“Ahhhhhhh!” I stepped on something in the grass! Ahhhhh! It’s a snake!”
In the middle of photographing the hand-painted welcome sign for Mamanoots Backabush Resort, I heard Betty’s scream. I turned to see her dancing over the grass in a shallow swale.
“There’s a snake over there! I stepped on it!”
Binoculars down. My fellow birders rushed over, concerned that Betty might have been bitten by the fearsome fer-de-lance that was known to lurk near trailsides. A ranger happened to be nearby and identified it as a boa constrictor. Whew. The ranger stepped forward and slowly waved his hand right and left in front of the animal. The boa, which had been trying to slither away from these loud humans, sensed danger and stopped. It curled its powerful coils to prepare for a fight, then raised the first third of its body as it waved back and forth to follow the motion of the ranger’s undulating palm.
Enough, it seemed to decide. It dropped its head and made a break for the deep grass. We followed it, cameras clicking. The Belizean ranger grabbed its tail and held on. The boa immediately wrapped its body around a nearby sapling and swung around at its attacker. It flexed its entire body, distorting itself into a string of “S” shapes as it pulled against the grip of the hand that held it.
“Enough,” said Fred quietly. “Let’s leave it alone.”
The ranger laughed. “He is too strong for me anyway,” he smiled.
The incident reminded me of another drama during my trip to Belize in 2004. Our group had piled into the back of a truck to see the night animals that lived near the lodge where we were staying. On the way back in the darkness, the beam of our headlights picked up something scurrying across the road. The driver stopped. It was a tarantula. We leaned over the side for a better look. We marveled at its size, its shape, its color, the long, hairy legs. Someone remarked that tarantulas make good pets. We shivered a little, grateful to be in the truck. Yet here was the creature, naked in the false light, paralyzed before fifteen pairs of shining eyes, human beings flashing photographs, all perched high above him on the road in a towering, clattering, noisy truck, poisoning his every breath with the fumes of a diesel engine.
And we were the ones who were horrified.