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Sometimes we see things (Part II)

June 16, 2012


Again, we have no photos of the mammals discussed. BUT, we do have this wonderful picture of a Neglected 88 butterfly. Diaethria neglecta.

A Double-Toothed Kite (Harpagus bidentatus) visits the yard to snack on an unidentified reptile.

Why did the Red Brocket Deer cross the yard?

On may 10 I was giving my jeans a well-needed washing while simultaneously keeping an eye on the forest and garden behind me. Marble-faced bristle-tyrants perched on the Heliconia and fed on unsuspecting insects. A parade of brilliantly colored tanagers moved methodically through the tree tops. All seemed to be as it always is here at Las Tangaras.

But as I washed the less than fashionable jeans I began hearing an unfamiliar noise. I sort of forced and desperate sounding whistle.  Having already spent well over a month on the reserve I was well accustomed to strange and new sounds but this one seemed to attract my ears in particular.  Turning off the tap so as to hear the forest over the slapping of water on the concrete, I tuned in my senses to the thick vegetation.

I heard the noise again, this time even closer and then, unexpectedly something sprung from the forest. Small brown and dappled with light buff-colored spots, it was a young red-brocket deer (Mazama americana), and it was running at full speed as though the devil him/herself was chasing the young ungulate.  I had been seeing the deers prints along Sendero de Amor (the trail of love) for several days and was hoping to see the actual beast itself.  My wishes were granted, and the streak of brown flashing across the grass was a rewarding sight.

However, the procession of new mammals at Las Tangaras was not over. As I had noticed the deer seemed rather in a hurry, and I certainly was not the cause of the rush. Once the small, shin-height, deer was half way across the “backyard,” I saw the cause of fear. In hot pursuit of the Red-Brocket Deer was a Tayra!

Tayras are large, dog-sized weasels, and apparently they hunt deer. The tayra (Eira barbara) is an animal I had previously encountered in the Andes of South America, but never in this context. Never did I expect to see one actively hunting and if I were lucky enough to see this natural act I certainly did not expect it to hunt a deer! While the tayra is large the deer appeared to be more or less a similar size. This was a brave weasel. Or perhaps desperate. Either way I knew Katie wanted to see both of these creatures. It was all happening so fast the only way I could think to get her out to the back of the house in time was to shout her name. I did so and upon shouting her name, not surprisingly, the tayra heard me. The dog weasel, as I call it, stopped cold in it´s tracks. This I had not expected. We commenced to stare at each other like slack-jawed yokels each caught off guard by the others presence.

The deer, however, did not stop to take stock of the new situation and take a leisurely look at the third and similarly dangerous mammal Homo sapiens. It kept it´s pace and was now clear of the yard and back into the thick and seemingly un-navigable forest. As me and the Mustelid remained transfixed by each other the deer was putting as many kilometers as it could between the staring carnivore and omnivore. The tayra snapped out of it and looked in the direction of the now long gone deer. It looked back at me, as though I had stolen its lunch. It again looked, futilely, in the direction of the deer, back at me, then sprinted back in the direction it had come.

I was now alone, gaping at the now empty yard and forest when Katie finally ran out to the back porch; “What is it!?” It was too late, the only mammal present was an awestruck primate.

One Comment leave one →
  1. June 16, 2012 5:22 pm

    How lucky you are, with both Mazama and Eira as friends! Who knows what’s next: Panthera? That one and only decedent of short-faced bear?


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