August 29, 2007

Ladrones y comadrejas (burglars and weasels)

Caluromys derbianus, or woolly opossum Caluromys derbianus, or woolly opossum

We had a scary night last night. Chloe kept barking and barking. About 7:30 p.m., El Jefe got the gun and went outside to see what the problem was.

Meanwhile, a neighbor came around to warn us that a home had been burglarized, that the police were there (!?), and had captured (!?) one of the thieves. The other(s) had escaped and were thought to still be in the neighborhood.

When El Jefe came in to tell me about this, I had a million questions, none of which he could answer. Were the ladrones (thieves) armed? Were the neighbors at home when this happened? Did the other neighbors see or hear something and call the police? Did the other burglar(s) get away with the goods? Will the thief be released tonight or have to stay in jail all the way until tomorrow? (sarcasm)

So El Jefe kept the gun close by, but Chloe continued to bark. He went outside to check it out. (Why, oh why does he have to do this? I would much prefer to stay inside and just shoot anyone who breaks into the house.) He found that Chloe was barking at the top of the muro (fence), where El Jefe could see an animal.

He said that this animal is called a comadreja (weasel). Weasels eat eggs and even kill chickens and that is probably why he was braving the vengeance of Chloe the Rottweiler.

I googled "comadreja" and from there, Mustela nivalis. I found photos that looked like cute little ferrets, not like this animal. From there I researched Mustelas further, Didelphidae, and Marmosas, but none of these looked quite right. El Jefe shot an opossum one night, but it looked different − more pointy-faced, grey, and sort of bald looking.

Caluromys derbianus, or woolly opossumI was just about to give up when, finally, I found the Caluromys derbianus, or Woolly Opossum, native to Central America. I think that is what this animal is. It is native to both highland and lowland forests from Mexico to Ecuador. The coloring of the woolly hair can vary by location but the distinctive dark stripe running from the top of the head to the fleshy part of the nose is characteristic.

This Belize site (in Spanish) says that the Oposum lanoso (woolly opossum) will eat rodents, raw eggs and dog food (is this where all the dog food is going?) among other things, such as fruits and insects. Animal Diversity has much the same information in English.

Caluromys derbianus, or woolly opossumIn the past this animal was trapped for its fur. Now it is on the IUCN's list of threatened species due to habitat destruction by humans. This report says that the Caluromys derbianus population is rated as "uncommon to locally common" throughout their extensive range so I don't know what the status is in Honduras. I do know that if it attacks our chickens, the population will be one less.

Later in the evening, El Jefe invited me to come out and see the new moon. I stepped on the terraza and he said that I would have to come out further to see it. I went out in the yard and just then heard someone/something racing toward us through the leaves of the plants. I screamed and practically climbed on top of El Jefe's shoulder.

One heart attack later, and Chloe came rushing at us. I ran inside and locked the doors and windows.

I didn't sleep well last night.
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