Thursday, April 17, 2014

New frontier in bad bird behavior

From England comes something that's new even to me: A racist bird.

At Warwick University they've had to erect a fence to protect people from an attacking swan - something that's not particularly unusual. But there's a novel wrinkle: this swan is said to only attack foreign students.
The animal – which is currently nesting – has been launching at people as they cross a footbridge over a pond at the university’s Gibbet Hill campus in Coventry, West Mids.
The footbridge is used by hundreds of students everyday wishing to get from their accommodation to their lessons at the university buildings.
But yesterday undergraduates revealed that the angry bird only seemed to be targeting students from ethnic minorities.
One 24-year-old student from India said: “These swans are very annoying, and the students feel as though they’re being bullied. I’m from India, and they attack me especially, they focus straight on me.
“We’ve been warned that the swans will be a bit feisty at this time of year, but they go for me all year round. I think they don’t like too many Indians in England – maybe the swans here are a little bit racist.”
Italian student Albertina Crocetti, 24, who is studying Physics with Business Studies, said: “It’s bizarre, she doesn’t seem to like foreigners and attacks them to defend her nest. She’s a true right winger that’s for sure – they certainly seem to be racially motivated incidents."

Monday, April 14, 2014

Mainstream media finally tells the truth about otters

There's nothing I could write today that would be more important than sending you off to read this article about the sex lives of otters in the Vancouver Sun. The first photo caption lets you know what you're in for:
Male sea otters are known to rape and drown young seals, returning to the carcass for sex days later, other animals such as a large dog and bird have also become victim of such attacks.
I've written about this behavior, of course, in what is the most highly-trafficked post on this blog.  But with how cute people think these animals are, it's a tale that can't be told too often. My compliments to the author.

(PS: I did not watch the video, which would not load for me, which I decided to consider a blessing. So you're on your own there.)

Important warning photographed by Flickr user vandy meares.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The battle against bad birds 'round the world

In San Francisco, there's a problem with plans to demolish the old Bay Bridge: unappreciative birds.

About 800 cormorants have been using the bridge as a nesting site since 1984. $709,000 was spent to build brand-new bird condos on the new bridge, but the state-protected birds have refused to move in:
Caltrans' inability to lure the cormorants over to the new span isn't for lack of trying. Biologists have been experimenting with bird decoys and cormorant recordings to get them to move to their new, rent-free pads.
They even furnished the condos with nesting material. The birds reacted by simply hauling the bedding back to their old digs.
The timing of plans to install some kind of bird-exclusion equipment before nesting season apparently fell apart, and now it's going to take an extra 12.8 million dollars to get the demolition back on track in time to try it again next year.

Bad bird behavior was also costly to government on a smaller scale in France, where a court battle was won by a couple driven to psychotherapy by a peacock:
A French couple won a €4,000 settlement from city authorities in Marseille after they were left depressed insomniacs who were forced into psychotherapy due to an extremely noisy Town Hall-owned peacock.
In January 2012 they won their suit against the city, but were awarded a mere €100 in damages. Outraged by the meager payout, the couple took their case to an appeals court, which recently ordered the city to pay €4,000.
Maybe these places should find a role model in Japan, where there's an effort in Ibaraki Prefecture to promote the eating of crows. These intelligent birds are notoriously troublesome in that country, as we've reported before, but hunters have found their weakness: they're easily attracted by piles of steamed sweet potato, another thing (aside from crows) that Ibaraki produces a lot of. They're said to taste good, and experts are thinking deeply about the possibilities of crow cuisine:
“It’s also a benefit to people to reduce the numbers of pests,” says Junichi Nakagawa, principal of the Nakagawa Cooking Art College in Mito City. The principal is apparently also studying new ways of preparing crow, possibly so that it might be sold as a specialty dish of the region to visitors.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Spiders Embarrass Major Car Company and News Organizations

If you're a long-time reader of this blog, you may recall that in 2011, Mazda had to recall  65,000 cars when it was discovered that spiders had taken a fancy to nesting in the fuel system of their Mazda6 sedan. 

You wouldn't think it would be that hard to outwit spiders, but apparently that wasn't the end of it, as this was announced a few days ago:
DETROIT (AP) — Mazda is recalling 42,000 Mazda6 cars in the U.S. because spiders can weave a web in a vent hose and cause the fuel tank to crack.

The yellow sac spider, which is attracted to hydrocarbons, builds webs that cause pressure to build in the fuel tank. That increases the risk of fuel leaks and fire.

Mazda recalled cars in 2011 for the same problem. It put covers on the vent line, but has found spiders can get past them.
 At the same time, spiders have been successful at confusing writers at many news outlets who headlined this story "Mazda Recalling Cars Due to Danger From Insect."

 Score: arachnids 2, major human corporations 0.

Photo of a much safer spider attack on a car, thoughtfully chosen so as not to freak the spiderphobic among you, by Flickr user Amanda.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Two bad birds

In England, even experts are forced to admit a bird is out of hand, although in a rather low-key way:
A "terrorist" pheasant has been attacking vehicles and chasing cats and dogs at a Cambridgeshire farm.

Anne-Marie Hamilton said the male bird, which she described as "a complete lunatic", arrived at Wood Farm in Hail Weston three weeks ago.

A delivery driver was trapped for 20 minutes after the bird blocked his way, flew at the bonnet then chased his van.

When it is not busy seeing off her dogs, cats and visitors' vehicles, the pheasant has taken up residence outside her patio doors.

"We keep a big stick there so we can get in and out," she said.

The British Trust for Ornithology said the pheasant was protecting his territory but was "a little extreme".
But in America, one officer showed how it's done, even for a minor infraction:
Corpus Christi Police apprehended a chicken after it crossed the road Sunday afternoon at the 1600 block of Agnes Street. Corpus Christi Police Officer David Saldana, known among his peers as the “Chicken Hawk,” saw a chicken cross the road at about 2pm Sunday. Officer Saldana attempted to detain the chicken for crossing outside of a cross walk, but the chicken fled on foot from Officer Saldana. The chicken jumped through the open window to an unoccupied vehicle in an attempt to escape, but there were no keys in the ignition of the vehicle. Officer Saldana successfully captured the chicken and placed the chicken in his patrol car. Officer Saldana then transported the chicken to Animal Care Services. The chicken was identified as a Black Australorp. Case closed.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Bad Farm Animal Linkarama

For today, links to some excellent pieces from elsewhere about bad farm animals:

How to Survive A Cow Attack
  Includes the excellent advice:
If you have a cow or bull that you know to be prone to violent outbursts, Sanderson says, get rid of it. Have a nice steak dinner. Invite your friends.
 Drunk Pigs 
“Some were looking at me like, ‘Woohoo!’” Shore says, her voice trailing away into laughter. “They were really, really, really drunk.” A few pigs were trying to walk but their back legs kept giving out, and the rest were spinning in circles, kicking up their back heels, and as Shore says, “snortin’ and dancing around; having a good ol’ time.”

NY State vs Feral Swine
Andersen figures the hogs have caused upwards of $40,000 in damage on his farm.

The worst loss was a corn crop that the pigs took out twice in a row, Andersen said.

"In a week they had cleaned the field. Eleven acres," he said. "I replanted it. Man, it was gorgeous. About four or five inches high. I was in there on a Thursday night. I came back on a Monday morning and it was gone. There wasn't a piece left anywhere, they just cleaned it. Went right down the rows, vrooooom."

Photo of brave law enforcement officer encountering a pig on the loose from the Santa Monica Police department's Facebook page.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Bad Animals at the Zoo

-When fifteen flamingos were found brutally murdered at a German zoo, some decapitated and apparently stabbed, the zoo director called it "shocking incident" and said zoo staff were "speechless". And the press immediately jumped to certain sorts of conclusions:
The flamingo killings in Frankfurt leave the German media guessing. "Who would do such a thing?" asks Die Welt daily. "Psychopaths? Was it a completely out-of-order test of courage among young people? Or was it Satanists?"
Nope: testing showed that the culprit wasn't even human -  it was a fox.

The zoo director is quoted as saying "we are relieved that we are not dealing with an animal abuser." Not sure why, since they're just as dead, and you can't even use the excuse that the fox killed out of hunger. But that's how it goes: animals always get away with murder.

-in Indianapolis, two orangutans escaped from their enclosure at a brand new $26 million dollar exhibit. They never got into public areas but apparently disassembled a camera, no doubt to erase evidence of their escape.

This sort of thing is no surprise to readers of this blog, and it certainly isn't to zookeepers. As a zoo spokesperson explained:
Unlike many other species, orangutans are "subtle" problem solvers, Simmons said. Instead of actively working at a problem — such as how to get out of an enclosure — they tend to think through a solution and then act, not giving humans any indication of their plans.
So despite all the human ingenuity put into making the exhibit escape-proof, they decided there was only one way to be sure: they're giving the animals two months in the facility before they open it to the public, to test whether it's really escape-proof. Good idea, as these two primates have proven.

Photo of an orang using an iPad from the National Zoo, where staff have apparently lost their minds - as if orangs can't make enough trouble on their own, what could they do with access to the Internet?

Monday, March 24, 2014

Elephants vs Parked Cars in Missouri

Elephant rampages in natural elephant habitat are so common that they're barely worth a mention on this blog. It's a bit different when they break out of a Midwestern circus and trash cars in a parking lot.
"Things started shaking, When I looked up I saw three elephants coming toward us," Sally Schmiz, a witness to the event, said. "These huge elephants literally went through these huge RVs. Then they went through two trucks breaking mirrors off, and panels off and breaking the windows."
Another witness overheard staff trying to recapture the pachyderms: a trainer reportedly yelled "we need pretzels, anything, just get me some food."

As I was always taught in my zoo jobs, keeping the public away from an escaped animal is a high priority, and the circus staff apparently did this effectively. The responsible thing to do, yes, but with the sad result that the photo above is the best I can find of the incident in progress.

The animals were reportedly brought under control after about 45 minutes and given the rest of the day off. Later coverage is headlined "Elephant trainers still don't know what caused elephant escape." But I note that the elephants in question had the job of letting children ride them, and while I am not making excuses, wouldn't that send you on a rampage too?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Stick 'em up

A brief item, but worth our undivided attention: Police in Tucson are looking for a man who robbed a bank with an unusual weapon. As a police officer told the news:
Dugan said the suspect approached the teller and put a basket holding a white Chihuahua on the counter. He then demanded money and fled westbound from the store on foot with an undisclosed amount of cash and the dog, according to a news release.
The article goes on to say that "No weapon was seen or mentioned," but obviously the teller knew better, as would any reader of this blog. We've seen rampaging gangs of them terrorizing a neighborhood, and the Chihuahua is one of the top three breeds mostly likely to bite people. With its convenient hand-held size, what better breed to use to rob a bank?

Monday, March 17, 2014

When cats - and the media - attack

No doubt you've already heard the story of the Portland couple who called 911 last week because their 22-pound cat had them trapped in their bedroom. I say "no doubt" because the local newspaper at this point has a collection of Headlines from Around the World. But in case you haven't, here's basically how it went down:
Dispatchers stayed on the phone while the couple locked themselves — along with their baby and the family dog — in a bedroom.
Owner Lee Palmer told dispatchers the 4-year-old male cat "has a history of violence," and had scratched his 7-month old son in the forehead. 
Palmer said he tried to get the cat off his son: "I kicked the cat in the rear, and it has gone over the edge. He's trying to attack us -- he's very hostile. He's at our door; he's charging us."

The dispatcher asked her supervisor if it was OK to send police on such an unusual call. It was. Meanwhile, on the 911 tape, the cat can be heard screaming in the background.
Police snared the cat and that might have been the end of it, except... the internet, and cats. So the couple's next problem was finding themselves in the middle of a media maelstrom.
On Monday, police issued a press release detailing the rescue. The story, too, went ballistic, attracting worldwide attention and keeping both Palmer and Barker’s cellphones buzzing and ringing into Tuesday.
In addition to the media attention, Baker and Palmer have been fielding calls from people who want to adopt Lux and others offering psychological counseling for the cat. Barker and Palmer are also expecting a call from the producers of the Animal Planet show “My Cat from Hell.”
The couple say that they don't want to get rid of the cat - which is what the poor folks would have to say when they're in the spotlight like this. And sure, they've been offered help.... but before they meet that TV star cat guy, I hope they realize whose side he's on. In an interview, while admitting he hasn't yet met the cat in question, he makes all kind of excuses: Maybe it's sick, and "he also suggests asking if there have been any changes in the home environment that might have led up to the attack."

And yes, to be fair, the scratch occurred after the baby pulled the cat's tail. But still, he considers every possibility except one: Maybe this cat is just plain bad.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Combination of bad animals close down school for a day

Just when I think I've seen everything... Hoofstock crashing into school buildings is nothing new. Dogs attacking other animals is certainly nothing new. Animals interfering with children getting an education -  we've seen that more than once.

But this is a combination that impresses even me: in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, three deer smashed into a school building, two dogs followed, and the result was mayhem:
When the officers arrived they found chairs knocked over in the lobby and broken glass at a door next to the cafeteria. They also found a deer on the floor being attacked by a German shepherd.
When officers passed another doorway, they found a second deer “sitting on the floor in distress.” Police said the animal was suffering from “apparent bite marks.” 
Officers found another dog, and another deer trapped in a hallway that was so badly injured that it died. The other two deer were later euthanized due to the extend of their injuries.

The dogs were captured, and their owners were located, but they're reported to be in the custody of animal control. No word on possible charges, but damage is estimated at up to $5000 and the two schools sharing the building lost a day of classes. A spokesperson said:
“The extent of the cleanup that was necessary was such that we could not open either school. It was a pretty gory scene.”

Monday, March 10, 2014

Bad bird roundup

Last week we saw what was possibly a bird-fish conspiracy against aircraft - frightening, but at least it's something you could avoid by simply never leaving the house. But that won't help, because as these two stories show, birds can get at you where you live:

-Try to help the environment and here's how birds will thank you: An English couple says they're living through hell because dozens of pigeons are nesting under the solar panels on their roof:
Stephen Fishenden and wife Linda, 65, of Wittenham Way in Chingford, say they have lived through “hell” since the birds began to seek shelter beneath the energy-saving panels, which were fitted by a contractor working for council homes manager Ascham Homes. Mr Fishenden first complained to Ascham Homes in March last year about the “horrendous” noise keeping them awake at night and his wife’s deteriorating health.

The 65 year-old said: "I specifically asked at the time if we would have any problems with birds and was reassured they would not be a problem.

"It has been hell and has made my wife ill. She’s asthmatic and is having to use her pump more regularly. We are both constantly awake and have had hundreds of sleepless nights. It is particularly horrendous in the morning."
-And if you need another reason to quit smoking, this one is for the birds: A London fire has been blamed by investigators on a bird with a butt:
"When we got up into the roof, we were baffled as there were no obvious ignition sources. No-one had been up to there for a long time and there were no electrics that could have sparked a blaze.

"Neighbours told us they often saw birds flying in and out of a hole in the roof. We believe that one of the birds picked up a cigarette butt that was still smouldering and dropped it into the nest, causing it to catch fire and set the roof alight."

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Surprising new animal threat to airplanes

The Internet continues to be obsessed with bad things happening to crocodilians: this time it's photos of an otter killing an alligator. I have to admit that is one bad-ass otter, but a far more important story is flying – or swimming – under the radar.

Birds crashing into planes is a widely acknowledged and serious problem. And we've seen other animals interfering with traffic on runways as well, including goats and turtles.

I was surprised that turtles could interfere with air traffic, even on the ground. But never mind that: now we've got a plane that was hit on takeoff by a FISH.

It happened at a military base in Florida where a plane aborted a takeoff after hitting what it assumed was a bird. But when the evidence was collected by the base's wildlife managed and analyzed by experts, a different story emerged.
“I found a fish on the runway,” says Garven. “It was a comical thing.”

Garven picked up the fish, a nine-inch sheepshead, and met the NOAA crew at Hangar 5, where she collected DNA samples from the jet. She sent that off to the Smithsonian Institution’s identification laboratory and two weeks later, received a report back.

The DNA on the plane belonged to the sheepshead.
The assumption is that an eagle was eating a fish on the runway, took off when the plane did, and dropped its lunch. Perhaps that's reassuring, compared to the idea that fish can attack a plane in flight. Or perhaps that's even worse: if birds no longer need to make suicide attacks to bring down aircraft, but can use weapons, there's nothing to stop them now.

Eagle collecting ammunition by Flickr user

Monday, March 3, 2014

Snakes too close for comfort

Snakes have been in the news lately. A snake-handling preacher's TV career came to an abrupt end when he died of a bite, and the Internet has seemed rather impressed by a snake that ate a crocodile in Australia.

These stories probably don't concern you, since you have the sense not to handle venomous snakes and to stay away from Australia where all of nature is trying to kill you - or at least stay indoors if you can't help living there. And you probably think if you leave snakes alone they'll leave you alone. Kind of hard to apply this advice, though, when they show up in your toilet.

In Mumbai, a woman had just used the toilet when she realized that everything in the bathroom was out of place, with toiletries fallen to the floor. She called her husband.
He suddenly heard the sound of water being displaced in the toilet bowl and before he could inspect it, the 6-foot cobra stuck its head out, much to the family's horror.
It took nearly two hours for experts to remove the snake from the pipes and take it away to be released, but for the family, it's not over, says the man.
"Now every time we want to use the toilet, we will inadvertently think about this incident."
And in Australia, even staying indoors doesn't help. When one Queensland man saw a snake in this toilet, he took it more calmly – after poking it and decided it was dead, he flushed it down and went about his business. Two days later he found he was wrong
"My partner came home to find the snake back and it was alive," he said. "Let's just say there were a few expletives."
Perhaps it's no wonder that the guy kept a cooler head than the family in the last story. While that Mumbai neighborhood is near a nature preserve, apparently snakes rarely come into buildings. Not so their relatives down under:
Snake catcher Bryan Robinson said toilet encounters were not uncommon. The Ipswich and western Brisbane business relocates at least one snake from toilet a month.
And it turns out that even staying far from the entire country of Australia might not help, as a woman in Sweden learned. She found an escaped pet snake on the floor of her apartment, and before authorities arrived, it had hidden inside her stereo loudspeakers.
"The woman was terrified for real, but we were not scared, we never are," Södermalm police told The Local.

In the end, the officers turned to the animal park for advice. Zookeepers suggested putting the entire speaker in a large bag and delivering the package to the park, and the police did as they were told.
Not only were the police unmoved, the director of the local aquarium that took the snake said that locals have little to worry about:

Any snake-fearing Stockholmers, however, have little to worry about. Wahlström explained that such cases only crop up once or twice a year.
I know that's supposed to be comforting, but you know what kind of snake that was? An Australian carpet python. Even Sweden isn't far enough away from Australia to get away from their snakes?

Thursday, February 27, 2014

And more driving dogs

Dogs are such traditionalists, as any long-time reader of this blog will know. As we saw last time, the haven't stopped starting fires. And they haven't stopped driving badly, either. This time it was two dogs in a pickup truck in Tulsa, Oklahoma:
    The dogs, Roscoe and Luna, were inside their owner's truck at the top of the hill on 25th Street. In a matter of minutes, they were barreling across Riverside Drive and into the Arkansas River river bed.

    "I got around to the front of the house where the truck was, and it's like not there," he said. "And I was like 'did I get towed?' and I just thought no it didn't."

    One of the dogs put the car into gear and they took off. "Approximately three blocks down a hill," Tulsa firefighter Clay Ayers said.

The dogs missed drivers on Riverside Drive, runners on the trail and narrowly missed landing in the Arkansas River.
And really, why should dogs stop this sort of thing- or even learn to drive better? The truck was badly damaged, but the owner just said "It's an expensive joy ride," and the cops let them off without punishment. No wonder they never learn.