Borneo Dispatches #24: The Coral Snake Mistake

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Hans Breuer (twoton)
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Borneo Dispatches #24: The Coral Snake Mistake

Post by Hans Breuer (twoton) » February 3rd, 2012, 7:36 am

What you are about to see and read happened last year in October, but for various reasons I never got around to post it. The first reason was shame. When I finally got over that, it was lack of time. And finally I had a bad cold.

Shame? Yes, shame. At the time of the encounter, the snake pictured here was a species unbeknownst to us. We found it in Bako National Park by the trailside, up on the "Nepenthes Prairie" plateau. We hooked it onto the trail, played around with it, hatting and hooking it for a good twenty minutes, as it wouldn't calm down, all the while trying to identify it. We had zero idea what we were looking at. Our field guide was sitting pretty in the glove compartment of my car ten miles away, so all we could do was guess:

"Hmmm....looks like some kind of reed snake. Look at that blunt, neckless head." "Or maybe a kukri snake? Look at it curling that tail, and flashing the orange underside." "Or a coral snake?" "Aw, now you're being silly. Everyone knows those are nocturnal!" Still, we didn't dare to touch it. Maybe it was a sleepwalking coral snake, who knew? Six hundred feet above and two miles of steep, root-infested jungle trail away from the next boat that could get us back to a hospital in Kuching (weather permitting, which was hardly the case that day), this was not the place to get bitten by an unidentified elapid.

But the snake was relentlessly trying to get away, and the muddy environs didn't exactly help with the photography either, and the rain had started again....and I'm not famous for my patience. At the same time, the more we racked our brains about the serpent's identity, the less it seemed possible to us that this could be anything venomous. So Kukri-like! So Reedy! So....uh...cute! Also, it finally seemed to tire a little. All those factors slowly, but inexorably culminated in my decision to pick it up and let it sit on my arm for a few close-ups. Coral, schmoral. Every child knows that those do not run around in the rain on early afternoons. As soon as I had tailed the beast and placed it on my forearm, it tried to bury its head sideways under my skin. See? It's fossorial! I was right about the kukri/reed thing! Ha!

Of course, coral snakes are also fossorial, but somehow I chose to ignore that fact. Upon my return home the next day, I immediately ripped all my snake guides off the bookshelf and dug in. To my mild dismay, I couldn't find either a reed or a kukri snake that would match my photos. The dismay quickly turned into blank horror when I finally turned to the section on coral snakes, where I was greeted by a large photo of an orange-black tail tip adorning the end of a black & white venter....a photo bearing the caption

MALAYAN STRIPED CORAL SNAKE - CALLIOPHIS INTESTINALIS
A small but deadly species of elapid.


(Yes, "deadly" in bold)

I'll never forget the wobbly feeling in my knees and the sick sensation in my stomach. Or the tongue lashing I received from my son when I finally walked over to him in the living room and announced "Uh...dude? I think I know what that snake was..."

I had broken every single rule of engagement. I had been stupendously stupid and insanely irresponsible, and it was a lesson that I'll never forget. Let's hope it will serve as a warning to others - it's the only reason why I finally overcame my embarrassment and came out with the truth.

There. I admitted it. Now kindly suppress whatever smartass remarks you were about to let loose :-)

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The trail, and Mr. Marcus Kloft, who did all the camerawork.
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Re: Borneo Dispatches #24: The Coral Snake Mistake

Post by CCarille » February 3rd, 2012, 8:10 am

Luckily, not a "hard-learned" lesson or one that your kid had to share. A good post for many new herpers, as well as old - don't pick something up unless you know what it is. An awesome lesson for many herpers of the northern hemisphere - not all coral snakes are red, yellow, and black! haha And definitely don't ever use the time of day help identify - in Costa Rica I came across a C.A. Coral snake at 2 pm, definitely not a nocturnal time.

Fantastic find either way! Thanks for coming "clean" Hans! Borneo has so many species (known and unknown) - hard to identify everything.

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #24: The Coral Snake Mistake

Post by Rags » February 3rd, 2012, 8:12 am

Oops!

Hats off for telling the story Hans. I wonder if this is going to turn into a "confessions" thread?

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #24: The Coral Snake Mistake

Post by Nir » February 3rd, 2012, 8:13 am

hiiishh... I have chills down my spine reading your story!! I can only imagine your reaction when you identified it.

We always have the best intention when we are around a beer talking with other herpers ''never pick up a snake you can't identify''... But for a weird reason, it's as if our IQ drops a couple points when confronted with those wonderful animals (been there...)...

Valuable lesson...

PS: That coral is pretty damn sexy!!!

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #24: The Coral Snake Mistake

Post by reptilist » February 3rd, 2012, 8:17 am

Meh... I've been known to trust humans when I should have known better...

Glad you came out of it OK, Hans!
Neat snake!

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #24: The Coral Snake Mistake

Post by VICtort » February 3rd, 2012, 8:30 am

On the contrary, thank you for posting. I can assure you you have plenty of company, some of us get so excited we do things in the heat of the moment, the thrill of the chase that we have to question in hind sight. And many of us are lucky enough to get a second chance...other do not. I can sure see myself getting into tough situations over there, as so many of the Austral/Asian elapids just don't look threatening to me with my western hemisphere biases. I am sure if a bunch of herpers got together we would hear some hair raising close call stories... Maybe you need one of those "gloves of power" some guys in Southern California have used? With all your travels, great story telling and phtography skills, maybe you shoud consider writng a field guide to Southern Asian herps, and your targeted audience would be westerners?

I noticed this animal was flattening out its ventral in the caudal area...Bungarus/Kraits do similar, Yes?

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #24: The Coral Snake Mistake

Post by txherper » February 3rd, 2012, 8:41 am

I don't think you need any further "lessons." However, I think you should read the story of Joe Slowinski.

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #24: The Coral Snake Mistake

Post by CCarille » February 3rd, 2012, 8:46 am

txherper wrote:However, I think you should read the story of Joe Slowinski.

Excellent book - sad story!

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #24: The Coral Snake Mistake

Post by gbin » February 3rd, 2012, 8:50 am

Glad you're still with us, Amigo!

Glad you overcame your (well-deserved :shock: ) shame enough to share your story with us so that we as well as you could learn a lesson from it, too!

Gerry

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #24: The Coral Snake Mistake

Post by Jon Wedow » February 3rd, 2012, 9:03 am

Hans Breuer (twoton) wrote:I'll never forget the wobbly feeling in my knees and the sick sensation in my stomach. Or the tongue lashing I received from my son when I finally walked over to him in the living room and announced "Uh...dude? I think I know what that snake was..."
Well you obviously did something right here.. good for your son!

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #24: The Coral Snake Mistake

Post by Warren » February 3rd, 2012, 11:49 am

Hans is one of the most careful herpers I know.
What a deadly game we play.
Still, it would be a more glamorous death than texting "lol" while flying down the freeway.

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #24: The Coral Snake Mistake

Post by gbin » February 3rd, 2012, 12:53 pm

Warren wrote:Hans is one of the most careful herpers I know.
What a deadly game we play.
I can readily believe that of Hans, too, based on his posts here. (I hope no one took me as suggesting otherwise above.) That's the lesson here: Professional or amateur, academic or hobbyist, old-hand or newbie,... whatever our education or experience level with herps, complacency is a real danger.

Gerry

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #24: The Coral Snake Mistake

Post by moloch » February 3rd, 2012, 1:37 pm

Thank goodness the snake was mild mannered and just wanted to get away. I've looked at photos of the Asian corals before and was amazed at how they don't really look like elapids at all. You were lucky to come across one of these.

Regards,
David

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #24: The Coral Snake Mistake

Post by Dell Despain » February 3rd, 2012, 3:24 pm

Scary story Hans, I'm glad it turned out the way it did, and on a positive note you'll never be that careless again.

You can never be to careful. In Mexico road cruising w/ Shaun V. we were coming across numerous night snakes. On one of our stops at a Night snake we were going to pick up, it flattened its head out to look like a pit viper, and Shaun pulled his hand back fast thinking we had mis-identified the Night snake. We hadn't mis-id'ed the Night snake, it was just one that could flare its head like a pit viper.
Shaun was a little embarrassed, but he kept saying, "Better safe then sorry. I've never seen one do that before." I agreed with him.

-Dell

Oh yeah... That is one neat looking Coral snake, thanks for the post.

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #24: The Coral Snake Mistake

Post by withalligators » February 3rd, 2012, 4:41 pm

A buddy in Thailand who runs a small english school one day came into one of the rooms to find a small snake in one of the rooms. He wasn't sure what it was at the time (hadn't been there long) but assumed it was, as you had, some kind of kukri or something else because it's demeanor was so unassuming. He put it in a bucket and left it in the school using it as a quick exposure tool for the students. He later IDed it as a C. mauliceps coral snake ( I think ). While this snake has no reported cases of envenomation, it would have sucked to find out the hard way. He didn't handle it, but he didn't exactly treat it with the most caution either, and in a school no less!

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #24: The Coral Snake Mistake

Post by TNWJackson » February 3rd, 2012, 5:12 pm

Lovely find.....most of the rest goes without saying ;).

The only thing that I will add is that all the wild Calliophis I've seen were on rainy afternoons (not at night). Oh, and if someone (especially a local :lol: ), tells you that the smaller Calliophis species don't bite, or have mouths too small to bite a human....ignore them, they do bite and they can open their mouths ridiculously wide for snakes with such tiny heads.

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #24: The Coral Snake Mistake

Post by MaartenSFS » February 3rd, 2012, 6:00 pm

No shame in your story, Hans. I don't touch anything unless I know what it is, but have often thought, what if the choice is between losing it or grabbing it? The obvious answer is to lose it, but it being so difficult to find snakes here, would I have the sense to do that? I have seen only a handful of the possibly over one hundred species here and have yet to see any of the elapids (alive). I'm afraid I'd confuse Bungarus and Calliophis with some harmless Colubrid.. :shock:

My solution, thus far, has been to pull out my travel zoom and take a video if I can't prevent it from escaping without touching it and IDing it at home. I have zero confidence in Chinese medical "professionals", so I must be cautious. ;)

If your son was bitten it may be the end of herping in your family, even if he survived! I know my wife would kill me! Be careful!

O, and ventral patterning of your specimen was in stark contrast with its unassuming dorsal side. Was it about to shed? Doesn't look like it from the belly.

How many known species can be found on Borneo?

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #24: The Coral Snake Mistake

Post by Hans Breuer (twoton) » February 3rd, 2012, 6:50 pm

Hi all,

thank you very much for your compassionate reactions - I feel much better already! (This is a bit like a self-help group for foolish herpers, isn't it? "Hi, my name is Skeeter, and I once tried to hand-feed my bushmaster without gloves...")
it's as if our IQ drops a couple points when confronted with those wonderful animals
So true.
Maybe you need one of those "gloves of power"
I've been seriously considering buying a pair in the near future, what with all the lifers around here. What's the best brand?
However, I think you should read the story of Joe Slowinski.
I read the book three times. While I was reading it for the first time, in Taiwan, I happened to meet the first of many Many-banded Kraits. This resulted in a massive chapter on both Krait and Joe in my book of Taiwan herping stories (just finished the second editing round, ready for approaching publishers now.) VICtort, I'm preparing such a book (of stories, not a field guide) about Borneo already. I've been keeping a diary since we arrived here...
Hans is one of the most careful herpers I know.
Thank you, Warren. While my congenital paranoia used to make me the laughing stock of my stoner buddies, it does come in handy around potentially dangerous animals (unless overridden by stupidity)
Still, it would be a more glamorous death than texting "lol" while flying down the freeway.
LOL!
You were lucky to come across one of these.
While I haven't seen another one since, they're actually relatively common. Just the other day I was taking a walk in our local park and chatting to a woodcutter crew who had taken down a sick tree. They told me about the little, chocolate-tan striped snake they' just scared up (in the afternoon, by the way :-) )
all the wild Calliophis I've seen were on rainy afternoons (not at night)
Another lesson learned....
Oh, and if someone (especially a local :lol: ), tells you that the smaller Calliophis species don't bite, or have mouths too small to bite a human....ignore them, they do bite and they can open their mouths ridiculously wide for snakes with such tiny heads.
Don't I know it. Remember the classic fight Sinomicrurus macclellandi vs. Swiss herpetologist Hans Schnurrenberger? "The initial bite was ignored until neurotoxic symptoms showed up 6 hours later, and death was 8 hours after envenomation" (B. G. Fry et al., 2003). I've been aware of that for years, ever since I started finding corals in Taiwan.
If your son was bitten
Luckily, I've never been mad enough to let my offspring touch unknown snakes.
it may be the end of herping in your family
I have another herp-crazed son up in Taipei. But its questionable whether my wife would ever let me take him into the woods again.
O, and ventral patterning of your specimen was in stark contrast with its unassuming dorsal side. Was it about to shed? Doesn't look like it from the belly.
Hard to say. It was a drizzly grey day, everything was either the color of or covered in mud, including the snake.
How many known species can be found on Borneo?
I think the official count is now nearing 170. More are found almost every year.

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #24: The Coral Snake Mistake

Post by DavidG » February 3rd, 2012, 8:41 pm

Hi Hans,

Fortunately everything ended well :) ! Great post, as usual....!

The coral snakes of SEA Asia are not strictly nocturnal. In fact, the blue malayan coral snake is active during early mornings. The malayan banded coral snake is regularly seen during the day, especially when rain drives them out of the ground (same for reed snakes, blind snakes).

Are you familiar with the local phrase that basically translates into 'pig cobra'? It has been said that wild pigs rooting in the leaves and soil sometimes suddenly drop dead - this being the result of the bite from a banded malayan coral snake.... Not sure if its true, but its a cool name lol!

Also, it should be noted that, thank god, these snakes a generally quiet small. This means that they may have difficulty penetrating the skin with a bite - however, lets not try and experiment on this. Moreover, i am not familiar with any kind of anti-venom for calliophis bites.

So basically, I am extremely happy everything ended well and as others mentioned - a great lesson to learn for all herpers alike.

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #24: The Coral Snake Mistake

Post by Ross Padilla » February 3rd, 2012, 11:23 pm

Glad you are alright, Hans. That's an interesting looking species.

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #24: The Coral Snake Mistake

Post by Zach_Lim » February 3rd, 2012, 11:46 pm

Very interesting, Hans! However, I'd love to see some pics and learn more about this Nepenthes Prairie!

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #24: The Coral Snake Mistake

Post by Martti Niskanen » February 4th, 2012, 3:48 am

Cool post, Hans. And a great example of how difficult identification in the wild can be.

You have to get at least one smart-arse comment, so here we go:
Hans Breuer (twoton) wrote:Our field guide was sitting pretty in the glove compartment of my car ten miles away...
I bet he wasn't too happy about that.
*boomboom*

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #24: The Coral Snake Mistake

Post by WW** » February 4th, 2012, 3:59 am

Hans Breuer (twoton) wrote: There. I admitted it. Now kindly suppress whatever smartass remarks you were about to let loose :-)
I am amazed nobody took you up on that covert invitation to let rip!

That said, having once picked up a 100% confidently identified (by myself) juvenile Lycodon subcinctus on the road at night, only to find out after a very detailed examination that it had.... errr.... a vertebral row of enlarged hexagonal scales and was actually a juvenile Bungarus candidus, I am not in a good position to be sarky.

Why am I still alive? Because it was a DOR. I would LIKE to think that I would not have picked it up if it had been alive. But can we ever be sure that, in the heat of the moment, we would have acted sanely?

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #24: The Coral Snake Mistake

Post by WW** » February 4th, 2012, 4:00 am

WW** wrote:
Hans Breuer (twoton) wrote: There. I admitted it. Now kindly suppress whatever smartass remarks you were about to let loose :-)
I am amazed nobody took you up on that covert invitation to let rip!
OK, Martti beat me to it ;)

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #24: The Coral Snake Mistake

Post by Rags » February 4th, 2012, 5:38 am

Demonstration of correct handling techniques when dealing with Calliophis intestinalis.

Image

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #24: The Coral Snake Mistake

Post by mikemike » February 5th, 2012, 4:32 am

To me, the tail curling is a dead give away.

Glad you walked away unscathed, Hans

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #24: The Coral Snake Mistake

Post by Hans Breuer (twoton) » February 5th, 2012, 5:48 am

mikemike wrote:To me, the tail curling is a dead give away.
But it ain't. Most kukri snakes do that, too - they're coral mimics.
Are you familiar with the local phrase that basically translates into 'pig cobra'?
No, but it sure is a cool name! What locals are those, exactly?
This means that they may have difficulty penetrating the skin with a bite
Let's not perpetuate the myth :-) They can, and will, kill people. See "Hans Schnurrenberger" above....
especially when rain drives them out of the ground (same for reed snakes, blind snakes)
Another fact I should have realized :-)
Why am I still alive? Because it was a DOR.
And even that could have ended badly. I once was about to pick up a pretty mangled "DOR" Bungarus multicinctus, when the snake snapped at me when I touched it with my boot. They's hard to kill, them snakes is....
But it's comforting to see that even the Wolfgang Wüsters of the world can act quite human around their research objects :-) Although I still think all that wouldn't have happened if I'd had more chance to herp with my neighbor, Indraneil Das. But the poor man is always so busy that you can't even lure him out of the house with a crab dinner :-)
Demonstration of correct handling techniques when dealing with Calliophis intestinalis.
NOW you're telling me.
I'd love to see some pics and learn more about this Nepenthes Prairie!
It's a plateau on top of a hill. The habitat up there is kerangas (Iban for = "infertile ground"), a hard-packed, sandy soil where only a few plant species can survive, such as certain ferns, short trees with almost vertical leaves (for heat dissipation) and carnivorous plants. You can find most lowland neps there - ampullaria, rafflesiana, graciilis, mirabilis, and a few hybrids thereof. There are a few pix at the bottom of this post.

PS: I found another C. intestinalis this afternoon - but it had already taken on that rice paper texture they tend to get after two hundred cars have run over them, leaving them to bake in the equatorial sun in between manglings. When I told an Australian friend about my find a while later, she said "A coral snake? But we're miles from the beach here!"

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #24: The Coral Snake Mistake

Post by DavidG » February 6th, 2012, 2:15 am

No, you are right Hans, It doesn't take an awful lot of penetration for the little guy to deliver its venom ;) !

Then again, I've had my fair share of mistakes in the field. Last summer i grabbed a 10 footer by the tail before it escaped into the bushes - What i thought was a keeled rat snake turned out to be a king cobra :roll:

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #24: The Coral Snake Mistake

Post by Hans Breuer (twoton) » February 6th, 2012, 2:35 am

DavidG wrote:Last summer i grabbed a 10 footer by the tail before it escaped into the bushes - What i thought was a keeled rat snake turned out to be a king cobra
!!!! Tell us more!

Hans, firing up some popcorn :-)

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #24: The Coral Snake Mistake

Post by Tamara D. McConnell » February 6th, 2012, 4:24 am

Thank you for sharing your story, Hans. Glad it had a happy ending.

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #24: The Coral Snake Mistake

Post by DavidG » February 6th, 2012, 7:10 am

Haha,

Well sorry Hans, I don't intend to steal your post. Either way, there is not much to say - especially since I didn't have my camera with me. I was in the forest for a school project when suddenly by the side of the trail i notice a magnificent creature from the the far right corner of the right corner of my right eye. Meanwhile, the gold-grey-brown snake decides to hit the pedal, but not before I intervene. I jump into the bushes and before he makes his getaway I catch him by the tail; like a cat a mouse. Holding on for a strenous minute - like those BIGGEST fish programs on discovery - to its tail, I decide to let go after making no progress in managing the snake out of its fury (it was furiously trying to wriggle its way out of my hands and into the bushes). Why did I let go? 1. Not to injure the spinal cord of the beast - I would feel immensely guilty. 2. Probably after one minute i realized that i wasn't holding a keeled rat snake (these snakes have bands across their bodies not present in Singapore's kings). Well, that was my day. Haven't seen the snake again so far...

Interesting note - Some keeled rat snakes have been found to posses venom glands. Their extreme similarity in size and appearance to kings has led me to believe they may be related closer then we think - although that's just my opinion, it could just be convergent evolution. I know of other people who have picked up rat snakes before, but only realized after taking some pictures, they were holding a king. King cobra's, particularly in Singapore and Malaysia are not as aggresive as some people may think. In fact, they are pretty sweet, respectable, and extremely intelligent snakes.

*Note - the 'locals' from earlier - Referring to the local populations of Sabah (according to the snakes of borneo, a book)

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #24: The Coral Snake Mistake

Post by M Wolverton » February 6th, 2012, 8:15 am

I have never seen a photo of that species before. It definitely does not have that elapid look (mostly the eye and head scales) to it that will often guide you with the bazillion coral snake species and mimickers in the Americas.

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #24: The Coral Snake Mistake

Post by jimoo742 » February 6th, 2012, 11:41 am

Hans Breuer (twoton) wrote:

It's a plateau on top of a hill. The habitat up there is kerangas (Iban for = "infertile ground"), a hard-packed, sandy soil where only a few plant species can survive, such as certain ferns, short trees with almost vertical leaves (for heat dissipation) and carnivorous plants. You can find most lowland neps there - ampullaria, rafflesiana, graciilis, mirabilis, and a few hybrids thereof. There are a few pix at the bottom of this post.

Ha, I think I saw this habitat in Cambodia (or something similar)... it struck me as odd... hard packed sand with some rocks... very very dry, but clearly water channels in many parts... I saw many picture plants in this large opening in the forest... looked like there were flash floods at intervals but very dry and hot most of the time. Some very odd trees in some part of the opening, not like the surrounding forest at all.

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #24: The Coral Snake Mistake

Post by Hans Breuer (twoton) » February 6th, 2012, 5:12 pm

Thanks, all!

Thank you, David, for sharing your story. You sure picked the right place to live....finding King cobras on a school project is the stuff of dreams.
DavidG wrote:*Note - the 'locals' from earlier - Referring to the local populations of Sabah (according to the snakes of borneo, a book)
I looked it up in that book (A Field Guide to the Snakes of Borneo; Stuebing/Inger), and it does indeed say that the Iban tribe from Sarawak refers to C. intestinalis as ular tedung babi - "pig cobra", onaccounta pigs being bitten on the snout by this species are supposed to drop dead within minutes". I gotta ask my Iban friends for more info about this. Fascinating!

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #24: The Coral Snake Mistake

Post by Kevin Messenger » February 6th, 2012, 9:25 pm

Rags wrote:Oops!

I wonder if this is going to turn into a "confessions" thread?
Been meaning to comment on this post, it has taken off in the few days that I have been working. Hans, first off, you are a lucky SOB! Second, I had a few friends in Ecuador make a similar mistake. I wish they would comment on this post, so the story remained accurate, but I will relay it to the best of my memory. They found an exceptionally dark snake. Ross had been giving Nate crap for not grabbing some snakes earlier on that were obviously non-venomous. Nate was being overly cautious. So now the tables had turned and Ross was confronted with this snake that was about to get away. He knew it wasn't venomous, but he also didn't know what it was exactly. So it was Nate's turn to dig into Ross, calling him a pansy and what not for not grabbing it immediately. Ross eventually gets it by the tail and is tailing it - without a hook, just tailing. They look at it in the open, laying the forebody on the ground and what not, trying to figure out what it was. They still didn't know. They bagged it and took pics the next day. They looked up some references. I forget how they finally came to realize (maybe an excerpt in the book about aberrant patterns) - but the animal in question ended up being a Micrurus lemniscatus, and Ross had been basically handling it like one would handle an aggressive colubrid - cautious, but not life threatening cautious. Obviously had he known it was a deadly species he would have handled the animal FAR differently. Both their jaws dropped when they realized the truth of the situation.

Either way, if you haven't done so yet, make a collection with a few photos of each species found in Boreo (something to keep in the car/ field). Better yet, make a Snakes of Borneo website :thumb:

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #24: The Coral Snake Mistake

Post by Hans Breuer (twoton) » February 6th, 2012, 9:34 pm

Hi Kevin,

thanks for the story! It's good not to feel alone :-)
Better yet, make a Snakes of Borneo website :thumb:
I registered http://www.snakesofborneo.com a few years ago, right after I'd finished http://www.snakesoftaiwan.com. In those days, I was blissfully ignorant as to what a Sisyphean task it would be, compared to the Taiwan site. So far, there's only one image on the site, and it's not even a photograph . That "Coming Soon" is quite likely to stay there for another while...

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #24: The Coral Snake Mistake

Post by chrish » February 7th, 2012, 9:07 pm

Wow. Glad it worked out OK.

Look at the good side, if you had known it was dangerously venomous and were being appropriately careful, you wouldn't have any great photos!

I think we've all made similar mistakes at one point or another.

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #24: The Coral Snake Mistake

Post by Hans Breuer (twoton) » February 7th, 2012, 10:35 pm

chrish wrote:Look at the good side, if you had known it was dangerously venomous and were being appropriately careful, you wouldn't have any great photos
Not necessarily. I've taken nice close-ups of corals before, knowing what I was dealing with :-)

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #24: The Coral Snake Mistake

Post by jayder85 » February 8th, 2012, 10:16 am

The lesson you learned ended so well! It is like everyone else stated, our field is one that really requires caution! And what a beautiful snake it was!

Reminds me of an old story my former supervisor told of a seasonal employee where i worked finding a "black snake" for them to use for school programs. He brought it in and many of the seasonals were holding it. They told my supervisor they were bringing in a short black snake and the supervisor assumed black phase Hognose. Luckily it bit nobody, but that "black snake" was a melanistic Northern Copperhead! Thinking back on it, it would have been cool to see see and I am sure someone that keeps hots would have loved to own it, but the first thing on their mind was getting it away from people and away from a trail where some other novice herper could have made a bad mistake!

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #24: The Coral Snake Mistake

Post by FunkyRes » February 8th, 2012, 10:22 am

That's a really neat story.
Thanks for sharing it.

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #24: The Coral Snake Mistake

Post by jonathan » February 1st, 2018, 9:55 am

Ran into this five years after the fact. Thanks for sharing Hans. It did take bravery to share.

I'll throw in my "confession" to the mix. Several years ago I was herping a Jesuit retreat center in Kolkata. It was my second trip there and the place was yielding a ton of snakes - bronzebacks, keelbacks, water, wolf, blind, rat - it was great. But there was a snake in the back of the property that was eluding me. I had heard it on the edge of a pond where a bamboo lattice structure for supporting some sort of cultured vegetation stuck out over the water. Earlier when I had come near the lattice it had dropped down off the structure into the water and disappeared into aquatic vegetation without giving me more than a glimpse of the end of its tail.

I had heard that cobras could be about, so I was cautious poking around the area. I returned multiple times trying to find that snake but without success.

The next day I checked again. As I peaked my head under the structure, a snake halfway dropped down, hanging with its belly facing me. I was confused. It wasn't a cobra...wasn't a rat snake. I could only see the belly and just didn't know enough about venters in the region. But it really "looked" like the kind of belly you'd see on some sort of water snake. I thought about grabbing it as it was only 3 feet in front of my face, but I was still confused about what it was. I legit could have just leaned over and grabbed it. The fact that the thought struck me gives me chills to this day.

As I was standing there and still not sure what I was gonna do (this all happened in about 5 seconds but you know a lot can go through your mind in 5 seconds), the snake dropped into the water and I saw. Russell's Viper!

When I took my first picture of the snake, I was shaking so hard it came out like this:
IMG_2753.JPG

I was able to chill a bit and got better pictures as it moved out into the middle of the pond:
IMG_2754.JPG
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IMG_2769.JPG
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Image



A Russell Viper bite is no joke. Still gives me chills to think of how I thought about grabbing it while it just hung there.

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #24: The Coral Snake Mistake

Post by Jimi » February 1st, 2018, 10:43 am

I thought about grabbing it
Ooooh, he wouldn't have thanked you for that! Grumpus!
A Russell Viper bite is no joke.
Understatement. How's emergency medical care in Kolkata? Surely there's a locally-produced AV for this species, but do all the hospitals stock it? Do many doctors there have successful experience treating snakebite? Taking a third-world bite is a sickening thought.

I'd love to herp the vipers of India someday - western Ghats & eastern lower Himalayas. Carefully.

cheers

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #24: The Coral Snake Mistake

Post by jonathan » February 1st, 2018, 1:16 pm

Jimi wrote:Understatement. How's emergency medical care in Kolkata? Surely there's a locally-produced AV for this species, but do all the hospitals stock it? Do many doctors there have successful experience treating snakebite? Taking a third-world bite is a sickening thought.
Well, they do see a heck of a lot more bites than our doctors too, and nowadays (in part due to Rom Whitiker's efforts) antivenom is much more available than it used to be. I'm fairly sure they could have gotten me to a hospital where the doctor knew what he/she was doing with snakebite, though the other life-support facilities wouldn't be up to American standards.

The big question would just be speed/traffic in actually getting to that hospital. I was at least an hour outside the city, traffic can be an unsolvable mess, and if the driver took too many chances he might just find a different way to get me killed.

Still, generally I was in a great situation. There have been plenty of other places in Asia where I could have taken a bite in which the help would have been much, much slower. We were chasing a monocled cobra deep in the Sundarbans and the guy who got it made a real risky grab...that's a LONG boat ride back to civilization. And at other times I've been alone in the middle of some damn jungle where I don't even know if I make it out to the road on my own if the bite is bad enough.

And I've had friends in Columbia, Bangladesh, etc. who have done fieldwork a couple days hike from the nearest vehicle. Sometimes you just gotta roll with "don't get bit under any circumstance." My sister-in-law has a colleague who was on Slowinski's team out there in the middle of nowhere...there were risks taken that were simply inappropriate under the circumstances, and while you can get away with it sometimes, it ended up to be a fatal error in that case.

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #24: The Coral Snake Mistake

Post by dendrelaphis » February 5th, 2018, 10:40 am

This is how I fortunately got away:

I was walking at night through Malaysian ranforest when I heard a loud hiss. I searched for a while and then found a spitting cobra, in defensive position in a narrow stream. I put down my hand torch and backpack and approached the beautiful snake with only my head light, snake hook and snake bag (with a frame). Suddenly, it turned around and tried to get away. Somehow, I had completely turned off my frontal lobes and went into pursuit. I grapped the snake by the tail but then slipped on the slippery rocks and fell. My head light fell off my head and suddenly I was in complete darkness. I quickly put the headlight back on my head. The snake was nowhere to be seen. I was disappointed but then noticed that the snake bag was rather heavy. I looked inside and there it was, staring up at me.............. I had a hard time falling alseep that night and nowadays I make different decisions when I'm out there.

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #24: The Coral Snake Mistake

Post by Hans Breuer (twoton) » February 5th, 2018, 9:58 pm

Russell's Viper....you win :-)

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #24: The Coral Snake Mistake

Post by jonathan » February 5th, 2018, 10:09 pm

Hans Breuer (twoton) wrote:Russell's Viper....you win :-)
I mean, the other guy tailed a king cobra on accident though. :shock:

I actually made a grab for a snake once that I didn't conclusively ID as a rat snake or cobra (and still haven't). But tailing a regular cobra isn't exactly the scariest thing in the world.


dendrelaphis wrote:This is how I fortunately got away:

I was walking at night through Malaysian ranforest when I heard a loud hiss. I searched for a while and then found a spitting cobra, in defensive position in a narrow stream. I put down my hand torch and backpack and approached the beautiful snake with only my head light, snake hook and snake bag (with a frame). Suddenly, it turned around and tried to get away. Somehow, I had completely turned off my frontal lobes and went into pursuit. I grapped the snake by the tail but then slipped on the slippery rocks and fell. My head light fell off my head and suddenly I was in complete darkness. I quickly put the headlight back on my head. The snake was nowhere to be seen. I was disappointed but then noticed that the snake bag was rather heavy. I looked inside and there it was, staring up at me.............. I had a hard time falling alseep that night and nowadays I make different decisions when I'm out there.
I think of that story (and one other that I've heard like it) every time I'm in the dark with venomous. It would be so easy for it to happen, especially since my light flips out all the time.

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #24: The Coral Snake Mistake

Post by WSTREPS » February 6th, 2018, 8:34 am

It never surprises me how careless people are. Randomly grabbing at or considering grabbing snakes in areas literally crawling with hazardous taxon without making a proper ID. This compounded by the fact that many look like harmless species. This ties in with the somewhat recent thread about mimicry that unfortunately became overly convoluted thanks in part to the MonarchzMan and his serious case of Dunning–Kruger effect.

Ernie Eison

Slowinski's death did surprise me when I heard he died the way he did. He was incredibly ambitious and reckless but I thought he would end up in jail not dead.

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #24: The Coral Snake Mistake

Post by dendrelaphis » February 6th, 2018, 10:31 am

Well, I actually did properly identify the Naja sumatrana before approaching it :)

But of course you're right, it's careless

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #24: The Coral Snake Mistake

Post by Hans Breuer (twoton) » February 6th, 2018, 9:03 pm

WSTREPS wrote:This ties in with the somewhat recent thread about mimicry that unfortunately became overly convoluted thanks in part to the MonarchzMan and his serious case of Dunning–Kruger effect.
What thread is that?

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