Okinawa has three species of pit vipers and one coral snake. These venomous snakes are commonly found in the jungle. They are sometimes found in neighborhoods and local parks at nighttime during the summer season. Majority of the snake bites that I am familiar with happened on neighborhood night walks or harvesting sugar cane. I have seen pit vipers on public roads at night, on sidewalks, crawling on fences, on rock walls, in drainage ditches and inside vending machines.
Drink machine – Photo by Leia Heider
The Okinawan Habu is the largest and most venomous pit viper found on Okinawa.
- Scientific name: Trimeresurus flavoviridis
- Common name: Okinawan or golden habu
- Habitat: Rock walls, caves, tree lines, parks, farming fields and near fresh water
- Diet: Mice, rats, shrews, bats and birds
- Average size: 100-200cm
Okinawan Habu (Trimeresurus flavoviridis)
Fangs of the Okinawan Habu
Okinawan Habu on a fence -WAM perspective
Okinawan Habu- MYN field studio technique
The Taiwanese Habu was introduced to Okinawa in the 1970′s. They were imported for exhibitions and medical purposes. Somehow a few escaped and have populated the Island. I have seen over a dozen on my night hikes near Ryukyu Mura in Onna village.
- Scientific name: Trimeresurus mucrosquamatus
- Common name: Taiwanese habu or Brown spotted pit viper
- Habitat: Rock walls, trees and caves
- Diet: Frogs, bats, mice and birds
- Average size: 80-150cm
Taiwanes habu- Onna village. Ready to strike!
Taiwanese habu- patiently waiting for a frog
Taiwanese habu- neighborhood at night
The Princess habu is the most common venomous snake on Okinawa. It is the smallest of the pit vipers found here.
- Scientific name: Ovophis okinavensis
- Common name: Princess habu or Hime habu
- Habitat: Rivers, ponds, creeks and runoff ditches.
- Diet: Mainly frogs
- Average size: 40-80cm
Princess habu -Yanbaru forest
Large Princes habu- Yanbaru
Princess habu -MYN technique
The Okinawan coral snake is extremely rare. I have only seen two specimens
- Scientific name: Sinomicrurus japonicus boettgeri
- Common name: Okinawan coral snake
- Habitat: Forest areas in northern Okinawa
- Diet: blind snakes and small lizards
- Average size: 30-60cm
Ways to avoid injury!
- Avoid catching or handling venomous snakes
- Wear exposure protection, such as snake boots when exploring the forest at night.
- Bring a flashlight on night walks in the neighborhood
Safety first or pay the worst!