Naturalist Dudes’ Night Out: When Herp Nerds Bro Down

While this blog is supposed to be anonymous, you’ve probably picked up by now that I am male, outdoorsy, and rather eccentric. To put it mildly. I generally prefer the company of animas to people, nature to civilization. I don’t do well in large groups. Or small groups for that matter. And I never properly mastered the technique that is known in our society as “male bonding.”

But in the rare occasions that I find myself in like company, my inner bro emerges. And if conditions are right, the shenanigans increase exponentially. Think the Hangover, only with more monkeys and everyone is Zach Galifianakis. Adventure ensues. Legends are born. All of it acceptably macho, emotional but no too emotional, and also extraordinarily exaggerated with each retelling.

See: this entire blog.

Last night was, by comparison, relatively tame. But a proper case study nonetheless. It began with four of us, some of the last sanctuary staff stuck isolated on the campus, throwing back beers and just chewing the fat well into the late hours (read: past 9pm). Then someone brought up snakes.

We started swapping stories about the great ones we’d caught and the ones we’d lost. Pics were demanded and phones whipped out. We creeped on each others’ Facebook and iNaturalist accounts, trying not to act jealous or competitive. More beers were had. Every sentence ended with “dude” or “mae.”

“It’s always the best ones that get away, mae.”
At that point, a night walk was inevitable. There was no way any of us could say no, even if we’d wanted. So we grabbed boots and flashlights, grading and recommending the specs on each others’ gear and strode off into the jungle, strutting a perfect line four abreast.

The night did not disappoint. Within the first 15 minutes we found a coral snake crossing the path, and I recounted in grisly detail the effects of its venom. One guy edged closer for a photo, but we held him back. He told us he “totally had this” but we kept him away. Convinced him it wasn’t worth it, man.

Later, we came upon several cat-eyed snakes, a horde of litter frogs, and even a rare casque-headed lizard. We rattled off common names in English and Spanish, and even a few scientific names when we could to impress each other. Near a creek we found a turtle, and then this toad that I’m ashamed to say I could not identify. It’s probably a Giant Toad, Rhinella horriblis, but with that head crest and bright orange color? Help me out here.

Seriously, help me out here. An Amphibian I don’t know? This will keep me up at night.

The night was crowned by our true unspoken goal, the one thing that is always on a young herpetologist man’s mind: large deadly snake. As one guy joked out loud, “fer-de-lance, where are you?” one appeared right in front of us, as if by magic, curled in the middle of the trail. Further attempts to likewise summon a jaguar were unsuccessful.

This is the only time a selfie stick isn’t just appropriate, but recommended.

Who knows how long we would have remained out there, stomping past frogs and terrorizing night life, but we heard thunder moments before it started to pour and we decided to call it a night. Because, like, we didn’t want our boots wet for work tomorrow. Not because we were scared or tired or anything.

So the night ended well, and didn’t escalate into a caiman hunt or a trip to the hospital. No one climbed a tree. And all of us enjoyed proper male camaraderie in the presence of scaly or slimy creatures. A tremendous success. Probably because we stuck to beer and didn’t get into the real jungle hooch. Either way, that’s enough socialization to last me another year or so.

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