Culebra call

This is a direct sequel to yesterday’s post, which detailed the appearance on our property and in our bathroom in Zihuatanejo, Mexico, of a relatively large boa constrictor.

The birds were squawking again just after dawn in the vacant lot behind our house.  It was comforting to hear them farther away than yesterday morning. I lay there in bed and listened as their cries slowly moved from  one corner of the lot to the other, closing in on the parking lot and bus stop next door to us. I imagined the boa moving in the undergrowth, the birds following it, harassing and heckling. The thought made me get up shortly and make sure that our kitten, Arigato, was inside the house instead of out.

I got ready to take my morning walk on La Ropa beach. I’d skipped that exercise routine yesterday, busy as I was following and documenting each creeping, morning move the boa had made. I did a little perimeter check around the house and interior of the fence line. The bird calls had suddenly become less strident and insistent. Several grackles had settled into the tree and along the fence separating our property from the parking lot. One or two magpie jays were in the plum tree in the same area, behind and beside our house, slightly removed. They heckled languidly and low. It sounded as if the boa were being especially unobtrusive and unthreatening. That was fine with me.

I decided it was safe to leave kitten Arigato outside despite the relative proximity of the birds. They just didn’t sound that alarmed. I took off on my beach walk, looking briefly out toward the bus stop area where I could see some of the grackles even on the ground, and several unsightly, dark lumps of garbage and refuse that habitually gets scattered by dogs and other stray and not-so-stray animals. The garbage truck hadn’t come by yet. I could see nothing long, nothing moving.

My walk was beautiful, as it always is in the early mornings: Few people on the beach, the tide fairly high, the sun indecisive, vying with the clouds to see which of the two was going to conquer the day, or at least the morning hours. During my entire walk, though, I was thinking of Ari out in the yard. I rued the fact that my hearing wasn’t Superman acute. I wanted to be able to hear, even at a ridiculous kilometer’s distance, whether the birds were sending up an alarm, telling the world to take heed of the danger. But I am not Superman or even Spider-woman (although I do have a nasty, itchy spider bite on my shin). I was too far away. The surf was too loud. I hurried back at a bit brisker pace than normal.

Morning on La Ropa Beach

Morning on La Ropa Beach

Walking in the gate I saw Ari sitting placidly on the steps. The cat-from-across-the-street, who we recently had spayed to save ourselves from the advent of more kitty litters in our yard and who has adopted us as her god-parents and benefactors, was also in present, sitting facing the fence where the grackles still milled, alert to their occasional,  half-hearted bird call. Everything was in order.

By now more buses and taxis were coming by to pick up and drop off passengers, people coming to the beach and various restaurants, hotels, and houses in the area: people going to town, to work, to market. I became aware of some men talking on the other side of the fence, near where the birds were. I suddenly overheard the word “culebra” (snake) being mentioned.

I took off out the gate and approached one of our neighbors who was talking to another couple of fellows at the bus stop. I realized that at their feet, what I had earlier taken for two lumps of strewn garbage, were in fact a half-coiled and sadly mangled boa constrictor in its last throes, and a dead kitten, one of the strays that also lived in that empty lot behind our house and made the garbage dump beside the bus stop its larder. I was very saddened. No wonder the birds weren’t insistent today–they already knew the snake was a goner. The snake had been attacked in an effort to save the cat. In the process, both animals were unfortunately killed. It is doubly sad because that kitten was already crushed when its would-be rescuer took his machete to the boa.

I told the neighbors that only yesterday morning the boa had been behind our house, in our bathroom. I kicked myself because I realized that what I should have done then, when I knew exactly where the boa was holed up for the day, was call in the bomberos (firemen) to extract it from its lair and remove it into the hills where it would still be safe,  hunting mice and lizards instead of desperately cornered between buildings and buses, eating cats and getting killed. I had hoped it would effect its own escape from encroaching civilization in its own natural way. I was wrong.

A hard lesson learned: If ever I have the fortune to again be so close and able to observe the comings and goings of a beautiful wild being like this boa in an encroaching urban environment, I’ll do my best to find someone capable of relocating it to the wilds and not wait for nature to take its course. We’ve done the damage, changed the pace of the world and some things in nature are having a hard time keeping up.