Below you will learn about the types of snakes found in Cuba.
Because of the geographic isolation of the islands, there are not as many snake species as you might expect here.
6 SNAKES that live in Cuba:
#1. Caribbean Water Snake
- Tretanorhinus variabilis
- Adults average 23.6 inches long from snout to vent.
- Adults’ coloration may be gray to dark olive brown or black, and they may have blackish-brown crossbars on their backs.
- Their gray to black undersides may feature sparsely scattered cream-colored patches.
Caribbean Water Snakes are mostly aquatic. They are typically only observed on land after heavy rains, moving from one body of water to the next. Unlike sea snakes, Caribbean Water Snakes only inhabit fresh, brackish, or saline ponds. As they can tolerate some salt water, scientists have posited that this species may have arrived on the islands long ago with flotsam or floating debris during storms.
These nonvenomous snakes are harmless to humans in Cuba and spend much of their time buried in the mud at the bottom of ponds. They may occasionally be observed surfacing for oxygen or swimming along the surface. Caribbean Water Snakes feed primarily on crustaceans, frogs, and small fish.
Caribbean Water Snakes are listed as a species of least concern on the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species.
#2. Cuban Racer
- Cubophis cantherigerus
Found ONLY in Cuba.
These brown and grayish snakes can be found in Cuba in many habitats, from pristine forests to human-altered areas. They’re primarily terrestrial but may climb trees up to 32 feet up.
Cuban Racers are diurnal and feed on various vertebrates, including frogs, lizards, turtles, other snakes, birds, and mammals. They have occasionally been known to feed on the chicks of domestic poultry.
Cuban Racers are fast-moving and typically flee from threats. If cornered, these snakes put on a cobra-like display by lifting the front third of their body, flattening their head, and opening their mouth. If grabbed, they try to rotate quickly, struggle intensely, and often release their foul-smelling scent glands and may bite.
Interestingly, there have been a few documented cases of these snakes using a body-bending defense when approached. They contort their body into small bends and flatten themselves dorsoventrally. In this position, they look very similar to the Monkey Ladder Vine (Bauhinia glabra), a native Cuban vine with a peculiar, flattened, bent stem. Monkey Ladder Vine stems are usually grayish or brown, just like these snakes.
Cuban Racers are listed as a species of least concern on the IUCN Red List.
#3. Cuban Tree Boa
- Chilabothrus angulifer
Found only in Cuba.
- Adults typically average about 12 feet in length, but the largest individual recorded was 18.5 feet long.
- Coloration is yellow-brown to dark brown with staggered, dark brown, or black rhombic spots on their back and sides.
- They may appear shiny, especially if they have recently molted.
The Cuban Tree Boa is the largest snake in Cuba!
These massive snakes, also called Cuban Boas, inhabit various types of forests, including cloud forests, rainforests, evergreen forests, coastal scrub forests, thorn forests, and semi-deciduous forests. They can be found at elevations from sea level up to 3,983 ft. They are semi-arboreal and surprisingly skilled climbers.
These snakes are apex predators in Cuba. Depending on an individual’s size, age, and health, they may take various prey, including frogs, lizards, snakes, turtles, aquatic birds, raptors, domestic poultry, forest birds, bats, rabbits, hutias, rats, and pigs.
Male Cuban Tree Boas mate yearly and may fight other males for females. Females breed every other year and give birth to up to 22 live young in the fall. Young males reach reproductive maturity at three years, while females reach maturity at five. In the wild, these snakes have been known to live for more than 30 years and still reproduce.
Cuban Tree Boas are listed as a species of least concern on the IUCN Red List.
#4. Cuban Dwarf Boa
- Tropidophis melanurus
Also known as the Cuban Wood Snake, Dusky Dwarf Boa, or the Cuban Giant Dwarf Boa.
Found only in Cuba.
- Adults typically range from 32 to 39 inches in length.
- Their coloration is typically tan, reddish brown, or brown, and they may have darker markings.
The Cuban Dwarf Boa can be found in Cuba from sea level to elevations up to 4242 feet.
They are nocturnal and feed on lizards and amphibians by constriction. If threatened, they may ball up and release a foul-smelling cloacal discharge or auto-hemorrhage, meaning that they produce blood from their eyes, nose, and mouth.
Cuban Dwarf Boas are listed as a species of least concern on the IUCN Red List.
#5. Cuban Lesser Racer
- Caraiba andreae
Found only in Cuba.
- Adults may grow up to 25.8 inches long.
- They have black backs with yellow spots on each side and white on their upper lip.
- They have a white underside with black markings.
Also known as the Black and White Racer, these snakes occupy scrubland and forest habitats up to 3600 feet of elevation. They are nonvenomous and harmless to humans. Cuban Lesser Racers typically feed on frogs and small lizards such as anoles.
Despite being one of the most common snakes in Cuba, they haven’t been well studied. Breeding and subsequent hatching appear to occur during the summer rainy season. Some observations indicated that one parent might guard the clutch.
The Cuban Lesser Racer is listed as a species of least concern on the IUCN Red List.
#6. Oriente Brown-capped Racerlet
- Arrhyton redimitum
Found only on Cuba.
- Adults average about 7 inches in length.
- Coloration is typically brownish-gray and lighter beneath.
- The crown is covered by a large liver-brown spot, with three dark lines extending down its body and tail.
Their scientific name “redimitum” is derived from the Latin “redimiculum,” meaning headband, which refers to their distinctive head marking.
Oriente Brown-capped Racerlets are listed as a species of least concern on the IUCN