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Snakes of Central America

Central America Snakes: The Scaly and the Slithery


Central America Snakes

Central America Snake at the Santa Elena Serpentario

Bryson Allen
Yes, there are snakes in Central America.

Plenty, in fact. In Costa Rica alone, there are 135 species of snake. Out of these, 17 varieties are venomous members of the Viper and Coral Snake families. The deadliest Central America snake is the Pacific sea snake, but don’t flee the water just yet — it tends to keep to itself.

Coral Snakes easiest to recognize: they’re always brightly colored in an arrangement of black, red, yellow or white. Vipers, such as the rattlesnake and the earth-colored fer-de-lance (or teriopelo) are typically less ostentatious, but can be even more dangerous.

It’s important to remember that a snake’s venom exists to help it immobilize and digest prey. Fortunately, that’s not you. Therefore, snakes in Central America have no interest in attacking if they don’t feel they are danger. If you see one (and it’s very unlikely), the best thing to do is to walk—swiftly and smoothly—in the opposite direction.

Tropical naturalist Marc Egger offers advice for the unlucky ones who suffer a snakebite:

The standard procedure is to kill the snake and take it with you for identification. Immobilize the victim and try to keep them calm. (The slower the metabolism, the slower the spread of the venom) Then proceed to the nearest hospital, which should have antivenin. A snake bite by a poisonous snake will only begin to have serious systemic manifestations after 2-5 hours.

Apparently, fatalities only occur in the remotest of regions, because there isn’t time to reach a hospital for antivenin. Luckily, the vast majority of snakes in Central America are harmless, and many are fantastically beautiful. A great (and safe) place to view snakes in Costa Rica are the Serpentarios in San Jose and in Santa Elena, a village that borders the Monteverde Cloudforest.

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