It’s that time of year in Phuket when change is in the air as the winds begin switching to the north westerly prevailing winds of the monsoon season. That means stormy days on the horizon and seasonal flooding of lowland areas around the island. And what happens to live in these areas in abundance? Snakes. As such, these slithering reptiles seek to avoid flooded out areas and are on the move in search of drier ground, much of which is occupied by houses in Phuket.
Pope's pit viper Cr:Thethaiger.com
While many people, both Thais and expats, are not too fond of snakes or passionately hate them altogether, they should be respected and not unnecessarily slaughtered. They are a key species in the local ecosystem that help keep rat and frog populations from completely taking over the world.
To be clear, when we are talking about how to “handle” a snake, we mean how to deal with the situation of having an unwanted or dangerous snake around, not picking one up and playing with it. Snakes can easily make their way into your garden, swimming pool, or even inside your house. Many species can climb very well so they can find their way through an open second-story door or window. While it may freak you out to encounter a snake, it’s likely that the snake itself is at least as scared as you. Don’t throw things at it or hit it with the broom, this will only make the situation worse. Keep your distance and don’t corner it. If it’s in your house and it’s possible, contain it to one room. It is not going to chase you and try and bite you – they will only strike as a defensive strategy.
“handle” a snake | Cr: www.thephuketnews.com
Determining what species it is can be a good first step. Try to take a clear picture and post it on the Facebook group called Snakes of Phuket. There are knowledgeable people who will quickly respond as to whether you are dealing with a dangerous snake or not. If it’s a non-venomous snake and it’s outside, the best approach will usually be to leave it alone and it will eventually leave on its own. The most common snake encountered in Phuket is the small golden tree snake which is harmless. They eat small frogs and geckos and can climb and jump incredibly well. If you’re not very familiar with snakes, it’s best to not try and handle a snake which could be misidentified and potentially dangerous.
Golden tree snake Cr: bangkokherps.wordpress.com
However, if the snake you’re dealing with is either venomous, big (pythons and cobras can be several meters long), or it’s in a difficult to remove location, don’t hesitate to call in help to have it removed. To receive help in relocating a snake, the Snakes of Phuket group recommends these options:
1) The Fire Brigade at 199 if you speak Thai, or the Tourist Police on 1155 if you don't speak Thai, or
2) Phuket Ruamjai Kupai Foundation (they rescue and release) 081-3670537 or
3) The Phuket Ruamjai Rescue Foundation (they also rescue and release) based on Soi Ta-iad in Chalong, can also help, although they mainly operate in the Chalong area. Telephone: 098-7045345
4) Khun Michael Fordham for Kathu and Patong. 096-635-0723
In the unfortunate and unlikely case that you are bitten by a snake, it is very important to be able to identify the snake for treatment purposes. Seek medical help immediately and Vachira Hospital in Phuket Town has the most comprehensive antivenom on the island.
Once again, please respect snakes and don’t harm them unnecessarily. Some snake species in Phuket are protected and you can face fines for killing them.