5 Types of Snakes Found on the Virgin Islands! (2024)

Below you will learn about the types of snakes found in the Virgin 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 Virgin Islands:

#1. Puerto Rican Racer

  • Borikenophis portoricensis

snakes in the virgin islands

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults may grow to be three feet long.
  • They have brown scales that are edged with darker brown.
  • They have a neck hood, similar to a cobra but narrower.

Puerto Rican Racers are diurnal, largely terrestrial snakes in the Virgin Islands that feed on lizards and small rodents. They bite their prey and use venom to hinder it. They typically move their prey to a secondary location before feeding.

Interestingly, Puerto Rican Racers possess a narrow neck hood similar to a cobra. These snakes can display this hood by raising the front part of their body off the ground. However, Puerto Rican Racers only display this hood if they’ve been provoked and are getting ready to strike.

While their venom is highly effective on small vertebrates, no fatalities have been reported from humans being bitten by Puerto Rican Racers. Reported symptoms from bites include swelling, immobilization, and severe numbness lasting up to a month.

Puerto Rican Racers are listed as a species of least concern on the IUCN Red List.

#2. Ground Snake

  • Magliophis exiguus

Also known as the Virgin Islands Miniracer.

snakes in the virgin islands

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults typically only reach 12 to 14 inches from snout to tail.
  • Slender, pencil-like body.
  • Dark brown with darker markings on their sides and whitish cheeks.

Ground Snakes are a terrestrial species often observed in the Virgin Islands in the lower to middle sections of montane wet and dry forests though they may also occur in urban and rural garden settings. They spend most of their time on the forest floor beneath rocks, leaf litter, logs, branches, or other debris.

These secretive snakes prey mostly on anoles and some larger lizards in the Virgin Islands. Ground Snakes seize their prey and inject it with venom. They wait until their prey has died or lost consciousness before swallowing it. Interestingly, the venom may begin digesting the prey before the snake has even swallowed it!

Female snakes lay clutches of 7 to 30 eggs. Researchers have observed eggs in different stages of development in one nest, indicating that females may lay successive clutches in one place or multiple females use the same nest.

#3. Virgin Islands Tree Boa

  • Chilabothrus granti

snakes in the virgin islands

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are typically less than 3.3 feet from snout to vent.
  • Body coloration is typically a light, dull, leaden-looking gray-brown with darker blotches partially edged in black.
  • They have a grayish-brown speckled with darker spots.

Virgin Islands Tree Boas are typically found in low-elevation habitats on the Virgin Islands. They occupy subtropical dry forests, mangroves, thickets, scrublands, low-density residential areas, and waterfront and marine areas. These boas rest and hide under rocks and debris or in termite nests during the day. At night they forage in the trees up to about 13 feet above the ground.

Active hunters, these boas prey primarily on anoles sleeping in the tree branches. However, they have also been known to prey on small ground lizards and birds occasionally.

Incredibly, the lifespan of Virgin Islands Tree Boas often exceeds 20 years in captivity. A small percentage of individuals even exceed 30 years of age, and they’ve been recorded to be able to reproduce at greater than 20 years of age. Female boas give birth to live young and may have between 50 to 75 offspring during their lifetime.

Virgin Islands Tree Boas are endangered on the Virgin Islands. Their numbers and range were probably greatly reduced due to development and land use changes associated with colonization in the 17th and 18th centuries. Today the remaining populations are heavily impacted by predation by feral cats and dogs, development, and habitat destruction caused by feral sheep. Thankfully, some captive breeding programs have been successful at boosting wild populations.

#4. Corn Snake

  • Pantherophis guttatus

snakes in the virgin islands

Found on the Caymans Islands, the Bahamas, and the Virgin Islands.

Identifying Characteristics:

  • 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 in the Virgin 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 Virgin 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. Richard’s Worm Snake

  • Antillotyphlops richardi

snakes - virgin islands

Due to their rarity, the above picture is not a Richard’s Worm Snake, although it looks very similar.

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are 5.1-10.2 cm (2-4 in) long.
  • The body shape is worm-like, and they are easily mistaken for earthworms.

It is really hard to see these SMALL snakes in the Virgin Islands.

That’s because Richard’s Worm Snakes spend the majority of their life underground. To find one, you typically must look in moist soil and under logs and stones. Even then, these snakes are so small they are easy to miss.

Because Richard’s Worm Snakes spend most of their life underground, they don’t have very good eyesight. Take one look at them, and you will notice they look more like small worms than the other snakes that live in the Virgin Islands. 🙂

There isn’t a lot known about their abundance, ecology, or distribution due to their secretive nature. But their main source of food tends to be the larvae of ants and termites.

Despite its rather creepy appearance, this snake is completely harmless to humans.

Which of these snakes have you seen before in the Virgin Islands?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *