Do you want to learn about the types of snakes in China?
If so, you’ve come to the right place. In the article below, I have listed the snakes you can expect to see. Then, for each species, you will find out how to identify that snake correctly, along with pictures, interesting facts, and RANGE MAPS!
You’ll see that the snakes that live in China are very different from each other. They range from venomous species to snakes that use constriction to immobilize their prey. In addition, certain snakes are common to find living around people.
27 COMMON snakes that live in China:
#1. White-lipped Pit Viper
- Trimeresurus albolabris
Also known as Green Tree Pit Viper and White-lipped Bamboo Pit Viper.
- Males are 60 cm (24 in) long. They also have light-colored side stripes, which the females lack.
- Females are 81 cm (32 in) long.
- Their coloring is green on the upper body, with lighter shades of yellow, light green, or white on the belly and sides of the head.
The White-lipped Pit Viper is one of the most widespread snakes in China.
Their preferred habitat is shrublands, agricultural areas, forests, and suburban gardens. These vipers are ambush predators that wait for small mammals, birds, and frogs to come by. When a meal gets close, they attack, injecting venom until the prey dies.
White-lipped Vipers are solitary and most active at night, which helps them to avoid hunting during high temperatures. They prefer cooler weather because it’s easier to use their heat-sensitive pits. These organs pick up the body heat of animals, but that heat can be hard to distinguish on warmer nights.
White-lipped Pit Vipers also use their heat-sensitive pits to find cool areas where they can rest. Old animal burrows, leaf litter, and the base of shrubs are all likely spots to find these snakes, but it’s better to avoid them if you can. The White-lipped Pit Viper has hemotoxic venom, which can cause various symptoms. Some people report only mild irritation, but this snake’s bite can cause pain, blood clots, and death if left untreated.
#2. Red-banded Snake
- Lycodon rufozonatus
- Adults are 70-130 cm (28-51 in) long.
- The head is long, flat, and slightly wider than the neck.
- Their coloring is dark brown with horizontal crimson lines on the back. The belly is beige, with black spots on the tail.
The Red-banded Snake is a nocturnal, medium-sized snake whose venom is not harmful to humans. They can be found in various habitats near water, such as marshes and river plains.
Even though these terrestrial snakes are usually found on the ground, they tend to be good climbers and swimmers. Look for them in small streams and ponds as well as in grassy areas. If they aren’t swimming or hunting, they curl into a spherical mass with the head hidden for protection.
Despite being relatively harmless, Red-banded Snakes in China should be given space.
If approached, some individuals can be unpredictable, and while they usually flee, they are also known to bite. They also have a defensive measure of secreting a very strong musk from the anal glands.
#3. Many-banded Krait
- Bungarus multicinctus
Also known as the Chinese Krait or the Taiwanese Krait.
- Adults are 1-1.5 m (3-5 ft) long. The record length is 1.85 m (6.1 ft).
- Its body is slim and slightly compressed on the sides, with the spine visible on top.
- Their coloring is dark bluish-black with white cross bands along the back.
Look for the Many-banded Krait in shrublands, agricultural fields, woodlands, suburban areas, and villages. It often makes its home inside abandoned buildings. This species prefers to stay close to water, so pay close attention to rice paddies, ditches, and riverbanks.
It’s best to keep your distance from this highly venomous snake in China.
Many-banded Kraits have strong jaws and can twist sharply, landing a bite even when held behind the head. It can take up to an hour to show symptoms of a bite, by which time there can be lethal consequences. So if you see one in the wild, it should be left alone.
#4. Chinese Green Snake
- Ptyas major
- Adults are 75–90 cm (30-35 in) long.
- Its coloring is bright green above, with greenish-yellow scales on the sides and belly.
- Some specimens have scattered black spots on the back.
The Chinese Green Snake is semi-arboreal, meaning it splits time between trees and the ground. They prefer to live in humid forests and farmland. When encountered, they tend to be mild-mannered and rarely bite.
This diurnal snake is most active during the day in China and spends its nights resting on tree branches. Its diet consists of insects and their larvae, earthworms, and other soft-bodied invertebrates. The Chinese Green Snake is non-venomous.
#5. Chinese Green Tree Viper
- Trimeresurus stejnegeri
Also known as the Chinese Pit Viper, Bamboo Viper, and Chinese Tree Viper.
- Adults grow up to 90 cm (35 in) long.
- They have triangular heads, noticeably red eyes, and bright green coloring. The end of the tail is brick red.
- A thin white line runs down the sides, and males also have a red line in the same spot.
Don’t let this snake’s bright coloring and slow movements fool you; it’s aggressive and venomous! The Chinese Green Tree Viper prefers moist environments and often lives in cultivated farmland. Luckily, it’s rare to stumble on an active Chinese Green Tree Viper because they spend their days sleeping, preferring to hunt at night. This species eats rodents, frogs, birds, and other snakes.
If you see one of these snakes in China, back up slowly and give it plenty of space as you leave the area.
The Chinese Green Tree Viper’s venom is potent, and its bite can be lethal without medical attention. The symptoms include an extremely painful wound, often compared to being branded with a hot iron. The pain can last for up to 24 hours after the bite. Within a few minutes of being bitten, the hemotoxic venom breaks down blood and tissue, causing swelling and necrosis.
#6. Chinese Cobra
- Naja atra
Also known as Taiwan Cobra.
- Adults are 1.2-1.5 m (4-5 ft) long.
- Their coloring is iridescent black overall, with several white or yellow lines on the body and a white throat.
- They have the prominent fanned hood typical of a cobra species.
The Chinese Cobra is one of the most venomous snakes in China.
Its typical habitat is shrublands and mangroves. However, it’s highly adaptable to a wide range of terrain, including grassland plains, open fields, jungle, and even heavily populated regions. The only habitat it avoids is dark forests with a closed canopy.
The Chinese Cobra has a varied diet and hunts both night and day, so you can see this species at any time. Unfortunately, this makes it even more dangerous for people who are caught unaware. Many accidentally stumble upon a Chinese Cobra and are bitten before they notice the snake.
This species’ highly venomous bite contains cardiotoxins, which damage the heart and muscles, and neurotoxins, which damage the brain and nerves. This combination causes life-threatening symptoms, including necrosis, chest pain, fever, lockjaw, and difficulty breathing. Fortunately, antivenom is widely available, so seek immediate treatment if you’re bitten.
#7. Yellow-spotted Keelback
- Fowlea flavipunctatus
- Adults grow up to 1 m (3.2 ft) long.
- They are predominantly yellow or beige, with dark brown or black spots and a defined “V” marking on their necks.
- The eyes are notably large compared to the head.
The Yellow-spotted Keelback is a semi-aquatic snake living in slow rivers, marshes, and lakes. It also thrives in wet human-modified habitats, such as rice fields and ditches.
This snake is most active during the day and hunts with its strong swimming abilities. Its diet consists mostly of fish and frogs, and it serves as pest control by preying on rats and mice.
Even though the Yellow Keelback is considered non-venomous, it should be left alone if encountered in its natural habitat. It tends to get aggressive, biting and drawing blood if startled or scared. Stay back!
#8. Short-tailed Mamushi
- Gloydius brevicauda
- Adults are 28-68 cm (11-27 in) long.
- They are light brown or reddish with grey elliptical spots and white stripes on a grey underbelly.
- The head is wider than the body, with dark brown horizontal spots around the eyes. The eyes themselves are black or dark brown.
The Short-tailed Mamushi is a venomous pit viper and one of the most dangerous snakes in China.
Its venom causes the victim’s tissues to liquefy, often leading to skin necrosis. About ten people per year pass away due to a severe bite from a Short-tailed Mamushi. Luckier victims survive but are usually hospitalized for a week or longer.
This species inhabits open forests, meadows, marshes, swamps, and rocky hillsides. It hunts by ambushing its prey, camouflaged in low vegetation or leaves, waiting for rodents, small birds, insects, and other reptiles. Be extra cautious when hiking or walking in its range because it’s likely to feel threatened before you notice its presence.
#9. Banded Krait
- Bungarus fasciatus
- Adults are about 0.8 m (2.6 ft) long, but the largest recorded was 2.7 m (9 ft).
- Its body is covered in horizontal yellow and black bands. The underparts of the head are yellow.
- The head is black, with a broad shape, but not distinct from the body. Look for its distinctive keeled spine, which gives its body a triangular shape.
Banded Kraits can be seen in diverse habitats, ranging from forests to agricultural lands and open countryside plains. They often live near human settlements, especially villages, because of the large supply of rodents and water.
Due to their love of water, they can most commonly be seen during rainy seasons. They are also nocturnal and usually hunt at night, mainly feeding on other snakes but are also known to eat fish, skinks, frogs, and snake eggs.
If harassed, they will hide their heads under their coils and do not generally attempt to bite. But, since they are more active at night, it can be easy to stumble upon one and wind up in danger. The Banded Krait’s venom contains neurotoxins, and though bites are rare, it’s best to avoid this snake in China.
#10. Tiger Keelback
- Rhabdophis tigrinus
- Adults are 60–100 cm (24–39 in) long.
- Their coloring is checkered olive green and black with orange, yellow, or red crossbars on the first third of the body.
- The underside is white to cream.
The Tiger Keelback uses its tongue as much as its vision to hunt for prey. This is because it has sensitive receptors that react to chemicals in its prey, leading it directly to its next meal. This ability is why you may have heard that some snakes in China can “smell” with their tongues!
This species is sensitive to colder temperatures and is less likely to run away when the weather is cold. So, be alert of your surroundings in cooler seasons to ensure you don’t run afoul of the Tiger Keelback. In warmer weather, it’s more likely to flee than to try and fight.
Tiger Keelbacks are highly venomous, but they don’t produce their own toxins. Instead, they ingest and reuse toxins from the toads they eat. Once they eat the toad, they store its toxins in the nuchal glands and use them as a defensive mechanism. That’s one way to ensure you use every part of your prey!
#11. Common Mock Viper
- Psammodynastes pulverulentus
- Adults reach a maximum length of 65 cm (26 in).
- Their coloring is brown with darker brown and white flecks.
- The head is paddle-shaped and wider at the back.
Common Mock Vipers got their name by mimicking the most venomous snakes in China.
Its impressive mimicking abilities include changing the shape of its pupils to resemble a viper and mimicking the viper’s attacking technique. However, despite its excellent acting skills, this species is not venomous, and its bite is harmless, though painful, to humans.
Common Mock Vipers live in tropical wet forests. Even though they are primarily terrestrial snakes, they can climb trees and branches. Sometimes, they use this ability to hang over the water and wait for prey to wander by.
#12. Oriental Ratsnake
- Ptyas mucosa
Also known as Darash Indian Ratsnake or Dhaman.
- Adults are 1.5-1.95 m (5-6.3 ft), while the record is 3.7 m (12 ft) long.
- Their color varies depending on habitat: pale browns in dry regions and nearly black in moist forest areas.
- Regardless of the upper coloring, the belly is a pale yellow to cream.
Look for Oriental Ratsnakes in rice paddies, wetlands, farmland, and suburban areas. They usually prey upon small reptiles, amphibians, birds, and mammals. Interestingly, adults subdue their prey by sitting on it, using their body weight to weaken it.
Oriental Ratsnakes are wary, quick to flee, and fast-moving. If they can’t get away, adults make a growling sound and inflate their necks to mimic the posture of the King Cobra. This mimicry is likely a response to King Cobras preying on juvenile Oriental Ratsnakes.
Aside from cobras, these snakes don’t face any other animal predators. However, in some regions, humans hunt them for their skin and meat. Currently, there are efforts to regulate hunting and protect the population.
#13. Buff Striped Keelback
- Amphiesma stolatum
- Adults are 40-50 cm (16-20 in) long.
- Their coloring is dark gray or black with bold, vertical, cream-colored stripes.
- The undersides of the head and throat are a vibrant yellow.
The Buff-striped Keelback is a nonvenomous terrestrial snake that prefers wet lowland plains. This species isn’t dangerous to humans and rarely bites. But it will put on a show when threatened by flattening its head to form a cobra-like hood.
Look for Buff-striped Keelbacks during the day when they hunt for frogs, toads, earthworms, fish, and geckos. They have long rear teeth that easily capture slippery creatures and lock them in their jaws.
There are two morphs, both with the same apparent coloring and pattern. The only difference is the coloring between the scales, which is visible when the snake puffs out its body in a defensive move. The “typical” morph has silvery blue coloring between its scales (pictured above), while the second morph’s coloring is a vibrant red.
#14. Burmese Python
- Python bivittatus
- Adults grow up to 5 m (16 ft) in length.
- They are dark colored with brown blotches bordered by black down the length of their bodies.
- Females are usually a little longer and heavier than males.
The Burmese Python is an excellent swimmer and climber, using its prehensile tail to grip branches as it moves through trees. They can remain underwater for up to 30 minutes but spend most of their time on land. Because of poaching, habitat destruction, and egg hunting for trade, Burmese Pythons are listed as a Vulnerable species by the IUCN in their native range.
Burmese Pythons are often sold as pets since they have attractive color morphs and an easygoing disposition.
Unfortunately, irresponsible pet owners have let Burmese Pythons escape, allowing this species to become invasive in the Florida Everglades. The Everglades provide a perfect habitat for these invasive snakes, with plenty of water and flat land. However, there are no predators here to keep the population in check, and they’ve come close to wiping out several native species because of their enormous numbers.
#15. King Cobra
- Ophiophagus hannah
- Adults are 3-3.6 m (10-12 ft) long, but the largest specimens can grow up to 5.4 m (18 ft).
- Their coloring is olive green with black and white bands on the body.
- They have a prominent hood that opens in a defensive stance and a rounded nose.
The King Cobra is the longest venomous snake in China.
Despite its size, this species is not considered particularly aggressive. It usually avoids humans and slinks off when disturbed. However, it is known to defend incubating eggs aggressively and strikes intruders rapidly. A single attack can deliver multiple bites.
Interestingly, the venom of hatchlings is as potent as the adults’. The babies are brightly marked, but these colors often fade as they mature. In addition, they are often nervous and alert, which makes them highly aggressive if disturbed.
Whether you encounter a juvenile or an adult, it’s best to give this dangerous snake a lot of space. Its bite results in excruciating pain, blurred vision, dizziness, fatigue, and even paralysis. If the bite victim doesn’t receive medical help, they can die from cardiovascular and respiratory failure within 30 minutes of the bite. Stay back!
#16. Golden Tree Snake
- Chrysopelea ornata
- Adults are 115-130 cm (45-51 in) long.
- Their coloring is green, with black cross-hatching and yellow, red, or gold accents.
- They have slender bodies and flat heads with defined necks.
Golden Tree Snakes hunt for bats, lizards, and small rodents during the day. This species is an arboreal snake that lives mostly on tree branches. It has great gliding ability and is an excellent climber, easily moving from tree to tree.
It is mildly venomous and uses its venom to subdue its fast-moving prey. The snake stalks after the prey once it’s delivered a bite and seizes it by the neck, which is crushed in its strong jaws. Because their venom is mild, a bite from this species can be irritating and painful to humans but is not life-threatening.
Golden Tree Snakes have become increasingly available in the exotic pet trade in recent years. Unfortunately, many imported specimens have heavy parasite loads, and the stress of captivity often leads to untimely death. It’s much better to observe this species in the wild since it does poorly in captivity.
#17. Oriental Whipsnake
- Ahaetulla prasina
- Adults grow up to 1.8 m (6 ft) long.
- This species has a slender body with a long, pointed snout.
- Their coloring varies from light brown to dull yellow-green and fluorescent green. Some individuals have a checkered pattern of light and dark green scales.
The Oriental Whipsnake is one of the most colorful snakes in China!
Its impressive range of colors makes it difficult to recognize because individuals look so different from one another. However, the slender body and incredibly large, spade-shaped head should help with your identification.
This species is arboreal, so it usually lives in forest edge habitats such as parklands, rural agricultural areas, and wooded residential areas. It’s also a diurnal snake, so the best place to find one is sunbathing or hunting during the day. They eat small nesting birds, lizards, and tree frogs.
Oriental Whipsnakes are mildly venomous, but the toxins are not strong enough to hurt humans. If you see one, observe from a respectful distance, but you don’t need to rush away.
#18. Small-banded Kukri Snake
- Oligodon fasciolatus
Also known as the Fasciolated Kukri Snake or the Small-banded Kukri Snake.
- Adults grow up to 115 cm (45 in) long.
- Their coloring is grey-brown or light brown to brownish-red with darker brown crossbands edged in black. The underside is creamy white.
- This species has a thick, cylindrical body shape and a wide head.
Look for the terrestrial Small-banded Kukri Snake in China in forested plains and hillsides, agricultural sites, and village outskirts. Though they occasionally move about during the day, this snake is usually nocturnal.
Small-banded Kukri Snakes eat frogs, lizards, and turtle eggs. They will even eat roadkill if they come across some while hunting. However, unlike most snake species, they tend to tear their prey apart before eating it. As you might imagine, this snake has sharp teeth that are efficient for cutting open turtle eggs and ripping large prey apart.
Keep your distance if you find one of these snakes in the wild, as they’re highly aggressive if disturbed. The bites leave deep puncture wounds that are difficult to clean and may lead to infection. Even though they aren’t venomous, you should still seek medical help if bitten.
#19. Indo-Chinese Rat Snake
- Ptyas korros
- Adults grow up to 108 cm (43 in) long.
- The upper body is olive, orange, or brown, and the belly is yellow. The tail is yellow, edged with black.
- This species has very large round eyes with round pupils.
The Indo-Chinese Rat Snake is active during the day when it hunts lizards, rodents, and sometimes birds. They can adapt to various habitats but prefer forested areas, grasslands, and plantations close to a water source. This species is common to find on walks and hikes because it’s relatively comfortable around people. Watch your step!
Indo-Chinese Rat Snakes are non-venomous, but their bite is still painful. Their first response to danger is to flee quickly. If that doesn’t work, they can expand their neck vertically, making them look taller and more imposing to predators. Finally, they will strike if forced into a confrontation.
#20. Painted Bronzeback
- Dendrelaphis pictus
- Adults are 60-100 cm (24-39 in) long.
- Their coloring is brown on top and white below, with a black line, a yellow line, and bright blue markings on the sides.
- This species is thin and long with a small head and large eyes.
The arboreal Painted Bronzeback lives mostly in forested areas near a water source. However, you may also spot one in artificial habitats such as parks and gardens. They rest and sleep high up in trees or bushes and only occasionally come to the ground to hunt. They often prey on lizards and frogs.
Painted Bronzebacks are non-venomous and shy; they will usually flee if disrupted. If handled, the snake will inflate its body and flatten its neck laterally to reveal its turquoise color, then open its mouth and show off its bright red tongue. If these scare tactics don’t work, it will give a painful bite.
#21. Copperhead Rat Snake
- Coelognathus radiatus
Also known as Radiated Ratsnake or Copper-headed Trinket Snake.
- Adults are 150-210 cm (59-83 in) long.
- Their coloring is brown, copper, gray, or tan, with black stripes that fade toward the tail.
- This species has a slender head with medium round eyes and round pupils.
Despite being non-venomous, this is one of the most aggressive snakes in China!
Copperhead Rat Snakes are so vicious they’re often used as training snakes for people looking to get into handling venomous species, especially cobras. They’re highly defensive, making them difficult to control.
If they find themselves threatened, they inflate the neck to show bluish skin, bend the anterior half of the body into loops and open the mouth widely. If handled, they have a very quick strike and painful bite.
The Copperhead Rat Snake’s usual habitats are rocky, overgrown open spaces, grassy areas, shrublands, and jogging trails. They are mostly active during the day, so use caution if you go hiking or running in its range.
#22. Ussuri Mamushi
- Gloydius ussuriensis
Also known as Ussuri Pit Viper or Ussuri Mamushi.
- Adults are 37-64 cm (15-26 in) in length.
- Their coloring is light brown-gray to black with large, dark, elliptical blotches on the back and sides.
- The medium-sized eyes have vertical pupils.
Look for the Ussuri Mamushi near open grassland, forest edges, or marshes and paddy fields. This terrestrial pit viper spends most of its time on the ground. Since it’s nocturnal, your best chance to see one is while it hunts for frogs and mice at night.
However, this is one snake you probably want to avoid rather than go looking for it. It’s a particularly aggressive species and quick to bite if threatened. Its bites cause excruciating pain and produce internal organ hemorrhages and bleeding at bite sites. Victims typically need a hospital stay of up to a week to recover.
#23. Brahminy Blindsnake
- Indotyphlops braminus
- Adults are 5.1-10.2 cm (2-4 in) long.
- Their coloring varies; charcoal gray, light yellow-beige, silver-gray, purplish, and white are common.
- The body shape is worm-like, and they are easily mistaken for earthworms.
This tiny species is the smallest snake in China.
The Brahminy Blindsnake, as its name suggests, is almost completely blind. It has small, translucent eyes that can detect light but not form images. Although native to China, this species is naturalized worldwide. It’s transported in the soil of potted plants, so the species earned the nickname Flowerpot Snake.
They spend almost all their time underground in ant and termite nests and live under logs, moist leaves, and stones. Look for them in suburban and even urban gardens and moist forests.
When distressed or attacked, the Brahminy Blindsnake will try to escape underground. If touched, it might press its tail on the attacker and release a smelly musk. Despite its rather creepy appearance, this snake is completely harmless to humans.
#24. Steppe Ratsnake
- Elaphe dione
Also known as Dione’s Ratsnake.
- Adults are 90-110 cm (35-43 in) long.
- Their coloring is black, brown, beige, or red. In addition, some individuals might have stripes or blotches on their bodies.
The Steppe Ratsnake is a terrestrial snake able to live in various habitats. You can find this snake in forests, plains, rocky areas, wetlands, and deserts. It is active both during the day and at night. This is one species that isn’t picky about its surroundings!
Like other ratsnakes in China, the Steppe Ratsnake is non-venomous. Its docile nature makes it one of the most popular options for those looking for a pet snake.
#25. Halys Pit Viper
- Gloydius halys
Also known as Siberian Pit Viper, Halys Viper, Pallas’s Pit Viper, Asiatic Pit Viper, Asiatic Moccasin, and Mongolian Pit Viper.
- The Halys pit viper can grow to a maximum length of 59 cm (23 in).
- Their coloring is gray, red, pale brown, or yellow, with large dark spots, crossbars, and a white belly speckled with gray or brown.
The Halys Pit Viper is a venomous snake found across China.
Its habitat includes montane slopes and plains or rocky high mountain plateaus. It is a terrestrial snake, mostly found on the ground. Look for this species during the day, which is its preferred time to hunt. Its diet includes lizards, rodents, snakes, birds, and frogs.
Keep a respectful distance if you see the Halys Pit Viper in the wild! This is an incredibly dangerous snake. Its venom contains neurotoxins, which affect the brain and nerves, and necrotoxins, which cause bleeding and infection.
Bite symptoms range from mild to severe, depending on the amount of venom exposure. Victims have reported excruciating pain, severe swelling, bruising, blistering, headache, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, respiratory distress, dizziness, collapse, or convulsions. The best way to avoid being bitten is to be cautious in this snake’s range and back away slowly if you discover one.
#26. Steppe Ribbon Racer
- Psammophis lineolatus
Also known as Arrow Snake.
- Adults reach 91 cm (36 in) long.
- The back is olive-gray, sandy brown, or brownish-gray. The edges of the scales are slightly lighter than the middle, which gives them a raised appearance.
- The underparts are white with gray, brown, or olive-gray spots.
As its name suggests, this snake is quick and will often flee if confronted. The nocturnal habits and skittish nature of the Steppe Ribbon Racer make it difficult to observe in the wild. Little is known about its global population because of how hard these snakes are to find. However, it’s considered relatively common throughout its range.
The Steppe Ribbon Racer is only mildly venomous and isn’t harmful to humans. They are nocturnal snakes that prefer to move and hunt during the night. They primarily eat lizards and spend much of their time in sandy areas.
#27. Tesselated Water Snake
- Natrix tessellata
Also known as Dice Snake.
- Their typical size is 100 – 130 cm (39–51 in) long.
- Their color varies from grayish green to brownish or almost black, with dark spots on the back.
To find this snake in China, it’s best to look in the water!
In fact, the Tessellated Water Snake is a great swimmer and spends much of its time in aquatic habitats. In addition, its primary food is fish, although amphibians are sometimes consumed too.
If you ever see underneath a Tesselated Water Snake, the belly is sometimes colored vividly in yellow or orange, with black spots. The pattern is very similar to dice, which is how they got their other common name, the Dice Snake!
Do you want to learn about other animals in China?
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