ACTIVE PERIOD: Active during the night and day
KEY ID FEATURES: Hooded when disturbed, grey/white monocle marking on neck
BEHAVIOR: Fast, defensive and willing to bite, cobras should be avoided when encountered
OTHER: Can be mistaken with rat snakes when not hooded
QUICK ASSESSMENT 0-10
IMPORTANT: Most snakes can be found to have significant variance in coloration and pattern even within the same species. There can also be extreme differences in appearance from juveniles to adults so it is important to never assume you have properly identified a snake.
Generally black/brown in color but can on rare occasions be grey or gold. Faint vertical banding from midsection through the tail, when not displaying its hood the Chinese Cobra can easily be mistaken for a rat snake at a quick glance. A key observation is the appearance of a white or light gray ring on the neck just behind the head, which, when the cobra rises up and displays its hood transforms into a monocle like pattern.
Active during the night and day, the Chinese Cobra is a more common venomous snake in Hong Kong. As with many cobra species if the Chinese Cobra thinks it can get away it will most likely flee, but if it feels cornered or that you could easily give chase it will hood up rise off the ground and stare you down while hissing and intermittently striking at the air as a warning. Generally it will not attack if you are far enough away and standing your ground but all cobras are capable of rushing forward to intimidate and possibly strike which can cause people to panic and fall down and or receive a bite. Chinese Cobras as with all cobras have short fixed fangs at the front of their mouth that are highly efficient at delivering venom and any bite should be treated as an envenomation and immediately treated. Some cobras are also capable of spitting venom and while not normally a behavior associated with Chinese Cobras you should never get close to one on the off chance this occurs.
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Chinese Cobras are found all over Hong Kong including Hong Kong Island. They eat rodents, lizards and occasionally other snakes and as such can be found from forested areas to areas around lakes and rivers as well as water culverts and jogging trails.
NO SNAKE SHOULD EVER BE HANDLED BY ANYONE BUT EXPERTS: Chinese Cobras as with King Cobras can be easily confused with Common Rat Snakes (and possibly some species of water snake) for the less experienced observer. The key differentiator is the monocled pattern on the back of the Chinese Cobras head which appears like a white or grey ring around the neck when not hooded. On longer closer observation the Chinese Cobra also displays faint vertical banding on its body, where rat snakes can be flat in color when smaller or slightly checkered towards the tail when mature. No Cobra should ever be approached, and rat snakes should be observed from a distance to avoid accidents due to misidentification. Visit the 'Practical Venomous Snake ID' section of the Snake ID page for tips on identifying some of the more common venomous species.