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Ch 4 Snakes and Other Dangers

Lupé dashed off to play with the other kids.  Her brothers and cousins were playing on the ground near an irrigation ditch.  They chased each other around and wrestled. They loved to run through the water and they jumped onto small branches and swung off into the ditch.  Unlike human children, the monkeys played very quietly.  They did not yell or laugh or scream.  They did not want to attract attention of predators!


Lupé joined in and began chasing her cousin Dave.  He jumped into the ditch, causing a big splash, and then he ran up the other side.  Lupé followed him and was about to jump up onto the bank when Peter came over and tackled her. They wrestled for a little while and then Peter ran off with Lupé in hot pursuit.


Suddenly Lupé heard a sharp bark: “Gyrrah!”  Scarface was very alarmed and barked out, ”Danger!!  Gyrrah!”


All of the children stopped playing and immediately leapt up into the trees.  “Gyrrah!”  Angelo shouted.  He and Scarface had been laying on low hanging branches, watching the children play, but now they were staring at a spot on the ground and barking alarm.


Julio came bounding over near Angelo.  “Gyrrah! Gyrrah!”  They barked.


Male Agg.jpg

Peter jumped over next to them to see, but Angelo didn’t want him to come so close. Angelo gave Peter a threat face and cried, “Gyrrah!”  Angelo chased Peter away from danger. 


Even though she wanted to see, she didn’t want to get into trouble, so Lupé went a little higher into the tree and looked as carefully as she could.


Scarface continued to call alarm and stare at the ground. “Gyrrah!”


Granny Bette and Auntie Teri came down next to Julio and they too began to bark. “Gyrrah!” “Gyrrah!”


Julio grabbed tightly on a tree branch and shook it as hard as he could.  Max bounded over and hit a smaller branch with his foot, breaking it off and dropping it on the ground where Julio and Scarface were staring.  All the adults were making angry alarm barks and staring at the ground.  Carmen and Granny Francis approached and began barking too.  Even little Tita began barking!


‘Rico tried to figure out what Julio was looking at.  He looked at his eyes and then to the spot where Julio was looking.  He couldn’t see anything.  He looked back at Julio and then back at the area that Julio was looking at.  What were the adults so angry about?


“Gyrrah! Gyrrah! Gyrrah!”


Lupé and Peter cautiously approached the area where Carmen and Teri were barking.  Lupé thought she could see movement under the leaves.   Feeling anxious, Lupé issued a few cough barks, which sound like a soft cough.


Julio continued to bark and branch shake.  Angelo grabbed a branch and gave it a hard tug, breaking it off.  It fell right into the leaves on the ground. 


A boa constrictor shifted under the leaves, lifting her head.  Then she became very, very still.  Everyone began furiously alarm barking. “Gyrrah! Gyrrah! Gyrrah!”

Now that everyone knew where the snake was, the danger had passed.  This boa couldn’t surprise them, so Lupé’s family was safe.  All they had to do was keep an eye on the snake and avoid it.

Snakes are not the only danger to Lupé’s troop.  There are many wild cats that the monkeys fear.  Wild cats such as pumas, ocelots, jaguarundis, and even little margay cats are dangerous predators.  They often travel at night and they move easily though trees where Lupé‘s family sleeps. 


There are also large weasel-like tayras that also travel in the trees.  They are a threat to the monkey, so it was important for Lupé to learn to recognize them


Lupé still makes alarm calls at coatis, even though she knows that they are nothing to worry about. 



White Nosed Coati (Nasua narica)

There are hawks and falcons that can catch small monkeys.  Whenever an adult calls out, “Raptor!”, Lupé knows to look up to the sky where they will be flying.  Most of the kids in Lupé’s troop are anxious when herons fly overhead and will cry out anxiously.  But a heron will not bother a monkey.


The greatest danger the monkeys face are humans and most monkeys will call out in alarm and run away when they see humans, but not in the lowlands at Curú.  The monkeys there know that humans will not harm them in the lowlands at Curú.

Lupé was old enough to know what a boa looks like, but Tita still confused boas with other snakes.  Tita even sometimes made the boa alarm call at lizards!  Carmen stayed near the boa for quite some time, barking and barking.  Clinging tightly to her back, Tita watched the boa and practiced barking.  Over time, Tita would be able to easily recognize dangerous snakes and know when to make the right alarm calls


Lupé already knew that most snakes are nothing to worry about.  There are many kinds that she saw all the time. There were the green vine snakes and the grey vine snakes.  They were usually up high in trees, but sometimes she saw them in low bushes.  But they only eat mice, lizards, and sometimes small birds and frogs. 


The yellow and black rat snakes grow very big, they can grow as long as 3 meters!  Like boas, they travel in trees and they can move really, really fast.  But their heads are not very big.  They only eat small mammals, lizards, and birds.  They might be a danger to a baby monkey, but not an adult.


Speckled racer snakes are much smaller than rat snakes.  They are only about 1 meter long.  They blend in with leaves very well.  Each scale is black with a yellow dot and blue edge.  In the sun they look sparkly black and green.  Lupé has seen them mostly along the river because they usually eat frogs and toads, but sometimes they eat lizards, eggs, and small mammals like mice.


The indigo snakes are also really big.  They are all brown except for the end of their tails which are blue black.  Lupé doesn’t like them, and the adults will alarm call at them if they are in trees.  Lupé saw them resting in the river, but no one called alarm when they are there.  The good thing about indigo snakes is that they eat other snakes as well as small mammals, birds, lizards and sometimes even fish.


Whenever baby Tita saw those kinds of snakes she would alarm call. She would stare at the snake and shake little branches. She would cry , “Gyrrah!” “Gyrrah!” “Gyrrah!”, in her little voice, but no one paid much attention.  Everyone knew Tita was too little to know the difference between a vine snake or an indigo snake or a rattlesnake.


Whenever Tita yelled “SNAKE!” Carmen or Lupé would come over to see what Tita was calling about.  It was a vine snake or a racer snake, they just ignored it.  But if it was a boa or a rattlesnake, Carmen and Lupé would begin alarm barking.  Everyone else would quickly join in.  This way, Tita would learn to only cry “snake!” only when she saw the dangerous boa constrictors and rattlesnakes.



Lupé knew what a rattlesnake looks like.  They can grow up to 2 meters, but their bodies are fat, and they don’t move very fast.  They have rough, scratchy looking scales that are brown with a diamond pattern down the back.  They have a triangle-shaped head.


Lupé knew that when they are scared or mad, these snakes shake the rattle at the end of their tail.  Lupé also knew that rattlesnakes are very dangerous because they are venomous. Usually, they eat lizards, small mammals, birds, and eggs; but their bite could kill a monkey.  Lupé didn’t see rattlesnakes very often.  But when she did, she was quick to make an alarm call so her family would be safe.


Boas are not venomous, but they are very dangerous for monkeys.  They are big and they can move very easily through the trees.  They also travel at night when the monkeys are asleep.  Usually, though, they curl up and sit very, very still, waiting for prey to come to them.  They are light brown or gray with uneven dark brown patches.  They are very well camouflaged, blending in with all the leaves on the forest floor.   It can be very hard to see them. 


Boas grow to be really, really big.  The biggest boa Lupé ever saw was 4 meters long, but they can be a long as 6 meters!  They get so big, they can eat opossums, agoutis, or even coatis, porcupines, monkeys, and young deer.  Unlike rattle snakes, boas are very smooth looking.


Of all the snakes, boas scared Lupé the most and she wanted Tita to learn how to recognize them as soon as she could.


Troop members continued to alarm call at the boa.  Lupé and her mother went down closer to the boa, where they could see it very well.  Tita could also see it better.  All three barked at the boa.  Peter came down to bark too.  Dave ran right up and swatted at the boa.  Each member of the troop came down, looked at the boa and alarm barked at it.  “Gyrrah!” “Gyrrah!”


Granny Francis stayed the longest, with the youngest kids, barking and barking.  Little Aunty Maria stayed with Granny Francis for a long time, looking at the boa and barking.


It was good practice for Tita and Maria.  They were learning to only make the alarm bark at dangerous snakes. 


Unnerved by the snake, the troop moved away and began feeding.  Lupé stayed close to Carmen and Tita and thought about all the snakes she’d seen.  She was glad that the snakes she usually saw were vine snakes


"Narrow-headed Vine Snake", Anywhere,,  August 15, 2020.

Baker, Mary E.   personal observations 1991-2018


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