How do I recognize venomous snakes?

Since I do Reptile Rescue on the island, I had many chats with people after snake encounters, or also with people who just wanted to know in general, how to behave in such situations. And how to distinguish venomous from non-venomous snakes.

The perception, that most people even rather consider to live beside or with snakes, than removing or even killing them, makes me insanely happy. I’m glad to find so many real nature lovers on Phangan. Most people even change their mind after an educational chat, and let harmless non venomous snakes roam in their house, just like geckos. But of course they need to be 100% sure, that these mostly little intruders don’t cause any harm to their beloved ones. That fact posed me the question, how I can help everyone, to identify and distinguish deadly venomous snakes from similar appearing non-venomous snakes.

That’s why I decided to make this page with all venomous snakes who could at least in theory be indigenous on Phangan. And for comparison I will show you their non-venomous not entirely same looking copy cats.

Let’s start with the 3 deadly venomous snakes, whose existence is approved today.

  1. The Monocled Cobra (Naja Kaouthia)
  2. The King Cobra or Snake Eater (Ophiophagus Hannah)
  3. The Small Spotted Coral Snake (Calliophis maculiceps)

To number 3 I will come back later…. I didn’t find any good copy cat shots yet.

Instead I come to our first copy cat of mentioned no. 1 and no. 2,  the Indochinese Rat Snake (Ptyas Korros)

These 3 snake species variate so extremely in their appearance, people often get confused between N. Kaouthia, Ptyas Korros and the Ophiophagus Hannah, who likes to eat the 2 first mentioned species. If you have the chance to look closer, like on the images, you can see the difference in eye size and the size of the facial scales. If it comes to distinguish color and pattern, it will be difficult even on pictures, because it changes depending on temperature, and also in each individual. They can be brown, olive green, khaki, grey or even black. All 3 have also sometimes marks like spots or speckles. Or even thin bands. So always be careful. The safest way to find out the copy cat, would be to corner it, and see, if it shows us a hood. Rat Snakes don’t do hoods. They blow up the throat vertically. We have some other snakes, who also make hoods in Thailand. But they’re lethal venomous too. It’s for example the Red Necked Keelback (Rhabdophis subminiatus). But as the name reveals, it will show us a red neck hood.

 

Then we got proof of existence for Bungarus Candidus, the Malayan Krait. Two snakes always cause confusion. The Wolf Snake of the family Lycodon, and the Bridle Snake of the family Dryocalamus. The difference you can see, if you have a closer look on heads and tails.

 

Books are showing us the existence of the Banded Krait, Bungarus Fasciatus. But it seems to me, that this type didn’t make it to Phangan. Even the local rescue Service couldn’t confirm any encounters with this impressing snake. This time we have a copy cat of the family Boiga. The Cat Snakes. In this case it’s the Mangrove (Cat) Snake. The yellow bands of the Boiga Dendrophila are much more narrow, than the bands of B. Fasciatus.

 

Another copy cat of the Cat Snake family would be Boiga Cyanea, The Green Cat Snake. In first second it looks really like a White Lipped Pit Viper. But have a closer look in her eyes. And also lips and nose are totally different. Not just in color. Also the shape reveals the dodger.

 

And we have two more “actors”. The Longnosed Whip Snake (Ahaetulla Nasuta), and the Red Tailed Racer (Gonyosoma Oxycephalum). First mentioned causes confusion because of it’s very similar color, and depending on the viewing angle, the head also looks triangular, like a viper head. But the eyes reveal the main difference. The pupils of Ahaetulla are horizontal, not vertical, like the pupils of Crytelitrops or Trimeresurus Albolabris or Macrops, the White Lipped Pit Viper and Big Eyed Pit Viper.