Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Tay-rrific!

If you want to see predators, get a little dog. Seriously. Preferably a small white fluffy dog. Then take her into the jungle. Yesterday, Bruce and I, with our little dog, went to the Hillbank road to check the camera trap. We replaced the CF card and then took a walk. The dog loves this.

There was a suspicious rustling overhead and the dog went into high alert. Ah, monkeys we said, peering into the treetops. A guan? Nope -- couldn't see either one. Shrugged and moved on. Something lean and dark dashed across the path and up a tree. Now the dog is really excited.

A tayra! No, two tayras! Wait, there are THREE tayras! We are totally amazed -- they are dashing up and down the tree trunks and branches, chattering in a noisy bird-like way and focused on the dog. I immediately pick up the dog -- I am no fan of dog-wildlife interactions. One of the two always comes out the loser.

The tayras, large members of the weasel family, are very agitated. They are bold, dashing up and down tree trunks and branches, craning their long necks to get a look at us, or more accurately, the dog. I wonder whether they will approach us, something I am not eager to encourage.

Known as "bushdog" in Belize, the tayra (Eira barbara) is classified as an omnivore. However, it is a competent predator reputed to hunt deer from the treetops. I viewed that claim dubiously until an entire busload of Chan Chich guests witnessed a dramatic encounter between a small deer and a tayra in the middle of the road. Some years later, I got camera trap photos of a tayra eating a brocket deer (Mazama americana) it had just killed. I have nothing but respect for this very efficient hunter.

At 11 pounds with a roughly 2-foot long body, the tayra weighs as much as the dog and were they curious! All three of them, craning their necks, bobbing their light colored heads and chattering incessantly. Clearly the dog's novel white coat is something they have not come across before. They are VERY interested. After a few minutes they have seen enough and disappear into the jungle.

Only then did I put our small dog down on the path.

3 comments:

  1. Hello Carolyn!!!
    I really love your blog!! Thank you very much for sharing your experiencies.
    I'm totally in love with Belize and its nature. My husband and I have seen 3 Tayras too!! It was a family! We saw them at almost night and they were at a few meters of us. when they saw us, they were so scared that they stayed on defensive positions without moving and saying some strong "ssshhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!".
    Sorry, my english level is quite poor, I wish you can understand me!!! :-)
    Marion

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  2. I can't believe you've seen 3 tayras too! How interesting -- this is the first time I'd seen 3 together. You wonder if it is a female with nearly grown young or some other social group. Not much is known about tayra "society." Sounds like an exciting encounter that you had as well.

    Thanks for reading and commenting!

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  3. Yes, we were very lucky!!! In fact we saw Tayras 2 times!! First time in north of Belize, we were in a car, and when my husband saw a tayra crossing the road, I saw Emerald Toucanets flying at the same time hahaha!!! That was amazing!!!

    The second time was in the jungle, with those 3 tayras. I'm not absolutely sure it was a family, all seemed to be young and even one was smaller than the others. I think I have a picture, I will put it in my blog asap.

    Keep in touch! :-)

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