DID YOU SEE THAT?
SNAKE!?!

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This page is done a little differently because of the importance of your knowledge of this topic. It CAN be a matter of life and death. It is known that worldwide thousands of people die each year from snake bites. However, most snakes are NOT poisonous! There are possibly 700 species of snakes in Guatemala and only a few of them are venomous: Coral, Guatemalan palm-pitviper, Barb amarillo, Tamagas, Green-headed tree snake and some of these are not even close to fatal.

Snakes played an important role in Mayan mythology. The serpent was a very important social and religious symbol, revered by the Maya. Maya mythology describes serpents as being the vehicles by which celestial bodies, such as the sun and stars, cross the heavens. The shedding of their skin made them a symbol of rebirth and renewal. To read more about this click here.

Now, getting back to snakes you may see here! It isn't easy to identify a poisonous snake. The triangular head, which many people think are a giveaway sign, is also common in non-poisonous snakes, while the red coral snake, one of the most poisonous, has a pointed head which can hardly be differentiated from its neck. If you have ANY doubts, avoid them all!!! But try not to disturb them anyway; 80% of snake bites happen when someone is trying to kill one or pick one up. I have handled venomous snakes for years and fortunately only been bitten twice. Once to carelessness, the other to distractions of people around getting in the way.

Even the most aggressive snakes can be quite harmless if you do not disturb ANY of them. To make sure you don't bother them, take the following precautions.

    • When possible, stay on trails and look where you are going when walking in areas that snakes may live.

    • When stepping over tree trunks or fallen trees, make sure that there isn't a snake on the other side waiting for you. If you are climbing up walls or walking over rocks, make sure that there isn't a snake in the hole where you are putting your hand or foot.

    • When you walk in areas with undergrowth, chop at the vegetation with a machete, or make visual contact with a walking stick with the ground where you are about to step, this will scare the snakes. At least it will uncover them from their hiding spot so you can avoid them.

    • When walking close to trees or rocky walls, apply the same precautions and avoid gaps and holes. Make sure you don't put your hands into those holes before checking that they are free of something that will bite or sting.

    • Don't put your hands under rocks or logs. If you have to move them, push them with a stick or something first.

    • When going into an area where they live, wear thick-soled shoes or high boots. Remember that 80% of snake bites are made below the knee.

      If you do get bitten by a snake...

    • Snake poison has one of two effects: hemorrahagic or neutotoxic. The first affects the coagulation of the blood; the second paralyzes the victim. All snakes have both of these components, though they vary in the amount.

    • Keep calm! Snake poison is not as violent as people make it out to be and panic is responsible for most complications. You have up to 36 hours in most cases to act, but the quicker you get to a doctor, the better.

I have put this section together with snakes that are both venomous and non-venomous according to their appearance so you can see the similarities and KNOW the differences. There is a general informative blurb after the picture and if you click on the picture you can see a better picture of it.

Co
Species: Leptotyphlops humilis
Family: Anomalepididae
Common name: Blind snake, Worm snake, Primitive blind snake, thread snake
Distribution: Southern Central America and South America.
Habitat: Primarily below ground and been found cruising around as deep as 66 feet underground, but also beneath rocks, logs, and piles of leaves.
Microhabitat: Terrestrial and semi-fossorial.
Activity: Mostly nocturnal. Usually appears on the surface when the soil is too wet and when the earth revolves.
Food: ants, termites and their larvae, worms.
Reproduction: Oviparous.
Guatemalan legends and popular beliefs: I don't know of any legends on this snake, only that most people believe all snakes are venomous and will kill any when they see one.
Comments: This is the smallest snake in the world! The Scolecophidia are an infraorder of snakes. At first glance you will think they are only a worm as they range in size from 10-100 cm in length, but may only be as small as 2 mm. All are fossorial. Currently, 3 families and 12 genera are recognized. Click on the image to learn more.
Non venomous

Co
Species: Drymarchon melanurus
Family: Colubridae
Common name: Indigo snake
Distribution: Indigo snakes (Drymarchon) are a genus of large non-venomous colubrid snakes found in Southeastern United States, Central America, and South America. Three to four species are currently recognized.
Habitat: Any terrestrial habitat. 0-1,650 m.
Microhabitat: Terrestrial and semi-fossorial.
Activity: Mostly nocturnal.
Food: worms, Small vertebrates.
Reproduction: Oviparous.
Comments: Of all the snakes NOT to be afraid of and just try to kill this is the one. The snake is an overall coppery color, with distinctive diagonal black lines on the sides of the neck. Downward pointing black lines can be found under the eye as well. The body gradually darkens, which results in a dark to black tail. Indigo snakes are diurnal and actively forage for prey. They feed on a broad variety of small animals such as rodents, birds, lizards, frogs, toads, and other snakes, including rattlesnakes. They are not aggressive snakes and will only bite when threatened. Typical threat display includes hissing and shaking of its tail as a warning.
Non venomous

Co
Species: Nina sebae
Family: Colubridae
Common name: Coffee snake.
Distribution: .
Habitat: Any terrestrial habitat. 0-1,650 m.
Microhabitat: Terrestrial and semi-fossorial.
Activity: Mostly nocturnal.
Food: worms, Small vertebrates.
Reproduction: Oviparous.
Guatemalan legends and popular beliefs: Many associate any snake that is red, black and yellow to be a coral snake and extremely dangerous. This is NOT true, here are two highly beneficial snakes along with the coral so you can see the difference.
Comments: Popular pet.
Non venomous

Co
Species: Lampropeltis triangulum
Family: Colubridae
Common name: Coral, coralillo, milk snake.
Distribution: Ontario and Quebec, Canada, to northern South America.
Habitat: Any terrestrial habitat. 0-1,650 m.
Microhabitat: Terrestrial and semi-fossorial.
Activity: Mostly nocturnal.
Food: Small vertebrates.
Reproduction: Oviparous.
Guatemalan legends and popular beliefs: can feed on cow and human milk from lactating mothers while they are asleep.
Comments: Popular pet.
Non venomous

Coral Snake
Species: Micrurus nigrocinctus
Family: Elapidae
Common name: Coral, coralillo, coral snake.
Distribution: Low to moderate elevations from Chiapas, Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize to northern South America.
Habitat: Virgin or human altered areas. 0-1,500 m.
Microhabitat: Terrestrial and fossorial.
Activity:
Crepuscular and nocturnal.
Food:
Primarily small snakes.
Reproduction: Oviparous.
Guatemalan legends and popular beliefs: Believed to sting with tail due by its defensive posture of coiling and slashing it over its body.
Comments: It is commonly found inside leaf-cutting ant mounds.
Venomous


Parot Snake

Species:
Oxybelis fulgidus
Family: Colubridae
Common name: Green Vine Snake.
Distribution: The Green Vine Snake, Oxybelis fulgidus, is a long, slender arboreal Colubrid snake that inhabits Central America and northern South America.
Habitat: Rain and very humid forests. 0-1,000 m.
Microhabitat: Arboreal.
Activity: Diurnal.
Food: The green vine snake stays high on trees and looks down to the ground. When a mouse, lizard or nest is found the snake follows the prey a short distance and smells it carefully. If the snake is content with it, it bites into the head and lifts the prey 20-40 cm from the ground. With this the snakes prevents the prey from using its physical strength. The vine snake has two larger teeth at the back of its mouth; these teeth permit the toxic saliva to penetrate the wounds and to immobilize the prey. Then it is rapidly swallowed. Once the prey is completely in the snakes body, the vine snake searches for a resting place, usually in the highest point of a tree.
Reproduction: Oviparous.
Comments: Beautiful snake that is slender, about 2 cm thick, and may have a length of about 1.5 to 2 meters.
Non venomous


Parot Snake

Species: Leptophis ahaetulla
Family: Colubridae
Common name: Parrot snake, ranera verde.
Distribution: Low elevations from central Veracruz, on the Atlantic, to southern South America.
Habitat: Rain and very humid forests. 0-1,000 m.
Microhabitat: Arboreal.
Activity: Diurnal.
Food: Frogs, birds, and lizards.
Reproduction: Oviparous.
Comments: Beautiful snake that reaches almost 2.5 m in total length.
Non venomous


Parot Snake

Species: Drymobius margaritiferus
Family: Colubridae
Common name: Speckled Racer.
Distribution: North, Central and South America.
Habitat: Variety of both forested and open habitats. Often close to water.
Microhabitat: Arboreal.
Activity: Diurnal.
Food: Frogs, toads, lizards, reptile eggs, small mammals.
Reproduction: Oviparous.
Comments: Beautifully colorful snake that reaches almost 2.5 m in total length. The specific name, margariiferus, means "pearl-bearing" in Latin, referring to the pearl-like spots on the dorsal scales.
Non venomous

Species: leptophis mexicanus
Family: Colubridae
Common name: Ranera de cabeza verde, ranera de dorso bronce, green-headed tree snake.
Distribution: From Tamaulipas and the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, Mexico, to South America. 0-1,500 m.
Habitat: Primary and secondary forests, and swampy areas.
Microhabitat: Mostly arboreal.
Activity: Diurnal.
Food: Frogs, lizards, and small birds.
Reproduction: Oviparous.
Guatemalan legends and popular beliefs: That all snakes are poisionous and dangerous!
Comments: Beautiful and common snake.
Mildly venomous, it's bite can cause swelling and pain similar to a wasp sting.

 Snake

Species: Bothriechis bicolor
Family: Viperidae
Common name: Gushnayera, lora, cantil verde, Guatemalan palm-pitviper.
Distribution: Moderate to intermediate elevations from southern Chiapas, Mexico, to southern Guatemala. Disjunct populations in northern Honduras.
Habitat: Cloud forests. 500-2,000 m.
Microhabitat: Primarily arboreal.
Activity: Probably diurnal.
Food: Small vertebrates.
Reproduction: Viviparous.
Comments: Commonly found in old or shade coffee plantations.
Venomous

Fer de Lance

Species:
Bothrops asper
Family: Viperidae
Common name: Ik'bolay, barba amarilla, devanador, cantil cola de hueso, fer-de-lance.
Distribution: Low and moderate elevations from Mexico to northern South America
Habitat: Humid areas. 0-1,150 m.
Microhabitat: Terrestrial
Activity: Nocturnal.
Food: Vertebrates, primarily rodents. Juveniles may consume insects and other invertebrates.
Reproduction: Viviparous, up to 90 young per parturition.
Guatemalan legends and popular beliefs:
Comments: The snake that causes more envenomation accidents in Central America and northern South America. In Guatemala it is involved in more than one thousand serious bites inflicted to humans, many of them fatal. It is extremely abundant in palm plantations and rice paddies. It can reach more than 2.5 m long. Click on the picture to see one that Freddy ran across while clearing the lot next door (Freddy is over 6 foot tall)!
Extremely venomous

 Snake

Species:
Cerrophidion godmani
Family: Viperidae
Common name: Sheta, cantil, tamagás, Godman's montane pitviper.
Distribution: Intermediate and high elevations from south eastern Oaxaca, Mexico, to western Panama.
Habitat: Dry or humid areas. 1,520-3,500 m.
Microhabitat: Terrestrial.
Activity: Diurnal and nocturnal.
Food: Vertebrates and insects.
Reproduction: Viviparous.
Guatemalan legends and popular beliefs:
Comments: The common viper on the highlands of Guatemala.
Venomous

 Snake

Species:
Senticolis triaspis
Family: Colubridae
Common name: Ratonera, Olive rat snake.
Distribution: Low and moderate elevations from Arizona, USA, to northwestern Costa Rica.
Habitat: Dry and seasonal areas. 0-1,500 m.
Microhabitat: Terrestrial and arboreal.
Activity: Diurnal and nocturnal.
Food: Small lizards and mammals.
Reproduction: Oviparous.
Comments: Juveniles can be beautifully colored with orange blotches.
Non venomous

 Snake

Species: Spilotes pullatus
Family: Colubridae
Common name: Locally called "Chichicúa", Mexican Rat snake, Tiger Rat snake, Tropical Rat snake, Tropical Chicken snake and, Thunder and Lightning snake.
Distribution: southern Central America, northern South America and Trinidad and Tobago. Costa Rica.
Habitat: forested areas
Microhabitat: Terrestrial and arboreal.
Activity: Diurnal and nocturnal.
Food: Small mammals, birds and lizards.
Reproduction: Oviparous.
Comments: Juveniles can be beautifully colored with orange blotches.
Non venomous

Coral Snake

Species: B. constrictor
Family: Boidae
Common name: jibóia
Distribution: Low elevations from Izabal, Guatemala to northern South America.
Habitat: Rain and very humid forests. 0-100 m (in Guatemala).
Microhabitat: Arboreal.
Activity: Nocturnal.
Food: Small mammals, birds, and lizards.
Reproduction: Ovoviviparous, females give birth to live young that average 15-20 inches (38-51 cm) in length.
Guatemalan legends and popular beliefs:
Comments: Recently discovered in Guatemala.