[The section on Snakes is contributed by Dr. P. J. Deoras, Bombay. ]
The district is bounded by Yeotmal and Wardha on the westand Bhandara on the north while east and south regions are adjoining the borders of Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh. It seems to be singularly rich in natural vegetation and resources. There are a number of rivers flowing through the district and itis full of deep forests. The ancient rulers were Gond Rajas and a large number of population in the Bhamragarh, Gadhchiroli and Aheri regions consist of Gonds. This statement bears significance
because in all these areas, nearly every village has a person who is supposed to
have some charm to cure snake-bite showing that snake-bite cases are quite frequent. The communications in the hinterland are not adequate and as such it is likely that the mortality may be quite high. The Gods worshipped by these people belong to the snake group as a image of Mahadeo indicated and it is quite likely that the cobra is regarded as a sacred snake. However the image of Mahadeo all over the area was a very common phenomenon observed even near human habitations. The deep waters of the Pranhita river near Sironcha and rocky coast near about, are ideal for the prevalence of pythons. The entire district therefore is full of snakes and they are apparently seen in villages and towns more during the rainy season. They are locally called as taras in the district. The most common poisonous snake that is well known by all in the district is the cobra, while every one also knows the non-poisonous snake as the checked keel-back locally called as Diwad. The snakes of the district are enumerated below: -
Typhlops Sp: This is a small blunt snake often found in decaying vegetation in the forest and mountainous regions. The scales. on the body cover each other, unlike a worm where they are across the body. It does not grow beyond 15 cm. (6 inches) and is often mistaken to be a thick worm. The colour is brown and it is absolutely harmless. It normally feeds on decaying matter.
Eryx conicus: This snake is variously called Mandhol or Dutondya or Malvan in the area. It grows to about 25 cm. (10 inches) in length and three quarters of a metre (2˝feet) in girth. The tail is very blunt and the scalation makes an impression that there are mouths at both the ends. This is a false impression. The snake is brown with faint brown patches or irregular deep yellow marks all over the body. In fact, these patterns often times make the villagers mistake it to be the young one of a Python. It feeds on rats, frogs, lizards and when cornered, bites viciously.
Eryx johni: Another Sandboa is found in the black soil region. This snake is uniformly deep brown and has no patches at all. It is Longer than the Eryx conicus and very docile. In fact, many of the snake charmers often keep this snake for a show, It also has a very blunt tail.
Lycodon-Sp.: This wolf snake is very common in the locality. Both Lycodon and Oligodon have been recovered from houses in Chandrapur proper. These snakes are harmless but are unfortunately mistaken to be Krait because of the white bands on thebrown body. In the case of Krait, the central row of scales in the mid-dorsal region is hexagonal and the scales beyond the vent are not divided. This is not the case with wolf snakes. These snakes stay in the gardens eating frogs, lizards and rats and are helpful to the gardeners in controlling the vermin.
It is likely that Uropeltis may be present in the forest region round about Sironcha. This purple black snake with yellow specks measures about 9". Its tail is blunt but has a transverse ridge meant for digging. It also has rough spikes in the tail region. It is a primitive snake which often is seen at high altitudes, and moist vegetation. It is very nice to look at because of the brown, yellow and
grey colourations on a deep pink or brown body.
Python molurus: This snake which, in northern regions is called Ajgar is known as Chiti in the south. It is met with in water shade areas of the forest region, particularly in the areas where rocks jet out into water. That is why it is said to be found in some numbers in the regions adjoining the Pranhita river near Sironcha. The snake is deep brown with variegated yellow patches all over the body. The head region is pink with a faint whitish pink lancet, shaped mark on the skull. The snake has small abdominal cross scales and near the vent has two anal spurs which indicate the rudiments of past limbs. These spurs can cause serious injuries by scratching. The snakes grow to about 4 metres (14 feet) in length and may be 60 cm. (2 feet) in girth, when full-grown. It has very powerful muscles by which it strangulates the prey to death before it feeds on them. It has been observed to kill quite big animals like a goat, stag and even a boar in Bhamragarh area. Local people hunt these snakes and probably they cat them too.
Ptyas mucosus: This rat snake is found all over the area. It is yellow with black patches more in the tail region. It has been seen to grow more than three metres (10 feet). It is very agile and has been observed to jump on trees also. One of the curious habits of this snake is to tie a knot by its tail on whatever object it comes across.
It is quite likely that the snake may be tying this knot against thin trees when lying in wait for rats. The snake is locally called Dhaman and is a great friend of farmers in as much as it reduces the number of rats by feeding on them. Many people unfortunately mistake this to be a poisonous snake and kill it.
Natrix Piscator: This checkered keel-black snake is all over the district near ponds or accumulations of water. It grows to 1.37 metres (4˝ feel) in length and has, on an ash-coloured body, black squares or stripes which gives it the peculiar name of checkered keel-black. Sometimes ash colour gives an impression of olive green, particularly during the rainy season. It feeds
primarily on frogs and avoids human interference, but when cornered, it attacks fiercely and can cause serious physical
Natrix stoleta: This snake is buff coloured with white spots
and a number of longitudinal thin brown strips all over the body.
It is predominantly found during the rainy season all over the
area. It is so docile that one could handle it without any danger.
It has been observed that during monsoons, a large number of
them are collected probably to convert into food in the tribal
areas of this district. These snakes are thin and do not grow
beyond three quarters of a metre (2˝ feet). They are absolutely
Dryophis nasutus: In the southern region this snake is called Yelli. In the northern regions, it is called Harantol or Sarptol. This is a long parrot green snake growing to more than one and a half metre (5 feet) in length and having a markedly pointed long head. It has the peculiar habit of remaining twined on vegetations, keeping the head separate as if to hypnotise the prey. The triangular head often times continues to shake and many a time people have been unaware of the snake on a tree till the head has come right up to the nose. The bite of the snake is painful though is not poisonous enough to kill a human being. It feeds on sparrows and on other smaller birds but could be handled with care. It is more seen in places of dense vegetation or on top of green trees.
Naja naja.-This is a very common snake all over the district.
It is found more near human habitation than in the interior of the forest. The length of one such snake in Sironcha was report-ed to be 2.13 metres (7 feet). This snake can never be mistaken because of the spreading of the hood which is seen in no other snakes. There are spectacle marks on the hood and 3 faint dark stripes on the under surface of the hood. These two characteristics will always distinguish this snake from any other snake. Apart from this, the snake hisses before striking a prey. Though it is a poisonous snake, it avoids human approach, but if disturbed, it will attack with ferocity, even pursuing the victim to some distance. The poison of this snake is neuro-toxic. The snake is worshipped during the rainy season and there are some images of the snake in some remote temples of the district.
Bungarus caeruleus: This snake is called " Dandekar" in the district, though some people understand it by the word Manyar. It is steel blue in colour with white cross bars all along the body. The central row of the dorsal scales is hexagonal and the scales beyond the vent arc complete. It is a very timid snake growing to about 1.22 metres (4 feet) in length. It occurs in crevices between stones and often times in the thatch. It is highly poisonous and the poison is neuro-toxic.
Bungarus fasciatus: In the forest regions of Bhamragarh this
banded krait is sometimes found in the plantations. This snake
has yellow and black cross stripes all over the body and the tail
end is very blunt. It is highly poisonous and the local people
call it Ahiraj. It was curious to note that this snake is not dis-turbed if present near agricultural farms. It is believed that it eats other snakes, so that the farmer remains free from snake nuisance in the region.
Vipera russella: This snake, locally known as Ghonas, is seen more in the northern regions of the district. Some people call it Chitti, but this is a mistaken name. It grows to 1.22 metres (4 feet) in length, is brown in colour and has three rows of deep brown elliptical spots all over the body. The head is triangular and the scales on the head are very small. It hisses very loudly and continuously. The fangs are ˝" long and lie tucked on the sides of the jaw inside a sheath. It is very vicious and can strike in any direction. The venom is vaso-toxic.
Echis carinatus: This snake, which is so common in Ratnagiri
district, is also seen in some numbers during the rainy season in
the areas that have red soil. The local people call it Dhul Nagin.
It does not grow to more than 0.46 metre (18 inches) in length.
It has brown spots on the body and a white arrow shaped
mark on the head. It moves sideways and can jump while
striking. The poison may not kill the victim immediately, but
he suffers by secondary reactions. The poison is vaso-toxic.
Trimeresurus graminious: This leaf green snake is met with among
bamboo plantations where it is very nicely camouflaged. It has a triangular head
and does not grow beyond 60 cm. (2 feet). Often times, the bamboo cutters are
bitten by these snakes. It is curious to note that this snake has a small pit
near the nose which is supposed to give the snake the indication of temperature changes. Rats and lizards form the main source of food for this snake. The poison of this snake is also vaso-toxic.