[The Section on Snakes is contributed by Dr. P. J. Deoras, Bombay.]
The district with its geographical and ecological conditions is ideal for extensive snake fauna which is especially rich in the north-western
part of the district and evenly distributed all over. The following are some of the snakes found in the district:—
Poisonous: Cobra (Naja naja): This snake is locally called Naag, Kalya (black variety) or domi in the area. It is very common all over the district. The maximum length recorded is 6 feet. It is either blackish or brown. During the first week of monsoon a yellowish variety of this snake is found which is locally called somja. However, the colour changes to brown when exposed to sun. The snake has a hood on the upper surface of which there are spectacle-shaped marks and on the lower side three faint black stripes and two black spots. In case of some varieties there are no spectacle-shaped marks, but the lower markings are always seen. The snake could be identified from its head scales. There are three small scales behind the eye. A big scale touches the nasal opening and the eye, and a small triangular shield intervenes between the 4th and the 5th scale on the lower lip. It feeds on rodents, lizards and frogs. Before the monsoon it lays about 60 eggs, which hatch into small wriggling tiny cobras with spread-out hoods in about 56 days. The tiny ones are also poisonous, but they do not inject sufficient poison to kill a normal-size victim.
The venom of the cobra is neurotoxic and for a normal-size victim a dose of about 12 milligrams proves fatal. The only sure remedy against the bite of this snake is an anti-venin which should be administered as soon as possible after its bite.
Krait (Bungarus coeruleus): This is locally called manyar or karayat snake. It grows to about 4.6 feet in length. It is steel blue in colour and has white cross stripes all over the body. The central row of dorsal scales are hexagonal and the ventral scales beyond the vent to the tip of the tail are single and not divided as in a cobra or a wolf snake.
It feeds on lizards, small rodents, frogs and other snakes. It is the most poisonous species of snakes found in India and only 6 milligrams prove fatal to a normal-size victim. Ahmadnagar has the largest number of snakes of this species in the whole of the State.
The venom is neurotoxic and the only sure remedy is to give an intravenous anti-venin in quick time.
Russels viper (Vipera russelli): This is the Ghonas of the local people. The fast-hissing viper is found in shady places even during broad day-light. The head is triangular with very tiny scales, and the brown body is covered by three chains of big deep brown or blackish elliptical spots. The underside scales have tiny black dots in two rows. It has very big fangs that are hollow. They lie inside a sheath tucked at the sides-of the upper jaw.
The snake lies coiled up with its head in the centre of the coil. It breathes heavily and hisses loudly before it takes the lever like
action from the coils of the body and hurls at the victim even from behind.
The poison is vaso-toxic. The victim complains of extensive burning and pain at the site of the bite. There is suppuration and oozing from the wound and an extensive swelling comes up that may extend to the other regions of the body. There may be some bleeding from the gums and kidneys and even the clotting time of the blood is affected. The only sure remedy is the anti-venin injection. The patient, even when cured, suffers from some after-effects.
Saw-Scaled Viper (Echis carinatus): This small viper growing to not more than 18 inches is called Phoorsa and is occasionally met with in the western region of this district. It has a triangular head over which there is a white arrow-head mark. The body is covered by rhomboid brown spots variously inter-woven. It moves by a side winding motion. During this action it can raise the head and strike upto one foot from the ground. The fangs are big, hollow and are enclosed in a sheath. The poison is vaso-toxic and the lethal dose for a normal-size victim is 8 milligrams. This is the only snake that gives necrosis at the site of bite. The patient may not die of the bite, but he suffers from the after-bite symptoms such as bleeding from different openings in the body. This snake lays young ones during rainy season.
Green Pit Viper (Trimeresurus graminius): It is locally called " Haranag" and is confined to the Akola and Sangamner talukas of Ahmadnagar. It is a tree leaf green snake with a triangular head and a depression beyond the nasal opening which helps the snake to locate the prey. The snake is normally seen in deep green forests. The bites are less toxic than those of the above snakes.
Coral Snake (Callophis nigreseens): It is occasionally found in the north-western regions of the district. The snake has a pink belly and a brown body with white spots and a dark striped head. It is a very timid and small snake and the bite is not normally always fatal, though the venom is toxic.
The sure cure for the bite of the three species of snakes described above is the polyvalent anti-venin.
Non-poisonous: Common Blind Snake (Typlops sp.): This tiny blind snake with imbricate scales on the body is often mistaken to be an earth-worm. The latter, however, have no scales. It lives on rotting vegetation and tries to burrow with the help of a style in the tail. This is a very harmless snake, with only a few teeth on one part of the jaw.
Rough Scaled Snake (Uropeltis ocellatus): This snake is found in the hilly regions of Akola taluka, in the rocky soils. It is chocolate brown with, yellow and reddish pin-point spots arranged serially on the dorsal surface. The tail is blunt but there is a flattened area at the tip and
this has a rhomboid design with sharp edges. Probably the tail is used for digging purposes. The snake grows to about 12 inches in length.
Python (Python molurus) is called Ajgar and is met with in the forests of Akola taluka. It grows up to 14 feet and sometimes weighs as much as a maund. It is brown in colour with grey patterns. The sides of the head are pink and there is a faint lancet marking on it. The jaws have very strong and lance-like teeth which bury deep in the flesh of the victim and help in propelling the prey inside the mouth. It has very powerful muscles which can hold and strangulate even a stag. Many wild tribes eat the flesh of this snake and use the skin for making shoes, purses or belts. It feeds on mammals.
Sand Boa (Eryx conicus): Locally it is called Mandhul or Durkya Ghonas. The tail of this snake is very blunt and looks like a head. Hence, the belief that it has two heads. It is often mistaken to be an young one of a python, but it differs from the python in respect of colour and size. The snake also remains peculiarly coiled up unlike the python. Normally it is a quiet snake, but when disturbed it bites very viciously. There is another variety of this snake which is longer, without spots, brown in colour and very docile. This snake known as Eryx johni is found in areas having a blackish soil complex. It feeds on small mammals, lizards and frogs.
Wolf Snake (Lycodon aulicus) is locally called the kawdya sarp; it is greyish with lines of whitish spots all over the body. There is another kawdya sarp slightly deep brown and with white cross bars on the body. This is the specie known as oligodon sp. Both these snakes are mistaken to be a Krait. The hexagonal dorsal scale and single ventrals beyond the vent in a Krait are absent in these varieties. These snakes are often found in gardens feeding on lizards, skinks, and tiny mammals and frogs.
Cat-Snake (Boiga triagonata) is very common in the district. It is greyish brown with dark inverted grey black bordered marks all along the vertebral column. Its head has brown patches edged with black and two black bars starting at the sides of the neck run over the body for a short distance. It feeds on lizards and small mammals.
Smaller Sand Snake (Psammophis) is a common snake and is known by various names. Its colour is light brown with deep brown longitudinal stripes extending from the eyes upto the tail. There are black spots at their edges. Two more stripes run from the eye and have also faint black spots at the edges. There is also a median brown stripe. The ventral surface is pale yellow. The supposition that this snake is poisonous and a variety of phoorsa is fallacious.
Green Keel-Back (Micropisthodon plumbicolor) is locally called Gavtya. This is a grass-green snake with a lamp black chevron-shaped
mark in the neck region. It has a black streak behind the eye where yellow lines run laterally. The snake has an orange colour mark at the neck. It is a common snake of the hilly region and is found under vegetation and in houses too. It is sometimes mistaken to be a viper. A similar snake locally called Nagin (coluber sp.) is also found in the hilly regions. It is greyish green with a series of black cross-bars or spots restricted to scale borders. Ventrally it is yellowish and the neck region has a black stripe and a black bar below the eye. Both these snakes feed on frogs and very small mammals. Another very common
snake in this group is coronella brachyura. It is olive brown above but the light brown variety has variegated colours in the anterior region of the body.
Common Rat Snake (Ptyas mucosus), of both the yellowish or the deep brown variety, are extensively found all over the district. Normally it is dirty yellow in colour with black spots at the tips of scales. These spots are more prominent in the posterior region. There are cross black bars also in the tail region. It grows to 10 feet and is very agile. It climbs up the trees and feeds on birds and eggs. When it holds its mouth tight it gives out a noise akin to that of a kite. It holds a tree branch or even a human appendage when offered by tying a knot with its long tail. Many villagers believe that this snake ties this knot and sucks the udders of buffaloes which of course is not true. It feeds mainly on rodents, lizards and frogs.
Checkered Keel-Back (Natrix piscator) is a very common snake found all over the district. It is locally called Diwad or Parad, and is found not far from water accumulations. Its colour is very deep brown with variegated black checker-board markings all over the body. The eyes are edged with black rings. It feeds on frogs, crabs and even fishes.
Natrix stolata: The Naneti or Seeta ki lat, a buff striped keei-back snake, is very commonly found during rainy season. It is olive green with reticulated brown and grey spotted irregular cross bars dorsally and two buff coloured longitudinal stripes running all along the body. Its mouth has a cream-coloured region extending up to the eyes.
Green Whip Snake (Dryophis nasutus) is locally known as Sarptoli. It is parrot-green and has well-defined faint black and white oblique lines in the anterior region. On the lateral sides it has faint yellow and bluish lines. The head is elongated forming a pointed pale green tip in front and above the mouth. It has the habit of staying on tree branches with its head and a part of the neck sticking out like a branch. It is a common belief that this habit of the snake has a hypnotic effect on the victims. The snake feeds on birds.
The bite of this snake is slightly toxic. It inhabits trees and well-grown grass and is very well-hidden in the back-drop of the surroundings.