Do you want to learn about the types of snakes in Mongolia?
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 Mongolia 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.
8 COMMON snakes that live in Mongolia:
#1. 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 Mongolia 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!
#2. 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.
#3. 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 Mongolia.
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 Mongolia, 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.
#4. 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 Mongolia, the Steppe Ratsnake is non-venomous. Its docile nature makes it one of the most popular options for those looking for a pet snake.
#5. 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 Mongolia.
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.
#6. 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.
#7. 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 Mongolia, 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!
#8. Grass Snake
- Natrix natrix
Also known as Ringed Snake or Water Snake.
- Adults can grow up to 150 cm (59 in) long.
- Coloration is usually olive-green, brown, or gray with rows of black spots on the back and a row of black bars or spots on the sides.
- They have a characteristic black-bordered yellow collar behind the head.
Grass Snakes are strong swimmers, so look for them near wet areas, such as ponds, lakes, streams, ditches, and marshes. However, you’re also likely to find them in drier habitats, such as backyard gardens, open woodlands, and grasslands.
They are NOT venomous and rarely bite when captured or threatened. Instead, you can expect them to hiss and spray a smelly substance called musk from their anal glands. If this doesn’t work, they may pretend to be dead, flipping over and letting their tongue hang out of their mouth. Interestingly, Grass Snakes sometimes act like cobras, where they raise the front of their body and flatten their heads to resemble a hood! They use this mimicry as a way to intimidate predators.
Grass Snakes mostly eat amphibians, such as frogs and toads. They are not ambush predators and actively search for their prey using their keen eyesight and sense of smell. In addition, they eat their prey alive instead of killing it first by constriction.
Do you want to learn about other animals in Mongolia?
If so, check out these guides!
Which of these snakes have you seen before in Mongolia?
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