BoomSlang or Tree Snake Overview
The Boomslang, or tree snake when directly translated to English, is a large and highly venomous snake belonging to the family Colubridae. This specific family is known to be the largest snake species as it is comprised of nearly two-thirds of all living snakes. The family is also known not to be venomous however the Boomslang is one of the few exceptions. The snake, which is scientifically known as the Dispholidus typus, has a relatively short lifespan of approximately 8 years.
The BoomSlang can be described as a versatile carnivorous eater. It is known to feed on animals such as birds, frogs, chameleons, lizards’ eggs from nesting birds and small mammals.
Habitat & Distribution
The BoomSlang, staying true to its name, can be mainly found in the trees and scrubs of sub-Saharan Africa, making it one of the many arboreal species in the animal kingdom. Although trees and scrubs are the popular habitat choice for this snake, it can also be found in arid savannah, grassland, moist savannah and fynbos vegetation types. Studies have also shown that Boomslangs may opt to stay underground if the weather conditions are extremely cold.
If you want to have a chance in spotting the Boomslang, then countries such as South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, and Botswana will be the best to visit because this is where they are commonly found.
BoomSlang or Tree Snake
The common perception of the Boomslang is that it is a bright green reptile. This often leads to confusion between the Boomslang and the Green mamba. The boomslang actually has various coloration based on geographical location, age, and sex. The females are predominately an olive-brown color or even grey color; while the male Boomslang can either be a bright green-yellow or a rust-like read or even an interesting combination of yellow and black or even black with a combination of green and yellow. Young Boomslang is born with a grey color but this usually changes once they reach around a meter in length. One of the most defining characteristics of the Boomslang is their large emerald green eyes, which explains their incredible sight, and an egg-like shaped head. Colour seems to be the only difference between the female and male Boomslang. The slender-bodied snake is known to grow around 1 to 1.6 meters in length, in some instances, it may even reach 2 meters. It weighs anything between 175 grams and 510 grams; however, research shows that the average weight of the boomslang is around 300 grams. When observing the scales of the Boomslang, one will see how the dorsal (back) scales are oblique and very narrow, they have a formation in which they are arranged in anything between 19 to 20 rows; another identification point is how the subcaudals (scales on the underside of the snake) are in pairs. The scales are important as they assist the snake in gliding through tree branches, the ground, and scrub.
The Boomslang is very active during the day and rest during the evening. When active, it is usually for hunting purposes and it can be spotted climbing trees and gliding through tree branches in order to catch its prey.
The Boomslang, despite the dangerous title it carries, is actually very withdrawn and non-aggressive. It actually is no threat to humans as it is reluctant to bite. It would usually opt to flee away from anything that is too big for it to eat (this includes humans). This does not mean it will not act out when facing a threat or when being provoked, in these instances, it will use its bite. It begins defending itself by inflating its neck in order to appear larger, this will also expose the skin between the scales. If this does not scare the provoker or threat off, the snake will strike and bite.
An interesting behavior of the Boomslang is its reaction to the cold weather. When faced with these conditions, a Boomslang will bromate (in other words hibernate) in the enclosed nests of birds.
Breeding season usually occurs between the winter or early spring months (late July to late October). The process is quite aggressive. During this season, the female Boomslang will leave a scent trail for the males to follow, if more than one male follows it then usually the snakes will fight with the winner of the fight being left alone to follow the trail to the female snake. Once he finds the female snake, he will inspect her and once he is satisfied with the potential female partner, he will twist his tail under hers to start mating.
Females lay anything between 8 to 27 small legs after a 60-day gestation period. The eggs will be laid in a damp location such as a tree hollow or rotting log to protect them. The eggs tend to hatch after 65 to 100 days. They are born at a small length of 20 cm and will most likely shed their skin within 10 days of being born. The young boomslangs are independent from birth and become highly venomous once they reach 45cm.
BoomSlang or Tree Snake
- The Boomslang is back-fanged (meaning its fangs are near the back of its mouth). It can open its jaws up to 170 degrees when biting.
- The Boomslang is known to be a biological controller in that it assists in the controlling of the populations of birds, frogs, and lizards (through eating them!)
- Natural enemies of the boomslang include predator birds and other snakes.
- The fork-tipped tongue of the Boomslang plays an important feature. It assists Boomslangs to collect air particles and deposit it in an organ located in the mouth known as the ‘Organ of Jacobson’.