Do you want to learn about the venomous snakes found in China?
If so, you have come to the right place. In the article below, I have listed the MOST COMMON venomous snakes you can expect to see. If I missed any, please leave a COMMENT at the bottom of the page. 🙂
You’ll see that the venomous snakes in China are very different from each other. They have different sizes, habitats, and even different types of venom. In addition, certain snakes are common to find living around people. For each species, you will find out how to identify that snake correctly, along with pictures, interesting facts, and RANGE MAPS!
14 Venomous Snakes that Live in China:
*If you encounter any of these species, PLEASE DO NOT DISTURB! Venomous snakes are dangerous animals and should be left alone. The more you agitate them, the more likely you could get bitten. DO NOT RELY ON THIS ARTICLE to correctly identify a snake that has recently bitten you, as colors and patterns can vary widely. If you have recently been bitten, GO DIRECTLY to the nearest hospital to get help and to determine if the snake is venomous.*
#1. 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, giving this dangerous snake a lot of space is recommended. 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!
#2. Chinese Moccasin
- Deinagkistrodon acutus
Also known as Chinese Copperhead, Five-pacer, Hundred-Pacer, Hundred-pace Snake, Long-nosed Pit Viper, Sharp-nosed Viper, and Snorkel Viper.
- These stout snakes measure between 80-157 cm (31-62 in), with males larger than females.
- They are commonly light to grayish brown, adorned with alternating dark brown triangles along their bodies.
- The head is distinctively triangular, black on top and cream-colored on the undersides.
The venomous Chinese Moccasin slithers in China through lush forests and rocky hills.
Locals nicknamed it the “Hundred Pacer,” believing that if you get bitten, you could only take 100 steps before meeting your fate! Although that tale is not scientifically proven, fatalities caused by this snake’s bite are not uncommon, so keep your distance!
The Chinese Moccasin has a diverse palate. It feasts on small mammals, birds, toads, frogs, and even lizards. As an ambush predator, this snake waits patiently coiled for hours, ready to strike with lightning speed at unsuspecting victims. Plus, it’s equipped with heat-sensing pits to detect both its prey and predators in the dark.
Of course, this viper is not just a venomous villain. Since ancient times, people in China have used the venom of the Chinese Moccasin as medicine against arthritis and stroke, among other ailments. And as science advances, glimpses of its potential in cancer treatment have emerged.
#3. Chinese Sea Krait
- Laticauda semifasciata
Also known as Black-banded Sea Krait and the Chinese Sea Snake.
- Adults are thick-bodied, about 170 cm (67 in) long on average.
- Designed for underwater exploration, this snake has a short, flattened head and a boneless tail that spreads widely like a majestic fin.
- Some specimens are uniform-colored, while some have prominent dark bands along their bodies.
In the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean, the Chinese Sea Krait makes its home. While this venomous species is usually found in southern Asia, scientists have made a remarkable discovery. Due to climate change and habitat deterioration, the Chinese Sea Krait has been venturing farther north beyond its usual territories, even appearing in Russia once!
The Chinese Sea Krait is living proof of nature’s incredible adaptability. Unable to chase fish in open water due to its slower speed, it cunningly forms an alliance with the more agile Bluefin Trevally (fish). Together, they flush out prey from narrow cracks in the reefs, sharing the spoils afterward.
Though you’ll rarely encounter this sea serpent, be careful anyway when you’re out for a swim. The Chinese Sea Krait’s venom is ten times more potent than a cobra’s, swiftly paralyzing its prey.
#4. Peron’s Sea Snake
- Hydrophis peronii
Also known as Horned Sea Snake, Spiny-headed Sea Snake.
- This is a medium-sized snake with a slender body. It can grow up to 123 cm (48.4 in) from snout to vent.
- Its back is grayish, pale olive, or tan with narrow dark crossbands.
- It’s the only sea snake that has spines on its head.
Peron’s Sea Snakes reside in the tropical waters of the Pacific Ocean, staying close to sandy beds, lagoons, and coral reefs. Although it’s a rare species to find, divers in China have occasionally spotted these venomous snakes skimming the water’s surface.
One cool trait of Peron’s Sea Snake is that it can shut its nostrils underwater and hold its breath for up to eight hours! In fact, these calm and docile creatures frequently fall asleep at the bottom of coral reefs, having no natural enemies in their environment.
Their diet consists of shrimps, gobies, and other small fish. Peron’s Sea Snakes prefer to hunt at night, using their venom to immobilize their prey. Luckily, they have small fangs, meaning they can only deliver small amounts of poison when they bite. Regardless, seek medical treatment if you get bitten!
#5. 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 a dangerous venomous snake 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.
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.
#6. 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 dangerous 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.
#7. 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, dangerous, 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 individual 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 venomous 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.
#8. 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.
#9. 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.
#10. 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.
The Banded Krait’s venom contains neurotoxins, and though bites are rare, it’s best to avoid this venomous snake in China.
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.
#11. 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.
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!
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.
#12. 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.
#13. 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.
Oriental Whipsnakes are mildly venomous, but the toxins are not strong enough to hurt humans in China. If you see one, observe from a respectful distance, but you don’t need to rush away.
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 and 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.
#14. 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, 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 dangerous 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, producing internal organ hemorrhages and bleeding at bite sites. Victims typically need a hospital stay of up to a week to recover.
Do you want to learn about other animals in China?
If so, check out these guides!
Which of these snakes have you seen before in China?
Leave a COMMENT below!