – putting the teeth MUCH deeper than they were originally? Yeah, I did that.
He was NOT letting go, so I asked Courtney to gently put the snake hook point through the jaw between my finger and the joint. Eventually the top opened enough, and then I snuck the bottom finger out. No re-bite, which I was thankful for.
This was a juvenile, but these snakes have powerful jaws, and 26 teeth (I counted the puncture marks on my finger). I was bleeding good, and Courtney got a few pics. Will put one up when she sends me one.
Though a snake is not “known” to bite… do not take it for granted. Practice the same techniques as always to keep from getting bitten. Twenty-six teeth in your finger is not a good feeling… more importantly, you could break some of them in your finger – harming the snake.
In a way, I’m getting hammered with requests to identify snakes in Thailand. I think someone has to do it, and I’m glad I can help. I’m sure I’m wrong occasionally, but, for the most part the snakes are easy to identify from photos sent to my email account.
If you don’t have a photo you can still fill out this Snake ID Form to identify your snake. I didn’t count any of the 450+ form submissions and my replies as snakes I’ve identified, because really it’s an unknown without looking at the images directly. Even then – it’s sometimes guesswork.
Identify Snakes in Thailand Before You Pick Them Up
Just a warning to those that also love snakes. Please don’t pick up and hold a snake when you are not 100% sure of the exact species of snake it is. There are scores of venomous snakes in Thailand – some of which can kill you in under 10 minutes. It does not take a really strong bite to inject enough venom to cause you a very serious medical emergency. I have received about 10 photos over the last year of people holding a snake, and then asking me to identify the snake.
PLEASE DON’T DO THAT.
Even snakes that haven’t traditionally been called “Venomous” though in fact they are (Colobrids), can hurt or kill you with the right bite. Take into account also that your body could go into anaphylactic shock as the venom hits the blood stream and the body fights against it as it does an allergic reaction. Conceivably, if you’re allergic to the venom – you could die within a minute or so from an adverse allergic reaction to the venom – and that’s ANY venom, that which is considered dangerous to man, and that which isn’t normally considered dangerous.
Stay safe – this is the peak of the snake season. Keep your eyes open and get some photos when it’s safe to do so!
One of the top 10 most toxic terrestrial venomous snakes in the world resides in Thailand, and is 2nd behind the Bungarus multicinctus in strength of venom, according to LD50 charts for subcutaneous venom injection (into mice), is the Malayan Krait, also called the Blue Krait.
I’ve been looking for one of these snakes in the wild for a couple of years. I don’t herp at night all that much so it was really unlikely that I saw one for a bit of time – but I was due to see this one.
Here’s the story I put on Youtube about how it came to be that I caught this beautiful krait…
This is the mack daddy of all snakes in Thailand, for me. I’ve seen king cobras in the wild. I’ve caught monocled cobras and maybe 30 other kinds of snake. Last night I hit the jackpot by catching the lovely Malayan Krait – the black / white banded snake you see in the video.
I was herping with a guy from the UK, Michael. He found a red-necked keelback about 30 minutes before. We were herping HARD all over this great wildlife area and I was fully prepared to find nothing more. It was hard herping.
I stopped on the sidewalk for a second and was shining my flashlight (9pm) on the greenery just below the sidewalk (and next to it).
I couldn’t mistake the black/white pattern as the blue krait moved just inches from Michael’s feet.
I said loudly – KRAIT KRAIT! Move back, move over here!
My first instinct, before I opened my mouth was to grab that sucker with the tongs and bag him.
As I moved to do that I realized Michael might get a good bite!
It was funny to see in hindsight how my mind worked. I’m glad I thought of him – right? You know how you get so excited you just act? That’s jsut about where I was. I’d looked for years and years for one of these kraits. Finally there it was – 1 foot from me, and I had all the equipment I needed to catch it if I was fast enough…
Anyway – after he moved a safe bit away I gave the initial squeeze with the tongs and pulled it up where we could see it. It was a beauty. I held it for a while as Michael searched through my backback for the snake bag. The krait got loose because I didn’t want to squeeze too hard… I found the bag – and re-found the krait who was already half under a large rock that I couldn’t have moved if I wanted to.
I slowly pulled it out with the tongs and we bagged it.
Today we took this video in the morning.
She was calm… slow for a bit, then woke RIGHT up. You don’t want to miss this video if you handle or plan on handling kraits. They do have the potential to move VERY fast in whatever direction they choose. I was shocked (horrified!) that it came right at me in an instant.
I never felt as alive as in those few seconds, I can tell you truthfully.
Though we tailed it – and were able to handle the krait a little bit – I never felt comfortable with it – and would never hold one, day or night. Least of all night-time.
So – that’s the story.
Come to Thailand and herp – and see what we can find!
The video is below. You don’t want to miss the video because just after I say something like, “This snake kills a few people a year in Thailand” the krait comes at me totally unexpectedly and I freak out trying to move my feet out of the way and get back. Just by pure luck I filmed it coming at me.
That was one of the scariest moments of my life – and yet my body still reacted to get out of the way. It was totally unexpected – and yet I was able to move fast enough. I don’t know whether it would have bitten me, but I don’t see why not. We had aggravated it for a good 20 minutes and it was probably getting angrier as time went on.
If you work with kraits – don’t be lulled into the false sense of control that you don’t have. The krait can, at any time, turn one of your best days into the worst day of your life. There are rumors that if this krait or the many-banded krait (Bungarus multicinctus) bit you, and you went to the hospital – 50% chance you will STILL die from the venom. Not sure if that’s true – but, still – it’s damn strong, and nothing to mess with.
Please don’t hand-hold the kraits – ever.
Check out my youtube video page at
My “Thailand Snakes” Video Channel : Malayan Krait at Youtube:
This Malayan Racer (Coloegnathus flavolineata) photo was sent in by Camille Lemmens from the IDCThailand.net dive shop in Koh Samui, in Suratthani Province.
Correction – I haven’t looked at this for ages… it looks more like a melanistic Coelognathus radiata than it does the C flavolineata. I’ll have to find a good photo of that one and put it up here!
Malayan racers are similar to the Copperheaded Racer snakes in Thailand, but they are darker and they don’t have the nasty attitude. They don’t often strike, and they can be hand-held usually without any problems. If one knows how to handhold a snake.
Best way to hand hold a snake? Put your hand or arm under it’s mid body and lift up. It thinks you are a tree.
The wrong way to hand-hold a snake is to grab it’s tail or mid body clenched between your fingers – it will take that as aggression and may strike.
Please don’t generalize this to all snakes… some snakes should never be held – vipers, Naja kaouthia and others… but, some can be safely held.
Malayan racers exhibit a flaring of their neck and first 1/3rd of their body – even 1/2 their bodies, in a vertical flare. If we think of a cobra flare as horizontal, you can then picture the flaring of the Malayan Racer. Other snakes known to flare like this?
Copperheaded racers, Red-Tailed Racers, Oriental Whip Snake… are all that I can remember at the moment. I am sure there are more.
If you see a Malayan racer in the wild – just leave it alone. They can get big – 2+ meters – and give a wicked bite if they want to. They eat large numbers of rats – so, they’re a good snake to have around.
Found another one of these whip snakes – they are supposed to be either red or brown… I guess this could be called brown. The head is more brown. The neck and up to the stomach is silver… with some black patches… and then the tail is reddish brown. It could well be the red variety because as I compare photos with the other brown whip snake I had before – they are quite different in coloration. This one is predominantly silver – for the neck and down to the beginning of the tail. The tail gets dark – and there is a reddish tint to the brown… So, not sure.
Lovely snakes. These are vine snakes and very fast in the wild. I found him on the ground amongst leaves and rocks… sandy dirty. He was about to enter an 8 inch diameter drain pipe. It did take a bit to catch him – and once I got him he was fine – no bites until I had to grab his tail to pick him up. He was not ok with that and tagged my finger very quickly – a little blood.
There were people around and they were all screaming Pit Pit! (Venomous) It isn’t… Thais call all snakes venomous – which is part of the problem here – they kill any snake they see, insisting it’s venomous. The other part of the problem is that in Thailand there are 60+ venomous snakes. Most people can’t be bothered to study them all and know the difference. I don’t know all of them either.
This one I knew though. Great snake – will keep it for a couple of days and let it go where I found it.
Common names: Keel-bellied vine snake; keel-bellied whip snake; brown whip snake; red whip snake (more red).
Here is a snake that was a bit of a mystery for a while, it was finally identified by an American expat snake researcher in Bangkok.
This snake was found in Krabi province, and far north of where other instances of this snake have been found in Thailand. There were a couple found in the southernmost provinces – near Narathiwat – near the Malaysian border.
Name: Dryophiops rubescens. Also known as: Red Whip Snake, Brown Whip Snake, Keel bellied whip snake, keel bellied vine snake.
Length: As long as 1 meter (3+ feet)
Description: The head of this snake is more brown than any other part of the body. Keep in mind there are red and brown varieties. The head is elongated and has a ridge between the eye and snout. Pupils are set horizontally. The body of the snake is slender – ideal for climbing through vines and light growth. The snake is measured in grams, not exceeding 300 grams for the largest of them. Scales on top of the body are smooth. The underside scales are keeled and are excellent for climbing. The whip snake I caught yesterday was able to climb up a smooth plastic water jug and grip it tightly. I was quite surprised. The head is brown, the neck and first half of the body is silver / grey and mottled with some black and dark grey. The belly is pale yellow under the head and neck, and toward the tail gets a coloration very similar to the top – heavily mottled and darker brown moving posteriorly. These snakes are more thin than my smallest finger.
Range: Literature has this snake occurring only in Thailand’s deep south, but, this is the second instance of one found in Krabi province – so, obviously the range includes this province as well.
Habitat: Trees and ground. I found both on the ground. They are excellent climbers and love vines and light brush.
Active Time? Diurnal, but possibly also nocturnal. Both of mine were found during daylight hours.
Food: Small geckos and frogs primarily.
Defensive Behavior: Accurate strikers! One of the ones we’ve had didn’t bite at all. The other tagged my finger striking quickly and very accurately. I bled slightly. No effects were noted.
Venom Toxicity: Weak for humans. Effective for geckos, lizards and frogs. These are rear-fanged colobrids and a prolonged bite could cause swelling and pain at the bite site.
Offspring: Nothing known about this area.
Notes: These are really beautiful snakes resembling the Ahaetulla prasina, and Gunther’s Whip Snake. Studied closely you’d be amazed at the pattern in the body of the snake. Both of ours were brown whip snakes (we are guessing – there are few photos in the lit), there are also red-colored species of this snake.
Scientific classification: Dryophiops rubescens
Species: D. rubescens
(Classified by Grey, in the year 1835.)
Video of Brown Whip Snake from Southern Thailand:
Update – here is another video of a different Brown Whip Snake from Krabi Province in Thailand:
Sent by Paul Donatus, this is an Indochinese Sand Snake that are common in the Chiang Mai – northern region of Thailand.
Personally, I’ve never seen one in southern Thailand, alive, or dead on the side of the road – so I think we don’t have them down here. They attain lengths of about 1 meter. They They eat frogs, smooth scaled lizards / geckos and even other snakes on occasion so reports one keeper.
Thailand has such diversity among snakes. There are over 200 species of snake living in the country. It’s always exciting to find one I don’t know – and have never seen. Always a bit strange handling them – not knowing, is it venomous and toxic to people, or not?
Keep in mind, I don’t pick up a snake I don’t know with my hands – but when I say “handling” I usually mean on the end of a snake hook, or with snake tongs.
A very cool snake, and apparently Paul has more photos to send. Will get them up as time permits.
Thanks Paul for introducing me to the Indochinese Sand Snake!
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.