Friday, September 15, 2006


Taichung at dusk. Bought a scooter this week -- drive by shooting is easier than ever.

One of the joys of living where we live, next to a major forested hillside, is the constant presence of actual wild animals in our lives. We have a large gray snake of the harmless, vermin-eating variety who lives somewhere in our backyard. From time to time at night we see him. Squirrels frequent the trees in our area, and last year a taxi driver picking up my wife stopped, entranced, to watch a squirrel cavort along a wall in our neighborhood. He explained that he'd lived his whole life in Taichung, and had never seen a live squirrel.

Our visitor cowers in his hidey hole.

Today we arrived home after breakfast and a snake entered our lives. He curled up behind the files on my shelf. We peeled back the dusty manila folders with a long metal pole, and took a good look at him -- he had brown diamond markings on his back, exactly like a Russell's Pit Viper -- a very nasty snake indeed -- but seemed immature and the head was the wrong shape for a viper. I didn't think he was poisonous, but because he wasn't full grown, I didn't want to take any chances, so we called the firemen.

The fireman arrive.

In Taiwan it is the firemen who respond to any dangerous animals such as snakes or wasps -- stray dogs and cats are the province of Animal Control. They came immediately and took care of the problem politely, quickly, professionally, and best of all, safely. Our visitor turned out to be a copperhead ratsnake (elaphe radiata -- "jin3 she2" in Mandarin). They can grow up to two meters and though usually they dine on rats, they have been known to eat the young of goats and cattle (good pics of them). The local websites say the flesh is delicious.

The fireman had already bagged a banded krait, one of Taiwan's more dangerous snakes.

Off they went, their task complete.

Long after the fireman had come and gone, our klewless cat came downstairs. Hey guys! Guys! There's a snake here...!

I was very impressed with the quick response of the firemen, and my wife was relieved. It's a shame that being a fireman in Taiwan is not a job that is universally respected, like it is in the US. These guys deserve a hand from time to time. My wife meanwhile ran off to call the relatives. She doesn't have a story to top her mother's tale of the The Time I Thought The Snake Was a Loose Power Cord And Tried To Plug It In, but she's working on it.

UPDATE: After discussion with almas john over at, it appears our snake is a Taiwan Beauty.


Anonymous said...

Great story Michael. Do you have mice or frogs in your house? That is probably why the snake came inside.

I would love to live somewhere where snakes could come into my house. I don't think there is a chance of it happening in my current apartment though.

Anonymous said...

Nice one!

But I hear the blood is "strong for man"...or maybe that's just in Taipei.

Michael Turton said...

Do we have mice or frogs in our house? My wife would die of mortification if I answered yes, so I neither confirm nor deny.... Also, we do not have mice. Mice are for pussies. Real men have rats.


Anonymous said...

Nice cloud photo. My man Jaco would be proud! Taichung represents!

Anonymous said...

Hi Michael. I found a video about firefighting in Taiwan. Check it out.

~ John

Josee said...

Michael, please tell us about your mother-in-law's experience of "The Time I Thought The Snake Was a Loose Power Cord And Tried To Plug It In"