Thursday, March 29, 2012

Turkey Terror Updates

I'm shocked to find that it's been a year since we covered the wild turkey situation. With apologies for neglecting this important issue, here are a few recent incidents showing that their incursions have not slowed down:

-A normal Friday morning was interrupted at a high school in Brockton, Massachusetts, when a turkey crashed through a third floor window into a classroom. Fortunately it was before class had started, but enough people were around to get photos and video.

-In Michigan, a woman is being stalked in her own home by a tom she's nicknamed Godzilla.
He lurks in her front yard, screeching at her constantly, even jumping out occasionally and attacking her when she dares wander outside alone.

"I'm afraid to go out of my house," said Geisler, 69. "I have to go to the post office at 6 o'clock in the morning to avoid him."

When she returned home with groceries recently, Geisler couldn't get in her front door.

"I had to go next door to the neighbors and have him use a push broom to keep him away while I brought the groceries in," Geisler said.

The bird seems to treat harassing this woman as his job, commuting in from a nearby woods each morning and returning in the evening. A wildlife official suggests scaring the bird off with a big umbrella, but a reporter notes another possible strategy: turkey hunting season begins in just a few weeks.

-And a neighborhood in northeast Minneapolis is living with an entire flock of turkeys which stroll boldly down the street as in the photo above.

A recent community meeting heard reports that a woman had to beat the birds off when they attacked her toddler and a postal worker had one jump on her back.

But some downplay the danger. "At most, they are a 15 to 20 pound bird. What harm are they going to do to you?" said a wildlife officer. And many encourage the birds by feeding them.

Worst of all, some even celebrate the enemy: One local store reportedly sells a t-shirt reading "I heart the Johnson Street turkeys."

Monday, March 26, 2012

Panda-preoccupation Payback

The goal of this blog is to unmask the secrets of cute animals and reveal how they cloud men's (and women's) minds. And there's no animal that does a better job of that than the panda.

Millions of dollars are spent on conserving this animal that scientists admit is basically crummy. People want baby pandas so badly that they're willing to humiliate themselves to help them reproduce. And zoos have even gone so far as to silence other animals' expressions of dissent against the panda-industrial complex.

Frankly, I'm so tired of fighting this battle that I can only be pleased by recent news of a plan to exploit this ridiculous obsession. An entrepreneur in China is growing tea organically fertilized by panda poop, and he's going to milk idiot panda-lovers for every last cent he can:

Each lot of 50 grams will then go for 22,000 yuan (£2,200), which according to Mr An makes for the world's dearest cup of tea.

Most people use about three grams per cup, meaning each one brewed would set one back over £130.

That's about 200 US dollars at current exchange rates.

There must be some reader of this blog with the business sense to jump on this and import the stuff. After all, nothing else seems to be working to get the economy going again. If there's a chance we can pull this country out of a recession by standing on the backs of panda-lovers, there is nothing that would please me more.

In the meantime, contribute to economic activity by buying that bad panda t-shirt here.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Mauled and mortified

I probably don't have to tell you to be afraid of crocodiles and their relatives. I'm sure you have the sense to be wary of crocodilians even without reading recent research proving that saltwater crocodiles have the strongest bite of any living animal.

You probably also know enough to stay away from gharials - that crocodilian with the incredibly skinny snout - even without knowing that the same research shows that their delicate-looking jaw can bite just as hard as that of its stockier-looking relatives.

And you're probably afraid enough of modern crocs without knowing that their ancestors were the most dangerous biters even when dinosaurs walked the earth. The same scientist devised a way to calculate the bite strength of extinct animals, and concluded that ancient crocs bit harder than a T. rex.

So you know these creatures are dangerous. But recent news shows that an attack by these animals can also be extremely embarrassing:

-In Uganda, a crocodile recently chewed off a man's buttocks.

-We all hope for a more dignified death than the Indonesian man who was killed by a croc while pooping on a river bank.

-And in Zimbabwe, a man wading across a river "had his testicles and part of his manhood torn into shreds" by a croc. He only escaped with his life by dropping a box of tomatoes he was carrying, distracting the animal.

Of course, what these examples also show is you're most likely to get yourself bit in an unmentionable place by a croc if you are using poor judgment. The Ugandan "reportedly jumped into the lake to evade law enforcement officials." And that poor emasculated fellow told reporters that he was wearing only his underwear because he had had taken off his pants so they wouldn't get wet.

Dry pants, or an extra layer of protection for your most delicate organs? The choice is apparently not as obvious as I would have thought. Yes, these animals are bad - so let's make sure we have our priorities straight around them, OK?

Don't underestimate the absurd-looking snout of the gharial in that photo by Flickr user Chris Gray.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Don't bring a gun to a bear fight

New research about how to defend yourself against bears has some bad news and some good news - and, unsurprisingly, brings the bad animal enablers out in force.

The bad news is that even if you have the right to bear arms, arms aren't always effective against bears. Yes, a gun worked to kill or drive off the animal in 80 percent of cases, but it turned out that statistic is not as comforting as it sounds. Many people were mauled or killed anyway, resulting in the surprising conclusion that carrying a gun made no statistical difference to the outcome of a human-bear encounter.

How is this possible? Bears aren't immune to bullets, thank goodness, but people often couldn't load or shoot fast enough. And there's another reason guns were ineffective that should not surprise readers of this blog: one-fifth of the armed humans were reluctant to use the weapon against the animal.

If that's not enough bad-animal enabling for you, another "expert" suggested that what we should really do is - wait for it - try to reason with the bear:

Talking in a calm voice, not moving when the bear's coming toward you, giving the bear a chance to think things over and realize you're not threatening. A lot of times that will resolve the situation.

Yes, we've got professional wildlife experts suggesting that we should let bears "think things over." Still, all is not hopeless. While the study author said "A charging animal is like a small car running at you," fortunately there's at least one big difference between a small car and a bear: bears don't like pepper spray. In an earlier study, he found that pepper spray worked for all but three of 156 people in 71 conflicts with bears.

I like those odds better - and it also means that if you're ever caught unarmed in a pizza shop invaded by a bear, at least you can try throwing the shaker of red pepper flakes.

Illustration by Natalie Dee, who is obviously not a bear enabler.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Bad animal news briefs

Animal muggers don't only pick on someone their own size:
A fully-grown man has told how he was mugged by a fox, which cornered him and forced him into handing over his dinner. .. The wily fox, which had been sitting on a kerb at the side of the road, followed him into an alleyway... The aggressive animal leapt at him, circling him like prey and trying to snatch his shopping bag.

Despite making attempts to escape, the fox persisted and carried out a sustained attack on the food he had just bought from Tesco.

Eventually, Mr Baker claims, he resorted to offering the animal his loaf of garlic bread and the fox scampered off.

-Animals aren't concerned about their carbon footprint: in England, a town blames seagulls for keeping their streetlights on 24 hours a day:
Council chiefs in Brighton, East Sussex, say that the light-sensitive photocell mechanism on top of the lamps is being blocked by the birds’ droppings, fooling the system into thinking that it is permanently night time.

-I don't know exactly what's going on here but it's definitely bad behavior:
After two unexpected pregnancies at a sanctuary for retired research chimpanzees, other female chimps have been put on birth control and the males are getting a new round of vasectomies.

The pregnancy at Chimp Haven, opened in 2005 near Shreveport, was discovered on Valentine's Day when a worker noticed Flora, a 29-year-old chimp, carrying a newborn.

An ultrasound Friday confirmed 49-year-old Ginger also was pregnant and due in late July or early August, Brent said.

Every male gets a vasectomy before being sent to Chimp Haven because there's a surplus of captive chimpanzees.

Artist Sandy Skoglund imagines the next nightmarish step in the fox takeover of our prepared food establishments, photographed by Flickr user wallyg.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Mainstream media fails to ferret out pro-panda plot

It's not often that a news story makes me as ambivalent as this seemingly insignificant article about the Edinburgh zoo penguin colony being shut for maintenance.

Seems routine and hardly of interest to an outsider, right? Only the most attentive reader would realize the import: This is apparently the same penguin colony we reported on a few months ago because it was pooping on visitors lined up along the side of its exhibit.

You'd think I'd berate such behavior, but there was a twist: The visitors were waiting in line to see the zoo's new panda exhibit.

There are few animals as infuriating as pandas. Their power to cloud our minds with cuteness is unsurpassed. Millions of dollars are spent to bring them to American zoos where they sit and do no more than a stuffed animal would. And yet more money is spent convincing them to reproduce in captivity, with deranged humans going so far as to dress up in panda suits to raise the babies.

So although I rarely side with animals against humans, there was a bigger issue at stake here, and I praised the penguins for their anti-panda poo protest.

And now we see the risk when you try to raise a stink about pandas: The protesting penguins are being forcibly relocated - some until the summer when their exhibit is scheduled to reopen, but some permanently.

The report by the Edinburgh Evening News does refer to the zoo's pandas, but it's clearly an irrelevant side note, dropped in simply because no reporter can write a story about a zoo with pandas without mentioning them:

Meanwhile, Edinburgh Zoo’s giant panda pair, Tian Tian and Yang Guang, are ready to welcome their 100,000th visitor today, less than four months after arriving from China.

The reporter seems oblivious of the history between these penguins and the pandas. And it was obviously not mentioned by zoo publicists - who are a major part of the panda-industrial complex and no doubt insiders to this conspiracy.

The story also notes that while the relocation is temporary for some of the penguins, some are moving as far away as Belfast and Denmark, and "Some will never return."

This is surely significant. Decisions about where to send zoo animals are never made randomly. What better opportunity for the pro-panda cabal to identify the ringleaders and put a permanent stop to their demonstration?

Photo of the penguin perp walk from the Edinburgh Evening News. Will any of our Scottish readers stand up for these brave protestors? Occupy Pandas!

Thursday, March 8, 2012


Really, there are some post titles that can only be in ALL CAPS.

We've seen before that animals have no respect for the sacred eternal resting places of our human dead, with crows stealing candles from a cemetery and squirrels stealing Memorial Day flags of the graves of soldiers. And of course this blog is an endless chronicle of humans enabling bad animal behavior by making excuses and refusing to stand up to it.

These two themes come together in a particularly gruesome fashion in Britain, where badgers are actually digging up human skeletons - and apparently there is nothing that can be done to stop them.

One cemetery that has the problem, in Swindon, opened in 1881 and is the final resting place of 33,000 people including 100 soldiers who fought in World War I. Another, in a churchyard in the village of Long Clawson, dates back to the 12th century, and stopped taking new burials in the early 1900s because it was full.

In both places, bodies are now being disturbed by badgers digging tunnels. Earlier this year someone noted a skull and a bone on the ground in the Long Clawson churchyard, and it's been going on for even longer in Swindon, according to a source: "Two or three years ago I received a phone call from a distressed person to say vandals had struck," he said. “I visited the cemetery to see the grass completely torn up. I have never seen it so bad. It wasn’t vandals but the very cute badgers.”

The animals have continued to bring pieces of skeletons to the surface, and because of conservation laws there's nothing that can legally be done to stop the desecration. The Protection of Badgers Act, passed in 1992, makes it illegal to interfere with their activities, at the risk of a sentence of six months in jail.

The reverend of the church has been unable to get a permit to relocate the badgers, and the law prevents him from even re-burying the bones in their original places because it would disturb their tunnels. "I have been told to carry out a monthly bone patrol, collect them all up and re-inter them in a new grave," he said.

The reverend blames the people more than the animals: "It lacks any common sense but sadly reflects the bureaucracy of modern life." True, but if it weren't for the badgers' bad behavior, there wouldn't be a problem in the first place. There's plenty of blame to spread around here, so let's not let either species off the hook.

Badger trying to convince you it's a cute sweet thing that likes to smell flowers by Flickr user Tatterdemalion.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Dolphin sexual harrassment: video proof!

This video contains extremely clear and unmistakable proof that dolphins sexually harrass human beings. If the mere words in news stories aren't enough to convince you - or your dolphin-hugging friends - trust me, this will do it. Not safe for work. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Cats and parasites behaving badly

Foolishly, I thought everyone already knew that their cats were controlling their minds. I don't mean just with their demanding mews - you do know that cats use a special vocalization that's acoustically similar to a baby's cry, a sound that we've basically evolved to be unable to resist?

You would know that if you'd read the Animals Behaving Badly book. And you'd also know about their even more sinister method: they carry a parasite that changes your personality.

This is not news. You also could have read about it, for example, on Ed Yong's blog way back in 2008. But a new article in The Atlantic called "How Your Cat is Making You Crazy" is getting so much attention that people have clearly missed earlier coverage.

Given that so many cats have infiltrated human homes, this is an issue of major importance, and obviously I've neglected it on this blog for far too long. You've may have heard of toxoplasmosis as a disease that is carried by cats, probably in the context of warnings that pregnant women shouldn't clean the litter box. But these warnings don't go into detail about the effects that this disease may have on us. As I explain it in the book:
The parasite toxoplasma, when it infects a rat, overwhelms its fear of cats and makes it actually feel attracted to them, with predictable results for the rodent. (It then infects the cat, which is where it really wants to live.) Humans infected with toxo also show mental changes: they have an increased risk of traffic accidents, and there’s a correlation with schizophrenia. But the most frightening possibility: If it makes rats attracted to cats, does it do the same to people?

So, you think you like your cat because it's cute and warm and furry. But just maybe you like your cat because an alien that lives in your brain is telling you to and you're powerless to resist. It would explain a lot, don't you think?

Sinister kitty by Flickr user cloned milkmen.