Thursday, May 31, 2012

Vacation Linkarama

While I slave over taking the pugs on their June beach weekend, read the following admirable coverage of bad animals elsewhere on the internet:

- That photo sequence is from a remarkable blog about those bad baboons in South Africa;

- Excellent coverage of other bad primates, in India this time, by the New York Times;

- And so you don't forget that small animals can be very bad also, a story of the massacre of endangered seabirds - by mice.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Bad Animal News Briefs

-On this blog we've seen bears going after pizza, candy, birthday cake and sandwiches, but now they're really getting personal: a man on a camping trip in Ontario was attacked by a bear while he was using the outhouse:

When asked if the attack scared the "you-know-what" out of him, Shurvell replied, "It was already gone!"

"I'd already done my business," he added. "All the defence I had is a … piece of [toilet] paper in this hand."

-We've also seen many animals with a taste for alcohol (and you can read a whole chapter about it in the book), but some cows in Boxford, Mass. took this to new heights by actually crashing a party to get at the beer. A police officer was following some delinquent bovines down the street when they headed into a backyard:
He witnessed about 10-13 young people run from a picnic table where they had been drinking beer when the cows arrived. The young women all jumped up on the rear deck of the house to avoid contact with the cows.

Meanwhile, the party cows were helping themselves to the beer, knocking the beer-filled cups off the table. “I saw one cow drinking the beer on its way down as it spilled off the table,” the lieutenant said.

“Some of the cows were also picking through the empties in the recycling bin,” said Lt. Riter. “They just went in and helped themselves.”

The partiers, reportedly mostly from out of town and unused to rural bad animal behavior, were in a panic, but locals were unsurprised:
When he was first received a picture of the cows via cell phone, Police Chief Michael Murphy thought they were deer. But then he realized, no, “It’s just a bunch of cows having a few beers.”

-And finally, another blow against bad animals, this time in Tanzania, where they've discovered a safe and effective way to prevent elephants from stealing crops: take advantage of the fact that they don't like spicy food.

The problem is explained by the Wall Street Journal:
Birds and insects cause crop damage, too. But they don't consume 660 pounds of food in 18 hours, as big elephants tend to do. Herds of 15 to 20 can quickly wipe out an entire field and obliterate all the work of a subsistence farmer.

African elephants also can be very sneaky.

Crop raiders tend to work as teams—typically involving three to five elephant family members. Farmers say a lone elephant will scout for tasty, ripe crops. The next night, the scout returns with ravenously hungry reinforcements.

After ruling out many possible solutions, a researcher noticed their dislike of hot pepper. So now, fences are being slathered with a mixture of oil and chilis - and elephants are walking up to the fences and abruptly turning away:

One farmer says he watched an elephant pause at the fence and then try to reverse through it holding his trunk up in the air to avoid the stink.

What if they develop a taste for the stuff? Researchers working on keeping one step ahead, and already have another plan:
Elephants don't like being stung by bees flying up their noses. African elephants are known to avoid acacia trees occupied by honey bees, so villagers in the south of the country are now constructing lines of beehives spaced around fields. When an elephant crosses these lines, says Mr. Malugu, villagers "shake the hive and release the bees, sending the elephants running."

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Out of the frying pan

We often pay tribute to those who stand up to bad animals on this blog, sometimes those who improvise impressively, like the woman who defended her dog from a bear with a zucchini.

In that story the bear was frightened away, but today's hero went a step further in the use of kitchen supplies for defense against bad animals. Brandon Arnold was camping with friends when his dog Apollo was attacked - at first, he thought, by another dog:

 Jones grabbed the neck of both animals to try to pull them apart. That's when they all figured out the other animal wasn't a dog.

Jones let go real fast. "I started screaming at the top of my lings, "Holy (bleep), it's a mountain lion!"

The lion ran into the mesquite bushes and Apollo ran after it while the men frantically looked for the nearest weapon... Arnold grabbed a 14-inch cast-iron skillet heating up on the propane stove and did what he had to do to save Apollo.

"The first time I had a clear shot I just swung the pan and hit him right on the head," Arnold said. "It was like a cartoon - he just kind of stopped and I hit him again. He got stiff and fell over." 
Even after tests came back showing that the mountain lion was rabid, Brandon Arnold downplayed his actions, saying he was just trying to save his dog. He was described as "sheepish" about his heroics: "It was the adrenaline," he said. "I'm not a badass or anything."

 "Badass" or not, Mr. Arnold, this blog salutes you.

 Thanks for the tip to the always interesting Nothing to Do with Arbroath. Sign that's obviously missing some important advice from Flickr user kmanohar.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Lemur on the Lam

Probably nothing could be written that is better than those photos standing on their own, but here goes: This is a ring-tailed lemur that escaped from a zoo in England. It was first spotted by a resident who told the story:

"We saw an unusual-looking animal in the middle of the road. We had to stop for it and we were astonished to see that it was a ring-tailed lemur.
"We went on our way, but called home to let my wife Debbie know that it had just walked past us and was heading towards Berrynarbor."
His wife opened the door to find the lemur happily mincing down the family's driveway.
Mr Denyer said: "Debbie stepped out of our front door and was amazed to see the lemur strolling casually down our driveway, eventually stopping in our front yard."
The couple called the wildlife park assuming it was their lemur, but after getting no reply she called the police and told a bemused operator it was a real lemur.

The lemur was recaptured without incident, but for a change, it looks like this is a case where an animal is actually going to pay for its misbehavior - and for not having the sense to appreciate its good fortune. According to an owner of the zoo:
"It is the second time we have had a lemur escape the park this year... They are clearly getting too mischievous and naughty for their own good.
It's a shame because at the moment they roam free around the park, but now we're thinking we will have to contain them for their own safety. You would have thought that 28 acres would be enough for them, but obviously not."

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Malice aforethought

A chimp who made a breakthrough in the science of bad animals is back in the news.

As we reported previously, Santino had a habit of throwing stones at zoo visitors, but this was not just the usual spontaneous primate poop-throwing sort of thing: He gathered ammunition when no one was watching and hid caches of it around his exhibit. What's more, he didn't bother to collect these secret supplies when the zoo was closed to visitors over the winter.

It seemed obvious to many that he was gathering the stones to be ready to throw them at people, so Santino was used as an argument that animals can plan for the future, one of the many abilities that our species likes to claim are uniquely human.

But scientists, like everyone else, are reluctant to believe that animals deliberately behave badly, so some were still skeptical. Sure, he made piles of stones, but maybe he had collected them for some other reason, and they just happened to be at hand when he got the urge to hurl something.

But now researchers have reported additional evidence for Santino's carefully planned deception. First he learned to look innocent: instead of screaming and displaying his anger, he might just walk by munching on an apple, and then make his surprise attack.  And now, he's concealing the stones in ways that let him get closer to his victims before he throws them: for example, he'll place a pile of hay near where visitors hang out and use it to hide some stones. He's also used logs for the same purpose.

This behavior is new since the original research was reported. Perhaps once his fame spread, people knew not to get close when he was holding rocks, so he was inspired to new heights of deception.

Some scientists are still quibbling. But now, Santino, sensible people aren't coming near one of your hay piles. You're going to come up with something else new, and we'll be watching.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Not safe in my own home

I've written about animal arsonists - and even canine ones - before, but it's never struck quite so close to home as this story out of Minnesota that I reproduce here in its entirety:
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO)A family dog started a fire inside a Chaska home after climbing atop a pile of items and relieving itself onto an electrical outlet last week.
The Chaska Fire Department said it quickly extinguished the fire. Authorities determined that the dog, a pug, had caused the fire after the strong scent of urine was found emanating from the outlet.
Initially, it appeared unlikely that the pug would be able to lift its leg high enough to hit the outlet. But closer inspection revealed that the pug likely climbed atop items that were on the floor, the department said.
It is not known how much damage the house sustained. Authorities also gave no word as to the health of the pug.
You'd think if anyone would know better than to allow these animals in their home, it would be me. But I'm just as much a victim of cute animals as the rest of you. We're all in this together, so let's all take a moment to check our smoke alarms - AND make sure there are no piles to climb on next to our electrical outlets.

Scofflaw pugs by yours truly. Yes, I am a slave to those dogs. Did you think I didn't personally know what I was talking about on this blog?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Barrage of bad bears

Unless your Internet connection has been down, no doubt you've seen that picture of a tranquilized bear falling out of a tree at the University of Colorado. But that moment of success is just one drop in a deluge of bad bear news:

- In Pennsylvania, bears chased a weatherman off his outdoor broadcast set

-A bear wandering a Florida neighborhood seems to have a drinking problem: it ripped open a case of beer on one resident's front porch, and also was seen lurking around a local Tiki bar.

-A bear crashed right through the glass door into a New Jersey school. Although the school's mascot is a bear, authorities deny any deeper meaning to the incursion: "All indications are that it was an accidental entry."

-And finally (for now), one that we'll count as a success story: A family in Montana visited their lakeside cabin at New Year's and found it had been ransacked. Although oddly, only blankets, pillows and comforters were missing, they assumed they'd been burgled - until they found a bear settled down for the winter in the crawlspace under the cabin, cozy in all their bedding.

They decided that they had no choice but to let the bear stay till spring, but authorities recently confirmed that it is gone. It moved on in early April, and cabin owner Judy Wing is now working on sealing up their crawlspace, and although the bear left the bedding behind, destroying it - “That fragrance wouldn’t be my favorite,” she said.

Monday, May 7, 2012

A blow against bad bird behavior

After a multi-year battle, a violent swan has finally been removed from the River Cam in England.

The bird had earned the nickname Mr Asbo, which is British slang for "Anti-Social Behavior Order." One rower described his behavior:
"He is not like the other swans on the river. As soon as he saw you approach he would be there waiting and there was no way around him as he would sit in the middle and then close in to attack you. Once he even did a 'drone-style attack', taking off and flapping into my lap, virtually knocking me out."
But despite repeated offenses over the last three years, efforts to remove the swan had been thwarted by wildlife protection regulations - and by an apparent lack of concern on the part of authorities who have had a relocation permit since 2010 but failed to act on it.

This year, some said, the situation was more dangerous than ever:
"The swan is definitely the worse it has ever been. It’s not a logical bird. There is something missing in its brain... My biggest worry is that he will attack a young rower. This is a big bird and children cannot fend him off. If he knocks them out the boat, he could easily smother them with his feathers and drown them."
Yet, as recently as last month, officials said that once again, the bird could not be moved because mating season had already begun. But in a rare victory for the forces against bad animals, last week an emergency license to relocate the bird during mating season was granted, and he was caught by brave volunteers and sent to a secret location said to be sixty miles away.

And yet as usual, the animal has his defenders. One said "It's bang out of order. What right do they have to take him? He is a very intelligent swan and this is despicable."

Despicable? If you want to see despicable, read this story of a man in Chicago who was knocked out of a kayak and drowned by swans he was employed to care for. So, better late than never: we applaud the authorities in this case for realizing whose side they should be on before it went that far.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Foxes against world peace

As expressed in their charter, "The goal of the Olympic Movement is to contribute to the building of a peaceful and better world, by educating people through sport practised without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play."

Readers of this blog know that animals don't give a damn about a peaceful world or fair play. So you won't be surprised that foxes are trying to sabotage the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

According to the BBC, at a test event being held at the Royal Artillery Barracks in Woolwich, foxes have chewed through fiberoptic cables, eaten microphones, and used the podium as a toilet.

The solution may seem obvious when you learn what event is taking place: it's target shooting. But the participants refuse to step up:
Asked if some of the athletes may resort to more familiar means to rid the venue of the local wildlife, Underhill said: "We are athletes first, so we're not after shooting animals. That's not what we're here to do, we shoot targets."
And some of these people clearly don't know when they're being insulted. One said:
"Rumour has it there was a little 'present' left by the fox found in the indoor rifle range. It adds a bit of fun to the event. "

Foxes that don't care about peace or friendship by Flickr user David Kingham.