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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.

Bothrops asper

Bothrops Asper (the pit viper known as terciopelo or fer-de-lance)

Bothrops Asper (the pit viper known as terciopelo or fer-de-lance)

An Eleven Year Old Boy Bitten By a Bothrops asper


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

Fer de Lance (Bothrops atrox). In rainforest in the Ecuadorian Amazon

Fer de Lance (Bothrops atrox). In rainforest in the Ecuadorian Amazon

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


Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on November 14, 2012:

Bothrops asper, due to its vast distribution, feeds on a wide variety of prey. The size, strength, and extremely toxic venom make terciopelos effective predators. In adult years, they have been known to feed on mammals, amphibians, and reptiles, but are not limited to these groups. Juveniles feed on small lizards and even large insects such as Scolopendra angulata.

In Costa Rica, adults have been known to feed on rats (Rattus rattus), opossums (Caluromys derbianus and Didelphis marsupialis), and other rodents, as well as rabbits (Sylvilagus brasiliensis), frogs (Lithobates forreri) and geckos (Gonatodes albogularis). In Ecuador they primarily feed on rodents. On the island of Trinidad, Bothrops asper has been known to feed on everything from rodents and other small mammals, lizards, frogs and birds, or even crayfish.

Thanks Sabrina!

sabina on November 14, 2012:

what does an bothrops asper eat for its prey

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on February 10, 2012:

Hey Dusty!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Man, I've done screwed up another computer....but it's fixable, and maybe I'll have it back tomorrow.

Man I'm absolutely BEYOND certain that the fella in that video was packing some anti venom. I wonder if the Cro Fab works for the Fer De Lance viper....seeing as how it is a pit viper, you know.

Dusty, I've never had the opportunity...but I'd try some of that rattle snake if and whenever I get an opportunity!

50 Caliber on February 09, 2012:

Wesman, great Farking hub, puckered my butt and I'm fearless.

Since your doing snakes I'll send you pictures of Bongo eating a rattler near my water purification source, Mike who writes here says that they see many snakes, Rattlers the western diamond back around the pool and hot tub water cleaning source. It would be great to know why they are drawn there. Possibly the salt or chlorine in the small leaks and they come for a drink? I don't know but research might make a story.

Awesome hub and that video the dudes crazy or was packing anti-venom for insurance and after the photo shoot I would have killed it via 12 gauge blowing off it's head and skinned it then later cooked it and if it was a tasty as a rattler, there was enough meat there for a few to eat well. My guess at least 30 pounds of snake before killing it and an awesome wall hanging of a stretched out skin.


Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on February 06, 2012:

Hey Sis, with the way the "global warming" thing is going, I do worry about that sucker moving North of where is should be staying!

Angela Blair from Central Texas on February 06, 2012:

I've heard that Texas has every poisonous snake known to North America -- if this sucker ever moves north I'm gone. Extremely informative Hub and I enjoyed it even though I extremely adverse to snakes of any kind! Best, Sis

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on February 06, 2012:

WOW Eddy and EFFER, I'm so amazed that no one clicked "beautiful" on this lovely hub! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Suzie from Carson City on February 06, 2012:

Oh God....Holy SNIT!! Dear Lord....!! WESMAN!! You have just given me the creeps, goosebumps, nausea & guaranteed NIGHTMARES....I'm all itchy and antsy and feel stuff crawling and slithering up my back!! Thank you so much buddy!!

How can I ever re-pay you??...as in REVENGE!!! lol..........oh YUK!

Eiddwen from Wales on February 06, 2012:

Very interesting;your obvious hard work certainly paid. Take care and enjoy your day,


Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on February 06, 2012:

Hey Pc!!! I know that's right! I don't think I've ever visited up around your neck of these woods, but these sorts of snakes probably aren't so common there.

I do imagine, however, that due to "climate change" that various species of snake are finding further Northern climates more suitable for their purposes than they once did!

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on February 06, 2012:

Hey Turtlewoman!!! I've no idea why that snake would want to just spray venom from it's fangs like that, but holy smoke I'd hate to get bit.

I say, "Mr. snake, Sir - please, I beg thee, spray away."

Tony Lawrence from SE MA on February 06, 2012:

You know, it gets cold up here in Yankeeville, but we sure as heck don't have as many venomous critters to worry about!

Kim Lam from California on February 06, 2012:

Wow that is amazing! They can spit venom up to 6 ft! I'm getting goosbumps just thinking about it. Thanks for sharing a great article about this snake.

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on February 05, 2012:

WD Curry 111 - Thank you very much!

I live in Kaufman which is North East Texas, now...years ago there was a report in Kemp, Texas (ten miles away) of a rattlesnake being found...so there's got to be more of them around....but they aren't common at all in this area.

Now - out West around El Paso, etc, there's going to be lots of rattlesnakes.

I've got a pal in Arizona that keeps King Snakes on his property to eat the rattlers, and he's got some outstanding pictures of exactly that happening!

WD Curry 111 from Space Coast on February 05, 2012:

You live in Texas and you have never seen a rattler? Do you live in a city. Have you ever heard of the "Rattlesnake Round Up" that was originally held in Sweetwater?

I live in Florida surrounded by "scrub" and "sandhill" habitat. There are plenty of rattlesnakes around. They are shy and move out of your way before you can see them. You have to watch out for the pygmy rattlers, they aren't so shy.

My only encounter with a rattling rattler was in Cape Hatteras, N.C. walking through the dunes to go surfing.

Good hub pardner, it got me thinking about being more carful around the woodpile.

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on February 05, 2012:

Hey Hazelwood! You know I've already wrote about King Snakes!



But I also found this really cool pdf about snakes in Kentucky, and YES - you've got King Snakes there!


Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on February 05, 2012:

Holy smoke Brett.Tesol - I BET! I'd be so terrified that ....heck I'd never leave the house around there!

hazelwood4 from Owensboro, Kentucky on February 05, 2012:

Are the King Snakes native to Kentucky? Thank you for all the great information.

Brett C from Asia on February 05, 2012:

Wow, that is one freaky snake bite and definitely a snake to avoid. We have a lot of snakes here in Asia. A few times I have had to avoid them on the motorbike, or wait for a python to pass as I've been walking home. I even discovered that where I used to dirt bike was KING COBRA territory :-s ... lucky them bikes are noisy I guess!

SOCIALLY SHARED and voted up.

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on February 05, 2012:

hazelwood4 - with snakes in the USA what you need to always remember is that for every single last deadly snake - there is a TOTALLY BENIGN King Snake...that will look virtually just like it.

You don't want to kill a King Snake - EVER, and the reason for that is that King Snakes take their name because....wherever they live, they eat the venomous snakes!

You have to look at the shape of a snake's head to know if it's a pit viper, pit viper heads are sort of shaped like spades.

hazelwood4 from Owensboro, Kentucky on February 05, 2012:

Wow, I hope if I am ever bitten by a copperhead he or she is in the dry bite mode. A couple of years ago I was mowing our lawn and seen a pretty good size snake, and I am pretty sure it was also a copperhead. There has been 3 or 4 killed on our property the last few years. Snakes scare the heck out of me. I am going to look for your article about copperheads too. Keep the informative articles coming!

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on February 05, 2012:

hazelwood4 - WOW! I hate to hear that!

Somewhere on my account is an article I did about copperheads...and strangely enough, though the copperhead CAN inject venom any time it bites something....those particular snakes MOST OFTEN "dry bite" people, as they don't want to waste their venom.

Your cousin got REALLY unlucky! Glad that all turned out okay. If you could only see how far I jumped the last time I saw a copperhead while I was doing something or another...dang I jumped backwards about five feet and landed on my butt...on pure instinct.

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on February 05, 2012:

Alicia C. I know it would be dumb - but were I to have a shotgun and a bunch of those things - I'd take great joy in blasting every one of them into tiny pieces.

hazelwood4 from Owensboro, Kentucky on February 05, 2012:

My goodness the Bothrops asper snake is really scary. I can't believe the damage it did to the boys leg. My cousin was playing along the Green River and got bit by a copperhead. The copperhead was curled up in an old tire. My cousin reached down to pick the tire up and it bit him on the thumb. The venom really did cause allot of damage, but he survived with his thumb still intact.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on February 05, 2012:

What a horrific picture of the boy's leg! This was an interesting - and scary - hub. I love animals, but this snake is one creature that I'd rather watch in videos than see in real life.

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on February 05, 2012:

Well, beyond a shadow of a doubt - he didn't keep that leg!!!!

I'd imagine that what that is - is a child who is from a very very poor family that lives in a very remote area away from a city with a hospital available.

Honestly, I don't know - but that picture could well be of the corpse of a child :-/

poetvix from Gone from Texas but still in the south. Surrounded by God's country. on February 05, 2012:

Holy Jeez! I'm going to have nightmares about that monster. And I thought cotton mouths were bad. Thanks for the heads up. Now I know for sure I'm never, ever going to South America. That picture of the poor boy really drives home how deadly these things are. Ewe in a major kind of way! I really hope that poor boy recovered. I don't see how, but I hope he did.

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on February 05, 2012:


I think in correct grammar, but my fingers are often in too big of a hurry!

Thea on February 05, 2012:


"its" = possessive pronoun

"it's" = contraction of the words "it is"

Invoice is in the mail.

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on February 05, 2012:

I know that's right, Thea.

So far as US pit vipers are concerned Cro Fab anti venom takes care of all of the bites on this side of the border. I dunno if it works on the B asper's bite or not - there wasn't a whole lot of information, but I didn't look as hard as I could have either.

Thea on February 05, 2012:


The stuff that dreams are made on!! A crabby snake with Super Venom! I looked up the venom, and it's basically a cocktail of bad-assedness: "Venom has lethal, hemorrhagic, myotoxic, edema-forming, coagulant, defibrinating and phospholipase A2 activities..." (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S...

So here's what REALLY gives me the creeps: what kinda badass critter is this stuff designed to cope with? I mean, your standard door mouse isn't very scary, right? Prolly a rodent the size of Sasquatch and just as wily, which is why nobody('s survived to have) seen it, assuming they get past the damned snake to begin with.

Actually I'd hazard that with the abundance of competition in the jungle, a fast kill is helpful so you can eat and run. I haven't researched that, though.


Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on February 05, 2012:

Thanks Brenda, when I saw that horrific picture of the boy's former leg....I knew I had to create a hub about the monster responsible!

Brenda A Whitten on February 05, 2012:

That's a nasty snake. I've never heard of it until now.



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