What types of venomous snakes live in Uruguay?
Due to the variety of habitats in Uruguay, 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 Uruguay. 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.*
3 Venomous Snakes in Uruguay:
#1. 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 Uruguay. 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.
#2. Urutu Lancehead
- Bothrops alternatus
Also known as Urutu, Crossed Pit Viper, Wutu
- Adults reach 80-120 cm (31-47 in) in length.
- Their heads are distinctly broad and lance-shaped.
- They’re brown, olive, and gray with a unique “mirrored” body pattern that can form cross-like shapes enclosed in large blotches.
Widely found in swamps and rainforests, the Urutu Lancehead is a member of the pit viper family. This highly venomous snake is drawn to the body heat of its prey using special organs in its head called “pits.” It blends into leaf litter to sneak up on unsuspecting mammals like opossums and mice.
Urutu Lancheads are short-tempered, contributing to many bites in humans. Its venom can cause serious tissue damage around the bite wound. In severe cases, amputation of the affected limb is needed. Go to a hospital immediately if you find yourself bitten by this snake!
Although they usually live far away from civilization, Urutu Lanceheads can stray into farmlands in search of prey. Sadly, farmers are often forced to kill these snakes to protect their livestock.
#3. Yarará Lancehead
- Bothrops jararaca
Also known as Jararaca, Yarará
- Adults can reach lengths of 60-160 cm (24-63 in).
- Their heads are flat with sharp ridges that meet towards the front. You can spot a dark marking behind each eye, running back to the angle of the mouth.
- Coloration varies significantly. These include brown, gray, olive, and yellow with trapezoidal markings.
If you find a snake in the forests of Uruguay, be extra cautious of the Yarará Lancehead. You wouldn’t want to meet this highly venomous and aggressive species. It’s responsible for many snake bites because it frequents agricultural fields while searching for food.
Lanceheads are ambush predators. They blend well on the forest floor, waiting to catch unsuspecting rodents. Juvenile Yararás use their white-colored tail tips to lure frogs and arthropods. Once they strike, they bite to inject their potent venom, which quickly kills the prey.
Astonishingly, this viper’s venom has helped save lives! Despite being deadly on its own, it was used to create the world’s first ACE inhibitor. This drug is used to treat patients with high blood pressure and certain types of heart failure.
Check out these guides to other animals found in Uruguay!
Which of these venomous snakes have you seen before in Uruguay?
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