Snakes 2012

Re: Snakes 2012

Postby onionsack » 09 May 2012, 12:17

Timabee wrote:Great videos and pictures! I am completely terrified by snakes but still find them interesting as well (from a VERY comfortable distance). Fear born of ignorance on my part no doubt.


Yes, like most things, the more you learn about them, the less terrifying they become. You actually have to guard against complacency because they're so timid and reclusive that you forget that some of them do carry a pretty potent venom load.

I can't belive you actually pursue these characters as my main aim is to avoid them at all costs.


Pursue is too strong...we just enjoy the encounters when we come across them, and if we don't, well...it's still a nice hike in a beautiful country.

As TW is home to numerous species of snake - I have asked many TW friends whether they have known anyone who has ever been bitten by one. Not a single person so far. What is the likelihood of a casual trail-hiker crossing paths with any of these varieties (i.e. Russell Viper) and actually being bitten?


See my post above...the likelihood is extremely small. Dusk and evening are the times you need to be more careful because visibility will be poorer then.

Keep the pics and videos coming...very interesting.


I should be posting some more videos and photos in the next couple of days. Thanks for your interest!
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Re: Snakes 2012

Postby finley » 12 May 2012, 19:27

Taiwan certainly has snakes venomous enough to kill you.

Well, who'd have thunk it. Thanks very much for the detailed explanation, onionsack!
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Re: Snakes 2012

Postby Pingdong » 14 May 2012, 04:21

lots of babies around now, I have run into one in a tree and 2 on the ground all about 30 or less. unfortunately the rodent population is still strong and they dont seem to fancy cockroaches.
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Re: Snakes 2012

Postby onionsack » 16 May 2012, 22:17

Pingdong wrote:lots of babies around now, I have run into one in a tree and 2 on the ground all about 30 or less. unfortunately the rodent population is still strong and they dont seem to fancy cockroaches.


The warm weather and rain has definitely got them out. Were you able to identify which species you saw?
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Re: Snakes 2012

Postby Timabee » 17 May 2012, 02:51

Great summary and very much appreciated!

onionsack wrote:
finley wrote:I still feel awfully guilty about killing (completely by accident) a little snake while digging on my land. He was hiding underground. I guess he didn't suffer, but I wish he'd had the sense to run away first. Perhaps you 'herps' can answer a stupid question: exactly how venomous are Taiwan's venomous snakes? A friend of the family was apparently killed by a snake, many years ago, while on patrol in the military, but I can't help wondering if that really is what happened, or if it's the story made up by the military to explain an inconvenient 'accident'. I've never heard of any "fifteen-seconds-and-you're-dead" type snakes in Taiwan. Do they exist?


Taiwan certainly has snakes venomous enough to kill you. Just last night we came across a Many-banded Krait which is probably the number one deadliest snake venom-wise in the world outside of Australia (Australia has the top 4) but it is a reclusive and timid snake not inclined to strike unless repeatedly provoked. They're actually quite common here and we see them often on our night herping cruises. If one of these bit you, you might not even know it, as its venom is neurotoxic rather than hemotoxic, and not very painful. If you had the misfortune of getting bitten by one of them, your lungs would eventually stop getting the necessary information to keep breathing and you'd go down for a very pleasant but very permanent dirt nap. Cobras are the sole venomous diurnal snake that you're likely to come across, but they're relatively rare. Best not to get bitten by one of them, though, because they come armed with cytotoxic AND neurotoxic venom, and they pack a lot of it. They're also a bit more aggressive than other snakes and will hood up and strike if they feel threatened. The other common venomous snakes that you might encounter at night would be the vipers, especially the Bamboo Viper (or Green Tree Viper) and the habu. These two species of viper are ubiquitous in Taiwan and if you venture out at night into the forests or dark roads, chances are very good that you'll encounter one of these eventually. Their venom attacks tissue...very painful, but less likely to kill you than that of the elapids (kraits and cobras). Another famous venomous snake here is the Chinese Moccasin or "Hundred Pacer" (so named because legend has it that if you get bitten by one you'll be dead before you make it a hundred paces). These are found mostly along the East Coast from Hualian to Taidong. Same with the Russell's Viper. The subspecies of this snake on the Asian mainland has the distinction of being responsible for more human deaths than any other snake on the planet. Most venomous snakes in Taiwan are nocturnal, and bites occur when someone inadvertently steps on one at night (hence the "snake attacks" you read about in the papers are actually defensive strikes by snakes after they've been attacked by a human). But I should emphasize the fact that encounters with snakes are very rare, and bites far rarer still. It's not like these things are falling out of the trees like leaves, or you're in danger of tripping over one with every third step you take down a mountain path. We spend a LOT of time at night intentionally trying to find these snakes and they're damned hard to find. They don't WANT to be found, and they're extremely good at avoiding discovery. You should feel extremely lucky if you ever come across one, and appreciate what beautiful and extraordinary highly-evolved animals they are, as well as their crucial role in the ecosystem. If you see one, just stand still or back away slowly and enjoy the spectacle...you're not part of its diet and no snake wants to waste its precious venom on something that isn't a threat or isn't edible. The snake will go on its merry way paying no concern whatsoever towards you. If you have the extremely unlikely misfortune to be bitten, it's not that big a deal, provided you get to a hospital as quickly as you can. All hospitals carry antivenom for all the major venomous snakes in Taiwan, and as long as you get to one quickly, they'll sort you out. You're not going to die in 15 seconds. Or a hundred paces. Or even an hour. But you do need to get to a hospital as quickly as you can to prevent tissue damage (in the case of viper bites) or muscle paralysis (in the case of the elapids) and if you were able to identify what species it was that bit you, all the better. (Although do NOT try to kill the snake that bit you and bring it to the hospital...you're only likely to incur further bites)...so this is a long, roundabout way of trying to answer your question: YES, it's very possible your friend of the family was killed by a snake, especially if this happened years ago when antivenom wasn't so widely available, and he might have been posted far from medical help. Personally, I feel like the five minute drive I take to GET to the woods where I go looking for snakes is the point where I'm in most danger from serious injury, and the statistics bear me out.
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Re: Snakes 2012

Postby Pingdong » 17 May 2012, 03:45

no not really, sometimes babie slook a lot different. i can tell vipers and such, but its been a decade since i ever owned a snake and things have gotten pretty foggy I have realized. I saw a LOT of snakes out at the farm tonight, jesus. Makes me not want to go there now as its all weedy and they are real hard to see. mostly kraits that I saw then. the babies i see during the day look like a baby corn/kingsnake from back in the states, but uniform brown with a light stripe on either side. I saw 3, all near Kending in the pandanus fields. but they moved fast to get away, so couldnt do much better on description. pics came out all blurry too.
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Re: Snakes 2012

Postby onionsack » 17 May 2012, 11:30

Pingdong wrote:no not really, sometimes babie slook a lot different. i can tell vipers and such, but its been a decade since i ever owned a snake and things have gotten pretty foggy I have realized. I saw a LOT of snakes out at the farm tonight, jesus. Makes me not want to go there now as its all weedy and they are real hard to see. mostly kraits that I saw then. the babies i see during the day look like a baby corn/kingsnake from back in the states, but uniform brown with a light stripe on either side. I saw 3, all near Kending in the pandanus fields. but they moved fast to get away, so couldnt do much better on description. pics came out all blurry too.


I gotta get back down south. :D

Do you have a video camera? Sometimes you can get decent enough video of snakes to identify them, although the juveniles are sometimes hard to identify for a lot of species.
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Re: Snakes 2012

Postby onionsack » 17 May 2012, 12:34

Image

This is a habu we found last week on the Bei Hen.
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Re: Snakes 2012

Postby onionsack » 17 May 2012, 12:39

Image

This is a false viper, found in the same location. Notice how this non-venomous snake spreads out its head in a triangular shape to appear like a habu.
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Re: Snakes 2012

Postby onionsack » 17 May 2012, 12:42

Image

You can see the long fangs of a habu in this shot.
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