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Have Fun in Spring:Snakes Appear When the Spring Comes-The Tale of Snake in Grass Mountain

Chinese Green Snake Chinese Mountain Snake Keelung Cat Snake

The Tale of Snake in Grass Mountain

There have been rumors that the snakes inhabiting the suburbs of Taipei City, in Yangmingshan National Park (formerly known as Grass Mountain), are there as a result of the poisonous snakes that were being researched and released by the Japanese. It is said that a snake institute was established during the Japanese Colonial Period in this area (such as Sha Mao Shan) after the Japanese were defeated in World War II.

Was there really a snake institute? At the moment, we only know that the Presidential Palace Central Research Institute during the Japanese Colonial Period established the SnakeTropical Medicine Institute Shih-lin Branch in Fudeyang Shangzijiao, Shilin Street, Qixing County, Taipei State (near the current Ming Chuan University ) to conduct researches in tropical medicine. There are some studies and research related to poisonous snake bites and anti-venom. But we don’t know if these studies were conducted by the Snake Institute in Yangmingshan or if there may have been a misunderstandings caused by the change of organization names during the Japanese Colonial Period. There is no evidence to prove that a massive number of snakes were released at the end of World War II. Most species of snakes in Taiwan are distributed in the middle mountain area, but because humans started to build an increasing number of houses and roads, it is now much more likely to run into snakes. This is how the rumored snake institute became a reasonable explanation for the appearance of snakes in Yangmingshan.

Grass Mountain is Suitable as a Snake Habitat

A more accurate and scientific documentation of the distribution of different species of snakes in the area of the Grass Mountain dates back earlier than any other area in Taiwan. Since the Japanese Colonial Period, there were Seiichi Takahashi and Yasuichi Horikawa who respectively mentioned the snake species in the area known present day as Yangmingshan (Grass Mountain, Mt. Datun, Zhuzihu and etc) in their snake-related publications. At the time when overall records of snakes’ appearances were commonly unclear and indefinite, the records of snakes in Grass Mountain area were fairly accurate. Compared to the locations of other national parks in Taiwan, the convenient transportation may have helped snakes get the attention of researchers more easily and much earlier, resulting in much more detailed records. There are already 34 species of snakes recorded in the local area which accounts for up to 74% of all snake species on Taiwan’s soil. These snakes are divided into several categories based on their different habitat and space. The fossorial snake which lives in caves, cracks, or under piles of dried branches and falling leaves, include the Collared Reed Snake (Calamaria pavimentata) and Ornate Kukri Snake (Oligodon ornatus). The terrestrial snake which predominantly moves on the ground include the Chinese Cobra (Naja atra) and Red-banded Snake (Dinodon rufozonatum). The arboreal snake which stays in trees more than on the ground include the Keelung Cat Snake (Boiga kraepelini) and Chinese Green Snake (Cyclophiops major). There are some species with biological characteristics between two types of snakes and are not easy to be categorized. They are extremely adaptive between two types of environments.

  • left:Chinese Green Snake
  • middle:Chinese Mountain Snake
  • right:Keelung Cat Snake

Article & Photos / Mao, Jean-Jay

Unit : Kenting
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