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Critters and More Critters… cont’d


Last year I wrote about the critters I had encountered in my life here in Belize.  There was one I didn’t write about last year and I have had a new one this year.

The first critter encounter I am telling you about involves a scorpion.  I know I wrote about scorpions last year but those were just impersonal encounters but last September I had a more personal experience, although I wasn’t stung.  I was doing some house-sitting for some friends at the outskirts of town and I noticed that I had a friendly visitor inside the house in the form of a scorpion.  I tried to trap it but it was too quick and it hid out under the island in the kitchen.  The critter was able to get under the cabinet by following the grout lines of the tiles – I honestly didn’t think they could fit under that small a space but just goes to show what I know….

Anyway, one morning about 6:00 I woke up and sat up on the bed with feet dangling over the side.  I felt something weird on my back at the top so I reached around and flicked at my pyjamas. Something fell on the bed behind me, making a bit of a thudding sound.  I turned around and it was a scorpion.  I’m making the assumption it was the same one that went under the kitchen island about 2 weeks prior but I can’t say for sure.  I grabbed the trusty fly swatter, picked up the scorpion from the bed and took it outside.  I didn’t get stung and I have no idea how long the creature was with me in bed.

I have come to learn that most of the scorpions that reside in Belize are not toxic to humans.  The venom and sting may hurt and you may end up with a red area where stung but unless you are allergic to the toxin you likely won’t have too severe a reaction.  I’m glad I didn’t have to learn this the hard way.

Encounter # 2 was more recent – just about 3 weeks ago.  My husband wanted to go swimming in the sea, and he encouraged me to join him.  In all the time I had been here last year I didn’t go into the sea once and I did kind of mention this point to my family and friends so it didn’t take much to convince me to go into the water.  The water was a bit murky from the sand being churned up but with my trusty shoes on I figured I was safe, so I trod carefully into the water.  I got in as far as 2 feet from the shoreline and up to about 6” up my leg when I felt something on the bottom of my foot.  Startled, I think I jumped, and then I felt an extremely sharp pain on my foot where it becomes a leg.  I got out of the water, blood pouring down my foot and oh, man, hurt.  At first I thought I maybe was grabbed at by a crab but the shape of the wound didn’t look like claws made it.  Good thing we had the car with us that day or the walk to the hospital would have been extremely agonizing.  Turns out I was stung by a stingray.  The barb didn’t stay in but it did penetrate almost down to the bone with severe tissue damage surrounding the wound entry.  Let me tell you, this is the most painful thing I have ever experienced in my life.  The venom burns and it burned for just about 6 hours.

The staff members at the local hospital were very good.  The downside is that their experience with stingray stings is very limited so the knowledge on how to treat the venom is also limited.  Much research over the next few days showed that stingray venom is unable to withstand heat so the initial treatment is to submerge the affected area into water as hot as one can stand it for up to an hour.  This breaks down the venom which, I would guess, reduces the pain and probably the surrounding tissue damage.  Barring this unknown information, the wound was cleaned and treated, pain shots given, anti-inflammatory medicines, muscle relaxants, antihistamines and antibiotics were provided, all at no cost to me.  Over the next week the wound proceeded to get worse so I had to visit the hospital daily for penicillin injections, bandage changes and I was given another oral antibiotic, again all at no charge to me.  The staff members were wonderful and helpful and I’m actually pleased that I can give a good review for my experience.

On a final note, I have also learned about doing the stingray shuffle when entering the water.  Apparently the vibration made from shuffling your feet will be felt by the stingray and it will move off.  They aren’t aggressive creatures but they will protect themselves.  And I guess when you are stepped on you use whatever tools you have including a poisonous barb.

Do you know anybody who has been stung by either a scorpion or a stingray?  What did they do to stop the hurt?

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Posted by on February 27, 2013 in Flora and Fauna

 

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Knowledge is Important


Over the past few months I have written several times about creatures that I have come across since I have been here. Those creatures have included snakes, scorpions, tarantulas, frogs, Howler Monkeys, and spiders. Some of the creatures are venomous and some aren’t but it is important to know which is which so you can be protected.

When my husband and I made the decision to come here one of the things we did in preparation was to research the types of animals we might run across. We wanted to be prepared. Back in my neck of the woods in Ontario the worst wildlife I had to deal with was mosquitoes. When I travelled up north then I had to be concerned with bears and snakes, and of course deer flies, black flies, and more mosquitoes. Those deer flies and black flies were painful and they generally travel in swarms.

But, as I didn’t travel up north very often these types of natural interactions were not part of my daily life. Here in Belize, though, that is a different story. I have come across 4 scorpions since being here, 3 of them alive. I have come across 3 snakes, two dead and one alive (just a small one in the back yard). I have seen a dead tarantula on the road.

I was visiting with some friends one day and the subject changed to the bot fly. The bot fly is pretty common right through to Canada, also called the gadfly or the warble fly. I never really knew anything about these flies until I got here though. The bot fly of Central America lays its eggs on mosquitoes and when the mosquito lands on you the hatched bot fly larva falls off and burrows its way under your skin, where it munches merrily away on your muscles. After learning of this one, I spent a few days researching and let me tell you the YouTube videos are gross.

And the ants – those things bite and sting, and just generally irritate my skin. I don’t know if it is just me but apparently the type of ant I am accusing of stinging me doesn’t bite. Yeah, well tell that to the little beasts.

The ants and spiders and scorpions that I have come across have decided to invite themselves into my home. This is where research is really important. You need to know what to do if you get bitten, how to treat yourself, which ones are venomous to people and which ones aren’t.

Whenever I have ventured out to the jungle I have always gone with at least one person carrying a machete. I haven’t seen anything during these jaunts that I would run from but I certainly would not want to go in unprepared.

I write this post, not to scare you away from visiting Belize, but to ensure that you are prepared to enjoy your visit. I went weeks before I saw any wildlife and it was a couple of months before my home was invaded by the scorpion and the spider. When you decide that you are coming to Belize, do your research about the wildlife that you may possibly come across. While some of them are more toxic to people, others are just magnificent. Listening to the Howler Monkeys brings a smile to my face. I have seen a female toucan, and I have seen so many different varieties of butterflies and dragonflies. I researched the type of animals I might run across before I came here so it wasn’t a surprise when I saw something that could inflict a great deal of pain on me.

Remember, knowledge is important.  And the more knowledge you have about the area you are travelling to, the less likely you will be surprised by what you find when you get there.

Huntsman Spider, Gecko, Fer de Lance, Scorpion

 
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Posted by on August 14, 2012 in Flora and Fauna

 

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Creatures


Over the past few weeks I have been “introduced” in one way or another, mostly accidental, to creatures that are indigenous to Belize, or maybe just to the southern part of Belize.

The most recent discovery was of a Hunter Spider.  I am not sure if this is its name or if it is the classification.  Just as some spiders spin webs and others lay traps, the hunter spider jumps on its prey.  From what I was told it likes to hunt insects and other types of bugs, so this would be a good type of spider to keep around.  The spider in the picture  had a body of approximately 1″ long and its legs were approximately 2″ long.  Total span was about 5″.

Yesterday’s creature was a blue crab.  This one really surprised me because we are 3 blocks from the sea.  Now I knew these creatures didn’t live in the sea as I have seen their homes across the road from the water, but I didn’t expect 3 town blocks, lots of houses and people in between the crab and the water.  I am learning something new all the time!  The crab in the picture below has a body of about 4-5″ across and it’s legs were about 6-7″ long.  And apparently, they grow much bigger.  One has been seen by my housemates that had a body span of about 12″.

Two weeks ago I came across road kill – a scorpion had been flattened but you will be able to get a pretty good idea of what it looked like.  And apparently this one was a youngster.  The length of this one was approximately 4-5″.

The other create I came across in my travels was of a snake.   Now, originally I thought that what I saw was a sloughed skin from a snake, but upon speaking with a resident snake specialist, it turns out that what I came across was just a dead snake, without its head attached.  Now this is quite possible as it is not uncommon to see the men walking around with machetes.  And one of the purposes of this is for protection from the snakes.  According to the specialist, the way we know this is not just sloughed skin is that it isn’t clear and colourless.  When I was visiting his “zoo” earlier this week he showed me what a sloughed skin would look like.  He also showed me several other types of snakes that he has in captivity, including a Fer de Lance, known locally as a Tommy Gough, a Coral Snake, a King Snake (and these two are quite similar but one is highly poisonous and the other isn’t).  The length of this snake was approximately 2 feet.  And if you look closely you can see the backbone running down the length.

It has been an interesting couple of weeks and I look forward to seeing and learning more!

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Posted by on April 7, 2012 in Flora and Fauna

 

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