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Is the Mussurana right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Zopilota, Murcana (Brazil)

Scientific name: Clelia clelia

The basics:
One of the world’s largest rear-fanged snakes, the Mussurana is also among the most interesting, employing both venom and constriction to overcome its prey. While human fatalities from bites have not been reported, their size renders them capable of delivering a large amount of venom. A professional herpetologist should be consulted before one acquires this or any other Rear-Fanged Snake.

The huge range of the 3 subspecies extends from southern Mexico through Central America to Brazil and northern Argentina. The Mussurana also occurs on Grenada, Trinidad and Antigua.

The highly adaptable Mussurana is at home in wooded grasslands, llanos, thorn scrub, riverside brush, farms and cattle ranches.

Appearance / health:
The Mussurana reaches 1.5 – 2.4 meters (5-8 ft) in length. The un-patterned body may be black, indigo, dark tan or reddish-brown in color. Hatchlings are usually bright red, and go through several color changes before reaching adulthood.

Zoo specimens do quite well and are known for their nearly insatiable appetites. Mussuranas produce watery waste products and require more upkeep than similarly-sized snakes.

Behavior / temperament:
Mussuranas are best viewed as creatures to observe rather than handle. Particular care should be taken at feeding time, as they respond vigorously to the scent of food, and will strike wildly.

Mussurana are active and require a cage measuring at least 6 x 4 feet. Cypress mulch or eucalyptus bark may be used as the substrate, as they prefer to burrow. A dry cave and another stocked with moist sphagnum moss should be provided. Ambient temperature range: 72-82 F; Basking temperature: 85 F.

Mussurana preferentially prey upon snakes, including bushmasters and other venomous species, but also take rodents, birds, lizards and frogs. Captives thrive on a rodent-based diet.

A winter cooling period of 60 F by night, with a daytime basking spot of 80 F, will stimulate breeding. Pairs must be monitored carefully, as cannibalism may occur. Clutches may contain 15-50 eggs, which should be incubated in vermiculite at 76-78 F for 100-120 days.

Written by Frank Indiviglio

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