Japanese Pit Viper

Today was very special — I found a Japanese pit viper (mamushi)! Every year I keep my eyes peeled for them, and I once found a dead one, but this is the first time I’ve been lucky enough to find a live one. It was just sitting there in the middle of the path in our local forest park (called fureiai-no-mori). As it was only about 40cm long and not so broad, I guess that it was quite young. Fully grown, they don’t get very long but they get much heavier. Anyway, it was an impressive and beautiful creature, and I was very happy to find it.

Gloydius blomhoffiiGloydius blomhoffiiGloydius blomhoffiiGloydius blomhoffiiGloydius blomhoffiiGloydius blomhoffii

Lots of children play in the forest park so I decided that I should take the viper deeper into the forest. I picked it up, put it in my camera bag and took it home first so that I could show my kids. It’s now sitting in a vivarium awaiting its release tomorrow morning. My other reason for transporting it elsewhere is that it has a greater chance of survival. At the moment there are lots of workers in the forest park cutting back the undergrowth and making paths. If any of them found a viper, you can pretty much guarantee they’d kill it!

Gloydius blomhoffiiGloydius blomhoffiiGloydius blomhoffii
Don’t worry, although it looks as if I’m crushing its neck, I was very gentle… but holding tight enough that it wouldn’t be able to bite me! I wanted to get a photo of its fangs but it was too difficult to hold it and the camera and then try to prise its mouth open.

Reptilia: Squamata: Viperidae (kusarihebi)
Gloydius blomhoffii blomhoffii
nihon-mamushi = Japanese pit viper

Location: fureiai-no-mori Forest Park in Munakata (map here)

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5 Responses to Japanese Pit Viper

  1. Gill and Jacob says:

    We are looking at your recent entries just before bedtime and this pit viper really impressed us.Perhaps you should start a new website: 101 uses for a camera case. Anyway we are so impressed we are about to wake the girls up to show them this entry.
    Tomorrow we may just take my camera case out and search out some addders….

  2. Nigel says:

    Hi Gill and Jacob,
    I’m glad you liked the pictures of the pit viper. I hope the girls didn’t mind being woken up!
    Yes, camera cases are very useful for carrying snakes — and a bit safer than putting them in your pockets. Good luck with your adder seeking — I’d love to see your pictures.
    By the way, the following day I took this snake deep into the forest and let him go. I’d wanted to keep him for longer but Shinobu said… NO.

  3. Melody says:

    When we were living in Yokosuka, we had the great misfortune of having to live on the Navy base. I’d walk up to the highest point on the base a couple times a week to look for insects. There was a large hill that took the shape of a narrow spine. The only thing up there was the weather station and a road leading to a water tower. In between the two was a significant amount of verdant area in which I found some fantastic insects…and mamushi! I had probably 6 or 7 sightings in the two years we were there and spotting one never lost its thrill.

  4. Jimmy says:

    Absolutely gorgeous animal with beautiful eyes. Are they rather docile? This one looks concerned but not coiled tightly with panic. Love the shot of you lifting him on the stick with him looking straight at the camera. Did he bother to strike at you whatsoever?

  5. Nigel says:

    Hi Jimmy,
    Thanks for your comments. I’m glad that you like my photos. You’re right, this snake was very docile and didn’t bother to strike. It was a lot easier to catch than a ratsnake!
    However, I was constantly aware that a bite could be dangerous so I was extremely careful (ratsnakes are useful for training it seems).

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