Oh man, it has been an exciting last couple days. Well, I guess exciting is the word for it…maybe horrifying would be more accurate. First, we went to collect cameras from one of our more tick-intensive sites – the kind of place where you find 30 on you and just stop counting – which unfortunately turned out to be the least of our worries. Because of how the branches were angled I couldn’t really see where all the cameras were from the ground, so as I climbed up my rope I counted one, two, thr…and my heart sank. While the first two remained on the branches just how I’d left them, the third looked like this:
The camera itself had clearly been tampered with, which is often a concern for people who set traps on the ground where poachers or anyone passing by might be tempted to look at, damage, or even steal the cameras. They make specialized locks for the cameras to prevent this, but given that I was setting mine several stories above general view, I did not invest in such security measures. To make matters worse, the mount that attached the camera to the branch had been colonized by ants, so the moment I reached out to retrieve it my entire arm was covered in an angry, biting swarm of devil spawn (I’m sorry if you’re into ants, but they are the devil and I hate them). You can see a clip of them here, but my priorities shifted from documentation to demolition pretty quickly after this was taken:
Clearly awful. I managed to grab the camera and clear most of ants off the mount, my rope, and my all-of-me, and once we got back to the lab we discovered that there had in fact been some foul play! I will be pressing charges and hope to recoup all damages, as the following photographic evidence provides a pretty open-and-shut case for jail time:
We found claw marks all over the camera and I was relieved to find that the camera itself still worked, but who knew kinkajous were such vandals?! While we’re on the topic, another camera captured a series of photos showing a kinkajou staring at, sniffing, and finally peeing on the camera. This kind of thuggery is simply inexcusable! On to the next day…
Walking up the steps to the trail I felt a leaf land on my shoulder and when it didn’t fall off right away, I brushed at it. I didn’t see anything fall but also didn’t feel it anymore, so I kept on walking until I once again felt something leafy, this time against my neck. With a careless flick I sent it to the ground only to discover it was A SCORPION THE SIZE OF MY PALM!
I realize there is nothing in this photo for you to judge the scale for yourself, but what size scorpion is not horrifying, honestly? This is the first time I’ve ever seen a scorpion here. I guess I always assumed they existed, but they were neither on my mind nor my body until this one showed up. Still shaking from that one.
Later in the day we were walking to our second tree, crunching through the thick layer of leaves that cover the forest floor, when Owen let out a panicked “WHOA!” behind me. Apparently I had just stepped on this:
If you’re not snake-savvy (as I am not), this is a coral snake. I imagine your next question is whether this particular snake is poisonous, to which I say once again, when is stepping on a snake of any kind not horrifying?! I did learn recall a little rhyme I learned from TV’s Jeff Corwin: Red touches black, friend of Jack; Red touches yellow, kill a fellow.
LOOK. AT. THE. RED. AND. YELLOW!!!
So to answer your question, YES, this is a poisonous snake, a coral snake to be exact. Also, little Wikipedia-ing revealed that Pfizer, the only manufacturer of coral snake anti-venom discontinued this particular variety in 2010 because of apparently insufficient bites to warrant its production. Awesome.
So, all in all things worked out more or less for the better – the ants didn’t kill me, the camera was fine, the scorpion fell to the ground, and technically I attacked the snake, so that worked out. To whom or whatever has been keeping me out of harm’s way since I arrived – while I appreciate your effort thus far, could we maybe tighten the reins a bit? Someone's clearly slacking, because these last few days have been a little too close for comfort.
Oh, and thank you, television, for being my only childhood source of herpetological education – 100 points for TV.