Tuna Juice

Up until a few months ago I thought the problem with hunters on our property had gone away. Just when I thought all was well the hunters reappeared.  Almost every weekend they would be in the river near our house, the dogs hooting and howling as they track animals all along the terrain leading to the river. They would start early in the morning and slowly migrate either up or down the river and then go out of ear’s range.

Time carried on and it seemed the hunters were becoming bolder because they would sometimes come out during the day, during the week. Usually they only hunt on the weekends because they know the public officials that would do something about this don’t work on the weekends. Because they were coming during the week this suggested they were pretty confident they weren’t going to be pursued or get caught.

The hill below our house is at least 100 meters long. We are growing crop vegetables in this area, just above the part where we planted native trees a few years ago. At the bottom of the cultivated area is the forest for several more meters and then a very steep drop down to the river. It would be dangerous for a person to walk up or down to the river from this location. Dogs however, have no problem.

Late last week, I was finishing getting ready for the day when I heard a hunting dog coming down river towards our place. It sounded to me like the dog wasn’t in the river, but well onto the hillside of our property. Luckily I had just eaten some canned tuna fish and saved the juice. I poured it into a jar and took it down the hill behind our house. Just as I got to the edge of the forest I see the dog. It’s a male hound which looked to be in pretty good health, well fed and fairly large. I held the jar of tuna juice out and called the dog to me. He ignored me and the tuna juice. He was hot on the scent of an animal. I poured some liquid in several locations and walked away. Eventually the dog investigated the tuna juice but was still interested in hunting and left down another hillside.

I was waiting for him to come back when I heard, what sounded like, more dogs coming through the forest. They were making a lot of noise through the thick undergrowth. I watched and listened and thought the dogs must be huge for all of the noise they were making. I was not expecting to see two men emerge from the forest. The grass and undergrowth they crawled though was thick and more than six feet tall.

I was so surprised to see them and it appeared they were equally as surprised to see me. This encounter is one that I had mentally prepared myself for. I had practiced what I would say to people in this situation, in Spanish of course.  I’m glad I had done that because I was ready to roar. I immediately gave them an earful. They were accompanied by another female hound dog. She walked up the hill, away from them and towards the places I had spilled the tuna juice. They were now separated from both of their dogs. One of the guys was immediately extremely apologetic and said they just wanted to get their dogs and then would leave. 

I began yelling for John. I was so grateful he was in the house and there to help. He came down the hill, not knowing what was going on. The sight of the two hunters infuriated him. I have never seen John so angry. He put on quite a show yelling at the men. They got the message we were upset at all of the hunting activity and that they were trespassing on our property. The guys didn’t want to leave without their dogs. John says he’s going to call the police and goes back to the house.

One of the hunters was able to get the female dog on a leash. The male dog was nowhere to be seen. The guys return the way they came.  I stayed down the hill for several more minutes. I wanted to be sure they were actually leaving. I had a feeling they were going to come back. John yells out to me wondering what I’m doing and I tell him. He says he caught the male dog and it’s in the bodega. I couldn’t believe it, how excellent!

Excellent, until the dog begins baying from within the bodega. The hunters are sure to hear him. Very soon later the apologetic hunter reappears through the thick, tall grass. He stops a safe distance away from us and pleads to come up and get his dog. John had already decided he would return the dog and leave him with a warning to never come back. We motion for him to come up, I took several pictures of the man and we gave him his dog back. He walked away and down a steep, rocky ravine to the river.

I never imagined I would have to deal with hunters. Before I met any of the hunters I thought this was a way of life for some of them, perhaps they had done this for generations and we shouldn’t interfere. After a few encounters with the hunters it seemed to me they were simply doing it for fun.  It didn’t appear this was something they needed to do. I don’t have a problem with hunting in general if it’s done where permitted. Late last year Costa Rica passed laws banning hunting. You can read an article about it here. It’s a complicated issue and one that will be difficult for Costa Rica to enforce. I often think to myself that the real solution to the problem will come only when all of the animals are dead and there’s nothing left to hunt. For now, all I can do is enjoy the peace and calm that is here when the environment isn’t being disturbed. Luckily, that is the majority of the time.

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