Venomous snakes of Belize

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Many people believe that all snakes are bad. That is not true. Of the more than fifty species of snakes found in Belize, only 8  are considered dangerous to humans. While each of these snakes possess deadly venomous that can defiantly kill you, most aren’t aggressive and would only bite if stepped on or threatened. The Fer de Lance is the exception, it is an aggressive serpent and will not hesitate to strike if disturbed.

Learn to identify the 8 venomous Snakes

Fer de Lance  – Bothrops asper







Also called “Yellowjaw” or “Tommy Goff”. They have a strong, fast acting hemotoxic venom, they are fairly common, and hard to see. This is an aggressive snake.  If startled or provoked, it is quite aggressive and bites vigorously and often repeatedly. It is responsible for more fatalities in its range than any other species. However, the snake often does not inject a full dose of venom with each bite. If bitten you should seek treatment immediately but you will not die right away from the bite.

The Fer de Lance is a nocturnal snake, it eats small mammals and ground dwelling birds. The snakes average 1.2-1.8m, record length 2.4m. They are highly prolific, a mother giving live birth to about 50-70 at a time. New-borns are 25-30cm long and highly venomous. Younger snakes are found near streams feeding on frogs and large insects.


Central American Coral Snake – Micrurus nigrocinctus






This mild tempered snake has a strong neurotoxic venom. Unlike vipers that strike with their fangs, coral snakes bite their prey and they have to almost use a chewing motion to inject appropriate amounts of venom.


Maya Coral Snake – Micrurus hippocrepis







This beautiful snake can be very difficult to see. It will move on or under the surface, but it most likes to move under thick leaf litter. It is usually nocturnal and feeds primarily on other snakes. Its neurotoxic venom is the most dangerous in Belize. Like all coral snakes, it isn’t aggressive. Unless you step on or foolishly try to catch one, you have almost no chance of being bit by this very deadly snake.


Eyelash Viper – Bothriechis schlegelii









While not aggressive, it has a strong hemotoxic venom. This tree dwelling snake is a nocturnal hunter. It has two eyelash-like pointed scales above each eye, its coloration varying between golden-yellow, green, olive green, brown, grayish-brown, with blotches or cross bands in various colors.


Hognose Viper – Porthidium nasutum







Also called the Rhino Viper, the Hognose Viper is the only snake in Belize with a distinctly upturned snout that is at least twice as high as it is wide. Dorsally, it is a dark snake, often with a narrow cream colored mid-dorsal stripe. It rarely exceeds 18″ in length. It employs a strong hemotoxic venom to incapacitate it’s prey.


Mexican Moccasin – Agkistrodon bilineatus bilineatus








The Mexican Cantil or Mexican Moccasin is a heavy bodied, snake with a strong, fast acting hemotoxic venom. It is in the pit viper family.


Neotropical rattlesnake – Crotalus durissus terrificus

This is the only rattlesnake found in Belize. They can be found in swamps and marshy fields from southern Canada to Argentina. They feed on birds, small mammals, amphibians and reptiles.

In the Northern portion of the range, their venom contains powerful nuerotoxins with death resulting from respiratory failure. This changes gradually southward and the venom composition is overwhelmingly hemotoxic in southern Argentina, yet the snake is no less deadly. This has dire implications for medical treatment, not only in the treatment protocol, but also the dilemma that the anti-venom may not properly represent the composition of the particular region


Jumping Viper – Atropoides nummifer







This serpent is also armed with a strong hemotoxic venom. The color of this viper’s stocky body varies from brown to gray and it has dark brown or black dorsal blotches. It has no pattern on its head. It is a nocturnal snake that comes out in the early evening hours to feed on lizards, rodents, and frogs. They often hide under fallen logs and piles of leaves and can be difficult to see.

Immediately After A Bite

In case you were wondering, yes, there is a certain amount of pain involved in a poisonous snake bite. Pain from the bite of a pit viper is almost immediate and is often described as an intense stinging sensation or a blow from a hammer. Up to 25% of pit viper bites are “dry”. 

It is usually possible for the snakebite victim to see the fang marks: they look like puncture wounds, but can also appear as scratches. Continued oozing of blood from the fang marks is usually good evidence that a snake bite has taken place and that the problems with blood coagulation are beginning to occur around the bite mark. Venom spreads from the bite to other organs through the lymphatic system.  Some of the other signs to look for are bruising and tender lymph nodes around the area. Signs that the effects have spread include a patient feeling very fatigued, having low blood pressure, a racing heart, and having trouble breathing.

It is important to try to stay as calm as possible while making arrangements to get to medical help.

Outdated first-aid measures like we’ve seen in old movies, such as incision and suction, applying a tourniquet, immersing the bite area in ice, or electric shock, have all been shown to be of no value and obviously they can be quite dangerous



Field Guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of the Maya World

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