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Widowmakers are especially common in isolated patches of rainforest. They accumulate there because rainforest fragments are very prone to damage from winds. Many trees are knocked over or snapped in half by windstorms. Sometimes a big limb breaks off and ends up hanging in the canopy—and then you have a widowmaker, just waiting to fall.

Most of the animals in the rainforest are very secretive, but you still bump into them now and then. Early one morning I was stumbling half-awake down a trail and came almost face-to-face with two pumas (mountain lions). They were just as startled to see me as I was to see them, and they both sprinted off in opposite directions—while I just stood there, shaking. Needless to say, I was wide awake after that!

But one animal here is far more feared than the puma—the jaguar. The Amazon natives have a saying about these big cats: a puma may sneak up on you from behind, but a jaguar will come at you from any direction. Jaguars are fast and very powerful, and if hunters aren’t around, they can become quite fearless.

Last November a jaguar got a little too friendly with us. I was helping my wife, Susan, who is studying rainforest birds. Sue is trying to learn how roads affect bird movements. As you know, the Amazon rainforest is being destroyed very quickly (in Brazil, an area of forest the size of nine football fields is cleared and burned every minute), and one of the first things that happens when an area is logged or developed is that roads get bulldozed into the forest.

Bill’s Journals A Day In The Amazon Rainforest    1     2     3     4