Category Archives: Thailand Snake Journal

Ptyas carinata – carinatus – Keeled Rat Snake

I found a lovely specimen of the Ptyas carinata snake on the way down a mountain this evening. It was about 6:45 pm and the sun had set 15 minutes before. I was running down the steps and took a few seconds to breathe – when I saw the snake on some limestone rocks beside me. It was dark, so it was hard to say – was it a king cobra? Kings are good climbers too. Was it a rat snake? I just couldn’t tell for a while. I looked at the tail multiple times (I was grabbing it by that point and trying not to get bitten by the snapping jaws).

The tails of a couple kinds of rat snake look JUST like the king cobra tails.

Eventually I realized it was a rat snake and quickly pulled my shirt off to attempt to locate his head in the pile of branches he was trying to twist though and get lost in.

I grabbed too low once and he twisted around and bit. The shirt was wrapped two times around my hand – so, no damage. It is very hard grabbing a 1.5 meter snake in the dark when you can’t see his head. No flashlight… nothing. Exciting – yes. If it was any bigger – it could have been REALLY exciting because I would have been bitten a couple of times I think.

Ptyas carinata are fast snakes and strong biters. They eat rats for god’s sakes… rats are tough little beasts.

I’ll have a full write up of the snake tomorrow, photos and videos. My good camera is with my wife who is traveling. I’ll have to make do with the iPhone camera. I’ll try to find some good light to shoot photos and video in tomorrow so the media doesn’t totally suck.

Here is the Ptyas carinata video I took of this snake:

Red Headed Krait – Thailand Snake Journal

Red-headed Krait found while herping in Thailand

Yesterday I headed out to herp with a guy from the UK. We chose a jungle that bordered a national park for our adventure and walked around for just over an hour when we came upon a snake climbing up the side of a 5 foot wall of dirt along the path we were walking on. My friend instinctively reached out to grab the tail, I only saw the red tail – and I said loudly and quickly “DON’T TOUCH IT!”

He had seen it first. I had only seen the tail – which was enough for me to call it either a red headed krait (Bungarus flaviceps), or a Blue Coral snake – which also have red tails (Calliophis bivirgatus flaviceps). I was pretty certain I could distinguish a rather pronounced spinal column ridge. After some discussion my friend agreed and we called it a Red Headed Krait. He had seen the snake much more clearly than I did – since he looked at it for 2 seconds before deciding what to do. He said it had a bright red head and blackish/bluish body, then the long red tail that I saw as well. He estimated the length at a meter.

This is the 2nd red headed krait I’ve found in the daytime. It was on the side of a hill in the shade – at 1400 hours and bright sunshine. They are supposed to be primarily nocturnal, like the other Bungarus (Bungari), so others that have seen it have said. Still –  I have seen accounts online of these snakes being found in the daytime as well in Malaysia. I don’t think one can say these are nocturnal animals by any means. They are active by day and at night.

So, back to the story. We climbed the vertical hill and searched through very thick brush for 30 minutes to attempt to get just one more sighting to confirm what we saw, and if at all possible – catch it for some photos and videos. We never got a 2nd chance. In hindsight the krait could not have spun around quickly to bite if one of us had grabbed the tail. The front portion of his body was already in the thick brush. But, at the time there was no way to assess everything – the danger of the situation… and react to catch the snake in a safe manner.

Better to err on the side of caution – right?

But still we’re both dreaming of a lovely red-headed krait that is still running around that hill – and probably very close to where we saw it. We’re putting that spot on the “every time we come here – we check this spot” list, like we know you would too!

We did catch another snake and a VERY odd bug – both of which I’ll write about for tomorrow or in 2 days.

Here are two videos of Bungarus flaviceps – the red headed krait…

Video 1 – Red Headed Krait – Bungarus flaviceps caught in southern Thailand:

2nd Part of Red Headed Krait video:

Found a New Snake – Is It Oligodon inornatus?

Here it looks just like one from the Oligodon genus. One biologist thinks that is the correct genus.

This one is interesting… I found it at the top of a small limestone mountain. It’s like a keelback, and a kukri snake. A juvenile. Green – dark green on top – solid pattern, no fluctuation. Bottom is dark grey. It’s about 1 foot long. Will get some photos and video and put them up as soon as I get the camera back from my wife!

Ok, below are pics – and I’ll get a video up on Youtube in a few…

 

Have a look at the video at Youtube (embedded below in a few minutes) and see if you can figure it out…

Gerwot from Germany said it was in the genus Oligodon. That seems right on. He showed me how to do a scale count and I got 15’s. If this is the Oligodon inornatus it might be a new snake for this area, greatly extending its range. Some lit has the range as northern Thailand and southeastern Thailand (Isaan area). Here’s a grab from the PDF referencing the snakes range, and addressing some mistakes in a printed book about snakes…

Thailand Snake Journal – A Big Water Monitor

I did a quick snake-hunt yesterday in the middle of the afternoon sun. I just found myself in proximity to a place I love to climb, a mountain about 50 minutes away by motorbike, and I decided to walk a bit and see what I could find. I found some spiders, lizards – mountain dragons, and saw some giant movement in some bush. I ran ahead and found a 2 meter long monitor there… this thing is OFTEN there – I don’t know what he’s eating. They eat termites?

I’ve found one snake there before within 10 meters of that spot, maybe it’s a big snake spot – they hide under the leaves or something? I don’t usually rake leaves when I snake hunt, but I might start.

Did you see my water monitor eats snake video at youtube? He listens and hears a snake under the leaves… tracks it and slurps it down his gullet. Great shot!

Here’s the video:

I saw a giant copperheaded racer – 2 meters – crossing the road before I could stop. I also saw a thin black snake about 1.5m that was moving fast across the road… I couldn’t even guess what that one was. It was thin like a striped keelback (in size).

Any guesses from anyone?

I’m working on a big snake project… Not sure it will come to fruition, but I’m giving it my best. Will tell you more in the near future. Cheers!

Thailand Snake Journal – Snake About 600 Feet Up Mountain

I climbed a mountain I often do – it’s very steep. There are steps up it – 1,237 steps. At about step 850 I saw a snake crawling between the limestone rock and the step. I thought I knew what it was, but it was a juvenile – and you know how that goes. Thailand snakes – when they are small, don’t always represent the same thing as when they are older – so I took my time, and ended up letting him get too far into a hole and lost him.

That sucked, but getting bitten by a venomous snake would have sucked worse.

It looked like an orange color… solid, muted – not bright. No pattern, no stripes, nothing to distinguish it. I have seen Indo Chinese Rat Snake adults that looked like this one, but in all I had about 6 seconds to identify it – and I decided it wasn’t worth the risk in case it was a coral snake. I’ve seen plenty of baby cobras – they all seem to be very dark, or even black as juveniles… still, I couldn’t risk it!

Oh well, there will be another snake, I’m sure.

So far on that mountain I’ve seen:

  • 4 meter King Cobra
  • Red Necked Keelback (far away from water, just way up the side of the hill – about 200 feet vertically maybe)
  • Painted Bronzeback at the top of the hill (850 feet vertical)
  • Brown Keelback on the steps – juvenile also
  • Oriental Whip Snake
  • A yellow snake I think must have been the Ridley’s Racer – it moved very fast into the hole in the limestone. I saw it for about 1 second.
  • At the bottom of the hill I saw and caught a mock viper.
  • The monks tell me they often see monocled cobras around the limestone where they live in their kutis.

Now, this might make that mountain seem like a great place to herp… but, this has been over the course of 4 years now and I’ve been up the thing nearly 800 times. Not such a good track record for seeing snakes then, is it?

Some Thais Buy the Head of a Monocled Cobra to Help Their Son’s Asthma

I won’t say where I saw this, but I saw it first-hand. My friend that keeps monocled cobras – Naja kaouthia – has turned it into somewhat of a business. Sometimes people come to him for the fresh head of a monocled cobra – which is what happened the other day.

I arrived just at the right (wrong?) time to see my friend cutting off the head of a 1.5 meter monocled cobra with a pair of scissors. Who would have guessed scissors would cut right through the neck and spinal column quickly and efficiently? Not me. Of course I’ve never done it either.

He put the head in a plastic zip-lock baggie and gave it to a young Muslim couple that paid for it. The price was 300 THB ($9 USD).

I asked the couple – “What do you need a cobra head for?”

We have a young baby and he has asthma. (this is all in Thai – I am translating here).

We sprinkle the blood from the head of the cobra on the top of his head, cook it and do it some more – in a ceremony – and this helps the boy grow up without asthma.

Incredulous that people can still believe such things – but, knowing full well – they believe all kinds of craziness here in Thailand, I said, “Yeah, really?”

Yes! It works for our people! They said…

So, that’s how it goes. Monocled cobras in Thailand are worth about $9 and are sacrificed for rituals that I’m sure have no scientific basis… just superstition. Some of you are probably wondering what the hell I was doing, standing idly by…

Well, just that. I don’t make the rules here in Thailand. God didn’t make Americans policemen of the world – though many of us think that. I’m not here to change Thailand’s culture… change superstitions. If killing cobras for their skins or head is the worst thing I see, I’ll count myself lucky. It hasn’t been though – I’ll tell you that right now.

Such is life in Asia… this probably doesn’t happen only in Thailand. If you move to another country – assimilate into it… or get the hell out. That’s my own view on the subject.

Caught an Oriental Whip Snake Today

Screeched the car to a stop and jammed it into park as I saw this 1.6m Ahaetulla prasina crossing the road in front of me. He made it into the bush, but I grabbed onto his tail firmly and he was mine.

He was really beautiful and I bagged him and kept him for a while before realizing I had dropped my video camera / camera into the natural spring while herping yesterday. I let him go in a lush green area not too far away.

He did try to bite numerous times as I put him in the bag, but I was able to dodge his fangs. They have a slow and weak strike.

Wish I could share the photos or videos – but, there aren’t any. Wifey can vouch for me though – she was not happy at all at having to go into the trunk of the car and bring me the tongs and snake bag! Grandma and baby watched from the car.

Here’s my page about the oriental whip snakes with photos, videos and in-depth fact page:

Ahaetulla prasina – oriental whip snake – more information.

Then on the way back from Phang Nga this afternoon I saw the most beautiful 2 meter long Copperheaded Racer crossing the highway. I was doing 120 KPH and there was just no way to stop and grab him. I saw the truck behind me missed him too – so he made it. Must have JUST shed and was a brilliant copper color in the sun. Never saw one that color. Stunningly beautiful.

Thailand snake season is upon us man – and we’re seeing and catching the coolest snakes on the planet. Come and have a look with us!

Thailand Herping

Thailand Snake Journal – Malayan Krait – Bungarus candidus

Finally caught one of these buggers. They are rather rare in southern Thailand, but tonight I was able to bag one and will take some images and videos in the morning.

These snakes have a very high morbidity rate for victims bitten, and though I used a lot of care when catching and bagging it – still I was quite nervous handling this snake. It was nightfall and I couldn’t get a great grip on him with the tongs. He did slip through once as I waited for the snake bag my partner couldn’t find in my backpack! I was able to re-grab him before he got under a rock – and bagged him solid.

Will have photos and videos shortly.

Best night herping EVER because of catching this snake. I’ve been wanting to catch one for, literally, years.

Thailand Snake Journal – Dreaming About Snakes

Last night I dreamed that I was driving down the road in the back of a pickup truck. We started past a guy trying to catch something in a tree. I screamed – STOP! Told the driver to backup. I told the guy trying to catch a snake in the tree – I’ll get it! I’ll get it! Of course I just happened to have my tongs and snake hook in the truck with me.

I proceeded to catch a .75m banded krait – from high up in a tree. Yeah, I know, they’re not real keen on climbing.

While I was catching that one, I saw a giant insect of some sort – and caught that with the tongs too. Turns out it was a new species and I caught the first one ever.

Then just as I put the krait into the snake-bag there was one more snake trying to get away – very well camouflaged against the light colored tree bark. It was almost invisible. I had no idea what that snake was, and didn’t try to catch it as it was too fast and big – and I didn’t know – was it deadly? What was that snake? It was a fantasy snake… lol.

So, looks like Vern better get herping because I’m dreaming about snakes now. I never dream. It’s been a while since I caught a snake now… will see what I can do over the next week.

If you’re interested in herping in Thailand – let me know. There are some great places to catch snakes here – and you’ll have what might amount to a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Cheers,

Vern