7 COMMON Snakes Found in South Korea! (2024)

Do you want to learn about the types of snakes in South Korea?

Types of snakes in South Korea

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 South Korea 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.

7 COMMON snakes that live in South Korea:


#1. Red-banded Snake

  • Lycodon rufozonatus

Common South Korea snakes

Identifying Characteristics:

  • 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 South Korea 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.


#2. Short-tailed Mamushi

  • Gloydius brevicauda
Common snakes found in South Korea
Hyun-tae Kim – https://www.inaturalist.org/photos/2809108

Identifying Characteristics:

  • 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 South Korea.

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.


#3. Tiger Keelback

  • Rhabdophis tigrinus

Snakes of South Korea

Identifying Characteristics:

  • 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 South Korea 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!


#4. Ussuri Mamushi

  • Gloydius ussuriensis

Also known as Ussuri Pit Viper or Ussuri Mamushi.

Types of snakes in South Korea

Identifying Characteristics:

  • 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.


#5. Brahminy Blindsnake

  • Indotyphlops braminus

Identifying Characteristics:

  • 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 South Korea.

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 South Korea, 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.


#6. Steppe Ratsnake

  • Elaphe dione

Also known as Dione’s Ratsnake.

Identifying Characteristics:

  • 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 South Korea, the Steppe Ratsnake is non-venomous. Its docile nature makes it one of the most popular options for those looking for a pet snake.


#7. 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.

Identifying Characteristics:

  • 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 South Korea.

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.


Do you want to learn about other animals in South Korea?

If so, check out these guides!


Which of these snakes have you seen before in South Korea?

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2 Comments

  1. I saw snake today swimming and hunting in the water, this was in the River at Gumi-si. It was between 5 and 6 feet long a golden/brownish colour with darker thicker stripes, edged even darker. It has blackish lines running from its eyes. I did get a photograph of it but I have no way of identifying it. I am happy to share the photos if you wish, just let me know.