In the previous articles we have looked at the King Cobra and the Malayan Pit Viper, both highly dangerous snakes. But what of those that we might encounter when tending or relaxing in our beautiful gardens?
If you see a snake in your garden, the chances are it is harmless. However, some non-venomous ones can still inflict a nasty bite and as stated previously, far better to leave any snake alone and let it go on its way.
If you are weeding, pruning bushes or even just having to walk closely past shrubs and trees, it is prudent to be alert. Don’t just stick your hand in a bush or tree without checking for scaly visitors.
Better to be safe than sorry. At night, try to carry a torch if you need to walk in the garden.
Let’s start with the green-coloured snakes. There are a number of Green Pit Vipers in Thailand and it is difficult to tell them apart.
Obviously they are all dangerous snakes but the good news is that there is an anti-venom that covers all green pit vipers.
White Lipped Pit Viper
Green pit viper venom is very painful but rarely fatal. However, a bad bite can lead to necrosis, the destruction of cells and tissue which can lead to amputation if a limb has been bitten. Get to hospital immediately if you are bitten and suspect a pit viper to be the culprit.
The most likely species you may meet is the White Lipped Pit Viper (as pictured above). They are found in wooded or bushy areas, often near human settlements. They like to stay reasonably close to water , though they are common in gardens.
These snakes tend to be nocturnal, but often they can be found sleeping in trees and bushes in the daytime.They prey on rodents, frogs, lizards and birds. Strikes are very fast and bites on humans are frequent.
Mating takes place in September and October .The female gives birth to up to 16 offspring which are born in a membrane which the baby snakes break open after birth.Juveniles look identical to adults.
Another species which is common in gardens is the Oriental Whip Snake . It can be found during the day in trees and shrubs of agricultural land, forests and gardens. It lies in loose loops on branches and sleeps in similar positions at night.
Oriental Whip Snake
Prey is frogs, lizards and birds. Mating takes place from the end of April to the beginning of July and from December to January.
Whip snakes are rear-fanged , that is they don’t have fangs at the front to inject venom like the really dangerous species.
Their fangs are at the back and they bite down on their prey, holding it whilst chewing to massage venom into the wound. Rear-fanged snakes are generally not dangerous to humans unless they are allowed to bite for more than 45 seconds .
Few people would allow that to happen but a young boy almost died in Pattaya not long ago. He had been bitten on the hand by a keelback and his parents were trying to remove the snake gently because they didn’t want to hurt it.
Red Necked Keelback
There is no anti-venom for keelbacks and a few seconds more and the boy would have died. Without trying to state the obvious, if you do have a snake dangling from you, remove it QUICKLY !!
When Oriental Whip Snakes are excited or threatened, they expand the neck area to make it look larger. It also extends its tongue and keeps it out.
Golden Tree Snakes are also likely to pay your garden a visit . They are found in forests, plantations gardens and houses. They prey on rodents, geckos and lizards. They are active during the day and can climb very fast.
Golden Tree Snake
If threatened they will bite immediately . They are rear-fanged and their venom is mild and not dangerous to humans.
I have mentioned keelbacks and three species which are common in gardens are the Red-Necked Keelback (pictured above), the Checkered Keelback and the Yellow Spotted Keelback. All are rear-fanged with the Red-Necked variety the most dangerous.
They can grow up to 130cm, though around 70cm is the average. These snakes are very adaptable and can be found in woods, residential areas and gardens. They prefer being near water and prey on frogs and fish in the daytime.
When threatened they spread out their red neck and erect themselves like a cobra. Their bite can be serious but not fatal as long as the bite was not prolonged.
The Checkered Keelback grows up to 120cm with an average-sized girth.
It has large eyes and preys on frogs, fish, rodents, birds and smaller snakes. Habitat includes marshes, ponds and rice paddies, even in subarban areas. It will bite aggressively if provoked.
The Yellow Spotted Keelback is similar in size, habitat and food. One interesting fact is that they sometimes swallow their prey immediately without killing it. There are reports of frogs being heard croaking from inside the snake!
Yellow Spotted Keelback
There are many more snakes that can be found in gardens and I’ll try to highlight some of them at a later date.
Next time we will be looking at the aggressive monacled cobra. Until then, keep those gardens neat and tidy……………..carefully !!!!