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Hungry, but No Threat to People

A Cayman Racer snake (Alsophis cantherigerus caymanus) eating a green iguana (Iguana iguana) (Photo by James Robinson)

Photos have been circulating via e-mail showing a Cayman Racer snake (Alsophis cantherigerus caymanus) eating a green iguana (Iguana iguana). The photos may look scary, but the good news is that the snake poses no threat to people.

Adults generally reach a length of 4-5 feet, and can look quite formidable. "The one pictured looks to be as large as any I have seen - maybe larger," says the Department of Environment's Senior Research Officer Dr Mat DaCosta-Cottam.

"Racers are to be found throughout the Cayman Islands. However, we usually see them much smaller than this - maybe 2 feet in length," he notes. "Many are killed by cats and dogs, or run over when they are still young, so very few survive to reach this large size."

Dr Cottam says that unlike the green iguana, the Racer is endemic to the Cayman Islands, and found nowhere else in the world. Unique subspecies are present on each of the three islands.

Racers can flatten their heads when threatened, which can sometimes lead to people confusing them for cobras. Dr Cottam noted that the Racer probably constricted the iguana, to subdue it, before swallowing it.

However, he emphasised that Racers are not dangerous to humans. Their teeth are located at the back of their mouths, and their venom is very weak, with little effect on humans. This, combined with their naturally wary and docile nature, makes bites on people highly unlikely, and in the rare event of occurrence, not at all serious.

The Department of Environment asks interested residents to call 949-8469 to find out more about the Cayman Racer.