Now Dean Ripa has written the world’s first monograph on bushmaster natural history.

Survivor of seven bushmaster bites, and the first person in the world to reproduce two species of bushmaster in captivity, he has the rare qualifications necessary to tell the life story of these fascinating and frightening snakes. Revealed are the truly unique characteristics of bushmasters, refuting popular myths and long-standing scientific beliefs. Do bushmasters really chase people as has been portrayed? Why does bushmaster venom kill so quickly in human envenomation despite its surprisingly low toxicity rating in the laboratory? What is the correct treatment protocol for bushmaster bite? The unique anatomical features the bushmaster uses in courtship and copulation, the territorial battles for females, the age-related changes in venom composition, surprising dietary requirements and many more strange evolutionary quirks of this little known genus are revealed for the first time. Long considered a single taxon, this book reprints Ripa’s original papers that led to their reclassification into four distinct species. His own first hand experiences with bushmaster bite are recounted in horrifying, close-up detail.

The photographic library is by far the largest and most extensive ever published on this rare pit viper. The scientific information amassed in this book was a labor spanning more than 25 years.

Dean Ripa was born in 1957 in Wilmington, North Carolina. A herpetological-wunderkind, he was already catching dangerously venomous snakes before the age of ten in the swamplands near his home. At age 13 he was seriously bitten, and hospitalized in intensive care for 2 weeks, losing the functional use of his right hand for over two years. Undaunted, he continued, and by age 15 was already keeping some the world’s most dangerous snakes, king cobras, Gaboon vipers, black mambas, and many others, unbeknownst to his parents, in cages hidden in the attic rooms of their spacious mansion-like house. In his early twenties, he left for Africa to capture and export live snakes back to America. As this proved successful, he began traveling the world, becoming what was probably the first international snake hunter for hire. Major zoos, laboratories, and private fanciers were his customers. Long before television snake-wranglers were staging “cobra captures” in front of camera crews, Dean Ripa was prowling the remotest areas of the earth, far from medical help and human settlement, catching deadly creature and bringing them back alive to America in order to study their habits in captivity. His adventures have taken him to five continents and more than 30 countries, and they have sometimes been harrowing. He has been wracked by malaria, schistosomiasis and dysentery, lost in Amazonian jungles, stranded in the New Guinea highlands, and held up at gun point during military coups in West Africa and Suriname. He has survived twelve venomous snakebites to date, including five by bushmasters, surely the record number of envenomations by this deadly snake on any individual. As author William S. Burroughs described him in his book, The Western Lands, “Dean Ripa could have stepped from the pages of a novel by Joseph Conrad.” Dean Ripa is the owner and director of one of the world’s largest snake museums, Cape Fear Serpentarium, where he maintains the largest breeding population of bushmasters on earth. The literary magazine, Oxford American, ran an award-winning feature on his life’s work, which has culminated in these pages.