Saturday, April 18, 2009

Conophis Lineatus; Road Guarder (Locally known as Ratonera)

Those who know me know I like snakes. I've been catching and keeping them since I was about 7 years old and without incident. That is, until last Friday, when I did something a bit stupid.

I was standing next to the family restaurant chatting with friends over beers at around 5PM when a young gentleman tapped me on the shoulder to point out a snake crawling between my legs. It was a snake I had caught many times around the house so I reached down and grabbed it by the tail to the amazement of the guy who tapped me on the shoulder.

But not far enough down his tail, as it would turn out. He turned and bit me on the heel of my hand. After about 30 seconds, he let go - they always do - and began to crawl through my fingers like we had been friend since birth. The friends I was chatting with were amazed and were taking pics. All of them proceeded to to tell stories about their encounters with snakes, alligators and other reptiles while I played with my new buddy.

Well, within a half hour my hand began to swell up a bit. Not uncommon after a bite, but this one burned too - that was new. I took the snake over to a big pile of fallen palm branches, away from anyone who could harm him and let him go. Then headed back for another beer.

3 hours later my hand looked like a latex glove that someone had exhaled into. My wife spotted my big hand, fingered me and I came out with the story. She was pissed - she hates snakes. She wanted me to go immediately to a private clinic to get treatment. I told her it would be fine in a day or so (probably). You see, I didn't know EXACTLY what kind of snake it was.

Long story short, I checked into the emergency room at the hospital in Liberia. Since I didn't know what kind of snake it was, and I didn't have the snake with me, I was given an I/V cocktail of antivenin to cover all bases. They started with a pain killer I/V. But I really wasn't in any pain. Then they started with the cocktail. The nurse told me I might have an allergic reaction to it. I told her I didn't have any allergies.

Within about 10 minutes my head and ears were throbbing. I broke out into a sweat. The palms of my hands, the soles of my feet and my armpits were itching like crazy.Try to scratch the palms of your hands! Sounds easy. Not. I had broken out in hives and my face was red. I went to the nurse and told her I didn't feel well. She took one look at me, saw the welts on my sweaty epidermis and put me on a gurney under an A/C unit.

This is when the voluminous flatulence started. And as it happened, my gaseous bottom was aimed at an open office door, that was closed abruptly after two rounds came a rumbling. My stomach now felt like it was trying to exit through my esophagus. It was painful. The nurse gave me an injection to ease the pain. In 15 seconds I was vomiting on her feet.

After mopping up my parting souvenir, I was wheeled to another area. I'm not sure where it was because I was too exhausted to open my eyes. My wife had been in the waiting room and had had no communication with me. She talked a security guard into letting her in to visit me and, man, was she a sight for sore eyes. Just seeing her made me feel better.

The hospital would not discharge me until the 3ntire I/V cocktail had been administered. So I spent the night on the gurney with the nurses putting me in and out of allergic reactions all night. Amazingly, I was able to sleep.

By 11 AM the next day, I was finished with the cocktail and was getting a bit antsy to be discharged. The doctor said he was still awaiting my blood test results and I would have to wait. They had taken a blood smaple the night before and I was pretty sure the results were available, but no one was really hunting them down. So I told the doctor that if he didn't make a move to obtain the results in the next 5 minutes, I would take my clothes off and run through the hospital naked. I reached for my belt. He motioned me to hold off. The results were in his hands in about 3 minutes. The venom was not hazardous to my kidneys and there was no risk of renal failure. I was out!

As I was being discharged, my brother-in-law was checking in. He had lost the tip of his middle finger when trying to remove a hook from a fish he had caught. The line got wrapped around his finger and when the fish flipped, the line tightened like a noose around his finger in an instant, thus severing it like a cocktail weenie. I'll take the snake bite.

Pura vida!

P.S. Thanks to Robert Meidinger at The World of Snakes here in Costa Rica for identifying the snake that bit me as Conophis Lineatus, a rearfanged snake known for painful bites, but whose venom will not cause any more troubles than the pain and swelling. English name "Road Guarder"; Local name “Guardacamino”. Costa Rica is home to over 130 species of snakes and only 17 species are venomous.


  1. Hey Mike. Para mi, y de acuerdo a la fotografia lo que picó fué una ratonera- en lenguaje de pueblo.
    Moraleja. -ver y no tocar-

  2. Gracias, Naomi. Mi esposa y suegro me dijo el mismo.

  3. Tranquilo brother, yo tambien fui victima de mordedura de Conophis en ambas manos y se perfectamente el infierno que eso significa para uno como persona y para la familia. y como biologo que soy tambien entiendo tu pasion por estas bellas criaturas, de estos casos ellas no tienen la culpa pues la mala manipulacion como es mi caso y creo que el tuyo tambien, lo que debemos de ser es mas prudentes y precavidos. Dios te bendiga.

  4. Awesome. I had 4 wrapped up, apparently being amorous on my front porch about 20 minutes ago. My housekeeper went out to sweep and FREAKED.A quick look through the serpientes of CR manual I ID'd it, put on a pair of welding gloves and caught all four at once. I took them down to the river to continue the orgy.I've seen a bunch but four at once was "different"

    1. Doug, that's hilarious! Thanks for sharing!! Pura vida!

  5. So the antivenin caused all of those symptoms...not the actual bite...right?

    1. My hand swelled up as a result of the bite. No pain. Just a big hand. The antivenin is what put me through a living hell!