Great Snakes!

Living in Costa Rica has the added benefit of being closer to nature – a wonderful and diverse amount of flora and fauna that we get to experience on a daily basis. Living here we often get to spot and learn about different plants and animals and are often wordless with wonder at the majesty and beauty of this country’s unique biodiversity.

We recently spotted our first pair of beautiful Toucans, sitting in a tree nearby, their gorgeous bird-call only topped in beauty by their lovely beaks. We were mesmerized and watched them for a full half hour. I’m constantly in awe of the colourful Scarlett Macaws who fly directly over our property – I first hear their loud parrot-speak, and run outside to spot them yelling “Lapas! Las  Lapas!” so the guests can spot them too. We also have a great array of reptiles on our property.

Out front of the hotel, where the sun shines most directly on some rocky ledges (our retaining wall), live at least 10 huge iguanas, who can nearly always be spotted basking. On nearly every ceiling of every room you will find a gecko or two – they are great to have around because they eat the mosquitoes and their call has become rather comforting to me – a sort of gecko chuckle that lulls me to sleep at night. We have plenty of toads who like to try and swim  in our pool at night, and little wall-climbing froggies whose suction-cup feet are just too cool.

Then there are the bugs. Some are huge black horned beatles that look like scarabs, we have the loud cicadas (about whom I’ve blogged previously), praying mantis, all sorts of gorgeous butterflies (and caterpillars) and about a million other kinds I haven’t mentioned. Ants and mosquitoes are the most hated of this group, as the former come in so many varieties and are so prevalent – the leafcutters eat our garden and sting our feet while the sugar ants invade every kitchen countertop that has a speck of food on it. The latter for obvious reasons. But I don’t hate these animals. I may not love them, but I can deal.

A couple of days ago, James and I got to visit a butterfly farm and frog/serpantarium. It was really interesting learning about what types of plants the Blue Morpho butterfly will lay their eggs in, and what birds are their natural preditors. I got to hold a Red Eyed Tree Frog, the most famous and beautiful specimen in Costa Rica, who is on the endangered species list. But then we got to the snake part. I was glad we were in a bit of a hurry to go horseback riding, and wouldn’t have time to take out any of the snakes. Because they give me the creeps.

I learned that the poisonous ones don’t have shiny skin, or pretty colours – they try to blend in with their surroundings. Vipers also have triangular shaped heads because of the shape of their fangs. I saw the bright green vine snake (we’ve seen a few of them since we’ve been here) and some boa constrictors, and when we got to the vipers I saw my first Fer de Lance, or Tetiopello (sp?) as they call them here. He was so creepy looking. I found out that the babies are actually more dangerous as they let go of 100% of their venom when they bite, since they haven’t learned to control it yet.

We happily left the snakes and went horseback riding, but the next day as I came upstairs with a plate full of chicken breasts ready to hit the BBQ, I thought to myself – “Wow. It’s crazy that I still haven’t seen a Tetiopello in person considering all my time spent in Costa Rica”. I put the plate down and glanced to the side of the barbeque, and out of the corner of my eye I saw something small coiled near the foot of the grill. One glance told me this was a snake, and as I wasn’t wearing any shoes in the darkness, I could have nearly stepped on it. I backed up, ran into the house to find my shoes and screamed for James (my partner) to “Come up here please and bring the machete!!!”

I’m lucky to have a guy who can deal with all the creepy crawlies. He regularly catches huge spiders and scorpions from guest’s rooms, and I knew he could deal with this small snake. I shone the flashlight directly on the little bugger and for sure it was a baby Tetiopello. A couple machete swings later, he was decapitated and tossed down the hill.

I’ll be quite happy if I don’t have to see another one, but the fact there was a baby means there are more babies in the area. We are going to be on ultra-alert for the next few weeks.

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