Thursday, December 31, 2009

Canines turning our own technology against us

Dogs evolved along with us, to be part of our way of life, but sometimes one has to wonder if this has gone a little too far. It's one thing for them to learn that they can get a person to produce a treat by doing a cute trick, or that the couch is the comfiest place to lie when no one is watching. It's another when they start figuring out how to work our stuff - and use it against us.

In November alone, two dogs were blamed for fatal shootings. A man in California, accused of involuntary manslaughter in his wife's death, claims that his dog tripped him while he was holding a gun. In Florida, a woman accused of murdering her husband says the family dog knocked over a shotgun.

You may think these humans are trying to shift the blame, but it would hardly be the first time a dog shot someone. In January, a teenager in Arkansas lost several toes when his dog jumped onto his shotgun. Last year, a man in Oregon was shot in the leg in a similar fashion. In the latter case, as we have so often seen, the victim is perhaps unsure where his interests lie:

His son was concerned about the dog, Henry Marcum said. "He's a good dog. It's just one of those things. It's an accident."

Sure, one dog jumping onto a shotgun could be an accident. But two begins to look like a pattern.

Now, canines going after us with actual weapons is obvious enough, but are they also getting their inspiration from TV murder mysteries? In another case, foxes in England were found to be cutting the brakes on cars.

It's hard to imagine what's in it for them, so, while not normally a conspiracy theorist, I find this suspicious. Are their cousins - our "best friends" - whispering to them through the fence, saying, "Once he's out of the way, we can share the kibble?"

Again, the humans involved obviously don't read this blog:

Sgt George Blair, head of the West Wickham Safer Neighbourhood Team, said: ‘We were pleased to be able to find an innocent explanation for the cause of the damage.'

Finally, next time you think you've left the house with your dog safely contained, consider this item from the Washington Post:

STERLING, Vinson Ct., Dec. 2. An animal control officer responded to a report of two dogs roaming a neighborhood. When the officer arrived, the dogs were back in their home. The dogs' owner said the dogs had knocked a garage door opener onto the floor and escaped when the door opened.

Useful warning from Flickr user ianturton.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Cow overhead: Attempted burglary or performance art?

A cow in England has gotten above herself
: A home owner who found her roof damaged and feared that burglars had been trying to get in, discovered that a cow had been jumping on the roof. This was good news for some, at least:
Local PC Ray Bradley said: "This was initially recorded on my figures as a burglary so I am glad I can take it off."

This blog's classical music correspondent suggests that the uppity cow may have been inspired by early twentieth-century surrealist ballet Le Boeuf sur le toit, "The Ox on the Roof." Could this be the start of a spate of surrealism-inspired bovines? We note that one of the founders of Surrealism was named Jacques Vache. More than coincidence?

According to Wikipedia, Vache "was known for his indifference and for wearing a monocle." Cows seem to have the indifferent attitude down pat, so if you see any wearing suspicious eyewear... well, we humans might as well get a piece of this, so, offer to be its agent and sell tickets?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Watch out for bad animals in your holiday travels

As if flying wasn't hard enough during the Christmas season, animals are making it worse: a flight from Houston to Columbus was delayed on Tuesday due to escaping otters.

Ohio's reported that the otters made a break from their carriers in the cargo hold and it took crew over an hour to recapture them so that the plane could continue on its journey. Some passengers initially thought that the excuse was simply a more original version of the usual implausible stories that airlines tell their customers, until they saw the otters dashing around on the tarmac.

What's more, upon arrival in Columbus, some found that otters had been rummaging around in their bags - perhaps trying to steal Christmas gifts, or maybe, make up for the lack of beverage service in the cargo hold:

Some of the passengers picking up bags in Columbus discovered that the animals had gotten into their luggage.

A man who had coffee in his suitcase found his bag open and covered in what appeared to be hay.

"Some otters got into them," he said. "They must have smelled the coffee."

Otter,obviously pleased with his wicked little self, by our friend Misterqueue.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Blizzard bad behavior brief

We are quite busy at ABB Headquarters staring out the window wondering where next to shovel a spot in the snow for small spoiled dogs to pee, but one recent story should not pass without mention:

A man in China went to all the trouble of teaching some monkeys taekwondo, and what did they do but turn and use their newly learned skills on him:
Hu Luang, 32, a bystander who photographed the incident, said: "I saw one punch him in the eye - he grabbed another by the ear and it responded by grabbing his nose. They were leaping and jumping all over the place. It was better than a Bruce Lee film."

They say you shouldn't teach a pig to sing because it wastes your time and annoys the pig. But perhaps you ought to worry that the pig would start standing outside your window in the middle of the night, belting out arias at the top of its lungs, if these monkeys are any indication of how animals thank us for teaching them complicated human cultural activities.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Delinquent dolphin

When Moko the dolphin first appeared in a New Zealand harbor, people who obviously don't read this blog called his behavior 'playful.' Now, the Telegraph reports:

Six people have needed rescuing by lifesavers in recent days as the dolphin has become more aggressive.

Among them were two 12-year-old girls who were both injured when they were "mugged" by Moko for their boards.

And a 16-year-old surfer was stranded 500 yards offshore after the delinquent dolphin stole his board.

Gisborne man Dean Makara said he was knocked out of his kayak.

...In an earlier incident, an exhausted woman swimmer feared she would drown after Moko refused to let her return to shore because he had not finished playing with her.

Of course, there are still always those who don't seem to know whose side they should be on. Such as:

There have also been calls to appoint a "guardian" to safeguard Moko's interests.

Advocates for the creature have sprung to his defence, saying they are horrified at headlines dubbing him "Moko the Menace".

Dave Head, an environmentalist who has studied Moko, angrily dismissed reports that the dolphin was a sexual predator.

And, as reported by Sky News:

Olympic kayaking double gold medallist and surf lifesaving instructor Alan Thompson said reports of Moko's behaviour were exaggerated.

He told The New Zealand Herald: "If you don't like the way he plays, then don't go out in the water."

And, a whole storyful of dolphin huggers in the local Gisborne Herald, titled "Don't Blame Moko," includes the following quote:

“It is an honour to have Moko and experience first- hand Mother Nature and [Maori sea god] Tangaroa. I have never heard of dangerous dolphins, only people being saved by them.”

But to the contrary, as readers of this blog know, despite their inexplicable charming, peaceful, new-agey-t-shirt-decoration reputation, dolphins are sexual harrassers, and gang rapists, and babykillers.

Add that to the fact of this dolphin's age - what the Telegraph described as an "exuberant and insolent hormone-pumped teenager" - and you've got a recipe for interspecies disaster, when the other species is one as clueless as our own.

Marine Science expert Professor Mark Orams has compared Moko's personality change to humans going through puberty.

"He's doing what we all do as teenagers," he said.

"He's testing his boundaries, but he's testing them on humans - and humans are coming off second best."

Photo of Moko with human trying to eliminate herself from the gene pool from the Gisborne Herald.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Fruit flies like a banana, but they like a gin and tonic even better

If this blog called an Alcoholic Animals Anonymous meeting, it would be attended by a pretty wide variety of species, including elk, elephants, and badgers.

You can also find video of drunk squirrels, and if you believe the photos here, our mythical meeting might also attract chickens, woodchucks, otters, rats, rabbits, cats, dogs, goats and ferrets. (The crab, I suspect, is clearly a setup.) If you prefer classier journalistic sources, here the New York Times mentions drunkenness in at least half of those creatures and also cows, monkeys, pigs and lorises.

Mammals aren't the only culprits, either: we've seen in previous posts that bees are worse than college students when it comes to their taste for booze.

Bees are fairly complicated as insects go, though, and you might figure that such a hard-working insect might need to drink to relax more than most. But now research reveals that even fruit flies can become alcoholics. As reported by Science News:

Earlier studies found that alcohol has profound physiological effects on fruit flies, but the new study is one of the first to offer flies the choice to drink. Anita Devineni and Ulrike Heberlein, both of the University of California, San Francisco, devised a fly-sized drinking device reminiscent of the water bottles in hamster cages.

Given the choice between plain and alcoholic beverages, the study found, fruit flies preferred alcohol. They also developed a tolerance, gradually coming to prefer stronger drink. The researchers observed drunken behavior, although in fruit flies, this was pretty much confined to "hyperactivity and loss of coordination," since they were not given access to lampshades to put on their heads or cars to drive into stationary objects.

If you've ever wondered how certain alcoholic beverages become popular and traditional despite how nasty they taste, this study also suggests that this phenomenon extends to much more primitive creatures than ourselves:

Fruit flies accustomed to alcohol continued to drink despite potential harm, the team found. When the researchers laced the booze-food mix with small amounts of the toxic chemical quinine, those flies continued to drink, even though fruit flies normally avoid the chemical. “I was actually pretty surprised when they continued to drink it,” Devineni says.

Remarkably lovely photo of fruit fly from Flickr user Max xx.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Retriever commits arson

A dog started a fire at a home in Wales resulting in 6,000 pounds worth of damage. As reported by the North Wales Daily Post:

The dog jumped up and nudged on a switch for a range oven. That heated up a chip pan on the griddle which eventually set fire to the kitchen. Owner Paul Gregson said: “We’re calling him Alfie the arsonist now.”

The dog's owner theorized that he was looking for something to eat:

Three-year-old Alfie is a liver-coloured, flat-coated retriever who Paul described as “very lively, bouncy and smelly”.

He added: “The breed is a cross between a pointer and a red setter. They are slow to mature – if they mature at all. He exists to eat. He’s a walking stomach.”

This blog's official Flat-Coated Retriever expert, when contacted, was unsurprised by this story, given that her dog had once turned on the stove and filled the kitchen with gas. "This is why I have childproof knobs on all my burner knobs," she commented, and provided the above photo of a flatcoat, thus thwarted from arson, trying to figure out how to start a flood instead.

An additional flatcoat owner who was consulted described an incident in which her dog waved his tail over the burner and caught it on fire. She now has an electric stove.

They tell you to do your breed research, but, man, you don't find this stuff in the books.

Monday, December 7, 2009

That'll show 'em

Bees. We're supposed to appreciate them for pollinating our food, and be in a panic about a mysterious disease affecting them. We're also supposed to be impressed that these tiny creatures have an amazing communication system, where they're able to direct their hivemates to food using a complex dance.

I was pleased to run across this comic for those of us who are tired of being told to be impressed by animals, suggesting a way to take it out on bees:

(Click the cartoon for larger version, or see the original at Abstruse Goose.)

As we saw earlier, of course, the dance might not be all it's cracked up to be. Check out another cartoon where the bees agree here.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Innocent man arrested for murder committed by drunk elk

The post title says it all on this one: A man in Sweden was arrested and jailed for ten days after finding the body of his wife, who had not returned from walking her dog. He has now been cleared of suspicion after technicians found physical evidence pointing to a very different perpetrator, according to the BBC:
Now the case has been dropped after forensic analysis found elk hair and saliva on his wife's clothes.

No motive has been reported, but the following is a warning to shiftless gardeners that your lazy clean-up habits can have dangerous consequences:
The European elk, or moose, is usually considered to be shy and will normally run away from humans. But Swedish Radio International says the animals can become aggressive after eating fermented fallen apples in gardens.

Threatening elk look by Flickr user SigmaEye.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Employment statistics going to the dogs

As if the unemployment rate wasn't high enough already, now DOGS are getting jobs that ought to belong to people:

St Petersburg Times -
The sequence of events happens dozens of times every day at the BP gas station/convenience store at U.S. 19 at Nursery Road.

An unsuspecting customer pulls up to the drive-through window. But instead of a store clerk, up pops two paws, deep brown eyes and the tongue-flapping grin of a happy chocolate Labrador retriever named Cody.

The dog's owner disavows any intent to replace humans with lower-paid canines. He says he just wanted his dog for company at work, and that he put the shirt on him as a joke. Perhaps the man sincerely didn't realize what he was setting in motion.

But like the turkey we met last week, whose perfect attendance made toll-takers look bad, the dog immediately saw his opening:
He can do what the normal gas station clerk usually cannot.

"Convenience stores are so unpredictable. People come in drunk, stoned, angry, you name it," Mansour said. "He calms them down. Animals have the ability to soothe the human soul."

Earlier this year, a woman who had been fighting with her husband came into the station.

"She came in all sorts of bawling and crying," Mansour said.

Cody, sensing something wasn't right, went to the woman. She put her face next to his, and sat on the floor with him. After several minutes talking to Cody, the woman pulled herself together.

You see where this is going. Now, just pumping gas won't be enough to get you hired. Will humans also be expected to provide psychological counseling, for minimum wage, to compete for jobs with dogs?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Turkeys are out for revenge

If you decide to take a little stroll to work off some of that turkey dinner today, watch your back.

We've previously seen turkeys attacking in New England. Now the Philadelphia Inquirer reports they're getting out of hand in their area as well. As usual, some people invite trouble by feeding the birds, encouraging them to hang around. To start, their activities may seem innocent on the surface:

Last week in Mountville, Lancaster County, two turkeys tried to buddy up to customers and employees at B&J Automotive.

They sat on the building's roof and watched traffic on busy Route 462, tailgated on the back of a truck, and wandered into the middle of the street.

"People blow their horns and flash lights and the turkeys just look at them," said Joe Miller, who owns the shop.

But elsewhere in the Philly area, residents saw what it can lead to when you buddy up to turkeys:

In September, five turkeys who had wandered onto Brookmead Drive in Cherry Hill were caught by a local cameraman appearing to menace a little boy who had a bicycle. A woman nearby, presumably his mother, snatched him out of harm's way and ran away screaming.

The video got posted in YouTube, and as of today had received nearly 200,000 hits.

The animals were rounded up by the township's animal control officer.

"We had some turkeys that had gone wild - literally," Cherry Hill spokesman Dan Keashen said.

Keashen said turkeys aren't usually violent. "But apparently these turkeys were being harassed by kids in the neighborhood. They were pretty riled up," he said.

People were also feeding them, which would make them want to stick around, he said.

Consider yourself warned.

See the video set to a rap song with a ton of cussing here. And if I haven't gotten you worried enough, just try searching "turkey attack" while you're over there at YouTube.

Photo once again by birdman Misterqueue.

Monday, November 23, 2009

No turkey trouble for Thanksgiving at exit 14B

Turkey Week here at Animals Behaving Badly has been partially pre-empted: a turkey that has been disrupting traffic on the New Jersey turnpike was captured and relocated just in time for the holidays. The Associated Press reports that the wild bird has been making its home at exit 14B since the Spring, causing problems by dashing in and out of traffic and prompting people to do the same in order to take pictures. She also made toll takers look bad:

"Apparently, this turkey decided to make Jersey City her home, alongside of one of the top five busiest toll roads in America," said turnpike spokesman Joe Orlando.

"She didn't want to leave, she was a regular, and to be honest with you, she probably had better attendance than a lot of the employees."

Despite this, as is typical, staff had no idea what side they were on. They nicknamed the bird "Tammy" and one collector who enjoyed feeding the turkey Cracker Jacks was going to miss her, she said: "I think I'm going to have empty nest syndrome."

See the video here.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Don't feed the raccoons! Animals against science, part 2

Ever found muddy cat footprints all over your windshield? If you think it's hard to see the road, imagine if you were trying to see into the depths of outer space. That's what started happening to astronomers at the Smithsonian's observatory in Arizona in 2008. Not only was their view obscured, but five of the telescopes, which are more delicate than your car windshield, were eventually damaged.

The culprit was eventually caught: the ringtail cat in the photo, which despite its name is a relative of the raccoon.

But as so often happens, people just don't know what side they're on. Listen to the scientists in the video cooing at another ringtail who's broken in to steal their food - actually it might even be maybe the same one, since it was released from the trap:

And here's the reaction of the leader of the project, from the story on the Smithsonian website:
“We’re considering making the ringtail cat the unofficial mascot of the MEarth project,” said project leader David Charbonneau. “With those big eyes, they’ve certainly got the night vision to be natural-born astronomers!”

Monday, November 16, 2009

Don't feed the birds! Animals against Science, part 1

You think it's an innocent activity, giving stale bread to birds. But you're handing them a weapon - a weapon to halt the progress of science.

A piece of baguette dropped by a bird caused a short circuit at the Large Hadron Collector, the world's largest supercollider, so large that it is partly in France and partly in Switzerland.

OK, in fact the power failure did not shut down the massive device, but that's just because it has been out of commission since last September due to non-animal-related problems. All that means is that this time, we got off with a warning.

And yeah, maybe you won't lose any sleep if they never find the Higgs boson, but who knows what those former dinosaurs will think of next. Next time, that bit of stale croissant or seven-grain might prevent someone from discovering a cure for cancer or a new source of electricity.

So think of it, next time you want to toss some crumbs. Put those old baked goods in the trash where they belong and let those little feathered fiends fend for themselves.

Story via ZDNet UK; photo of WHAT NOT TO DO by Flickr user Mollivan Jon.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Why did the creature cross the road? Part 2

To mess with the minds of a couple of innocent midwesterners:

AP - A couple driving home from church nearly slammed into a giant pachyderm that had escaped from a nearby circus late Wednesday. "Didn't have time to hit the brakes. The elephant blended in with the road," driver Bill Carpenter said Thursday. "At the very last second I said 'elephant!"'

Carpenter, 68, said he swerved his SUV at the last second and ended up sideswiping the 29-year-old female elephant on U.S. 81 in Enid, about 80 miles (129 kilometres)north of Oklahoma City.

"So help me Hanna, had I hit that elephant, not swerved, it would have knocked it off its legs, and it would have landed right on top of us," he said. "We'd have been history."

...After sideswiping the elephant, his wife, Deena, flagged some people down and used their cellphone to call police.

"The dispatcher didn't believe her: 'You hit a what?"' he said. "I told my wife, I don't know whether to cry or laugh."

The elephant, which escaped from a circus, got off easy, with only a broken tusk and a leg wound, which was treated by a local veterinarian.

A sign that they need in OK by Flickr user victoriapeckham.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Why did the creature cross the road? Part 1

To cause a commotion, of course. Even a chicken might cause you to swerve or slam on the brakes, but what if you saw a Nile crocodile - especially if you were far from that Egyptian river, in Turkey:

A 1.2-meter long crocodile caused commotion as it walked across the road between western holiday cities of Bodrum and Milas on Tuesday.

A Nile River crocodile weighing around 12 kilograms frightened and surprised drivers and passengers as it came into the path of traffic at the 25th kilometer of a road near Güllük town. Drivers tried to direct the crocodile to some empty land near the road using sticks. Curious drivers pulled over to watch the crocodile. Traffic police and Güllük Mayor Aytunç Kayrakçı went to the place to see the crocodile.

How did a Nile crocodile get to Turkey? Turns out it was a pet, called Nilo, that lived in a pool at a local restaurant. Of course, there's always someone around to make excuses for the animal. It's not surprising that the owner claimed that none of this was the croc's fault:

"Tourists in our restaurant have good times with Nilo. It is a little bit aggressive now as it is away from its home."

But he wasn't the only one who downplayed the disruption:

A traffic police officer said it was the most interesting event he had witnessed in his professional life in around 20 years.

Photo of sign in Florida that they need in Turkey by Flickr user ewen and donabel.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Aquatic bad behavior briefs

From new research out of Australia:

Small fish are at risk of being bullied to death by big ones as coral reef resources are hit by climate change.

From Practical Fishkeeping:

Giant Penis-eating Worm found in aquarium.

Do I even need to add anything to that headline?

(Or this one: Embarassing sexual complaint hits people poisoned by fish. Shouldn't it be less, well, disturbing to read a magazine called Practical Fishkeeping?)

Don't scroll down any farther unless you want to see a picture of an even bigger, four-foot long specimen of the penis-eating worm that devastated an aquarium in Cornwall.

Fish fight, above, by Flickr user James Donavon.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Bats have better sex than you

Although sex in the animal kingdom has many offensive permutations, oral sex among animals has rarely been documented by science. But a team of Chinese and British researchers report that short-nosed fruit bats have oral sex AND copulate at the same time:

We found that female short-nosed fruit bats C. sphinx lick their mate's penis regularly during copulation, and that each second of licking results in approximately 6 extra seconds of copulation. Copulations also last longer if licking occurs than when no licking takes place. Our observations are the first to show regular fellatio in adult animals other than humans.

As you can imagine, this is only possible because fruit bats are far more flexible than humans. If you click here, you can see a graph of copulation time illustrated with a lovely little drawing of a couple in the act, by Mei Wang (not making that up).

And if you click here, warning:
The video is sexually explicit and was edited and soundtracked by the researchers.

The abstract of the article concludes:

At present, we do not know why genital licking occurs, and we present four non-mutually exclusive hypotheses that may explain the function of fellatio in C. sphinx.

I think these guys just don't get it, because when you read the whole article, it turns out that not one of those hypotheses is "because it's FUN."

You can read the entire paper here if you want, you sicko.

Photo by Flickr user Diana Lili M. You'll never look at a fruit bat tongue quite the same way again, will you?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Rodent junk food junkies

Animal addicts are nothing new on this blog. But now researchers have shown that in addition to drink and drugs, rats can become addicted to junk food.

Anyone who's seen wild rats foraging in dumpsters would probably suspect that they are attracted to the worst products of mankind's grocery-industrial complex. But now, as reported by Science News, a couple of fiendish neuroscience researchers have brought this out in the open. Two neuroscientists named Paul, Johnson and Kenny,
loaded up on typical Western fare, including Ho Hos, sausage, pound cake, bacon and cheesecake. Johnson fed rats either a standard diet of high-nutrient, low-calorie chow, or unlimited amounts of the palatable junk food. Rats that ate the junk food soon developed compulsive eating habits and became obese.

The researchers found that the rats' brains showed the same changes as those of addicts, and what's more, that they would keep eating junk food even if they learned that an electric shock would follow it. And the rodents find it just as hard to break the habit as you do:

When the junk food was taken away and the rats had access only to nutritious chow (what Kenny calls the “salad option”), the obese rats refused to eat. “They starve themselves for two weeks afterward,” Kenny says. “Their dietary preferences are dramatically shifted.”

Maybe this should be the next big government nutrition education campaign. The next time you reach for that bag of chips, think about it - Do you really want to lower yourself to the level of a rat?

Picture of rat with cookie - which is so cute that it really contradicts the whole point of this post, I know - by Flickr user Klara Kim.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Embarassment drives bear to murder

This blog tries to avoid the kind of bad animal behavior that ends up with people being actually dead, and you probably don't want to click on the link if you don't like gory details. But this story seemed too significant to pass up.

MOSCOW, Russia (CNN) -- A bear on ice skates attacked two people during rehearsals at a circus in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, killing one of them, Kyrgyz officials said Friday.

In the incident, which happened Thursday, the 5-year-old animal killed the circus administrator, Dmitry Potapov, and mauled an animal trainer, who was attempting to rescue him.

"The incident occurred during a rehearsal by the Russian state circus company troupe which was performing in Bishkek with the program, Bears on Ice," Ministry of Culture and Information director Kurmangazy Isanayev told reporters...

After the incident, the circus was cordoned off by police and emergency service workers. Experts have been brought in to examine the bear, which was shot and died at the scene.

Russia has a long-standing tradition of training bears to perform tricks such as riding motorcycles, ice skating, and playing hockey. Fatal attacks are unusual.

We don't usually take the animals' side here, but all I can say is, I don't know how these bears dress for the show, but if I thought they were going to make ME wear one of those ice skating tutus in public, I might bite someone's leg off too.

Buy the skating bear pictured at Kat's Creations, and then for the love of God give the poor thing a t-shirt and some blue jeans.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Bird terrorizes idyllic English village

As reported by the Telegraph:

A jackdaw has caused havoc in the quiet village of Cromwell, Nottinghamshire, by undoing washing from lines, turning newspaper pages and perching on the wing mirrors of moving cars.

OK, I know, you wish you had the kind of life where having clothespins undone counted as havoc. But seriously:

"We were by our porch when he suddenly landed on Paul's head and started pecking at his ear," said Mrs Gardiner. "I started to worry he might peck at Paul's eyes so I shooed him off but he hopped down and then got inside my husband's trouser leg.

"It eventually flew away, but since then has been a regular visitor to my home and neighbours. At first he was looked on as a friendly little thing but now he's just seen as intrusive.

"He unpegs the washing, turns the pages of the newspaper before you are ready and pick-pockets things from your pocket."

Turns the pages of the newspaper before you're ready. Imagine the horror! As a newspaper writer myself, I am indignant at the idea that a human reader would miss some of my precious words because a bird reads faster than they do.

And yet, some people never learn whose side they should be on:

Jeremy Hutchinson, Newark and Sherwood District Councils' environmental health reactive team leader, said: "We're tracking down a humane trap to capture the jackdaw, which would then be handed to a resident who has volunteered to take it as a pet."

Obviously cheeky jackdaw from Flickr user foxypar4.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Car thief turns out to be a bear

There is nothing I can add to this headline, this photo, or this story from the Denver Post.

The car alarm was blaring, and there was a light moving around inside.

A couple in the Colorado Mountain Estates subdivision near Florissant thought someone was trying to steal their car early Wednesday.

When deputies from the Teller County Sheriff's Office responded at about 2:30 a.m., they discovered a young bear in the car.

The bear was as surprised to see the deputies as the deputies were to see the bear, said Mikel Baker, spokesperson for the Sheriff's Office.

One of the two deputies took some pictures of the bear, opened the car door, and the bear was gone in a flash, said Baker.

According to Baker and Teller County Sheriff Kevin Dougherty, this bear — like so many others — was very smart and had learned how to open car doors.

But as the bear rummaged around the car causing extensive damage, the door closed and it couldn't figure how to get out.

The light the couple saw moving in the car was the dome light of the vehicle, which momentarily wrapped around the bear's head, said Dougherty.

Baker said that bears are extremely hungry as they prepare for hibernation. No food should be left in a car, she said, as bruins, with their keen sense of smell, will detect the food and try to get inside.

In recent years, one bear practically destroyed a car after yogurt was left in it. Afterward, investigators found yogurt smeared throughout the car, said Baker.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Roundup: Birds behaving badly

Flying freeloader: Reuters reports that a passenger flight in South Korea was delayed by a bird trying to get a free ride.

"The bird got in through an open airplane door and was spotted during boarding," said Cho Hyung-chul, a spokesman for Korean Air Line. The passengers on the flight were asked to leave the plane as the airline tried to prevent the bird from taking the domestic flight.

The flight's 123 passengers were put on board a different plane and sent on their journey, which was delayed for nearly three hours, the airline said.

Really, you could understand another animal trying this, but is it too much to expect a bird to do its own flying?

Some things never change
: In Missouri, police tasered and handcuffed a loose emu, much like we saw in one of the early stories reported on this blog.

Causing its own problems: You might think it's bad enough that the bird in this video is apparently trying to sexually violate the head of an innocent zoologist. But the problem is worse than simple avian perversion, because this is an almost extinct kakapo from New Zealand. Read about the kakapo here and see how the last thing that this bird needs is to be misdirecting its mating urges. Really, some animals seem to actually want to go extinct.

Apparently perfectly well behaved crow minding its own business by jurisdog.

Monday, October 12, 2009

I can't hear what you're saying with this buzzing in my ears

The wiggle dance of the bees: one of the wonders of evolution. Imagine these tiny creatures, their brains probably the size of the head of a pin (I'm guessing, I'm doing all the rest of the work here, YOU go look it up) communicating the location of food to their hivemates with a complex choreography indicating direction relative to the position of the sun and distance correlating to the duration of the dance.

It's an uncontroversial fact about the amazing abilities of animals. Or is it? According to a recent article in New Scientist, some researchers have begun to have doubts. They claim that under controlled experimentation where bees can't also use cues like smell, they - like many of us - don't seem to be exactly paying attention:

A litany of recent evidence suggests that while bees can follow the dance, they often fail to decode it properly, or ignore it completely.

In one study, Grüter and his colleague Walter Farina of the University of Buenos Aires in Argentina found that among bees that attend to a dance, 93 per cent ignore the instructions and head to a food source they already know about (Proceedings of the Royal Society B, vol 275, p 1321). Similarly, bees often seem unable to follow the instructions. Some watch more than 50 runs and make several sorties out of the hive but never find the food.

The result of this is that some scientists downplay the importance of the dance as a method of communication, but these scientists clearly know little about bad behavior. Your spouse or teenager may ignore your request to take out the trash, and your idiot friend may disregard your recommendation for a fantastic Thai restaurant and head straight to McDonald's, and we all know people who can't follow directions to save their lives. No one concludes from that, that human language isn't a valid communication system, right? We already know that bees are drunks and druggies, so what do you expect?

Thanks to Misterqueue that I didn't have to go out and take my own picture of a bee this time.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Dog thinks he deserves a palace

When you're a world leader, you get used to a certain lifestyle, and it can be hard to adjust when your term is over. Apparently the same is true if you're the dog of a world leader, and at least in the case of the little dog belonging to former French president Chirac, this can lead to some pretty bad behavior.

BBC - Since stepping down from office in May 2007, Jacques Chirac has admitted he has found retirement hard going but apparently it is his dog, Sumo, who has suffered most acutely.

Used to roaming the large gardens of the Elysee Palace, the Maltese terrier has found down-sizing to an apartment on the Quai Voltaire unbearable and, according to Mrs Chirac, severe depression has turned him from an innocent white fluff-ball into a ferocious attacker of ex-presidents.

In January this year, Mr Chirac had to be hospitalised after the dog sank his teeth into an unnamed body part.

In this latest attack, Mrs Chirac said that Sumo had been lying quietly at her feet but flew into a violent rage on the approach of her husband.

The dog leapt up and nipped the former French leader in the stomach.

"I was very scared because there was blood. It's terrible, the small teeth like that. He was going wild. He wanted to jump up and bite again," she said.

I know, you want to laugh - it's just a little white fluffball. But speaking as the owner of a small dog with very high standards myself, I can sympathize. I don't want to think about what would happen if I caused her a disappointment of this monumental a nature.

The dog has reportedly been sent to live on a farm in the French countryside. At least, that's what the president's wife says and everyone believes her.

Bad Maltese by Flickr user Natalia Romay.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Missing the point

And just missing the event... Last week was the American Library Association's Banned Books Week, and the winner of the honor as most banned book last year was And Tango Makes Three, a picture book about the famous gay penguin family in New York's Central Park, mentioned in this post.

The ALA says that banning requests are often due to objections to 'positive portrayals of homosexuality.' Such a ridiculous thing to object to about penguins when they have so many real flaws, such as being unsupportive to their handicapped spouses when parenting and when their relationships, gay and straight, are worthy of soap opera.

Find some more banned books to read - we may be a week late but apparently they never go out of style - including one about a fictional gay guinea pig couple, at the Banned Books website.

Another penguin from birdman Misterqueue.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Make sure you know who your friends are

Last week in Tacoma WA, a raccoon got into a house, tore up the bathroom, and attacked the family dog, who is expected to recover from scratches that needed stiches, although he'll have to wear one of those embarassing cones for a week.

But that raccoon, who got in through a pet door, apparently isn't the worst of them:

Animal Control agents told (dog owner) Leopold such attacks aren't uncommon. In fact, they say raccoons will sometimes befriend dogs to get to their food, then they turn on the dogs.

"When the dogs trust them enough, they let the raccoon follow them inside the house to get their food," said Leopold.

Bad raccoon by Flickr user LexnGer.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Vacation Linkarama: Bad taste videos

Finally, revenge for millennia of pooping birds, by comic Demetri Martin.

From the blog Neurotopia, an extremely not safe for work video of a chimp that brings together several of the themes of this blog, including the fact that primates can use tools to behave badly, and that animals don't only have sexual pleasure for the purpose of reproduction, and that's all I am going to say.

Photo of a species famous for pooping by the bird-obsessed misterqueue.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Unclear expectations down under

If there's one thing that's important in training dogs (or any other animal), it's consistency. Maybe it's not their fault that dogs in New Zealand are going off the deep end if these two stories are any indication of how they enforce the laws around there.

One dog was given a parking ticket for being tied up outside a shop, an activity that even we here at this blog think is not much of a threat to the general peace.

But elsewhere, another dog drove a car into a store:
Wilco's owner had stopped his ute to buy beer, leaving the motor running. The dog jumped up on the column gear stick.

"Once Wilco had knocked it from park into drive, it would have been just a slow walking pace up to the front door," says (police constable) Chambers.

In the liquor store the beer had just gone on the counter.

"A lady...ran through the doors and said 'did you know that your dog's just driven through the cafe doors'. So yeah, we popped out there and it was definitely right, it was sitting in the driver's seat," says Terry Fox, store manager.

This dog was let off with only a warning! Is it any wonder animals have no idea how to behave? Sometimes, people, we have no one to blame but ourselves.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Bug got your tongue?

We don't usually cover the world of parasites on this blog. Certainly, living inside another animal's body without permission is, at minimum, rude. But parasites are so disgusting, really, they seem like an easy mark.

However, a creature that's been going round the internet lately takes rude parasitism to such a level that I cannot ignore it. It is so disgusting that I'm putting the photo at the bottom of this post so if you're squeamish, I warn you, don't scroll down.

The creature is an isopod, which is normally a kind of crustacean that's inoffensive and sometimes even cute. Those roly-poly potato bugs are isopods:

And isn't this T-shirt illustration of the more awful giant isopod funny?

(buy the shirt here)

OK, we're just postponing the inevitable, a creature which the BBC describes as "A rare parasite which burrows into host fish before eating and replacing their tongues with itself."

Yes, it EATS the TONGUE of the living fish and then LIVES there in place of it. And the marine biologist who found a specimen off the Jersey coast calls it:
"Really quite large, really quite hideous - if you turn it over its got dozens of these really sharp, nasty claws underneath and I thought 'that's a bit of a nasty beast'.

This inexcusable behavior yields the situation in the following photo (and don't say I didn't warn you):

By the way, Americans, don't feel like you're safe because this was found in Britain (where earlier specimens were found in fish bought in fish markets, quite a lovely surprise at dinnertime no doubt.) In fact, the reason British biologists were so excited about this find is that normal habitat of this creature is the coast of California.

Roly-poly pillbug from Wikipedia; despite searching, I'm unable to credit the horrific photo of the tongue-eating monster, possibly because no one wants to admit being responsible for such a hideous, awful thing.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Worse than sloth

I've been having trouble sleeping lately, so I was particularly annoyed when I came across this table of, basically, animals that get more sleep than you do.

Never mind the sloth, which is in eleventh place on the list and sleeps a mere 14.4 hours per day on average, and as we've seen before is not nearly as slothful as it would like you to think. Seethe, instead, at the following numbers:

Brown Bat 19.9 hr
Giant Armadillo 18.1 hr
Opossum 18 hr
Python 18 hr
Owl Monkey 17.0 hr
Tiger 15.8 hr
Tree shrew 15.8 hr

As you'll see if you click on the link, that is, for example, 75% of the day for the python. And there's lots more. Even a gerbil sleeps thirteen hours a day. Thirteen hours! What's so hard about being a gerbil that makes them tired enough to need thirteen hours of sleep? What kinds of ideas do gerbils have to come up with? What kind of deadlines do stupid little rodents have to meet? Seriously. Gerbils.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


Rarely are the animals whose offenses are reported on this blog ever punished. But the monkey who peed on the president of Zambia, and his entire monkey tribe, are paying for their crime by being banished!

LUSAKA (AFP) – Zambia President Rupiah Banda has ordered scores of monkeys removed from the grounds of his official residence, after one urinated on his head during a press conference, a parks official said Tuesday.

More than 200 monkeys live on the State House grounds, but Banda has asked the Munda Wanga Botanical Gardens to relocate most of them to its parkland outside Lusaka, the gardens' director Bill Thomas said in a statement.

"The president recently requested to the Munda Wanga Botanic Trust to remove and relocate some of the monkeys, and so far 61 monkeys have been humanely captured and translocated to the gardens," Thomas said.

OK, so they're still going to be living in a park, and humanely captured instead of slapped around a little. But given the stuff that animals usually get completely away with, we'll take what we can get.

That perfect peeing primate once again from Flickr user dornfeld.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Not exactly "accidents"

Vote for worst behaved pet! OK, not exactly, but pet insurance company VPI is currently holding an online poll for the Hambone Award, given to the most unusual insurance claim in the past year. They say "every now and then a claim comes by that reminds us all just how unexpected unexpected pet accidents can be." But many of the claims are due to events that seem not exactly accidental:

-The French Bulldog who ate a corndog stick;
-The Lab who ate a sock, threw it up, and ate it again, this time requiring surgery;
-The bulldog who ate FIFTEEN baby pacifiers.

Honestly, anyone could make the mistake of eating ONE pacifier, but when you get up into the double digits, there is clearly some deliberation involved. And even the accidents are due to, to put it frankly, dogs acting like idiots in their usual ways. My award for Best Quote from Owner goes to this one:

For Rider, the Belgian sheepdog, the problem was a wild squirrel chase which became a reckless mission that ended in a wheelbarrow.

“It’s a decorative wheelbarrow filled with flowers next to a tree,” said Rider’s owner Joyce Biethan of Ridgefield, Wash. “The squirrel ran up the tree and I don’t know if Rider zigged when he was supposed to zag or what, but he ran right into the wheelbarrow at full speed. He broke his scapula and a rib, which punctured a lung. He was pretty miserable for a few weeks, but he’s getting better now. I wish I could give other pet owners some advice, but my dog chased a squirrel and ran into a wheelbarrow. How are you supposed to prevent that?”

There's still time to vote, till September 14th, at VPI Hambone Award.

Photo of Jean Pierre, the wild-eyed French bulldog with a taste for fair food, from VPI.

(If this post makes you want to run right out and buy pet health insurance, shop around... you can also check out ASPCA.)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Macaque maligns movie

This blog has seen many animals that encounter politicians and other management types and who don't hesitate to express their opinions in the ways that are available to them.

But this is the first time we've seen a monkey who might be a movie critic. The Telegraph reports that actor Jason Biggs was attacked by a Barbary macaque on a visit to Gibraltar:

He was visiting the disputed territory at the foot of Spain with friend and American Pie co-star Eddie Kaye Thomas when the pair came face to face with one of Gibraltar's mascots.

"Jason and Eddie decided to go on the trip to celebrate the ten-year anniversary of Pie," a source told US media.

"They were hiking in the woods when this monkey suddenly leapt on Jason from a tree and tried to bite his face off.

"Jason's travelling companions managed to fend the beast off and Jason thankfully wasn't seriously hurt, just shaken up."

The actor abruptly ended his holiday as a result of the attack and returned to the US early.

This blog ordinarily holds the view that an animal has some nerve to knock any product of the uniquely human genius for storytelling. Who are they to talk? Show me the ape Jane Austen or the dolphin Dante, the kangaroo Kubrick or even the woodchuck Woody Allen, and then we'll talk about your furry opinions about the arts.

But, although we have never seen the film that this actor is famous for, we can't help but think that this macaque may have a point, after reading bits of a few reviews such as:

The dumbest and horniest is Jim (Jason Biggs), a compulsive onanist who resembles a younger, more addlebrained Adam Sandler with a roll of baby fat. Poor Jim's experiments in self-pleasure, which include a bout with one of Mom's freshly baked apple pies...

We'll leave it at that.

If you'd like to hire some nonhuman primates who seem to think they are qualified to make their own movies, contact the chimps in the photo at Boone's Animals for Hollywood.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Fox in sheep's stolen clothing

When we previously encountered a fox that stole a hundred shoes in Germany, there was no indication that it was the start of a trend, but might today's story show that foxes around the world have designs on all parts of our wardrobes?

Charlottesville Daily Progress - Charlottesville and University of Virginia police on Wednesday brought in trappers to catch a fox near Lambeth Field that acted oddly aggressive to passersby and bit two people.

“There were four calls to the Emergency Communications Center and at least two people reported being bitten by the fox,” said Ric Barrick, Charlottesville spokesman. “Another report said the fox was acting strangely and another said it took someone’s sweater.”

On the bright side, wildlife experts seized the opportunity to educate people about wildlife, including the following important points:

“People should let wildlife go its own way,” said Ed Clark, director of the Wildlife Center of Virginia in Waynesboro. “There’s also no way to be sure that a fox that’s trapped in the area is the fox that was acting aggressive, unless it’s wearing the sweater.”

No report on why anyone was wearing or carrying a sweater on an August day in Charlottesville, VA, where another blog reported the temperature in the 90s, nor on whether the sweater was actually wool, so maybe I better check to see if my poetic license is up to date and would cover this post title.

Well-dressed Japanese foxes by Flickr user St Stev.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Revenge of the Cow or political statement? Bovine blind-politician-tipping

OK, a cow knocking over a bicyclist is one thing. Bicyclists can be pretty annoying, what with riding the wrong way down the street, ignoring traffic signals, and wearing those idiotic skin-tight shorts.

But knocking over an old blind man? On his birthday? Even if he is a politician, that is pretty impressively low. And yet in this article from the BBC, it's the damn DOG that everyone seems most concerned about:

Former Home Secretary David Blunkett is recovering after being injured by a charging cow in Derbyshire.

The incident happened on Saturday while the Sheffield MP was out walking on his 62nd birthday with his guide dog Sadie in the Peak District.

It is believed the cow ran at the dog and while trying to protect her, the blind MP fell and was trampled.

He suffered a broken rib and "painful bruising" but was declared well enough to attend a Labour Party meeting later.

Alison Pratt, from the National Farmers' Union, gave the following advice to others should they find themselves in a similar position.

"The best thing to do is to let the dog off the lead so it can run away because obviously a dog can run faster than you," she said.

"The next thing to do is to get quite quickly to the edge of the field, collect the dog and leave."

All I have to say about that is that I've told my dogs, if a cow comes after me, you better expect that you're going down too.

Bad attitude cow by Flickr user RachelJ

Monday, August 24, 2009

Pick on someone your own size!

In a milestone for this blog, we present our first evidence that even extinct animals were a bunch of bums.

Tyrannosaurus rex: mighty carnivorous giant, battling fierce rivals to the death! Or... not so much. It turns out that T. rex must have been another of those species with a spectacular press agent, because in reality, you know what they killed and ate? Little tiny babies.

TELEGRAPH, UK - Research into the predatory habits and diet of the biggest of the dinosaurs has concluded that T.rex and other members of its carnivorous theropod family preferred to dine on juveniles, preferably small enough to eat whole.

It shatters the notion that the giant battled with animals of a similar or even larger size, an image reinforced by its portrayal in Steven Spielberg's 1993 film Jurassic Park. David Hone, a British palaeontologist working in China, believes the Tyrannosaurs preferred to prey upon small and unwary baby rivals rather than their fully-grown parents.

His study, carried out with Oliver Rauhut of the Bavarian State Collection for Palaeontology and Geology in Munich, suggests baby-eating was a common behaviour among the large predatory dinosaurs, offering a possible explanation why so few juvenile dinosaurs have been found in fossil records.

Yeah, we always suspected something was funny about those little wimpy arms.

Girly T. Rex by Flickr user fluttergirl.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Be careful where you stick your hands

This blog couldn't be more pleased to introduce its first animal jewel thief. Not that we approve of such things, of course, but as chroniclers of bad behavior, it's satisfying to get to tick off another box, proving that there's really nothing that people do that animals can't do at least as well - or as badly.

DAILY MAIL, UK - A pig has swallowed the diamond from a woman's £1,500 ring.

Ginger, a Kune Kune pig, clamped his jaws around the jewel after Anne Moon put her hand into its pen at Easingwold Maize Maze in North Yorkshire.

When Mrs Moon, pictured, pulled away, the diamond had gone. Now farmer Paul Caygill, who owns the attraction, has been given the task of sifting through Ginger's sty to find the gem.

He said: 'It wasn't malicious or anything, it didn't take her finger off but took the central stone of her diamond ring.

'So far it hasn't turned up, but we are still hoping. I don't know how long it takes for nature to take its course.'