Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

from the January 23, 2005 Newsletter written at Hacienda Komchen de Los Pájaros just outside Dzemul, Yucatán, MÉXICO

Wednesday morning about half an hour before the sun came up I was jogging down Komchen's gravel road when in the dim light I saw a fox-size darkness coming at me. It was so boldly marked black and white that I assumed it was a skunk, but closer up its very long snout and powerful-looking prehensile tail showed that it was an anteater. It was the Collard Anteater, TAMANDUA TETRADACTYLA, and it was one of the most handsome free-roaming mammals I've ever seen. You can see that for yourself here.

The creature behaved in the vacillating way of an armadillos -- as if it couldn't quite decide whether I was something to be reckoned with or just a tree. It looked and sniffed, and started and stopped, first one direction then another, and all the time I was standing there thinking how like a skunk it smelled. I was surprised by that because anteaters and skunks not only belong to different mammal families, but also entirely different orders. Skunks, along with such different animals as bears, pumas and coyotes, are in the Order Carnivora (meat-eaters), while anteaters, along with armadillos, are in the Order Edentata (without teeth -- though armadillos do have rudimentary ones).

That doesn't mean that my Collard Anteater should have felt particularly vulnerable. In fact, when I returned to my jogging, apparently my movement caused the critter to decide that I might be a threat, and when I looked back at him over my shoulder, I could hardly believe my eyes.

He had reared onto his hind legs, with his thick tail supporting him from behind, and he looked exactly like a very stubby-limbed, bowlegged, grotesquely long-nosed little man at that point in his story when he's saying, "... and that fish was THIS long," showing a length about as great as his outspread arms can manage.

That anteater was not wishing to embrace me as a friend. Rather, he was positioning himself so that if I should approach him he could slash me with his front legs' very sharp, large and powerful claws.

When I told Ana María about my encounter she was very happy, and also remarked that it's good that our dogs are just normal-size ones, since a Collard Anteater is quite capable of defending itself -- of neatly slitting a medium-size dog's belly from one end to the other.