Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Boas and bats in western Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico has a number of threatened, endangered, or extinct reptiles and amphibians. Among the most famous is the Golden Coquí (Eleutherodactylus jasperi; an ovoviviparous eleutherodactyline frog last seen in 1981) and the critically endangered Puerto Rican Crested Toad (Bufo lemur; a victim of fierce competition and predation from the ubiquitous invasive cane toad, Bufo marinus).

Also on the IUCN red list is the near threatened Puerto Rican Boa (Epicrates inornatus). Prior to my latest trip to Puerto Rico (with Luke Mahler in May), the only state in which I’d ever seen a Puerto Rican Boa was dead at the side of the road (as during this 2006 field trip with Butch Brodie).

However, in the karst region of northwest Puerto Rico it is still possible to see boas, sometimes several at a time, waiting patiently around cave mouths for the nightly emergence of tens of thousands of bats (and, hopefully, a warm meal).

These two great photos were taken by Luke at Mata de Plátano Reserve near Arecibo. The picture above is of two boas lying in wait, and the picture below captures the bat emergence in full glory (at least one snake is also visible in this latter photo, although it is more difficult to spot). Click on the image, above, to enlarge.


Unknown said...

A similar phenomenon can be seen in the karst regions of northwest Jamaica, in the Cockpit Country. During a field trip in November of 2008, I observed several Jamaican Boas (Epicrates subflavus) waiting by a cave entrance for the nightly bat emergence. Different boas were seen on successive evenings. A week after I left, some colleagues from the US Forest Service (Craig Rudolph and Rick Schaefer) watched a boa successfully catch and ingest a flying bat! The snake struck at the passing bats more than 40 times before finally grabbing one.

Mike D. said...

One can also see rat snakes (Elaphe obsoleta) waiting at the entrance of Sauta Cave in N. Alabama, for the emergence of the endangered Gray bats (Myotis grisescens). I never saw one catch a bat, but I know they were sucessful enough to keep coming back! Also, the snakes did not have to perch on the rock wall--they were using the steel bar fence that was installed to prevent human disturbance of that important roosting site.

Unknown said...

The karst region in Puerto Rico is an amazing habitat for endangered species, one of these is the Puerto Rican Boa. This cave is known as "Cueva Culebrones" and is one of the few places in Puerto Rico where you can see boas during all the year due to the bat presence (food) and suitable habitat. In one night is possible to see 5-10 boas in an small area. Great place to visit and conserve !