Thirty miles off the coast of Brazil and less than 100 miles from São Paulo, one of the world’s largest and most congested cities, lies a 110-acre subtropical island called Ilha de Queimada Grande. Sounds perfect for an idyllic retreat, right?
No, not in this case. Ilha de Queimada Grande has a population of exactly zero. That would be because the Brazilian Navy prohibits anyone from landing on the island.
Even fans of limited government would have to agree that the reason is a good one: Ilha de Queimada Grande is literally infested with one of most venomous species of snakes known to man, the golden lancehead.
How infested, you ask? To the tune of one golden lancehead per square meter. For those of you who struggle with the metric system, that’s roughly one bad snake every 3-1/2 feet.
Some researchers have estimated that as many as five golden lancehead per square meter can be found on Ilha de Queimada Grande, according to Atlas Obscura. (The island, also known colloquially in English as Snake Island, is covered with jungle, hence the high density as the vipers inhabit trees and the island floor.)
The lancehead genus of snakes is responsible for 90 percent of Brazilian snakebite-related fatalities.
The golden lancehead, which is found only on Ilha de Queimada Grande, isn’t huge, growing to about 28 inches, but it possess a powerful fast-acting poison that melts the flesh around bites.
“Locals in the coastal towns near the Queimada Grande happily recount grisly tales about the island,” according to Slate magazine. “In one, a fisherman unwittingly wanders onto the island to pick bananas and is bitten only moments after stepping ashore. The fisherman manages to stumble back to his boat before dying in a pool of his own blood.”
Unlike other venomous snakes that tend to strike, release and then track their prey, golden lanceheads like to keep their prey in their mouth even after it has injected it with venom.
Even more delightful.
Not surprisingly, no mammals inhabit Snake Island. The vipers live mainly on migratory birds that use the island as a resting point.