Foraying in the forest has become a regular affair for us, especially now that the spring is here, flowers blooming, trees budding, fungi mushrooming, pleasant breezes, bubbling brooks, what can one ask for except a clear spring day, a little food to quell the pangs of hunger and the sight of woods to ramble around…

During the week.. caught up in between the work and school schedules, it is not possible to really look carefully for the hidden treasures of nature. But, come weekend we run off into the forest, delighting in it’s splendours… peering into bushes, jumping over the fallen trees, studying the various plants and delighting in every new leaf or flower announcing the spring, but wait….. careful….

The last weekend, when we just started out for our walk.. we were surprised to see a reptile snoozing in the sun, not at all budging at our approach… While not exactly squeamish, but my nature skills are definitely confined to watching.. and .. not teasing animals.. especially snakes… Rather early for them to be coming out, I had thought, since the snows have barely melted a week back… but there it lay, in front of me, peacefully snoozing…. a Gloydius himalayanus… or as it is known commonly as the ‘Himalayan pit viper’…

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We have often come across this species during our ramblings in the forest. This year we have sighted it sooner than in the last few years, almost as soon as the snow melted. Generally very shy and will sooner retrace into it’s hiding place rather than attack, however, I have often heard of grass-cutters or loggers being bitten. The bite of the ‘Himalayan pit viper’ is not very poisonous and the local doctors generally give a ‘Tetnus’ injection and put the patient under observation for a few days. But, sometimes it can cause swelling and blackening of the area where bitten, but generally gets better within a week or two. Till today I have not heard of anyone dying of a snake bite around our parts.

While I have not found any official records of ‘Himalayan Pit vipers’ in the Chamba region of Himachal Pradesh, India.. but we have used ‘The Book of Indian Reptiles & Amphibians’ by J.C.Daniel to help us identify it.. as far as the locals are concerned.. all snakes are described as ‘Keeda’.. which would literally mean a worm..

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