VENOM: Assumed None*
PREVALENCE: Very Rare
ACTIVE PERIOD: Assumed diurnal
KEY ID FEATURES: Dark grey body with faint white spots on upper third of body, reddish hue on lower sides of front third, white or yellowish collar, white spots along jaw line, very small
BEHAVIOR: Most likely sub-fossorial, probably hides in leaf litter and feeds on worms, not aggressive
SIZE: Very small - <50cm
*Not confirmed by all sources
QUICK ASSESSMENT 0-10
IMPORTANT: Many snakes 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.
Very few specimens of the Mountain Keelback have ever been found so not much is known about color variation. All specimens collected seem to have very similar coloration based on our research which aligns with the specimen shown here. Body is a dark grey with maroon coloration on the upper third of the body. Two faint lateral rows of light colored spots run the length of the body on either side of the dorsal ridge fading out towards the tail. Black spots run the length of the body just below the light colored spots and also fade out towards the tail. Color changes to darker grey on the sides just above the ventrals (belly scales). Ventrals are a pearlescent white with no markings. Subcadual scales are split. Eyes are proportional relative to the body and head with round pupils and brown iris. True to its common name dorsal scales are lightly keeled. Lower and upper jaw line show white spots running from the mouth down to the neck and fading out shortly after. ‘Occipital’ or head scales are large and mottled black and dark brown. The tail on the specimen we found was severed so overall length could not be determined. Specimen was found alive but died shortly after from an attack by a Many Banded Krait that occurred shortly before it was found.
Due to the rarity of the species in Hong Kong behaviors are not confirmed but it is generally agreed that the Mountain Keelback is active at during the day. Its small head seems well designed for foraging in leaf litter in search of worms. When startled it does not display any aggressive defensive behavior aside from squirming and trying to flee. The snake was never observed to bite or use false strikes.
Found more commonly at mid to high elevations ranging from 100 to 800+ meters. Assumed to live in leaf litter and near small mountain streams. Very elusive, small and well camouflaged.
NO SNAKE SHOULD EVER BE HANDLED BY ANYONE BUT EXPERTS: The Mountain Keelback is a unique snake in Hong Kong that is not easily mistaken for any other endemic species, but its neutral color tones mean it could possibly be mistaken for other neutral toned snakes. Visit the 'Practical Venomous Snake ID' section of the Snake ID page for tips on identifying some of the more common venomous species.