Beddome’s Cat Snake
Rahul Alvares encounters a Beddome’s cat snake while out ‘herping’ in Ambolim. Or at least that’s what he thinks it is! And he is completely fine not knowing at the cost of distressing the snake.
Photo: Rahul Alvares.
Goa is home to over 30 different species of snakes. The majority of them, however, are rarely seen. These snakes are restricted to specific areas or habitats and are therefore never seen around human habitations.
As a snake rescuer I usually encounter spectacled cobras, Russell’s vipers, Indian rat snakes, striped keelbacks, checkered keelbacks, common wolfsnakes and bronzeback tree snakes. These seven species make up around 70 per cent of the snakes I find in and around people’s houses. Rock pythons, Whitaker boas, vine snakes, common kukri snakes, Russell’s kukri snakes, common kraits, banded racers and saw-scaled vipers bring in most of the remaining 30 per cent.
To find the remaining species I have to go snake searching in Goa’s forests. Take for example this Beddome’s cat snake. I don’t have any chance of finding this snake around human habitation (unless of course we are talking about a human habitation that is bang in the middle of the Western Ghats!).
This cat snake was found by a small group of snake enthusiasts in Ambolim. I was there with my own group of friends and we jumped at the opportunity to photograph the cat snake as well. The cat snake didn’t seem very bothered by all the flashlights going off around it and comfortably coiled up around a twig.
The young men who had found the snake were sensitive to the probability of the snake getting stressed by us photographing it. In less than five minutes they wound up the photography session. As I looked around at the faces of the men in the group, I realised that most of them were in their teens or early twenties. It was pleasing to find such a high level of sensitivity and awareness towards reptiles among these men despite their young age.
“What do you think it is? A Beddome’s cat snake or a Ceylon’s?” I asked them once the snake had moved away into a low bush. “Impossible to say unless we’d done a scale count,” replied one of them.
He was right, of course. These two snakes don’t just look alike but they overlap in their range distribution as well. Both are found in the same areas of the Western Ghats and are also found in Sri Lanka. The Beddome’s cat snake is also found near the hills of Ganjam district in Orissa. Both these species are nocturnal and arboreal. They supposedly feed on geckos, lizards, and sometimes small birds which they paralyse with a mildly venomous bite from their rear fangs. Both species are oviparous and lay 3-10 eggs.
Snakes of India mentions that the Beddome’s cat snake is visually indistinguishable from the Ceylon cat snake. However, the former has more belly scales. Another important difference between the two is the number of teeth in the upper jaw. But that’s tough to examine in a live snake!
Over successive visits to Ambolim, I found the same kind of cat snake at least three or four more times. The thought of performing a laborious, tedious and stressful (to the snake) scale count never occurred to me. I was happy narrowing them down to just these two species!
Author: Rahul Alvares, First appeared in: Sanctuary Cub, November 2014.