Reptiles and Amphibians of Thailand

Thailand's Snakes, Lizards, Turtles, and Frogs

Beauty Rat Snake

Elaphe taeniura

This snake is found in Thailand but not in Bangkok
Beauty Rat snake Trinket Elaphe taeniura Mae Hong Son thailand
Beauty Rat Snake in Mae Hong Son (Dan Schofield / CC BY-NC)

Mae Hong Son: E. t. helfenbergeri, Helfenberg’s Beauty Snake
Kanchanaburi: E. t. helfenbergeri, Helfenberg’s Beauty Snake
Minsk Zoo: E. t. yunnanensis, Yunnan Beauty Snake
Malaysia: E. t. ridleyi, Cave Racer

English name: Beauty Rat Snake (aka: “Beauty Snake”, “Cave Racer”, “Cave-dwelling Ratsnake”, “Stripe-tailed Rat Snake”)
Scientific name: Elaphe taeniura (formerly Orthriophis taeniura)
Thai name: งูกาบหมากถ้ำ (Ngu Gaap Maag Tham)

Description: To 250cm long. A variable snake, with base color of tan to yellowish-brown to olive to bluish-gray. Most phases have an unmarked neck followed by distinct dorsal blotches in the midbody which transition to a white, yellow, or tan dorsal line on a dark background in the rear body. Some color phases have distinct or indistinct blotches on the sides of the midbody as well, others lack markings in the midbody entirely. All phases have a thick black eyestripe.

Relevant scale counts: 23-25 rows of midbody scales.

Similar Species: Yellow-striped Rat Snake has distinct dorsal striping at the front rather than the rear and has two short lines coming off the eye with a separate longer line coming off the back of the head.
Copperhead Rat Snake has three thin lines radiating from the eye rather than one thick one, has the most distinct striping at the front of the body rather than the rear, and lacks the darkened tail.

Range: From northeast India through Myanmar, China and Taiwan, and throughout southeast Asia into Malaysia and Indonesia.

Habitat: Found in forests, especially within caves.

Contribution to the ecosystem: Feeds on rodents, bats, birds, and bird eggs. Eaten by birds of prey, monitors, and larger snakes.

Danger to humans: This species can bite aggressively at times but is not dangerous to humans.

Conservation status and threats: No known conservation issues.

Interesting facts: The Beauty Rat Snake is known for having numerous subspecies which come in different color variations, several of which appear in Thailand. Elaphe taeniura yunnanensis, Yunnan Beauty Snake, is found in northern/northeastern Thailand, southern China, Laos, and Vietnam and has strong black markings accompanying the distinct saddles on top and also has distinct white bars on the sides. Elaphe taeniura helfenbergeri, Helfenberg’s Beauty Snake, is found in western Thailand and Myanmar and has clear saddles on the top but lacks the black markings and has a much darker rear body with only indistinct white bars on the sides. Elaphe taeniura callicyanous, Blue Beauty Snake, is found in central-eastern Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia and has distinct saddles on both the top and sides but with a strong grayish or bluish tint. And Elaphe taeniura ridleyi, Ridley’s Beauty Snake or Cave Racer, is found in southern Thailand and Malaysia and lacks blotches altogether with a tan body that remains unmarked until the dorsal stripe on the rear third.

Wikipedia: Beauty Rat Snake
Thai National Parks: Cave Racer
Reptiles of Southeast Asia

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