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The Montane Trinket Snake

The Montane Trinket Snake

November 2012: There are certain species of snakes I simply never find. As a snake rescuer working only in coastal Goa, I have encountered about 12 odd species in people’s homes. For anything besides the 12 species, I rely on my friends (the ones who rescue snakes, of course!).

Rahul Alvares, 31, is a wildlife consultant and snake rescuer based in Goa. He also edits an online newsletter called The Creepy Times.

Recently, one of my friends called me up to discuss something about snakes. We chatted for a bit and then as he was about to hang up the phone, he suddenly remembered a trinket snake he had rescued from someone’s house. “Do you want to take some pictures of it?” he asked me casually.“

Of course I do!” I shouted with glee. I could hardly contain my excitement. The only time I had ever seen a trinket snake was when I was training to handle snakes at the Pune Snake Park over 15 years ago!

The same evening, I went over to my friend’s house to see the snake. My first impression of it was that it seemed quite big and strong. The snake was about a metre in length and twice as thick as my thumb. When I checked my snake book, I realised that this wasn’t unusual at all. Apparently, they actually do grow quite big! The book also correctly identified the specimen to be a montane trinket snake and not a common trinket snake. The montane trinket snake is endemic to the Western Ghats (Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala) and is not found in other parts of India.

The snake was quite inoffensive and made no attempt to bite as my friend handled it and I clicked away with my camera. I was testing my new 17-40 mm. lens and I hoped to get some good pictures of it. After about four minutes of photographing the snake, we let it go back into the forest. I got back home and loaded the pictures onto my computer, and as I scanned through the images, a sense of horror began to creep into my heart. Not a single one of my images had turned out well. Obviously, I had no clue as to how to shoot with my new lens. So much for feeling like a professional photographer!

The brown and black variegated colouration of the montane trinket snake serves the purpose of camouflage for this slender reptile. Although the species is non-venomous, it is known to be quite aggressive.

Photography by Rahul Alvares.

But, as luck would have it, two months later my friend rescued another montane trinket snake. This time, I went to his house fully prepared. Trinket snakes are glossy and therefore reflect quite a bit of light which shows up as glare in strong sunlight or under the influence of a flash. I was prepared for the glare this time though. I had a polarizer filter (it reduces or blocks reflected light) fitted onto the front element of my same 17-40 mm. lens. I had already tested the filter while photographing a python the previous month and was very satisfied with the results!

I spent a similar four minutes photographing the snake. And this time when I checked my images back at home I had a big smile on my face. The polarizer filter, as it turns out, had done a pretty good job of controlling the glare bouncing off the snake’s smooth body!

Facts about the montane trinket snake:

1. It is slender-bodied. The colour may vary from olive to tan to chocolate-brown, with a distinctly banded forebody. The bands consist of several rows of large, yellow, oval or round spots encircled with black. It is found in both thick evergreen forests and towns.

2. Trinket snakes will eat lizards, frogs and small birds. Like the common rat snake, they are also extraordinary rat-eating machines!

3. The montane trinket snake is a viviparous snake (it gives birth to live young).4. It is a non-venomous snake that is active by day and night. When excited, it coils its forebody into a near vertical S-shaped loop, opens its mouth and strikes repeatedly.

The adult montane trinket snake, also known as the collared trinket snake can grow to lengths of up to one metre, and kill their prey by a strategy of repeated biting and constriction.
Photograph by Rahul Alvares.

by Rahul Alvares First appeared in: Sanctuary Cub, November 2012


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