Snakes of Belize

Above is a short educational video on the snakes of Belize, debunking the mythologies of their danger and outlining basic behaviors and habits. Click here if its not showing above.

Covers Fer de lance, Maya coral snake, Blunt headed tree snake, green parrot snake, Cloudy snail eater, False fer de lance, Bird eating snake, Cat-eyed snake, Lizard eating snake, Speckled racer, King snake/ Milk snake, Black striped snake, Mussurana, Black tailed Cribo, Mexican parrot snake, Brown vine snake, Banded snail eater, Tiger tree snake, Black coffee snake.

When my family first came to Belize, the only cure for a bite of a poisonous snake was through a Snake Doctor. In the Sittee River area that person was known as Sailor - sadly he passed away while out gathering natural herbs.... by a snake bite. Normally the knowledge is passed from generation to generation, he died without passing his knowledge on.

My uncle (also now deseased) was bitten by a fer-de-lance. The hospital could do nothing for him and sent him to the local snake doctor where he was treated by Sailor for over a week. Part of the treatment was using a "sweat house" along with drinking some very bitter mixtures.

I wonder if Belize still has any snake doctors walking amongst us? And if so, which would you trust most - hospital or snake doctor?

Unfortunately, anti-venom is the only combatant against snake venom. Please don't take this as "closed minded" there are in fact many peer-reviewed studies on herbal remedies for snake bite and 100% of them had no active effects or had negative effects.

Homeopathic and herbal "cures" that are distributed through snake doctors actually have no effect on the venom itself, but rather the bite victim is simply waiting out the venom, exactly the same as if they had done nothing at all. Not all bite victims die from venomous snake bite. Actually very few do.

Allow me to explain:

Snake venom is comprised of proteins that bind to different sites on cells, different binding sites cause different reactions. In the case of the fer de lance, the venom is hemo(blood) and myo(muscle)- toxic, and primarily attaches to muscle cells.

1) once bitten the worst thing to do is apply a tourniquet, as this concentrates the venom in one area, destroying the cells at a faster rate; this can lead to amputation of the limb most of the time... the best thing to do is let it freely flow through the bloodstream and by the law of particles per million, act on smaller areas in a larger range. which leads me to my next point....

2) Heating the body in any way, such as a "sweat room" will cause blood to flow faster, and cause reaction rate to increase; this is the LAST thing you want to happen. As venom activity will increase and do more damage.

3) Ingested herbs do not work for snake bite, because they are not entering the blood stream (where the venom is), but rather being digested through the GI tract and absorbed by the body. herbs applied to the bite site also have absolutely no effect, because, again, after the bite occurs, the venom is already flowing through the ENTIRE BODY, not just the bite site.

Another unfortunate factor about snake doctors is that their claim to fame is usually through a non-venomous snake bite.

Because of the lack of knowledge people have on snakes, many people assume the one they've been bitten by was venomous. So when they go to these "snake doctors" the person applies whatever herbal remedies to the bite victim; and almost miraculously see that there are no repucussions.... little do they know, the snake wasn't venomous at all and the "doctor" did absolutely nothing.

That being said, the trained medical professionals in Belize have treated several bite victims of FDL, two of which, to my personal knowledge, had absolutely no after effects. So I would definitely put my trust in them.

By the way, incase anyone is wondering the 9 venomous/dangerous species I am referring to in the video, they're:

Viper species

1) Fer de lance (Bothrops asper)
2) Neotropical Rattlesnake (Crotalus durissus)
3) Yucatan Hognosed Viper (Porthidium yucatanicum)
4) Rainforest Hognose Viper (Porthidium nasutum)
5) Eyelash pit-viper (Bothreichis schlegelii)
6) Jumping pit-viper (Atropoides nummifer)
7) Cantil (Agkistrodon bilineatus)


8) Maya coral snake (Micrurus hippocrepis)
9) Variable coral snake (Micrurus diastema)

Text by Russell Gray

Here's a snake guide of common species in Belize and the Yucatan. Click here for a larger version, and click here for a 10mb PDF of the chart.

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