Table of Contents
15 Popular Common Snakes Found In the Indian Sub-continent
1. Indian Cobra (Naag)
The Indian cobra also is known as the spectacled cobra, Asian cobra or binocellate cobra is a species of the genus Naja found in India. It feeds on rodents, lizards and frogs. The cobra is as attacker and also a defender, it attacks by biting and defends by spitting venom which if enters the opponent’s eye, can do some serious damage. They can spray venom up to 2 fts from their fangs. It is about 4 ft long and commonly found in rainforests, rice fields or cultivated land and is now protected under the Indian Wildlife Protection Act (1972).
How to identify it : the species dorsal colour ranges from creamy white, dark-brown to black, with belly coloration from grey, tan, yellow, brown to reddish or even black, and features a characteristic wide black band in the throat are just under the neck.
2. King Cobra
The longest venomous snake in the world is the King Cobra. The size and look of these has many people worried, they are held responsible for many deaths. Its poison basically spreads an infection which actually can be treated although not completely but to some extent. These can grow up to 18 or 18 ½ feet! But commonly are 13 feet in length and weighs 20kgs. These are fast moving snakes with amazing agility. They have the longest forked tongues. They use it help them sense what is going around them. This species had very good vision. They are known to be able to identify prey that is up to 300 feet away from them.
How to identify it : Their colour depends on the location where they live. However, olive green is the most common base colour of them and a mix of black and tan on them. There will always be some types of bands that run down on them from the top down usually yellow in colour, cream or light yellow on the belly. They feature scales along the belly, and have very sharp fangs with teeth that turn inwards. Cobra gives it a look that appears very intense and fierce.
3. Indian Rock Python (Ajgar)
Indian python found in the hill forests of Western-Ghats and Assam are darker, than those from the Deccan Plateau including Grasslands, swamps, marshes, rocky foothills and woodlands. Found in most of the Indian mainland except North-East region after North-Bengal. It is non-venomous but gives injurious bite with numerous small but sharp teeth and can cause skin rupture on the site of bite. It has been considered to be one of the most precious species to beautiful and tough snake skin and for this its trade is high in various parts of the country. Grows up to 25ft and feeds on mammals, monitors, large rodents and birds.
How to identify it: Mostly identified by checking its large size, dark irregular patches, pinkish head and slow locomotion. Body is thick with shiny smooth scales, upper surface full of irregular shaped patches of dark brown or blackish colour and the lower part colour white mixed with yellow, gray or brown. Their scales are narrower than other typical snakes.
4. Russells Viper (Daboia)
These are one of the most venomous snakes distributed throughout the country up to Assam except Indian Islands, Himalayan hills and most of the north states. Found both in plains and moderate elevation up to about 4800fts. Hides in mounds, holes, piles, caves, cracks, dense leaf litters, dense vegetation etc. These are mostly killed for its venom potency and aggression on encounter with humans on field also illegal venom trade for various use including medical and research use is regularly noticed in parts of its range, mainly in Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Delhi, Goa, Daman & Diu, Gujarat, Haryana, Jharkhand, Punjab, West Bengal and Maharashtra.
How to identify it: Robust and stout body covered with keeled scales. Three row black spots or almond like spots found in whole upper body. It is often confused with Indian Python but its oval spots helps in identification. Grows up to 6ft. Tails are small and pointed and covered with typical keeled scales usually without patterns.
5. Saw Scaled Viper
It is one of the four most deadly snakes found in India, distributed throughout the Indian mainland except most of the West Bengal, Himalayan foothills and Indian islands, common in Gujarat, Haryana, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan. Grows up to 80cm, found both in moderate elevation and plains. Habitat includes dry open lands, agricultural fields, scrubs, rocky terrain and open plains. These are nocturnal species which remain active from late evening to late nights for foraging and other life activities. Generally bites when people don’t see them in their natural habitat by mistakenly stepping on them. Its bite causes serious damage and major tissue loss.
How to identify it: It has a dry looking body covered with rough scales, light colour rounded patches on top which are surrounded by two wavy lines from head to posterior body. Belly colour white with dark brown or blackish spots in all ventral scales which become larger on the lower body.
6. Pit Viper
It is a nocturnal species, commonly seen at night, choose moderate heights but can be seen on ground many time, rattle snakes are a lower classification of these. Not poisonous but when bites causes burning sensation, pain and swelling within one minute. This sensation spreads along the limb and becomes red, there is often internal bleeding, but it can be cured, no death has been reported on this snakes’ bite. They are usually shy, calm, and non-offensive and try to escape first. But on provocation gives mock attacks first and can bite on approaching closer.
How to identify it: About 113cm in length, slender body covered with lightly keeled scales. Upper body colour ranges from yellowish-green to bluish-green and marked with rich or faint black irregular markings, sometimes greenish without any pattern. Triangular covered with very small scales, clearly broader than neck. Short pointed tail.
7. Krait – Indian Krait
The common krait is a highly poisonous species of snake found in the Indian sub-continent and regarded as one of the most toxic in the world. Its bite can affect the nervous system, causing paralysis and respiratory failure which also results in death. They are found almost all over the peninsular region but not the offshore islands. Majorly inhabits rainforests, scrubs forests, dry, moist or mixed deciduous forest or rocky terrain and near water. These are majorly responsible for snake bites in India. During the day they are generally quite docile, shy and unaggressive snakes, but during the night they become very active and alert and much more aggressive.
How to identify it: Their length varies from 3 to 6 ft. Males are usually longer and have 40-50 narrow white, yellowish or grayish crossbands all over the body. Their head is flat and egg-shaped with a short snout and barely distinguishable from the neck, with small black eyes and round pupils.
8. Rat Snake (Dhaman)
The oriental rat snake or Indian rat snake is a common species of colubrid snake found in India and locally called Dhaman. These snakes are one of the longest and fast-moving snakes, frequently found in urban areas where rodents thrive. On threatening it creeps away from enemy and tries to hide in dark and narrow places like holes, cracks and dense bushes. Feeds on toads and rodents mostly but also other snakes, birds, lizards and eggs. Hides in dark and silent places and lives in almost all kinds of habitat due to its tendency to survive in tough conditions. Seen all over India including North-east and Andaman Islands.
How to identify it: They have a long body with dark colour patterns on the whole dorsal (upper) surface are it general identification features. They have a black net like covering mark on the whole body. Broader heads and thinner mid body. Their tongue is purplish-black with darker colour on the front side. Sometimes they have dark colour patches all over its belly.
9. Boa Snakes
Found all over India excluding north-east states after north Bengal. It’s non-venomous. Habitat includes agricultural lands, gardens, unused lands having sandy soil, deep cracks, mounds, rat holes. They are nocturnal and burrowing. Can be seen at day time while foraging and preying. The locomotion is very slow and lethargic. Usually non-offensive and rather escape (forms a robust coil to hide its head in defence). But its bite is surprisingly painful. In some parts of the country it is consumed for edible use.
How to identify it: they have small head, thick and robust body, upper body marked with irregular dark patches and a very rough looking thick tail. The dark patches are usually continuous. Light brown, white or yellow in colour.
10. Water Snake – Keel back (Dhodia)
It is also known as the checkered Keelback water snake. These are harmless and medium seized and have glossy scales with a prominent black eye streaks. They grow up to 1.75m. These snakes show quite variation in colour, ranging from black with white markings to bright yellow with black and white checkered pattern. They are found throughout the India up to 3000m in Himalayas. They usually live in lakes and ponds, wells, rivers, streams and flooded rice fields. Not nocturnal, active all the time.
How to identify it: one or two eye-streaks are distinct and the head is obtusely pointed discrete from the neck. It is heavy bodied and scales are strongly keeled and glossy.
11. Trinket Snake
These are a harmless medium seized species; and are slender and smooth and have shiny scales. They grow up to a maximum size of 1.5m in length, found throughout India and a special breed of green trinkets are found in the Andaman and the mandarin trinket is found in the Himalayas. Trinkets generally live deep in termite mounds, rock piles and crevices during the hot weather and in the cool season they are witnessed on leafy trees and bushes. They are active during the day as well as night. They do not attack and are calm and easy to handle.
How to identify it: They are tan and chocolate brown in colour, with two prominent dark stripes on the lower part of the body and light bands and checks on the fore part. Their eyes are prominent and round-pupilled and have scattered scales with pores in front of the eyes.
12. Banded Racer
These are again from the harmless family, medium seized and slender, lightly banded and the full grown are without any patterns. Their maximum length is 1.4m. These are found in plains throughout most parts in India. These are very alert and fast snakes and usually prefer a place with high grass or bushes. When captured or disturbed, may bite which causes pain and swelling, consultancy with doctors is a must even though they are not poisonous. The clearing of vegetation and over-grazing have caused a reduction in the number.
How to identify it: They are light or dark brown in colour. They also have vibrant white head markings, the head a bit wider than the neck, and nose is slightly pointed. Their scales are smooth but not shiny and the underside is white or yellowish.
13. Vine Snake
These thin and long slender species grow up to 173cm. Their scales are smooth and obliquely arranged and their head looks like a leaf. Found in moderate and high elevations of peninsular Indian hills. Lives in dry and mixed deciduous forest. It is rarely seen on ground and is not poisonous but is active throughout the day. Fast locomotion on arboreal environment while slow on land. When it attacks, it doesn’t directly bite but gives off a warning first by opening wide its mouth to full extent to look bigger but can bite in chew manner.
How to identify it: They have a long and thin body and tail, and brown dorsal (upper) body with dark spots and a thin snouted head. Their pupils are horizontal.
14. Cat Snake
Cat snake is a species of rear fanged colubrid endemic to Indian sub-continent. Commonly found in Sikkim and Maharashtra and it is mildly venomous. Although poisonous, they are considered harmless if not disturbed. It has a distinct pattern on its body. It has maximum growth of 1.25m. They are found throughout India, but mostly on plains. In the day time they can be seen coiled up on leafy trees as they like to stay in a cool place. As per the name, they have cat like eyes and long feathery tongue. They are rear fanged and their venom can cause paralysis.
How to identify it: They are thin and have along body with a tail that tapers to a point. Their colour varies from light brown to tan with a zigzag pattern. A prominent Y mark can be seen on their head. Their scales are not glossy but smooth and are often mistaken for saw scaled vipers.
15. Dog-faced Snake
It is a nocturnal species of less activity in daylight. It’s aquatic and shows prone activity in mud and water both. They are non-offensive. Found in marine coast line, mangroves, tidal rivers, brackish estuaries, paddy fields of both marine and fresh water. Hides in crab holes, under rocks and dense aquatic vegetation. Found in all coasts on mainland, Andaman and Nicobar islands and the coast of Gujarat. They are non-venomous and don’t attack if not disturbed.
How to identify it: 100cm is the maximum length and has brown dorsal surface marked with darker bands or blotches. Their Head is elongated, depressed and longer than neck and pupils are elliptically vertical. Scales on the upper head are fragmented. Tails aren’t pointy and generally of the same colour as the body.
Make sure you do your research well, before visiting any of the home lands of these deadly reptiles. Well, this was your brief introduction to the snakes commonly found around the habitat; they are like people, some like the city life and some just country! So beware about what you’re dealing with and in case of encounter keep in mind their basic characteristics to judge the situation right.