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?