Central American Bushmaster, Reptile - Vertebrate

The Central American bushmaster (Lachesis stenophrys) is the longest pit viper in the world—they can grow up to 12 feet in length. These snakes have a deadly bite and live throughout Central America and northern South America.


The Central American bushmaster is found throughout Central America and parts of northern South America. This snake lives in moist tropical forests and usually stays close to a water source. They typically live in primary forests.

Physical Description

The Central American bushmaster is the longest pit viper in the world. It has a round, flat head and a level snout. The snake has a ridge of upturned scales running down the center of its body. It is usually light tan and has a pattern of dark diamond shapes that run along the length of its body.

Interesting Biology

The Central American bushmaster has two heat sensing pits on their face. These are used to detected warm-blooded prey.

The snake usually lays 10 to 12 eggs, rather than birthing live young like other snakes. They are the only egg-laying pit vipers in the Americas. Females coil around their eggs during incubation.

They have large stores of venom and deliver it through long fangs, which can sometimes be up to 1-inch long.

Bites from bushmasters can occur by accidentally stepping on the snake. Their venom is deadly and the bites can be fatal, so seek medical attention immediately if bitten. The venom is not as toxic as the venom of other snakes, but the bushmaster injects such a large amount of venom that it ends up being fatal. That said, these snakes are usually shy and bites are rare.

The Central American bushmaster is not officially protected, but it is in danger of extinction due to habitat loss.


Bushmasters eat birds and small mammals like rodents. They are ambush predators that sit and wait for their prey. They kill by biting and injecting venom. They then wait for their prey to die and will swallow them whole.


The Central American bushmaster can grow up to 12 feet (4 m) long and weigh between 6.5 and 11 lbs (3 to 5 kilos).

Brief Taxonomy

Order: Squamata

Family: Viperidae


McDiarmid RW, Campbell JA, Touré T. 1999. Snake Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference, vol. 1. Herpetologists' League. 511 pp.

Campbell JA, Lamar WW. 2004. The Venomous Reptiles of the Western Hemisphere. 2 volumes. Comstock Publishing Associates, Ithaca and London. 870 pp.