In the enchanting landscapes of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a diverse array of snakes silently slither about, captivating nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers alike. From non-venomous ones to venomous species lurking in the shadows, each snake possesses its own unique characteristics and habitat preferences. As readers embark on a journey through this article, they will gain invaluable insights into the world of these mesmerizing creatures. Whether they reside in close proximity to human settlements or you stumble upon them during an afternoon hike, caution is of the utmost importance, as encountering certain snakes can pose a risk. With this in mind, the article emphasizes the significance of seeking medical assistance in the event of a venomous snakebite. Prepare to discover the secrets and wonders of the UAE’s seven common snakes, where nature’s beauty meets the need for cautious explorations.
Snake 1: Arabian Horned Viper
The Arabian Horned Viper, also known as Cerastes gasperettii, is a venomous snake species found in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It gets its name from the distinctive pair of horns on its head. These protruding scales resemble small horns and are more prominent in males compared to females. The Arabian Horned Viper has a stocky build, with a short tail and a triangular-shaped head. It can grow up to 2 feet in length.
This snake species is well-adapted to desert environments and can be found in various arid regions of the UAE. The Arabian Horned Viper prefers rocky terrain with loose soil and sand, allowing it to blend in seamlessly with its surroundings. You may also find them in dunes and gravel plains.
Arabian Horned Vipers are nocturnal hunters, meaning they are most active during the night. During the day, they typically seek shelter in burrows or beneath rocks to avoid the scorching desert heat. These snakes are ambush predators, lying in wait for their prey to come closer before striking with lightning speed. Their diet mainly consists of small rodents, lizards, and occasionally birds.
The Arabian Horned Viper is a relatively common snake species in the UAE, especially in the desert regions. However, due to its excellent camouflage and elusive nature, it can be challenging to spot in the wild.
While the Arabian Horned Viper is venomous, its bite is not considered life-threatening to humans. However, if bitten, it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention for appropriate treatment. It is always best to avoid provoking or handling any venomous snake to prevent any unnecessary risks.
Snake 2: Desert Cobra
The Desert Cobra, also known as Walterinnesia aegyptia, is a venomous snake species found in the arid regions of the UAE. It is a relatively large snake, with adults reaching lengths of up to 5 feet. One of its distinguishing features is its slender body shape. The scales on its back are glossy and smooth, giving it a sleek appearance. The coloration of the Desert Cobra varies, ranging from light brown to dark gray.
As the name suggests, the Desert Cobra thrives in desert environments. It can be found in sandy areas, rocky outcrops, and even near human settlements such as farms and oases. This adaptable snake species is well-suited to the UAE’s arid climate.
Desert Cobras are primarily nocturnal creatures, often preferring to hunt during the cooler hours of the night. Like many venomous snakes, they are ambush predators, patiently waiting for their prey to approach before striking. Their diet mainly consists of small mammals, birds, and reptiles.
The Desert Cobra is relatively common in the UAE, especially in desert regions and areas with suitable habitats. However, due to its secretive nature and preference for nighttime activity, encounters with humans are relatively rare.
The Desert Cobra is highly venomous and should be treated with caution. Its venom contains neurotoxic properties, posing a significant threat to both humans and animals. If bitten by a Desert Cobra, it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention to receive the appropriate antivenom treatment.
Snake 3: Saw-scaled Viper
The Saw-scaled Viper, scientifically known as Echis carinatus, is a venomous snake species found in the UAE. It is a relatively small snake, typically measuring around 1-2 feet in length. The Saw-scaled Viper gets its name from the unique friction-producing scales on its body. When threatened, it rubs these scales together, creating a distinctive rasping sound similar to that of a saw.
Saw-scaled Vipers prefer dry and sandy habitats, such as deserts and arid regions. They are well-adapted to live in harsh conditions and can also be found in rocky areas, along with human settlements in the UAE.
This venomous species of snake is also primarily nocturnal. However, it can be relatively active during the early morning and late afternoon. Saw-scaled Vipers are known for their aggressive behavior when threatened. They coil their bodies, hiss, and strike repeatedly, making them a formidable snake to deal with. Their diet consists of small rodents, lizards, and other small vertebrates.
Saw-scaled Vipers are relatively common in the UAE, particularly in desert and arid regions. Due to their cryptic coloration and preference for hiding in sandy or rocky areas, they can be challenging to spot.
The Saw-scaled Viper is considered highly dangerous, mainly due to its potent venom and aggressive nature when threatened. Bites from this snake can lead to severe pain, swelling, and potentially life-threatening complications. Immediate medical attention is critical in case of a bite from a Saw-scaled Viper.
Snake 4: Arabian Sand Boa
The Arabian Sand Boa, also known as Eryx jayakari, is a non-venomous snake species found in the UAE. Unlike many other snake species, the Arabian Sand Boa has a unique, cylindrical body shape, allowing it to burrow and move effortlessly through the sandy desert environment. It has short, stubby tails and a broad, triangular head. The coloration of the Arabian Sand Boa can vary, ranging from pale yellow to reddish-brown, enabling it to blend in with the desert sand.
True to its name, the Arabian Sand Boa is primarily found in sandy areas across the UAE. It is well-adapted to the desert environment and spends most of its time buried in the sand, with only its head and a small portion of its body exposed.
Arabian Sand Boas are primarily solitary creatures, spending most of their time hidden beneath the sand, waiting for suitable prey to pass by. They are nocturnal hunters, preying on small mammals, lizards, and other snakes. Their unique body shape and scales enable them to move swiftly through the sand, making them efficient predators.
The Arabian Sand Boa is relatively common in the desert regions of the UAE. However, due to its subterranean lifestyle, it can be challenging to come across this species in the wild.
While the Arabian Sand Boa is non-venomous and poses no direct threat to humans, it is essential to treat all snakes with caution. They can bite if they feel threatened or cornered. It is always recommended to avoid handling any snake without proper knowledge and experience.
Snake 5: Cat Snake
The Cat Snake, scientifically known as Telescopus dhara, is a non-venomous snake species found in the UAE. It is named for its cat-like appearance and the round pupils of its eyes, which resemble those of a feline. The Cat Snake has a slender body, reaching lengths of up to 3 feet. Its coloration varies, but it generally features a brown or gray background with darker blotches or stripes.
The Cat Snake can be found in various habitats, including desert environments, mountains, and even near agricultural areas. This adaptable snake species is well-suited to the UAE’s diverse landscapes.
Cat Snakes are primarily nocturnal hunters but may also be active during dawn and dusk. They are agile climbers and often seen in trees or shrubs, searching for insects, small rodents, and lizards. Unlike many other snake species, Cat Snakes are rear-fanged, which means they have venomous glands located toward the back of their mouth. However, their venom is not considered medically significant to humans.
The Cat Snake is relatively common in the UAE, particularly in the desert and mountainous regions. Its ability to adapt to various habitats increases the likelihood of encountering this snake species.
While the Cat Snake’s venom is not known to cause significant harm to humans, caution should be exercised when handling any snake. Bites from Cat Snakes should still be treated seriously, and medical attention is recommended to ensure proper wound care.
Snake 6: Rough-scaled Python
The Rough-scaled Python, scientifically known as Morelia carinata, is a non-venomous snake species found in the UAE. It is one of the larger snakes native to the region, capable of reaching lengths of up to 9 feet. This python species has a robust body with rough scales, giving it a unique texture. The coloration of the Rough-scaled Python varies, ranging from light beige to dark brown, with irregular markings.
Rough-scaled Pythons are adaptable and can be found in various habitats, including desert regions, rocky areas, and sometimes even near agricultural fields. They are also known to inhabit old buildings and structures.
These pythons are primarily nocturnal and rely on their keen sense of smell to locate prey. As constrictor snakes, they subdue their food by coiling their bodies around their victims and applying pressure until the prey stops breathing. Their diet consists mainly of small mammals, birds, and occasionally reptiles.
While not as common as some other snake species in the UAE, the Rough-scaled Python is still present in the desert and rocky areas. Their elusive nature and excellent camouflage make them relatively challenging to spot.
Rough-scaled Pythons are non-venomous snakes and do not pose a direct threat to humans. However, their large size and powerful constriction abilities mean that they can potentially harm humans if mishandled. It is always recommended to exercise caution around any large, constrictor snake.
Snake 7: Sand Racer
The Sand Racer, scientifically known as Psammophis schokari, is a non-venomous snake species found in the UAE. It is one of the faster snake species, known for its incredible speed and agility. The Sand Racer has a slender body and can grow up to 4 feet in length. It showcases a light beige or sandy coloration, allowing it to blend seamlessly with the desert environment.
As the name implies, the Sand Racer inhabits sandy areas, deserts, and even coastal regions, making it a highly adaptable snake. It can also be found in rocky terrains and occasionally near human settlements.
Sand Racers are diurnal snakes, meaning they are most active during the day. They are incredibly fast and agile, using their speed to catch their prey, which consists mainly of lizards and small rodents. When threatened, they may take cover under rocks or quickly disappear into the sand.
The Sand Racer is relatively common in the UAE’s desert and coastal regions. Its adaptability to various habitats contributes to its prevalence throughout the country.
The Sand Racer is a non-venomous species and poses no direct threat to humans. However, it is always important to exercise caution when handling or encountering any snake, as bites can lead to secondary infections or allergic reactions.
Snake Identification Techniques
To identify different snake species, it is crucial to consider their physical characteristics. These include body shape, size, head shape, scale patterns, and coloration.
Snakes often have unique color patterns that can help in identification. These patterns may include stripes, blotches, bands, or a combination of these. Observing these color patterns can aid in distinguishing similar-looking snake species.
The shape of a snake’s head can provide clues about its venomous or non-venomous nature. Venomous snakes typically have a triangular-shaped head, while non-venomous snakes often have a more rounded head shape.
The size of a snake can vary significantly, with some species being much larger than others. Considering the overall length and thickness of a snake can help narrow down its identification.
Each snake species has a unique arrangement and pattern of scales. These include characteristics such as smooth scales, keeled scales (ridged), or spikes. Examining these scale patterns can provide valuable information for identification.
Snake Habitat Preferences
Many snake species in the UAE, such as the Arabian Horned Viper and the Saw-scaled Viper, are well-adapted to desert environments. They prefer sandy or rocky areas, where their camouflage allows them to blend in with their surroundings.
Snakes like the Cat Snake and Rough-scaled Python can be found in mountainous regions of the UAE. These areas offer diverse habitats, including rocky outcrops, cliffs, and crevices, providing ideal hiding places for these snake species.
The Sand Racer is one snake species that is known to inhabit coastal regions. These areas provide a mix of sandy and rocky habitats, enabling the snake to adapt to different environments.
Urban and Human Settlements
Some snake species, such as the Desert Cobra and Sand Racer, can be found in close proximity to human settlements. These snakes may seek shelter in abandoned buildings, farms, or even natural water sources in urban areas.
Snakes in the UAE may rely on available water sources for survival in the arid climate. This includes oases, wells, or even shallow pools formed after rainfall. Snakes like the Desert Cobra are known to access water sources in their quest for shelter and prey.
Snake Behavior and Hunting
Many snake species in the UAE, including the Arabian Horned Viper and the Saw-scaled Viper, are primarily nocturnal. They are most active during the night when temperatures are cooler, allowing them to conserve energy and hunt more efficiently.
Some snake species, like the Arabian Horned Viper, Desert Cobra, and Saw-scaled Viper, are ambush predators. They patiently wait for their prey to approach, utilizing camouflage or hiding in burrows, before swiftly striking and capturing their target.
Constrictor snakes, such as the Rough-scaled Python, immobilize their prey by coiling their bodies tightly around them. This constriction cuts off blood flow and ultimately leads to the prey’s suffocation before the snake consumes it.
Several snake species in the UAE, like the Desert Cobra and Saw-scaled Viper, are venomous. These snakes inject venom into their prey through specialized fangs, paralyzing or killing their victims for easier consumption.
Snakes communicate primarily through body language. They may use hissing, rattling, or puffing up their bodies to display aggression or ward off potential threats. Some snake species, like the Arabian Horned Viper, can produce a hissing sound by rubbing their scales together, warning potential predators or intruders.
In conclusion, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is home to a variety of snake species, each with its own unique characteristics and habitat preferences. Understanding the identification, habitat, behavior, and danger level of these snakes is crucial for maintaining safety and minimizing conflicts with humans. While some snakes pose significant risks due to their venomous nature, it is important to remember that these creatures play an essential role in maintaining the balance of ecosystems. With caution and respect, humans can coexist peacefully with these fascinating reptiles in the UAE’s diverse landscapes.