Fire-bellied Snake (Liophis epinephelus), Tenorio

A Fire-bellied snake found on the ground at 1,300 feet during the hike to Rio Celeste.

We were sure this snake was a racer. The speed at which it crossed our path, the dull gray color from above and its general shape all pointed to a racer. But after a bit of research it seems that the fire-bellied snake has characteristics of  many different types of snakes. The head looks like a racer, it flattens itself when threatened like many different snakes and flashes its bright color to possibly mimic a coral. It also vibrates its tail much like a rattlesnake and in extreme situations it releases a bad smelling musk.

(Liophis epinephelus)

Head is similar to a racer

This terrestrial snake is found from Costa Rica to Ecuador at various elevations. The fire-bellied snake is rear fanged and lives on a diet of mostly frogs. It has been seen eating the poison dart frogs that most other creatures find toxic. Why this snake can eat the Dendro frogs but other snakes cannot is unknown. It is diurnal, meaning it is active during the day.

(Liophis epinephelus)

From directly above the snake appears gray

This snake was 10 inches long while most adults are 19-20 inches long. The bottom may turn a cream or even bright white. The bright colors are hard to see when the snake is resting among normal ground debris.

(Liophis epinephelus)

Yellow underbelly turns to deep orange

It was extremely gentle once it figured out that the camera was not a predator. It was difficult to get its dramatic colors to show because I didn’t want to bother or annoy the snake. You can see in the following video how gentle it was.  

(Liophis epinephelus)


And a short video to show you how docile it was…


3 comments on “Fire-bellied Snake (Liophis epinephelus), Tenorio”

  1. Nik Reply

    Great pics, thanks for posting them; they’ve helped me understand the snake’s face.

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