Encounter with Bird Poachers

I have one more hunting story for you and then I promise to move on to other facets of our life in Costa Rica. The other day we walked on the internal road to the end of the property which borders our neighbors, known as the Marines. The Marines property is pasture for a herd of cattle and borders the Tabarcia River. We decided to walk along the border between our property and the Marines and check out the beautiful views of the jungle in the distance.

We walked about 20 meters and heard Roxy begin to growl. Just ahead of us was a large Sheppard mix dog. It definitely wasn’t the typical hunting dog. Just beyond the dog were two guys sitting on the trail facing away from us. Above them, hanging on the barb wire fence, were small bird cages. These two were hunting birds to sell as pets.

I picked up Roxy (I was still unsure of the other dog) while John approached the guys. Roxy was barking, and wiggling, trying to get out of my arms to do her “job”. As soon as John walked towards to two Ticos, their dog scurried away with his tail between his legs. At this point I knew the dog was a big weenie and let I let Roxy go.

The hunters must have been in some type of trance because they did not hear the dogs barking or John and I talking and were completely unaware of us until John was right behind one of them. They were surprised to see us and for whatever reason surprised to hear they were trespassing and hunting illegally. I looked in one of the cages and saw three small birds nervously flying around the tiny space and eating a ripe banana. I felt so sorry for them. Just ahead was a second cage with one bird in it.

While John was talking with the boys I ask John if it’s OK if I open the cages and let the birds go. He said sure, why not. I went for the cage closest to me with the single bird. The outside of the cage had walls propped up with sticks. I flung away one of the sticks and realized this is how they trap the birds. I couldn’t see how to open that cage so I went back to the other one with the three birds. This cage didn’t have the trapping device and I immediately found the small brass clip holding the cage door shut. I reached for the clip and moved it up. Now, the closest guy saw what I was doing and said “No, no, precious”. He repeated himself while he came towards me. I reached for the clip again and snapped it open but at that moment chose not to open the door to free the birds. My feeling was if I let the birds go this guy might harm me, so I stepped back while he closed the latch and removed the cage.

As he was gathering the cage I scolded him (nicely of course) and I really wanted to say what a pitiful thing they were doing to the birds, but with my Spanish all that came out was, “What a pity, Sir.” He seemed to mimic the behavior of his dog with his tail between his legs and apologized.

They proceeded to gather a third cage and exited our property and cut through the Marines, probably to cross the Tabarcia River and walk home. I am pretty sure that the cage I tried to open had the birds used as bait to lure similar birds from the forest. I hope they don’t come back. Next time I might just have to let the poor birds go free. I also hope that these encounters we are having with various hunters are spreading the word that our place is now occupied and off limits. I never imagined that we would have to deal with these types of problems in Costa Rica. Yet another thing the relocation books do not mention…