Golden Lancehead vs Fer-De-Lance: What Are the Differences?

Written by Kyle Glatz
Updated: January 12, 2023
© Nayeryouakim / Creative Commons – License / Original
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Many sorts of venomous snakes are found throughout the Americas. Although the United States only has four main types of venomous snakes to worry about, the warm climates of Central and South America are home to many more. Among them are pit vipers, deadly snakes that use hemotoxic venom to kill prey. Two members of the same genus, Bothrops insularis and Bothrops asper, are considered among the most dangerous snakes with legendary reputations. So, if we examine the golden lancehead vs fer-de-lance, the common names for those snakes, what differences emerge? We’re going to show you why these snakes are widely feared, and which one is deadlier.

Comparing a Golden Lancehead and a Fer-De-Lance

Golden Lancehead vs Fer-De-Lance
The greatest differences between a golden lancehead and a fer-de-lance are their sizes, colorations, and locations.

©A-Z-Animals.com

Golden LanceheadFer-de-lance
SizeWeight: 0.5lbs-5lbs
Length: 2ft-4ft
Weight: 3lb-13lb
Length: 3.9ft-5.9ft
Mortality Rate– 3% mortality rate with treatment
– 7% mortality rate without treatment
– 0-1% mortality rate with treatment
– 6% mortality rate without treatment
Venom– Hemotoxic venom that kills red blood cells and causes tissue damage
– Fast absorption rate
– Causes severe necrosis of tissue
– Has enough venom to kill 10 humans
– Hemotoxic venom that breaks down muscle tissue
– 458mg-1,530mg of venom in each bite – Responsible for most bites and envenomation in its range.
– Also responsible for most kills – Has enough venom to kill about 30 people per bite
Location– Lives only on “Snake Island”, Ilha da Queimada Grande
– 20 miles off the coast of Brazil
– Lives in grasslands, rainforests, farmlands, coastal areas, and more
– Found in South American countries such as Honduras, Mexico, and Costa Rica
Coloration– Yellow, tan, cream
– Yellow colors can be quite intense and bright
–  Brown, gray, green, olive, and others
– Undertones of yellow or rust
– Has dark triangles with light edges down the snake’s body
– Has a yellow coloration under the head
Prey– Birds, lizards, and even other snakes– Insects, crayfish, eels, rabbits

The Key Differences Between a Golden Lancehead vs Fer-De-Lance

golden lancehead vs fer-de-lance
The golden lancehead is a yellow and tan snake that reaches up to 4ft in length and lives on Snake Island in Brazil, and the Fer-de-lance is a brown or olive snake that measures up to 5.9ft in length and can be found in Central America and northern South America.

©David Havel/Shutterstock.com

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The greatest differences between a golden lancehead and a fer-de-lance are their sizes, colorations, and locations. The golden lancehead is a yellow and tan snake that reaches up to 4ft in length and lives on Snake Island in Brazil, and the Fer-de-lance is a brown or olive snake that measures up to 5.9ft in length and can be found in Central America and northern South America.

These differences are significant, but both snakes are known for their distinguished head shapes. The snakes’ heads resemble the shape of a lancehead, coming to a point near their nose. We’re going to take a look at several other important points of comparison for these snakes and see which of the two is deadlier.  

Golden Lancehead vs Fer-De-Lance: Size

The fer-de-lance is larger than the golden lancehead. The fer-de-lance can grow between 3.9ft and 5.9ft as an adult, and the snake will weigh up to 13lbs when fully grown. However, the golden lancehead only weighs between 0.5lbs and 5lbs and grows only 4ft long.

golden lancehead vs fer-de-lance
The venom from a fer-de-lance is deadlier than that from a golden lancehead.

©Nayeryouakim / Creative Commons – License

Golden Lancehead vs Fer-De-Lance: Venom

The venom from a fer-de-lance is deadlier than that from a golden lancehead. The fer-de-lance is the deadliest snake in the Americas for a reason. This snake injects up to 1,530mg of venom per bite. The venom is a powerful hemotoxin that causes necrosis of cells and tissue around the bite area.

The fer-de-lance is also responsible for between 40% and 70% of all snakebites in its range. These snakes can often strike at knee-level or above, and they frequently attack people indoors. With the power to kill 30 people with a single bite, this snake is very dangerous.

The golden lancehead is not quite as deadly, but its venom is harder to test because of its location. These snakes also possess hemotoxic venom that quickly absorbs into their prey’s system. The snake’s venom is supposedly able to kill 10 people from a single injection. Still, the venom has evolved to be more effective against birds than mammals.  

Interestingly, some people have apparently hired pirates to smuggle golden lanceheads off Snake Island.

Golden Lancehead vs Fer-De-Lance: Mortality Rate

The golden lancehead has a higher mortality rate without treatment compared to the fer-de-lance. The golden lancehead mortality rate is 3% of humans with treatment and 7% without treatment. Since the snake lives in such a remote location, the chances are low that a treatment will be administered within an hour.

The fer-de-lance has a 6% mortality rate without antivenom and about 0%-1% with treatment. Since this snake is such a hazard and bites thousands of people per year, a powerful antivenom was made to counter its effects. Still, a bite leads to pain, potential amputation, and many other complications.

golden lancehead vs fer-de-lance
The fer-de-lance can be found in many countries in Central America and the northern portion of South America, while the golden lancehead can only be found on Snake Island.

©Mark_Kostich/Shutterstock.com

Golden Lancehead vs Fer-De-Lance: Location

The golden lancehead lives only on a single island. The snake’s species was stranded on Snake Island when the waters rose around the island. Nowadays, the island is strictly forbidden except for researchers that are carefully monitored and members of the Brazilian Navy.  

The fer-de-lance can be found in many countries in Central America and the northern portion of South America. They live in Mexico, Costa Rica, Honduras, and more. The fer-de-lance is found in far more places than the golden lancehead.  

Golden Lancehead vs Fer-De-Lance: Coloration

As their name suggests, the golden lancehead is a yellow snake for the most part. The reptile’s skin integrates yellow, tan, and cream into its colors. The yellow color can be quite intense and bright in the wild but becomes duller in captivity.

The fer-de-lance can be brown, gray, olive, and other colors, and it has dark triangles with light sides covering its body. The snake usually has a yellow chin and underbelly color.

Golden Lancehead vs Fer-De-Lance: Prey

The golden lancehead is limited in its food choices. The snake primarily hunts migratory birds that visit the island along with lizards and even other snakes. The fer-de-lance eats many types of insects, eels, rabbits, and crayfish.

Golden Lancehead vs Fer-De-Lance: Who Would Win in a Fight?

Fer-de-lance snake in the jungles of Costa Rica
The fer-de-lance is a deadly snake with a large range

©Jim Cumming/Shutterstock.com

The fer-de-lance would win a fight against a golden lancehead. Although many mysteries and legends surround the golden lancehead, it lacks the size and venom injection rate to kill the bigger snake. The fer-de-lance is known for its ability to strike foes by raising a portion of its body off the ground before striking.

This extra bit of reach will help it land a bite on the smaller snake. The golden lancehead, once bitten, would probably suffer the effects of the attack quite quickly. At the very least, it would die faster than a fer-de-lance envenomated with the golden lancehead’s venom.

The most likely outcome would be both snakes landing successful bites and dying, but the fer-de-lance gets a technical victory since it would live longer out of the two.  

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golden lancehead vs fer-de-lance
Snake island is the only place in the world that is home to the golden lancehead
© Nayeryouakim / Creative Commons – License / Original

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About the Author

I'm a freelance writer with 8 years of experience. I've written in a variety of niches such as managed service providers, animals, and retail distribution. I graduated from Rowan University in 2014 . When I'm not working, I enjoy playing video games, reading, and writing for fun.

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