Skip to main content

The Top 10 Deadliest Snakes in Latin America

Larry Slawson received his Master's Degree from UNC Charlotte in 2018. He has a keen interest in biology.

From the Jumping Pit Viper to the Fer-de-Lance, this work examines (and ranks) the 10 deadliest snakes known to exist in Latin America.

From the Jumping Pit Viper to the Fer-de-Lance, this work examines (and ranks) the 10 deadliest snakes known to exist in Latin America.

What Is the Deadliest Snake in Latin America?

Throughout Latin America, there exists a number of venomous snake species that are capable of inflicting serious harm (or death) on the human population at large. Of the snakes that have been identified so far (as of August 2022), several species stand out above the rest in regard to their venom toxicity and danger to human beings. From the Jumping Pit Viper to the Fer-de-Lance, this work examines the 10 deadliest snakes known to exist in Latin America. It provides a brief analysis of each snake’s behavioral patterns, general traits, and venom toxicity in relation to humans. It is the author’s hope that a better understanding (and appreciation) of these fascinating animals will accompany readers following their completion of this work.

Selection Criteria

In order to select (and rank) the deadliest snakes in Latin America, a number of basic criteria was necessary for the extents and purposes of this work. First and foremost, each of the following snakes were ranked according to their overall venom toxicity (in relation to humans). This task was accomplished through an evaluation of each snake’s venom yield (on average), as well as the lethal dose required for each animal’s venom to be fatal for humans.

In addition to venom toxicity, another important factor to consider was each snake’s potential for inflicting life-threatening bites on human beings in the absence of medical care. This criterion was necessary to include since the vast majority of snake bites (including injuries sustained by cobras) are treatable when appropriate antivenom is received in a timely manner. Thus, by assuming that no medical treatment was provided with each of these animals (in the event of a bite), it allows for better insight into the overall toxicity and potency of each snake’s venom.

While these criteria leave room for a number of potential “gaps” and inherent biases, the author believes them to be the best means for ranking the 10 deadliest snakes in Latin America.

The 10 Most Dangerous Snakes in Latin America Ranked

  • Jumping Pit Viper
  • Eyelash Pit Viper
  • Hog-Nosed Viper
  • Tropical Rattlesnake
  • Mexican Coral Snake
  • Yucatan Neotropical Rattlesnake
  • Lancehead
  • Yellow-Bellied Sea Snake
  • Bushmaster
  • Fer-de-Lance
Jumping pit viper.

Jumping pit viper.

10. Jumping Pit Viper

  • Average Size: 1.5 to 2.0 Feet
  • Geographical Range: Eastern Mexico and Central America
  • Conservation Status: “Least Concern” (Population Stable)

The jumping pit viper is a species of venomous snake from the Viperidae family. Found throughout Eastern Mexico and parts of Central America, this relatively common species is an extremely dangerous animal capable of inflicting serious harm (including death) on unsuspecting humans that venture too close. The snake can be easily identified due to its small size (reaching upwards of 2-feet at maturity), rounded snout, and unique coloration that consists of tan, light brown, and gray. Likewise, they are also renowned for their dark brown patches (that resemble the shape of a rhombus), with underbellies that are usually white in coloration with brown blotches (speckles). As of August 2022, the jumping pit viper is currently listed as a species of “least concern” by the IUCN, indicating that their populations are both stable and plentiful at this time (iucn.org).

Natural Habitat

Within Mexico and Central America, the jumping pit viper is most commonly found in the region’s forests at an altitude of approximately 130 to 5,250-feet above sea level. Within this natural environment, the jumping pit viper is provided an extremely diverse diet that includes mice, lizards, insects, frogs, and small mammals. To date, no specific predators have been identified for this species; however, humans, large birds, and other snakes appear to be the animal’s primary enemy in the wild.

Jumping Pit Viper Bite Symptoms and Treatment

The jumping pit viper possesses a venom that is comprised of powerful hemotoxins. Although relatively mild (when compared to other snakes on this list), the jumping pit viper is notorious for its ability to deliver multiple strikes in succession. This, in turn, allows the snake to deliver a tremendous amount of venom in a single bite, leading to severe envenomation that requires immediate medical treatment (Owlcation.com). Typical symptoms of a bite include nausea, disorientation, migraine headache, and muscle pain. After the venom progresses throughout the body, clotting issues are also common, resulting in muscular paralysis, and circulatory issues. In extreme cases cardiac arrest are common, and may lead to death (toxinology.com).

Bites from the jumping pit viper are considered a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment to prevent long-term complications and problems. Standard treatment involves pain mitigation therapy, the administration of intravenous fluids, as well as Polyvalent Antivenom (in cases involving extreme envenomation). Following bedrest and treatment, many individuals will make full recoveries from their bite. Nevertheless, both short and long-term side effects are common from jumping pit viper bites, and include muscle pain and circulatory issues (Poison.org). For these reasons, the jumping pit viper is a species of snake that should be avoided at all costs!

Eyelash pit viper.

Eyelash pit viper.

9. Eyelash Pit Viper

  • Average Size: 22 to 32 Inches
  • Geographical Range: Southern Mexico, Central America, and Northern Region of South America (Including Colombia, Venezuela, and Peru)
  • Conservation Status: “Least Concern” (Population Stable)
Scroll to Continue

Read More From Owlcation

The eyelash pit viper (also known as the “eyelash viper”) is a species of highly-venomous snake from the Viperidae family. Endemic to Southern Mexico and parts of Central America, the eyelash viper is a dangerous species capable of inflicting serious bites that can lead to death if not treated. The snake can be easily identified by its relatively small size (reaching only 32 inches at maturity), along with its triangular head, and wide range of colors that include bright yellow, red, brown, green, or pink. Likewise, they are also renowned for their vertical pupils that resemble large “eyelashes” (hence the snake’s name). As of August 2022, this species is currently listed as a species of “least concern” by the IUCN, indicating that their population numbers are stable for the time being (iucn.org).

Natural Habitat

Within Southern Mexico and Central America, the eyelash pit viper is most commonly found in lower altitudes near dense foliage, tropical climates, shady (and deep) ravines, as well as locations near permanent sources of water (such as lakes, streams, and rivers). From here, the snake is provided a wide array of prey, including small mice, rats, frogs, birds, and the occasional lizard. In the wild, the eyelash viper’s primary enemies consist of humans (who often kill the snake when encountered), as well as large birds and other snakes.

Eyelash Pit Viper Bite Symptoms and Treatment

The eyelash pit viper possesses a remarkably potent venom that consists of hemotoxins, neurotoxins, procoagulants, and hemorrhagic compounds (toxinology.com). Following a bite, symptoms usually begin rapidly and include severe pain, swelling of the wound site, excessive bleeding, defribrination (a depletion of an individual’s coagulant abilities), necrosis, as well as internal bleeding. This is followed by migraine headaches, dizziness, as well as stomach aches and general discomfort. Without treatment, death is possible (and tends to result from intracranial hemorrhaging and/or acute renal failure).

Bites from an eyelash pit viper are considered life-threatening emergencies that require immediate medical assistance (and treatment) for survival. Following admittance to a medical facility, the first line of treatment usually involves pain mitigation therapy (to provide additional comfort to the victim), as well as the utilization of intravenous fluids to maintain proper hydration (Owlcation.com). This is followed by the administration of appropriate antivenoms (which vary depending on the country, age of the victim, and location of the bite). Fortunately, the vast majority of individuals tend to make full recoveries from an eyelash viper bite, however, with long-term complications (such as pain and organ damage) being relatively rare. In spite of this, individuals should continue to exercise extreme caution when entering the habitat of the eyelash viper, as this is a snake that should be avoided at all costs.

Hog-nosed viper.

Hog-nosed viper.

8. Hog-Nosed Viper

  • Average Size: 16 to 24 Inches
  • Geographical Range: Southern Mexico, South America, and Central America
  • Conservation Status: “Least Concern” (Population Stable)

The hog-nosed viper (sometimes referred to as the “hog-nosed pit viper,” “rainforest hog-nosed pit viper,” or “horned hog-nosed viper”) is a species of highly-venomous snake from the Viperidae family. Endemic to Southern Mexico, Central America, and the Northern regions of South America, the hog-nosed viper is a dangerous species that rarely exceeds 2-feet in their overall length. In spite of this small size and stature, they are considered a dangerous snake with the capacity to seriously harm (and kill) humans and should be avoided at all costs. In regard to their physical appearance, the hog-nosed viper can be easily recognized by its stout body, triangular head, blunted nose, short length, and unique coloration that takes on a yellow, orange, light brown, or black hue. As of August 2022, the snake is currently listed by the IUCN as a species of “least concern,” indicating that population numbers are stable at this time (iucn.org).

Natural Habitat

Within Mexico, South America, and Central America, the hog-nosed viper is predominantly found in the Atlantic lowlands, residing in the region’s numerous tropical rainforests. From here, the snake is provided a vast supply of prey, including rats, toads, frogs, lizards, salamanders, and various invertebrates. To date, no specific predators have been identified for this species, with the exception of humans, large birds, and various mammals.

Hog-Nosed Viper Bite Symptoms and Treatment

The hog-nosed viper possesses an incredibly potent venom that is comprised (primarily) of powerful hemotoxins. Following a bite, symptoms usually begin rapidly and include intense pain around the wound site, swelling and inflammation of the extremities, edema, and extreme hemorrhaging (toxinology.com). This is generally followed by severe headaches, stomach discomfort, motor impairment, as well as necrosis of the skin (poison.org). Without appropriate treatment, death is common amongst victims, with intracranial hemorrhaging and acute renal failure being the most common causes of deaths for individuals (toxinology.com).

Bites from a hog-nosed viper are life-threatening emergencies that require immediate medical attention. Although many strikes from this snake result in “dry bites” (indicating that no envenomation took place at all), prompt hospitalization should always be sought to prevent long-term complications (as well as death). As with many snakebites, the first line of treatment for a hog-nosed viper bite includes hospital admittance, the administration of pain-relieving medications, intravenous fluids, as well as oxygen therapy to promote regular and steady breathing. For cases involving extreme envenomation, these procedures will likely be followed by a Polyvalent Antivenom treatment when available. Although while fatality rates are relatively low for most individuals suffering a bite from the hog-nosed viper, it is important to note that long-term complications (such as migraines, swelling, and localized pain) are common with bites from this species. For these reasons, the hog-nosed viper is a beautiful (but incredibly dangerous) snake that should be avoided whenever possible.

Tropical rattlesnake.

Tropical rattlesnake.

7. Tropical Rattlesnake

  • Average Size: 4.9 to 6.2 Feet
  • Geographical Range: Caribbean and South America
  • Conservation Status: “Least Concern” (Population Stable)

The tropical rattlesnake (sometimes referred to as the “South American rattlesnake”) is a species of deadly snake from the Viperidae family. Endemic to much of South America and parts of the Caribbean, the tropical rattlesnake is an incredibly dangerous species capable of inflicting life-threatening wounds with a single bite. As with many rattlesnake species, the animal can be easily identified by its relatively long length (reaching upwards of 4.9 to 6.2-feet at maturity), diamond-like spots, greyish rattle, and unique coloration that takes on a dark brown and yellow hue. As of August 2022, the snake is currently listed as a species of “least concern” by the IUCN, indicating that their population numbers are stable for the time being (iucn.org).

Natural Habitat

Within South America and the Caribbean, the tropical rattlesnake is predominantly found in grasslands, savannas, semi-arid zones, as well as deciduous forests. From here, the snake hunts a variety of rodents, including mice and larger rats. The snake has also been known to consume lizards, toads, and insects when the opportunity arises. To date, no specific predators have been identified for the tropical rattlesnake in the wild; however, humans, various mammals, and larger snakes have been known to actively hunt and kill this species when spotted.

Tropical Rattlesnake Bite Symptoms and Treatment

The tropical rattlesnake possesses a remarkably potent venom that is comprised (primarily) of powerful neurotoxins. Following a bite, both crotoxin and crotamine (which are present in the venom) begin a coordinated attack on the body’s central nervous system, resulting in progressive paralysis, temporary blindness, ptosis (drooping eyelids), and pain in the extremities. This is followed by breathing difficulties, general aches and pain, dark urine, hypotension, and shock. Without treatment, death is common with acute renal failure, respiratory failure, and/or cardiac arrest being the primary cause of death for victims (toxinology.com).

Bites from a tropical rattlesnake are incredibly dangerous and require immediate medical treatment for survival. Unfortunately, this does not always occur, however, as the remote location of the tropical rattlesnake often makes medical care difficult to acquire. If a medical facility can be reached, however, treatment tends to involve a combination of painkilling medication, intravenous fluids (for hydration), and oxygen therapy for those suffering partial paralysis of their lungs (poison.org). This is generally followed by the administration of CroFab Antivenom, as well as dialysis and intubation for individuals suffering kidney problems and respiratory collapse, respectively. Without medical intervention, fatality rates are believed to hover around 72-percent, with 11-percent of individuals perishing that receive medical attention (toxinology.com). For these reasons, the tropical rattlesnake is truly one of the deadliest snakes in Latin America and is worthy of its “number seven” position on our current list.

Mexican coral snake.

Mexican coral snake.

6. Mexican Coral Snake

  • Average Size: 4 to 5 Feet
  • Geographical Range: Southern Texas and Northern Mexico
  • Conservation Status: “Least Concern” (Population Stable)

The Mexican coral snake (sometimes referred to as the “Texas coral snake”) is a species of highly-venomous snake from the Elapidae family. Endemic to Southern Texas as well as Northern (and Central) Mexico, the Mexican coral snake is an incredibly dangerous species renowned for its potent venom. Similar in appearance to other coral snakes, this species can be easily recognized by its black, yellow, and red rings. On average, the Mexican coral snake reaches upwards of 5-feet in length, and possesses smooth scales, a rounded head, as well as rounded pupils. Albino variations of the snake (lacking their black pigment) have been discovered in recent years; however, this phenomenon is considered to be extremely rare. As of August 2022, the Mexican coral snake is currently listed as a species of “least concern” by the IUCN, indicating that its population numbers are stable for the time being (iucn.org).

Natural Habitat

From within Southern Texas and Northern Mexico, the Mexican coral snake is predominantly found in the region’s vast forests, woodlands, grasslands, shrublands, and even deserts. From here, the snake feeds primarily on small earth snakes, lizards, insects, and rodents (on extremely rare occasions). To date, birds (such as hawks and eagles) and other snakes are the main predators for the Mexican coral snake, along with humans who tend to kill the snake indiscriminately when encountered.

Mexican Coral Snake Bite Symptoms and Treatment

As an Elapid species, the Mexican coral snake possesses an extremely potent venom which rivals that of the cobra and black mamba in terms of its toxicity to humans (toxinology.com). Comprised of several neurotoxins, the venom of the Mexican coral snake tends to cause neuromuscular dysfunction in its victims, with symptoms appearing within hours (sometimes as long as a day) after a bite (poison.org). These symptoms include migraine headaches, difficulty breathing, localized pain, nausea, dizziness, and extreme lethargy. Without treatment, death is common, and tends to result from either respiratory or cardiovascular failure (due to the neurotoxin’s paralyzing effects).

In the event of a bite, individuals should seek medical attention immediately, as Mexican coral snake bites are life-threatening emergencies. As with many snakebites, treatment often revolves around making the patient as comfortable as possible, and generally includes intravenous fluids (for hydration purposes), oxygen therapy (in the event of labored breathing), as well as pain-relieving medication. This is typically followed by the administration of coral snake-specific antivenom, along with intubation for individuals suffering paralysis of the lungs (toxinology.com). Antibiotic and anti-tetanus drugs may also be utilized for the purpose of preventing systemic infection. For these reasons, the Mexican coral snake is truly deadly in every sense of the word, and should be avoided whenever possible.

Yucatan Neotropical rattlesnake.

Yucatan Neotropical rattlesnake.

5. Yucatan Neotropical Rattlesnake

  • Average Size: 4.2 to 6 Feet
  • Geographical Range: Mexico and Central America
  • Conservation Status: “Least Concern” (Population Stable)”

The Yucatan Neotropical rattlesnake (also known as the “Central American Rattlesnake,” “Middle American rattlesnake,” or “tzabcan”) is a species of highly-venomous pit viper from the Viperidae family of snake. Endemic to Mexico and Central America (hence its name), the Yucatan Neotropical rattlesnake is a relatively large animal capable of reaching nearly 6-feet in length at maturity (Owlcation.com). Although the Yucatan rattlesnake is renowned for their highly-toxic venom (in relation to humans and animals), the snake is also quite beautiful to behold, and can be easily recognized by its long length, rough-like appearance, flattened nose, blunt head, and unique coloration that takes on a tan and dark brown hue. As of August 2022, the Yucatan Neotropical rattlesnake is currently listed as a species of “least concern” by the IUCN, indicating that their population numbers are both stable and plentiful for the time being (iucn.org).

Natural Habitat

The Yucatan Neotropical rattlesnake is commonly found in forested regions near the Mexican coastline (this includes both wet and dry forests); however, some specimens have even been observed inhabiting dry and semiarid regions, including woodlands, scrub forests, as well as more open (and barren) areas inland. From here, the snake is supplied with a near-constant supply of food, including mice, small rats, various mammals, and the occasional snake in times of extreme hunger. Regarding predation in the wild, the Yucatan Neotropical rattlesnake faces no specific threats (due to its size and potent venom). Nevertheless, large birds have been known to feed on smaller snakes (such as babies) from time to time (reptile-db.com).

Neotropical Rattlesnake Bite Symptoms and Treatment

As with many snakes from the Viperidae family, the Yucatan Neotropical rattlesnake possesses an incredibly potent venom that is comprised of the neurotoxins known as “crotoxin” and “crotamine” (toxinology.com). Regularly cited as one of the most venomous species of rattlesnake in the world, a single bite is capable of disrupting an individual’s entire muscular-skeletal system, causing progressive paralysis, impaired vision (and eventually blindness), auditory dysfunction, ptosis, as well as severe pain in the extremities. As the venom progresses through an individual’s bloodstream and vital organs, bloody urine, heartbeat irregularities, and difficulty breathing are common, with death occurring as a result of kidney failure, complete respiratory failure, or cardiac arrest (toxinology.com).

With a fatality rate of approximately 72-percent (in untreated cases), bites from a Yucatan Neotropical rattlesnake are considered life-threatening emergencies that should be treated promptly be a medical professional. Following hospital admittance, individuals are likely to receive several rounds of Polyvalent Antivenom that works to counteract the effects of the snake’s venom in the bloodstream. This is generally followed by bedrest, palliative care, intravenous fluids, as well as pain-relieving medication in order to make the victim as comfortable as possible (poison.org). For severe cases, intubation (for breathing support), dialysis, and antibiotics may also be administered to prevent long-term complications. Even with treatment, however, mortality rates continue to hover around the 11 to 12-percent range. For these reasons, the Neotropical rattlesnake is a species that should be avoided at all costs.

Lancehead.

Lancehead.

4. Lancehead

  • Average Size: 2.9 to 3.8 Feet
  • Geographical Range: Brazil
  • Conservation Status: “Critically Endangered” (Population in Extreme Decline)

The lancehead (also known as the “golden lancehead”) is a species of highly-venomous snake from the Viperidae family. Endemic to Brazil, the species is regularly classified as one of Latin America’s most venomous snakes, with the potential to seriously harm (and kill) an adult human or child. Observers can easily identify this particular species due to its yellowish-brown coloration, as well as its triangular blotches that adorn its back. Likewise, heads on the lancehead are generally elongated in their appearance, coming to a point at the nose. On average, most lanceheads reach an overall length of approximately 35 to 46-inches at maturity, making the animal relatively small when compared to similar species. As of August 2022, this species is currently listed as “critically endangered” by the IUCN, indicating that their population numbers in the wild are in dramatic decline (iucn.org).

Natural Habitat

Within Brazil, the lancehead is located exclusively on the Brazilian island, Ilha da Queimade Grande, and is commonly found near moist forests, clearings, and rocky outcroppings. From here, the lancehead hunts for a variety of prey, including various perching birds and lizards. The snake is also known to exhibit cannibalistic traits, as they regularly consume juvenile lancehead snakes when the occasion presents itself. To date, no specific predators have been observed for the lancehead, as their remote location places them outside the territory of larger mammals and birds (worldatlas.com).

Lancehead Bite Symptoms and Treatment

The lancehead possesses an extremely potent venom that is comprised of various hemotoxins which affect an individual’s red blood cells, blood vessels, and circulatory system (poison.org). Following a bite, symptoms usually begin within moments and include localized swelling, extreme pain, nausea, vomiting, as well as blistering and bruising of the wound site. This is generally followed by intestinal bleeding, bloody vomit (and urine), as well as severe hemorrhaging. Without treatment, death is common for individuals, and typically results from a combination of kidney failure, brain hemorrhaging, and/or cardiac arrest.

Bites from a lancehead are considered life-threatening emergencies that require immediate medical treatment for survival. Standard treatment (following admittance to a medical facility) typically involves several rounds of Polyvalent Antivenom to prevent further damage from the snake’s venom (toxinology.com). This is generally followed by several days of bedrest, antibiotic therapy, as well as intravenous fluids and pain medication to make the patient as comfortable as possible. As of August 2022, no specific studies have been conducted to determine the lancehead’s mortality rates; however, the numbers are expected to be high, as fatality rates are approximately 3 to 5-percent for individuals that have received treatment (toxinology.com). For these reasons, individuals should exercise extreme care when travelling through the lancehead’s natural habitat, as this species is highly-dangerous to humans and animals alike.

Yellow-bellied sea snake.

Yellow-bellied sea snake.

3. Yellow-Bellied Sea Snake

  • Average Size: 2.2 to 3 Feet
  • Geographical Range: Costa Rica, Southern California, Northern Peru, and Indo-Pacific
  • Conservation Status: “Least Concern” (Population Stable)

The yellow-bellied sea snake is a species of highly-venomous snake from the Elapidae family. Endemic to the tropical waters surrounding South America (and various parts of the Pacific Ocean), the yellow-bellied sea snake is a relatively small species capable of reaching upwards of 3-feet at maturity. Renowned for their beautiful and striking appearance, the animal can be easily identified by their dark brown (sometimes black) bodies, yellow underbelly (as their name implies), and paddle-like tails that provide them with extra mobility in the water. As of August 2022, the yellow-bellied sea snake is currently listed as a species of “least concern” by the IUCN, indicating that their population is stable and abundant for the time being. Nevertheless, researchers are quick to point out that this classification could easily change in the near future, as indiscriminate killing of this species (by humans) appears to be on the rise worldwide (iucn.org).

Natural Habitat

Within its natural habitat, the yellow-bellied sea snake is predominantly found near oceanic drift lines as they utilize oceanic currents to move around the water. Favoring the warmer waters of South America, the animal is commonly seen near coastal regions where the water is shallower and prey is abundant. Common food for this species includes a variety of small pelagic fish, which the animal catches through ambush techniques (Owlcation.com). To date, no specific predators have been identified for this species in the wild, as their powerful (and potent) bites are capable of warding off even the most determined of predators.

Yellow-Bellied Sea Snake Bite Symptoms and Treatment

The deadly yellow-bellied sea snake is an incredibly dangerous snake renowned for its powerful venom that is comprised of multiple neurotoxins and two separate isotoxins (Owlcation.com). Yielding approximately 1 to 4 milligrams of venom per strike, extreme envenomation is common for bites, with the muscular-skeletal system being the primary area affected by the venom. Following a bite, symptoms usually begin rapidly and include drooping eyelids, lethargy, nausea (and vomiting), abdominal pain, muscle pain, as well as general weakness in the body. In later stages of its progression, symptoms progress to muscular paralysis, renal damage, and myoglobinuria. Without treatment, death via cardiac arrest, kidney failure, and/or respiratory collapse is highly-likely (Owlcation.com).

As with all of the snakes appearing on our current list, bites from a yellow-bellied sea snake are almost always life-threatening, and require immediate medical care to prevent long-term complications or death. If medical care can be sought in a timely manner, the first round of treatment generally involves multiple rounds of Polyvalent Antivenom or Commonwealth Serum Sea Snake Antivenom to prevent further damage to the body. This is usually followed by intravenous fluids (for hydration), the administration of pain relievers, bedrest, and several days’ worth of antibiotic therapy. In extreme cases, intubation may also be necessary, along with dialysis, and/or oxygen therapy. Fortunately, bites are extremely rare for this species due to the animal’s remote location, shy nature, and extremely small fangs (which make piercing the skin of humans and bodysuits difficult). Nevertheless, the yellow-bellied sea snake is a species that should be avoided whenever possible, as crossing their paths could prove deadly to bystanders.

2. Bushmaster

  • Average Size: 6.5 to 8 Feet
  • Geographical Range: Trinidad and South America
  • Conservation Status: Unknown (Insufficient Data)

The deadly bushmaster (also known as the “Southern American bushmaster,” or “Atlantic bushmaster”) is a species of highly-venomous snake from the Viperidae family. Endemic to Central America, South America, and the island nation of Trinidad, the bushmaster is an incredibly dangerous species renowned for its potent venom, painful bites, and remarkable size. Reaching an average length of approximately 6.5 to 8 feet at maturity (making it the longest venomous snake in the Western Hemisphere), the snake can be easily identified by its stocky body, broad head, diamond-shaped bands, as well as their unique coloration that takes on a reddish-brown or pinkish-grey hue. In regard to current conservation efforts, very little is known about the bushmaster’s population numbers as no specific study has been undertaken by the IUCN to determine their prevalence in the wild (iucn.org). Due to their remote location, however, population figures are expected to be both stable and abundant at this time.

Natural Habitat

Within Central America and South America, the bushmaster is predominantly found in the region’s forests, scrublands, and river basins where natural cover (and water) is both abundant and plentiful. From here, the bushmaster is provided a wide array of potential prey, including small mice, rats, small rabbits, birds, lizards, and other snakes. Due to their large size (and potent venom), predators are few and far between for this species, with humans and birds of prey being their primary threat in the wild.

Bushmaster Bite Symptoms and Treatment

The bushmaster is an incredibly deadly snake with a venom that is comprised of various neurotoxins and hemotoxins that affect an individual’s circulatory system, as well as the muscular-skeletal system (toxinology.com). Following a bite, symptoms usually begin rapidly due to the high-venom yield of this snake (in the vicinity of 200 to 411 milligrams per bite). Among the most cited symptoms are necrosis of the wound site, extreme pain, hypotension, vertigo, bradycardia (slow heartbeat), nausea, extreme vomiting, and diarrhea. Without rapid treatment, symptoms quickly progress to more serious issues such as systemic hemorrhaging, shock, and renal damage. Death can occur in as little as 15 minutes, with cardiac arrest, uncontrollable bleeding, and acute kidney failure cited as the primary culprits.

With a fatality rate of nearly 80-percent (in both treated and untreated patients), bites from a bushmaster are considered life-threatening and require immediate treatment for survival. The first line of treatment (following hospital admittance) generally involves multiple rounds of Polyvalent Antivenom to prevent further damage to the victim’s organs and circulatory system. This is followed by intravenous fluids, pain relieving medication, as well as bedrest to provide maximum comfort to the patient. In extreme cases of envenomation (which occurs in nearly every bushmaster bite), oxygen therapy, intubation, dialysis, and antibiotic therapy are also common for individuals in order to prevent organ failure, aid in breathing, and to prevent secondary infections from setting in. In spite of this, 60 to 80-percent of individuals bitten by the bushmaster will still die from their wound, as their venom is poorly understood in the scientific community, resulting in the absence of effective antivenoms in the healthcare industry. For these reasons, the bushmaster is a species that should be both respected and feared as their bites carry a high-risk of death for animals and humans alike.

Fer-de-Lance.

Fer-de-Lance.

1. Fer-de-Lance

  • Average Size: 5.9 to 8.2 Feet
  • Geographical Range: Southern Mexico and South America
  • Conservation Status: “Least Concern” (Population Stable)

The fer-de-lance (also known as the “bothrops asper”) is a highly-venomous pit viper from the Viperidae family of snakes. Endemic to Southern Mexico and the Northern regions of South America, the fer-de-lance is an incredibly dangerous species with the potential to inflict serious harm (or death) on humans with a single bite. Regularly classified as the most dangerous snake in Latin America, the fer-de-lance is a relatively large animal reaching an impressive 5.9-feet in length at maturity. Apart from their tremendous size, they can be easily identified by their thick bodies, broad (yet flattened) heads, along with their olive, grey, or brown coloration. Unique to the fer-de-lance is a series of blotches (or streaks) that take on a triangular shape and pattern. These patterns vary between grey, brown, or yellow in their coloration.

Natural Habitat

Throughout Mexico and South America, the fer-de-lance is commonly found at higher altitudes (in the vicinity of 3,900 to 8,200 feet). In these areas, the snake is commonly found in moist environments, such as rainforests, and the region’s pine forests that are often near lakes, rivers, or streams. These habitats provide the fer-de-lance with a wide array of prey, as well as concealment from natural predators. Common dietary options include small mammals (such as mice), insects, toads, lizards, and other snakes. Cannibalism is also relatively common with this species, as they are an opportunistic feeder.

Fer-de-Lance Bite Symptoms and Treatment

The fer-de-lance possesses an extremely toxic venom that is fatal for most victims (if left untreated). As a snake that is encountered often by humans in the wild, the animal is incredibly dangerous and poses a tremendous threat to those who encroach upon its territory. This is made worse by the fact that the fer-de-lance is incredibly aggressive, easily irritated, fast-moving, and unpredictable. Some have even been observed ejecting venom over 6-feet away (similar to the spitting cobra).

Following a bite, symptoms usually begin rapidly, and include extreme pain, localized swelling, as well as bruising, numbness, and blisters around the wound site. This is generally followed by migraine headaches, fever, as well as bleeding from the nose and gumline (toxinology.com). Without treatment, hypotension, impaired consciousness, as well as swelling in the spleen are common, followed by acute kidney failure, hyperkalemia, intracranial hemorrhaging, as well as sepsis (leading to death).

Due to the toxic nature of their venom, a bite from the fer-de-lance should be considered a life-threatening emergency that requires immediate medical treatment for survival. Standard treatment includes hospital admittance, pain mitigation therapy, as well as several rounds of antivenom to combat the toxins present in the victim’s bloodstream. This is usually followed by palliative care, bedrest, and intravenous fluids to maintain adequate hydration. For those able to receive immediate medical care, fatality rates are nearly 0-percent (toxinology.com). In cases involving severe envenomation (or prolonged exposure to the venom), however, fatalities rates are much higher. Amputations are also extremely common for this species, as their venom wreaks havoc on local skin tissue and muscles. For these reasons, the fer-de-lance is truly the deadliest (and most dangerous) snake in Latin America.

Works Cited

Articles/Books:

Images/Photographs:

  • Pixabay Commons.
  • Unsplash Commons.
  • Wikimedia Commons.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Larry Slawson

Related Articles