Snake in the Grass?

Boa in the grass in our yard

Boa in the grass in our yard

So, yes, snakes. I happen to really like them. In fact, the whole reason I went to Costa Rica in the first place was because I worked as a volunteer at the Bronx Zoo with their reptile house. It was my job to feed and clean out the cages of all the non potential dangerous species there. The zoo had quite a lot of critters that were not always on display. I got to work with gavials, a very interesting Indian species, found here:

http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/reptiles/gavial.html ,

monitor lizards, anacondas, a wide variety of turtles, lizards, crocs….SO MUCH. I fed the Chinese Alligators gold fish, made salads for 5 ft long iguanas that ran around my legs as enthusiastic as dogs for their dinner, and brought massive salads to Aldabra Tortoises, weighing in at about 400 lbs. It was normal for me to be in a room, cleaning out cages of rainbow boas, anacondas and different pythons, with a row of cages of spitting cobras behind me. Yeah, I don’t have a problem with snakes. Back at my apartment, I had nine. In my menagerie were 3 boas, a ball python, Asian vine snake, 2 corn snakes and 2 milk snakes. The Asian vine snake was particularly interesting because its eyes are shaped like keyholes and it was also a rear fanged, mildly poisonous chap. It never bit me. Other snakes had and I think I have been bitten about 11 times, mostly by boas and usually at feeding time.

Living in the jungles of Costa Rica was no big deal for me with the critters. Having children did cause my momma senses to kick up several notches and as most people around the world do, I raised my children learning to respect and not touch. It was just a little different; in the states one might teach a child about not going into the street or to play with matches. I taught mine not to go near this guy….

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This is a 16 ft or so salt water crocodile that was sunbathing at our place. Quite alarming especially when it would snap its mouth close several times, a sound like gunshots going off. Guess it was getting ready to go catch some very unlucky prey. My ex is a fisherman, and he would clean the fish at our dock. We had a sink and a plank over the water where he did this and all the fish guts/heads would be tossed into the river. It was normal to see about 5 pairs of eyes reflecting back red at us. These were the caimans and the crocodiles that were like Pavlov’s dogs, salivating when they heard the water from the sink hit the river below. We were about 5 feet above the surface, so never felt in danger of our dumpster divers.

Our children knew all about being careful. My son would inform me of eyelash vipers in trees where he was playing. Usually, his dad would collect them and let them loose into the forest where they belonged.

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This is one that was hanging out on our porch. The interesting thing about these is that they come in three colors, which is not normal for a species. They can be bright banana yellow or a mossy green that blends perfectly onto the trunk of trees…Another valid lesson: “DON’T PUT YOUR HANDS ON THE TREES!!!” In Spanish, they are called “Dormilonas” or Sleeping Beauty because they will stay in the same tree for days. A favorite spot for them is the heliconia flowers where they wait for humming birds. I highly recommend http://www.fogdenphotos.com/dbm.html They have some amazing photos of an eyelash viper in the bright yellow color phase, striking out at a rufous-tailed hummingbird.

Sometimes, in the late evening, heart wrenching cries would be heard. One evening I heard what sounded like a cat mewling and crying. I went out to investigate and came upon this disturbing sight. Felt really bad for the little frog, but nature rules out there…

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I’ve had snakes slither cross the floor of my house…actually it was 5 snakes and my only guess is that the first one was a female and the other 4 were horny males trying to be first.

There are several species of poisonous snakes other than the eye-lash viper in Tortuguero, Costa Rica. There were bushmasters, Fer-de-lances (called Terciopelo in Spanish which means velvet due to their beautiful pattern.), other pit vipers, and coral snakes. I have had friends that have gone through the agony of a snake bite. One gentleman, Rapha,  was closing his wooden shutter before heading to bed, not realizing that an eyelash viper was curled up on the sill. At that time there was no way out of there other than by motorboat and he had to be driven in the pitch black to the nearest hospital, three hours away. I am happy to say  that he survived with no health issues after getting the proper treatment.

At one point I raised chickens for their eggs. I had a little coop and would go out daily to collect the eggs. Hens will make a certain clucking noise when they lay, so I knew there were eggs to be picked up. I was surprised to find none. I thought, maybe an opossum, but there were no tracks. This baffled me for days until one day I ran over when I heard the hen’s cluck and found a big boa sucking down the freshly laid eggs!! He was promptly removed and dropped off on the other side of the river.

I guess it’s a good thing that I am not phobic about snakes and other funky wildlife that surrounded me in and out of my home all those years. Don’t get me started on bugs. And, yes, I like them too!

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