CASKE 2000

Tropical Snakes of Belize

Blue Creek (Belize)

PHOTOGRAPHS AND TEXT BY JEAN-PHILIPPE SOULE 1999

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During our stay in Belize, we've seen five species of snakes. In Blue Creek we sighted beautiful Green-Tree-Snakes almost daily. Green-Headed-Tree-Snakes were also fairly common. We were lucky to sight at least one specimen of the three folowing species, Snail-Eating-Snake, and the two most dangerous Fer-de-lance and Coral Snakes. I wasn't able to take any digital photos of the Green-Headed-Tree-Snake, but you can see photos from all the other species. We are also listing in this page all the dangerous species of snakes found in Belize.

Note: Many more species of snakes are found in Belize but are harmless. Snakes by nature aren't aggressive (with the exception of the Fer-de-lance). Even the most poisonous ones like the Coral Snake shy away and avoid people at all costs. They usually only bite when people step on them or catch them. Even poisonous snakes do not inject their venom each time they bite. For exemple, it is believed that rattlesnakes inject their venom only once out of 7 or 8 bites. Statics show a very small number of death from snakes in Belize (I've heard the figure of one death per year). Still snakes seem to be the most feared animals. People working in Sugar Cane plantation are at highest risks, still the number of fatal accidents remain very low.

The Species we've observed in Belize (all out of Blue Creek)

Green-Tree-Snake (Leptophis ahaetulla)

This is a very long and thin green snake which lives in low dense brush where it blends with its surroundings. It feeds mainly on lizards and frogs. It has a mild poison which isn't dangerous to humans, but large specimen can inflict a painful bite. This snake can be aggressive if caught. (I caught a few by the tail and half of them tried to bite, the other half didn't even bother and kept trying to run away).

Green-Headed-Tree-Snake

This snake is also an arboreal snake. It is easy to recognize. The body is brown and a well marked line of green can be noticed across the head. This snake possess a mild venom to neutralize it's prey but is not harmful to humans.

Snail-Eating-Snake (Sibon sanniola)

This brown snake with large eyes feeds on snails and slugs only and is completely harmless. It doesn't even try to bite as you can see on the photos. We caught one outside of the lodge and I let it run through my hands instantly.

Fer-de-lance (Bothrops asper)

The Fer-de-lance is a pit viper with a powefull hemotoxic venom. Adults can reach more than 8 feet. It is nocturnal and found in the trees as well as on the ground. Although their bites aren't always deadly, the Fer-de-lance is responsible for most fatal snake bites in Central America because it is much more agressive than other species. If threatened, it will not hesitate, to attack. Their pattern design makes them hard to see.

Coral Snake (Micrurus hippocrepis)

This beautifull snake is actually difficult to see. It is terrestrial and sub-terrestrial, but it likes to move under thick leaf litter. It is usually nocturnal but can also be sighted at down and dusk. It feeds primarely on other snakes. It's venom is a strong neuro-toxin and the most dangerous in Belize, but the coral snake isn't aggressive and unless you step on it or try to catch one, your chance to get bitten is nearly none. We were lucky to see one, which Cecilio gingerly lifted with his machete to show us its beauty.

All the Dangerous Species in Belize

Among all species of snakes found in Belize, only 10 are considered dangerous to humans. Although some of those snakes possess a deadly poison, most aren't aggressive and would only bite if stepped on or threatened. The Coral Snake, the most poisonous in Belize, is one of these.

Here is a list of these snakes:

Other Venomous Animals: Tarantulas and Scorpions

Tarantulas

One night I was working on the computer when Cecilio told me: Do you want to see a tarantula? I said yes, and asked him where he would find it. He said they live everywhere. He came back with a nice one and we played with it for a while before releasing. If handled gently, tarantulas aren't aggressive. On the other hand, their bite is worse than the scorpion stings, so one should be careful not to crush them or scare them. The tarantulas usually live underground and are nocturnal. Their body and legs are covered with hair which the ones on the back can be released like darts. Those hairs can then be irritating. The species shown on these photos is Avicularia Versicolor.

Scorpions

We've heard terrible stories about the pain inflicted by scorpion stings. In Baja, we checked our shoes daily but never saw one. In Blue Creek, I never even thought about checking my shoes. One day I was packing a bag and as I put my forearm on the plastic table, I felt a very sharp pain. I quickly raised my forearm and saw a small scorpion running away. I rushed to the kitchen of the lodge, put some vinegar on the sting and after 10 minutes, I was very surprised when the pain almost entirely disappeared. I don't know if the vinegar did it all, or if the sting was naturally mild, but that's as long as it lasted.

Photos

Green-Tree-Snake 1  ;  Green-Tree-Snake 2   ;  Coral Snake 1  ;  Coral Snake 2  ;  Fer-de-lance 1  ;  Fer-de-lance 2  ;  Snail-Snake 1  ;   Snail-Snake 2  ;  Tarantula 1  ;  JP and Tarantula  ;  Tarantula 2

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