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.
I tend to be really cautious about handling venomous snakes. Pit vipers are scary because you just never know when they’re going to strike. They’re very calm until WHAM a strike from nowhere. I think as soon as they get a good lock on the part of your body giving off heat – it’s almost an automatic strike. I’m not sure they decide anything at all – just strike like lightening. I never handhold the pit vipers.
I headed up to a remote part of the wat (temple) today to see if maybe I could spot a snake. So far at that temple I’ve found a Rhabdophis subminiatus – Red Necked Keelback, a Painted Bronzeback, a 4 meter King Cobra, a Mock Viper, and a brown Keelback. Oh and a green Ahaetulla prasina – Oriental Whip Snake.
There has been a lot of rain lately and the day was really hot – which is a change from the cooler temps of late, so I thought I’d see what I might find. I walked the 90 steps up and 100+ down into the valley – the foothills, and started along the path. There was some loud noise to my right. I walked over there to find a skinny Thai guy – probably a bit mental, or hungry, trying to kill a big box tortoise. He had a snake in his left hand – I was like WTF?
That’s a VIPER. I said to him – Ngoo Pit (snake is venomous!).
He insisted – Mai Pit! (not venomous) over and over… I said, “Gep Ngoo, ROO JACK – NGOO NEE – PIT!” Translated – I collect snakes, I KNOW THIS SNAKE IS VENOMOUS.
He puts the snake up to his face and cheek, where it bites him on the cheek. I think – what an idiot!
I say – “Can I have that snake?” (in Thai of course).
He said OK. I offered to pay him for it – he said – 100 Thai Baht. I said – great. I took the snake into a plastic bag and put it in my backpack, telling the guy to get to a hospital when he feels symptoms. He showed me on his hand where it bit him earlier when first trying to catch it and he was bleeding slightly.
Though they are venomous – it affects people differently. They are potentially deadly. He’ll definitely experience pain, and hopefully little necrosis.
What a crazy thing to see a reptile hunter collecting snakes and turtles at a Buddhist wat. It was a very sad thing to see him trying to kill the turtle for no reason. Probably the shell is worth something. Many Thais eat turtles too – but I think mostly the soft-shelled water turtles.
So – I have a Trimeresurus venustus – Gernot Vogel from Terralog “Venomous Snakes of Asia” uses the Trimeresurus prefix. Joachim Bullian uses “Cryptelytrops” instead. Not sure what the real label is. “Venustus” is correct anyway.
Brown Spotted Green Pit Viper is the common name for it. They enjoy limestone areas and are frequently found on the ground according to Bullian – but, I’ve found them in bushes during the day – sleeping.
They are very slow during the day – and not all that much quicker at night. I took this one home and put it in the tank. It appears to be gravid – hope she is able to give birth (ovoviviparous) soon. That’d be awesome to see.
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 coral snakes. I have only seen one coral snake crossing a highway between Surat and Krabi – and I was lucky to see that.
Some of the common snakes you’ll see in Thailand (if you’re lucky!) are snakes like:
Radiated Rat Snake (Copperheaded Racer) – 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 Neck Keelback- Brightly colored snakes that become more so when agitated. Were previously considered non-venomous, not dangerous until someone let one bite down and chew for over 2 minutes he almost died.
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 in Thailand are not very dangerous, but you wouldn’t want to let one bite down for more than a second. Remove immediately – even if you have to hurt the snake to do so.
Golden Tree Snake – very common and they love eating geckos so you may see one by your dwelling. In particular they love a big Tokay Gecko for dinner. Mildly dangerous venom – don’t let it bite down for a long time and you’ll likely be fine. These snakes do traverse across the ground but quickly find a tree when threatened.
Bronzeback Snakes – these are great climbers, I first saw one as it came over my 6 foot concrete wall in the back of the house in Surat. 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! Non-venomous, not dangerous.
Oriental Whip Snakes – very common, and usually found in trees, but the last two I found were on the ground probably hunting frogs. The bright fluorescent greens in this snake are awesome, yes? These are mildly dangerous if a long bite occurs. So, don’t let it occur.
Malayan Pit Viper – very dangerous, venom is deadly. Kills more people in Thailand than any other snake. Bites fast. Lazy to get out of the way if you’re walking toward it, usually just lays still. Always found at ground level.
Green Cat Snake – 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.
The Malayan Krait (Bungarus candidus), or the Blue Krait as it’s sometimes called, is difficult to identify, and identifying it is essential because their venom is so deadly. Their venom paralyzes the nervous system and causes the muscles of the body to stop. That means the heart and diaphragm. You’ll need to be on a ventilator to stay alive after a krait bite.
Maybe the hardest to identify deadly snake that you should be aware of is an albino cobra, krait, coral snake, or Malayan pit viper. Albino snakes are not common, but, keep in mind that any white snake that bites you could be quite deadly and you’ll want to get to the hospital immediately. If easy to kill the snake – do so. Don’t risk being bitten again. Take a digital photo of it, or a few – would be better.
The photo above is the Malayan Krait. The photos below are snakes that are completely harmless. Keep in mind that Malayan Krait babies look just like these smaller innocuous snakes.
Length: average just under 1 meter (about 37 inches)
Range: All over Thailand. Brown Kukri snakes were once thought to be native to only the southernmost Thailand provinces, however J. Bulian has found one in Pattaya and there have been others discovered farther in the northeast. Assume the Brown Kukri’s habitat is all over Thailand.
Habitat: These snakes prefer life in the forest and can be found at great elevations – about 1 mile high (1,600 meters). I have received numerous requests to identify this snake from readers who found them close to or inside their homes as well. The habitat is wide and varied for this species. Regardless where they are found, they enjoy living under brush, wood, rocks, and thick flora.
Active Time? Nocturnal, active at night and in the early morning as the sun rises.
Food: Frogs, lizards.
Defensive Behavior: If the brown kukris are bothered enough they will roll their body to the side and lift up their tail – perhaps to present it as a place to attack – leaving the mouth free to strike when the aggressor does go for the tail.
Venom Toxicity: No venom.
Offspring: Lay 6-12 eggs. A reader reported his snake had 8 eggs the first time and 10 the next. Eggs hatched after 60 days, incubated at 29 degrees C.
Notes: Though this snake is not venomous, it is keen to bite and can inflict deep wounds due to it’s large, curved teeth and strong bite. Michael Cota, researcher, says, “Appears that it might be an evolutionary link on the way to being venomous, since it is the only snake that I can think of that has “fangs” (enlarged pair of teeth), but no venom delivery system or ducts to the teeth. They are not dangerous, but will give you quite a bloody bite that takes a long time to heal. What makes them so difficult is that their head is not distinct; therefore, it is extremely difficult to grab behind the head and keep proper control of it. It maneuvers it head around on your grip and then uses teeth to bite – slash.”
You’ll need a tetatus shot if you are bitten, as with all snakes as a precaution.
Kukris are common and you might see one in Thailand if you live here.
<big>If you are bitten by a snake in Thailand it’s a good idea to immediately wrap an elastic bandage, shirt, whatever you have directly on top of the wound, and if the wrap is long enough – continue to wrap above and below the wound as well.
Get to a hospital. DON’T READ THE REST OF THIS – GO NOW.
There are more than 40 species of venomous snake in Thailand. Some are quite deadly. Most, rather harmless. The ones you have to look out for are:
Equatorial Spitting Cobras
Indochinese Spitting Cobras
Malayan Pit Vipers
All Pit Vipers
I may have forgotten some, but I just wanted to list those that you are most likely to be bitten by – and be in serious trouble. These are the deadly snakes. More than likely you’d be bitten by either of two – the Russell’s Viper and the Malayan Pit Viper, both very common and both quite deadly if not treated immediately.
So, DON’T READ ANOTHER WORD – GET TO THE HOSPITAL NOW.</big>
Up until yesterday I’ve only seen small sunbeam snakes – about 15 inches long. They are fat and can be found under plastic or other things in muddy water, or anywhere near water. I found one small sunbeam crossing the street at night during a rain in Sisaket – so I pulled him off the road and up into the brush. Yesterday I saw a 1+ meter snake at a friend’s. The big ones are really impressive. Thick, smooth like glass, and with an unbelievably cool rainbow iridescence that you must see.
Sunbeam snakes get their name because they beam in the sunshine… so to speak. Their scales reflect a luminescence – like a rainbow of colors – and it’s surreal to see a sunbeam snake in the bright sunshine (I have a video for you below, but it doesn’t give justice to the intensity of the rainbow of colors).
Xenopeltis unicolor (Sunbeam Snake) Thai language: Ngoo sang ateet, Ngoo leu-um deen
Appearance: Sunbeam snakes are thicker than a large banana (with skin) as adults. Their scales are very smooth and the snake has a texture like rubber. Dirt doesn’t appear to stick to the scales. The head is like a shovel blade, tending toward flat. The eyes are small and designed for burrowing in dirt.
Length: Both male and female sunbeams are usually about a meter long with the female growing up to 1.3m for the maximum length (about 4 feet).
Range: All over Thailand. I’ve found them in Trang, Surat, Krabi and Nakhon Si Thammarat provinces. Also found all over Southeast Asia from the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, to Burma (Myanmar), China, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, and the Malaysian Peninsula and over to the Philippines.
Habitat: These snakes love the shallow water, muddy areas where they lie hidden under leaves or junk waiting for nightfall. They can be found close to human habitat as well as any lake or other body of water. They are fossorial – meaning, they hide under things – like leaves, dirt, just about anything.
Notes:These sunbeam snakes rarely bite. They do not do well in captivity and quickly die because they get stressed out. If you keep one – be sure to have soft substrate they can burrow (dig) into to cover themselves. They need cool shade and water. Don’t put them in the sun for long.
Active Time? Nocturnal – night.
Food: Frogs mostly, lizards, geckos, and other snakes. Sunbeam snakes kill prey by squeezing (constricting) it like a python.
Natural Enemies: King cobras and kraits would probably eat these snakes, though I don’t have evidence that they do.
Defensive Behavior: Curl tail. Rarely bite. Very low-key, mellow snakes if you’re not provoking them. They move very slow and their scales are good for water but not so great for street, rocks, and other hard smooth surfaces.
Venom Toxicity: None. No danger to humans except possibly a strong bite if you anger it.
Offspring: Little is known. Tough to keep very long – they die quickly in captivity.
These snakes resemble black worms in Thailand. They have a lot of energy when you pick one up. You will likely find them in soil in your potted plants or climbing up through your drain in your restroom.
Brahminy Blind Snakes are completely harmless.
Ramphotyphlops braminus (Brahminy Blind Snake)
Thai: (ngoo din ban)
Length: Up to about 6 inches (15cm)
Range: All over Thailand and much of the world, native to Southeast Asia. Transported across the world in potted plants.
Notes:These are ground dwelling and burrowing snakes. They are shy. They are easily eaten by many other predators like birds and other snakes. The Red Tailed Pipe snake eats these snakes often. The blind snakes have very small eyes covered with a thin skin that protects them as they burrow through the dirt.
Active Time? Anytime.
Food: Ant and termite eggs primarily.
Defensive Behavior: Trying to get away. The mouth is too small to inflict a bite on humans.
Venom Toxicity: No venom or means to inject it.
Offspring: An interesting twist here. Brahminy Blind snakes are all born female and need no males to continue the species. They are parthenogenetic. When they reach sexual maturity they lay fertile eggs – and hence, are fully self-perpetuating the species. If there is one – soon there will be more! These snakes have populated much of the western world and can be found in Hawaii, Louisianna, Boston, and other places in the USA now.
My Brahminy Blind Snake Videos:
Species: R. braminus
These yellow-spotted keelback (Xenochropis flavipunctatus) snakes are rear-fanged and do have venom, however there are no reported deaths from them. The snake would need to bite hard and chew the venom into wound for a minute or so in order to really envenomate a human. Not many humans are willing to let a strong biting snake do that. Don’t you be the first!
The red-tailed pipe snake is a beautiful snake, though at first glance you might wonder if it is a snake at all! It has a very flat appearance for the tail region, and very black on the top. The head is so small you might think it’s a large fat worm. The eyes are very small. This snake spends a lot of time in the dirt looking for grubs, maggots, and very small larvae and things.
Range: All over Thailand on flat ground and at some elevation up to 1700 meters.
Notes: I currently have one of these red tail pipe snakes at my home – they are beautiful snakes. Their top is black and has a radiance like a sunbeam snake – you know that rainbow appearance when the sunlight hits it? Beautiful. Then, on the underside the bands of black and white don’t line up – so it’s very different. The bands will turn red and black as the juvenile red tailed pipe snake ages. The head is very small and the eyes – almost impossible to see.
Habitat: The snake lives on the ground and in rat holes and termite mounds, under stumps or rocks and in other cool, damp places. Recently I saw photos of one in some limestone rocks here in Thailand. I’ve seen large 2m dead banded krait just on the outside of a rubber plantation. They prefer wide open areas. They have been found as high as 5,000 feet in Malaysia and about 2,300 meters in Thailand.
Active Time? The snake is mostly nocturnal and is active at night.
Food: Brahminy blind snakes, insect larvae, small frogs and worms.
Defensive Behavior: This pipe snake hides the head under loops of it’s body and flips it’s red tail end up in the air – flattening it – as if like a cobra. Thais call this the 2-head snake because it wants you to think it has two. In an hour of handling this snake, it made no move to bite at all. That doesn’t mean it won’t, but they are not all that inclined to bite. Their mouth is VERY small and they’d have to catch you just right to bite you.
Venom Toxicity: None that affects humans.
Offspring: This snake has 5-10 young, born live, about 20 cm long (about 8 inches).
Red Tailed Pipe Snake’s Scientific classification
Species: C. ruffus
Classified by Laurenti in year 1768