Traditionally, the Yucatec Maya have regarded animals as fellow members of a wider society, and in their religion animals enjoy the status of spiritual beings. But in recent years, the breakdown of cultural restraints on hunting has spiraled so far out of control that almost everything edible within easy reach of a road has become fair game.
Snakes of many species, especially venomous, are common in Maya art. Although the rattlesnake is the most obvious, in fact the Maya show the barba amarilla more often
Animals and the Maya in Southeast Mexico is a complete ethnozoology for the region, offered in the hope that it will encourage the recognition of Quintana Roo's forests and wildlife as no less deserving of protection than ancient Maya cities.
Cockroach-like insects are common on Late Classic bowls. This is possibly a form of tropical beetle, but most people would immediately think of a cockroach when they see this. Virtually all representations are clearly of the same species though one painting shows a different length of the front legs.
Deer, tapirs, coatimundi, agouti, spider monkeys, squirrels, large rodents, and a diverse set of animals are pictured on polychrome Maya vases, especially when Hunahpu and/or Xbalanque are present with their blowguns.
Mayans also represent horoscopes through animals. E.g.
La Luna de la Serpiente comes across in the collection of Mayan animals in the same fashion as that of the fox. It represents the redemptive spirit that illuminates the mind.
They like to live well, but that doesn't mean that they don't have a strict and unwavering ethical code. Always refined and exquisite, the snake won't give its love to just anyone. It is very intelligent and convenient to have it as a friend rather than as a dangerous rival.
The owl, a nocturnal and mysterious animal, is the most magical and profound sign in the whole Mayan horoscope. It possesses a special capacity to make the subconscious appear out of others, as well as to find things, people and lost or forgotten ideas. It also has a great sense for all the mystical and mysterious. Its main virtue is that its intuition will rarely fail them.
Iconographers have accomplished helpful research too, but occasionally the creatures in Maya art have been mislabeled by people who have not enough experience with insects, fish, etc. and who lack biologists to assist them in their identification.