PREVALENCE: Not common
ACTIVE PERIOD: Active late evening and early morning
KEY ID FEATURES: Brown, red, salmon or peach with black stripes running from each eye down the length of the back with singe short black stripe on top of the head, faint banding on adults, dark black banding on juveniles
BEHAVIOR: Docile, not normally aggressive or willing to bite, slow moving cool weather species
SIZE: Small/Medium - ~90cm
OTHER: Red coloration could be confused with the deadly Coral Snake
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.
Varies in color from light brown to salmon to red to peach, usually reddish when not about to shed its skin, brown when shedding. Small red and black eyes on a long thin head rounded at the nose. Body color uniform from head to tail. Two black stripes running from the eyes down the length of the body along either side of the spine, sometimes faded, often intact. Additional short black stripe runs lengthwise from the nose to the back of the head. Thick bands widely spaced down the body visible on most species often faded when mature and solid black with white or yellow trim on juveniles. Pearlescent white belly scales with no markings. Generally less than 90cm when mature but sometimes slightly longer with a relatively thin body at about 2cm in diameter.
The Red Mountain Racer is a docile snake that will rarely bite and generally calms down quickly when handled. Capable of biting like all snakes but but not quick to do so and they have relatively small teeth so don’t pose a threat to humans. Observed active during the day and at night. The authors here find them active mostly in the evening and early morning transition periods. Documented to eat rodents and assumed to eat small lizard as well. Generally seems to prefer cooler temperatures and has displayed burrowing behavior. Defensive behaviour seems to be relegated to very rare bites and coiling up when caught, often curling its tail into loops. Not known to ‘play dead’ or take aggressive biting posture.
Now very rare in Hong Kong the Red Mountain Racer is known to inhabit high elevations sometimes exceeding 800m and seems to prefer cooler temperatures with many sightings occurring in the winter months. Can be found on grassy and rocky mountain bluffs as well as high elevation forest and bamboo groves. The authors have also found one specimen, a mature gravid female, just above sea level actively moving at night.
NO SNAKE SHOULD EVER BE HANDLED BY ANYONE BUT EXPERTS: The Red Mountain Racer is relatively unique in pattern and color though the overall size, shape and color when a subadult can be loosely similar to the MacClelland’s Coral Snake. Because of this they should be observed at a distance and never approached or handled, though, given their rare status they would be hard to catch even if you tried.