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Spooky Creatures Inhabit Costa Rica’s Jungles

As Halloween approaches, it seems an appropriate time to consider the spooky creatures that reside in the jungles of Costa Rica.

If you start asking around for stories of the creepier inhabitants of the forest, you’re bound to hear tales of the supernatural type. La mona is some sort of half lady, half howler monkey creature that has been known to bang around on the metal roof of your house at night.

La cegua is a beautiful woman who appears from the forest at the edge of the road. If you do the gentlemanly thing of offering her a ride on your moto, don’t peer back at her because her pretty face will have transformed into a horse’s head. La Llorona can be found on the riverbanks, a ghostly lady crying for the son she drowned in the river’s depths.

Some may shrug off these ghostly creatures as supernatural fiction. Others, including people that I know, very much believe that they exist and are not something to be trifled with. I’m not about to type a sentence making fun of these spectral traditional beliefs. The last thing I need is an encounter with monkey-lady while I’m deep in the forest. That being said, there are a few species of creatures of the scientifically verified variety that have the ability to send a chill up your spine this Halloween.

American Crocodiles

Let’s be real, American crocodiles are terrifying river monsters. They’re enormous. They’re covered in armor-like scales. They have a huge number of sharp teeth that enable them to eat just about anything that they can fit down their throats. Everything about them is a bit scary.

I’ve had many camera trap projects that included rivers, streams, canals, and mangroves that crocodiles call home. Needless to say, I am very weary of approaching these bodies of water. I once found a three-foot-wide cave in the side of a dried up river bank. I peered inside to see who was home but didn’t see any inhabitants.

I placed a camera trap at the entrance and returned a few weeks later to see who lived inside. To my surprise, the camera was full of videos of a large female crocodile exploding out of the cave to protect her brood of youngsters from hawks and ocelots that attempted to make a meal of the tiny young crocs. Was she inside the cave considering such an attack when I stuck my stupid face in the entrance weeks before?

Venomous Snakes

If National Geographic documentaries have taught us anything it’s that the jungle is absolutely overflowing with venomous snakes. When I tell people what I do for a living, many people’s first reaction is, ‘What about the snakes?’

While I understand that for most people snakes are among nature’s creepier beasts, I’ve always been fond of them. Growing up I’d flip over sheets of metal that I specifically laid on the edge of the forest to attract snakes. If the snake that was revealed was one that I recognized as non-venomous, I’d grab it and hang out with it for a bit.

As an adult who tramps around in the forests of Costa Rica, I come across snakes a lot less frequently than you’d imagine. Most of my snake encounters are snakes fleeing from my presence or snakes curled up on the trail hoping to go unnoticed. Snakes are fascinating and beautiful but also potentially dangerous and animals that need to be respected.

I hope I’m not jinxing myself with all of this snake talk.

Big Cats

Of the six wild felids that call Costa Rica home, two, the jaguar and the puma, are large enough to freak you out when considering what made that crashing noise behind you while walking alone in the forest.

There are a few videos circulating on social media of some pumas making some menacing sounds at groups of tourists, but I couldn’t find any information on documented puma or jaguar attacks on humans in Costa Rica. While both creatures have the strength and tools required to put a hurting on a person, you’re much more likely to hear about attacks on livestock.

That being said, I was recently deep in a forest in Limon reviewing camera traps with an 80-year-old man who told me a jaguar once jumped onto the hood of his friend’s car and tried to attack him through the windshield. A scary story at the very least.

I’ve recorded a few jaguars and pumas with my camera traps that I definitely wouldn’t want to run into in a dark alley at night. I’ll include those clips and a few more of Costa Rica’s creepy creatures in the video below.

About the Author

Vincent Losasso, founder of Guanacaste Wildlife Monitoring, is a biologist who works with camera traps throughout Costa Rica. Learn more about his projects on facebook or instagram. You can also email him at:

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