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SUMMARY

  • VENOM: Dangerous - Potentially Deadly

  • PREVALENCE: Not common

  • ACTIVE PERIOD: Active at night

  • KEY ID FEATURES: Tan with dark brown or black markings, very large head, slender body

  • BEHAVIOUR: Extremely aggressive, will attack if it feels it can’t get away, always attempts to bite

  • SIZE: Small/Medium - 40-80cm possibly up to 1m+

  • OTHER: Highly localised population(s)

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GALLERY

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.

DESCRIPTION

Dangerously venomous and potentially lethal. Heavily keeled scales running the length of the body. Generally tan in color with dark brown or black alternating blotches running the length of the upper back with similar colored markings along the lower side. Head is extremely large compared to the body with proportional eyes and dark stripes running behind each eye. Head color is similar to the body with tan and dark brown markings on top. Jaw line can be dark brown or light tan in color (more common on mature specimens). Long slender body and relatively long tail.

BEHAVIOR

Active at night usually well hidden in rock crevices and leaf litter. The Pointed Scale Viper is a predator that may both actively hunt their prey and or wait in ambush. They are a viper and have relatively long retractable fangs and will bite readily at anything that comes within range when hunting for food, and are actively aggressive when encountered. Prone to rush their assailants and hold their ground if they feel cornered. They will retreat quickly if the opportunity arises but are not at all averse to attack if the opportunity arises. A bite from a Pointed Scale Viper or “Habu” should be considered very serious and medical attention should be sought immediately. Although not known to be highly lethal fatalities have been recorded and very serious damage can occur from a bite even if treated.

HABITAT

Found at low to mid elevations up to +/-200m in areas with large amounts of vegetation and hiding places. The Pointed Scale Viper is rare in Hong Kong with only a few highly localised populations and due to its proclivity to hide out in rock crevices and thick vegetation it is extremely difficult to find.

MISTAKEN IDENTITY

NO SNAKE SHOULD EVER BE HANDLED BY ANYONE BUT EXPERTS: The Pointed Scale Viper looks extremely similar to the Many or Large Spotted Cat Snake. It is not clear if the Cat Snake is an intentional mimic of the Pointed Scale as there are some discussions as to weather or not the Pointed Scale Viper is an introduced species, but regardless, to both the trained and untrained eye it could be easy to mistake the two. If found observe from a safe distance. Visit the 'Practical Venomous Snake ID' section of the Snake ID page for tips on identifying some of the more common venomous species.