Snakes are fun, don’t you think? I don’t know what it is about them, but I’ve always been a fan. Maybe it’s how they can do so well without any limbs. It is pretty impressive. I don’t think that’s it though. I’m pretty sure I like snakes so much because I’m so terrified of spiders. I’m compensating for my absolute terror of those eight-legged abominations by liking snakes. Added bonus: they have no legs so they are way less creepy.

Today’s wonderful snake is the cantil, a snake that lives in Central America and Mexico. They are venomous snakes and are related to cottonmouths. The venom of the cantil is quite strong; in one out of six cases bite victims may require amputation of the affected limb. Bites from an adult cantil can kill adult humans in a matter of hours. Luckily cantils are not very aggressive, and prefer to hide when threatened. Despite this, cantils have a nasty reputation. Why is it that any venomous animal is assumed to be horribly mean?

A young cantil with a bright green tail tip.
A young cantil with a bright green tail tip.

Cantils are heavy snakes, with black or brown colouring sprinkled with some white. They have a special tail which in juveniles is bright yellow or green. This is to help the young, slow snake catch prey. The snake dangles the tail to attract an unlucky victim and then snatches them up for a tasty meal. Presumably adult snakes are better at catching prey, as their tail darkens and is not used as a lure in old age. Adults do have a defensive display that involves smacking their tail against themselves like a whip.

A cantil showing a typical posture in tail luring.
A cantil showing a typical posture in tail luring.

I think the lesson from this post is twofold: 1) leave animals alone. Pretty much every animal will avoid people if given a choice. Don’t poke animals and they won’t bite you (usually), and 2) if you see a pretty green or yellow worm, ignore it. It’s probably a snake trying to lure you to your death.

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