South American Bushmaster
Scientific Name: Lachesis mutas
The name Lachesis stems from a Fate of Greek mythology that assigned a man the length of his life, giving tribute to the lethal power of the bushmaster’s venomous bite.
With a max length of about 10 feet, the bushmaster is the longest viper in the world and the largest of all venomous snakes in the western hemisphere.
STATUS: The conservation status of wild populations is unknown but numbers are likely decreasing due to deforestation.
HABITAT: The bushmaster makes its native habitat within the forests of northwestern South America, residing in such countries as Columbia, Venezuela, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia.
DIET: This snake typically feeds on the small mammals of the forest, using its heat sensing pits to detect nearby warm-blooded animals.
PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS: Ranging from six to 10 feet in length, the bushmaster is one of the longest venomous snakes in the world. The head of this snake is broad, distinct from its more cylindrical neck and rest of the body. The body of the bushmaster is typically colored a yellowish, reddish or grey-brown ground color with dark brown or black patches that form triangles along its back. Around the dark triangles is a row of scales usually lighter in color, providing a sharp contrast between the black/brown triangles of its back and the brown, yellowish color of the rest of its body.
The Rattle of Silence
Even though the tail and colors of the bushmaster resemble those of the typical rattlesnake, the sound emitted by the bushmaster is different. Acting like a rattlesnake, the bushmaster will shake its tail rapidly when alarmed by an intruder; however, no sound is produced from this shaking from which its species name muta is derived. Instead of having a rattle on its tail to warn incomers, the bushmaster vibrates its tail across the leaves of the forest floor, creating a stirring sound comparable to that of a “rattle.”
Widely considered a shy species, nonetheless, the bite of the bushmaster has proven to be one of the most deadly of snake bites and coupled with the rapid striking speed of the snake, it has the ability to kill almost anything that crosses its path.