Vipers and Pitvipers: Viperidae
Black-headed Bushmaster (lachesis Melanocephala): Species Accounts
Physical characteristics: As its name says, the top of the black-headed bushmaster's head is black. The back of this large snake has black diamond-shaped blotches on a dark or light brown or yellowish background. Adults often reach 6.6 feet (2 meters) in length but can grow to 7.9 feet (2.4 meters).
Geographic range: They are found in Costa Rica, possibly reaching into Panama.
Habitat: This species lives in wet or moist forests in valleys and other low places.
Diet: The black-headed bushmaster apparently eats mainly mammals.
Behavior and reproduction: A land-living snake, the black-headed bushmaster remains still much of the time, waiting for animals to wander by. If it is hungry, it will strike out and bite the passing animal. When it is not hunting, it often stays in underground tunnels made by other animals. If threatened, it may shake its tail. This is an egg-laying species, and females lay up to sixteen eggs. Unlike many reptiles, the female remains with her eggs until they hatch.
Black-headed bushmasters and people: If they are left untreated, humans bitten by this snake may die.
Conservation status: This species is not considered endangered or threatened. ∎
FOR MORE INFORMATION
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Ernst, Carl H. Venomous Reptiles of North America. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992.
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Nilson, G., and C. Andrén. "Evolution, Systematics and Biogeography of Palearctic Vipers." In Venomous Snakes: Ecology, Evolution and Snakebite, edited by R. S. Thorpe, W. Wüster, and A. Malhotra. Symposia of the Zoological Society of London. London: Oxford University Press, 1997.
Palmer, T. Landscape with Reptile: Rattlesnakes in an Urban World. New York: Ticknor and Fields, 1992.
Schuett, Gordon W., Mats Höggren, Michael E. Douglas, and Harry W. Greene, eds. Biology of the Vipers. Eagle Mountain, UT: Eagle Mountain Publishing, 2002.
Spawls, S., and B. Branch. The Dangerous Snakes of Africa. Sanibel Island, FL: Ralph Curtis Books, 1995.
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