A.M. COSTA RICA Your English language news source since 2001

Find the latest news in Costa Rica

Real Estate  /  Rentals  /  Hotels  /  Professional Services Classifieds  / Garden  Restaurants / Tourism  / Culture & Lifestyle  /  Food   / Sports   / BusinessHealth /
Wild Costa Rica

- Photo via Clodomiro Picado Institute -

Wild Costa Rica:

the bocaracá

You Might
Also Like

Published on Tuesday, February 27, 2024
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The bocaracá pit viper (Bothriechis schlegelii), also known as the eyelash viper or horned palm viper in English, as well as oropel (golden morph) and toboba de pestañas (eyelash viper), is a poisonous snake species that inhabit Costa Rica.

According to the Clodomiro Picado Institute, a research facility affiliated with the University of Costa Rica and responsible for the production of snake serums and scientific research on snakes and their venom, vipers account for around 66% of the country's reptile population.

Only 23 of the territory's 140 snake species are classified as poisonous. The bocaracá is one of them.

In Costa Rica, the snake may be found practically anywhere, from tropical woodlands at sea level to cloud rainforests 1,500 meters above sea level.

Eyelash vipers are known for their vibrant and striking coloration. They can be found in various colors, including green, yellow, orange, and red. The coloration often helps them blend into the vegetation in their natural habitat.

One of the most distinctive features of the viper is the presence of scales above their eyes that resemble eyelashes, giving them their common name. They are relatively small species of pit viper, with adults ranging from 22–32 inches long, and females being longer and more variable in size than males, which can grow to 27 inches long.

It has a wide, triangular-shaped head, and eyes with vertical pupils. Like all pit vipers, it is solenoglyphous, having large, hypodermic needle-like fangs in the front of the upper jaw that fold back when not in use and has heat-sensitive organs, or pits, located on either side of the head between the eye and nostril. 

These are arboreal snakes, meaning they spend a significant amount of time in trees. They are well-adapted to life in the trees and are often found coiled on branches or hanging from vines.

These vipers are known for their ambush-hunting behavior. They wait patiently for prey to come within striking distance before attacking.

The snake is primarily nocturnal, eating tiny rodents, frogs, snakes, and small birds. 

Eyelash vipers are ovoviviparous, meaning they give birth to live young instead of laying eggs. The female retains the eggs within her body until they hatch, and then she gives birth to fully-formed offspring.

It is not an aggressive snake, although it will strike if startled. Experts advise, in the case of encountering a snake in the wild it's crucial to observe from a safe distance and avoid any attempts to handle or disturb the snake.

Experts suggest that if an eyelash viper bites, the victim should seek immediate medical attention. Common symptoms include difficulty breathing, discomfort, bruising, heart rate fluctuations, and numbness. The risk of death is determined by how much venom the viper spewed.

The conservation status of the vipers is not globally assessed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. However, they could be at risk of habitat loss from increased deforestation for timber, agriculture and urbanization. 

Another rare wild species found in Costa Rica is the jaguarundi, often known as "León breñero" or the lion that dwells in the undergrowth.

The Wild Costa Rica page is a space for readers to discover more about the fascinating species that make the "pura vida" land one of the world's countries with the richest natural diversity.

Have you heard of expats surviving snake bites in Costa Rica?  We would like to know your thoughts on this story. Send your comments to news@amcostarica.com