What types of venomous snakes live in Bolivia?
Due to the variety of habitats in Bolivia, there are dozens of different snakes you might see. While many species are not harmful to humans, you must be careful because some types are INCREDIBLY venomous and highly dangerous. Some snakes can even cause death if the bite is not treated quickly.
In the article below, I have listed some of the most common venomous snakes you might encounter in Bolivia. For each species, you will find out how to identify that snake correctly, along with pictures and interesting facts!
*If you come across any of these species, PLEASE DO NOT DISTURB! Venomous snakes are dangerous animals and should be left alone. The more you agitate them, the more likely you could get bitten. DO NOT RELY ON THIS ARTICLE to correctly identify a snake that has recently bitten you. If you have recently been bitten, GO DIRECTLY to the nearest hospital to get help and to determine if the snake is venomous.*
6 Venomous Snakes in Bolivia:
- Bothrops atrox
Also known as Common Lancehead, Barba Amarilla
- Adults can grow 75-125 cm (30-49 in) in length.
- Look for a series of trapezoids across the body.
- Coloration is usually olive, gray, or brown. They have light-colored bellies, commonly white or cream.
- These snakes have golden irises and black tongues.
The venomous Fer-de-lance is responsible for most of the snake bites in Bolivia.
So, it’s best to tread carefully if you find yourself in the Amazon region. While these snakes live primarily in dense forests, they also wander into coffee plantations when hunting.
As with other pit vipers, the Fer-de-lance has heat sensors below its eyes to track prey. They easily devour smaller prey like frogs and tarantulas. However, when it comes to larger prey, these snakes bite and then let go. The venom eventually kills the animal while the snake tracks it down to consume it.
This snake isn’t only dangerous to its prey, either. A bite from this venomous snake targets the circulatory system and can cause serious internal bleeding in humans. Interestingly, the younger snakes have faster-acting venom. Either way, you should seek medical attention quickly if you get bitten by this aggressive species.
#2. Mountain Keelback
- Helicops angulatus
Also known as Brown-banded Watersnake, Water Mapepire
- Adults grow to a maximum length of 78 cm (31 inches).
- Their eyes and nostrils are situated at the top of their heads.
- These snakes tend to be olive or grayish brown. Dark, jagged bands cover their bodies.
The Mountain Keelback is one of the slowest venomous snakes in Bolivia!
These sluggish travelers only move about a few meters each day. If you want to find one in action (or non-action, because of their slow speed), look in the freshwater bodies of the Amazon basin.
Because of its slow-moving nature, this species prefers to ambush unsuspecting prey. At night, Mountain Keelbacks lie in wait for unlucky animals swimming by. Smaller fish, frogs, and tadpoles are all on the menu. However, sometimes they are the unlucky ones as they are common prey for herons and larger snakes.
Mountain Keelbacks are only mildly venomous. However, they can be very irritable when disturbed. In defense, they will coil into an S position before lunging into a bite. They can’t kill you, but their bites are still quite painful. Hands off!
#3. Neotropical Rattlesnake
- Crotalus durissus
Also known as South American Rattlesnake, Central American Rattlesnake, Cascabel Rattlesnake, Guiana Rattlesnake, Aruba Island Rattlesnake
- Adults are typically 150 cm (59 in) long on average.
- There is a prominent stripe at the base of their heads, intersecting each eye.
- Scales protrude from their body.
- They usually appear in shades of brown and gray. Sometimes, patterns of diamonds and triangles form across the body. Bellies are yellowish or white.
Neotropical Rattlesnakes in Bolivia are residents of grasslands and tropical forests.
You might also find them in drier areas if a shortage of prey drives them to find food. These snakes are most active at dusk, stalking rodents and other reptiles. They’re equipped with heat-sensing pits below their eyes to track down prey.
These rattlesnakes are dangerously venomous. Left untreated, bite victims can experience muscle paralysis and difficulty breathing. In the worst cases, victims can end up with organ failure and death. Therefore, if you receive a bite from a Neotropical Rattlesnake, it’s vital to get medical help as soon as possible.
A Neotropical Rattlesnake can move with remarkable speed, but its first instinct is not to attack. To warn you, it might make a rattling sound with its tail or raise its forebody into a defensive striking posture. When this happens, it’s best to respect the warning, back away slowly, and then leave the area.
#4. Painted Lancehead
- Bothrops diporus
- On average, adults are 65 cm (26 in) long, but rare specimens nearly double that length have occurred.
- Their heads are flat and lance-shaped.
- Brown and gray colors are common. You’ll also notice dark trapezoids, triangles, and blotches alternating along the body.
These venomous snakes in Bolivia are well known for their intricate patterns and dangerous venom.
The Painted Lancehead is hard to spot on land because of how well it can camouflage itself. As such, it’s highly successful in catching passing frogs, lizards, and rodents.
Painted Lancheads, like other pit vipers, have special heat-sensing pits below their eyes. These pits allow them to find warm-blooded animals before they can see them. Of course, since humans are warm-blooded, they will sense you if you’re in range, too!
Great caution is advised when dealing with Painted Lanceheads. They are highly venomous, and untreated bites occasionally kill humans. If you encounter one, don’t attempt to confront or trap it because you’ll only make it angry! Back away from the snake slowly and leave the area instead.
#5. Patagonian Racer
- Philodryas patagoniensis
Also known as Patagonia Green Racer
- These are slender-bodied snakes growing up to 150 cm (59 in) long.
- They have big, round pupils, rounded snouts, and prominent scaled markings from head to tail.
- Coloration is various shades of olive green or brown. Their bellies are white.
The Patagonian Racer lives in steppes and grasslands in Bolivia. This reptile is technically not considered venomous to humans, but it does have toxic saliva. If you’re bitten, you might notice bruising, bleeding, or numbness around the wound site. Its fangs almost never inject enough venom to harm a human. Despite this relatively low langer, it has a nasty bite, so it’s best to observe this snake from a distance.
Juvenile Patagonian Racers prefer cold-blooded prey like frogs and lizards. Adults, on the other hand, prefer warm-blooded prey such as birds and small mammals. They spend most of their time hunting in trees during the day. At night, they retreat to land crevices to avoid Barn Owls.
This stealthy snake has a habit of startling hikers with its astounding burst of speed! It can blend almost perfectly into the forest floor or tree cover.
#6. False Water Cobra
- Hydrodynastes gigas
Also known as False Cobra, Brazilian Smooth Snake, South American Water Cobra
- Adults are typically 200 cm (79 in) long but occasionally up to 300 cm (118 in).
- They can flatten their necks and other sections of their bodies.
- Typical coloration is olive or brown, patterned with dark spots and bands. Undersides are lighter in color.
False Water Cobras favor the high humidity of forests and marshlands. Here, they are highly alert hunters preying on fish and amphibians in the daytime. Take note of how unpredictable these snakes can be. Some individuals are mild-mannered, while others can be quite aggressive. To be safe, it’s best to observe this species from a distance.
As their name suggests, False Water Cobras aren’t true cobras. They can, however, puff up their neck and flatten the skin to mimic a cobra’s hood. You can tell them apart because False Water Cobras can’t raise their forebodies off the ground as real cobras do.
False Water Cobras are unique because their fangs don’t hold a large amount of venom. As a result, they must repeatedly chew on their prey to incapacitate it. Consequently, bites on humans are usually not serious since we can get away before this happens. Symptoms may include swelling and bouts of muscle paralysis, so it’s still important to see a doctor.
Check out these guides to other animals found in Bolivia!
Which of these venomous snakes have you seen before in Bolivia?
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