Saw Scaled Viper (Echis carinatus)
Bangla- Foorsha, | English- Carpet Viper, Indian Saw-Scaled Viper | Gujrati- Fursa, Phursa | Hindi- Fursa, Diar | Malyalam- Churuttamandali, Shofamandali, Churutta | Marathi- Fursa | Oriya- Chandan Boda | Punjabi- Jalebi saap | Rajasthani- Popsya, Udane, Kakarkanda | Tamil- Suruttai viriyan
Distribution - All over India, not found in the North-East. Very common in Rajasthan (western desert area), Maharastra (Ratnagiri and surrounding) and Gujrat (Kutch, Bhuj); Status from East India needs to be reviewed (may be uncommon in these states)
Status - Common. Second most common Viper (after Russell’s Viper)
Length- Generally 40cm; can grow upto 80cm. Specimens from North India are much larger than specimen from South India.
Dorsal body- Body short stout shaped. Body covered with highly keeled and pointed scales of dry appearance. Body color ranges from brown, dark brown, red, gray or brown mix with red, black, gray etc. Light colored spots of light yellow or very light brown with dark colored margin exists on the whole dorsal surface; these spots may be more symmetric on mid body; usually connected by two undulating lines from both side(head to posterior body).
Ventral body- Belly color white with dark brown or blackish spots in all ventral scales; these spots become larger and more prominent on side ventrals. Subcaudal scales undivided and end with a pointed tip.
Head- Head triangular with small shaped keeled scale; clearly broader than neck. An arrow or cruciform shaped or plus "+" shaped mark always exists at the top of the head which may have narrow or broader arms. Eyes have a vertical pupil; tongue color reddish. Two very long fangs present on the front side of the mouth at any life stage.
Tail- Small tail with a pointed tip with typical keeled scales; typical patterns may be absent or faint.
Key Characters for Identification-
Look alikes- Closely looks like Common Cat snake, Common Sand Boa, Russel’s Kukri (due to complicated patterns in both species).
- Small brownish body of “dry” appearance.
- Produces sound like “Saw” on disturbing.
- Head has a arrow shaped mark on the top.
Head- 10-12 Supralabials(4th largest); 10 to 15 small size scales surrounding eyes(exclusive of supraocular); 3-4 scales between nasal and eyes; 8-12 scales between supraoculars.
Dorsal- Highly keeled scales in 25-29:27-37:21-27 rows; obliquely arranged scales in 4-5 rows(these are responsible for its famous sound due to rubbing of side dorsals).
Ventral- 132-185; Anal divided or undivided.
Subcaudal- 23-39; divided.
Behavior- Saw scaled Viper is usually a nocturnal species but can be active at day time also. Found in variety of habitat like rainforests, dry plains, deserts, rocky hills, sandy soil etc. Lives in scrubs, rocks, agricultural lands, dry leaves, barks, brick & rock piles, under rocks, mounds in desert, under thorny plants etc.
Very agile and aggressive on provocation; first produce SAW like fascinating sound by rubbing its side dorsal scales together in its coil. In such situation if it finds any object under its attacking range, it will strike very fast (one of the fastest striking species in the world). On extreme provocation it likes to escape by sidewinding creeping. Assumed to be a good climber and can climb on thorny plants and trees with a good grip.
Feeds on rodents, lizards, frogs, rarely on other snakes, insects including scorpions.
Reproduction - Female give birth to 4-10 young from April to mid-September.
Saw scaled Viper is the second most common Viper species distributed in a big geographical area, but it is not so common in rescue cases specially in Central and Eastern India; more common in Maharastra, Gujrat, Rajasthan, North & South India. Generally it doesn’t enter inside houses and like to remain in dry hiding spots. As it is 1) very small; 2) rarely sighting species, so chances of resighting of this species is almost nil. We can easily release it within 100mtr from rescue point.
Saw Scaled Viper is the smallest BIG FOUR member. Generally it bites when people don’t see them in their natural habitat and mistakenly step on it, resulting in a serious bite. The two long fangs eject a few drops of Hemotoxic venom. Dry bite is possible in few cases but this has to be confirmed by medical experts only. Bite of Saw Scaled Viper is much serious than Russell’s Viper and cause serious tissue loss. Medical treatment with the help of anti-venom is recommended in each bite without annoying experiments with bite site.