Boomslang Snake

There is beauty wherever you look in Africa, but in some cases the most beautiful things can also prove to be the most deadly. That is certainly the case when it comes to the snakes of Africa and one of the most beautiful, as well as most venomous, is the Boomslang.

Found throughout sub-Saharan Africa, the name Boomslang comes from the Afrikaan and Dutch languages and translates into “tree snake.” The Boomslang belongs to the family Colubridae and is one of the very few venomous snakes in this family. Other members of this family include the milk snake and the king snake.

Boomslangs can vary greatly in color with males being many shades of green or light blue, or sometimes even reddish, with blue or black edges on their scales and a yellow underside. Females are generally olive colored or brown. An average adult Boomslang grows to a length of between 3 and 5 feet, but specimens of over 6 feet have been found. While they are lengthy, they are also slender and most adults reach a weight of less than 1 pound. One of their most noticeable characteristics is the size of their eyes, which are extremely large in comparison to their small heads.

As its name implies, the Boomslang spends most of its life in trees or shrubs where it eats mainly chameleons and other lizards. They will also eat frogs, eggs, and occasionally a small mammal or bird.

Boomslangs usually lay between 10 and 20 eggs in the late spring or early summer. They deposit their eggs in hollow trees, in abandoned birds’ nests, and occasionally at the base of trees on the ground. Incubation takes around 3 months and males are grey with blueish spots and females are brown. After a few years they will attain their adult colors. Hatchlings are not a threat to humans, but will become so by the time they attain the girth of an adult’s pinky finger.

Boomslang venom is a slow acting hemotoxin that disables the clotting process of the blood. It can cause internal and external hemorrhaging and eventually death. Other symptoms are nausea, drowsiness, and headache. Since the venom acts slowly, symptoms may not appear until hours after a bite. This allows extra time to administer the antivenom, but in some cases the victim may underestimate the severity of the bite because no symptoms appear.

While the Boomslang is deadly, it is also very shy and almost never aggressive. In most cases it will flee from anything that isn’t small enough to eat and the majority of bites have been inflicted on handlers or others who are trying to catch these snakes.

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