Costa Rica Animal Encounters


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During our stay in Manuel Antonio/Quepos, we were thrilled to be in a jungle surrounding that afforded us many opportunities to observe and photograph some of the most interesting animals I have ever seen. I’ve shared photos of my monkey friends with you as well as those of the countless beautiful birds that visited us daily. Then there was the occasional “gem” of an encounter when we met up with something unique and unexpected. The creature above is a Prehensile-tailed Porcupine. Now, it was odd enough that I was seeing an actual porcupine up close because-well-I’d never seen one before except in books or on television. But here was a species of porcupine I had never even heard of!  Let me tell you about this experience.

In our little home there in Chico Land we had to take the short hike past the hotel to put out our garbage because the dumpster was at the end of the road. Not a problem. I generally looked for any excuse to stretch my legs and have a look around. The area is rich in wildlife and flora. The first night we met this little one, however, was an occasion when we were on our way to dinner. We are always looking for interesting things and I never left the house without a camera. Most women have purses, I have my camera. It is what it is..

It was dusk when we left, and as we neared the crossroad I caught a bit of movement from the corner of my eye. My husband applied the brakes and we stopped to see what it was, camera at the ready. At first I thought it was a raccoon. Too small. A cat? Tail too short. A rat? God, I hope not! Then as it sauntered into the light of the street lamp, we saw the spines. A porcupine? But it didn’t exactly have the right tail. And it was much cuter than any porcupine I’d ever seen. Forgive me all porcupines-no insult intended. And it appeared to be quite young. Normally that means a mother is nearby and, if so, the photo op and educational experience broadens significantly. We watched and waited, but no parental unit showed up and the little one just scurried off under the bushes and out of sight. How fortunate we felt! As soon as we got back to the house I “googled it” as always and found very quickly the link to a marvelous creature called the Prehensile-tailed Porcupine. They are closely related to the other tree porcupines but have different characteristics. For one their tail is unspined.  They live on leaves, shoots, fruit, bark and roots. Other of their traits are similar to a regular porcupine. There is one distinctive trait that I will tell you about in a moment for this was not to be our last encounter with him.

The very next morning we needed to take out the trash and often we completed this task together since it was a nice little stroll to the end of the road where the dumpster was. So, with camera in one hand and a bag of trash in the other, we headed down the road in the early morning. As we neared the hotel that sits next to the house where we lived, there was a little truck parked in the road-nothing unusual-but there were two young Ticos wandering around and looking a bit amused and yet flustered. These young men had a bit of a dilemma.

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Look who’s back! And in daylight, no less. At first we thought the baby was just taking another stroll, but as we got closer we realized it was nuzzled up and apparently trying to sleep! Inside this fellow’s flip flop. We looked around again and saw no mother. Between our sketchy Costa Rica Spanish and their minimal English we managed to find out that the little one had crawled onto one of their flip flops and then decided to snuggle in. They were trying to decide what to do about it, what with the mother being gone and it apparently needing some attention. This country is very conservation oriented. The wildlife and flora are abundant because there is a genuine love and appreciation for all that lives. After some back and forth discussion, one of them made a phone call and the other grabbed a cloth from the truck. Even though the spines may not have been fully developed on this baby yet, there was no sense taking a chance. They looked real enough.  He scooped the spiny baby up and put it in the cab of the truck as we said goodbye.

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But before they left we got some nice shots. We heard later on that “back in the day” these creatures were considered somewhat of a culinary delicacy. I’m certain they were headed to the Manuel Antonio National Park with it. Really. 🙂

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Do you think this guy is special?  Wait till you see the boa I ran into while on the way home from the beach one day!

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