thepioneersofpanama

A Journey in living simply, in living off the land and in giving back.

Category: Snakes

The Snake Slayer

My Mother and I were sitting in the living room talking one morning, when we noticed two of our cats starting to act oddly. They would approach the area between the sofa and window very slowly and then would retreat very quickly.

We could not figure out why.
After ten minutes of their continued bizarre behavior I pushed away the sofa from the wall and even looked under the ottoman and found- nothing– save one dead cockroach, belly up.

Freaky cats, anyways was my thought.

And then our third cat, Ed, sauntered into the room. He too approached the sofa and ottoman with trepidation– and would then retreat– exhibiting the same behavior as the other two cats. After his cautious examination of the ottoman, he bravely jumped onto the sofa.
Curiously I watched him, walk across the top of the sofa only to get down low on his haunches, peering outside the window.

Hmmm.Looking outside... at what?

I jumped up and leaned close to Ed trying to see what had his rapt attention.  When I spied it.  Neatly coiled in the potted plant under the window was a grand specimen of a Fer-de-Lance, taking a morning siesta.

Snake Outside Window
Yikes.

Needless to say I pulled Ed into the house  and shut the window screen as fast as a body could.

This was the first time living in Panama, that I had seen a live viper so close to our home. Our worker occasionally kills one while working out in the fields and then proudly brings it up to the house, where I can take his picture with his latest kill. I have told him repeatedly I wanted him to find me, if ever he found a snake in the fields, to show me how to kill a snake, for such a time as this. However, the opportunity never afforded itself. And now it was the weekend, Steve was not home and no workers were on the property.

Plan A. My Mother and I immediately made a call to our male worker to see if he could come over and save the day by removing the snake. It turns out he was in town and not at home.

Plan B.  We called our female worker and she gasped in horror, when we told her about the snake so close to the house. She quickly volunteered her male friend that was visiting her home that morning.
He appeared on horseback within minutes. Impressive time for Panama!
He was an elderly Panamanian man, his face wrinkled from years in the sun and in his hand was a stick about 6 ft tall.
I told him he would need a machete and I went and got him one, then showed him the snake from the safety of the inside of the house.

He bent down and viewed the snake, telling us it was “Peligrosa, muy peligrosa..” Which means “Dangerous, very dangerous”.

Viewing the Snake
Okay, I had kinda gathered the snake was very dangerous. That is why we called for help, right?

I suggested he  go outside so he could kill it. Slowly, he went out, quietly muttering prayers in Spanish to some patron saint.

To Kill or Not to Kill

He stood a safe distance away, hunched over looking at the snake, then within a minute of contemplation, he was back inside– telling us, that he needed to go and get another man to help him.

Apparently this snake required two men to slay it.

Caramba!

Now to be perfectly honest and not to doubt the word of the dear Panamanian man, but my Mother and I did not think he would ever come back. He had looked pretty uneasy about the whole situation.

And after waiting over ten minutes for him to return, the snake moved its position within the terracotta planter.

Did the snake sense his minutes on earth were numbered or did he just feel the nervous tension from inside the house?
We were concerned he was going to exit the pot. And then what would we do? I figured a moving target was going to be harder and more dangerous to kill.

It was at that moment, I decided, I could kill it–enter Plan C.
So I went and got a pitchfork from the shed.
I talked with my Mom on my strategy of how to kill the snake.
I figured if I quickly thrust the garden tool into his thick leathery body, I had a good chance, of pinning him down in at least a couple places.
I thought if I did not hit his upper body and only a spot in his lower half, he could not go too far, right…? I should still be able to contain him to the pot, right???

I opened the window screen slowly and hovered the pitchfork about 12 inches above the snakes body….
And then my arms felt weak like jelly and my hands started shaking.
I can do this, I said over and over in my mind.
The tremors continued to move from both of my hands up into my arms.

Dang.

I shut the window.
I told my Mother this was stupid. I knew I could do it. I could pin the snake. Yet why was I shaking…?
Frustrated, I then gave myself a more in-depth pep talk and without thinking, opened the window screen once more and with all my might pushed the pitchfork into the snakes  hard muscular body.
Immediately the snakes head and upper third, lunged forward.

My heart skipped a beat!

I used the top end of the pitchfork and pushed the pot and snake further from the house.
By now, the adrenaline was flowing.

This sucker was gonna die.

I found where the elderly man had left the machete and I picked it up and went out on the back porch.
I got behind the snakes line of vision and struck it with the machete.
The snake turned and opened its mouth wide with a menacing look of hate. He was ready for combat.
I had not pinned him as well, as I hoped and though he turned to me with great rage, he could not reach me, if I continued strike from behind him…

I parried and thrusted the machete, as fine as any swordsman of ole. Years of watching old classic movies, like the Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers had finally paid off (And not to mention the great duel scene in The Princess Bride with Dread Pirate Roberts!).

And after a dozen machete strikes, the snake finally fell back and died with his mouth open and fangs exposed.

Mostly Dead

Mostly dead.

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All dead.

To be honest, I really did hate having to kill this beautiful creature, however I am not a Steve Irwin and I was in no way going to risk life and limb by trying to remove him alive. In fact, as I was slashing him with the machete, I told him I was sorry for it and I wish he had stayed in the safety of the jungle far away from me.

Let this be a warning to other Fer-de-Lance, Bushmasters and other venomous snakes in our village. Stay out of the yard, off the porch and outta the house or you too may receive a similar demise.

Update:

Apparently the snake pictured below, did not receive the memo about staying out of the yard, off the porch and outta the house, as he had trespassed all three. I found him slithering across the kitchen floor one night, as I was ready to turn off the light and cross the floor.

I hollered for Steve and he ran into the kitchen lickedy split.  He ordered me to move back from the snake. (I was well away from it, mind you.)

I reminded him this was not my first rodeo, so to speak, and I had this.  All a girl needs is a sharp machete and voila no more live snake.

snake July 2013

I told him I had this

Our workers are beginning to revere me as a great snake slayer. I fancy it will be one of the many things the locals will remember of this crazy gringa girl.

I pray all of you are well and blessed– I think of you often. Be careful out there– it is a crazy world!  And watch out for snakes!

Yours, Rose

For All the Snake Lovers– Can You Correctly Identify This Viper?

According to our blog statistics we get dozens of  hits every week from people searching for information about the snakes of Central America.

I thought I would share with you some of the most recent photos and video of a snake which was killed recently on the property.

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Danilo and the Viper

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Eeeks– Look at those fangs and notice the venom on the machete

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A close up of the vipers head

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A close up the skin

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Bad kitty, Hey Ed keep away from the snake!

Can you correctly identify this viper?

Peace~Rose

Snakes: A Hazard of Living in the Jungle

Whenever our worker chops the tall grasses around our property with his machete, invariably he runs across a snake.

I wish I could say the snakes here were all non-poisonous snakes, like the snakes I grew up with in Western Washington or to have no snakes at all like my cousin in Hawaii, but this is not the case.

Usually if you find a snake here in Panama, it is poisonous.

This week our worker killed a poisonous snake called the Bushmaster (Lachesis muta muta), while clearing a field by the house.

Danillo with a Bushmaster he killed (Notice its belly bulge-it has recently ate!)

This Bushmaster is almost as tall as Danillo, who is 5’1!

Here is some information about the Bushmaster:

The Bushmaster, is the largest pit viper and venomous snake in the world. It is found in Central and South America, as well as island of Trinidad. It often reaches lengths in excess of 6 feet with a maximum recorded length of an incredible 12 feet. The Bushmaster is usually thick bodied, with a triangular-shaped head characteristic of the pit vipers.
This snake has a fearsome reputation for being particularly aggressive towards humans, if agitated or startled. The Bushmaster has extremely long fangs and has the ability to quickly strike multiple times, even the bite of a juvenile snake can be fatal.  It delivers a large and powerful dose of hemotoxic venom which attacks the circulatory system, destroys red blood cells and leads to generalized tissue damage and organ degeneration. However, this snake is basically nocturnal and contact with humans is minimized for this reason.

*Addendum to the orginial post-added on 01/11/2012*:

‘Arne O. left a comment for me stating this snake is a Bothrops and not a Bushmaster. Our worker called it a Bushmaster, but then again he is not a herpetologist and neither am I. We appreciate your correction, Arne.

My parents had told me we have  “Fer-de-Lance” snakes in this area, aka Bothrops. From what I have investigated on the internet, I like it no better than the Bushmaster. A venomous snake is a venomous snake, right? (If anyone can verify if this is a Bothrops atrox or asper or …please let me know…? I might have a picture that is closer up, if needed. Gracias.)’

I hope this doesn’t scare any of you from back home from coming down and visiting us! We have never seen a snake in the house or in close proximity to it, so please don’t change any future plans you had!!!

I hope everyone’s week has started off well and covered in blessing.

All of us here are still absorbing the news of my Fathers diagnosis of cancer and are trying our best to make some plans of how we need to act. My Father is very tired and has been sleeping a lot. We have put him on a raw food diet, rich in alkaline foods with plenty of carrot juice and green drinks. My Mother and I have also been searching the internet for different alternative treatments. (My Father is not sure he wants to have traditional treatments at this time, but he plans to meet with an oncologist in Panama City in the coming week.) Thank you all for your messages and emails of support and comfort. It is appreciated more than you know.

Shalom (Peace) to you all my dears, Rose

P.S. To our dear nephews, Jonathon and Tyler, when you come down to visit us, there will be no searching, hunting or handling of snakes. Comprende?