Monday, January 30, 2012

There's no place like home

Air travel is unpleasant enough without animals getting involved. We've seen
a runway closed by turtles, a fatal crash caused by panic over a small crocodile escaping from someone's luggage, and birds dropping broken glass on a runway, just to name a few.

If you're in a cold place dreaming of travelling somewhere warm right now, perhaps a few more recent stories like these will make you feel better about staying put:

-In southern Utah, prairie dogs have become a “public safety issue” by burrowing holes in and under airport runways. A $50,000 fence has been proposed, but one legislator, citing cases where these animals have dug into caskets in cemeteries, says a fence won't be enough to keep them out.

-You're probably aware that birds can be a danger to aircraft, as in the commonly reported cases where they're sucked into engines. As the photo above shows, that's not the only possibility. That's an albatross that struck a Japan Coast Guard plane. Fortunately the plane made it to its destination safely.

-Dangerous wild animals aren't the only ones that cause problems when they get loose on a plane. A flight from Halifax to Toronto was preparing for takeoff when a cat escaped from its carrier. Good thing they decided not to proceed, because it turned out that Ripples the tabby had actually wormed his way into the cockpit wiring. Maintenance crew had to remove panels to get him out and then inspect the wiring for damage, causing a delay of almost five hours.

So I'm going to curl up on the couch with a hot chocolate and stick with looking at magazine photos of tropical places. Sure, there's still the chance my pet will set the house on fire, but I'd rather fight bad animals with my feet on solid ground.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Animal arsonists

In any given week's news you'll find a number of stories of dogs credited with saving lives by alerting their owners to a fire. Recent examples come from Michigan, Ohio, Pittsburgh... I could easily go on.

What these stories never seem to mention is that - as we've noted before - pets also CAUSE hundreds of fires every year.

For example, here on the blog we've seen a retriever that turned on a stove and set fire to a house in England, and if you've read the book, you know about the cat that committed arson by stepping on the switch of the toaster oven.

It's not just household pets, of course: In one recent case, pigs started a fire in a barn at a farm sanctuary in upstate New York, sending four employees to the hospital for smoke inhalation suffered while rescuing the animals.

But for most of us, it's cats and dogs we need to worry about. And worry we should, as one family in England discovered. It's suspected that their kittens turned on the stove by walking over a touch-sensitive control. The blaze spread to the house next door as well, and damage is so extensive that the buildings may have to be torn down.

And dogs have no concern for the consequences when they're determined to fill their bellies: elsewhere in England, a dog set fire to a home when it turned on a burner while trying to a get a pizza that was left on top of the stove.

So next time you read one of those stories of animals heroically saving their humans from a house fire, ask yourself: Maybe, just maybe, there's a good reason that they knew about the fire before everyone else?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Bad Animal Video Roundup

New cases of old animal vices, and some new insights into their depravity, caught on film:

-We've seen so many examples of animals invading places of business that it might be time to retire this one to a Hall of Fame, but what the heck, here's a deer crashing its way into a New Jersey Goodwill store.

-Way back at the beginning of this blog we met a seagull that repeatedly strolled into a store in England to steal its favorite flavor of chips. Check out another example of the thieving persistence of these birds as this gull steals lunch from someone's backpack, completely unconcerned at being filmed the whole time.

-Ever wonder what your cat does all night? Ever wonder why you feel so tired in the morning? Maybe there's a connection. Check out this time-lapse video.

-This one shocked even me: Baboons that kidnap puppies.

-And finally: Yes, it's important to beware of the dangers of animals. But first, make sure the animal is alive. Example: Here's video from Houston of police responding to 911 calls about... a stuffed tiger.

There's even less excuse when you realize that it looks exactly like the tiger in the photo above. That one caused the same kind of ruckus in England back in June. People, you need to keep up with this blog!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

"Vegetarian orang-utans eat world's cutest animal"

That's the headline from New Scientist, reporting on a study published in the International Journal of Primatology.

I could just let that headline and adorable photo stand for itself. But no, it's my job, so I'm going to rub it in. Humans love to believe that our primate relatives are basically nicer people than we are, but this is the sort of thing we always find when we look more closely. And don't think these guys are just stumbling upon roadkill and figuring what the hell, it's already dead. It's quite deliberate and calculated:
In 2007 Hardus was tracking two orangs in the canopy above her – a female called Yet and her infant Yeni – when Yet abruptly changed direction and approached a slow loris (Nycticebus coucang). She knocked it out of the tree, crashed down to the ground, bit the stunned loris's head, then carried the body back into the tree to eat it. When Yeni begged, she was allowed to share the meat. The great apes each chomped on opposite ends of the dead primate, sharing it between them like lovers might a strand of spaghetti.

The researcher also found that in all documented cases the orang stunned the loris before proceeding. This is a precaution that shows some forethought, since slow lorises have another highly unusual quality aside from their extreme cuteness: they have toxic saliva, so you don't want to get bitten before you take a bite.

Oh, and if you don't believe it? Click on the link. She got video. In these days of cameras everywhere, even apes can't hide their bad behavior for long.

Tasty little fellow photographed by Flickr user underwhelmer.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

No funny title today

In Tokyo, it's crows that are at war against the internet, stealing fiberoptic cables to build nests and cutting off people's service.

In the US, we don't need crows. We've got Congress.

Tell your representatives not to lower themselves to the level of bad animals.

(This message brought to you by Bloggers Who Aren't Sure They Could Put Their Site Back Up If They Blacked It Out For a Day United. If there isn't such a group there ought to be.)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Bad animal news briefs

A few updates in some of our traditional categories of bad animal behavior:

-Animals bringing out the worst in people: A study reveals that the average dog causes three family arguments per week, over 2000 in the course of its life:
Incredibly, in 17 per cent of households the dog disputes have got so bad one member of the family has slept in the spare room, while a quarter of those polled have been known to storm off after things got too heated.

-Animals with human vices: A parrot rescued by sanctuary in England has been barred from appearing in education programs because of his fowl - er, foul mouth. A staff member puts it delicately: "Mr T is actually a very friendly parrot but he has never lived with other parrots and he has picked up some interesting phrases and words which are not appropriate for some venues we go to."

-Endangered animals that can't blame us: A rare Sumatran tiger at the Toronto Zoo, brought all the way from San Diego for breeding purposes, killed a female instead of mating with her. The zoo spokesperson who commented that tigers "rarely kill each other" obviously doesn't read this blog.

-And finally, in the recent trend of animal home invastions, the perps are getting scarier: A family in Australia heard its dog barking and woke to find a 1.7 meter crocodile in their home. The resourceful man of the house fended it off with a guitar till wildlife officials came to subdue the creature. Identifying marks revealed that ths reptile had been on the lam since a breakout at a croc farm over six years ago.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Boars winning the battle

Wild boars are one of the recurring culprits in our bad animal tales. In the book and many previous posts we've seen them plaguing Germany. They're also a problem in the US, in locations as far apart as Texas and New York State

And the reports continue. They're tearing up yards in a fancy neighborhood in Vienna and an English town in Kent, pictured above. Recently, what was called a "reign of terror" ended when a huge boar in Florida was shot when he attacked trappers attempting to capture him. The porker had been running amuck for over a year, and two cars that hit him were totaled while the pig escaped without apparent harm. A tractor had to be called in to move the body, which was described as "as big as a Volkswagen."

These animals have no respect for what we consider sacred: now they're tearing up the grounds of Vicksburg National Military Park in Mississippi, where thousands of Civil War soldiers fought and died in 1863. "It looks like the world's biggest Rototiller has gone through some areas," says the park superintendent.

The destructive swine can be legally shot year-round in the state - "It's an all-out war on them," said a Department of Wildlife spokesman. But he has no illusions about who is going to win this modern battle of Vicksburg: "But hunting will never get rid of them. They can breed three times a year and a sow can have eight to 10 pigs each time. You do the math."

Monday, January 9, 2012

Bad birds flying under the radar

To my chagrin, I recently discovered that a considerable amount of bad bird behavior has been sneaking past me.

To be fair, this blog has been on the case even when birds are trying to avoid scrutiny by being in the news in a language other than English. We also did not miss the annual Thanksgiving update on the dangers of turkeys.

But then I spent part of the slow internet season over the holidays catching up on the always interesting Nothing to Do With Arbroath, where I found the story reported last time of the hawk flying into a woman's home to attack her Chihuahua.

And upon further perusal, I found that this blog is a trove of bird stories from the past couple of months. We've got some run-of-the-mill destructiveness:

-In England, a car dealership has had to supply umbrellas to customers even in fair weather to protect them from seagulls. Otherwise they're bombarded by both bird poo and trash from a nearby dump. "If you don't run to the showroom from your car, you will look like a dalmatian. We have had chicken carcasses and tea bags dropped on our forecourt. Chicken carcasses, dropped from a great height, will dent the cars."

-In Oklahoma, starlings tried to ruin Christmas by eating the lightbulbs in a courthouse Christmas star, costing the town $1,200 for replacements.

But, in some more interesting cases, we've got birds using a variety of strategies to get humans in hot water:

-In Wales a woman who caused a firey car crash claimed she had been distracted by a magpie flying alongside her car. To be fair, the fact that her alcohol level was over three times the legal limit may have contributed to the situation.

-But working with human vices isn't their only approach - playing on people's sympathies works too: in Lynn, Massachusetts, an 80-year-old woman is facing criminal charges for illegally feeding ducks and geese.

-And in New York, a pigeon nicknamed Fred has been dive-bombing police assigned to patrol the construction site at the former World Trade Center. Not only is Fred pooping on them, the officers have been reprimanded for defending themselves. Allegedly due to public complaints, a source told the New York Post, “We were told that if we didn’t go easy on the bird, we would get in trouble.”

Yet another warning from Flickr user Andrew Eason.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Not safe in our own homes

You might think you're safe from animals as long as you stay indoors and aren't foolish enough to invite any to live with you. But animal home invasion is an escalating trend.

In December we saw a seal lounging on a sofa and a bear living in a basement. In October it was a deer breaking into a man's home workshop. And this is leaving aside bears breaking into more public places like pizza shops and candy stores and bovines in bars and shopping malls.

And here are three more reports from all over the world, just in the past month:

-On Christmas Eve, a family in Utah was expecting their holiday to include only fictional deer. But a large buck crashed through a window, spending two hours trampling furniture and gifts before wildlife officers could arrive to subdue it.

-In the suburbs of a city in China, a red panda tried to sneak into a home while the residents were picnicking in the yard - although it appeared to have second thoughts once they started taking video of it.

-In perhaps the most frightening case, a 74-year-old woman in England had to save her Chihuahua from a hawk. The raptor first attacked the pup on the patio, then followed it into the house. After wrestling the bird off the dog three times, she finally chased it out. The brave woman told reporters, “I just said ‘you’re damn not going to kill him’."

Keep your doors locked and your windows barred... and come back Monday for more reasons to watch your back.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Mainstream media gets it perfect for once

There is nothing I could possibly add to or delete from this brilliant story from the Associated Press, and inspired by this crocodile's gall, I'm going to start the New Year off all animal-like by simply stealing the whole thing:

SYDNEY (AP) — A giant saltwater crocodile named Elvis with an apparent affinity for household machinery charged at an Australian reptile park worker Wednesday before stealing his lawn mower.

Tim Faulkner, operations manager at the Australian Reptile Park, north of Sydney, was one of three workers tending to the lawn in Elvis' enclosure when he heard reptile keeper Billy Collett yelp. Faulkner looked up to see the 16-foot (5-meter), 1,100-pound (500-kilogram) crocodile lunging out of its lagoon at Collett, who warded the creature off with his mower.

"Before we knew it, the croc had the mower above his head," Faulkner said. "He got his jaws around the top of the mower and picked it up and took it underwater with him."

The workers quickly left the enclosure. Elvis, meanwhile, showed no signs of relinquishing his new toy and guarded it closely all morning.

Eventually, Faulkner realized he had no other choice but to go back for the mower.

Collett lured Elvis to the opposite end of the lagoon with a heaping helping of kangaroo meat while Faulkner plunged, fully clothed, into the water. Before grabbing the mower, however, he had to search the bottom of the lagoon for two 3-inch (7-centimeter) teeth Elvis lost during the encounter. He quickly found them and escaped from the pool, unharmed and with mower in tow.

Though many may question the wisdom of going after a couple of teeth with a massive crocodile lurking just feet away, Faulkner said finding them was critical. "They clog up the filter systems," he said.

And, he said, "They're a nice souvenir."

Elvis has a history of crankiness and has lunged at staff before, though this is the first time he has stolen something from one of the workers. The croc was initially captured in the northern Australian city of Darwin, where he had been attacking fishing boats. He was then moved to a crocodile farm, where he proceeded to kill his two crocodile girlfriends.

In 2008, he was moved to the reptile park, where he has enjoyed solitary confinement in his own enclosure.

"When they are the dominant croc, they're just full of testosterone," Faulkner said. "He's got his beautiful own yard, he wants to be a solitary creature. He's happy."

Despite having to give up the lawn mower, Elvis was clearly pleased with himself, Faulkner said.

"He's beaten us today ... he's kingpin," Faulkner said. "He's going to be walking around with his chest puffed out all day."

As for the staff at the reptile park?

"I can't lie, the bosses are not going to be happy about the cost of a new lawn mower," Faulkner said with a laugh. "(But) we love it. No one's injured ... and when you get scared and it all turns out to be good, it's actually quite enjoyable."