Discover the Largest Bushmaster Snake Ever Recorded

Written by Cindy Rasmussen
Updated: November 13, 2022
© iStock.com/Luis Espin
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Key Points

  • Related to several poisonous snakes, bushmaster snakes are members of the feared pit viper family and are the longest of them all.
  • Their venom which is hemolytic and neurotoxic is extremely potent and dangerous to humans.
  • Although certain varieties of this reptile are thriving, the Central American Bushmaster is Near Threatened.

Bushmaster snakes are in the Pit Viper family and are one of the largest venomous snakes in the world. Pit vipers are in the subfamily Crotalinae which includes rattlesnakes, water moccasins, copperheads, fer-de-lance and bushmasters. They all have two fangs and “pits”, openings on the side of their heads that are heat sensitive and serve as a sensing organ to locate prey. They live in a variety of habitats in North America, South America and Central America. The Bushmaster is the longest pit viper in the world and lives in Central America, northern South America and parts of Trinidad. Let’s find out about the largest bushmaster snake ever recorded!

What is a Bushmaster Snake?

bushmaster snake curled up
Bushmasters have a beaded look to their scales. They can get to be nearly 12 feet long!

©iStock.com/reptiles4all

The Bushmaster (sometimes called the Atlantic Bushmaster) is a large venomous pit viper that lives in Central and South America in countries like Columbia, Brazil, Ecuador and Peru. They have beaded scales with a tan base coat and dark brown markings with cream-colored borders. Bushmasters are a thick-bodied snake that weigh between 9-11 pounds and are an average of 6 feet long. However, some of the largest ones have been measured at nearly 12 feet long! They hunt at night and will hide-out along the trails of small mammals waiting for one to trot by. Using their long fangs they will strike the prey and release their poisonous venom. They strike quickly several times in a row releasing large amounts of venom, killing their prey in minutes. Bushmasters eat rodents, birds and rabbits.

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The Largest Bushmaster Snake Ever Recorded

According to the Guinness Book of World Records the largest bushmaster snake ever recorded was 3.65 m (11.98 feet!). For reference a queen size bed is 6 ½ feet long, so if this snake was sleeping in your bed nearly half of it would be on the floor!

Are Bushmasters Dangerous to Humans?

bushmaster snake on limb
The venom of the Bushmaster is extremely toxic and can be deadly if not treated with an antivenom immediately.

©iStock.com/madov

Yes! Bushmasters are very venomous and can kill you if you are bitten. Researchers continue to try to find a better antivenom that is more specific to the bushmaster’s venom. The venom is a mix of hemorrhagic (blood can’t clot) and neurotoxic (affects the nervous system) elements. The symptoms include pain and swelling at the bite site, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and excessive sweating. If not treated the death rate is very high. Luckily the number of people bitten by the Bushmaster is relatively low due to the fact that these snakes are nocturnal and prefer to stay hidden.  However, if they do feel threatened they are quick to strike and have even been know to chase people down. They don’t just strike once, they strike multiple times which is what makes them so dangerous. If you have been bitten by a bushmaster be sure to seek immediate medical attention.

Do Bushmasters Live in the United States?

No. Bushmasters live in Central and South America. They have not made it as far north as the United States due to their preference for hot and wet climates that occur in many of the rainforests in Central and South America.

Do Venomous Snakes Live in the United States?

Western Cottonmouth
Cottonmouths are doubly dangerous due to the fact that they can attack on land and in the water. They are also called water moccasins.

©Psychotic Nature/Shutterstock.com

Yes. There are around 30 different venomous snake species in the United States that fall into one of the four categories of rattlesnake, copperhead, cottonmouth or coral snake. Rattlesnakes, copperheads and cottonmouths are all pit vipers like the Bushmaster, but the coral snake is from a different family. The top ten most dangerous snakes in the US are:

  1. Eastern diamondback rattlesnake
  2. Western diamondback rattlesnake
  3. Coral snake
  4. Texas coral snake
  5. Copperhead snake
  6. Cottonmouth (water moccasin)
  7. Timber rattlesnake
  8. Mojave rattlesnake
  9. Massasauga rattlesnake
  10. Prairie rattlesnake

What is the Largest Venomous Snake in the US?

Large eastern diamondback rattlesnake
Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes’ are the largest venomous snake in the US with some getting to be more than 30 pounds.

©Chase D’animulls/Shutterstock.com

The largest venomous snake in the US is the Eastern diamondback rattlesnake. They are a heavier snake than the bushmaster but not as long. Eastern diamondbacks are typically 5-6 feet long and an average weight of around 5 pounds. However, there have been multiple samples found and recorded being longer than 7 feet. In 1946, an Eastern Diamondback was shot and measured at 7.8 feet and the massive snake weighed 34 pounds! In the US, these snakes only live in the southeast corner of the country in all of Florida and parts of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi.

What is the Largest Venomous Snake in the World?

Biggest Snakes: The King Cobra
The King Cobra is the largest venomous snake in the world, but they do not live in the US.

©Vova Shevchuk/Shutterstock.com

The largest venomous snake in the world is the king cobra. Even an average king cobra is impressive at 12-15 feet long, but the largest one ever recorded was 18.7 feet long! It was found in Negeri Sembilan in Malaysia and shipped to a zoo in London where it was measured kept on display. Unfortunately, it was at the same time as World War II and the zookeepers had to put it down to avoid the risk of it getting lose during a bombing. King cobras have a wide hood that makes their heads look even bigger and they can raise the front part of their body off the ground. They live in south and southeast Asia.

What is the Largest Snake in the World?

Green Anaconda Underwater
Green Anacondas spend much of their time in the water. They can get up to 30 feet long!

©Vladimir Wrangel/Shutterstock.com

The largest snake in the world is the Green Anaconda. These snakes can get to be 30 feet long and weigh 500 pounds! Now that is a big snake! They are really thick-bodied snake and are surprisingly good swimmers. They live in the rainforests of South America and Trinidad. Their territories do overlap with the Bushmaster. Green anacondas are non-venomous and are constrictor snakes instead. They wrap their large bodies around their prey and squeeze, cutting off the blood flow so the prey dies. Once the prey is dead they swallow it whole.

Are Bushmasters Endangered?

The South American Bushmaster is listed by the IUCN as “Least Concern”, the black-headed bushmaster is listed as “Vulnerable” and the Central American bushmaster is listed as “Near Threatened. Since these snakes live deep in the rainforest it is sometimes difficult to get accurate accounts, especially for nocturnal animals like these. Conservationists continue to try to protect the rainforests to limit habitat loss for all the animals that call them home, even the dangerous bushmasters.

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The Featured Image

bushmaster snake curled up
The scales of a bushmaster snake have a smoother texture toward the head.
© iStock.com/Luis Espin

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About the Author

I'm a Wildlife Conservation Author and Journalist, raising awareness about conservation by teaching others about the amazing animals we share the planet with. I graduated from the University of Minnesota-Morris with a degree in Elementary Education and I am a former teacher. When I am not writing I love going to my kids' soccer games, watching movies, taking on DIY projects and running with our giant Labradoodle "Tango".

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