Tiger Keelback Snake


Yesterday when we were leaving the Aichii River and heading back to the 421 highway, we encountered the poisonous Tiger Keelback Snake, or Yamakagashi (Rhabdophis tigrinus). At the time, I didn’t know what species of snake we were following, but it did have an unusual, cobra-like raised head as it slithered off the road and into the woods. It had a piece of lizard or frog in its mouth and so apparently, we interrupted its meal. It moved rather slowly, allowing me to get close enough for a photograph.

It is a beautiful snake with the green/olive head and orange flanks. Despite being poisonous, it is not too dangerous because it has small back fangs and it needs to chew to deliver the poison. I read on someone’s blog that there was one death from the snake in Japan in the 1980s. It is commonly found throughout Japan, eastern China and Korea.

The Tiger Keelback has a fascinating way of defending itself from predators as seen in this National Geographic video below. I guess that the orange marking evolved because it alerts predators that it is not a safe meal.


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