The fear of snakes may not even be a learned behavior. Instead, some scientists think it may be hardwired into our DNA - like the fear of heights. It will be beyond spooky for some readers out there to learn of a cave of hanging snakes in Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula. For some more adventurous tourists, the snakes make it a reason to visit.
The cave has been called the "Cave of the Hanging Snakes" or "Bat Cave" - otherwise, it is known as Kantemó Cave. If one is afraid of snakes, then the country to avoid is actually not Australia - but rather India which has more than half of the snake fatalities in the world (it also has snake tours). After knowing there are serpents dangling from the cave roofs, one may be a little less keen to explore the many stunning cenotes of the Yucatán Peninsula.
The Cave Of The Hanging Snakes - The Unusual Snakes
Caves are superb homes for bats, but bats are also food for other animals. And with so many bats dangling from the safety of the ceiling, there is a lot of food to be had if only one could get up there.
- Proper Cave Name: Kantemó cave
The yellow-red rat snakes are mousetrap snakes (scientific name Pseudelaphe flavirufa) who have managed to figure out how to get to these juicy morsels. The snakes normally prey on small animals like rodents, lizards, and other small snacks to be found on the ground. But it's here that they have mastered the art of climbing up to the ceiling of the caves in search of the bats.
- Snakes: Mousetraps (Pseudelaphe flavirufa)
- Danger: The Snakes Are Harmless
As scary as they may be for many people, these small snakes are harmless and not venomous. They are no threat to people - just the unsuspecting resident bats.
Hunting The Bats Of The Cave Of The Hanging Snakes
Six species of bats are known to inhabit the cave - so the snakes have a selection to choose from. Some bats are insectivores while others are frugivores, and every day like clockwork, they swarm outside at sunset in search of food.
- Species: There Are Six Species Of Bat In The Cave
- Method: Snatch Bats Out Of The Air
For around an hour and a half, around 100 bats fly out of the cave per second (the cave is also called Bat Cave). As the bats swarm in or out of the cave en masse, the snakes dangle down and pluck the bats right out of mid-air with their mouths.
The mousetrap snakes are common in the forests of Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula, but it is only this population that has been observed to have developed this way of hunting.
While this behavior is rare, it is not unique - it has also been reported in another cave in Puerto Rice by Puerto Rican boas.
Visiting The Cave Of The Hanging Snakes
It is possible to visit this remote cave in the Yucatán Peninsula. If one does manage to get to it, there is a good chance one will have it all to oneself. Only around 300 visitors bother to seek out and visit the cave every year.
- Visitors: Around 300 Annually
- Guide: Certified Guide Required
- Group Size: No More Than 10
According to National Geographic, all visitors need to be accompanied by a certified guide. No one is allowed to touch or otherwise disturb the wildlife. Groups are also limited to a maximum size of ten to minimize the impact on the cave. Fortunately, the resident serpents don't seem to be much bothered by the gawking spectators. Visitors are given helmets, headlamps, gloves, and masks when visiting the cave.
- Season: Year Round
- Cost: 630 Mexican Pesos (around $30 USD)
The cave is 65 feet wide, and visitors need to crawl on their hands and knees in places while thousands of bats fly around them.
Many of the local people are of Maya descent and have known about the cave for many years. They are dedicated to preserving the cave. Visitors should keep in mind these are wild animals, and it is not guaranteed to see the hanging snakes feeding on the bats.
The cave is located in the municipality of Jose Maria Morelos and in the southern Mexican state of Quintana Roo.