|Beth and Felipe catching guppies.|
|Fer-de-lance: the snake we most commonly encounter in Trinidad.|
From my field notes: I was processing fish at the table in Simla (the William Beebe Tropical Research Station) and had just finished a tank of fish. I picked up the tank to take it and empty it outside and was walking out the door when “thump” something heavy fell in the area between the open door and the door jamb. I looked quickly and saw it was a very big snake. Thankfully, I also instantly saw that it wasn’t a poisonous one – or at least not a poisonous one I was familiar with – so I just kind of backed off and called Felipe and Beth to come have a look. During this time, the snake, which turned out to be Pseustus sulphureus sulphureus, was slowly working its way up the door jam and higher toward the rafters of Simla. Felipe quite correctly pointed out that it would be good to not let it get too high above our reach or we would never get it – so I ran and got some butterfly nets to catch it. Felipe then engaged in a protracted dance with the snake to try to catch him in the nets, which he eventually did. I kibitzed and took photos and videos. After taking it outside, we let it go and it sort of hung around in some bushes nearby. We were confident its traumatic capture, handling, and release would convince it to depart.
|Pest removal by Felipe.|
|Now that's a big snake (Pseustus sulphureus sulphureus)|
As it got closer and closer, it changed direction and was heading right for me. Hmmm, this will be a good video, I thought. Then it came out of the tree not two feet in front of me – heading straight for me. A good video indeed! In fact, I could see that it was still heading toward the house, which was behind me, and the most direct route from where it was to the house was directly between my legs. I kept filming and, sure enough, it kept going right through my legs and toward the house. I eventually stopped filming because I could see it was about to enter the house through a small hole, so I grabbed its tail and it instantly whipped around and struck at me. Being at about waist height on some steps at that point, it definitely raised my adrenalin level.
|You lookin' at me punk?|
By this point, I was really enjoying the snake but also finding it quite distracting – I had fish to process after all. So at the end of this third encounter, I collected it with a pole and dropped it off a rather steep – if short – cliff lined with ivy. Although it clearly wouldn’t be injured, I figured it would at least get the idea that it might get injured if it stayed. It wasn’t that I was afraid of the snake or didn’t like it – quite the contrary – I just figured that it would be very distracting if we were having to keep our eyes open all the time while we were in the house for fear of stepping or sitting on it. Remember sitting on your house cat by accident, well this would take it to the next level.
|Pseustus sulphureus sulphureus|
After this most recent encounter, I went back to work processing guppies, but I kept looking behind me toward the door and windows because I was still thinking it might be back. Sure enough, about 15 minutes later, I could see it climbing the outside of the house and then entering the house along the edge of the vaulted rafters about 3.5 m up. Then it proceeded to move along this edge. Well, I thought, we can’t have it moving up into the attic or down into our rooms – that would take the distraction to a whole new level, so I set out to corral it in the same way Felipe had done previously. But now it was about a meter higher than before, so I had to stand on a desk or table and reach way above my head with the nets trying to get the snake into the net. This I could sort of do – but only the first half of the snake – try as I might I couldn’t pry the other half off the edge – and it became rather exciting when it would turn around and coil up as if to strike – while being 1 m above my head looking down at me.
|Another Trinidad oddity - the endemic Mannophryne trinitatis and his tadpoles.|