Do you want to learn about the snakes that live in the United Arab Emirates?
If so, you’ve come to the right place. In the article below, I have listed the most common 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 the United Arab Emirates 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 the United Arab Emirates:
#1. Jan’s Cliff Racer
- Platyceps rhodorachis
Also known as Braid Snake, Common Cliff Racer, Desert Racer, and Wadi Racer.
- Adults are 100-110 cm (39-43 in) long.
- They are slim-bodied with long, tapered tails.
- Their coloring is gray or brown; some specimens have a single red line running along their backs from head to tail.
This small but speedy snake is native to the United Arab Emirates. It makes its home in dry areas with sparse vegetation, such as semi-deserts and canyons. Lock your doors, or a Jan’s Cliff Racer might wander into your household searching for prey or a place to rest!
These reptiles are highly alert and have good vision. Adults chase down small lizards and rodents in the daytime and are even known to raid bird nests. Juvenile racers need smaller prey, such as crickets and other insects.
Jan’s Cliff Racers are timid, non-venomous creatures and harmless to humans. If you come across one, it will likely retreat into a crack or crevice. A cornered cliff racer, however, will hiss and strike at potential threats. Watch your toes!
#2. Diadem Snake
- Spalerosophis diadema
Also known as Royal Snake, Diademed Snake.
- Adults are fairly slender and can grow to 180 cm (71 in) in length.
- They are commonly pale and sandy in color with darker spots and blotches and a dark, reddish head.
- The scales on the head have an iridescent shine, resembling a crown or diadem. This is how the snake got its name!
Diadem Snakes in the United Arab Emirates are most at home in sandy deserts and rocky lowlands.
You can find them tucked beneath rocks, roots, or abandoned animal burrows for protection. In deserts, they stay close to oases for easy access to food and water. They are primarily land-dwellers, but they have no trouble climbing trees.
Though mostly active in daylight, Diadem Snakes prefer hunting at dusk in the hotter seasons. Their venom is strong enough to kill prey but too weak to harm humans. They have an appetite for lizards, birds, small mammals, and even other snakes!
This quick-moving reptile will attempt to flee or thrash around to intimidate predators when danger is afoot. A cornered Diadem Snake can be unpredictably aggressive. Their bites can be painful, so keep your distance.
#3. Moila Snake
- Malpolon moilensis
Also known as False Cobra, Hooded Malpolon, Talheh Snake.
- Adults are 80-140 cm (31-55 in) on average, but longer specimens reach 190 cm (75 in) long.
- Their eyes are big and round.
- You might see a dark blotch crossing their cheeks and jaws.
- They are light tan or straw in color. There’s a checkered pattern of brown spots across their bodies. Their bellies are paler in contrast.
Look for the Moila Snake in the United Arab Emirates near stony deserts and dry shrublands.
It feeds on lizards, gerbils, beetles, and small birds during the day. However, it may adapt to hotter weather by hunting at night.
Curiously, the Moila Snake is sought after in the exotic pet trade despite being venomous. However, think twice before you decide to keep this snake as a pet. Some individuals are calm, while others are short-tempered, and Moila Snakes are notoriously volatile. Therefore, only experienced keepers can safely handle them.
If threatened, this species will flatten and spread its neck into a hood as a means of intimidation. This behavior is how it earned its other common name, the “False Cobra.” The venom isn’t strong enough to kill a human, but it can cause excruciating pain and swelling.
#4. Arabian Sand Boa
- Eryx jayakari
Also known as Sand Boa.
- Adults can grow up to 80 cm (31.5 in) long.
- The head has no distinction from the body. A dark stripe runs from the eyes to the neck.
- Their coloring is cream, beige, and yellow to bright orange with irregular dark blotches on the back and small spots on the sides.
Despite their name, these snakes in the United Arab Emirates are not typically found in sandy areas. Instead, the best places for them are savanna-like habitats with loam soil or rocky slopes (if there is enough loose soil).
Sand Boas are hard to find because they are nocturnal and spend most of their life underground. They don’t come out to bask in the sun but instead get warm by basking just under fallen leaves, stones, or the surface of loose soil. They rarely bite when handled and typically act sluggish.
#5. Forskal Sand Snake
- Psammophis schokari
Also known as Schokari Sand Racer and Afro-Asian Sand Snake.
- It is a slender snake about 70-150 cm (28-59 in) long with a tapering tail.
- The head is flat and elongated, the snout is long, and the eyes are large with rounded pupils.
- Coloration greatly varies depending on habitat:
- Morph #1: Light brown with dark stripes, appropriate for densely vegetated areas
- Morph #2: Light-colored with little to no stripes, a good camouflage for sandy terrain
The Forskal Sand Snake is something you might encounter in sandy deserts, shrublands, or oases. It’s an excellent tree climber. However, it also makes its home under rocks and abandoned burrows.
Its other common name, the Schokari Sand Racer, hints at its outstanding speed! Its agility and venom allow it to immobilize lizards, frogs, rodents, and birds quickly. Although most active during the day, it prefers to hunt at night during the hotter months.
If you try to approach this mild-mannered snake, it will likely retreat into a nearby hole or bush. Forskal Sand Snakes are harmless to humans. In fact, these little helpers keep the population of vermin like mice and rats in check!
#6. Arabian Horned Viper
- Cerastes gasperettii
Also known as Gasperetti’s Horned Sand Viper, Horned Viper.
- These small, stout-bodied snakes can grow 30-60 cm (12-24 in) long.
- Like most vipers, they have flat triangular heads. In addition, most specimens have horn-like scales above their eyes.
- Their coloring is tan or gray, perfect for blending into the sand. They have white bellies and a series of dark bars along their backs.
Scorching deserts are home to this devilish-looking snake in the United Arab Emirates.
The Arabian Horned Viper is a patient predator, lying in wait beneath the sand with only its eyes protruding. As unwary rodents, beetles, or lizards pass by, this viper strikes with deadly accuracy.
Arabian Horned Vipers are most active at night, escaping the heat like other desert creatures. When the sun is high, they seek shelter in abandoned animal burrows. Early in the day, however, you might find one basking in the morning sun.
Listen carefully! These venomous vipers will tell you if you’re straying too close to their territory by hissing loudly. Bite symptoms are serious and include excessive bleeding and convulsions, potentially leading to death. Seek medical assistance at once if you’ve been bitten.
#7. Saw-scaled Viper
- Echis carinatus
Also known as Indian Saw-scaled Viper, Phoorsa, Little Indian Viper, or Sindh Saw-scaled Viper.
- Adults average 38-80 cm (15-31 in) long.
- They have flat, broad heads and very short snouts, with a cross-shaped marking on the top of their heads and remarkably large eyes.
- Their coloring is gray, olive, and red to match their ground habitat. A series of spots, stripes, and dark borders decorate the body.
The Saw-scaled Viper is one of the snakes in the United Arab Emirates responsible for the majority of serious bite incidents. It’s the smallest member, but make no mistake! One bite from this viper can cause internal bleeding and death within a few hours.
You’ll find Saw-scaled Vipers in shrublands and deserts. They like to rest inside burrows and fallen logs during the day. They feed on rodents, lizards, scorpions, and centipedes at night. When it rains, adults scramble up to higher trees, shrubs, and cacti.
Look out for strange S-shaped indents in the sand or listen for loud rasping noises. These are the tell-tale signs that there’s a Saw-scaled Viper nearby. They are highly aggressive and capable of lunging to deliver a bite.
Do you want to learn about other animals in the United Arab Emirates?
If so, check out these guides!
Which of these snakes have you seen before in the United Arab Emirates?
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