Encountering a wild animal in Panama

One of Panama’s biggest allure is the country’s abundant wildlife! Developed cities in Panama like Panama City’s Cinta Costera and the Pacific Beach town of Coronado offer wildlife sightings.

One of the best places for bird watching, the Pipeline road, is just outside the city. And Coronado Panama is located near a protected Dry Forest, a unique natural habitat. When it all works out, the proximity to natural habitats offers great as it offers the oppertunity for wildlife sightings! However, if sighting is a boa in your backyard sometime that sighting can turn scary in a hurry! We also have to keep in mind how our development is encroaching on the natural habitat, and how we can help keep animals safe from our infrastructure. 

So what do you do if you encounter a wild animal in Panama? 

1) Leave it be

Generally speaking the answer here is, leave it alone. It’s important to remember that YOU are in their home. While their presence seem to be encroaching on your territory (especially if your dealing with a snake, or crocodile) they are equally as nervous of you. The same goes for a more traditionally "cute" animal like a sloth or a monkey! While you might they they need saving, relocating, etc. they are likely just passing through, and it’s best to just let them do their thing. 

2) Call for help (when in need) 

However, sometimes intervention is required. For example if an animal is distressed by being caught in a backyard pool, stuck on a highway, or otherwise causing harm in a residential area. You might need to take action for the safety of the animal and the community. In the case of a sloth you can cautiously relocated it off the road, by picking it up behind the arms facing outwards.

In the case of a snake, croc or more dangerous animal, always call a professional. Never try and capture a wild animal unassisted. Please do not kill snakes! 

One organization that can help with wildlife situations is the Panamanian conservation organization, Asociacion Panamericana Para la Conservacion (APPC). APPC has removed salt water crocodiles from Tortuga Lake in Coronado Panama relocating them Lake Gatun near Barro Colorodo Island where there crocs have a bit more space and are not a threat to humans. 

The rescue organization APPC and can be called on for wild life rescues - website appcpanama.org

3) React appropriately 

In the rare instance of a close encounter with one of Panama’s more dangerous wild animals, and your reaction is crucial to your safety, so it’s good to know how to respond when there is no time to call for help. 

A few things you should never do when in the presence of a wild animal include: approaching the animal, and startle it, especially in the case of a mother with her babies, get close to it’s food source, or wander off a trail to see an animal (more so if it’s dark). 

When confronted with an attack situation, your best reaction might seem counter intuitive and might also depend on the animal. 

Saltwater Crocodile 

Obviously the best thing to do is to avoid these guys. So in Panama that means, stay away from river mouths! If you spot a croc, your best chance is to try and get away before they notice you, back away slowly and try not to make sudden movements. If you are spotted and end up the unfortunate situation of engaging in battle  History.com says, "aim for the eyes".

Bull Shark 

Panama is home to a lot of sharks, but the bull shark is the most likely to attack. Again, staying away from the river mouth will probably keep you face. If you see a shark try and get away unnoticed. So, stay as small as you can, if the animal is just passing by. If you are being attacked, it’s time to get really really big - fast. If it The Independent suggests going for the gills Punching it in the gills and using a weapon. If your surfing try and get your board in between you and the shark. 

Poisonous Snake 

The best way to avoid a snake bite on a hike is to take your dog. Dogs make way too much noise when exploring the outdoors snake typically get out of dodge! If you do see a snake crossing your path, stop walking, remain calm, let it pass. FIY a snake will not attack if it’s not threatened. There is no best way to go into battle with a snake, only avoidance, so really you don’t want to get bit, but if you step on a snake you likely will. So the next step if getting to the hospital as quick as you can. You can help your body by staying calm, and help emergency responders by identifying the type of snake.