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 Post subject: Taiwan Gringo Herping, Part 1: Taiwan Beauty Snake
PostPosted: May 2nd, 2011, 3:07 am 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 2:19 am
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Location: Kuching, Sarawak (Borneo)
May Day is really the start of the herping season in northern Taiwan. No more single-snake nights with temps that let you see your breath; no more jackets and long pants; May Day is when the ride begins in earnest. Last night, two Canadians, one American, and their German driver gathered outside a large forested mountain area north of Taipei, to celebrate the season's beginning in style. The night proved to be even more productive than they had dared to hope; so productive indeed that I shall post the tale of that night in two parts, this part dealing with the biggest find of the night, Part 2 showing all the other goodies they found.

Conditions were perfect; the forest was dripping with the moisture that a weekend of rain had brought, and the air provided just the right amount of sticky mugginess. The group's first waypoint was the Water Wall, a anti-landslide embankment alongside a narrow drain that parallels a mountain road at around 200 meters altitude. The group had hiked along the half-mile long canal without finding any snakes, but they were in high spirits, as the other members of the local fauna had done their best to provide ample entertainment.
Huge, long-armed shrimp danced their jerky underwater ballet, starry-eyed in the flashlight beams; large mitten crabs scuttled along the bottom of the ditch; water scorpions dined on dragonfly nymphs. Also in attendance were massive fishing spiders, scores of tree- and fanged frogs, and huge, stoic toads that watched the invasion of their realm with regal disdain. There was even the rotting carcass of a civet cat, from which one of the Canadians removed its intriguingly shaped skull to use it later as a paperweight-cum-letter opener (those canines looked perfect for the job).

The group was already on the way back to the car, when one of them spotted a large snake creeping down the lip of the ten-foot embankment, heading for the water. To our insane joy we identified the creature as a five-foot Taiwan Beauty Snake (Orthriophis taeniurus friesi). At once, hasty commands shattered the night:
"Back up, everyone! If he sees us, he'll climb back up into the bush!"
"Switch off the goddamn LIGHTS, guys!"
"Nobody move!"
"Silence!"
"Silence? Snakes are deaf, dumbass!"
At first, the snake did not seem to be fazed by the bumbling humans, but when they started to discuss at what point exactly they should help the snake down the wall with their tongs, the Beauty sensed the group's collective determination, did an about-face and started back up the embankment. While strategy and tactics were being hotly debated, the German driver seized the day and his tongs and snatched the Beauty off the wall, saving them all from the jaws of shameful herpetological defeat.

Considering that they're ratsnakes, Taiwan Beauties are surprisingly cool and composed, docile even. People caring for captive specimens will agree that these snakes rarely give you grief as long as they're well-fed. Most of the time you can almost handle them like rubber toys. Hang one of them around your neck and then proceed to vacuum the house for two hours, and by the time you stow away the Hoover, the snake will still be on your shoulder like a scaly, outsized parrot.

To a certain extent, this also goes for wild specimens. After the snake had done a bit of perfunctory huffing and puffing (to save face, no doubt), it switched to lapdog mode, and the humans took turns posing with the beast in the most ludicrous ways imaginable....

Don't miss Part Two, featuring Bamboo Vipers posing! Dinos eating frogs! Slug Snakes adorning Bill's head!

And stay tuned for Part Three - epic video of aboriginal cobra attacking Canadian citizen!


(Photos by Bill Murphy, Peter Kowalski, Darren Rurka and Hans Breuer)

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 Post subject: Re: Taiwan Gringo Herping, Part 1: Taiwan Beauty Snake
PostPosted: May 2nd, 2011, 6:30 am 
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Joined: April 28th, 2011, 6:03 am
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Wicked post! So happy to be a part of this group. Thanks, Hans!


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 Post subject: Re: Taiwan Gringo Herping, Part 1: Taiwan Beauty Snake
PostPosted: May 2nd, 2011, 7:26 am 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 3:44 pm
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Location: Ventura, CA
Beauty and the beasts! ;) Fun pics! ...don't call 'em Beauty Snakes fer nothin' eh?


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 Post subject: Re: Taiwan Gringo Herping, Part 1: Taiwan Beauty Snake
PostPosted: May 2nd, 2011, 11:06 am 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 6:40 pm
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Wow. Now I am even MORE pissed that I had to cancel that leg of my trip. Nice find Hans, it sure is a beaut. It looks like your American buddy from posts past can barely hold his excitement in -- I would be the same way :D


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 Post subject: Re: Taiwan Gringo Herping, Part 1: Taiwan Beauty Snake
PostPosted: May 2nd, 2011, 6:33 pm 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 2:19 am
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Location: Kuching, Sarawak (Borneo)
Thanks for the nice words, everyone!

Viridovipera wrote:
Wow. Now I am even MORE pissed that I had to cancel that leg of my trip.

Never fret, we wouldn't have seen anything in March anyway. So it's actually a good thing, as it gives you a chance to come back during the season.


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 Post subject: Re: Taiwan Gringo Herping, Part 1: Taiwan Beauty Snake
PostPosted: May 3rd, 2011, 1:49 am 
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Joined: June 16th, 2010, 12:26 pm
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Excellent lapdog, Hans. Looks like a good evening was had by all.

Regards,
David


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 Post subject: Re: Taiwan Gringo Herping, Part 1: Taiwan Beauty Snake
PostPosted: May 3rd, 2011, 5:54 am 
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monklet wrote:
Beauty and the beasts! ;) Fun pics! ...don't call 'em Beauty Snakes fer nothin' eh?


I guess I'm not the only person who says this often, lol


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 Post subject: Re: Taiwan Gringo Herping, Part 1: Taiwan Beauty Snake
PostPosted: May 3rd, 2011, 5:55 am 
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Viridovipera wrote:
Wow. Now I am even MORE pissed that I had to cancel that leg of my trip. Nice find Hans, it sure is a beaut. It looks like your American buddy from posts past can barely hold his excitement in -- I would be the same way :D


lol :thumb:


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 Post subject: Re: Taiwan Gringo Herping, Part 1: Taiwan Beauty Snake
PostPosted: May 3rd, 2011, 7:00 pm 
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Location: Kuching, Sarawak (Borneo)
Quote:
Also, holding anything so beautiful has a tendency to generate enthusiasm. I feel this way everytime I pee ;)

This is a family site. Please refrain from ribald remarks, political propaganda, and pyramid marketing, unless they are direct Bible quotes. :D

Also, I think he was talking about Bill, whose shiny pate has graced the pages of this venerable forum before.


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 Post subject: Re: Taiwan Gringo Herping, Part 1: Taiwan Beauty Snake
PostPosted: May 3rd, 2011, 9:11 pm 
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Joined: April 28th, 2011, 6:03 am
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Hans Breuer (twoton) wrote:
Quote:
Also, holding anything so beautiful has a tendency to generate enthusiasm. I feel this way everytime I pee ;)

This is a family site. Please refrain from ribald remarks, political propaganda, and pyramid marketing, unless they are direct Bible quotes. :D

Also, I think he was talking about Bill, whose shiny pate has graced the pages of this venerable forum before.


My bad. I'll edit the post.


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 Post subject: Re: Taiwan Gringo Herping, Part 1: Taiwan Beauty Snake
PostPosted: May 4th, 2011, 11:17 am 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 8:52 am
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Location: Morrisville, PA
Entertaining as always Hans!


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 Post subject: Re: Taiwan Gringo Herping, Part 1: Taiwan Beauty Snake
PostPosted: May 4th, 2011, 6:46 pm 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 2:19 am
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Location: Kuching, Sarawak (Borneo)
Thanks! Here's the second part of the post.


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 Post subject: Re: Taiwan Gringo Herping, Part 1: Taiwan Beauty Snake
PostPosted: May 4th, 2011, 8:58 pm 
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Joined: June 15th, 2010, 4:15 am
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Nice one, Hans! I wish our mainland variety grew that large -- quite an impressive snake!
Scott


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 Post subject: Re: Taiwan Gringo Herping, Part 1: Taiwan Beauty Snake
PostPosted: May 4th, 2011, 9:04 pm 
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Location: Kuching, Sarawak (Borneo)
Scott Lupien wrote:
Nice one, Hans! I wish our mainland variety grew that large -- quite an impressive snake!
Scott

Hey Scott, where have you been all that time? Good to read from you...

These things get much bigger, actually, up to almost nine feet (270 cm). The biggest I've ever seen was around 200 cm (six feet and change?)


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 Post subject: Re: Taiwan Gringo Herping, Part 1: Taiwan Beauty Snake
PostPosted: May 4th, 2011, 9:25 pm 
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Yeah, I know! I've seen 8-footers in the USA (CB, of course.) The mainland beauties don't get much over four feet very often and are not quite as colorful, either.

May 1st was also my first outing of the year -- cold and slow, but we did get one davidi!! see the post I just put up.

Thanks for sharing! Part II was also great!

Scott


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 Post subject: Re: Taiwan Gringo Herping, Part 1: Taiwan Beauty Snake
PostPosted: May 17th, 2011, 5:40 pm 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 6:45 am
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Location: One of the boys from Illinois
missed this one - there's no snakes I like better than Orthriophis. Finding one in the wild would be, well, wild. :D

-Mike


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 Post subject: Re: Taiwan Gringo Herping, Part 1: Taiwan Beauty Snake
PostPosted: May 17th, 2011, 5:53 pm 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 6:45 pm
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Location: West Milwaukee, WI
Stunning and imposing beast! And a great story! Is that species typically so tractable? I may just have to look into getting a CB one someday.


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 Post subject: Re: Taiwan Gringo Herping, Part 1: Taiwan Beauty Snake
PostPosted: May 17th, 2011, 5:59 pm 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 2:19 am
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Location: Kuching, Sarawak (Borneo)
Thanks, guys!

Scott, the mainland beauties are different subspecies, AFAIK. See here. I think the Taiwan Beauty is the biggest.

Yes, their tractability is legend :-) Five minutes of fondly fondling, and their heart belongs to you. Totally amazing for a ratsnake - well, any snake, really.

Follow-up: we found the same snake in the same place one Sunday later, pretty much at the same time. Here are some photos of that encounter. I figgered 'twasn't worth a dedicated post...same snake and all :-)

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 Post subject: Re: Taiwan Gringo Herping, Part 1: Taiwan Beauty Snake
PostPosted: May 22nd, 2011, 1:40 am 
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Joined: April 28th, 2011, 6:03 am
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These snakes wrap around you lovingly and smile at the camera. Love 'em! :thumb:


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 Post subject: Re: Taiwan Gringo Herping, Part 1: Taiwan Beauty Snake
PostPosted: May 22nd, 2011, 2:24 am 
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Location: Kuching, Sarawak (Borneo)
Sez you. I found the very same snake (that makes it four times in a row now) in another drainage hole of the same wall last Friday. This time, though, it was in an advanced state of deep blue, and consequently as aggressive as a bipolar pitbull. No slinging around tourist necks this time - we couldn't even pick it up, it was so pissy. David took some hasty pictures, and then we returned it to its hole. If we find it again within the next two weeks, we should be in for a visual treat: a freshly shed Taiwan Beauty.


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