Zopilota of Costa Rica
Also known as the Mussurana, the Zopilota is a docile and mildly venomous snake that has few instances of biting humans, and are often a welcome sight among farmers.
Zopilotas can be found in Central America from Guatemala to Brazil in South America. They inhabit lowland tropical forest, secondary forest and premontane forest. The places in Costa Rica where Mussuranas occur include Corcovado National Park, La Selva Biological Station, Cahuita National Park and Tortuguero National Park.
Mating & Reproduction
Females can be very defensive when approached by a male in the beginning phases of courtship. Given a little bit of time and wooing, and the female will soften to the males advances some. The two exhibit tongue hissing and coiling while in the process of copulating.
When the female has been impregnated, she will shed her skin after about two weeks. A female will lay a clutch of 8 to 12 eggs. The eggs incubate for a period of around 150 days, and not all of the snakes will reach maturity for birth. The snakes that do make it are born with very contrasting colors to their parents who are a bluish black complexion. The young have a red head with a black or sometimes white body at birth.
Mussuranas appear very docile when handled by humans. They are rear fanged, and their venom is mild. Of the few instances of a person being bitten, the venom did not prove fatal to humans. However, like all snakes, they should be handled with care.
The Zopilota eats lizards, mammals and other snakes. The snake is celebrated in Brazil among other places for its ability to withstand the venom of pit vipers such as the Fer-de-Lance. This factor has contributed to the Mussuranas ability to regularly consume pit vipers. The Zopilota employs two tactics in hunting its prey. First, it uses its venomous bite, and rapidly coils itself around its prey. It then constricts its prey to finish killing it.
Zopilotas are often kept by farmers to get rid of pit vipers who adversely affect their livestock. They are sometimes called psuedoboas due to their second hunting tactic of constricting their prey.
Where to see it in Costa Rica: Corcovado National Park, Piedras Blancas National Park, La Selva Biological Station, Cahuita National Park, Tortuguero National Park
Diet: snakes, lizards, mammals
Migration Pattern: non-migratory
Habitat: lowland tropical forest, secondary forest, premontane forest
Size: length=1.5-2.4 m weight=undefined
Species: Clelia clelia