Friday, April 10, 2015

Tropical creepy crawlies

Sign  - low to the ground so that dogs and cats can read it
Scorpions, spiders, ssssnakes and a lonely crocodile – these are some of the creepy crawlies that call Isla Mujeres, home.
A recent post on a community information FaceBook page tweaked our interest. 
A tourist was aghast at finding a scorpion in a house that they were renting on Isla. The family left the island because they were terrified of scorpions. Someone quipped that maybe they should go back north if they wanted to avoid nasty critters. Well, unless you are in the far-frozen north, up near where Santa Claus lives, that won't work either. 
Our black scorpions look much skinnier than this one
Scorpions are found in every country from the tip of South America to central British Columbia Canada, from Australia north to France, Spain, and across all of Europe and China. There are more countries where they do live, than countries where they don't live. You can run but you can't hide.

Black Widow & Brown Recluse spiders
And spiders, they live in almost every habitat on the earth. The only places where there are no spiders are the north and south polar regions, the top of highest mountains and in the oceans. A few spider species have even adapted to living in the rock and coral crevices of the intertidal zone.


A Scorpion-Hunting Snake, looks like the snakes on Isla
Well then what about snakes? The 2900 species of snakes are found throughout the world except for Antarctica, plus the islands of Greenland, Ireland, Iceland and New Zealand. They live in forests, prairies, grasslands, and several species live in lakes, rivers and along the ocean shorelines. The two types of snakes that I have heard about on Isla are both non-poisonous, including a native boa constrictor that typically is not a concern to humans – small pets maybe, but not people.

Scorpion habitat - National Geographic map
As for your chances of dying from a bite or sting? According to the internet statistics for just the USA, out of 140,000 reported snake bites per year about 5 people die. 
Other stats include about 11 people a year die from scorpions stings, and one or two a year from spiders. The death rate for car crashes on the other hand is 3297 people per day in the USA.

Common sign on golf courses in southern BC Canada
For the most part these critters are more afraid of you than you of them. They will scoot, slither and crawl away to avoid confrontation with predators and humans. Don't get me wrong, some of these guys can be downright nasty if they do bite or sting especially if you are allergic to their toxins. If you do have a close encounter of the bad kind and are having an adverse reaction, you should get to a medical clinic as soon as possible. Knowing what bit you will be a big help in getting the proper treatment.
So, how can you avoid these bad guys? If we are working outside, we always try to wear a pair of gloves and never put our hands into crevices where we can't see what we are touching - that includes gopher holes on golf courses!
Lonely fourteen-foot crocodile - escaped for one day
Before putting on a pair of shoes we give them a vigorous shake to dislodge unwanted visitors. Give them some warning you are headed their way and they will scurry off in the opposite direction.
Usually we find one or two scorpions in our courtyard every year. Since my first encounter with a scorpion in southern France in 1991, I have perfected a live-capture method. 
I place a wide-mouthed drinking glass over the critter, and then slip a piece of paper or thin cardboard underneath. This traps the scorpion or spider inside the glass. I then walk over to an empty lot and set it free. Killing them just doesn't work for me.
Crowd of on-lookers watching escaped crocodile
Stepping on a nest of fire ants – now that can be very unpleasant. These tiny guys are aggressive, and like to build nests underground. The nest entrances are usually an inch or two across, and hard to see, until you step on it. Then look out! The soldiers will swarm your legs biting as they travel upwards. I am allergic to their venom, and must apply ice packs, plus take an antihistamine as soon as possible. The bites take about two weeks to disappear.
Crocodile wranglers - captured and returned to its habitat
But what about that lonely crocodile you ask? He (or is it a she?) lives in the swampy lake at the old Pirate Mundaca Hacienda located in the middle of the island. Two years ago during a particularly rainy October it made a break for freedom, scooting down the road past the big church, right on by the new cemetery, and into the ocean.
Free at last! Except someone reported its breakout. Soon there was a gaggle of curious people, the police, the marines toting big guns, and a boat load of fishermen chasing the reptile while it swam towards Playa Norte and a buffet of tasty pale tourists. It swam so quickly past our house I couldn't get a decent photo, so I hopped into the golf cart and drove ahead of the swarm of on-lookers. Eventually the crocodile was netted in the bay near centro, and returned to the lake at the hacienda. Occasionally I wonder, what exactly does that crocodile feed on, all by itself in that not-overly large lake?
Crocodile habitat at the Pirate Mundaca Hacienda
So you see, we do have lots of interesting and somewhat dangerous things living on Isla, but changing your vacation plans just to avoid the creepy crawlies seems like an over-reaction. 
Come back! Give us another chance, you'll love it here.
Hasta Luego
Lynda & Lawrie


You can find us on the web at:
Humerous stories about critters we have known:
AND



No comments: