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What is a Boomslang?

By J.L. Drede
Updated Mar 05, 2024
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The boomslang, whose scientific name is Dispholidus typus, is a venomous snake of the Colubrid family. The snake is found in the southern and sub-Saharan regions of Africa, usually in wooded grassland areas. It is primarily a tree-dwelling snake. The most notable physical trait of the boomslang is its oddly-shaped head, which some describe as egg-like in appearance. Also unusual are its eyes, which are extremely large for a snake of its size.

The boomslang is fairly large snake that can grow up to 5 to 6 feet (1.5 to 1.8 meters) in length. Males of the species tend to be brownish black, bright green, or bluish green. The coloration of the females is predominately brownish or olive. It is not a thick-bodied snake, and its very slender and sleek body makes it easier for it to climb through the tree branches, where it spends the majority of its life.

Unlike most other Colurbrids, the bloomslang snake is extremely venomous and even fatal to humans if treatment is not sought. Its venom is hemotoxic and destroys the red blood cells in the body. This can lead to massive internal and external bleeding. In addition to massive bleeding and body pain, additional symptoms of a bite from the snake can include nausea, headaches, and confusion. If left untreated, the venom can spread to the organs and may eventually cause organ damage or even failure.

It can take several hours before the effects of the venom become apparent to a victim. The deceptive nature of the boomslang snake bite was well documented in the case of Dr. Karl Patterson, a well-known herpetologist who died in 1957 after being bitten by the snake. He assumed the bite was not dangerous because he showed no immediate symptoms.

Thankfully, attacks on humans by the boomslang are rare, as the snake is naturally skittish and not aggressive toward humans unless cornered or provoked. Instead, its main prey are small animals such as lizards, frogs, and chameleons. It will also feed on birds and eggs that may be nesting in trees. It typically strikes from above, dropping down from tree branches onto its prey.

The boomslang is an oviparous snake, meaning it lays eggs. Typically the female boomslang will lay a litter of eight to 25 eggs and leave them in a large pile of leaves or sometimes in the hollow section of a tree. The incubation period of the eggs is approximately 100 days before they hatch.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Boomslang?

The Boomslang is a highly venomous snake native to sub-Saharan Africa. It's known for its strikingly large eyes and a potent hemotoxic venom that disrupts blood clotting. Adult Boomslangs can reach up to 5 feet in length and exhibit sexual dimorphism, with males displaying more vibrant colors than the typically olive-green females.

How does the Boomslang's venom affect humans?

Boomslang venom is hemotoxic, meaning it impairs blood clotting, leading to internal and external bleeding. Symptoms may include headache, nausea, sleepiness, and hemorrhages. Without prompt antivenom treatment, the venom can be fatal, although bites are rare due to the snake's shy nature and preference for avoiding confrontation.

Where can you find Boomslangs in the wild?

Boomslangs are arboreal snakes found throughout sub-Saharan Africa. They inhabit a variety of environments, from forests and savannas to shrublands. Their excellent climbing abilities allow them to navigate through trees with ease, where they primarily hunt birds, eggs, and small mammals.

What do Boomslangs eat?

Boomslangs are carnivorous and have a diet that mainly consists of small vertebrates. They are adept at hunting birds and their eggs, chameleons, frogs, and occasionally small mammals. Their tree-dwelling lifestyle equips them perfectly for capturing arboreal prey, although they can also hunt on the ground if necessary.

How can you identify a Boomslang?

Identifying a Boomslang is relatively straightforward due to its distinctive features. They have exceptionally large eyes and a head that's distinct from their slender body. Males are often brightly colored with greens, yellows, and blacks, while females tend to be more subdued in color. Their smooth scales and egg-shaped head are also characteristic identifiers.

Is the Boomslang endangered?

The Boomslang is not currently considered endangered. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), it is listed as a species of 'Least Concern' due to its wide distribution and presumed large population. However, like many species, it faces threats from habitat destruction and human persecution.

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