Do you want to learn about the venomous snakes found in South Korea?
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 South Korea 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!
3 Venomous Snakes that Live in South Korea:
*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. 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 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.
#2. 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 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.
#3. 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 South Korea?
If so, check out these guides!
Which of these snakes have you seen before in South Korea?
Leave a COMMENT below!