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A flying snake is a reptile that is able to parachute or glide through the air, creating the appearance of flight even though it does not have wings. They sometimes are referred to as parachuters or gliders because they are not able to ascend into the air, but rather they propel themselves from a starting point that is higher than the point at which they want to land, flattening their body to glide or parachute to their destination. The flying snake is seen almost exclusively in trees in the lowlands of the tropical rainforest in southeastern and southern Asia.
These animals grow to an average length of 3 to 4 feet (1 to 1.2 m) and are venomous, although their venom does not tend to be life-threatening to people except in the case of an individual being allergic to the venom and possibly suffering anaphylactic shock. Most people who have been bitten by a flying snake experience only some discomfort as well as some swelling in the area of the bite. The flying snake, particularly the golden tree snake, does bite and is known to be ill-tempered and swift to strike. One of the most mild-mannered of these snakes is the paradise tree snake, but it still is known to be ornery at times and quick to bite. This is one of the characteristics of the flying snake that does makes it a poor choice for a pet.
Scientists are not sure why the flying snake glides, but they believe this behavior probably is related to the animal's need to escape predators, if it has any. It also might fly during a hunt for food, because it would take much longer to slither down a tree, across the ground and up into another tree. It also is unknown how this animal is able to flatten its body during "flight." Questions of whether the internal organs flatten as well remain unanswered. Among the prey of the flying snake are various small vertebrates such as birds, frogs, lizards, bats and small rodents.
The flying snake is not considered an endangered species. Most types do not appear to do well in captivity. They need to live in environments that are very hot and humid, and that will allow them the space to parachute or glide through the air. There also is the consideration for dealing with their ill temper while providing care for them.
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