VENOMOUS SNAKE IDENTIFICATION
As a resident of Belize, you should learn to identify those regional species that may pose a threat to humans. Then, by process of elimination, all other snakes can be recognized as non-life
threatening (nonvenomous). Knowing the following characteristics is helpful.
CORALSNAKE - Red, black, and pale, whitish to yellow rings encircle the body, with every other ring being whitish to yellow along the body. Similar nonvenomous species (false coralsnake)
have a loreal scale on the head and 17 dorsal scale rows instead of 15 in the true coralsnakes. Additionally, the false coralsnakes have either every other ring black (as opposed to whitish or
yellow in coralsnakes) and/or the red-yellow-black-yellow ring pattern extends all the way to the tip of the tail (both species of coralsnake have only alternating yellow and black rings on the
tail). IF YOU ENCOUNTER A SNAKE WITH RED, BLACK, AND PALE, WHITISH TO YELLOW RINGS, ASSUME IT IS VENOMOUS AND LEAVE IT ALONE.
PIT VIPER SPECIES - Pupils elliptical and sensory pit present between nostril and eye. HEAD NORMALLY TRIANGULAR, BUT BEST NOT TO RELY SOLELY ON THAT
MILDLY VENOMOUS SPECIES – There are a few species of snakes in Belize that are not considered potentially deadly, but are capable of injecting mild venom. Different people have
differing reactions, so it is advisable to seek medical advice for any snakebite. Even in the absence of venom, snakebites result in puncture wounds that may become infected and need
The easiest way to recognize the eight venomous species is to learn their patterns and coloration, much as you do common birds.
PIT VIPERS - VENOMOUS NONVENOMOUS
Most snakebites are by non-venomous species. Of all the bites by venomous snakes,
particularly pit vipers, 25-50% do not inject any venom.
MORE IMPORTANT, MORTALITY IS INTERNATIONALLY LESS THAN 1% FOR
VENOMOUS SNAKEBITES THAT ARE PROMPTLY TREATED BY PHYSICIANS,
AND IT IS QUITE LOW IN BELIZE.
Venomous snakebites that are not physician treated with the proper antivenom may
have a much higher mortality rate. It is best to get medical help and avoid local folk
Snakes pictured are generally typical; however, some variation in color and markings
does occur. If in doubt, consult an identification expert.
The Belize Vivarium, Belmopan City
Wildtracks, Sarteneja Villiage
Belize Audubon Society
Programme for Belize
Friends for Conservation and Development
Belize Foundation for Research & Environmental Education
THERE ARE EIGHT SPECIES OF DANGEROUSLY VENOMOUS SNAKES NATIVE TO BELIZE
TO AVOID BEING BITTEN
1. Don’t put your hands or feet in places you cannot see or have not examined. Do not turn
over rocks, logs, or trash with your hands.
2. Don’t crawl under fences, buildings, or other objects without carefully looking under them.
3. In the wild, don’t sit, stand or walk without looking.
4. Don’t wear low-cut shoes in areas known to be infested with venomous snakes.
5. Don’t gather firewood after dark or without looking carefully.
6. Don’t sleep on the ground near woodpiles, cave entrances, or swampy areas.
7. Don’t be careless when moving objects left on the ground for several hours.
8. Don’t disturb snakes, or unnecessarily try to kill them.
9. Don’t handle ‘dead’ snakes with your hands.
10. Don’t attempt to capture snakes unless you are skilled.
11. Don’t get within a snake’s striking distance while trying to identify it.
13. Don’t stay near a snake if it bites you.
14. Don’t forget that venomous snakes can climb trees, can bite under water, do occur in high
elevation, may enter saltwater, and may appear in your garden.
Yellowjaw Tommygoff (Fer-de-lance)
1. Calm and reassure the victim; don’t panic.
2. Remove all rings, bracelets, or other constricting items.
3. Immobilize the bitten area as much as circumstances allow. Keep the bitten area at or
below heart level.
4. Take victim to medical facility as quickly as possible.
Do not give victim any drink or food by mouth.
Do not use a constriction band or tourniquet in the absence of an obviously severe
Do not place ice on bitten extremity.
Do not make any cuts. Instead, use THE EXTRACTOR®, manufactured by Sawyer, and
recommended by some physicians skilled in venomous snakebite treatment. This
instrument may remove venom by suction without the use of incisions.
Only a physician should administer antivenom.
If feasible, bring dead snake for positive identification (use caution - don’t get bitten
Venomous Snakes of Belize
Author & Publisher:
Robert A. Thomas, Ph.D.
Professor & Director
Center for Environmental Communication
Loyola University New Orleans
New Orleans, LA 70118
All benefits for this poster go the The Belize Vivarium,
6111 George Price Boulevard, Belmopan City, Belize, Central America
Special thanks to David L. Hardy, Sr., M.D., Luz Marie Hunter, Friends for Conservation and
Development, and Belize Foundation for Research & Environmental Education
Drawings by Edmund D. Keiser, Ph.D.
Graphic design by Paige Hinrichs
April 3, 2013
VENOMOUS SNAKEBITE MANAGEMENT CONSULTATION
Check with your local emergency rooms to ensure that they have medical experience
with venomous snakebites. The most experienced and capable hospitals in Belize,
which have a supply of both pit viper and coralsnake antivenoms, are:
Belize Medical Associates
Karl Huesner Memorial
Belmopan Hospital (Belmopan)
Corozal Hospital (Corozal)
Southern Regional Hospital (Dangriga)
Orange Walk Hospital (Orange Walk Town)
Punta Gorda Hospital (Punta Gorda)
San Ignacio Hospital (San Ignacio)
Belize Audubon Society, 1995. Snakes of Belize. Belize Audubon Society, Belize
City, Belize. 54 pp.
Campbell, Jonathan A. 1998. Amphibians and Reptiles of Northern Guatemala, the
Yucatan, and Belize. Univ. of Oklahoma Press, Norman, OK. 380 pp.
Garel, Tony and Sharon Matola. 1996. A Field Guide to the Snakes of Belize. The
Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Center, Belize, Central America. 147 pp.
Lee, Julian C. 1996. The Amphibians and Reptiles of the Yucatán Peninsula. Cornell
Univ. Press, Ithaca, NY. 500 pp.
Lee, Julian C. 2000. A Field Guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of the Maya
World. Cornell Univ. Press, Ithaca, NY. 402 pp.
Stafford, Peter J. and John R. Meyer. 2000. A Guide to the Reptiles of Belize.
Academic Press, San Diego, CA. 356 pp.
Yucatecan Cantil, Tropical Moccasin
Photo by Jan Meerman
Photo by Steven Brewer
Photo by Bob Thomas
Agkistrodon bilineatus russeolus
Photo by Kevin Zansler
Crotalus durissus terrificus
Photo by Bob Thomas
Photo by Derric Chan
Photo by Dan Dourson
Photo by Bob Thomas