Below you will learn about the types of snakes found on the Cayman Islands.
Because of the geographic isolation of the islands, there are not as many snake species as you might expect here.
5 SNAKES that live in the Cayman Islands:
#1. Grand Cayman Racer
- Cubophis caymanus
Found only on the Cayman Islands.
- Adults average 2 to 3 feet in length but may grow to 5 feet or more.
- Their coloration is typically reddish brown but may vary from light to dark brown or gray with a pale or pink underside.
- Their scales may be black-edged or black-tipped, and they may have pink scales flecked on their sides and black spots that include one to several scales on their backs.
Grand Cayman Racers get their name from their slender bodies and fast-moving nature. They feed on frogs, lizards, and juvenile iguanas. Large individuals have been known to occasionally prey on green iguanas. They have venom that helps them subdue their prey.
Luckily for us, their venom is weak and harmless to humans. While they can bite, these snakes typically flee when threatened. If cornered, they flatten their heads to intimidate predators. If grabbed, they may excrete a foul-smelling chemical in hopes you drop them!
Grand Cayman Racers are killed in the Cayman Islands by crabs, birds, cars, and people who mistake them for dangerous snakes. Grand Cayman Racers are listed as a species of least concern on the IUCN Red List. They are protected under the National Conservation Law.
#2. Cayman Islands Dwarf Boa
- Tropidophis caymanensis
Found only on the Cayman Islands.
- Adults are usually 1 to 2 feet in length.
- Adults may be pale to light or dark brown and have dark diamond patterning down their backs.
- They have a pale cream or yellow tail tip.
Nicknamed the “lazy snake” or the “friendly snake” on the Cayman Islands, these boas are very slow-moving and docile. As a result, they are completely harmless to humans. Unfortunately, with their diamond patterning and yellow tail tip, which can superficially resemble a rattle, people often mistake them for rattlesnakes and kill them.
Cayman Islands Dwarf Boas are nocturnal and predominantly terrestrial. They prey on small vertebrates, particularly frogs and lizards. Interestingly, these snakes are known to have the ability to alter their color throughout the day. Their coloration tends to lighten during active nighttime hours and darken when resting during the day.
You’re most likely to see these snakes out near dawn or dusk after a rain. If threatened, Cayman Islands Dwarf Boas have an incredible defense mechanism. They are able to produce blood in their eyes, mouth, and nostrils!
Cayman Islands Dwarf Boas are listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List due to habitat loss.
#3. Cayman Water Snake
- Tretanorhinus variabilis lewisi
A subspecies of the Caribbean Water Snake.
- 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.
Cayman Water Snakes are mostly aquatic. They are typically only observed on land in the Cayman Islands 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 and spend much of their time in the Cayman Islands buried in the mud at the bottom of ponds. They may occasionally be observed surfacing for oxygen or swimming along the surface. Cayman Water Snakes feed primarily on crustaceans, frogs, and small fish.
#4. Corn Snake
- Pantherophis guttatus
- Adults range from 24 to 72 inches in length.
- Coloration is orangish-brown with black-bordered orange, red, or brownish blotches and a spear-shaped pattern on the head and neck.
- The underside usually has a black and white checkerboard pattern which may have some orange.
Unfortunately, these snakes are invasive to the Cayman Islands!
Corn Snakes are native to the southwestern United States. Due to their docile nature, they are incredibly popular as pets. Sadly, irresponsible pet owners let them escape, and now they have established a breeding population, which puts pressure on native snake populations in the Cayman Islands.
Corn Snakes got their name because of their frequent presence near corn storage areas due to an abundance of rodents hanging out at these locations. However, some sources maintain that they were named for the pattern on their underside, which sometimes looks like kernels of bi-color corn.
Corn Snakes prey on rodents, lizards, frogs, and birds and their eggs. These snakes are constrictors that squeeze and asphyxiate larger prey, but small prey may be swallowed whole without constriction.
If disturbed in the wild, they may vibrate their tail and lift the front of their body into an S-shape to appear more threatening. If grabbed or pinned, it’s not out of the question for them to bite their attacker, but they typically calm down quickly when being held.
#5. Brahminy Blindsnake
- Indotyphlops braminus
Found on the Caymans Islands, Puerto Rico, and St. Croix.
- Adults are 5.1-10.2 cm (2-4 in) long.
- Their coloring varies; charcoal gray, light yellow-beige, silver-gray, purplish, and white are common.
- The body shape is worm-like, and they are easily mistaken for earthworms.
You will probably never see this snake in the Cayman Islands.
They spend almost all their time underground in ant and termite nests and live under logs, moist leaves, and stones. Look for them in urban gardens and moist forests.
The Brahminy Blindsnake, as its name suggests, is almost completely blind. It has small, translucent eyes that can detect light but not form images. This snake species is not native to the Cayman Islands. Instead, it arrived here by being transported in the soil of potted plants, which has earned them the nickname “Flowerpot Snake.”
When distressed or attacked, the Brahminy Blindsnake will try to escape underground. If touched, it might press its tail on the attacker and release a smelly musk. Despite its rather creepy appearance, this snake is completely harmless to humans.