Snake FAQ – Everything You Need to Know about Snakes in Thailand
(Page updated: 26 January 2017)
Thailand has a large number of species of snakes – around 200 species of which around 60 are venomous (have venom dangerous to humans). I noticed that many people are afraid to hike in Thailand because of their fear of snakes. I wrote this Thailand Snake FAQ to help dispel any rumors and clarify what exactly are the dangers you might encounter here on vacation or for a long-term stay.
Here are some quick snake facts. I’m not a biologist, a herpetologist, or some other sort of expert. However, I’ve researched and caught all kinds of snakes since 2006. I have the website – ThailandSnakes.com. Here is my page with photos of the most common Thailand venomous and non-venomous snakes >
- Thailand Snakes are NOT interested in coming after you. You are not a target when you’re retreating. Only two of the snakes – the Burmese and Reticulated Pythons get large enough to eat you or your children. Recently I saw a Thailand python eat an adult goat (a kid) but, there hasn’t been a child eaten for as far as I can remember.
- Thailand Snakes don’t chase you. Thailand cobras – the king cobras can ‘chase’ you in short spurts – but, it’s only while they are defending themselves and are actively striking that they move forward toward you at all. The copper-headed racers (rat snake) and king cobras tend to move toward you as they strike. Sometimes Kings give a little follow-up strike too. One of these nailed a wildlife presenter with National Geographic while in India.
- You are NOT likely to see a venomous or non-venomous snake in Thailand during your vacation. Most visitors do not. I don’t have figures but, I’d guess less than 1% of tourists to this country see any snake at all – including in the Thailand snake shows.
- Snakes are active during the day and night. I’ve seen Golden Tree snakes, Monocled Cobras, King Cobras, Vipers, Copper-headed Racers, and all kinds of snakes during the daytime. Supposedly more snakes are active at night. Snakes are more active during late May, June, July, August, September, October, and until whenever the rains stop.
- More snakes are active at sea-level than in the higher elevations, but snakes can regularly be found on mountains.
Thailand Snake FAQ
Where can I go to identify a Thailand snake I saw or photographed?
I created a site: Thailand Snakes where you can browse photos or you can submit a form to me at: Thailand Snake Identification Form and I will respond as quickly as possible. If someone was bitten by a venomous snake – first get to the hospital, and then feel free to email me and I will respond quickly.
What is the most dangerous snake in Thailand?
Well, I’ll define ‘most dangerous’ as the one that most often bites humans and that kills a fair number of people in Thailand – the Malayan Pit Viper. A brown, thick as a shovel handle, snake that is a meter or less long. They have diamond patterns on their backs and a very triangle shaped head. The other biter in Thailand is the “Russel’s Viper,” now called the “Siamese Viper.” The Russel’s kills more people across the globe than any other. The reason is that these snakes are usually well hidden and someone steps too close and they strike quickly and have a deep bite. The King Cobras can kill elephants because the volume of their venom transfer is very large. The Kraits, Sea Snakes, and Monocled Cobras all have more potent venom per milliliter than the King Cobra.
Are venomous snakes usually a certain color?
No. Cobras are black, grey, brown, yellow, or white. Malayan Kraits are black/white striped or black/yellow striped. Some venomous snakes have red heads or necks. Many venomous tree vipers are green. Some have a rainbow coloring. Some have beautiful patterns like Russell’s Viper or the Malayan Pit Viper. If you can’t identify the snake absolutely without a doubt – consider it venomous and deadly.
Do all venomous (poisonous is when you eat something and get sick) snakes warn you before they strike?
No. King Cobras and Monocled Cobras may hiss weakly or strongly, but not all the time. Same with the Siamese Viper. Many venomous snakes do not hiss or give any warning before striking.
Where am I most likely to encounter a snake in Thailand?
Anywhere you are. That’s the short answer. My friend in Surat Thani had cobras coming into his kitchen regularly. A girl in Bangkok wrote me to show me photos of a large golden tree snake on the balcony of her apartment building. A foreigner on Ko Samui has a part-time business catching snakes for locals and tourists that find them. I’ve seen snakes in pools of water, ponds, on the highway, under trash cans, on mountains, under a big leaf, in my backyard, and on a branch above my head. There is no place in Thailand that doesn’t have snakes. They inhabit all areas of Thailand – and there are many in Bangkok due to the abundance of food – rats and frogs primarily. Best advice – wear a headlamp or carry a flashlight at night so you don’t step on a Malayan Pit Viper.
What should I do if bitten by a snake in Thailand and I don’t know what kind of snake bit me?
1. Try to remember what the snake looked like so you can choose it from a group of photos at the hospital – assuming they have photos. You may need to draw it – and/or describe it in words. Think about: Length, Thickness, color, pattern, shape of its head. Was it triangular? Triangular heads – when viewed from above can signify a venomous snake. Think also about where the snake was when it bit you – in a tree? On the path? In grass? In the water?
2. Sucking out the poison is not recommended because you are introducing bacteria-laden saliva into the wound – possibly initiating a secondary infection on top of the envenomation. Usually, only very minute amounts of venom can be removed by sucking on the wound – and the rubber suction cups you’d find in a snake-bite kit are worthless and harmful. If you can rinse the area with clean water or wipe the venom from your skin, you can do that – no more.
2. Apply an even pressure compress directly over the wound to slow the spread of the venom ONLY IF IT IS A COBRA, KRAIT, OR CORAL SNAKE. No tourniquets. You should be able to put a finger under the wrapped pad without too much effort.
Note: Applying a tight compress can actually increase the damage done by viper bites. These snakes have necrotoxic (necrotic, hemotoxic) venom which destroys cells they come in contact with. The compress delays the movement of the venom, and it remains very toxic and destroys everything it comes in contact with.
3. Stay as calm as possible. Don’t run, don’t scream and get upset… keep your blood circulation going as slowly as possible.
4. Get to the hospital emergency room as soon as possible.
Hospitals stock Antivenom (or antivenin or antivenene) for the most common snake bites. The biggest issue – is usually snake identification, each species of snake requires a specific antivenom to treat the snake-bite victim.
HERE are full instructions for initial treatment of snakebite in Thailand. Bookmark that page!
Where can I see photos of poisonous snakes in Thailand that I need to be extra cautious of?
Recently I created a site dedicated to showing photos of the snakes of Thailand at Thailand Snakes (.com). I’m adding photos all the time, if you are bitten have a look there and see if you can find which one bit you – if you have time. First move should be to the hospital’s intensive care section.
Where can I see videos of Thailand snakes?
I’ve taken a number of videos of snakes I’ve found in Thailand – click one of the links below to see the videos:
- Yellow and Black Mangrove Snake striking at snake handler >
- Finding a small monocled cobra on a Thailand street >
- Monocled Cobras, King Cobras, Pythons in open door cage in Thailand >
- Big King Cobra caught in Thailand local’s yard >
- Snake guy pushes King Cobra on face >
- Big yellow Copper-headed Racer snake found crossing highway >
- Baby Copperheaded Racer snake I rescued from street >
- Big, green Red Tailed Racer snake striking >
I have many videos about Thailand wildlife at my main Thai TV – Thailand Video Tube channel < click to see.
I hope this Thailand snake FAQ helped answer any questions you had about snakes in Thailand. Feel free to send questions to me or take photos of snakes in your yard or house that you’d like for me to identify and send to: info@ThailandSnakes.com.
If you want a tour to see Thailand reptiles – lizards, geckos, and snakes – see HERE.
Don’t miss – THAILAND SNAKES (.com) – my other site dedicated to showing people the venomous and non-venomous snakes of Thailand.