Manchita and the viper

The other day, Frank and I were having dinner at the porch talking about the wildlife around the house. You know what? I said. Of all the night creatures that the house taker / gardener had warned us about, the only ones that we haven’t yet seen are snakes.

Not that I had any interest in seeing one. But we have been told many times by now that we should be careful not to leave the door to the porch open. It seems that snakes have a habit of getting in the house when it is windy. And it happens that currently the weather ranges between windy to extremely windy five out of seven nights a week. So, we kind of expect it to happen at any time.

And, as if the universe was listening, the next morning, when I go out of the house to feed Manchita, she was waiting for me with a shitty little snake. What we would call in Spanish a “culebrilla”.

With my keen eye for details (SIGH!) I looked at our book about reptile and amphibians of Costa Rica and concluded -very satisfied with myself- that it was a snail eating snake. Completely harmless.

I took some photos and I left the snake in the porch in any case so that Manchita could continue playing with it and Frank could have a look at it, whenever he decided to leave the arms of Morpheus.

When the gardener came, I told him how Manchita had brought a snail eating snake. He took a milisecond-long look at the snake and told me in a very calm and polite way that that snake was actually a viper (specifically a Slender Hognosed Pitviper) and that it was VERY poisonous.

Of the ‘lets-race-to-the-hospital-to-get-an-antidote-within-the-hour’ type of poisonous.

Manchita. My hero.

The lessons learnt

First. Poisonous snakes can be quite small

One of the positive outcomes of this anecdote is that now we know how some vipers look like. Hitherto, we have been very careful with where we step or put our hand but honestly, we were both looking for larger snakes (and scorpions).

Second. Do’s and Dont’s in case of snake bite

We have also learnt well what to do and not to do in the unfortunate case of being bitten by a poisonous snake. Basically keep calm, wash the bite with soap and drive as fast as you can to your closest health center (centro de salud). No medicines. No ice. No tourniquet.

Fortunately, Costa Rica has both the polyvalent snake antivenom and the coral snake antivenom. I say ‘fortunately’, because one no longer needs to identify the snake that has bitten you or bring it to the hospital so that the doctors administer the right antivenom.

So, from now onwards, we will make sure to know where the closest health center is. Just in case.


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