Science and Research

Notes From the Field: Terciopelo

While the Osa Peninsula, rich with biodiversity and sheer beauty, is a wonderful place to kick back and relax, there are numerous opportunities for visitors to catch a glimpse of some of the world’s most fascinating reptiles. Some of which, like the Terciopelo, can be especially hard (and dangerous) to spot.

The Terciopelo is a beautiful dark grey, brown or olive green snake, with a dorsal pattern of triangular designs on both sides of its body, resembling a letter ‘X’ visible from above. It’s a large snake that can grow up to 250 cm (over eight feet!) in length, although the average adult is between 140 and 180 cm (4.6 to 5.9 ft) long. The females are much longer than the males.

It principally eats small mammals and birds. The species is viviparous, which means that the embryos grow inside of the mother and are born fully formed. Furthermore, the snake is very fruitful; it can give birth to up to 90 offspring. This high fertility explains in part why the Terciopelo is one of the most abundant snakes in Costa Rica.

It lives in the rainforest and the tropical rainforest and it adapts well to disrupted environments, which is part of the reason it’s so resilient. The Terciopelo occupies territory from the Northeastern Caribbean of Mexico to Venezuela, and from the Central Pacific of Costa Rica to the Pacific lowlands of Columbia and Ecuador. In Costa Rica, they are abundant in the low and humid regions of the Pacific and Caribbean, from sea level up to 1,300 meters of elevation. They are fairly common in the Osa Peninsula and although our stations are safe, they can be easily found on trails, so hikers, strap on your rubber boots and keep an eye out!