SUMMARY

  • VENOM: Very mild - no known danger

  • PREVALENCE: Less common

  • ACTIVE PERIOD: Mostly active at night

  • KEY ID FEATURES: Dark brown body with black markings, yellow or pink belly, ~60 cm when mature

  • BEHAVIOR: Aquatic, may be found under boards and logs near water, will bite and musk readily if handled

  • OTHER: Can be mistaken with other water snakes but not easily confused with venomous species

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GALLERY

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.

PHOTO CREDIT: Dan Rosenberg

DESCRIPTION

Chinese Water Snakes are dark brown with black markings on top with yellow or pink bellies. They have a rounded head with strong jaws helpful for hunting fish. Notrils evolved on top of the head due to their aquatic nature. Generally not exceeding 60 cm when mature. Some color variation where brown can give way to olive green hue. Keeled scales. Though technically venomous, reactions are rare in humans and usually consist of minor localized swelling and in more extreme cases mild nausea or dizziness.

BEHAVIOR

Mostly nocturnal Chinese Water Snakes come out at night to hunt fresh and brackish water fish and occasionally amphibians. They have also been observed out during the day and hiding under boards and logs near water. Quick to bite, musk and squirm excessively and despite being mildly venomous they are not considered dangerous to humans though it should be noted that envenomations can cause mild symptoms including nausea and localized swelling. 

HABITAT

Found largely in the New Territories the Chinese Water Snake is a less common snakes to encounter in Hong Kong. Due to their diet of fresh and brackish water prey they can be found most readily near slow moving bodies of water including man made fisheries, ponds, mangroves and slow moving streams.

MISTAKEN IDENTITY

NO SNAKE SHOULD EVER BE HANDLED BY ANYONE BUT EXPERTS: Can be mistaken for some other aquatic snakes but generally not confused with venomous species.