What is an Eyelash Viper?

Alex Paul
Alex Paul
Veterinarian with a puppy
Veterinarian with a puppy

The eyelash viper is a type of venomous pit viper that is found in a variety of colors. This makes it a popular attraction at zoos. The snakes are found throughout South and Central America and are sometimes known as the eyelash mountain viper and Schlegel’s viper. Usually the snakes live in tropical areas that have a dense covering of plants and foliage. Although the snake isn’t thought to be aggressive toward humans it will bite without hesitation if it feels threatened.

The eyelash viper is a small species of snake that usually doesn’t grow longer than 2.5 feet (76 cm). There is a large amount of variation in color amongst different eyelash vipers. Some colors include yellow, brown/green and red. There have even been some found with pink scales. A distinguishing feature of the snakes is that they usually have a speckled appearance that is present no matter what the base color.

The reason that the snake gets its name is due to the small scales that protrude out over the eyes and look like eyelashes. This is thought to be a way to provide more camouflage in thickly covered areas. The eyelashes help to break up the outline of the snake, which makes it harder for prey and predators to detect.

Eyelash vipers are found throughout Southern America and its range extends up to the south of Mexico. Usually the snakes don’t live in places that are elevated high above sea level. Some countries where the eyelash viper is commonly found include Peru, Colombia and Ecuador.

The eyelash viper is capable of climbing trees using its tail. In general the snake is nocturnal and preys on small mammals although it will also eat birds. Its ability to climb and wait in trees is part of the snake's surprise strategy that allows it to wait for prey to come within striking distance. There is some evidence that suggests that the species will sometimes move its tail in a way that mimics worms in order to attract potential prey.

Although the venom of the eyelash viper is dangerous, the snake is still commonly kept as a pet. This is often due to its interesting coloring. Rarer colors can often fetch a large price. There are still some snakes exported from the wild although this is not as common as in the past. The bite of the viper may or may not be fatal to a human depending on the amount delivered.

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    • Veterinarian with a puppy
      Veterinarian with a puppy