Panama Snake Bite

It was bound to happen eventually.anti-venom serpent

After nearly a decade living here in the tropics, spending time hiking through remote jungles, swimming across murky sometimes muddy rivers, machete-ing through head high weeds as thick as over grown invasive pampas grass, camping for weeks on end in secluded nearly untouched mountains, a days hike away from a car, another two hours drive from cell phone signal and yet another two hours from a hospital, it was bound to happen…

Snake Bite!

That’s right, I can officially say I have been bitten by a venomous tropical viper in Panama.

Ok, so the snake bite was not as bad (luckily) as it could have been and unfortunately not very dramatic. Not that I would have preferred being bit alone in the remote wilds of Panama, miles away from a hospital or civilization, having to drag the full weight of my body across mountainous, jungly, rugged, rocky terrain in the searing burning tropical heat, leaving my elbows raw and bloody with a humongous swollen blueish black foot, sweating, convulsing, blood dripping from my pores, bleeding out, my mind emotionally struggling and battling against the urge of amputation to stop the venom, sawing through flesh and bone with a rusty machete to save my heroic soul, though it would make for a much better story.

No, I stepped on a small (about a foot and a half long, skinny) mildly poisonous snake fetching something out of my wife’s car here in the safety of our home just a half mile away from the Pedasi emergency medical clinic.

It’s kind of like…Snake Bite Lite. A snake bite with out a whole lot of drama.

I was barefoot and did not see the “Trunco Negra” as the locals call it laying on the concrete behind the car. The little reptile had probably just finished having a gecko or frog dinner and was digesting. He was hidden in the shadows and I stepped on him before I knew it and received a nice quick response that he obviously did not appreciate my opposing body weight on his. It felt like I stepped on an irregular shaped stick with a bent end that hit the side of my foot while I stepped on the other end. “Strange, what is that stick doing here in the carport?” I thought to myself at the moment as I quickly jumped in the air away from whatever it was. Then I looked in the light and saw the two blood spots of the fang mark penetration on the side of my foot.

“Oh crap, thats a snake bite!” was my next thought.

I hated doing it, but I grabbed the nearest machete, found the little snake in the dark and gave him a quick pop with the dull side to stun him and threw his limp body in a bucket for the ride to the hospital. (Side note, if you live in Panama long enough machetes accumulate and there is almost always one with in arms reach. Also, according to locals if you have to kill a snake, hit it with the dull end of the machete to break its back as to immobilize it. They say if you cut a snake in half, the half with the head will still come to bite you.) I have never been one that abides by the saying “the only good snake is a dead snake.” I believe the creator put all animals here on this beautiful planet for a reason, whether we humans like them or not. I try to avoid killing anything except maybe termites, but I had to take this snake to the emergency room with me for identification in case I needed anti-venom.

Anyways, thank god I did not need any anti-venom or medication stronger than IV administered antibiotics. I spent two nights in the hospital for observation with multiple blood and urine tests to monitor potential blood hemorrhaging or kidney failure. I had neither, just a ugly swollen foot that I could not walk on for a week. If I had my foot elevated I barely even noticed the pain. No other symptoms what so ever. After the swelling went down, my ankle, achilles heel and bones in my foot were very sore for a few more days. That’s it, nothing more.

Though the snake bite was a big surprise, the bigger surprise was that my hospital bill at the public Hospital Anita Moreno in Los Santos was a grand total of $50.00 including ambulance ride, two night stay, food and medicine. Plus, like most everything in Panama, the people who attended me there in La Villa de Los Santos were as nice as they could possibly be. I have previously wrote about staying out of the public hospitals if you can afford it. At the low price for treatment I received, I may go back if the need arrises.

There you have it. My very own snake bite story. Not very dramatic. I plan to incorporate the fish story technique in coming years, the snake will always get a little bigger every time I re-tell my snake bite tale.







  1. Carter Martens says:

    Hi Charlie,

    Wow! You made it through almost a decade without a snakebite, I hope I am that fortunate, and I am very gald it was not a fer de lance.

    Congratulations on your website. It is very iinviting and easy to navigate. I hope you 3 are safe and well and growing ( well, at least Natan). I am still planning my annual holidays mid January to mid February so I will see you then. Please say hi to Pucha. Take Care.

    Best Regards,

    Carter Martens
    aka Canadianajones

    • Thanks Carter for the positive feedback concerning The Panama Portal.
      I too am glad my snake bite was not worse. At least now I have a snake bite on my resume. It will make for a good story.
      I look forward to seeing you when in the area.
      My family is doing very well, I hope yours is.
      Take care,

  2. You are lucky!!!, if that snake just ate a geco as you suspected, then it has already dumped all the venom into it. It could have been that you were the first thing it sank its fangs into. I’m a native Panamanian, and snakes are my only nightmare….Yes I will speak my mind, there is only one good snake….a dead one! Hope for a good recovery. Warning…during dry season they like to hang out were there is water, such a a leaky outside faucet, small stream etc…well, you get the pic.

Panama Snake Bite

Panama Snake Bite