Monday, July 30, 2012

People who don't read this blog

OK, maybe it's too much to expect everyone to sit down and read the entire archive of this blog back to 2009, as well as the book, although you'd definitely be safer if you did.

But some people really ought to at least check out the most recent posts before heading out into the wilderness. Just a few days after my post about murderous mountain goats, this report surfaced from Utah:
A man spotted dressed in a goat suit among a herd of wild goats in the mountains of northern Utah has wildlife officials worried he could be in danger as hunting season approaches.
Wildlife officials were contacted by a concerned citizen who observed and photographed something odd:
Coty Creighton, 33, spotted the goat man Sunday during his hike. He said he came across the herd, but noticed something odd about one goat that was trailing behind the rest. “I thought maybe it was injured,” Creighton said Friday. “It just looked odd.”
He said he pulled out binoculars to get a closer look at the herd about 200 yards away and was shocked. The man appeared to be acting like a goat while wearing the crudely made costume, which had fake horns and a cloth mask with cut-out eye holes, Creighton said.
“I thought, ‘What is this guy doing?’ ” Creighton said. “He was actually on his hands and knees. He was climbing over rocks and bushes and pretty rough terrain on a steep hillside.”
Officials wanted to warn the man of the danger, but initially he clearly didn't want to listen. After the incident made the news, they got an "agitated" anonymous phone call saying “Leave goat man alone. He’s done nothing wrong.”

Eventually, the goat man was convinced by a friend to come clean. He explained that he was trying out an idea for a hunting disguise. The man's name was not released, nor any explanation for how he expected to look enough like a goat to fool the goats and yet not get shot by his fellow hunters.

People, don't try this at home. Or in the field. As a Utah wildlife official said:
“People do some pretty out there things in the name of enjoying wildlife. But I’ve never had a report like this,” Douglass said. “There’s a saying we have among biologists — You don’t go far enough, you don’t get the data. You go too far, you don’t go home. The same is true with some wildlife enthusiasts.”

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Midsummer Linkarama

"SuperSlug" invades England:
“Too many slugs can cause problems, not just for gardeners. In Austria, they have had incidents of car accidents because the numbers have built up on the road and formed this horrible slimy slick and cars have skidded off.”
Stupid vacation ideas:
Unsuspecting Silvana Straccia paid $100 to swim with the creatures at Bavaro Beach in Punta Cana, wearing a bikini with a metal ring on it that irritated the dolphins.
Moments after she entered the enclosure, a dolphin locked on to her and whipped her in the face with its tail before hitting her in the stomach - sending her to the hospital with broken cartilage and requiring 8 weeks of bed rest.
 Beaver bites girl; another authority who doesn't read this blog is quoted:
“I’ve been around a long time, and I’ve never really heard of anybody getting bit by a beaver,” said Lowe, a 23-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Office.
 And finally for your entertainment, a relatively authoritative take on who would win a fight between a lion and a tiger.
Tiger with an ice treat at the National Zoo... don't assume this will make him keep his cool.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Presented without comment


VIPeed: Circus tiger gives audience a real show

A group of top businessmen got more than they bargained for from a night at the circus when a tiger urinated on their VIP box. Fortunately, their spirits weren’t dampened.
­The tiger, nicknamed Kesha, answered the call of nature right in the middle of the night’s performance  in the Kazakhstan city of Ekibastuz, reports Interfax citing an eyewitness.
“The jet launched over two meters and hit the VIP box,” the witness said.
“The tiger was sitting atop a stand when the tamer cracked his whip. But instead of performing the act, the tiger lifted his leg and targeted the people occupying the expensive seats,” another witness told Novosti-Kazakhstan news agency.
The ludicrous incident provoked quite a lot of laughter around, but didn’t interrupt the show. None of the guests who suffered the surprise left the circus.
The animal is part of the Old Moscow Circus troupe, which is touring Kazakhstan at present. It has been performing in Ekibastuz for about two weeks.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Heat wave linkarama

Too exhausted by the weather to keep up with all the bad animals, who are apparently unaffected, or perhaps even inspired, I offer this reading material from around the internet:

Interview with a Nutria

Cow stampede in England with video

Your cat wants you to die: toxiplasmosis and suicide

And finally, what happens to people who don't read this blog: They should have known since 2009 that otters are a danger to swimmers, but instead when this woman is attacked in Minnesota, alleged experts are all "I've never seen or heard of it before."

Looking at that fine set of teeth photographed by Flickr user Peter Trimming, how could anyone be surprised?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Our own worst enemies

Apes can make plenty of trouble on their own. But instead of watching our backs, human scientists like to make excuses for them, like the ones who argued that poop-throwing is a sign of intelligence.

And worse, some even go out of their way to teach them dangerous skills. That's a picture of Kanzi the bonobo, the most famous resident of the Great Ape Trust in Iowa. Kanzi's language skills are terrifying enough - these animals are physically stronger than us, the last thing we need is for them to also be able to win a verbal argument.  And now they've given him another potential weapon: they've taught him how to make fire.

The photo above is a closeup of him lighting a match, and you can see a whole slideshow of Kanzi cooking a meal at The Telegraph. Yes, I'd be the first to say that more animals should be able to make their own meals. But we should be teaching them to use the microwave, NOT a skill that can be used in such dangerous ways.

What's more, Kanzi is now teaching his offspring how to start fires as well. All I can say is that whatever happens next at the Great Ape Trust, those researchers have got it coming to them.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

A narrow escape

A member of the Animals Behaving Badly household is on a hiking vacation in Washington State, and earlier this week, I received this picture and an excited phone call from the wilderness about this wildlife sighting.

In the course of the conversation I turned to Google to confirm my recollection that the mountain goat is not a true goat and is related to the musk ox. In just the first few search results, what I found made me turn the conversation away from classification and say instead "Get the heck out of there!"

This is what was going on on the next mountain over:
Several reports of aggressive mountain goats have prompted Olympic National Forest officials to close a popular trail on Mount Ellinor for at least two weeks.
"Nobody has been hurt by the goats. But a number of people have felt threatened."
And well they should, because this is a headline from a few short months ago:

Hiker killed by mountain goat in the Olympic National Forest

In October, an experienced hiker had stopped for lunch with friends when they were approached by a mountain goat. Although they tried to retreat, he was gored. A park ranger struggled to shoo the goat away from the injured man, and eventually he was extracted from the situation, but died later at a hospital.

Officials seemed to downplay the danger, attributing this crime to one crazed individual:
Officials said this is the only known fatal attack by a mountain goat in the park's history. About 300 mountain goats live in the park.
Barb Maynes, park spokeswoman, said the ram involved in the attack was known for its aggressive behavior, and the park had been monitoring the ram for "the last several years," she said.
The perpetrator was tracked down and executed, but the family of the victim is suing. And still, typically, when asked for comment on the current trail closing, wildlife experts make excuses for the animals:
While mountain goats are powerful and inquisitive they aren't generally aggressive, said Kurt Aluzas, a wildlife biologist. He told KING that the recent behavior is likely related to this year's deep snowpack that has confined the goats to trailside areas close to people. There's also the possibility that female goats are protecting their young.
The blog recommends that vacationers in Washington State not trust their lives to the opinions of wildlife biologists. One friend of the blog suggested that there are many safer alternatives:
The only time I was in Seattle I saw the Indigo Girls, frisbee dogs and a lot of boats. No one was ever killed by the Indigo Girls.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Enabling bad primates

- In Indonesia, a zoo is preparing to move an orangutan to rehab, out of the reach of those who supply her habit. An island exhibit far from visitors is the only way to get Tori to quit smoking:
Tori learned to smoke 10 years ago by imitating zoo visitors, who would throw their cigarette butts into her open cage. She has been smoking ever since, according to activists. They say she holds up two fingers to her mouth to indicate she wants a cigarette and becomes angry and throws things if none are readily available.
"It is very common in Indonesian zoos for people to throw cigarettes or food [at animals] even though there are signs to not feed or give cigarettes," says Baktiantoro. "It happens all the time. [In Tori's case], people will throw cigarettes in, watch her smoke, start laughing and take pictures."

- And in South Africa, one of the most prestigious wildlife media organizations in the world is under fire for encouraging bad baboons. Regular readers of this blog are familiar with the baboons of South Africa who break into cars and houses to steal food.  Now National Geographic has given them their own reality show:

For the new Nat Geo Wild show, "Big Baboon House," a house near Pringle Bay, about 50 miles from Cape Town, was modified to allow hidden cameras to film a troop of Chacma baboons, creating a Big Brother-style show. Windows and doors were left open to let in the baboons.

On "Big Baboon House," the animals are anthropomorphized to within an inch of their lives, given human voice-overs and different names and personalities.

Local conservationists are appalled, but National Geographic was ready with rationalizations:

According to the Cape Times, National Geographic said in a statement that the baboons were not lured into the house, but "ultimately entered it of their own volition."

Meghan Gleason, digital media content producer for National Geographic Channels, wrote on an official blog that Nat Geo Wild had “undertaken a simian social experiment of a lifetime” to understand baboon behavior “so we can learn how to keep them out of homes and coexist peacefully with their human counterparts … all while having a little fun along the way as we observe these baboons having free rein over a posh house."

We suggest that National Geographic executives watch this video sent in by a faithful reader that shows what can happen to people who take the side of bad monkeys. Yes it's a cartoon, but remember that fiction can express profound truths.