By Rashad Kozhikkattil
Many people suffer Ophidiophobia, the fear of snakes. People are scared of snakes because some are venomous, but most are not and rather harmless. Thailand has over two hundred species of snakes, and only about sixty of them are venomous. When we see a snake in the garden or backyard, we often try to kill them because of our fear. Some snakes may look creepy, but in fact, are completely safe. When observing a snake, do your best to understand that they would ever harm you is because they feel cornered and afraid. They would never attack a human unless provoked, so if you see one of these ancient creatures, just make some noise and they will move on.
The only continent on this planet void of snakes is Antarctica! Of course, the penguins are lucky, but we are in Thailand and we see these visitors in our everyday life. Basic knowledge about the various snake species we see in Thailand will help us to identify whether the snake is dangerous or not. Here are some facts to help.
One of the five largest snakes in the world. These pythons can grow up to 25 feet long. Burmese pythons are semi-aquatic and often found near bodies of freshwater. These pythons are known for their excellent swimming skills and for their ability to climb trees. They breed in early spring and females lay from 12 to 36 eggs in March or April.
The world’s largest venomous snake! It can grow up to 18.8 feet long. King cobras are predominantly found in dense forests. King Cobras’ diet vary widely from small mammals, birds, and rodents to other snakes (pythons and cobras as well). King Cobras are able to hunt all day and they are rarely seen at night. They typically avoid confrontation and try to escape quickly, but when King Cobras are provoked, they can become aggressive. If you see one, just move away, give them their space, and they will retreat into the bush.
Radiated Rat Snake / Copper-headed Racer
These are one of the most commonly seen snakes in Thailand. Radiated Rat Snakes are non-venomous and largest among the subspecies of rat snakes. Like all snakes, if they are provoked and are left without a means of escape, they may bite. If you see one, take a photo and let it move on its way back in the bush. Radiated Rat Snakes can grow up to eight feet long and typically prey on birds and rodents.
Monocled / Monocellate Cobra
These venomous snakes can grow up to 4 feet 9 inches. Monocled Cobras are typically found near rice paddy fields, swamps, and mangroves, where they hunt rodents and other small prey. With the encroachment of our civilization into their natural habitat, they are increasingly heading to homes and cities for sources of food. Typically, they are most active at dusk and in the evening. When they are provoked, they raise their hood and make a hissing sound. They will give this warning prior to striking. If you hear this, you know to just move away and let them leave. The O-shaped mark is visible on its hood and is their distinctive feature.
Sunbeam Snake / Xenopeltis Unicolor
Sunbeam Snakes can grow up to 3 feet 3 inches. They prey on frogs, reptiles, and other snakes. This non-venomous snake kills its prey by means of constriction, meaning it crushes and suffocates its prey and then swallows it whole. Sunbeam Snakes can lay up to ten eggs at a time and are most commonly seen in forest clearings, gardens and parks. Sunbeam Snakes have a most amazing coloration on their scales. They have a strong iridescent shine to their dark scales, a truly beautiful snake which is harmless to humans.
Branded Kraits are largest among the krait species and can grow up to 6 feet 11 inches. Banded Kraits can be easily identified by alternating black and yellow cross bands. They are commonly seen in lowlands, coastal regions, and around termite mounts, etcetera. During the day, they rest and sunbathe in grass or drains. Banded Kraits are active at night when they search for their prey, which is typically fish, frogs and other small snakes.
Golden Tree Snake / Golden Flying Snake
Golden Tree Snakes are capable of gliding from tree to tree as they can actually flatten their body slightly, creating some lift – you might get lucky and catch a glimpse of them jumping between trees. They are not a huge snake, but can grow to moderate sizes of up to 4.3 feet. Their venom is not considered to be dangerous to human beings as it is relatively mild. Babies and elderly with weaker immune systems should use cautio. These common snakes are well adapted to human habitats as we have encroached on or destroyed so much of their natural habitat. In northern Thailand, they are commonly spotted under the roofing inside houses. They come out to prey on lizards and mice at night.
Calloselasma / Malayan Pit Viper
Malayan Pit Viper’s triangular head is covered with light stripes. Female Pit Vipers are slightly longer than males with sizes ranging up to 2 feet 11 inches. They are found in coastal forests, orchards, rubber plantations, and bamboo patches. They primarily prey on frogs and rodents and, with their terrific camouflage, can be difficult to see on forest paths. Malayan Pit Vipers are dangerous and strike quickly and are well known for their bad tempered behavior. They are active during the night and are highly venomous. Without immediate treatment Malayan Pit Viper bites can lead to amputation or even death.
Red-tailed Green Rat Snake / Red-tailed Racer
Smooth scales on its belly allow these snakes to climb trees quickly and easily. Red-tailed Racers can grow up to 8 feet long and lay 3 to 8 eggs per clutch. They spend most of their time in trees and bushes, preying mainly on birds and bats .When Red-tailed Racers are provoked, their necks become larger to strike fear in enemies. They are non-venomous, but should be treated with caution as a bite can be a painful and startling experience.
Indo-Chinese Rat Snake / Ptyas Korros
These harmless snakes have large, black, projecting eyes and can be easily identified by their olive colored tail with dark edged scales. The mid-section of their body is the thickest part and is typically dark brown in color. Indo-Chinese Rat Snakes can grow up to 3 feet 7 inches long and feed primarily on rodents, frogs and skinks. They are commonly seen in forests and agricultural lands. When spotted, they will typically retreat into the bush, so don’t fear if you should see one – just give it some space and time to leave the area.
If you want to learn more about snakes in Krabi, please visit one of the great resources online: