The Golden Lancehead The Most Venomous Snake of The Americas

The golden lancehead that is the most venomous snake found in the Western Hemisphere that only lives on a small island off the coast of Brazil.

The most poisonous snake that is found in the Americas is the golden lancehead (Bothrops insularis) that is only found on the small island off the coast of Brazil called, “Ilha da Queimada Grande.” This species was named for the light yellowish brown color of its underside, and for its head shape that is quite unique to all the snakes of the genus Bothrops that means shaped like a spear point. At the present time there are no subspecies of this snake Bothrops insularis is recognized too science.

This is a snake of the same family as the golden lancehead having the same coloration.

Photo by Al Cortiz

The golden lancehead grows to be about 70 cm long even though its maximum length is at least 118 cm. Even though at times this snake lives in trees that does not possess a prehensile tail. It’s coloration pattern is a pale yellowish brown ground color that is overlain by a series of dorsal blotches on its fact it may be triangular or quadrangular. These blotches may also be broad, narrow or alternating or opposite along the backbone. When the state is held in captivity the yellowish color becomes darker that may be the result of poor circulation that is caused by ineffective temperature regulation. Many times when the pattern of blotches is opposite of the backbone state requires a banded pattern. The head of one of the snakes is long and narrow, hence the name lancehead that lacks a well defined post-orbital stripe. The snake’s belly is usually a pale yellow or cream color.

The golden lancehead normally feeds on birds.  Its extremely potent venom is so its dinner doesn’t fly off before the snake can catch the bird.  What makes this snake especially dangerous is because its habitat is not only on the ground, but in shrubs and trees too. 

The snake’s bite is especially dangerous because it is very fast acting hemotoxic venom where the victim literally bleeds to death after being bitten.  One of the victim’s was a fisherman who had landed on the island without knowing of the snakes.  He was found later in a blood drenched boat where he had bled to death as the result of the snakebite.

The Brazilian government established a lighthouse on the small island several Ilha de Queimada years ago, but so many lighthouse keepers were killed by this snake that the Brazilian government had to give up the idea of maintaining a manned lighthouse on the island.  In one instance a light house Keeper and his entire family was wiped out in one night attack in their sleep by this snake. 

This particular island is now off limits to everybody with the exception of scientists who are studying the snake and other wildlife found on the island.  Even these scientists can’t spend a night on the island; they have to leave before sunset.

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