Thursday, July 30, 2009

Penguin Soap Opera

Gay marriage seems pretty common among penguins, if you can believe how many stories you read in the news. But as we saw last week, the behavior of penguin couples isn't always the most admirable.

So it isn't all that surprising that penguin partnerships of all sorts are vulnerable to bad behavior. One gay penguin couple in San Francisco that had been together since 2003 and even adopted a child recently broke up - and the homewrecker was a female. It's become a regular soap opera, according to the San Francisco Examiner:

Last year, the pair was allowed to incubate and hatch an egg another penguin had laid.

“Of all of the parents that year, they were the best,” Brown said. “They took very good care of their chick. He ended up being the largest chick on the island.”

One could say that all seemed to be going swimmingly with Harry and Pepper.

Enter the recently widowed Linda, who has long had a reputation of sorts, according to Brown.

Several years ago, she left her longtime companion and moved in with much older Fig just hours after Fig’s partner passed away, Brown said.

“That was the fastest we’d ever seen penguins move on,” he said. “To be completely anthropomorphizing, Linda seems conniving. She’s got her plan. I don’t think she was wanting to be a single girl for too long.”

This year, within weeks of Fig passing away in winter, Harry was seen in Fig’s old burrow spending time with Linda, Brown said.

Then one day, Harry and Linda approached Pepper’s pen and confronted Pepper. Harry began attacking Pepper violently and the three ultimately had to be separated, Brown said.

Harry and Linda successfully nested this year and eventually Pepper was returned to the penguin exhibit from a bachelor pad at the Avian Conservation Center, where he quietly took up his old residence. Zookeepers and fans are waiting with bated breath to see what might happen next.

“That’s the big question,” Brown said. “It’s molting season in late July and early August, and around that time we see couples getting shaken up. It’ll be interesting to see if Harry spends any of that time with Pepper. We’ll have to wait and see.”

Photo of Harry and Linda from SF Examiner.

Monday, July 27, 2009

"Remembered fondly"

Last week we met Elvis, a rooster whose mate died of exhaustion due to his sexual enthusiasm. Now here's an animal that shows Elvis how a gentleman does it.

THE SUN, UK - A randy sea lion named Mike died of exhaustion after a marathon mating session at a zoo.

The whiskery beast had been enjoying a morning romp with his harem Farah, Tiffy and Soda when keepers noticed something was wrong.

The dad of 12 was so exhausted that he could not even get out of his pool - and had to be pulled clear by staff.

Despite receiving treatment from a vet, the 45-stone "good natured" sea lion died from acute heart failure.

A spokesman for Nuremberg animal park in Germany said on Tuesday: "Mating season is a common time for fatalities when bulls often stop eating for days to devote themselves fully to mating.

"For sea lion bulls with a harem this is the most exhausting time."

California-born Mike was 19 - two years older than the average life expectancy.

The spokesman added: "He will be remembered fondly."

Thanks for the link to Sir Pilkington-Smythe's Twitter; picture of a no doubt perfectly innocent and respectable sea lion from Misterqueue.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Here's one Craigslist ad I'd really like to see

TELEGRAPH, UK - Elvis the cockerel has earned his reputation as a ladykiller after his hen died from exhaustion, seemingly unable to keep up with her mate's sexual appetite.

The cockerel used to have four hens vying for his attention but after three died he was left with only Berol to keep his libido satisfied.

Unfortunately she had to be put to sleep after becoming exhausted by Elvis's constant demands.

Now Elvis's owner Katherine Cooke is looking for a new home and hen harem for the one-year-old cockerel.

There's a nice photo of Elvis if you click on the link to the story. He's definitely a handsome fellow, but he obviously doesn't need any more encouragement, so instead of reproducing his photo that's another attractive rooster from the carousel of Turtle Back Zoo in New Jersey.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Vacation Linkarama

Off on a trip to the idyllic Garden State - have a go at some other bloggers who've done a good job with bad animal behavior lately.

In the New York Times online, science proves that cats did not evolve to love us;

Wired magazine reports on a study showing that penguins that won't pick up the parenting slack for a handicapped spouse;

and New Scientist reports on monkeys that are famous for their life of free love and peace, man, but turn out to be killers when they don't get enough nooky.

Rude penguin by penguin fan Misterqueue.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The dog ate my checkbook

OK, it's not fair to entirely blame the dog for this one... but can we agree to blame the dogs for making the excuse so plausible?
ARLINGTON, WA. -- A woman believed to have stolen money from her ex-husband's bank account told police her dog made her do it.

It's an excuse Arlington police haven't heard since the homework-eating dogs of high school, spokeswoman Kristin Banfield said.

The case started when an Arlington man, 42, went to police in late March to complain that money was disappearing from his bank account.

Detectives filed court orders to follow the money trail, Banfield said. The money was being used to pay utility bills and other sundry items at the man's ex-wife's home, outside of Arlington.

Detectives were suspicious of the woman, 50, when they learned her excuse for dipping into her ex's funds without permission.

"Her dog got into her purse and ate all her personal checks," Banfield said. The woman reportedly told police she had no choice but to take funds from her former husband's account.

"The dog ate my checks was the first excuse. There were multiple excuses," Banfield said.

Now the woman is under investigation for identity theft and forgery. Arlington police have forwarded the case to Snohomish County prosecutors.

Roscoe the pug of sainted memory, eating cash - a cautious dog does not accept checks - by Flickr user Zoomar.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Badger on a bender

We've seen inebriated elephants and boozing bees; now we've got a drunken badger, and a report written by a police officer who sounds like he might be fun to have a beer with:

BERLIN (AFP) — German police called to clear a road of a dead badger found the animal in question had in fact gorged itself on over-ripe, fermented cherries and, blind drunk, staggered out into the middle of the road.

"The animal's stomach had turned the fruit to alcohol and the badger was, to put it crudely, drunk as a skunk," said a police statement on Wednesday. "In addition, the badger was suffering from diarrhoea studded with cherry stones."

Prodding the reluctant beast with a stick, officers managed to persuade it to leave the road near the town of Goslar in northwestern Germany and to sleep off his night of excess in a nearby meadow.

"It could not immediately be established whether the badger got into trouble with his wife when he came home in such a state," the tongue-in-cheek police statement concluded.

No word on whether a breathalyzer test was admininstered, although as usual in our stories, the animal went unpunished. Rather than being taken into custody, Reuters reports that the badger was scared away with a broom. (Also no word on whether brooms are standard German police equipment.)

Appropriate beverage by Flickr user Acme.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Marsupial drug fiends

And if that isn't bad enough... they play hoaxes on innocent believers in the supernatural, AND persuade innocent livestock to follow their lead.

BBC - Australian wallabies are eating opium poppies and creating crop circles as they hop around "as high as a kite", a government official has said.

Lara Giddings, the attorney general for the island state of Tasmania, said the kangaroo-like marsupials were getting into poppy fields grown for medicine...

"We have a problem with wallabies entering poppy fields, getting as high as a kite and going around in circles," Lara Giddings told the hearing.

"Then they crash," she added. "We see crop circles in the poppy industry from wallabies that are high."

Rick Rockliff, a spokesman for poppy producer Tasmanian Alkaloids, said the wallaby incursions were not very common, but other animals had also been spotted in the poppy fields acting unusually.

"There have been many stories about sheep that have eaten some of the poppies after harvesting and they all walk around in circles," he added.

Kangaroo on drugs by Flickr user mrmanc

Monday, July 6, 2009

New Jersey bear beats up a man for his lunch, doesn't eat his veggies

AP, VERNON, N.J. – A northwestern New Jersey man said he was mugged in his driveway by a sandwich-craving bear. Henry Rouwendal said he was packing his car last Friday when he was hit from behind and knocked to the ground. He said the culprit was a black bear who took his Italian sandwich.

Rouwendal said he kicked the bear in the snout and throat.

He said the bruin made off with the bread, salami and other meats but left behind the lettuce, onions and tomatoes.

Coverage of the encounter in the NJ Star-Ledger goes into more dramatic detail:
Suddenly, Rouwendal said, something hit him from behind.

"It blind-sided me. I was on the ground and I was thinking, 'What the hell just hit me?'" said Rouwendal, who also suffered a large cut on his left temple and several deep bruises on his knee, elbow and buttocks.

Rouwendal said was knocked, face-first to the ground. When he rolled over, the bear was standing over him and then grabbed the sandwich.

"I kicked him three times in the snout and one time in the throat. I think the one in the throat got him," Rouwendal said, adding the bear started to run toward the rear of his home on Panorama Drive in the Lake Panorama section of Vernon.

Local wildlife officials - no surprise whose side they're on, I guess - make excuses for the poor hungry bear:

"At this point, it just doesn't seem we will label this as an attack on a person. ... He has no bruises, claw marks or scratches or even a ripped shirt that indicates it was a purposeful attack by the bear," said Lawrence Herrighty, deputy director of the DEP's Division of Fish and Wildlife.

Herrighty said it appears the bear went for the sandwich and not Rouwendal.

Photo of statue of bear asking more nicely for sandwich - really, a little politeness goes a long way, New Jersey bears - by Flickr user buelow.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

It's OK, sharks: you're ruthless killing machines after all

If you were saddened by the post last week that dealt a blow to our metaphors involving sloths and pigs, this might make you feel better.

Sharks have a reputation as ruthless killing machines. But experts will gladly ruin the fun by telling you that this reputation is vastly exagerrated: that the majority of species are small and harmless, that many more sharks are killed by humans every year than vice-versa, blah blah shark-hugging blah.

But here's some good news. In a triumph of interdisciplinary research, a recent study not only confirms our stereotype, but gives it a new twist: it shows that great white sharks stalk their prey in the same way as human serial killers.

Research linking sharks and serial killers began when the late Canadian shark scientist R Aidan Martin read about geographic profiling, which tries to find criminals by looking for patterns in where they strike.

He contacted Rossmo, a pioneer in that field of investigation, and they applied the methods of tracking down criminals to researching shark strategy.

In the latest study, Martin and Hammerschlag watched sharks from sunrise to sunset, applied geographic profiling and found patterns of stalking, Hammerschlag said.

And who would know better than a veteran cop?

"They both have the same objective, which is to find a target or prey or victim," co-author D. Kim Rossmo, a professor of criminal justice at Texas State University-San Marcos, said.

"They have to lurk. They want to be efficient in their search," Rossmo, who was a police officer in Canada for more than 21 years, said.

Photo from Flickr user Harrymoon and thanks for the link to Sir Pilkington-Smythe's Twitter.