There are four different types of snakes native to the Cayman Islands.
No Cayman snakes pose any threat to people, cats or dogs
CAYMAN RACER SNAKE
The Racer is Cayman’s largest and most common snake. Racers get their name from their slender form and fast-moving nature. They vary in colour from light to dark brown or grey, with a pale or pink underside and occasional pink scales flecked along the sides of their body. Adults can grow up to lengths of five feet or more and can appear quite formidable, however, individuals of this size are very rare. Individuals of 2-3 feet in length are much more common.
Large Racer snakes often cause concern amongst members of the public. In addition to their size, if cornered, Racers engage a defensive behaviour of raising their heads and flattening their necks. This behaviour is meant to intimidate potential attackers, but results in large Racers being mistaken for cobras. Racers are non-aggressive, and pose no threat to people, cats or dogs.
If you accidentally corner a Racer, back away and the snake will make its escape. If you accidentally tread on a Racer, the snake may wrap its body around your ankle as a defensive response. Stand still, and the snake will make its escape. If you are afraid of snakes and are walking in long grass, stamping your feet will encourage snakes to move away from your path. Snakes have limited hearing capacity, so shouting is ineffective, but they are very sensitive to vibrations.
If handled, Racers can produce a strong “garbage-smelling” chemical to deter predators.
Cayman Racers are endemic to the Cayman Islands and are found nowhere else in the world. Each of the three islands has its own endemic subspecies of Racer: Cubophis (Alsophis) cantherigerus caymanus in Grand Cayman, Cubophis (Alsophis) cantherigerus ruttyi in Little Cayman, and Cubophis (Alsophis) cantherigerus fuscicauda in Cayman Brac.
Because of the harmless nature and endemic status, the Cayman Racer is listed for protection under Part II of the draft National Conservation Law.
Racers feed on a variety of prey, including lizards and frogs. Large ones have been observed to take Green iguanas. Racers subdue their prey with a weak venom (which is not effective on humans), and occasionally constrict their prey.
Racers are naturally predated by crabs and birds. Many are killed on roads, and by people mistaking them for dangerous snakes.
CAYMAN GROUND BOA
Like the Cayman Racer, the Cayman Ground Boa is completely harmless; however, it too is often mistaken for a dangerous snake. Cayman Ground Boas are variable in body colour, from pale (pictured above) through to light or very dark brown. Confusion is caused by the dark diamond patterning along their back, and the strange colouration of the tip of their tails, which is a pale cream / yellow colour, and superficially resembles a rattle. These characteristics often lead to Cayman Ground Boas being misidentified as baby rattlesnakes.
Cayman Ground Boas are very slow moving and docile, leading to their local names of Lazy Snake or Friendly Snake. Cayman Ground Boas are dwarf snakes, and specimens 1-2 feet in length are the norm. They prey on frogs and small lizards.
Cayman Ground Boas are endemic to the Cayman Islands and are found nowhere else in the world. Each of the three islands has its own endemic subspecies of Ground Boa: Tropidophis caymanensis caymanensis in Grand Cayman, Tropidophis caymanensis parkeri in Little Cayman, and Tropidophis caymanensis schwartzi in Cayman Brac.
Because of the harmless nature and endemic status, Cayman Ground Boas are listed for protection under Part II of the draft National Conservation Law.
CAYMAN WATER SNAKE
The Grand Cayman Water Snake inhabits fresh and brackish water pools in Grand Cayman. They are also sometimes to be found in cow wells. They are completely harmless and are not to be confused with sea snakes (some of which are notoriously venomous.)
Superficially, Grand Cayman Water Snakes most closely resemble Racers; however, they are darker in colour – almost black. They are most commonly encountered out of the water after heavy rains, when they can be found moving between water bodies through the wet undergrowth. They are highly aquatic and feed on small fish, such as mosquito fish.
The Grand Cayman Water Snake Tretanorhinus variabilis lewisi is endemic to Grand Cayman, and is found nowhere else in the world.
Because of its harmless nature and endemic status, the Grand Cayman Water Snake is listed for protection under Part II of the draft National Conservation Law.
CAYMAN BLIND SNAKE
Cayman Blind Snakes are most easily mistaken for large worms, but they are technically snakes, and like all native snakes, they are quite harmless.
Cayman Blind Snakes are small in size (reaching approximately one foot in length). Their mouth and eyes are much reduced – such that they appear almost featureless at first glance. They are variable in colour, with the back brown and the underside a lighter yellowish-white.
Blind Snakes burrow in the ground are so are rarely encountered by people, and very little is known of their natural history.
Cayman Blind Snakes are endemic to the Cayman Islands and are found nowhere else in the world. Both Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac have their own unique species of Blind Snake: Typhlops caymanensisin Grand Cayman, and Typhlops epactia in Cayman Brac.
Because of the harmless nature and endemic status, Cayman Blind Snakes are listed for protection under Part II of the draft National Conservation Law.
In addition to Cayman’s native snakes, two species have been introduced to the Cayman Islands. These are invasive species, and have now established feral populations in the islands. Both species are harmless to people and pets, but are undesirable from an ecological perspective as they compete with native wildlife for food and natural resources.
Corn Snakes Elaphe guttata are highly variable in colour. Probably introduced through the pet-trade, a feral population of Corn Snakes is established in and around George Town on Grand Cayman. The variety most likely to be encountered has a bright body patterning of red, orange an grey (similar to that shown in the picture). Corn Snakes can grow up to five feet in length; however much smaller individuals are usually encountered.
Corn Snakes are harmless to people and pets, but they are invasive.
The Brahminy Blind Snake (Flower Pot Snake) Ramphotyphlops braminus, is easily mistaken for a worm. It is tiny. Most individuals are just 2-4 inches in length. Features such as mouth and eyes are much reduced, and barely distinguishable – indeed they most closely resemble a living pencil lead. The head end is more rounded. The rear end features a slightly hooked projection – likely to assist in pushing the snake forward through the soil.
Brahminy Blind Snakes were introduced to Cayman, likely through the landscaping industry. As their common name (Flower Pot Snake) suggests, they are often to be found sheltering beneath plant pots.
Brahminy Blind Snakes are harmless to people and pets, but they are invasive.