09 April 2011

Pit-Viper in Our Kitchen Tree

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Last week I saw a pit-viper at close range, slithering up a tree in our courtyard which supports our outdoor kitchen’s small tin roof over the propane stove. A beautiful light-green in color, it crawled with reptilian leisure and disappeared between several tin sheets making up the roof. One look at its triangular head told me it was a poisonous snake.
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I was sitting outside in my lawnchair reading in the shade of this tree, and I only noticed the snake because one of our cats alerted me to it. This cat, Silly Willy, also alerted me several years ago to a huge monitor lizard who was basking in the sun about 10 feet behind my chair. Willy may be silly, but he is a good hunter, and I can always tell by his eyes if he is looking at either prey or predator.
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Willy was sitting high on the wall on the other side of this tree, and I noticed him looking quite attentively at something with his look of apprehension. Following his gaze I saw the pit-viper move slowly up the tree at a height of about 7 feet from the ground, camouflaged very well against the underside of the leaves when one looks upward. I got up and stepped closer to look at it, and all my old Boy Scout training told me it was venomous.
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After it disappeared between the layers of the kitchen roof, I went inside to consult my Guidebook to Snakes and Other Reptiles of Thailand and Southeast Asia. That and some web searches narrowed it down to a couple of pit-vipers: The white-lipped tree viper or the large-eyed pit-viper. I didn’t have a long enough look to tell if its lips were white or its eyes big.
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I alerted my wife and her family, but no one seemed to be impressed. I’m sure they believed my sighting, but it just didn’t seem to be a big deal to anyone. Although living here for 5 years now, plus doing a year’s tour in next-door Vietnam 40 years ago, I guess I’m still a bit of a boot to tropical life. But I’m still watching my every step and every branch above me.
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-Zenwind.
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1 comment:

  1. I wouldn't do well living in the tropics. I do not like snakes! I would be like you, watching each and every step and looking up at the branches.

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