India, the second most populous country in the world after China and a beautiful place to visit, with plenty of things to see and do such as visiting the world-famous Taj Mahal, but did you also know that India is home to some very dangerous snakes?
With over 270 species of snakes in India it could be possible that you might unfortunately bump into one. So, to make sure you stay safe on your travels we’re going to be revealing the 7 most dangerous snakes in India so if you do see one, you’ll know what it is and what to do.
The Indian cobra also known in India as ‘naja naja’ is an extremely venomous snake and a member of the ‘big four’ species that inflict the most snake bites on humans in India. This snake is heavy bodied, and it can easily be identified by its deceiving eye pattern on the back of its head and its large hood – this will become enlarged when the snake feels threatened.
The Indian cobra can reach up to seven feet in length and its main hiding spot in India is in the Agumbe Rainforest in Shimoga district of Karnataka but it can also be found in other habitats including dense and open forests, rice fields, wetlands and city outskirts, ranging from sea-level to 2,000 metres (6,600 ft) in altitude but will never be found in dessert regions.
If you see one of these snakes in India, then the best thing to do is move away from it slowly. Running from the snake will make it sense danger and it will be more likely to attack. If the cobra flattens its neck to form a hood this means, it’s not happy and is likely to attack and will move from side to side rather than a straight line.
The common krait which is also known as the Indian krait or blue krait is another species of venomous snake and also a member of the ‘big four’ a bit like the Indian cobra.
The average length of this snake is three feet long, but they can also grow up to 5 feet 9 inches! It’s easier to spot a male than a female as males have longer tails and the male will grow bigger than the female. Unlike the cobra who has a hooded head, the common krait has a flat head and the neck is hardly noticeable – a bit like the eyes which are small with rounded pupils.
This snake is frequently found in water or in proximity to a water source but can also be found in the jungle, fields, brick piles, rat holes and even inside houses – this where we’re glad we don’t live in India!
Common kraits are nocturnal so if you are out at night then tread carefully if by any of the locations, we’ve previously mentioned to avoid getting bitten. The venom from this snake consists mostly of powerful neurotoxins, which induce muscle paralysis! Some of the other neurotoxins that the venom has will affect the nerve endings near the brain.
If bitten by a common krait it’s likely that there will be no pain to start with providing false reassurance, hours later it’s likely to feel abdominal pains followed by progressive paralysis so if you’ve been bitten, get treatment ASAP!
Saw Scaled Viper:
Saw scaled viper, also known as echis which gets its name from the Greek word ‘viper’ are venomous snakes in India which are responsible for the most snake bites and deaths in the world.
There are only a small group of these snakes (approximately twelve species) and they can be found in dry areas in India such as desserts, sand, rock, soft soil and in scrublands. They will often be found living under loose rocks and survive living in altitudes of up to 1982m!
Adult saw scaled vipers can grow up to three feet in length. They have a short head, which is wide and pear-shaped, its snout is short, and round and it has large eyes.
If bitten by the saw scaled viper it will give out four types of poisonous toxins into the body, these include neurotoxins, cardiotoxins, hemotoxins, and cytotoxins. Just like the common krait this saw scaled viper will come out when it’s dark so be careful of the surroundings and where you’re stepping.
The venom the saw scaled viper gives out is very toxic and it might even be a couple of days or even weeks before realising that the snakebite has caused any harm to the body. The venom in the snake will vary on toxicity depending on the location, gender and individual specimen as to how badly the reaction and after affects will be so seek treatment right away as soon as the bite has happened.
The Russell’s viper snake also known as the daboia russelii is named after Patrick Russell who was a Scottish herpetologist who studied Indian snakes. This snake is the third of the ‘big four’ snake species of the most venomous snakes in India. The name ‘daboia’ is a Hindi word which means ‘that lies hid.’
These snakes look different from the rest we have spoken about and can grow up to 5.5 feet. The Russell’s Viper is usually dark yellow or brown in colour with many black spots and can be found living in areas such as bushy areas, farmlands, coastal lowlands and open grassy areas.
These snakes usually come out during the night but in the cooler months they will also come out during the day. When this snake feels threatened it raises its head and makes a hissing noise which is said to be louder than other snakes. The Russell’s viper bite can be unpredictable, sometimes it will be a quick snap and other times the jaw will hold onto the enemy injecting venom into their skin.
Malabar Pit Viper:
This snake also known as the trimeresurus malabaricus are another venomous snake that can be found in the Western Ghats in southwestern India. Sometimes they will be found near rocks on by trees near streams but most commonly they will be encountered during monsoon season (June-September.)
The malabar pit viper has an extraordinary heat sensing system so when these snakes go out to find their prey, as they’re nocturnal, the sensing system helps them to find their food more easily. To do this they will use their ‘pits’ – a special organ in between the eyes and the nostrils. The pit senses body heat from animals and gives the snake picture of that animal – hence why this snake is called the ‘malabar pit viper.’
What makes the malabar pit vipers difficult to spot are their ability to colour morph! Many different colour morphs are known to exist, including colours such as yellow, green and brown which is another feature they have in their favour when hunting prey.
This snake is slow moving but as we mentioned before this snake is venomous so if it does attack then the venom will cause moderate pain and swelling.
The king cobra snake also known as Ophiophagus Hannah is the longest venomous snake in the world! This snake is the most famous snake on the planet and is known for its deadly bite. King cobras are known to live in forests and near water. They can swim well and can move quickly in trees and on land so let’s hope you don’t get into to trouble with one of these!
King cobras are not to be messed with as they can grow to a length of 13 feet! Although some have been known to grow to a massive 18 feet! Apart from the length, you’ll be able to spot a king cobra from their unique appearance, king cobras can be black, tan or dark green with yellow bands down the length of the body. The belly is cream coloured with black bands.
Cobras have a hood-shaped head and when they feel threatened, they will raise their head high off the ground to prepare to attack. The sides of their head will flare out to create a menacing hood. They may also let out a fairly loud hiss that almost sounds like a growl.
Indian Rock Python:
Indian rock pythons also known as python molurus are a non-venomous snake that are found in tropical and sub-tropical regions of the Indian sub-continent.
These snakes can grow up over nine feet in length and have a typical snakeskin appearance – a white or yellow body with the blotched patterns varying from shades of tan to dark brown although their colour varies depending on the location, they’re found in. Specimens from the hill forests of Western Ghats and Assam are darker and those from the Deccan Plateau and east coast of India are usually lighter.
Indian rock pythons are slow moving and can be quite shy. They will rarely attack a human or animal even if they’re being attacked by it/them and will move in a straight line, they are also extremely good at swimming and can be submerged in water for many minutes.
How Common are Snakes in India?
With over 270 species of snakes in India it could be possible that you might unfortunately bump into one. 62 snakes are venomous or semi-venomous and it’s the ‘big four‘ that you need to be careful about seeing as they will cause the most venomous damage.
As you’ve just read, snakes can live anywhere from water to rocks and grasslands to desserts and they can be found in a lot of areas in India but mostly in rural areas.
Which Snake Kills Most Humans in India?
In the past 20 years there have been an estimated 1.2 million deaths from snake bites in India, with the attacks coming from not just one snake but three! The snakes which have killed most humans are communion kraits, Russell’s viper and cobras.
Many of the attacks lead to death as there isn’t enough medical care in India meaning that the venom will stay in the body and become toxic – leading to death.
Farming communities living in villages will carry the highest risk for death during monsoon season. The average risk of an someone dying from a snake bite in India before reaching 70 years is approximately 1 in 250, but in some areas the risk approaches 1 in 100.
What is the Deadliest Snake in India?
With around ten species of common kraits found in India, this is the deadliest snake in the country. This snake produces the most venom out of any other snake in India and causes an estimated 10,000 deaths a year in India. As there’s a lot of species of this snake, that’s what makes it more dangerous than the cobra.
The average venom yield per bite that the common krait gives out is 10mg and the average human needs just 2.5mg to make the bite a fatal dose. There is a 70-80% mortality rate in cases where there is no possible or poor and ineffective treatment (e.g, no use of mechanical ventilation, low quantities of anti-venom, poor management of possible infection).
Can You Kill a Snake in India?
Snakes are protected under the provisions of the Wildlife (Protection) Act- 1972 which makes killing a snake very much illegal in India, even if you are attacked by one it would have to be looked into by an investigating officer. Illegal hunting and possession of snakes is punishable under the act. The punishment will be dependent on location and offence.
If there is a snake in your house/hotel room then the best thing to do is not to attack it but instead contact a snake rescuer as they are trained to deal with all kinds of snakes!
So, that’s the end of our snakes in India article, if you’ve enjoyed reading this then please leave a comment in the box below! If you’ve decided that maybe India isn’t the place for you, then how about looking into a city break instead?