Tag Archives: puma

The Puma Route Map

puma mapweb somewheresvilleFor various reasons, I am quite interested in knowing where the puma goes, and when. To be honest, it’s become a bit of an obsession. I’ve been quizzing people, and collating the data in a vaguely scientific way. I’m now keeping what I hope is a fairly comprehensive log, and I’ll add future sightings to a map, along with  date and time. In the meantime, I’ve produced a Puma Route Map to show the general range. Around 45 people work in and around this private reserve and almost all have bumped into this ‘elusive’ cat.

After sweating over maps, calendars and my scrawled notes, I can finally offer some partial explanation as to the high number of sightings. There are two pumas, as proven by two recorded sightings in two different locations at exactly the same time on January 21. It’s a breakthrough.

Two and a half years ago a mother and two cubs were spotted at the back of the lodge. I’d expected to discover that our two pumas were mother and one male juvenile, the other having gone off to find its own patch. After scrutinising video and talking to Fanny, the David Attenborough of Claro del Bosque, it seems there are two males. One probably is the grown-up cub, but the other, old and skinny, is a mystery.

From the timings and descriptions, it’s likely the older male is covering the area east and north of the lodge (in fact, I just got a call on the radio about half an hour ago to say he was having a stroll around the farm, Claro del Bosque). While the younger puma is more of a beach boy. He likes the heat. Most of the sightings have been in the hottest hours of the day, from 11.45-2.15pm, and in the hottest locations – the beach by the San Pedrillo Ranger Station, the beach in front of Carmen’s house,  the lawn in front of, and behind, the beach house (where he has been photographed basking like a Sphinx). He has no fear of people – in fact he seems to be drawn to them.

Although seen at the beach around 4pm recently, he’s generally spotted in the later afternoons in higher forest, criss-crossing the path I take home, and hanging out at the two points earmarked for hotel guests because of their spectacular views, and breezes. He uses the quebrada, concealed by thick plantain growth on either side, as a back alley shortcut from the beach to the miradors. And this is largely why I don’t.

I’m not sure where either puma is at night; that would be nice to know.  The kill and the scat left at the beach house suggests that one of them is a nocturnal visitor. Liliana, a cook at the hotel, who goes home in the opposite direction, through the rainforest late at night on the back of her son’s horse, saw a puma lying, in the way, on the trail at the back of the guest bungalows last week. So, at this stage, who knows.

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Carmen and the Puma Sighting

IMG_5753There are two houses on this stretch of coast – the one I currently call home, and, across the quebrada, or stream, the caretaker’s house, where Carmen lives with her husband, William.  The quebrada that divides us is dark, home to bull frogs (and apparently the occasional tiny crocodile), and flanked by the big broad leaves of plantain and heliconia. Following it up with your eye, it’s soon lost in thick forest, where the shade is black. That deep forest provides stadium seating for anything that wants to watch the human activity down below without revealing itself.

There are many times when I am walking along the trails or heading down to the beach at dusk, when I know I’m being watched. There’s a certain feeling you get, a zinging tension in the air, when you’re being observed by a predator. I can’t rationalise it; but it’s true. Each time I’ve stopped, turned around, and scanned the forest, waiting for some leaf to move, or twig to crack, but he doesn’t move, although he’s in there, tensed up, statue-still but interested. It’s a kind of jungle stand-off (‘Among twenty snowy mountains / The only moving thing / Was the eye of the blackbird’). I always give up first, “I can’t hang around here all day waiting for pumas”, I say aloud, “I’ve got things to do”.

Anyway, while the puma has most likely been eyeing me, the person he likes watching the most, is Carmen. Carmen is best described as ‘jolly’ or ‘buxom’, or perhaps ‘larger’. Or in puma terms, ‘delicious’. It’s not exactly a sweepstake, but there’s jocular consensus among the workers, that if anyone gets to have a go at outrunning a puma, it’s going to be . . . well. . . The puma has been behind her house, in front of her house, and she had a rather close encounter yesterday. Apparently, she was on her way back from picking oranges above the beach at 4pm, and just pausing by the quebrada to look for freshwater shrimps, when a large tan face with bright, round eyes caught her attention. The puma was studying her with intense interest from a clump of heliconia 12 ft away.

“Oy, Sorrah! Oy-eeee!” says Carmen, laughing and doing finger flicks at the memory. She threw up her arms and all the oranges flew into the air, she says, and then screeching “WILL-EEEEEEE-AM! WILL-EEEEEEE-AM!” she ran as fast as someone not given to much running can, and flung herself, breathless and shaking, through the kitchen door, which she re-enacts.

I had a good laugh at that. Although I’m not dawdling by the quebrada anymore.

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A House on a Beach

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After the rush and hassle of the sea, and the heat and churn of unloading, I leave my bags and take a tractor up the steep track to the lodge, have lunch, say hello, and return with the key. It’s unusual, and exhilarating, to be so alone. The house stands on a lawn, overlooking the sea, with the forest around and, up a steep hill behind it. To the left as you sit on the steps, the path leads back through palms, along a rocky beach and past a small headland to the ‘port’ where the boats rock in with supplies and guests. In front of me, there’s a hell of a lot of sea that’s chock-a-block full of stuff, a mystical island, Cano, and three small boats moored and bobbing. To the right, (looking beyond my rum and coke) the lawn drops away to palms, another small rocky point full of the kind of sand-carpeted rock pools you can lie in (tides permitting), and beyond that to a semi-circle swoop of empty beach, backed by jungle. Above all this, screeching hawks, flocks of scarlet macaws and pelican units on North-South patrol. The only sounds are rolling waves, squawking birds and cicadas.

Now, instead of windows, the house has screens – huge ones, floor to ceiling, for the air and the views. One of the screens to the porch has been ripped and shredded leaving a hole at ground level that’s about a foot and a half or so square. A dark patch indicates that something has pissed against the outside wall, and chewed pieces of metal mesh are strewn about inside. I know there’s a puma on the property, something that’s going to limit the number of times I nip up to the lodge for a slap up dinner. It’s quite a long walk back down in the dark, particularly when, with every step, you are recalling the interesting snippet of information my friend mentioned (several times) which is that pumas like to creep up and spring from behind. I hadn’t really considered that he might visit me inside the house. I’m not sure it is him, but I can’t think of alternatives, and there have been dogs staying here recently leaving dog smells he might have found attractive. The porch leads nowhere, but my bedroom has the same mesh screens. William and Carmen, the couple that look after the house are not expecting me for another five days, and are away, and at 6pm, as it gets dark, I have to admit I’m a little jumpy.

The boxes I’d sent ahead from England are here. One contains my Tropical Jungle collection of mosquito repellent, sunblock and desert boots and old shirts that do wicking and whatnot. The other contains research papers, notes, and old books in Spanish, as well as  100 cassettes of interviews to transcribe which I’ve been meaning to get around to for years, and which I’ve decided to tackle here. Although, not now, because it seems like a lot of hard work.

I get a torch and rifle through the kitchen cupboards, wondering why potatoes are in a sealed plastic tub. I opt for a dinner of soda crackers and red wine, a 2005 Sichel bordeaux. Distant lightning flashes. It’s like being in the Famous Five.

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