Bulletin 37 - March 1989: Sawscale Viper Sightings Around Jebel Hatta

Sawscale Viper Sightings Around Jebel Hatta

by Gary R. Feulner

Members may be interested in three recent sightings of Carpet Vipers Echis coloratus in the upper reaches of the wadi systems around Jebel Hatta (the mountainous area south of the village of Hatta). The first sighting was made during the course of a hike on December 2 1988 and the other two on December 16. The latter observations were within the UAE proper, whereas the former was technically in Oman, though probably no more than a couple of miles from the designated border. Positive identification was undertaken by J.N.B. Brown from photographs of the first snake.

It may give some comfort to know that all of these snakes were watched more than an hour and a half of steady hiking above the farthest point accessible by 4-wheel drive. Especially on the second excursion, modest rock climbing was required intermittently in order to bypass larger waterfall areas in the main wadi.

In each case, the snakes were observed within a few feet of the edge of standing pools of water located a few meters up small tributaries of the main wadi. The largest of the three specimens (the first) was about 2.5 feet long (approx. 75cm). The other two were both about two feet long (approx. 60cm).

It is interesting to note that despite their reputation, none of these snakes behaved aggressively and none made any noise at all. Instead, all moved away relatively slowly as if they were merely inconvenienced by the presence of larger animals in the neighborhood. One climbed slowly up a near vertical rock face, remaining exposed for some time. The other two (sighted independently) retreated under low rock ledges, one disappearing completely and the second remaining looped under its shelter with the head pointed outwards. In one instance, the nearby pool contained toads in abundance; these are generally common around such pools wherever the local stream gradient is not too steep.


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