With your permission I’ll ramble on a bit more about the critters of Vieques.
One of the things we love about the island is that nature is “in your face” every day.
It’s never far away. Even when you’re walking up Isabel’s main street the ocean is right in front of you.
Colorful birds swoop overhead. Big, irritable-looking iguanas loll in the viaduct nearby.
We once saw a man leading two young goats on leashes down a side street.
One of the most enchanting auditory experiences of Vieques is brought to you compliments of the island’s teeming frog population, most notably “coquis,” which are the national symbol of Puerto Rico. These tiny frogs enliven the night with their double-noted chirp that sounds, perhaps not coincidentally, like “ko kee.”
Visitors become so enthralled with the call of the coqui that they buy small devices at the San Juan airport reproducing the coqui sound on an endless loop. I’ve never bought one but it might be just the thing to warm up a snowy night in D.C.
Some local creatures aren’t quite so endearing. Standing on our balcony at night we can see (and occasionally hear) bats hurtling from tree to tree. For such a small place, the island is home to lots of different kinds of bats, including highly-specialized types such as “Single leaf” and “Brown flower” varieties.
Surprisingly, bats are the only terrestrial mammals native to Puerto Rico (all other species were introduced by humans, including cats, goats, sheep and mongooses). Some bats eat fruit. A few eat fish—yes, fish. Nearly all of them eat insects, which prevents the island’s human inhabitants from being carried off bodily by mosquitoes. Oh, and they also pollinate flowers. They’re hard-working little buggers.
Speaking of insects, the island has zillions of different kinds, some of them fairly intimidating. We saw a big, hairy tarantula strolling across our driveway one day with a slightly self-conscious air.
You can hardly blame him—you’d have a complex too if everyone who saw you screamed and ran away in terror. Plus, his fangs looked moist, as if he were drooling. This isn’t a particularly attractive look for anyone.
Then there are the centipedes, which can grow up to a foot long and are almost invariably grumpy when disturbed. Their sting can be terrifically painful, even lethal on rare occasions.
I read a blog recently in which a college student described waking up one morning in a B & B in Esperanza to find an enormous centipede crawling up his bare thigh toward his private parts. His yelp of horror brought the management bolting upstairs, fearing fire, dismemberment or god knows what else.
When they learned the source of their guest’s panic they couldn’t help laughing (though sympathetically, I’m sure) at his predicament.
“I ought to sue those bastards,” he grumbled in his blog.
Might was well sue Mother Nature.
To make things even more exciting, there are scorpions in Vieques. Although shy by nature, if disturbed they will make their displeasure known in no uncertain terms with a nasty pincer-sting.
We’re constantly being assured that none of these insects (except maybe the centipede) is particularly poisonous. In the abstract, I find this somewhat comforting. But if I found a centipede crawling up my leg, as the young blogger did, I’m not sure I would wax quite so philosophical.
Instead, like him, I’d probably emit a blood-curdling scream. And then I’d expect Michael to remove the offending creature immediately–and bring me an industrial-size martini to steady my nerves.