As we headed north from Rio de Janeiro, we passed dozens of rivers like this. Truly ideal capybara habitat. I wanted my son, Sam, to stop the car at every little stream. Driving along, Sam told me casually he had seen capybaras along the river, right in the middle of Juiz de Fora. In my mind, I pictured a sleepy little town on the banks of a river not unlike this one.
In fact, the population is over 500,000, about like Toledo, Ohio or Grand Rapids, Michigan. The river looks like this:
Some Great Egrets, a few Kingfishers, lots of grass.
Wait a minute! What is that brown junk on the river bank?
HEY! It’s capybaras! Cars and trucks whizzing past, no shade or cover. Just big brown lumps on green grass.
They are on both sides of the culvert.
They aren’t moving at all. It is mid-afternoon and they are napping.
The grass is neatly clipped. How did that happen?
Trucks go by and they are completely unconcerned.
Here is a close-up of the male and the female beyond him. Females can grow quite a bit larger than males, to 140-150 pounds! (63-68 kg)
I still can’t believe I saw them. This is a divided highway, the river flows through the median. Cars and trucks are traveling at highway speeds. Furniture stores, auto repair shops, construction supply depots and millions of little restaurants stand shoulder-to-shoulder on both sides.
How many capybaras did we hurtle past before we saw these? I didn’t see any more along the river after I saw these. So, yes, they are common, but commonly SEEN? I don’t think so.