Monday, November 29, 2010

What evil lurks beneath that placid bovine exterior?

The Guardian - Raging cow goes on hour-long rampage

Police had to catch an unusual suspect on the run after a cow broke out of its field, charging through fences of three back gardens before it was finally cornered.

Nottinghamshire police said it was "extremely lucky" nobody was injured after the cow escaped from a field in Bassingfield yesterday and went on an hour-long rampage.

The animal broke through an electric fence at about 12.30pm and got on to the A52, heading towards West Bridgford, police said.

Officers tried to corner the cow but it charged at them, causing one to "take evasive action" to avoid injury.

It then smashed through fences behind three properties in Eltham Road where it was finally cornered and calmed down by police and put into a trailer by the farmer at about 1.35pm.

The Daily Mail quoted the woman who came face to face with the bovine in the photo above:

'I was in my kitchen when I spotted this thing crashing through my garden fence.

'It came right up to the kitchen window and was breathing on the glass. I was scared as I thought it was going to smash its way into the house - you could tell it was really angry.'

A cow running loose may seem like a joke, but don't be too quick to laugh. A report by the Centers for Disease Control indicates that cattle cause about twenty deaths a year in the United States. And their in-depth look at a few of these contains some alarming details:

- In about 3/4 of the cases "the animal was deemed to have purposefully struck the victim."

- One of the murderous bulls had been hand-raised and bottle-fed by the victim and his family.

- And finally, watch your back: in at least one case, the victim was attacked from behind.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Turkey day video roundup

It's hard to get worked up about the fact that the president pardoned another turkey this year when most of them never get convicted in the first place. What's one more offender running loose? If you're feeling bad about the bird in your oven, re-read our previous posts to remind yourself that they'd do the same to us if they had the chance. And check out just a few examples of the video evidence:

A turkey attacks a man on a motorcycle;

A mailman in Michigan has to carry a weapon to fend off gangs of attacking turkeys;

And don't expect your dogs to keep you safe even if you have big scary pitbulls.

The truth about birds, illustrated, from Toothpaste for Dinner.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Behind the mask

In a town near San Francisco, residents are discovering why raccoons wear masks: it's to conceal their identity when they commit violent assaults.

Nine people in Alameda have been the victims of raccoon attacks since June. These incidents are escalating, with the most recent involving an entire gang.

One raccoon approached Rachel Campos as she was walking her dog, and then:

“The other four dropped out of these trees somewhere and all started to run after us,” said Campos. “And then I tripped. Once I fell down, I was worried I wouldn't be able to get them off me, and I was screaming at the top of my lungs.”

Her 20-pound terrier fended off four of the attackers, but the fifth latched onto her leg and bit her.

You may think furry, tubby raccoons are cute, but as a local "vector control" officer with twenty years experience said, "Raccoons are ornery. They bite the heads off baby chicks."

And another experienced biologist and pest control expert says that raccoons have gotten dogs into swimming pools and drowned them: "They grab them by the head and hold them under water. Not just little dogs — Labrador size."

Some blame the problem on people who leave food where raccoons can get it, but not all of these animals are eating out of carelessly uncovered trash cans. One resident says, “We've had them climbing in through our doggie door and rummaging through things in the kitchen.”

For her part, Campos is undergoing rabies shots, and will carry pepper spray on walks from now on. Although the risk of rabies in Californian raccoons is low, it's the psychological damage that will take time to heal.

“It was definitely like something out of a horror movie,” she said, and she hopes her experience will serve as a warning: "The animals are getting angry."

Reporting from the LA Times and; raccoon with the demon eyes by Flickr user buckeye98.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Book Deadline Linkarama

While I am busy rewriting every sentence in this book manuscript which is due in less than two weeks, I swear, every single goddamn sentence, please enjoy a few videos:

-Hyperbole and a Half shows why cats and children do not mix (advisory: loud dramatic soundtrack)

-If you still don't believe you should fear cats: Cat vs. alligator. (Spoiler: the cat wins.)

-And wrap up two weeks of cats with an instructional video on how to wrap a cat for Christmas. That'll show it who's in charge, right? (thanks to our friends at Monkey Goggles.)

Intellectual Monkey by Flickr user Woodenship.

Monday, November 15, 2010

When cats go postal, part 3: Taking action

Last week, this blog's hard-hitting investigative journalism blew the lid off of the secret epidemic of cats attacking the mailman. As is so often the case, we found that the animals weren't the only issue: Rather than reacting appropriately to this feline violence, many owners simply refuse to admit there is a problem.

Fortunately, a few attack-cat owners are better role models. Dipity's owner took the news with resignation when she got a letter threatening to suspend her delivery service. She was surprised - "You hear about guard dogs injuring postmen all the time - but not cats," she said - but could not deny the truth:
I can't say I blame them for threatening to cut me off. I love Dipity to bits - she's adorable - but I'd be the first to admit she's a little terror. All she wants to do is pick fights. When I took her to be neutered she tried to gouge lumps out of the vet and was hissing at all the dogs.

But if you really want to see how this sort of thing should be done, there's the owner of Blackie, a cat who counted at least five postmen, one police officer, five paper boys, one takeaway driver and one construction worker as his victims. After one gory attack on a mailman, she finally took responsibility:

At the door to Ann Hogben's home in Ramsgate, Kent, is a newly erected sign which simply reads: "Warning: Dangerous Cat - Has attacked 13 people in the last six years."

The turning point came in the last few weeks when Blackie attacked a postman as he pushed envelopes through her letter box. Unaware of what lurked behind the door his latest victim was left with a series of open wounds.

"I came home and Blackie was sitting there like butter wouldn't melt in his mouth, but I knew something was wrong because he had blood on his claws."

Ms. Hogben insists that with her, Blackie is as cuddly as can be, but she acknowledges that he has "problems with people in uniform" and "authority issues."

She's not just posting the warning sign and expecting people to defend themselves, either: from that point on, she promised, she'd be locking Blackie in another room whenever there is a knock at the door. I feel we have to ask the owners of Boo and Magic and Georgi and all the others: Is that so hard?

Don't mess with the cat on the mailbox in that photo by Flickr user cindy47452.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

When cats attack, part 2: Felines go postal

Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night keep the mailman from his duty. But, in England at least, claws are a different matter.

As we saw on Monday, two stories this year of cats attacking postmen got this blog's bad-animal-sense twitching. Was this just the tip of a feline iceberg?

In fact, fairly cursory research revealed that these stories crop up quite regularly, and the cats are not the only problem: it's also their owners.

-In August 2002, a carrier attacked by cats called Boo Boo and Yogi told a dramatic story:

"I put up with it the first couple of times, but the last scratch was quite deep. Blood was dripping on to the driveway and over other letters in my bag. After the attack the cat jumped up on the window sill and looked out at me as if to say 'got you that time'."

The owner, as in our previous cases, was disbelieving:

Mr Davies said: "I can't understand the attacks. They are both really well behaved cats but are very playful."

Perhaps, in another instance of us being two countries divided by a common language, the Brits use the word "playful" to mean "bloodthirsty"? (It would explain a lot about their soccer culture, I suppose.)

- In May 2004, a family had to install a mailbox at their front gate because the attacks of their cat Bat meant that postmen were at risk approaching the door.

The Coyne family realised they had a problem with their territorial pet when an official letter from the Royal Mail arrived complaining about their "guard cat".

It said the postman had been scratched and "more incredible than this, your cat has been known to jump onto the postman's leg and dig its claws in".

-In December 2007, Georgi left a postman bleeding after scratching his hands as he put letters through the door. Her owner, typically, denied any malicious intent: "I think she only wants the letters but obviously she must just accidentally catch his fingers."

-In June 2009, another owner poo-pooed the threat when he got a letter threatening suspension of delivery:

Mr Ridge said friends and neighbours thought the threat was laughable and he plans to ignore the letter.

"We were not around when this happened, but it seems some mail was put through the letterbox and their hand was scratched.

"Illy is only a kitten and I am sure she was just playing."

Mr Ridge, who runs a fruit and veg business, added: "Everyone finds it so amusing that our playful kitten has been mistaken for some savage beast."

- In October 2009, the owners of Magic got that same letter after he dashed out his cat door and attacked the carrier three days in a row. The head of delivery services had to bravely come to their house to deliver the news as well, because, of course, they couldn't see the problem:

"I told them my cat wouldn't hurt a fly... He's a soft cat. We've never seen him attack someone and we've never heard of him hurting anyone before. I can't believe they are saying this."

As these stories show, cat attacks on the mail are not only a regular occurrence, the problem is compounded by the owners, who react with either disbelief and laughter.

But as a postal spokesperson said in the case of Bat:"The safety of our people is paramount and attacks by animals are not amusing when you're at the receiving end."

Fortunately, some attack-cat owners are better role models. We'll turn to those encouraging stories on Monday.

Monday, November 8, 2010

When cats attack.... part 1

Cats appear strangely infrequently on this blog. Given how many of them there are and how closely they live with us, you'd expect to see reports of their misbehavior frequently. Is it possible that they're actually a creature that's less troublesome than average?

Recently two different stories of feline misbehavior came to this blog's attention and started a train of thought that suggests otherwise.

In the first, in New Zealand, a cat actually managed to delay train service, a pretty impressive accomplishment for a small animal:
New Zealand railway officials said a train was delayed for half an hour due to injuries the driver sustained from a confrontation with a stowaway cat....

The cat is believed to have hopped aboard the train at the Wairarapa station and was discovered when the train stopped at Wellington station.

The train driver attempted to catch the feline in a box but wound up with scratches that required bandages. The train was delayed while a replacement driver was located.

In the second, in England, a family has been threatened with loss of mail delivery service because their cat scratched the postman.

The home has a mail slot through the door, about six inches from the ground, the perfect height for a cat entertainment device, if by "entertainment" you mean sticking your claws out and slashing at anything that comes near.

The owners poo-pooed the risk posed by their the cat Lana, who their children playfully call Lana Banana. "She's really docile, I can pick her up like a baby and she won't bat an eyelid," said their mother, and insisted that the cat had just been "playful" when it swiped at the mail carrier's hand as he was pushing mail through the slot.

Now, you may laugh at this story. After all, it's funny because this never happens - isn't it dogs that are supposed to attack the postman?

Well, not so fast. Back in the spring, this blog made brief mention of another English cat whose behavior actually did result in mail delivery being stopped to his owners' residence.

Tiger's owner also poo-pooed the authorities' excessive reaction to reports that he attacked mail carriers as they approached the door and chased them down the path. "Tiger is 19 years old, he dribbles when he sleeps and snores - he sleeps for 20 hours a day," she scoffed.

One case of a cat attacking a mailman, fine, but two? In fact, in the story of Lana, a Royal Mail spokesman was quoted as follows: "Unfortunately, animal attacks are a hazard faced by our employees and we record around 5,000 animal attacks a year on our postmen and women."

It was clearly time for this blog to research this situation further. Come back on Thursday to see what we dug up on this previously unnoticed feline menace.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Monkey madness news roundup

-President Obama is scheduled to visit India next week. Whereever a world leader goes there are security issues, but in India, humans are not the only primate that are a potential problem. The Telegraph reports:

Delhi's police are to build 30-feet towers in jungle surrounding President Obama's hotel to protect him from terrorist attacks during next week's visit, and also shield from an invasion by the city's most persistent threat – monkeys.

They have been asked to erect 'machan' towers for elite commandos who will use powerful searchlights and night-sight binoculars to lookout for suspicious movement and any signs of a simian invasion.

Alongside heavily armed antiterrorist commandos, trained monkey-catchers will also be deployed.

- There's no mention of another monkey control method sometimes used in India, and perhaps for good reason. At the Commonwealth Games earlier this fall, a squad of trained anti-monkey monkeys was deployed. But apparently hiring standards are not rigorous enough to screen out thugs who abuse their power: One tried to steal a BBC reporter's phone, sending him to the hospital for treatment of a wound and rabies and tetanus shots. And they're no more reliable with the locals: recently in one neighborhood, the langur monkey brought in to protect people from monkey attacks didn't exactly solve the problem when it bit one of the residents.

-Elsewhere, a repeat offender is caught in Croatia:

This Macaque ape made a monkey of zoo security when he was caught slipping out of his cage to raid local gardens for tasty snacks.

Keen veg grower Zdenek Lounovi, 70, could barely believe his eyes when he looked down his back lawn and saw the beast munching on his rhubarb and turnips.

...Keepers at nearby Olomouc Zoo admitted the ape was theirs and set up a hidden camera in his enclosure to check how he had been getting out.

"He was pretty sneaky. He'd pulled part of his fence away and covered the hole with a board so he could come and go as he pleased."

- And finally, the photo above was taken by a tourist as he was being insulted by a mandrill called Jackson at the San Francisco Zoo. Zoo authorities explained that the monkey did not mean to be rude, that the gesture was merely the result of "a form of arthritis."

Yeah, sure.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The REAL bear problem

So word has it that people in Germany are in a tizzy about the dating problems of Knut, the former cute polar cub who was hand-reared and became world famous. The Telegraph reports, kindly translating the German news for us:

"Knut, the public's favourite, has become a heap of misery," said Germany's mass-selling daily Bild. "Instead of enjoying himself with the three ladies, he cowers fearfully in a corner," added the more staid Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

Hopes that Knut might form a romantic attachment with one of the females appear to have been dashed as stories emerged of violent maulings.

One video posted online showed Katjuscha hurling herself at Knut's throat, in an apparent attempt to bite him, before tipping him into the water.

"These sad images of Knut are pulling the heartstrings of people around the world," said Bild.

Knut's keeper sensibly downplays this nonsense, saying "it was only two minutes in the life of a bear."

It shouldn't surprise anyone that Knut is having lady problems. It was earlier reported that he appeared to be "relieved" that a potential girlfriend brought all the way from Italy had been sent home.

And in fact, a couple of years ago, one zoologist warned that due to his hand-reared background, Knut would never successfully mate, saying the bear had "become addicted to human beings" and describing him as a "psychopath".

But why on earth are people concerned about this bear's relationship issues in the first place? Bears don't worry about your love life. These are animals that will mug a man in his own driveway for a hero sandwich, break into our homes and steal our pizza, and are close to learning how to steal our cars.

And while maybe a bear attacking a hunter can claim self defense - perhaps even if it chases him up into a tree - bears will also go after campers sleeping innocently in their tents and one recently attacked a Washington state man who was just walking his dog:

Bellevue City Councilman John Chelminiak says one of the things he remembers most vividly about the bear attack that left him with critical injuries was when the animal went for his head.

"Being bitten... and the sound that that makes as her teeth were going into my head and running along the skull," Chelminiak during his first interview since the Sept. 17 attack. "It was just a horrendous fight."

Chelminiak lost his left eye, and calls it a miracle that doctors were able to piece him back together.

Bear attacks are also on the rise in Japan, and you're not even safe when you're already dead: in Russia, bears have started looking for food in human graveyards.

Masha Vorontsova, Director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), admits it's not due to any critical food shortage or anything, either:
"In Karelia one bear learned how to do it [open a coffin]. He then taught the others," she added, suggesting: "They are pretty quick learners."

According to Vorontsova, the omnivorous bears had "plenty to eat" this autumn, with foods such as fish and ants at normal levels. The bears raided graveyards because they offered a supply of easy food, she said, a bit like a giant refrigerator.

Even Ms Vorontsova, whose job no doubt requires her to be a defender of bears, is unable to stomach her rationalization, though, and she adds, "The story is horrible. Nobody wants to think about having a much loved member of their family eaten by a bear."

Lovely. So, anyway, I think I'll pass on worrying about the romantic problems of bears, and I suggest you do the same.

Photo from Flickr user foxgrrl to remind us that ALL advice from bears is bad advice.