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A boa constrictor in Costa Rica? Yes, boa constrictors are out there in the jungle but when you are living in the jungle and one shows up in your garden, then what?
I was adamantly opposed to feeding the two cats that kept coming by our house in Puerto Viejo as I knew we would be in for a long term relationship with them. They didn’t appear to be starving. But it didn’t take me long to cave – especially when we figured out that the one that resembled an alien and who meowed incessantly was pregnant. We fondly named the two cats Hermione and Ron betraying our eternal devotion to J.K. Rowling.
On a regular sunny, humid afternoon, I spotted Ron just staring under a bush – quite transfixed. I was curious. Perhaps Hermione had had her litter under the bush. I peered under the verdant green bush and could see no kittens, nothing in fact.
I kept asking Ron (kind of like a crazy, old cat lady), “What are you staring at Ron? Silly cat.” Nothing. Nothing. My eyes scanned the area. Nothing.
And then I saw it.
Completely camouflaged with the dead, brown leaves.
Nope: not just a little camouflaged snake;
Nope: not a medium-sized camouflaged snake ….
but a cleverly camouflaged HUGE snake.
My heart leapt. Reality sunk in. I am living in the jungle and there are boa constrictors in Costa Rica.
Snakes are really not my thing. In fact, I had been to the Jaguar Rescue Centre for a tour that morning and I had completely tuned out all the information about the snakes except this fun fact: Costa Rica is the world ’s leader when it comes to anti-venom production.
I saw my neighbour walking by and squeaked in a very high-pitched voice, “Hola… can you come here for a second?” She took one look under the bush and cried in a rather hushed and awestruck tone, “It’s a boa.”
The first call of action was to get Ron out of the way. He was staring the boa down and I did not want to see Ron devoured in front of my eyes. Ron was acting so weirdly. Was it fear? Had he been bitten by the boa already? I had to remind myself that boas are not venomous. They just like to constrict their prey until it’s dead and then swallow. I really should have listened more carefully on the tour.
We decided to call the Jaguar Rescue Centre as they have been known to come and move a snake further into the jungle, away from people. Easier said than done – the Spanish message on my phone had been telling me for a few days that my minutes were used up… but mañana .. mañana … there really had been no hurry to replenish my time. My neighbour had a limited number of minutes left. She called speaking rather hysterically and rapidly in Spanish. By the time the phone was handed to me for an exact address (there are no street numbers here), the boa constrictor was on the move.
His thick, long body snaked across the lawn through the tropical bushes slithering into the empty jungle lot next door. We thought that was the end of him until we heard screams. We knew he had appeared on the road.
Where was the man from the Centre? He needed to appear. I was getting impatient.
Babysitting a boa was getting nerve-wracking. Not that I didn’t appreciate his beauty. His markings were really stunning but where was the glass separating us?
The man from the Centre missed the boa by about two minutes. He had slithered away into the jungle across the road from me. Happy trails, Mr. Boa.
As I told people about the boa constrictor in my garden, I was met with various reactions.
“Oh, boas are such beautiful and rather shy creatures.”
“You are lucky it was a boa and not one of the venomous snakes!”
“Do you know that boas love kittens and chickens?” This comment had me checking under my bed every night for at least a month.
Truth be told, a boa constrictor’s markings are beautiful but I do hope that my sixty minutes of a close encounter with a boa will serve me for a lifetime!