October 7, 2007

Fer-de-lance or cottonmouth? Neither!

I awoke to a snake video on my computer screen one morning. I've spent so much time trying to identify (and save!) the snakes that we've found on our property, that I'm actually starting to recognize some of them. I thought I knew what this snake was.

My heart was pounding as I asked El Jefe what they did with the snake. Yup. Because of my insistence that snakes have a right to live and serve a valuable purpose in the balance of nature, they threw it over the muro (fence) into the jungle area.

thought this snake was a fer-de-lance, Terciopelo Bothrops asper, known in Spanish as Barba Amarilla. It is one of the most deadly snakes there is. Great, now they start listening to me!

Returning to my long list of snake websites to confirm my suspicion, I found that this snake didn't look quite right − almost the same, but not quite.
Looking further, I found these photos of a baby cottonmouth which also looked similar. Snake markings and coloring can look different at different stages of its life, so I just wasn't sure.

After literally hours of looking at snake photos, in desperation, I finally uploaded a photo to Venomous Reptiles and asked for help identifying it.
Almost instantly, the very nice experts came back with an answer.

The consensus was that this was False Fer-de-lance or False viper (
Xenodon rabdocephalus), a completely harmless snake. So, finally armed with the scientific name, it was easy to find photos. This photo from Columbia in particular is a dead ringer for our snake. Looking at some internet photos of the false barba amarilla, even to the inexpert eye like me, I knew they were right. I was so relieved to find that this snake is harmless, except of course, to small animals like frogs and toads.

The very nice folks at Venomous Reptiles also gave me some suggestions of a good Guatemalan website and some books I could get for future reference, but agreeing that there wasn't a lot of current information on Honduran snakes, they invited me to ask them for help again whenever I needed to. How nice is that? Great folks there. I'm sure I'll be taking them up on that.

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