Well, that was a first!
Yes we have snakes in Panama, about 127 species only 20 or so of which are poisonous, however a few of those are amongst the most deadly. So we live with snakes. Once in a while we see one on our finca. I’m happy to have most of them since they feed mostly on pests. We even have one, we’ve seen him, a big, long black snake, but I don’t want anything to happen to it because it’s favorite snack is baby fed de lance, the very poisonous snakes. So we are “snake friendly” for most snakes. But if they endanger our workers, our workers kids who run around like all Indigenous kids in their bare feet, or can potentially harm us or our dogs … machete time!
Around my finca you watch where you step, which is very good advice since I have three big dogs who are always leaving “gifts” around!
So today, it’s 4 pm. I’ve been working hard all day on a ship lecture that includes St. Martin, Virgin Gorda and Puero Rico … all in one 60-minute talk! It’s a challenge, but it is a port intensive cruise with little time at sea for lectures, so I have to pack a lot in. 4 pm. Nikki made me a delicious cafe mocha out of our own, home grown coffee, with some “extra flavoring” thrown in. [Little Kaluha, Anejo Rum, and Contreau – try it!] The fog is rolling in, so I decided to lay down in the hammock and read a book.
I’m getting comfortable on the hammock, and since it’s a little chilly take the throw blanket that’s always on the hammock and was my mother’s, and go to throw it open over myself … and out drops a two foot, pencil thin, squirming snake, right on my chest! You’d be surprised how fast I can move, and so was the snake! I start yelling for Nikki and Milton, the guy from next door whom we’ve known since he was nine and is cleaning our cars.
This guy is skinny, the snake, not Milton, but he has a big, almost lance-shaped head [“fer de lance“] is brownish, so Milton fearlessly smashes it’s head while Nikki fends off three very curious mutts. This is the time for action! We’ll identify the sucker later, and if he’s a “friendly” and not a “hostile” … well “Que lastima!”
Near as we can figure, and the consensus now of Indigenous opinion he is a “Chunk-headed” snake, actually more thick-headed to have gotten in my blanket.
Being so thin and bearing little weight, the Brown Blunt-headed Snake can move through branches and twigs without causing any movement. The triangular shape to the body and the large dorsal scales allow it to reach out a third of its body length from the branch supporting it. It has that wonderful forked tongue, which is an acute sense organ designed to detect parts per million of scent particles in the air. It also has those two huge eyes which cover a large percentage of the head. They face forward and can give a sense of depth perception, essential for the accuracy of a lightning quick strike that will follow. The unfortunate victim is snatched in its comatose state from the leaf, wrapped in a serpentine half-nelson, constricted and consumed whole before it even knew what hit it.
The eyes of the snake bear some further scrutiny if only to appreciate the cryptic coloration that along with the markings of the snake’s body serve to blend it perfectly into the background. It now becomes invisible to both its predators and prey. [Philip’s Blog Philip’s travel and nature experiences]
But needless to say it was a surprising first! Never-the-less another interesting creature.