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South American Bushmaster

Scientific Name: Lachesis muta

Conservation Status:

Least Concern IUCN Red List


The bite of the bushmaster is one of the deadliest snake bites in the world with a high mortality rate even with treatment. This snake’s striking speed is so rapid and its venom is produced in such large quantities, that it is able to kill almost anything that crosses its path. However, bushmasters are shy and secretive snakes that generally avoid confrontations. The scientific genus name Lachesis refers to one of the three Fates from Greek mythology. Lachesis assigned each person’s lifespan, a tribute to the lethal power of the bushmaster’s bite.

The bushmaster is a type of pit viper and hunts at night. The snake uses heat-sensing pits located near its nose to detect warm-blooded prey. Bushmasters are solitary ambush predators. They position themselves along mammal trails, sometimes for weeks, until prey eventually crosses their path. With a maximum length of about 12 feet, the bushmaster is the largest of all venomous snakes in the western hemisphere.

The bushmaster is one of the few snakes known to guard its eggs. A female will lay between five and 18 eggs in a burrow and remain close by, sometimes coiling around the clutch in order to deter predators. She will not eat during the incubation period. Eggs hatch in 60 to 78 days. Newborns are about 15 inches long with bright orange or yellow on the tips of their tails to help them lure prey. Once the eggs hatch, the mother departs, and the babies are on their own. The youngsters are equipped to hunt, with fully formed fangs and venom.

This shy snake is difficult to find in its habitat, so the population of bushmasters in the wild is unknown. Its numbers are likely decreasing due to deforestation.


The bushmaster is native to the forests of northwestern South America, including Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia.


This snake typically feeds on the small mammals of the forest including rodents, rabbits, and small birds. It prefers smaller prey than most snakes its size.

Physical Characteristics

With a length of 6 to 12 feet, the bushmaster is one of the longest venomous snakes in the world. Individuals may weigh up to 11 pounds. They have thick bodies and broad heads. Males are larger than females. Lifespan ranges from 12 to 18 years.

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