Eyelash Viper

~30cm | January 18, 2011 | Gandoca-Manzanillo NWR, Limon Province, Costa Rica

This eyelash viper, Bothriechis schlegelii, was on the side of a tree. A recent crypsis challenge asked readers to find it, which turned out to be fairly easy.

In the photo above, you can easily see the two scales above the far eye that give this snake its common name. No other Costa Rican snake has this distinctive feature.

I used my Canon 100mm macro combined with my Tamron 1.4x teleconverter to get some closeup shots, without getting too close myself. A handful of people die in Costa Rica every year from bites by this snake.

They are arboreal, as suggested by this one’s location.

Dorsal view | Note triangular head, much wider than body

I was in the area for a couple of hours, and the whole time it never budged. They are in fact sit-and-wait predators and may wait motionless for days. Prey includes the usual suspects: frogs, lizards, birds and small mammals.

I have to admit I was slightly disappointed that this one wasn’t the flashy yellow color of some other individuals. Color is remarkably variable. A mother may give birth (live, by the way) to a mix of yellow, green, or brown young, as above. This one does appear to be young, based on its size (estimated, obviously).

At the nearby Jaguar Rescue Center, I had the opportunity to see many more snakes of this species up close, safely behind glass. Have you ever heard that young snakes can be more dangerous than mature snakes? At the center, my guide explained why that might be. Venom is a precious resource for a snake. As snakes age, they learn to control how much venom is released during a strike. Adult snakes are more likely to deliver a measured amount of venom. They may even release no venom at all, a dry strike. So even though the venom doesn’t change as a snake matures, young snakes are more likely to release more of it, yielding a more dangerous bite.

In situ


Photo Details:

Canon EOS 60D
EF100mm f/2.8 Macro USM + Tamron 1.4x Teleconverter
Manual exposure, 1/250 sec, f/16, ISO 100
Canon MT-24EX Macro Twin Lite Flash

Canon EOS 60D
EF100mm f/2.8 Macro USM + Tamron 1.4x Teleconverter
Manual exposure, 1/250 sec, f/16, ISO 100
Canon MT-24EX Macro Twin Lite Flash

Canon EOS 60D
EF-S18-55mm f/3.5-5.6, Shot at 18 mm
Auto exposure, Shutter priority AE, 1/160 sec, f/5.6, ISO 800
Canon MT-24EX Macro Twin Lite Flash

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2 Responses to Eyelash Viper

  1. Patrick Coin says:

    Nice. I’ve not gotten good results with my 100mm and a Tamron 1.4X converter, and I’m not sure why. Perhaps I need to try that more and experiment.
    Venomous snakes are a good reason to carry a longer lens, and I do sometimes.

    • Troy Bartlett says:

      I’ve been downsizing my equipment over the years. I evaluate my equipment like old clothes. If I’ve been carrying it around and haven’t used it, time to quit carrying it around :).

      I rarely take a tripod these days. It occasionally yields really excellent shots at or close to home. It’s just not worth the effort for trips.

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