What types of venomous snakes live in Colombia?
Due to the variety of habitats in Colombia, 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 Colombia. 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.*
9 Venomous Snakes in Colombia:
#1. Central American Coral Snake
- Micrurus nigrocinctus
Also known as salviara, limlim, babaspul, and coral macho.
- Adults are 65-115 cm (26-45 in) long.
- Their pattern is two or three-colored, with black, yellow, and red banding.
- The body exhibits smooth scales, the head is rounded, and the eyes have round pupils.
The Central American Coral Snake is mainly found in lowland forests. It is a terrestrial snake that often resides in burrows, leaf litter, or under logs. This species is nocturnal, but you may sometimes find it at dusk or dawn and after rainfall.
Central American Coral Snakes hunt in the leaf litter of their habitat. Their diet consists mainly of other snakes, amphibians, small lizards, and invertebrates. Take care when hiking or walking in its territory. Although this snake is not considered to be aggressive, if it finds itself threatened or if you accidentally step on one, it will not hesitate to bite.
This species is highly venomous! Its venom has a strong neurotoxin that causes weakness and paralysis in victims. The Central American Coral snake has to chew on their victim to inject the venom to its full potential. Therefore, most bites on humans are mild and don’t result in death, but you should still seek medical treatment immediately.
#2. Eyelash Viper
- Bothriechis schlegelii
Also known as Eyelash Pit Viper, Eyelash Palm Viper, Schlegel’s Viper, Eyelash Lancehead, Eyelash Mountain Viper, Horned Palm Viper, Parrot Snake
- Adults are generally 55-82 cm (22-32 in) long.
- Their heads are broad and triangular.
- Coloration depends on habitat. These include bright yellow, green, orange, or pink. You might also see dark speckles dotted all over the body.
Look for this small venomous snake in Colombia in forests and woodlands.
The fancy-looking Eyelash Viper earned its name from the pair of modified scales above its eyes which resemble eyelashes. A myth tells of this viper winking at its victims after biting them. Of course, snakes don’t have eyelids, so they can’t actually wink!
Did you know that Eyelash Vipers are resourceful creatures? To hydrate, they drink the water droplets that gather on leaves. In addition, they use their tails to grab onto branches, positioning themselves to hunt rodents, lizards, and small birds at night.
Eyelash Vipers are generally docile but will strike in defense if threatened. They’re moderately venomous, and while there are no recorded human deaths, their bites can still be very painful. Be careful if you happen to find one!
- 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 Colombia.
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.
#4. Rainforest Hog-nosed Viper
- Porthidium nasutum
Also known as Hognosed Pit Viper.
- Adults are 40-60 cm (16-24 in) long. The females tend to be relatively larger than the males.
- The body is stout, with a triangular-shaped head and a short, thin tail. They have an upturned snout.
- Their coloring is shades of brown with alternating cream and dark brown rectangular marks on the back.
As its name suggests, this species is most often found in rainforests. The Rainforest Hog-nosed Viper is a terrestrial species and, due to its color, is difficult to spot in the jungle foliage.
In addition to its camouflage, you’ll have trouble spotting a Rainforest Hog-nosed Viper because it’s nocturnal. During the nighttime, it hunts frogs, lizards, small mammals, small birds, and other snakes.
Use extreme caution when you’re in this species’ territory. It’s a highly venomous viper, and if a bite goes untreated, it can cause death in humans. Unfortunately, Rainforest Hog-Nosed Vipers frequently pass through plantations and sometimes enter gardens, so bite incidents are not uncommon.
If you receive a bite from one of these venomous snakes in Colombia, get treatment right away.
The symptoms are painful, often severe, and can last days. Redness and pain around the bite, nausea, vomiting, trouble breathing, low heart rate, and vision problems are all common symptoms. Avoid this dangerous snake if possible!
- Bothrops asper
- On average, these vipers are 120-180 cm (47-71 in) long.
- Terciopelos have wide, flat heads.
- Females can grow up to 10 times larger than males.
- They range from brown to gray. Patterns include dark spots and stripes that form triangles along the body.
The Terciopelo, which is also referred to as a Fer-de-lance in its range, is a venomous species you can find in tropical rainforests and lowlands. They have a fierce reputation and are responsible for many of the snakebites that occur in Colombia. They also have large fangs and an exceptionally high venom yield. This snake is impressive but also terrifying and has been nicknamed “the ultimate pit viper”!
This large pit viper is a patient predator. It will disguise itself among leaf litter for long periods, then bite swiftly once prey comes in range. The Terciopelo’s usual meal includes various insects, rabbits, and crayfish.
The venom of a Terciopelo is dangerously potent. Unfortunate victims can experience fevers, internal bleeding, and even death in extreme cases. It’s important to seek medical attention immediately if you think you’ve been bitten. If the Terciopelo is cornered, it will strike faster than you can react. So always keep a respectful distance!
#6. 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 Colombia!
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!
#7. 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 Colombia 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.
#8. South American Bushmaster
- Lachesis muta
Also known as Atlantic Forest Bushmaster, Mapepire Zanana
- Adults are 200-250 cm (79-98 in) long.
- They have broad heads.
- Their coloring can be yellowish, tan, or gray-brown.
- Look out for a scaly diamond pattern and a pale-colored underside.
True to its name, the South American Bushmaster loves to hide in the bushes and undergrowth of forests with frequent rain. This stealthy snake lurks near animal trails, waiting to ambush rodents, birds, and other smaller reptiles.
Bushmasters are solitary creatures. In fact, they are so elusive that herpetologists are still arguing about how dangerous they are. When they’re not hunting, these pit vipers rest in hollow logs and small burrows. So, don’t go peeking inside unless you’re prepared to come across one!
Loud rustling among fallen leaves can indicate the presence of a South American Bushmaster. They usually try to escape if disturbed but stay cautious nonetheless! Most researchers agree that they’re highly venomous. Untreated bites are thought to be potent enough to kill.
#9. Redtail Coral snake
- Micrurus mipartitus
- Adults are 60-89 cm (24-35 in) long.
- They have thin, cylindrical bodies, small heads, and short fangs.
- Their coloring is black and yellow or white alternating bands, and they have red heads and black snouts.
Redtail Coralsnakes prefer mountains and rainforests with dense vegetation. Occasionally, you might see them in coastal shrub areas and dry, rocky regions.
Unlike most venomous snakes in Colombia, this one is semi-fossorial.
This means they spend most of their time underground or burrowed in the foliage of the forest floor. Here, they feed on other reptiles and amphibians. They prefer smaller prey as they swallow meals whole and have small mouths.
Although Redtail Coralsnakes are timid and nocturnal, they will strike if surprised, and their venom is highly toxic. Most encounters are with agricultural workers. If left untreated, a victim can suffer paralysis, respiratory arrest, and even death.
Check out these guides to other animals found in Colombia!
Which of these venomous snakes have you seen before in Colombia?
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