Last week, I promised you a peek into the Pakke Tiger Reserve in Arunachal Pradesh. I was walking with two forest guards on one of the trails into the forest in the western part of the reserve. As I walked I heard a rustle of dry leaves.
Alert at once, I looked around and from the corner of my eye, spotted a creature slithering along the trail. A snake!
The reaction of the various ‘creatures’ here varied drastically! I jumped towards the snake to identify it. The forest guards yelled loudly and jumped away from it in order to get away! The snake curled up and tried to make itself invisible to this bunch of loonies!
The snake was the Mock Viper (Psammodynastes pulverulentus). Vipers, mostly venomous snakes, have typical triangular heads. The mock viper too has a triangular head. However, it only copies the viper and is not a true viper, hence it is given the name the mock viper. While the snake is venomous, its bite is not fatal to man, and is mainly used to hunt its prey.
Knowing this, I photographed the snake with ease, showed it to the forest guards, letting them know that the snake’s bite was not venomous. During subsequent surveys in Pakke, I saw this snake on many occasions as it is common in the reserve. At one location, near a stream, I spotted the mock viper basking in the sun. Snakes are cold-blooded, and need the heat energy from the sun and the surroundings to regulate their body temperature. At this particular spot, I saw this snake on every trip that I made in the summer and monsoons!
The snake is active during the day and the night, and it mainly feeds on small creatures such as lizards and frogs. Though it is not very long (it grows up to 2 feet in length), it is an aggressive snake. When threatened, it coils itself up (see pic), and strikes its enemy. I explained to the forest guards that the best way to deal with snakes, whether venomous or not, is not to threaten or disturb them and let them slither away unharmed. I hoped I had partially overcome their fear of snakes!
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