Snakes Under The Rock … And in The Mail!!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s amazing what you discover when you are gong through old stuff.  Cleaning out a pile of old rotten logs and wood, throwing out old cinder blocks … and there nicely curled up was this little boa.

He was so comfy in his little house I hated to disrupt his life to clean up.

I was also going through the mail, the comments you folks nicely make about my blogs, and guess what …?  Now I have to tell you that I read all the comments, but when I’m at sea dealing with lousy satellite Internet I sometimes miss things, as was the case here.  Looking through old comments and I found a whole pile of snakes!!  Well, sorta, in a digital kind of way.

Teaching Panamanian forces about jungle survival.

I’d written a blog about Poisonous Snakes in Panama and a reader made the interesting and thorough comment below.  So I decided to find out who this snake guy was and it turns out he really is an expert and knows of which he speaks.  His name is Eric A. Nicolaisen and, among other things he has some cabanas he rents out at his home on the edge of the Chagres National Park and is involved in various educational programs.  I found this very informative and i’m sure that you will as well.

Difference Between Poisonous and Venomous: Poison is a broad term for any substance that irritates or kills. It is also used in a restricted sense for any harmful substance that enters the body by absorption through the skin or through eating or breathing. Poison ivy, for instance, irritates the skin; poison dart frogs kill predators that swallow them. Such plants and animals are called poisonous. Venom is a poison that one animan-whether a spider, a snake, or a bee injects into another animal. Thus a snake or scorpion that injects a poison by biting or stinging is called venomous.

Panama in comparison: Panama for its small size 29,208 square miles (75,517 square kilometers); a country smaller than the state of South Carolina or slightly bigger than Ireland or Austria, has more venomous snakes than the entire United States, in the United States only 10% of the snake species are venomous. Panama has 130 species of snakes, 25 species or approximately 19% are highly venomous. The United States has only 17 venomous snakes (12 species of rattle snakes, cotton mouth, 2 species of copperhead, 3 species of coral snakes) and three states do not even have one poisonous snake (Alaska, Maine and Hawaii). There are approximately 3,000 known species of snakes in the world, with the vast majority of species being non-venomous. Only 13.3% or 410 species inject venom and are considered venomous, some highly venomous and some are mildly venomous and only 250 are able to kill a human with one bite.
Nearly three-quarters of the world’s venomous snakes (148 species) are native to Latin America. Central America has 34 species of highly venomous snakes; Panama has the most (25 species), followed by Guatemala (19 species), Costa Rica (17 species), Honduras (14 species), Nicaragua (14 species), Belize (9 species) and El Salvador the least (7 species). Tropical and subtropical regions have more venomous snakes than temperate regions. Snake bites are more common in tropical regions and in areas that are primary agricultural, due to the fact that large numbers of people coexist with numerous snakes. The West Indies in the Caribbean consists of hundreds of islands but venomous snakes are only found on a few of the islands; while endemic venomous snakes are only found on five islands. (Islands that have venomous snakes: St. Lucia, Martinique, Tobago, Trinidad, Margarita and Los Testigos).

Panama also has 21 rear fanged mildly-venomous snakes.

Panama has the largest incidence of snake bites registered in Central America; approximately 1,500 snake bites per year, with approximatley 18-20 deaths. A mortality rate of 1.25%. Over a 22 year period (1991-2012) 33,016 snake bites were reported with a yearly average of 1,500.7 bites per year.

Snake bites by comparison: Panama 54-62 cases per 100,00, Brazil1 2-14 cases per 100,000, Costa Rica 16 cases per 100,000, Colombia 6 cases per 100,000.

The provinces in Panama with the largest incidence of snake bite are: Veraguas 450, Coclé 258, Chiriquí 200, Panama west 175, Panama Metro 167;
according to statistics from the Minister of Health (MINSA) Department of Epidemiology. In Veraguas province 95% of venomous snake bites are from the fer-de-lance. (Statistics 2010).

Fer-de-lance’s inflict more than 90% of the snake bites in Panama that result in an amputation or death.

Most snake bites in Panama occur during June – October during the height of the rainy season. Most of those bitten are agricultural workers; snake bite is a major occupational hazard for rural people.

In Panama 50% of snake bites are located on the feet.

Panama purchases between 10-13 thousand vials of polyvalent antivenin a year, from the Clodomiro Picado Institute in San Jose, Costa Rica. Each vial cost the Minister of Health approximately $20 per vial. A venomous snake bite victim may need as many as 6-10 vials for treatment.

Nicolaisen with porcupine

I find this photo interesting because I didn’t know we had porcupines in Panama … until one of my dogs arrived home one night with a mouth full of porcupine quills! We took him to the home of a vet in David that night and it took the vet two hours to remove 75 quills from Bobbi’s mouth and throat. Vet bill … hand on to your seats all you folks in North America … $45 including medication.

This article shouldn’t dissuade you from thinking Panama is paradise.  Nothing is perfect.  The key with snakes is to watch where you are walking, but since I have three dogs, four including our bastard, illegitimate, loving former street dog Bobbi, with four dogs on the farm you’d better watch where you step!  This article … the 50% of snake bites located in the feet … is gong to make me go out and buy a pair of rubber boots like our Indigenous workers have been urging me to do for years, and give up on farming in my comfortable Keens.