An Overview of Central American Snakes and their Habitats

Glenda K. Fralin's image for:
"An Overview of Central American Snakes and their Habitats"
Image by: 

Traveling into areas teaming with wildlife as rich as the tropical regions of Central America will bring a person into proximity with some of the most beautiful and dangerous creatures. Incidents of snake bite do occur but are not as frequent as one may think.

With well over 150 species of snakes, it is too awkward to try to cover all. Thence I will cover the major species of which there may be several types. A good sampling of the most likely of these amazing reptilians is listed below.

Please visit the links provided for a photograph of each snake. None of these snakes prey on humans, but most will defend themselves if they cannot flee.

BOA CONSTRICTORS are some of the most sought after snakes from the regions of Central and South America. These are non-venomous hearty snakes but can be just as deadly to their prey. Their color depends much on their terrain. Boa Constrictors are excellent swimmers but prefer to stay on dry land. They usually live in hollow logs, or deserted burrows of other animals. These snakes can grow to as long as 13 feet and weigh upwards of 100 pounds.

The BUSHMASTER snake is the largest of the American pit vipers. Growing well over 6 feet the longest on record was 14 feet long. The Bushmaster is a venomous snake that prefers remote rain forests of Central and most of South America. The animal lives primarily on the ground and comes out at night. They eat small mice and rats and are aggressive. They don't go after humans but will defend themselves readily. Bushmasters are particularly dangerous if disturbed as their strike is very fast and they can strike repeatedly injecting venom with each bite.



The CAT-EYED SNAKE are non-venomous and generally docile. Their preferred habitat is generally near water where frogs are plentiful. The Cat Eyed Snake likes to live in the low foliage of the forest areas. They feed on small frogs, lizards and mostly eggs.

The CERROPHIDION GODOMANI species include the SHETA, CANTIL, TAMANGIS, and GODMAN'S MONTAIN PIT VIPER. Theses snake prefer either dry or humid areas at elevations of 1,520 to 3, 500m. They are out and about both during the day and night and live on the ground. This venomous snake's favorite foods are small vertebrates.

The CHUNK HEADED SNAKE this slender bodied snake is so light and delicate that it can move along a forest leaf without making any vibration. It feeds on frogs and lizards. The little venom it has is contained in the back of its mouth for prey. It gets its name from the size and shape of its head which is two to three times larger than its body. It keeps itself in the trees hidden among the foliage.

CORAL SNAKES of Central America are venomous. Their coloring is varied, making it more difficult to distinguish them as their northern counter parts. They are venomous, but their teeth are small so they often hold onto their victim while injecting their venom. Reclusive by nature Corals prefer to stay inside their burrows or hidden in leaf litter. They generally stay hidden except at night, in heavy rain, or for mating. Some types are able to swim and have flat tails but prefer land. They are adapted to most climates and terrains.


EYELASH PIT VIPER is a venomous snake found in areas of Central and South America. Their habitats are tropical rain forests where they can live in trees using their prehensile tail to hang from a plant and grab their prey. They are ambush predators who favor feeding on frogs, lizards, rodents, and birds. Though not aggressive they will defend themselves.

The FER-DE-LANCE is found throughout Central and parts of South America. They are a nocturnal snake and prefer to live on the ground. The Fer-de-lance can grow up to 2.5 meters. These snakes cause the most venomous bites and deaths in Latin America because they inhabit the same areas as humans, and have highly potent venom. Their main diet is small rodents such as mice and rats.

The GUATEMALA PALM PIT VIPER is found in Mexico, Guatemala and parts of Honduras. They like a cloud forest of from 500 to 2,000m elevation. They can often be found around old and shady coffee plantations living in the trees. These snakes are venomous and prefer to be out during the day. Their diet is small vertebrates.

The JUMPING VIPER is a short thick snake measuring from 60 to 120 cm. This snake lives throughout Southern Mexico and Central America. They prefer habitats in rain forests, on plantations, and wooded areas. They are ground dwelling and like to hide under debris such as leaf litter. Their hiding places make them somewhat dangerous to humans. They are venomous and nocturnal appearing in the late evening hours.

The PARROT SNAKE and GREEN HEADED TREE SNAKE are bright green tree snakes that live throughout Mexico, Central America, and parts of South America. They can be as long as 2 meters and have a thin body. These snakes like to eat frogs, lizards and small birds. They have mild venom that may cause pain and swelling.

The RATONERA or OLIVE RAT SNAKE are a non-venomous species. They occupy areas of low elevations from The Southern United States to Costa Rica. They prefer habitats that are dry and seasonal living both on the ground and in trees. These attractive snakes feed on lizards and small mammals.

The TROPICAL RATTLESNAKE which is highly venomous. The Tropical Rattlesnake likes dry sandy areas, plantations and hillsides. They are extremely dangerous using both a hemotoxin (destroys red blood cells), and neurotoxin (affects the central nervous system). They may or may not give a warning rattle and generally by the time you hear their rattle they are already striking.

The YELLOW BELLIED SEA SNAKE lives throughout the Pacific Ocean and likes to visit the shores and shallow waters near the beach in areas of Costa Rica and Panama. They are approximately 1 meter in length with a flat tail for swimming. They do not strike but if messed with will turn quickly in the water and bite injecting the venom.

Enjoy the beauty and nature of these snakes. I have developed a great respect during this virtual journey into their world. If you decide to visit their territories, the key is always caution and carry a stick to check where you step. Some of these animals have given me some reason to shutter while others brought me a smile at their clownish appearance. All have put me in awe of their beauty.

More about this author: Glenda K. Fralin

From Around the Web