Chat Transcript Jan. 24th 2002
Bill Becker
Herp'n Costa Rica

beckherps - First, I would like to thank Jeff for inviting me and to tell him to hang on to his hat when he goes to the Amazon with GreenTracks
matt2 - and Bill, so's not to interrupt you..could you type "next" when finished your response
beckherps - O.K. next

GlennB - Any interesting geckos in Costa Rica?
beckherps - Lots! next

Grossbard - First, have you spent any time in corcovado?
beckherps - Yes, I've taken several trips to Marenco B.S. It is just north of Corcovado. next
matt2 - (BTW folks, ya can ask one q and a followup)

- bill, could you tell us a bit about yourself and herping Costa Rica?
beckherps - Herpo, I am an old field herper by hobby and also a snake breeder. I got into Costa Rica herping a few years ago while on a GreenTracks trip. I haven't been able to stop since then. next

- Bill, found any L. stenophrys or mealancephala?
beckherps - You've got me there. No. I even had a park ranger take me to a spot where one had been sitting for a week. When I got there he was gone. next

- I'll be in Costa Rica for the first time this March. We'll be near Cocavado NP in the SW (Osa Peninsula) part of the country. I would be thrilled to see Spilotes - Have you seen this species? Maybe you have some suggestions as to where/when to look?
beckherps - Congratulations on your trip. You will want to look in the trees, sometimes 20 ft up. We found a 9 footer there in '98 as big as you forearm, seriously. next

matt2 - Bill any new info on the Golden Toad
matt2 - staus
beckherps - Not to my knowledge. We were very excited when we found some "goldens" last year. They turned out to be a yellow morph of Bufo Luetkenii. next

- what's the most exciting field find you've made?
beckherps - That's a hard one. The first eyelash viper was exciting. Lamar came up with an Ungaliophis panamensis in '98 in Esquinas while I was ther. It was nice. next

- if one would go to costa rica what would one expect to see, and are the things are there specially look for?
beckherps - You will see cat eyed tre snakes, Bothrops asper, and lots of red eyed tree frogs, iguanas, and caiman. next

- what kind of snakes can a person find in Costa Rica?
geckogeek - teh most common ones
beckherps - Lots of colubrids, also boas, and venomous. We ran across 18 terciopelo in Esquinas in a week in 2000. next

- As far as the Corcovado region (or any remote jungle area) goes, when/where are the best times/places to look for snakes? I was there last summer for five days and only stumbled across two kinds. I'll be there for two months this summer, and hope to best my previous spotting performance.
beckherps - Snakes like to eat frogs. Find the frogs, you'll find the snakes. Spilotes, for example, is diurnal. You will see alot of animals at dusk until about 1:00 a.m. next

- Mr. Becker, what is the best time of year to hit Costa RIca for herps, particularly the snakes, and how hard is it to find Bothriechis there?
beckherps - The best time for me has been near the end of the rainy season, Sept to Oct. If yu are looking for schlegelii, try the Southeast, almost to Panama. next

- Is there alot of export out of a place like Costa Rica, and if so, what is it doing to wild populations?
beckherps - There is some export. I only know three people doing it. The animals are supposed to be farm raised. next

- mr. becker whats the biggest snakes you can plan to find in costa rica an what kinds an what posienous snakes should any one to watch out for ?
beckherps - The largest snakes are the Boa constrictor and the tiger rat snake (spilotes). of course, always watch out for B. asper (fer-de-lance, terciopelo) next

- What do we have to look forward to at this years IHS, is the speaker list full yet?
beckherps - Getting close. I don't have the list in front of me, but Bill Lamar will be the banquet speaker, Charlie Daugherty from New Zealand will be giving a pres on the herps there. David Lazcano - rattlesnakes of the nuevo leon, check the IHS website. next

- Just how common are Bothrops asper? And, any "color" phases? (lite pink, etc)?
beckherps - Very common. I have found dark ones and light ones. I know of one that I would have called amelanystic. I would like to think that the government would like to have as many of these animals exported as possible, but they are hard to come by in the states. next

- Can you suggest any places in particular that would be worth checking in and around the Osa Peninsula (Corcovado NP) for herps? And in March, would night driving and/or hikes be worth the effort?
beckherps - There are no roads that I know of in Corcovado. There are trail maps at the ranger station. Night hikes are the best way to find the herps, the more people the better. next

- How common are Bothrops bites and what is the survival rate
matt2 - my turn: Bill, do ya think there's still dart frogs to be discovered in costa rica
beckherps - Very common. The survival rate is about 75% according to Dave Hardy. next
matt2 - my turn: Bill do ya think there are still dart frogs to be discovered in costa rica or no
beckherps - It is possible, new species are being discovered every year. next

Aysel - what is one of the more rare/hard to find snakes in Costa Rica?
beckherps - The Bothriechis nigroviridis (Speckled palm viper), Black headed bushmaster, and for me Tretanorhimus nigroluteus. next

- What (if any) Costa Rican herps do you see being "the next big thing" in the pet herp market?
beckherps - Haven't thought about it. I would like to see someone get a population of the Bromeliad Boa (Ungaliophis panamensis) started in captivity. next

- what species of caiman can be found in Costa Rica?
beckherps - C. crocodilus chiapasius next

- Where was the best place to find snakes in CR as far as number of species found is concerned?
beckherps - I like the southeat and southwest near Panama. It totally depends on the time of year and the rainfall. next

- Not being into tours, I prefer to go to a country and rent a vehicle and drive around, meet the natives, see the herps. How much trouble would this be in Costa Rica? e.g., how is the road system?
beckherps - How well do you speak spanish? I would recommend taking a GreenTracks tour to get started. You can pick Lamar's brain at least 12 hours a day. next

- Bill, maybe you can tell first time visitors the importance of using a guide or tour company such as GreenTracks.
beckherps - THere are at least 34 national parks and biological reserves. If you get out of your car with a snakehook, you will have rangers on you very quickly. A guide can negotiate using the hook and collecting the animals for photos and rerelease.

- I've heard some horror stories about the bugs - ticks, chiggers, especially. Any suggestions as to avoiding?
beckherps - Not really. I live in Missouri. I had a frien from Central America come stay with me. Within a week he was covered with chiggers, ticks, bee stings, and poison ivy. He was ready to go back to the jungle. Watch out for the stinging nettle in C.R. next

- is it leagal to collect, breed, export any of costa rica's herp?
beckherps - Some exportation is legal, with the proper permits. You may want to checkout the CR government website on this at next
trimtrig - thsnks

- Can you give us some of the basic rules they want you to follow for herping so we don't get into trouble
beckherps - Yes. ALways have permission from the land owner before going on his property. There are hundreds of privately owned Biological Field Stations that you can pay to stay at. You still need to know which animals are threatened or endangered. next

- my turn, Bill what tri-color would one most likely see in costa rica
beckherps - L.t. stuarti, Micrurus alleni. next

- how much would it cost to go to costa rica on a guided herp tour please give me a price range?/if your in a national park depending on the animal would you beable to pick it up (i am a hands on person)?/how much would the permits probably be?
beckherps - Again, I can't stress enough about taking a GreenTracks trip. They take care of all of the details, including you food, lodging, and transportation. Around $1500. next

- what triggered on your facination with herps?
beckherps - My sister married the MO state herpetologist's only son. I was 8 years old. I used to go to his house and help with odd jobs in the 50's. His name was Paul Anderson in Independence, MO. next

- Are there any elaphe species native to Costa Rica?
beckherps - Not elaphe. The name changed to Senticolis a few years ago. (Green Rat) next

- what are the spaecies endemic to Costa Rica?
CreepyCrawler - species* dang keyboard
beckherps - I don't have time to type all of the names. There are several books available and more coming out every day. Twan Leenders recently put out "Amphibians and Reptiles of Costa Rica" Alejandro Solorzano ha a publication "Las Serpientes de Costa Rica" R.D. Johnston is working on a hew book. Lamar and Campbell wrote the "Venomous Reptiles of CostA rICA" THE LIST GOES ON. NEXT

- I graduated from Eureka High school in West County of St. Louis. Found some nice Red Milks there. That is all I have to say :)

- How aggressive/uncooperative are the majority of the snakes you caught?
beckherps - This is a loaded question. I handle venomous snakes every day of my life. You develope a respect for them and a knack at observing their mood. I would be especially careful with the smaller stout bodied snake. Porthidium nasutum and volcanicum, B. schlegelii, and Porthidium ophryomegas. I have had a couple of very painful rearfanged snake bites. next

- back to my last question: how hard is it to get around in Costa Rica? How are the roads? How are the people to strangers?
beckherps - Sorry Herpo. The roads change with the rainy season. The PanAm highway is usually pretty good in the tourist (hihg) season. In the green (rainy) season you might come around a curve with a hole in your lane big enough to swallow a 4X4. next

- Where can one go to see captive herps in CR?
beckherps - The Serpentario in San Jose is operated by Alejandro Solorzano. He is an excellent field herper and has a nice collection. Another place is El Mundo de Serpientes in Grecia. Nice and clean collection run by Marcell Goodman and Robert Meidinger. There are also various small roadside displays around the country. next

- Bill, you mean GreenTracks provides transportation once you get to San Jose from the states. Right?
Herpo - Let's go in Oct, randal
beckherps - That's right. I usually flu from St. Louis to San Jose for around $425. Roundtrip. You can get priceline and bestfares prices as low as $275 from New York, roundtrip. next

- I know March is the dry season, but can I expect to see dendrobates, Red Eyed TFs, Glass TFs? other amphibians?
beckherps - Yes. You may have to travel to streams or rivers, but it even rains in the dry season. Get out and start looking as soon as it start clouding up. next

- Bill we're coming up on the hour..would you like to continue on for a half hour?
beckherps - I can keep going for awhile longer. This is fun. You know I am new to chat.
matt2 - thanks and is great having spite of the few probs earlier

- would i see any dendrobates and other frogs will i seeand would i be able to bring any back with a permit/
beckherps - You'd better start working on that permit early. An elderly couple was arrested and fined heavily for having several film cans of dendros when the tried to leave the country in 1998. next

- I am going on my seventh trip to Costa Rica in May, but have never been to the Osa. Should I make it a point to get there? Also, have you herped at Hacienda Baru? Lastly, anything I should keep an eye out for at Monteverde? I haven't seen many herps there before.
beckherps - Good question. Definitely go to the Osa. Never been to Hacienda Baru. Monteverde - I would look for Diploglossus bilobatus, a lanrge skinklooking anquid

- what level of discussion goes on at the IHS? would i as a beginning herper be able to follow much of it, or is it directed more toward very experinced herpers/scientific discussion?
beckherps - We try to have a balanced program of field herpers, commercial and private breeders, academic presentations, and vet medicine topics. If you can read Reptiles Magaizine, you will love IHS. It gives you a chance to meet and picke the brains of all of the people you read about in Reptiles, Herp Review, etc. next

- any chance that the annual IHS would be held in asia?
beckherps - That is a possibility. We would need to be invited by a zoological institution or equivalent. We have been invited to Australia and are seriously considering it for 2004. next
Herpo - I want one in Oz
beckherps - You live in OZ as far as herps go. next
Kee-Low - I know this is slightly off track but what are your views on places that ban import and export of herps, like Australia?
Herpo - be nice to me. I've found a new spot for edwardsi
beckherps - Australia has a history of bad luck with introduced species. I can't blame them for their import/export policies. next

- Of the 398 or so species how many have you seen on one trip? (For Spilotes: Try the east coast, they have no dry season.) (For abnerj: It's

- So many species, so little time! Again in the SW - Imantodes? Leptophis or Oxybelis? Pseustes? Corallus? Boa? Clelia??? (for RDJ, I'll be in the SW corner for the duration)
beckherps - Yes to all. next

- I have seen all species of dendrobatids in CR with exception of Phyllobates vittatus. Is Osa the best place for these? Also, what is the best place to see a Bushmaster besides the serpentarium? I'd like to see one in the wild. As a side note, the Arenal area is a great place to see Smoky jungle and red-eye leaf frogs!
Herpo - I'll pass if bill cooks
beckherps - Yes to the Phyllobates. You will have to hike to the higher elevations to see the Bushmaster. next

- Slightly OT: Would you recommend driving from San Jose to Osa in a single day, or staying over along the central coast?
beckherps - You will drive to Palmar Sur and take one of the local boats down the Sierpe River to the Pacific, and then down the coast to Corcovado or Marenco. You can do it easily in a day and it is a great adventure. next

- my turn: Bill when will you be returning to costa rica and for how long
beckherps - Later this year. I broke my fott in half (literally) and am not quite up to climbing the steep trails yet. next
beckherps - foot. next

- Thanks for all the info Bill. What is your favorite region of the country herp-wise? Any part you haven't been to that you'd like to visit? Any mom and pop places you recommend in Osa or do you just camp?
beckherps - Favorites The OSA Marenco Bio Reserve (privately owned). Southeast - Hitoy Cerere Bio Reserve. Public, but you can spot a different morh of dendrobates pumillio there, all red. also bushmasters. next

- Yeah, thanks for Chatting with us, it's been really informative! anyhow, my ?; Have you observed any green bush ratsnakes in the field? and if so, as a followup, what was the largest specimen?
beckherps - Yes. The green rats we have found in Quanacaste (NW) have been around 4 to 5 feet max. next

- What is your web site address?
RDJ - What's the best way to find Plelamis platurus (Pelagic Sea Snake)?
beckherps - You know the answer to this. Rent a boat, navigate a half mile offshore in the Pacific southwest. What do you think is the best? next

- Is there much chance of finding nesting sea turtles in March?
beckherps - I'm not a turtle person, my wife, Gwen, would know this. You may see them at Playa Naranjo at this time of year afeter dark. next

- anything to look out for in the Puerto Viejo de Saripiqui area?
bill - (outside of La Selva of course)
beckherps - Oh yes. Look at the La Selva website. They have a species list a mile long. This is about 3 km south of Puerto Viejo. RDJ and I have been very fruitful in this area. next

- How common are spilotes? Do you notice regional variation in pattern?
- back to bill. You cna herp other places outside of La Selva

- any in particular you want to mention?
- I haven't noticed a regional variation, but the older adults lose some of the distinctive banding and turn a muddy yello brown. next

matt2 - Well this concludes January's Guestchat w/Guest Bill Becker, on behalf of Jeff Barringer, and myself, thank you so much for taking of your time Bill! Febuary's Guest will be Kathy Love, Feb. 22,02 Topic to be announced. See ya here!