This lovely 1 meter long Malayan Pit Viper was submitted by a reader of Thailand Snakes (.com), John Helm in Jomtien Beach, near Pattaya, Thailand. The photo was taken on 3/7/11.
John moved the snake from his patio over a wall separating his house from some heavy bush.
These snakes appear to be lazy, or not aggressive – and John said this as well. However, they are violent strikers and can hit you from further than you think. In addition to that, Malayan Pit Vipers can strike backwards VERY fast and VERY accurately. They need not strike out forward… In fact, I have a video of one striking a mouse I put in the cage on Youtube here. It struck backward.
The other day I was observing one and dangling some paper behind it – it struck VERY fast and nailed it.
These snakes are reported to cause more deaths in Thailand than any other snake. The reason I presume, is because they bite village people who either rely on natural medicines – leaves rubbed on the wound, for instance – instead of getting to a hospital they can’t afford.
These and the Russell’s Vipers are the most dangerous vipers in Thailand for bites. Of course, monocled cobras (Naja kaouthia), other cobras, and kraits are worse as far as their venom being deadlier.
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. On this page is a selection of common (frequently found) snakes in Thailand. If you want a FREE EBOOK of COMMON THAILAND SNAKES in PDF format – CLICK HERE.
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Non-Venomous and Mildly Venomous and Harmless Snakes
This snake is 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. Green vipers typically have brown colored tails. This snake has a solid green tail. The Green Cat Snake shown in the photo is harmless, and didn’t even try to bite as I interacted with it on my porch in Southern Thailand around midnight.
Indo-Chinese Rat Snake (Ptyas korros)
One rat snake, the Indo-Chinese Rat Snake, is especially common, but the adult does look very much like the monocled cobras to the untrained eye. Do be very cautious of any snake that is solid brown, grey, black, or that is mostly dark with some white spots – speckles or odd pattern. Cobras are quick to bite and one of the most deadly daylight snakes you’ll encounter. There is a photo of the monocled cobra below.
Venomous Snakebites and Near Misses!
More than 34 stories of venomous snakebite and very near misses from Southeast Asia’s most deadly snakes – King Cobra, Malayan Pit Viper, Monocled Cobra, Banded Krait, Malayan Krait, and more! Digital Book with over 100 pages of interesting reading.
This is a fairly large rat snake reaching around 2.1 meters in length. It has no fangs to deliver venom, and can be considered harmless for humans. It does bite, of course, so stay out of reach. This is an incredibly beautiful snake with green hues, blue-green eyes, and black and blue tongue. Stunning!
If you haven’t yet read this book about Dr. Joe Slowinski – biologist bitten by a many-banded krait in Burma in 2001 – you really should. It’s an excellent read, and ALL SNAKE HOBBYISTS SHOULD READ IT.
Radiated Rat Snake (Coelognathus radiata)
Copper-headed Racer – These are very common and may even qualify as one of the most commonly seen snakes in Thailand. Non-venomous and not dangerous, except they are big biters. Many small teeth. A bite can hurt and get infected because the teeth easily break off inside the skin. Color hue ranges from yellow to brown, There is another rat snake that looks very similar – the “Malayan Racer” which is very dark brown with a slightly different pattern (Coelognathus flavolineatus).
Keelbacks are very common ground snakes and love water. You might see them in the water or on the ground moving around. Keelbacks are generally easily identified by distinct black (dark) lines from the eye area toward the jaw. Most keelbacks in Thailand are not very dangerous, but there are a couple in the “Rhabdophis” genus that are to be considered dangerous and potentially capable of a deadly bite. We have one featured in the venomous section below (Rhabdophis subminiatus).
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A very common tree snake across Thailand, and their favorite food appears to be Tokay Geckos (Gekko gecko), so you may see one at your home. These snakes have a mild venom that doesn’t generally affect humans at all. These snakes do traverse across the ground but quickly find a tree when threatened. Masterful and very fast climbers! Common in homes, garages, and other structures.
also incredibly adept and fast climbers, I first saw one as it came over my six-foot concrete wall in the back of the house in Surat Thani. Very thin snakes, not that afraid of humans. This snake bites quickly – as you might guess from the photo. To be honest, I’m holding the tail so I can get a good photo before it quickly disappears. Mildly venomous colubrids, and not dangerous to humans. There are many species of this snake, all look vaguely similar.
Very common snakes, and usually found in trees during the day (active) or night (sleeping), but I have found many whip snakes on the ground as they hunted lizards and frogs. The bright fluorescent green in this snake is awesome, isn’t it? These snakes have a mild venom, but again, no serious results of envenomation have occurred in humans. Other color variations: yellow, very light green with much more white (A. mycterizans), grey, brown. There is also a speckle-headed whip snake which isn’t found very often.
A very dangerous pit viper with strong cytotoxic venom which is potentially deadly. This common brown pit viper is the cause of death for more people in Thailand than any other snake. It bites quickly and is lazy to get out of the way if you’re walking toward it, usually, it just lays still. Always found at ground level, and often on top of, or just under leaves. Maximum length – about 1 meter long.
Be especially careful of cobra snakes which can spit venom 2-3 meters away (farther with a strong wind!). They can temporarily blind you as they make their getaway, but the problem is your eyes will be burning until you can flush them with water for 10-20 minutes, and then visit the hospital to ensure they are properly cleaned. Photo above (click to enlarge) is of the Monocled Cobra (Naja kaouthia)
Brightly colored and very common snakes that become more brightly patterned when agitated. These brightly colored snakes are found in captivity across the globe. They were previously considered non-venomous and not dangerous until recently. Death has occurred as a direct result of envenomation from this species, though not in Thailand.
In Thailand, we have had a number of close calls. Renal failure after bites is one of the possible potentially deadly outcomes. This is one of the few snakes which is venomous and poisonous. There is a poison secreted in dorsal (top) side of the neck area near the head which can be dangerous to pets or people licking them. You know, in case you ever got the urge. In some cases, the Red-necked Keelback can spray the poison from the neck in a very fine mist.
Malayan Krait (Bungarus candidus)
Malayan Krait. Kraits are all venomous and potentially deadly. They are active by night for the most part, though I have seen Red-Headed Kraits (Bungarus flaviceps) active during daylight twice. The Banded Krait and the Malayan or “Blue” krait are both deadly snakes – the former with yellow and black bands about the same thickness, and the latter with black and white bands, the black bands are thicker near the neck, and more evenly spaced farther down on the tail.
Small-spotted Coral (Calliophis maculiceps)
Small-spotted Coral. There is one coral snake worth mentioning, not because it’s all that common, but because it tends to be around the gardens – even in potted plants. This is the “Small-spotted Coral Snake.” It is very small – around 35 cm as an adult, and it looks harmless enough. It should be considered dangerous – and capable of potentially deadly bites.
Venomous Snakebites and Near Misses!
More than 34 stories of venomous snakebite and very near misses from Southeast Asia’s most deadly snakes – King Cobra, Malayan Pit Viper, Monocled Cobra, Banded Krait, Malayan Krait, and more! Digital Book with over 100 pages by Vern Lovic.
This photo comes from a reader that was writing postcards in her bungalow on the island of Koh Phi Phi, in Thailand’s Krabi province when she noticed a Mangrove Pit Viper (Cryptelytrops purpureomaculatus) near her foot!
This is not the snake you want near your foot, as they are heat-sensing, and some are known to be strike-happy.
Luckily she was able to move away in time. This snake is so beautiful. They come in yellow, brown, purple, and black colorations. Awesome to get a photo of this one. Thanks Céline Borel!
Here is a lovely shot of a Paradise Tree Snake (Chrysopelea paradisi) taken in Khao Lak, Thailand in a coconut grove by a reader, Brett Ramsay. Brett was kind enough to let us publish it here.
The paradise tree snake is virtually the same as the Golden Tree Snake, but there are distinct red or orange scales in a nice pattern on the top of the back and some color on the head. Sometimes the snakes are more green than this one, this snake looks quite black. He also appears to have eaten something, maybe a frog since he is here on the ground.
These are some really awesome looking snakes. Usually, they come in brown (tan) and green (งูเขียว) color variations, but Rob Green, who has copyright to the images below – took these photos of a yellow one and a grey one. Quite cool. Rob was on Koh Kood (kut) near Koh Chang in the northeastern Gulf of Thailand when he found these snakes. The yellow images were taken with a Canon 7D. The grey whip snake – with his iphone. Thanks Rob!
After you see these photos – you can see more at the Ahaetulla prasina Fact Sheet (click). There are photos and videos of me catching them in the Thailand forest.
Blood pythons (Python curtus brongersmai) are not often seen in Thailand, but I have had some tourists write me with descriptions of 2 different snakes that most likely was this snake.
Blood pythons are found on rubber tree plantations, near waterfalls, and near rats, chicks, or other small mammals in Thailand.
They have a colorful pattern and are pretty short snakes for how thick they are. They can climb, which you’d have to see to believe. They are so thick and short, you’d think they cannot. They can and do.
Usually blood pythons in the wild are found on the ground under leaves or other cover. They blend right in with fallen leaves.
They are VERY strong, and the couple that I have seen don’t appear to become tame quickly. I mean, not even over the course of months. They still strike me if I get too close – nothing like the ball pythons you see in the pet store, right?
Anyway – just wanted to share this blood python photo.
I really love the look of these red tailed green racers – Gonyosoma oxycephalum.
Previous specimens have had bright blue eyes. This one had green eyes and it was really beautiful because it looked as if the eyeball and the green of the eye – continued the dark stripe on the side of the head.
These are rat snakes, and yet their primary food is birds. Recently I saw two of these large snakes mating in a palm tree. The female can get quite large – over 2 meters. The male, a bit smaller – but still – 2 meters. These snakes were oblivious to people… and is not the same snake in the photograph here. This other one was caught in a tree near some homes by a beach in southern Thailand… it is 1+ meters and was quite calm, this being only the second day it was being handled by people.
The girl holding the snake is from Norway and she’s really not afraid of snakes at all – the non-venomous snakes Thailand has anyway.
I got a different camera, so was trying it out today a bit. More photos to come – if it ever stops raining.
This Malayan Racer (Coloegnathus flavolineatus) 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 flavolineatus. 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 half 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.
A reader, Jeremy Gatten, sent this photo (used with permission) of a green pit viper he found one night while looking for owls near Wat Tham Pha Plong near Chiang Dao in Thailand’s north. I was thinking it was. He had squatted down to rest and heard a little rustle in the brush – and found this amazing specimen of… well, pit viper. I don’t know which one it is – but, I’m guessing it’s the White Lipped Pit Viper.
Jeremy himself narrowed it down to one of two – either Trimeresurus macrops or Trimeresurus albolabris (White Lipped Pit Viper).
What do you think?
Note – do be very careful not to be bitten by any of the green pit vipers, their venom – while not usually deadly – is quite strong and can cause havoc in the human body. Vipers are typically identified (in general) by their small size (< 1 meter) and the triangle shaped head.
Thailand Snakes covers venomous and non-venomous snakes in Thailand and surrounding countries. Cobras, Kraits, Vipers, Corals, Rat Snakes, Tree Snakes, Whip Snakes, Pipe Snakes, Kukris, Pythons, and more.