Last night was especially warm. I was sitting out on the deck, watching a movie with headphones on. There was a snoring sound laid over the soundtrack, like a segway into the next scene. But the snoring continued and so did the scene. So I popped off the earbuds and realized that the sound was coming from just outside the cabin, near the base of the stairs. With a sudden rush of adrenaline I perceived it to be the long slow snarl of rabid dog about to strike! But the snore just continued, rhythmically, too staccato for a dog. I got up quickly and turned on the lights, then ran upstairs to get my heavy-duty Maglite, cautiously approaching the edge of the deck and shining my lamp into the darkness. Nothing. Then I heard it again, moving away, and then approaching, even louder. Just there, in the trees, moving left to right. So loud! Like a jake-brake on a big rig coming down a steep grade.
Big cat! What else could it be?! Thrilled and terrified at the same time, I continued shining my beam into the night, though never saw the deep green eyeshine gleaming back at me. The sound continued for about 10 minutes, gradually diminishing. The next morning I scoured the ground for paw prints but found nothing. I Googled for animal sounds--click the sound link in the middle of this page to hear what I heard: Purring Jaguar.
At yoga class the next morning, I shared my thrilling tale, only to learn that Pumas are sighted from time to time locally, and even Jaguars had been spotted (pardon the pun). There are six species of wild cat in Costa Rica; check them out at Wild Cats.