[The section on Snakes has been contributed by Dr. P. J. Deoras, Bombay.]

The extensive dry plains of Sholapur district have facilitated the growth of certain kinds of snake fauna. Deaths due to snake-bite in cattle were recorded in this district alone. From the symptoms, the bite cases may be due to krait snakes. In fact, no other district in Maharashtra has recorded so many krait snakes as in this district. At the civil hospital in Sholapur town in 1974 one case of snake-bite was admitted each month for the whole year.

There are a number of temples in the district where patients bitten by snake are supposed to be cured. Shetphal near Modlimb has a Siddheshwar temple where in 1974 as many as 100 cases of snakebite are said to have been cured, but it was not known whether the snakes were poisonous or not. Another temple is of Nagache Shetphal, 3 miles from Jeur railway station in Karmala taluka. Here inside a Hemadpanti structure lies a Shivalinga surrounded by a seven-hooded brass snake. Inside the temple premises are innumerable stone sculptures depicting Shiva worship. But they seem to have been fetched from outside. People bitten by a snake are brought to this temple, and left inside to be cured by the munificence of the deity. In this village no one kills a cobra.

All these facts indicate that snakes are common here.

Poisonous: FAM: ELAPIDAE: This group is represented by Naja naja (M. Nag) (Cobra), Bungarus caeruleus (M. Manyar) (Krait) and Callophis melanurus (Coral snake).

Naja naja (M. Nag): This familiar snake grows to 5'-6" and is normally not aggressive, but when alarmed would rise nearly one-third of its length to balance and strike. The aim is bad during the daytime but is very accurate and determined in the night. It feeds chiefly on rodents, toads and frogs. It is either brown or black and is characterised by the hood which contains binocular marks. There is a great variation in these markings, and often snakes are met with without this mark. The venom affects the nervous system and death is due to respiratory failure.

Bungarus caeruleus (M. Manyar): This agile snake is dark in colour and has double white narrow-paired cross bars, more distinct in the posterior region. The sub-caudals are undivided and the dorsals in the vertebral regions are modified. It grows to 5 feet and prefers to hide in burrows in day-time. The snake normally does not attack, but the bite, if delivered, is fatal, the poison being neurotoxic.

Callophis melanurus has been reported from the Ghats. It is 2 feet and is light brown, with spotted dark brown scales forming a series of lines down the whole length of the body, the belly being red.

FAM: HYDROPHIIDAE: There are probably two snakes representing this group:-Hydrophis stricticollis, H. caerulescens. These grow up to 3 feet in length and stay near about water.

FAM: VIPERIDAE: This group is represented by Vipera russelli (M. Ghonas or Kandar), Echis carinatus (M. Phursa), Trimere-surus malabaricus (Green pit-viper), T. macrolepis and T. gramineus.

Vipera russelli (M. Ghonas): This lethargic light brown snake with a chain of three longitudinal series of large oval dark brown spots with a blackish border, grows to 5 feet in length and is one of the common poisonous snakes of the area. It hisses loudly and deeply. Though of a quieter disposition, when disturbed, would hurl with great force and strike the victim, plunging the big fangs in the tissues. The poison is vaso-toxic. It is viviparous and is seen to lay as many as 50 young ones at a time. It lives near rocks and shade and feeds on rodents.

Echis carinatus (M. Phurse): It is very active and is characterised by the figure of 8-a position adopted in moving when disturbed. The saw-shaped scales are rubbed to give a hissing noise. It is pale brown in colour with a vertebral series of dark-edged spots connected by an inverted V-shaped mark enclosing a dark area. The head has a trident-shaped mark. It grows to 2'-6" and its poison often does not cause immediate death. It feeds on lizards and tiny frogs and is more seen in the plains.

Ancistrodon hypnale: This brown hump-nosed viper grows to 2 feet and inhabits hilly areas. A loud hiss is often accompanied prior to attack.

Trimeresurus malabaricus: This green pit-viper has blackish brown spots separated in a zigzag manner. It grows to 2 feet and remains near green places, particularly on trees. The food consists of lizards and geckos. The bite is poisonous but no deaths have been reported. T. macrolepis is bright green on top and paler beneath. T. gramineus nas also been recorded.

Non-poisonous: FAM: TYPHLOPIDAE: This is represented by two species: -Typhlops braminus (M. Daud) and T. porrectus. These are small degenerate worm-like snakes, 6-7 inches long, living underground on decaying wood or vegetation. They are blackish brown and their body is covered by cycloid scales. The head is not distinct from the neck, there are vestiges of pelvic bones, and a terminal spine is present for burrowing in the soil, where they feed on worms and insects.

FAM: UROPELTIDAE: This is represented by three species:- Uropeltis ocellatus, U. macrolepis, U. phipsoni. The short cylindrical body of these snakes ends in the rigid tail. The head is in continuation with the neck and the eyes have round pupil. These yellowish brown snakes with a brilliant iridescence are met with buried under earth at high altitudes. Its length is up to 21 inches.

FAM: BOIDAE: These are represented by three species:- Python molurus (M. Ajgar), Eryx conicus (M. Pharad), and E. Johni (M. Dutondya, Mandhul).

Python molurus is a lethargic snake growing up to 8-12 feet in length and often weighing 250 lb. The snake is brown with a dorsal series of large elongate, dark grey black-edged spots, and with linear brown streaks crossing the eye. It is found on rocky slopes and is a remarkable swimmer. It preys upon birds and mammals whom it kills by constriction.

Eryx conicus (M. Durkya Ghonas): It is a sluggish blunt-tailed snake, living near pools of water and measuring about two feet in length. It is grey, with brown and black-edged spots, placed against a buff background. It feeds upon frogs and toads. E. Johni abounds in sandy areas, and differs from E. conicus in having distinct dark transverse bands.

FAM: COLUBRIDAE: This family is represented by 20 species:- Ptyas mucosus (M. Dhaman) (Rat snake), Coluber fasciolatus (M. Nagin), C. graciliis (M. Songtya), Liopeltis calamaria (Gunther's smooth snake), Coronella brachyura, Oligodon Venustus, O. Tanenio-latus, O. brevicauda, Lycodon flavomaculatus (Wolf snake), L. aulicus (M. Kavdya), Natrix piscator (M. Pandivad) (Checkered keelback), N. Stolata (M. Naneti), N. beddomei, Macropisthodon plumbieolor (M. Gavtya), Boiga jorsteni (Cat snake), B. trigonata, Psammophis condanarus, P. leithi, Dryophis nasutus (M. Sarptoli) and D. Perroteti.

Ptyas mucosus is a very agile, yellowish grey snake, with irregular black marked cross-bars on the posterior half of the body. It grows up to 7 feet in length, living near vegetation, fields and houses, and feeding largely upon rodents. When cornered, it emits a hiss and bites fiercely.

C. fasciolatus (Racers) has a uniform brown colour beautifully ornamented with narrow cross-bars. It is very vicious and often stands erect flattening the body behind the neck imitating a cobra. It grows to a length of five feet and more. C. gracilliis is light grey above with narrow black-edged cross-bars.

L. calamaria: This light brown snake having scales edged with black and showing longitudinal lines and dark spots on each side of the head, is met with in the Ghats, growing to about 2 feet in length.

Coronella brachyura: This snake is about 2' 6" in length and is olive brown with indistinct light variegations on the anterior half of the body.

O. Venustus: These greyish brown snakes with large irregular blackish spots edged with darker ones are often mistaken to be Echis carinatus (M. Phurse). Its length is up to 1' 9". O. taeniolatus and O. brevicauda are also met with.

Lycodon flavomaculatus: These wolf-snakes are often mistaken for Kraits. They are chocolate colour with cross linear bands, white lips and spotted belly. The caudals are divided and the dorsal unmodified. Nocturnal in habits they grow to 2 feet in length and are often found in gardens, houses and store rooms. L. aulicus is more frequently met with near human habitations.

Natrix piscator (M. Pandivad): This snake of the plains is generally seen in the vicinity of water where it swims with great vigour feeding mainly on frogs. It is yellowish above, with black spots arranged in a series like a chess-board. A prolific breeder, it grows to 3 feet or more in length.

N. stolata (M. Naneti): It is olive green in colour with black spots intersected by dorso-lateral yellow or buff stripes. Its maximum length is 2 feet and it is found more during rains.

Macropisthodon plumbicolor (M. Gavtya): This common grass green snake, growing to 2'6", is found in large numbers during rains in the district. Young specimens have a broad light yellow collar pointed in front and forked posteriorly.

Boiga forsteni (cat snake): This snake growing up to 6 feet in length attacks sparrows, lizards and even fowls for its food. It is brown or red with regular angular black spots or cross-bars along with white spots. B. trigonata is met with in the hilly ranges.

Psammophis condanarus: This snake is found in ascending bushes in search of lizards and rodents. It is very active, pale olive and has 4 to 5 dark brown longitudinal stripes, conspicuously edged with black borders. The lower part of the head is yellowish with a black line along each side at the outer margin of the ventral shields. Its length is about 4'6". P. leithi is light brown and measures about 4 feet and frequents grasslands.

Dryophis nasutus (M. Sarptoli): This common green whip snake grows to about 6 feet. It is diurnal and remains hanging from trees. It is believed to strike the human face, but the bite does not develop any constitutional symptoms. D. perroteti is also met with in the hilly areas.