Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Trinket Snake | Elaphe helena

Binomial name: Elaphe helena
Common Name: Trinket Snake

Scientific classification
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Colubridae
Genus: Elaphe
Species: E. helena


Distinguishing Features: Medium-sized and slender; smooth, shiny scales; light fore-body and dark tail.

Average Length: 70 cm; At Birth: 25 cm; Maximum: 1.5 m.

Description: Trinket Snakes are tan and chocolate-brown in colour, with two prominent dark stripes on the latter part of the body and light bands and checks on the fore-part. Their long head is unmarked, eyes are prominent and round-pupilled. The two dark lines on either side of the neck may join medially to form an inverted ‘V’. The scales are smooth and glossy. The scales in front of the eye are scattered with pores, which may possibly be sensory. There are 9 species of Trinket Snakes in India.

Distribution: They are found throughout India. Green Trinket Snakes are found in the Andamans, and the Mandarin Trinket is found up to 4000 m in the Himalayas.

Habitat: They generally live deep in termite mounds, rock piles and crevices during the hot weather, whereas in the cool season they emerge and are seen in leafy trees and bushes.

Habits: They are active during day as well as at night. Generally Trinket Snakes are well mannered and calm when handled, but occasionally they swell their necks, rear back open-mouthed and make quick strikes at a provoker. In defence, they will sometimes vibrate their tails resembling one of the highly specialized Rattle Snakes in America.

Young: Female lays around 6 to 8 long eggs. The young resembles the adult. Breeding appears to be year-round.

Food: The adult trinket is mainly a rodent eater which kills its prey by constriction. On few occasions birds and their eggs are also eaten. Young ones feed on insects and small lizards.

Status: This species is nowhere very common. As they prefer farmlands as well as forests, the rapid increase of cleared agricultural lands seems to have little effect. Though beautiful in appearance, they are not plentifulenough to be in demand by the skin trade.

Remarks: Trinket Snakes are often wrongly considered as venomous even by snake-catching groups.

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