Costa Rica is home to a VERY large number of venomous snakes. Of the deadly sort. The one that causes more deaths per year is the infamous fer-de-lance. The reason for the high rate of deaths lies both of the type of venom and the fact that is one type of snake that tends not to move away when people get close…as most snakes do. And if she feels that you are too close, she will just jump and bite. And they are fast. Like very very fast.
Needless to say, that we have been warned again and again about how dangerous fer-de-lance are. And the importance to put at least 3 meters (sigh!) between you and a fer-de-lance.
Well, this week I have had two encounters with a fer de lance. Luckily, I am still in one piece.
The first encounter, and potentially the most dangerous one, was this Tuesday (the 13th, by the way). That day we went to a night tour around the nature reserve in which we live now, together with another 3 volunteers. Our guide has a great eye for snakes, so I was quite comfortable with the walk. About 15 minutes after we started the walk, the batteries of my head lamp started to falter. I was with very little light but walking just behind the guide who had a very powerful torch, so I didn’t think that it mattered that much. The guide, however, thought otherwise. As soon as he noticed, he stopped and gave me one of his spare lamps, which was much brighter.
We resumed the walk and we had barely walked a couple of steps when I saw in the corner of my eye a movement and a flash of a snake jumping just in front of me from the right side of the path to the left side of the path. Like 10 centimeters from my feet. I instinctively jumped backwards and shouted to the guide
– SNAKE! I think that it is a viper! I added, since I had seen the triangled head. Ha Ha!
He turned around, pointed the light where I was pointing and went white.
Everyone out!! He yelled. This is not a viper!. It is a fer-de-lance!.
We all went backwards a couple of meters while he monitored where the snake was going. Some minutes later, there was no sight of the snake and the guide decided that it was safe to continue with the walk. Needless to say that, for the rest of the walk, I couldn’t take out of my mind the image of the snake jumping in front of me.
The second encounter was yesterday. It was our free day and we were happily reading at home when the guide asked us if we wanted to go for a short walk and install our camara trap in the forest. Yes, we said! This time, the guide saw it before we did. He stopped and pointed out the snake to us. We looked where he was pointing and I saw NOTHING! Where? I cannot see anything? There, there, in front of you! Still nada.
He then pointed with a loooooong branch. See? At the end of the branch, was something that looked like a kanellbulla. Only that it was EXACTLY the color of the leaves and sticks that carpet the forest floor.
I would have NEVER seen it. This is why there are so many attacks of fer-de-lance in Costa Rica every year.
– They are easily camouflaged
– They might not move away
– They are fast as lightning
– And their venom is lethal unless one gets antivenom within 2 hours.
Nice to know that they are all around….pffffff