The common mock viper

Writer: Isaac Cohen  |  Editor: Liu Minxia  |  From: Shenzhen Daily

A common mock viper is seen approaching an ant on a tree leaf in the Meilin Mountain in Futian District on Oct. 10, 2021.

The common mock viper

There is something fascinating about snakes, something that gives people reason to like them. Maybe it’s the mystery behind their eyes, their elongated limbless bodies covered by scales, their forked tongue, or probably the fact that all of them are carnivorous and some are extremely dangerous. However, the common mock viper (Psammodynastes pulverulentus) is not dangerous at all, at least not to humans.


A common mock viper is seen on a tree in the Meilin Mountain in Futian District on Oct. 19, 2021.

This fascinating reptile is one of the smallest snakes you can find in Shenzhen, measuring no longer than 50 or 60 centimeters. Thinner than a pinkie, it has a triangle-shaped head that is clearly differentiated from the neck. The striking patterns over the head manifest a wide range of colorations that go from red, orange to gray, and even black. The body also shows patterns of coloration where you can see white spots or yellow speckles along the side that goes from head to tail. Their colorful patterns and small size make them difficult to spot, as they easily blend with their surroundings.


A common mock viper is seen on a tree branch in the Meilin Mountain in Futian District on Oct. 16, 2021.

This species is active during both day and night, perhaps around pond areas looking for a small frog or a gecko. They hunt with their fangs, injecting a paralyzing venom into their prey. Fortunately, the venom is not harmful to humans and there are no known cases where their bite created a threat to a human life.


Mock vipers are ovoviviparous, which means they are born from an egg, but instead of laying the eggs in a nest, the female keeps them inside of its body, giving the false impression that females give birth like mammals do. They reproduce sexually and can reproduce several times a year, giving birth to four to six baby snakes each time.


A common mock viper is seen in the Meilin Mountain in Futian District on Oct. 22, 2021.

Snakes are facing a difficult time due to the rapid development of urban areas. The last thing they want is having humans further threat their lives. 


The next time you take a walk in the park or hike the mountains, and happen to come across a snake, just admire it. Don’t get too close. Let it continue on its way back to safety!