In the summer of 2014 we went to a ‘Lantau Snake Talk’ in Mui Wo and we learned quite a lot about snakes and their relation with dogs! I’d like to share some of the things I’ve learned with you.
Most snakes In Hong Kong are nocturnal, so it’s not like you and your dog will constantly bump into them when you’re hiking. There are both venomous snakes and non-venomous snakes. It’s important to remember that venomous snakes in Hong Kong (like green bamboo snakes, chinese cobras, red-necked keelbacks and many-banded kraits), will never think of a dog as ‘prey’. If they have a chance to flee, they will always try to get away from a dog (or a human). So if you see a snake just give it space and wait for it to go on its merry way. If they are cornered or feel threatened however, they will defend themselves (and some snakes are more feisty than others)! Their venom is in general very powerful, but even when your dog is bitten by a venomous snake, there is a chance the snake did not inject any venom: venom is very precious for a snake, it needs it to catch prey! So it will rather not waste it on a dog. Having said that, you should always see a vet as soon as possible if you suspect your dog is bitten by a snake! For more information on snake bites, please read the article “Snake bites – the dos and do nots” that was published 1 June 2014 in the South China Morning Post.
My own dogs Ruby and Flanders are, like most dogs I’ve had around, either very scared of snakes or indifferent to them. They will not ‘play’ with them or try to get to them when they hide somewhere. So I’m not too worried they will get bitten by a venomous snake. I’ve had (young) dogs around though, that were very nosy about “things moving in the grass”, a behaviour that makes me very nervous of course! If your dog is like that, maybe it’s better you find another place to board your pooch.
The only snake in Hong Kong that will think of a dog as ‘prey’, is the python. A python is not venomous, but will strangle its prey and can give nasty bites. Usually pythons will hunt for small animals, like birds and rats, but they might go after cats and small dogs. And there have been a few cases in Hong Kong where big pythons attacked quite big dogs!
All in all, I think your dog has a much bigger chance of getting injured by things like car accidents, fights with other dogs or eating something nasty than by a snake attack. But: snakes are definitely part of life on Lantau!
Want to read more about snakes in Hong Kong? Here are some links:
– The illustrated Coconuts guide to Hong Kong’s venomous snakes
– Dangerous snakes in Hong Kong
– Venomous land snakes in Hong Kong (AFCD)
– Meet Lantau snake charmer William Sargent