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Snakes of Boquete Panama

It was just a few days ago when I participated in a discussion of some of venomous snakes of the region around Boquete Panama. Years ago in Tucson I shard a hospital room with a man bitten by a rattle snake in rural Southern Arizona, despite anti venom I shared his agony as he fought with great pain. The conversation and my memory added to my curiosity about some of our toxic neighbors and lead to some surfing for more information. Since the Boquete District covers both highlands and lowlands I am going to share some of what I learned about creatures for all ranges.

The first information I discovered was an article on the czbrats website.

“If one does not fear lightning one need have no fear of poisonous snakes, for it has repeatedly been demonstrated statistically that one’s chances of dying from snakebite are not greater than those of being struck by a bolt of lightning. Furthermore, the mortality among people actually bitten by poisonous snakes in Central America in Clark’s Statistics is less than 10 percent. This unusually low mortality in the tropics is readily understandable because our snakes are generally well-fed and do not hibernate. These two factors tend to decrease the potency of their venom.

The commonest situation likely to result in being struck by a poisonous snake is an encounter with one that has just swallowed a meal (a lizard, a rodent, a bird) and, having failed to find cover after its night of successful hunting is so distended with its food ball that its belly plates are spread apart, and it is unable to move except with great difficulty. This snake will strike in self-defense when molested. However, in killing and swallowing its meal it has used up most of its venom, and for several days the refill in its poison glands will be very dilute and of low toxicity. It is, therefore, most reassuring to note that the offending snake is distended with a food ball, for the prognosis is then very favorable.

(paragraph omitted)

As a rule poisonous snakes do their best to get out of the way of the traveler in the bush. Exceptions occur in the case of the food-laden one which cannot get out of the way, and also, unfortunately, in the case of the pregnant female during the spring breeding season, which, laden with young or eggs, has found difficulty in obtaining food, with the result that her venom has become highly concentrated from enforced starvation. Being unable to cruise about, she becomes highly defensive and quite aggressive — in short, really “muy malo.” Bites from long-starved snakes are very serious and usually fatal.” CZbrats

I know there are people her who know a great deal more than I do about the venomous snakes in this region. I urge them to add and comment.

To my knowledge the only location with anti venom in the provence is the Social Security Hospital in David. That means that if you are out in the bush and are bitten time is of the essence. Although I have heard some suggestions of first aid for snake bite again I urge people with real experience or knowledge to add to this post.

Despite these reassuming words I keep meeting people who have had close encounters with local snakes so I think it is wise to know more about the creatures. The following information and the photos above are credited to Wilderness Survival .

Bushmaster
Lachesis mutus

Description: The body hue is rather pale brown or pinkish, with a series of large bold dark brown or black blotches extending along the body. Its scales are extremely rough.

Characteristics: The World’s largest pit viper has a bad reputation. This huge venomous snake is not common anywhere in its range. It lives in remote and isolated habitats and is largely nocturnal in its feeding habits; it seldom bites anyone, so few bites are recorded. A bite from one would indeed be very serious and fatal if medical aid was not immediately available. Usually, the bites occur in remote, dense jungles, many kilometers and several hours or even days away from medical help. Bushmaster fangs are long. In large bushmasters, they can measure 3.8 centimeters. Its venom is a powerful hemotoxin.

Habitat: Found chiefly in tropical forests in their range.

Length: Average 2.1 meters, maximum 3.7 meters.

Coral snake
Micrurus fulvius

Description: Beautifully marked with bright blacks, reds, and yellows. To identify the species, remember that when red touches yellow it is a coral snake.

Characteristics: Common over range, but secretive in its habits, therefore seldom seen. It has short fangs that are fixed in an erect position. It often chews to release its venom into a wound. Its venom is very powerful. The venom is neurotoxic, causing respiratory paralysis in the victim, who succumbs to suffocation.

Habitat: Found in a variety of habitats including wooded areas, swamps, palmetto and scrub areas. Coral snakes often venture into residential locations.

Length: Average 60 centimeters, maximum 115 centimeters.

Eyelash pit viper
Bothrops schlegeli

Description: Identified by several spiny scales over each eye. Color is highly variable, from bright yellow over its entire body to reddish-yellow spots throughout the body.

Characteristics: Arboreal snake that seldom comes to the ground. It feels more secure in low-hanging trees where it looks for tree frogs and birds. It is a dangerous species because most of its bites occur on the upper extremities. It has an irritable disposition. It will strike with little provocation. Its venom is hemotoxic, causing severe tissue damage. Deaths have occurred from the bites of these snakes.

Habitat: Tree-loving species found in rain forests; common on plantations and in palm trees.

Length: Average 45 centimeters, maximum 75 centimeters.

Fer-de-lance
Bothrops atrox

There are several closely related species in this group. All are very dangerous to man.

Description: Variable coloration, from gray to olive, brown, or reddish, with dark triangles edged with light scales. Triangles are narrow at the top and wide at the bottom.

Characteristics: This highly dangerous snake is responsible for a high mortality rate. It has an irritable disposition, ready to strike with little provocation. The female fer-de-lance is highly prolific, producing up to 60 young born with a dangerous bite. The venom of this species is hemotoxic, painful, and hemorrhagic (causing profuse internal bleeding). The venom causes massive tissue destruction.

Habitat: Found on cultivated land and farms, often entering houses in search of rodents.

Length: Average 1.4 meters, maximum 2.4 meters.

Jumping viper
Bothrops nummifer

Description: It has a stocky body. Its ground color varies from brown to gray and it has dark brown or black dorsal blotches. It has no pattern on its head.

Characteristics: It is chiefly a nocturnal snake. It comes out in the early evening hours to feed on lizards, rodents, and frogs. As the name implies, this species can strike with force as it actually leaves the ground. Its venom is hemotoxic. Humans have died from the bites inflicted by large jumping vipers. They often hide under fallen logs and piles of leaves and are difficult to see.

Habitat: Found in rain forests, on plantations, and on wooded hillsides.

Length: Average 60 centimeters, maximum 120 centimeter.


Comments

  1. Just to add a quick note there, Lee, “Lifeflight Panama”‘s helicopter carries Anti Venom on board! so, as you say, when time is of the essence… this is useful to know….

  2. Robert Boyd says:

    You were with me, snakes don’t scare me.

  3. Does anyone know if “anti venom” is species specific?

  4. So the question is – “How many folks in Boquete have had to deal with snakes in the house or yard?” Yuck!

    Bruce

  5. I found this article very interesting, and very helpful. we are coming down to Volcan in a few weeks, with our special ed son. I’m printing the article so we can talk about snakes before we come. We’ve already talked about the frogs. Now I can show him the pictures, and read the article to him. thanks.
    As a matter of fact, I’m always finding interesting things in your blog!

  6. Bruce we had a ferdalance in the front yard one night (the gardner has also killed a couple other smaller ones with the weed-eater) and a coral that got in the house somehow. The big ferdalance was spotted by one of the dogs during the final potty break and wasn’t a problem and the coral had a close encounter of the most miserable kind with a machette.
    Later,
    J

    PS I have photo of all of these events.

  7. My wife had a run in with a small snake in our house in Taboga yesterday, i was trying to find some kind of information on what kind it was, since she just scooped it up and gave it a toss out the second story window. It was aprox 24 inches long, light tan with a dark brown tip on its tail I figured it was a tree snake but she said the head was round nosed not diamond shaped. any info would be helpful.

  8. We were here for a week in Feb and returned Nov. 9th for six weeks. We have a local friend here and are considering spending 3-6 month a year in the Boquete area. We currently live in Arizona and I am a tour operator specializing in Central and South America. We are at retirement age. We also have a consulting business related to trail design, layout and construction for trails for hiker, horses and mountain bikers…non-motorized.

    Larry

  9. Frank MacMillan says:

    Found two coral snakes in as many weeks next to my house just laying in the short grass. Let them live but thru them down the canyon.

  10. Hi Lee, David just got bitten by a long, thin black snake that was found in his wood shop, wrapped up on his drill press. David sat his coffee cup on the drill press and the snake bit his finger. He immediately sucked on the wound, soaked it in hot, soapy water and he feels fine. Thanks to your article, we know the snake was not poisonous. Keep up the good work!

  11. Jack,sorry for the late response, but I just found the question. The anti-venom used nowadays is wide spectrum and non-specific.

  12. My wife is an artist. We live in a house in Bajo Boquete near the public school.
    Today (Dec. 23) she was working on a piece when she turned around and saw a 14″ coral snake crawling by her foot. Fortunately for her, and us, the shovel was also within reach.
    The situation really made us think about better preparations for the future.

  13. Raúl Saavedra says:

    Hi, I know the case of different animals bit by coral snakes here in Boquete and they didn´t live too long after it just some minutes, they try to breath but they can until they dye, It is terrible. There are also Ferde lances and Bocaracás which are very aggressives and very poissonous too. be very carefulous.

  14. Raúl Saavedra says:

    Hi, I´m concern about the snakes here because we have very dangerous snakes and the Health Center nor the Seguro Social don´t have any anti venom here in Boquete, it is ridiculous, they have the anti-venoms just in the main cities.

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