Posted by Dr. Luke Hunter
Panthera is always on the lookout for interesting stories to share from our scientists, researchers, and partners to document their favorite encounters with big cats in the wild. Read Panthera President Dr. Luke Hunter's tale of encountering a jaguar at night in Costa Rica's Corcovado National Park, equipped with nothing more than a pair of shorts and a Maglite flashlight.
The roar yanked me from sleep. Like a deep, sawing caterwaul, it was a call I had never heard before, but I knew it could only be a big cat. Grabbing a flashlight, I scrambled out of my sleeping bag and stumbled into the night. I was in Costa Rica's Corcovado National Park camped at the Sirena Research Station. I'd pitched my tent next to the bush airstrip and judging by the direction of the roar, the beast responsible was using the strip's manicured grass as a convenient thoroughfare- a typical cat. As I jogged away from the protective halo of the station's lights, it briefly dawned on me that trotting after a big cat at 4am equipped with nothing more than a pair of shorts and a Maglite might not be the brightest decision I'd made that day. But attacks by big cats were virtually unheard of in this part of the world, and it was a chance I couldn't pass up. Suddenly, in the inky murk at the very limit of my torch's beam, there was a shape. I slowed to a walk. The shape pulled to a stop. So did I. It turned and looked at me. A massive head suddenly resolved in the light of the torch. Jaguar! He gazed at me for a few seconds, blinking in the light, and walked away. Unhurried, he disappeared into the forest. As though I didn't exist. A typical cat.