Venomous snakes of Okinawa-Japan

 

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.

Habu in vending machine

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)

Okinawan Habu (Trimeresurus flavoviridis)

Fangs of the Okinawan Habu

Fangs of the Okinawan Habu

Okinawan habu -Northern Okinawa

Okinawan habu -Northern Okinawa

Okinawan Habu on a fence

Okinawan Habu on a fence -WAM perspective

Okinawan Habu- MYN field studio technique

Okinawan Habu- MYN field studio technique

A beautiful habu with silver eyes. A rare find in Okinawa.

Silver habu- eyes of silver

Silver habu- eyes of silver

Albino Habus are worshiped in Okinawa.

Albino Habu snake

Albino Habu snake

 

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

Taiwanes habu- Onna village.  Ready to strike!

Taiwanese habu-

Taiwanese habu- patiently waiting for a frog

Taiwanese habu -Onna village, Okinawa

Taiwanese habu -Onna village, Okinawa

Taiwanese habu- neighborhood at night

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

Princess habu -Yanbaru forest

Large Princes habu- Yanbaru

Large Princes habu- Yanbaru

Golden Hime habu

Golden Hime habu

Princess habu -MYN technique

Princess habu -MYN technique

Princess Habu- Stella 2000

Princess Habu- Stella 2000

Princess habu - Northern Okinawa

Princess habu – Northern Okinawa

 

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

photograph

 

 

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!