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Bothrops asper - The Lance Head Viper. The Ultimate Pit Viper, An Exceedingly Venomous Snake
The Ultimate Pit Viper
Here in the USA we have some nasty pit viper snakes that are to be avoided at all costs. Most common of all of those snakes is the water moccasin, a snake that I've personally been seeing around my entire life. Smaller in size and less venomous, the cousin of the water moccasin, the copperhead, is another of the pit vipers. I've done a lot of snake killing in my days, and almost all of my victims were either water moccasins or copperheads. In recent years I've mellowed quite a bit, and decided to let snakes pass so long as they're not too close to my own home, or the home of a friend. I've never once seen a rattlesnake of any kind that wasn't in a glass enclosure, and I hope that my life maintains that as the status quo. Rattle snakes are also pit vipers, and the relatives of the North American water moccasins and copperhead vipers.
But none of the snakes in the United States of America are comparable to the pit viper known as the Bothrops asper. Oh sure, we Americans have coral snakes, which are far more deadly than even the rattle snakes are - but the coral snake is a docile snake that would rather never ever see you, and if one does, it wants you to go away, and while it's busy wishing that you'd leave, it's also looking for ways to avoid you.
An Eleven Year Old Boy Bitten By a Bothrops asper
The Bothrops asper is the number one perpetrator of snake bite on human beings in its range or habitat. One thing to be thankful for here, if you've forgotten to be thankful today, is that there aren't any recognized sub species of this snake anywhere, but it is, of course, a Southern cousin of the Northern American pit vipers that we've all grown to know and not love. Sometimes in Spanish this snake is referred to either as yellow beard, or four nosed. I think these snakes take offence to these monikers, and I'd just prefer to always call them that snake that I shot to bits.
No, I'm not in the habit of denying that an evolved creature of this world has a place to fill within it, I'm more in the habit of filling something with shotgun holes that has the power to do what this snake can do to a human being that was unlucky enough to step too close to one. What this snake can, will, and does do to a human body is so horrific that I'm certain that you'll soon enough agree that the best of these are the dead ones.
In virtually every nation that this snake calls home, the majority of snake bites in that nation are at the fangs of the Bothrops asper. This snake is extremely unpredictable and extremely fast moving. This snake will sometimes flee quickly and then suddenly turn around and even more quickly, strike the unsuspecting and unfortunate person involved. The Bothrops asper also has a habit of holding it's head high above the ground, and striking from that position, which increases the likelihood of knee high or higher bites.
Strangely enough, the Bothrops asper has been observed spraying venom at distances of six feet. What that accomplishes, I'm not certain, but seeing the photo of the tissue damage that can occur from this snake's bite, I'd not personally wish to touch anything that has that horrific substance on it.
Bothrops atrox - A Totally Different But Deadly Snake
Bothrops asper's distribution map
The Pit Face Bothrops asper
The words bothros and ops, respectively, mean pit and face. The reference is to the highly developed heat detecting organs on the snake's face, which are unique relative to this snake, but the defining characteristic of all pit vipers. This is an elevation specific snake that prefers to be as close to sea level as is possible. It's also a larger pit viper than its relative the water moccasin, and strangely enough, it's a snake that rattles it's tail in exactly the same manner as does a rattlesnake. Bothrops asper, however, has no rattle on the end of its tail, but the noise is audible just the same.
Holy smoke I'd be terrified of such a noise. I think I'll just prefer to stay out of Mexico and Costa Rica, etc. The distribution of this demonic slithering spineless monster is rather large, and encompasses several more nations than the two that I just referred to. So far as looks are concerned, the Bothrops asper more resembles an American copperhead than any other pit viper, but often has some green colouration that copperheads do not have. These snakes are also distinguished by their larger than typical and sort of flattened heads.
Female Bothrops asper snakes are sometimes very large, and have been recorded at sizes of thirteen pounds and six feet in length. The largest ever recorded Bothrops asper was over eight feet in length. Male Bothrops asper snakes are more typically around four feet in length when fully grown, and can always be distinguished from females due to the male's having brightly coloured tail tips.
While I can't imagine that this article with the necropsy photo could be the slightest bit "fun" for anyone, I do hope that it's made you aware of something that you definitely do not wish to see while on vacation South of the United States.
A young Fer-de-Lance snake (Bothrops asper) in restaurant in Esquinas Rainforest Lodge
Bothrops asper, The Lance Head Viper
© 2012 Wesman Todd Shaw