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My encounter with one of the most venomous snakes in Central America...

Central American Coral Snake

Some of you may know that I'm not much of a fan of creepy, crawly, slithery things yet here I am in Costa Rica which is one of the most bio-diverse countries on the planet. Being recognized for this bio-diversity of course means that there is a tremendously large number of species of insects, reptiles, mammals, plants, etc. And no matter where you are in the country, you risk having chance encounters with some of these creatures from time to time (there are 140 species of snakes in Costa Rica, 23 of them being venomous).

So we recently had a bunch of yard cleanup completed in our backyard (which is part of a dry forest). Now, despite the massive cleanup, I know that there is still a good chance of encountering "stuff" whenever I venture back there. I learned in our very early stages of being here that it's always best to have your guard up when out working in the yard (or even just hanging out in the great outdoors for that matter). Every morning as I'm getting ready to head out into the backyard, I slather on my SPF50, grab my sombrero, put on a pair of socks, rubber boots (a very classy look) and go grab my trusty machete.

This morning was one of those typical mornings where I had a plan and knew what I wanted to get done in the 4 hours before the sun would start getting too hot to work outside. I grabbed my machete, a rake, and a wheelbarrow and headed down into our recently excavated property. Should be pretty easy and straightforward, there won't be anything out there that can get's just dirt, some branches and a few weeds here and there.

Much to my surprise as I started moving a little bit of dirt near an old log, all of the sudden right in front of me was a very bright red snake with yellow'ish and black stripes coming out of a small burrow. It immediately started slithering to try to hide. So, of course, I did what anyone would do and grabbed my phone to take a few pictures. I honestly would have preferred that it just leave instead of trying to hide right where I was working. So of course I took my rake and gently moved the dirt a bit more (being careful not to hurt it). That's when it came from its hiding spot (where I got a really good look at it) and it started heading in the opposite direction of me. Eventually finding a place to hide underneath another log that was close by. It wasn't a large snake by any means, perhaps about eighteen inches long, and its head was about the size of the tip of my pinkie finger. But nonetheless not being a fan of snakes, I'm pretty sure my heart skipped a few beats when I saw it, not just because it was a snake but because I was quite certain what I saw was the venomous Central American Coral snake.

Once the snake had safely gone to a new hiding spot, I posted one of my pictures onto a Snakes of Costa Rica Facebook group in hopes I would get confirmation of the species. The tricky thing with these snakes in particular is that there are the "real" Central American Coral Snakes which possess a lethal dose of neurotoxic venom, and then there are other snake species (False Corals) that possess very similar colors and patterns but are completely harmless. Sure enough, within minutes, I received several messages confirming that this specimen was in fact a true Central American Coral Snake...holy crap...

A lot of people's first instinct would be to take the machete and kill it; however, these snakes are actually of tremendous medical importance, and truth be told, they aren't out to get you (there is another species of snake here that takes that spot). They will slither away and hide as they don't want anything to do with you...and in this case, this species of snake is known to eat other how bad is it to have one on our property as long as it doesn't bother us or cause harm.

*Here's a wee bit of information about this snake species and take note, this one is a little creepy, it's super colorful and vibrant (it actually looks very beautiful) but given the right circumstances it's venom can pack a heck of a punch. It's venom has the potential to cause severe neurotoxicity and respiratory failure if a bite is left untreated and it's also considered to be one of the most toxic venoms of any snake on earth. It's also interesting to note that the Central American Coral Snake (or Micrurus Nigrocintus) is a snake that is part of the Elapidae family (which also includes Cobras, Mambas, and Taipans - all of which are deadly). While the coral snakes look beautiful, they are a "do not touch" if you ever encounter one. The good news is that I did not get bitten and turns out that Coral snakes are apparently a very shy and timid snake so encounters that lead to bites are supposedly quite rare. These creatures, no matter how scary or creepy all have an important role in the eco-system of this beautiful country and the world in general so it's vital that they be respected as much as possible.

Each day there are new and exciting experiences here (some better than others), but it's all what you make of those experiences. For me, this experience was a good reminder that it's important to always be on your toes and aware of your surroundings (similar to my experiences going into Mechanical shops and live Railyards - your head needs to be on a swivel looking out for potential safety concerns; the same applies when working in the outdoors in a tropical country; it's just a different kind of safety concern that lurks out here...

...just another wonderful day in paradise!

*Note: I'm no snake expert, this is simply information that I have read prior to and after having encountered this snake for the first (and hopefully last) time.


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