South American Bushmaster

South American Bushmaster Lachesis muta

Type of Animal:

Forests, fields adjacent to forests, cleared areas, hilly areas, mountainous areas, mountain foothills, coastal areas

Colombia, E Ecuador, E Peru, Venezuela, Guiana Shield, Brazil, N Bolivia, Trinidad

Very large long snake, reddish-brown, tan, yellowish, gray-brown, sometimes pinkish w/ dark diamond-shaped markings down back often edged w/ yellow, light belly, dark stripe extending from eye to back corner of mouth, heavily keeled scales, juveniles brighter than adults

Rodents, rabbits, opossums, small monkeys, birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects

Status in Wild:

Breeding in zoos, wildlife centers, & breeders


Additional Info:

Young: Snakelet
Group: Solitary
Male: 10-12 lbs
Female: 6.6-8 lbs
Young: 7.5 oz

10-11 weeks 

Life Span:
12-20 years

Body Length:
Male: 8-12 ft
Female: 6-8 ft
Young: 2.5 ft

Tail Length:
2.17-7.08 in, same for both sexes

Main predators of adults are crocodilians, larger snakes, large raptors, & jaguars. Many snakes & raptors prey on young.
One of largest & longest New World Vipers/Pit Vipers.
They’re ambush predators relying on camouflage. Can often stay in same spot for days.
Most often nocturnal or crepuscular.
If threatened, they’ll vibrate horny tail tip in leaves making buzzing sound, leading them to sometimes being called “mute rattlesnakes.”
Sexually mature at 2 years old.
Heat pits enable them to detect body heat of prey.
Males find females by following scent trails.

Fun Fact(s):
These & 3 other Bushmaster species only New World Vipers to lay eggs-other New World Vipers ovoviviparous, w/ eggs hatching inside mom’s body coming out as live young. Females lay clutches of 5-19 eggs & guard them until hatching.
Called Surucucu in Brazil, Shushupe in Peru, Maperire Zanana in Trinidad, Pucarara in Bolivia, Cuaima in Venezuela, & Verrugosa in Colombia.
Due to fear/perception, name has been lent to several firearm brands, military units, & Marvel villain Bushmaster.
These snakes very shy in wild & in captivity. While quite shy/elusive, they’re extremely dangerous. Venom primarily hemotoxic attacking circulatory system & w/ large fangs (sometimes more than 1.5 in) can pump lots of venom in single bite. Bites can destroy red blood cells & cause organ degeneration/massive tissue damage. Other effects are vomiting, nausea, chills, & excruciating pain. If untreated, bites have 80% fatality rate.
Latin name translates to “Mute Silent Fate” w/ Lachesis referring to 1 of 3 Fates in Ancient Greek mythology determining how long someone was supposed to live & muta referring to absence of rattle on tail.

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