Agkistrodon bilineatus

Image Credit : Sladen Photos

Agkistrodon bilineatus is a venomous pitviper species. These are heavy-bodied snakes, and share the same general body structure with cottonmouths. They have a broad, triangular-shaped head with small eyes that have vertical pupils.

Coloration can vary, but most are brown or black, with darker brown or black banding, sometimes with white or cream-colored accents. Juveniles are almost always distinctly banded, with bright green or yellow tail tips, which they use to lure prey. As they age, their pattern and coloration fade and darken.

  • Scientific name : Agkistrodon bilineatus
  • Distribution : Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, West Honduras
  • Average Size : 0.7 m (2.5 ft)
  • Life Span : 15 years or more
  • Difficulty : Advanced


Personally, I always prefer natural setups with my animals. There are many different ways to successfully house cantils. You can use tubs, glass aquariums, bio-active vivariums, racks, etc. Newborn cantils are very small, only about 6 inches, so keeping them in something as small as a 6QT tub works well, give them places to hide and feel comfortable. I prefer to use use heat-treated (optional), sticks, leaves and rocks from outside to give a more “natural” feel. Adults will average 0.7-0.9 meters (2.5-3 feet), a cage with dimensions of 1.2 x 0.6 x 0.3 meters (4 x 2 x 1 feet) for an adult pair has worked well for me.

Hide box

Is not necessary for cantils, but they do enjoy seeking cover from time to time. Hide box, can be made out many things, logs, small rock cave, even empty cardboard boxes. Cantils will often find a spot they like in the open, but will regularly seek shelter. Cantils will quickly become very food “aggressive”, so always be careful when presenting food in front of a hide box.


They can successfully be kept on a wide variety of substrates, bedding (aspen shavings/chips), mulch, and in living terrariums with natural soils and live plants. Cantils are unique in the way they will caudal lure even as adults. If you give them a natural set up with soil, sticks, rocks and plants will allow you to witness the ambush behaviors of this unique species.

Lighting – Heating

I keep Agkistrodon bilineatus with longer days in the summer and let natural lighting do the work. So timers come on at 8:00am and turn off at 6:00pm and natural light does the rest. During winter the lights turn on at 9:00am and off at 5:00pm and then the same, natural lighting does the rest.
They prefer a well lit habitat, with a basking spot of about 29 °C (85 °F), with a cool side of 24-27 °C (75-80 °F) with a nighttime drop as low as 21 °C (70 °F), works just fine.


A relatively large water bowl, with constant access to fresh water is a must!


Not specific on humidity unless having shedding issues, then increase humidity. Always allow for a cantil to have a dry place to rest as it’s important for them to keep their scales dry and not have constant direct contact with moisture. Very rarely do shedding issues occur with this species. I do mist these snakes lightly every few mornings, allowing them to drink off their scales as well as give some humidity to the cage. Mind you, I live in FL so maintaining humidity is not as much as an issue in other dryer places.


I feed juvenile Agkistrodon bilineatus weekly appropriate sized meals, fresh born pinky mice. Newborn cantils can sometimes be difficult to start feeding, they may not want to take mice immediately. The order/method I use to get newborn snakes feeding is as follows, offer frozen thawed rodent, if that does not work > offer live rodent, if that doesn’t work > offer scented (frog usually works great for baby cantils) frozen thawed rodent, if that doesn’t work > offer a different food item such as small frog, if that doesn’t work > as a last resort I will assist feed, using a small tube, secure the snake, then slide down pinkie mouse, snake will usually bite in defense then swallow in it’s own. I have never had to assist feed with baby cantils, normally once a picky feeder gets a scented prey item they feed very well.
As stated before, one of my favorite scenting items for cantils and similar snakes, are frogs. I will often use a frozen thawed tree frog and slice the midsection open, then rub the mouse on the insides of the tree frog. I feed adults cantils, an adult mouse weekly/biweekly, which allows for and maintaining a healthy body weight. I don’t feed cantils rats as they are prone to becoming obese very quickly in a captive setting. Baby cantils grow very fast, so as snake grows, feed larger meals to maintain healthy body weight. In the wild they eat a wide variety of prey, in captivity they do well on captive born mice to avoid parasites and a controlled food source.


Temperaments differ between individuals, but Agkistrodon bilineatus are usually a pretty defensive snakes, with a very toxic venom compared to other Akgistrodons. A defensive specimen will continuously strike and strike at any movement. Although not a large species, they can be a bit of a handful. Many snakes will easily “ride” a hook and balance themselves when being removed from an enclosure, cantils will often do the “wet noodle” and slide backwards. They are one of the few snakes I often use two hooks to handle. As a general rule of venomous, ALWAYS remove snake from cage before servicing, as well as using proper tools (hooks, ect.). They are usually very food “aggressive”, any time a cage is opened a healthy cantil is ready for a mouse to present itself.


Always keep Agkistrodon bilineatus clean, do not allow fecal material to sit in a cage where the snake can crawl through it. This can cause skin infections and lead to other health issues. Also being a venomous snake, ALWAYS remove the snake before servicing! Cleaning products such as Clorhexadine solution are recommended.


Cantils typically shed with no issues, but like any snake if kept with too low humidity, problems can occur. If cantil is having issues shedding, give it a small box with moist moss to crawl into and allow the shed to loosen.

Potential Health Problems

Very hardy species, if kept properly, rarely do health issues appear. Keep clean, access to fresh water, stay within the temperature gradients, dry place to hide/sit and your cantils should grow to be a happy healthy animal.

Bite Protocol

It’s highly recommended for every venomous species that you keep or interested to keep to have the bite protocol. Each species has a dedicated bite protocol that includes general information regarding the species, information about their venom and signs and symptoms of envenomation if bitten. It also includes a detailed information about first aid (what to do and what not to do), specific treatment recommendations for medical personnel to provide appropriate care including information about the antivenom or antivenoms required for treatment. Finally it includes a list of people who specialize in snakebites and their contact information so they can be consulted to assist with the care if needed and a list of all the references used for the create the protocol.

Recommended Book


Rhett Stanberry

The information contained in this care sheet reflect the opinions and methods of the mentioned breeder, based on their expertise and long-established experience.