Bahamian Hutia (Cole Fiechter)


The Bahama hutia (Geocapromys ingrahami) has the distinction of being the only indigenous land mammal in the Bahamas. Historically found on a number of islands, the species is now confined to very limited locations. Abaco is, sadly, no longer one of them; they are officially shown as extirpated here from about 1600. Hutias had been recorded on Great Abaco by early explorers from Europe, but their survival was already threatened by hunting and land clearance as the human population expanded.

Bahamian Hutia (Cole Fiechter)

Further evidence of their long-term existence on Abaco – prehistoric, even – comes from research carried out by divers in the land-based Blues Holes. SAWMILL SINK has been a particularly rich source of the remnants of early creatures, including well-preserved skeletons, carapaces or other remains of crocodiles, turtles, birds, bats – and hutias. These date from the Pleistocene epoch of the Quartenary period, spanning roughly 2.5m years and ending some 12,000 years ago. You can see some of these treasures in the wonderful Natural History Museum at Friends of the Environment in Marsh Harbour.

A c20 hutia from the Exumas on display in the museumBahama Hutia Museum Exhibit (FOTE, Abaco)

Exhibits in the museum – there’s even a dead parrot for Monty Python fansMuseum of Natural History, Abaco Bahamas

The population of the extant Bahama hutia species Geocapromys ingrahami became so depleted that by the 1960s they were considered to be extinct. Then in 1966 a colony was discovered on East Plana Cay. Some have since been relocated (see below) and the overall population is now confined to a handful of locations, for which reason the Bahama hutia is IUCN listed as vulnerable. All the usual man-caused threats to their survival apply, as well as predation by dogs and feral cats. One place to find them is in the Exumas, but because they are mainly nocturnal creatures and there are few of them, a sighting is a rare event, let alone getting a decent photo op. 

A ‘Demarest’s Hutia’ – not the Bahamian species, but very similarDemarest's Hutia (Yomangani, wiki)

The terrific header image and the second image were taken by teenager Cole Fiechter while on a sailing trip with his parents and brother in the excellently named ‘Truansea’. On the beach of the Exumas Land and Sea Park at Warderick Wells, they encountered “a guinea pig with a rat’s tail”: a hutia. Cole’s photograph will hopefully grace the forthcoming Field Guide to the Natural History of the Bahamas, now in the late stages of production, and with which I am peripherally involved.

MARK CATESBY‘s take on the hutia in the c18, where he describes it as a rabbitHutia by Mark Catesby (c18)

The BAHAMAS NATIONAL TRUST notes that “Bahama hutias occur naturally only on East Plana Cay (located between Acklins and Mayaguana). Historically however, they were found on ten Bahamian islands. In a move to protect the species, a small Bahama hutia population was transplanted to two locations – Little Wax Cay and Warderick Wells (Exumas). These three locations now host the only known populations of this particular species in the whole world”

It looks as though Warderick Wells might be your best bet to see a Bahama hutia if you are visiting the Bahamas. Don’t be too confident of coming across one – but if you do see one, you will have had the pleasure of seeing a very rare creature.

Bahamian Hutia Drawing (Princeton UP)

A HUTIA’S TAIL (very different from a rat…)


Credits: Cole Fiechter (1, 2); Keith Salvesen / FOTE (3, 4); ‘Yomangani’ wiki (5); OS (6); Princeton UP (7). Research credits PNAS, BNT, FOTE


Eastern narrow-mouthed toad (Todd Pearson / ABSCI)


Welcome to the wonderful world of the tiny Eastern narrow-mouthed toad. This non-native species has just been discovered on Abaco and formally identified. It looks like a toad. It’s called a toad. It’s actually a frog. There’s a song from the ’60s (dread decade) called ‘Walkin’ my cat named dog…’. But no one has come up with ‘Check out my frog named toad’. Yet.

Eastern narrow-mouthed toad (Sean Giery ABSCI)


A year ago, Sean Giery reported on the excellent ABACO SCIENTIST website that he had heard the unmistakeable (to him) mating call of Eastern narrow-mouthed toads Gastrophryne carolinensis in the Marsh Harbour area, Abaco. Denizens of south-eastern US, the species had previously only been recorded in the Bahamas on Grand Bahama and New Providence.

Sean estimated that he heard several dozen of these tiny 2.5cm frogs, suggesting a well-established population. A veritable Frog Chorus.** However, he wasn’t able to obtain a specimen, so his identification was by sound alone – vividly described as “like a bleating lamb with a stuffy nose”. You can read the full article from last May HERE.

Eastern narrow-mouthed toad (P. Coin / ABSCI)


In a further article one year later HERE, Sean relates how he was called to the home of alert student Donte Richard, who had remembered the original post. This was in a different area of MH, suggesting a spread of population. Others had reported the distinctive bleating calls as well. Identification of the specimen frog was made by researchers at the Frank Kenyon Centre, Friends of the Environment, and confirms a new addition to Abaco’s vertebrate fauna.

The evidential specimenEastern narrow-mouthed toad (ex Brian Kakuk)


ENM Toad Map MH


Sean writes: “With Abaco added to the list of islands we see a distribution pattern that echoes another recent invader (the corn snake). Perhaps they share a similar route of entry? Whether or not the narrow-mouthed toad poses any real threat to Abaco’s native flora and fauna is unknown. However, given their diet of small invertebrates (ants, mites, termites), it seems unlikely that they could pose any substantial risk. That said, who knows?”

Tidelands Toad Skelly 2


Yes, by all means you can. But they are remarkably expensive for a 2.5cm creature. ‘Urban Jungle Reptile’ sells them for $80 each. You might need a pair. But you’d be better off hanging round Marsh Harbour in May with a small bucket and spade. And they are useless for taking on walks. You’d be far better off with the cat named dog…

“My name is Freddie and I am for sale to a good non-amphibian-eating home”Narrow-mouthed frog (Urban Jungle Reptile)

CREDITS: foremost to Sean Giery / ABSCI for use permission for photo use and info; Todd Pierson (header), Sean (2, map 5), P.Coin (3); Brian Kakuk for posting the specimen initial shot (4); Tidelands Nature Center for the terrific skeleton photo taken at the Smithsonian (6); Urban Jungle Reptile ad (7).
DISCREDITS: Paul McCartney for his ill-advised foray into amphibian-based songwriting, a close second to David Bowie’s ‘Laughing Gnome’ for star career low points. Some might say.


A few weeks back, I wrote a post called ‘LAND CRABS: HOW TO STALK & WRESTLE THEM. It features stills of famed Abaco nature guide Ricky Johnson in a face-off with a land crab at Bahama Palm Shores. I noted that the large, heavy claw of these crabs is in fact the less worrying one, being used to intimidate and to grip. It’s the small claw that you need to watch out for… 

I have now sorted out an annoying camera card v Mac format incompatibility problem (well, $30 of software has dealt with it. Dear Apple, please make friends with the Panasonic Lumix asap) and to my great surprise I find that I took a video of Ricky and a land crab that perfectly demonstrates the claw point. He did mess with the large claw, but he wisely left the small one well alone… 

The footage starts with Ricky’s trademark laugh to get you into the right spirit (it’s impossible to go on one of his Eco-Tours and not have fun while learning). The volume of the commentary drops off a bit halfway through. I haven’t found the gizmo for changing the audio during the video: it’s all or nothing, I’m afraid


If you want to find out more about Land Crabs on Abaco – including Hermit Crabs – you won’t do much better than to check out the comprehensive account by ‘Bob H’ on Yahoo! Answers ABACO LAND CRAB FACTS

Ricky the guide? Here he is in full-on enthusiastic guide mode, ‘pishing’ for male Bahama Woodstar hummingbirds in low open coppice near Crossing Rocks. He has just had a responding call and is keeping us quiet while he locates the bird

ADDENDUM Tragically in the second half of 2012 Ricky developed a horrible disease that spread rapidly and unstoppably. Within 6 months he was dead, not yet 50. His sad passing, and the cruel manner of it, made me wonder if I should take down some of the many posts in which he features. But he would not have wanted that, so I have left them unaltered. 


Those who braved the video may have wondered about the guitar chord at the beginning and end. A few – of a certain age – may have thought it familiar. One or two may have recognised it as the opening chord of A Hard Day’s Night (Beatles 1964). It is one of the most controversial and interesting chords in modern music, with more theories about its exact construction than you can shake a Rickenbacker 12-string at (as played by George Harrison). There have been more than a dozen claimed ‘correct’ chord  identities. According to Harrison, it is in fact simply an ‘F add 9’ chord augmented by Macca’s crucial 5th fret, A string ‘D’ on his Hofner bass. Trouble is, there are half a dozen ways to play ‘F add 9’ at various points on the neck, and most of them don’t sound quite right… But that’s enough about that. Anyone who wants to follow this musical meander further  – much further – should click HERE===>>> THAT CHORD


Curly Tail Lizard, Delphi, Abaco CS2


This is an expanded and rejigged post based on  bits and pieces originally scattered around the MISC WILDLIFE page, written now partly because of various search queries recently – diet and so forth – which had not been covered.

First, the very dull scientific classification bit (wiki-debt): Kingdom – Animalia; Phylum – Chordata; Class – Sauropsida; Suborder – Iguania; Family – Leiocephalidae; Genus – Leiocephalus [Subspecies Carinatus?]

The ‘curly-tailed lizard’ family is widely found throughout the Caribbean but is apparently relatively unstudied (but why on earth not?). There are nearly 30 distinct varieties, many specific to individual islands. My completely uneducated guess is that the Abaco ones may be one of the several subspecies of ‘Cuban or Northern Curly-tailed Lizard’ carinatus, the ones found generally in the Bahamas. But who cares? By any standards they are totally cute! This photo was taken at the bottom of the steps down to the Delphi Club beach.

            (Photo credit: Mrs RH)

             (Photo credit: PM Himself)

NEW ADDITION April 2012 A fine Curly Tail from Brigitte Carey of Tilloo Cay 


The CT is described as an active, robust lizard that is mostly terrestrial and will retreat into a burrow or cavity when frightened. It prefers sunny areas with loose rubble and rock. Bahamas curly tails were apparently released intentionally in Palm Beach, Florida, in the 1940s in an attempt to control sugar cane pests.

Jan 2012 update: Having had a number of hits over the last few months for ‘what do Curly Tails eat’ and other CT-related information, I checked out of Des Moines, Iowa (the first Google hit, in fact). With kind permission (many thanks, Larry) here’s some more about these little lizards 

THE CURLY TAIL DIET: “Considered insectivores, curly-tails scamper right after crickets.  They’ll also learn to eat mealworms and superworms from your fingers.  You can give them other insects like wax worms which they love but tend to over-eat.  Roaches, houseflies, or any arthropods / bugs that accumulate around your porch light make a nice change of pace…OR…take a stroll down the baby food aisle.  Think twice about the bananas. Bananas are not good for some lizards.  Skip the bananas.  Anyway, apple sauce works great.  The best thing about baby food?  You can add a Calcium/Vitamin D supplement to it.  Much easier than dusting crickets (which start cleaning it off the second it gets on them).  Curly-tails will also eat bits of leafy lettuce.  Uneaten crickets in their cage  will also eat the fruits and vegetables you offer your lizards” Larry Arnold

So I can’t answer someone’s specific query ‘do they eat tomatoes?’, save to say ‘why not try tomato sauce’ (and I don’t mean a well-known proprietary brand, one of 57 varieties). Maybe have a few crickets handy in case it is politely declined

For further info on curly tails from theBahamas National Trust website CLICK LINK ===>>>  where there is also a downloadable PDF version

Finally, an excellent CT photo from Gareth Reid, the Master Chef of Delphi

BIBLIOGRAPHY:  “101 Uses for a Curly Tail” Rolling Harbour Press (2011)     

(1) The gate latch                                           (2) The window latch


(NB No Curly Tails were harmed in the creation of these images)


THE BAHAMIAN HUTIA  (Geocapromys ingrahami)

HUTIAS are cavy-like rodents of the Caribbean Islands. They range in size from 20 to 60 cm (8 to 24 in), and can weigh up to 7 kg (15 lb). Twenty species of hutia have been identified, of which half may now be extinct. Their tails vary from vestigial to prehensile. They have stout bodies and large heads. Most species are herbivorous, though some eat small animals. Instead of burrowing underground, they nest in trees or rock crevices. Of extant species, only a few are common; most have become vulnerable or endangered. In Cuba they are hunted for food, and are often cooked in a large pot with wild nuts and honey. One of the recipes is hutia stew: sauté with green peppers, onions, tomato sauce and lots of garlic. (Source: Wiki)

         Photo WWF/ G. Clough

The Bahamian species of Hutia is endemic to the Bahamas. It is listed as a vulnerable species. Its natural habitats are moist forests, dry shrubland and rocky areas. Hutias are a nocturnal species, remaining underground during the day. Two subspecies became extinct in modern times. The Crooked Island Hutia (G. i. irrectus) and the Great Abaco Hutia (G. i. abaconis) were mentioned by early European voyagers, and are believed to have become extinct by 1600. This is thought to be due to land clearance rather than direct hunting. However, they are found elsewhere in the Bahamas – the Exumas, for example.


IT’S OFFICIAL: the extinct species listing

Great Abaco Hutia  Geocapromys ingrahami abaconis West Indies, Bahamas, Great Abaco Extinct in 1600

For more details, check out Rod Attrill’s excellent website, for which this is the relevant link:  

Tail of a Hutia (nb quite different from a rat)IMG_7500.jpeg


NEW: HUTIA VIDEO (added Dec 2011)

Image added April 2012 (credit as annotated)

%d bloggers like this: