The Copperheaded Racer snakes are so named because their head is copper colored. Though much of the body of this snake is also copper colored, there are also more yellow and brown color variations among this species.
These snakes have no relation to the highly venomous “copperhead” snakes of America, and elsewhere. Thailand’s Copperheaded Racers are large rat snakes that feed heavily on large rodents and are frequently found near houses and markets where a rat population exists.
These snakes will rarely bite you if you are walking by, but if you are pursuing a copper-headed racer – it will turn and move toward you with many folds in its neck, ready to strike. See the video below of the large 2-meter + racer I found crossing a Thai highway in southern Thailand.
There is another rat snake – the Common Malayan Racer that is a much darker color, but very much resembles the Copperheaded Racer. It generally will not bite even if handled.
Coelognathus radiatus. Radiated Rat Snake. Copperheaded Racer.
Usually referred to as the Copperheaded Racer, Rat Snake, or Jumping Snake
Thai: Ngoo tang ma-prow ly keet
Appearance: A copper-colored head with black lines on the top and neck, leading into some lateral lines that run down some of the length of the body. This snake often looks yellow as the dominant color. Because this snake is rather large it has a large mouth to match.
Length: Up to 230 cm (about 7 feet maximum). They can get as thick as an adult male’s wrist. Obviously thicker if they just ate.
Range: All over Thailand and many countries in Southeast Asia.
Habitat: Copperheaded racers are ground-dwelling snakes and prefer to live where rats are. Anywhere rats are. These snakes can be found at some altitude (1500m) as well as sea level.
Notes: These snakes bite at the slightest provocation. They strike repeatedly but eventually tire. The Cobra show in Ao Nang, Thailand uses these snakes in a demonstration because they are great strikers. I’ve only seen these racers on the ground – not climbing anything.
Active Time? Diurnal – daytime. Occasionally found active at night.
Food: Rats, mice, lizards, frogs, birds.
Natural Enemies: King cobras seem to prefer these and other rat snakes, probably because the teeth are not large and they cannot inflict any damage on the cobras.
Defensive Behavior: They will come at you if you’re bothering them, with a raised head – vertically inflated neck, and open mouth. See a video of one crossing the road and coming at me. They love to strike, and the big ones can reach over a meter when striking. If they can’t deter the aggressor they roll over and play dead with their tongue hanging out. If they can get away they are very fast snakes on the ground.
Venom Toxicity: Venom in the saliva, but no means to deliver it with fangs – no fangs at all.
Offspring: Young look very much like adults in pattern and body shape. Both are said to be non-venomous and not harmful for people.
Species: C. Radiatus
Binomial name: Coelognathus radiatus
Video: I Found a Baby Copperhead Racer Crossing the Road:
Video: Copperheaded Racer Striking
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