Thursday, August 30, 2012

Time for dogs to pay their way

 When I began writing this blog I was familiar with many kinds of bad animal behavior, but one thing I didn't expect was the number of animals forcing their way onto human public transit. We've seen
a possum in New York City and a dog in Sweden,
a ferret in England,
a dog in Italy,
and even pigeons in Sweden - and elsewhere - who are deliberately taking the subway.

These are all cases where the animals appear to have made their transportation choice on their own, leaving out say snakes that escaped when being carried in carriers, who might well have preferred a taxi.

Dogs are in the majority on the list above, and now we've got another: a Jack Russell terrier in England, this time with the video above. As The Telegraph tells it:
Once on-board the Southeastern service to London King's Cross, Frankie quickly found a window seat - much to the surprise of his fellow commuters.
The intrepid hound had already made his way 1.6 miles to the train station after sneaking out of his front door as his owner left for work.
However, after half-an-hour as a stowaway, Frankie's freedom was eventually cut short when he was scooped up just minutes from King's Cross by train manager Richard Cheeseman.
Once on-board the Southeastern service to London King's Cross, Frankie quickly found a window seat - much to the surprise of his fellow commuters.
The intrepid hound had already made his way 1.6 miles to the train station after sneaking out of his front door as his owner left for work.
However, after half-an-hour as a stowaway, Frankie's freedom was eventually cut short when he was scooped up just minutes from King's Cross by train manager Richard Cheeseman.
As usual, everyone else goes to a lot of trouble, but the dog gets off without even paying for the ride:
Mrs Abbott and her 22-year-old daughter Stephanie spent £59 to buy tickets to collect their beloved pet. Frankie was excused from paying the £17.80 usually needed to buy a ticket for his journey.
At this point, dogs on trains have become so commonplace that I'm not sure I should blog about the next one. Is it even news anymore? And if it isn't, shouldn't such regular customers be required to pay the fare?

Monday, August 27, 2012

More bad animal headlines

Mountain lion tries to sneak into Reno casino
An underage mountain lion has been caught after trying to slip into a casino in downtown Reno, Nev., ahead of the breakfast rush.
Nevada Department of Wildlife spokesman Chris Healy says the young male cat’s behavior was “almost the equivalent of being a stupid teenager.”
World's oldest captive male panda dies without bothering to reproduce
He whole-heartedly embraced life as a carefree bachelor – despite the best efforts of his keepers. Even for his notoriously choosy species, Bao Bao proved difficult to please sexually, though he had plenty of offers. He was after all one of the zoo's star animals.

He spent two years in London from 1991 to 1993, where zookeepers vainly tried to persuade him to mate with a female called Ming Ming.

During another Chinese state visit to Berlin, this time by Li Peng in 1994, another panda was promised to the city’s zoo and a year later Yan Yan arrived to try to tempt Bao Bao.

All attempts to persuade them to mate proved unsuccessful and the cruelly rejected female died in 2007 aged 22.

Germany overrun by raccoon invasion
One raccoon sauntered into a police station in the eastern German city of Dresden. Another found the front of the Federal Administrative Court building in Leipzig to be a comfortable place to sleep.
In cities such as Dresden and Bielefeld, the animals have started banding together to harvest entire cherry or plum trees. 

And finally, one brave man fights back:

Farmer bites cobra to death in Nepal
A Nepali farmer who was bitten by a cobra in his rice paddy field has killed the snake by repeatedly biting it in return.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Bad animal news briefs

The heat isn't slowing them down - too many bad animals to cover them all in depth this week:

- Is this a conspiracy? Norwegian driver hits bear after trying to avoid elk:
A Norwegian driver who tried to avoid crashing into an elk hit a bear instead, a wildlife official said.
"We are currently tracking the bear and we have found traces of blood indicating internal injuries."

The driver's car sustained some damage in the accident. The elk managed to flee the scene unharmed.

- Neighbors squawk over cockatoo's foul words 

In Rhode Island, a soap-opera-like dispute between neighbors - and ex-spouses - has got a talking cockatoo on one side. Just after the couple finished building their house some years ago, the wife moved out and moved in with a neighbor. There seemed to be a truce for a number of years until a girlfriend, Kathy Melker, moved in with the man:

Since June 2011, Melker claims the bird has been calling her a “f*cking wh*re.”

But why expect neighboring exes to get along when even royalty can't keep it together?

- Queen's corgis 'attack' Princess Beatrice's terrier Max

Max, an 11-year-old Norfolk terrier, is said to have been badly injured after a “nasty” encounter at Balmoral castle last week.
The Princess’s beloved pet nearly lost an ear and suffered several bloody bite injuries that had to be treated by a vet, in the latest in a series of scraps between royal dogs.
Read the rest of this saga at The Telegraph.


Monday, August 20, 2012

New frontiers in bad animal behavior

Sometimes I think it's high time to shut down this blog. How many more times can we read about bears breaking into food shops, animals with drinking problems, deceptively cute creatures who commit vicious attacks?

But then a story like this comes along and I decide it's worth carrying on after all:
A Chinese couple claim their home was ransacked by a fishy intruder - a giant catfish.

Xu Xianmin and his wife claim the fish sneaked into their home, in Changji, Xinjiang Province, when their backs were turned.

They thought their one-room home was empty when they locked up to leave for their jobs as sanitation workers at 4am.

But when they came back at 9.30am, it had been trashed. They thought they had been burgled until they saw something moving on the floor.

"I thought my home had been ransacked by thieves. The table was turned over, and stacked plastic bottles were everywhere," said Xu.

"When I was picking up things from the other side of the table, I suddenly touched something cold and slippery, and it was moving!"

After asking neighbours for help, they found a huge catfish on the floor.

A baffled Xu added: "No thieves would leave a giant fish in the house while stealing nothing. And it's not possible that someone threw the fish in through the window, as the door and windows were locked.

"All we can imagine is that the catfish somehow sneaked into the house in the time between us opening the door and then leaving for work."

To add to the mystery, the couple's home lies in a residential area with no river or pond nearby.

A local aquatic expert said the catfish was at least three years old and would be able to survive out of water for a relatively long time.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Headlines of the Week

Fox and boar help kangaroos escape
Three kangaroos staged a daring escape from a wildlife park near Frankfurt by going under rather than over the fences - thanks to the work of fox and wild boar accomplices.

Skippy, Jack and Mick made it under the first fence of their enclosure by using a hole dug by a fox, said Michael Hoffmann, assistant head of the Hochwildschutzpark Hunsr├╝ck west of Frankfurt.

One got stuck there, but two were brave enough to use a hole dug by a wild boar under the exterior fence to make it to freedom.

One of the kangaroos remained missing on Monday.

Several people nearby have reported seeing the missing kangaroo, but so far he’s managed to stay one jump ahead of zoo officials.

Suggestions that a fox and boar are being questioned in relation to the escape could not be verified.
Amorous bull damages deputy's patrol car
Sheriff's deputies were dispatched to a residence on Jade Lane in Sherwood after callers reported a bull running loose through yards in the area.
According to the report, a deputy arrived at the home and noticed a man slapping the bull on the head and leading him across the yard.
The report says the bull then mounted the man and "tried to mate with him," pinning him between the patrol unit and causing minor damage to the vehicle.

Man frees moose trapped in swing-set

The bull moose’s mishap Sunday was captured on video and shows Sgt. Lane Findlay of the Weber County Sheriff’s Office trying to free the creature’s antlers after getting entangled with the swings.
WeberCountySheriff via YouTube Utah Division of Natural Resources stated swing sets and volleyball nets are very hazardous for the animals.
The video was taken with Findlay’s cell-phone camera and was first uploaded to YouTube on Tuesday. The sergeant said he wanted the encounter filmed just in case the rescue went awry.
“If something happens to me, give this to my wife,” he told the person shooting the video.

Monday, August 13, 2012

More Bear Break-ins

In Norway, they're drunkards:
A family of bears is suspected of having broken into a cabin in northern Norway and polished off over a hundred cans of beer.
"They had a hell of a party in there," cabin owner Even Borthen Nilsen told NRK. "The cabin has the stench of a right old piss up, trash, and bears."
The bear, and three cubs, are reported to have forced their way into the cabin by ripping a wall off.
"The beds and all kitchen appliances, stove, oven and cupboards and shelves were all smashed to pieces," he said.
And furthermore the bears had finished off all the food and drink in the house - including all the marshmallows, chocolate spread, honey and over 100 cans of beer.
And as we've seen before, in the US, they've got a sweet tooth, like this bear in Colorado who broke into a candy shop:
“He ate nine Rice Krispie treats, four of those cookie bears and two or three Balls of Joy, which are fudge balls, and four peanut butter cups before he left. And a lot of English toffee,” said store owner Jo Adams.
It's gotten to the point that the trend has been noticed by the mainstream media, like this Associated Press article that mentions another candy store break-in and other bear troubles in New York State and elsewhere.  Experts quoted there attribute the crime wave to the lack of natural food because of the drought, but readers of this blog know that bears have a love of junk food even in easier times.

The junk food habit can be even worse for their health than it is for ours - another Colorado bear was shot when a man found it sitting on his couch eating popcorn. But apparently it can be good for human business, according to the owner of the Colorado candy store:
“At least five times a day people come in to order the exact same things the bear ate, I love it, we’ve been making extras of these particular treats just to keep up with the demand!”

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Sharks are tired of the paparazzi

Friday is the start of yet another Shark Week on a certain cable TV channel. You'd think that sharks would be happy that they get so much publicity - 25 years of this, in fact. But the shark in this video is clearly tired of being in the spotlight: it stole one of the filmmaker's cameras.

Maybe you can't blame them. The media attention hasn't done sharks much good - and it hasn't done us much good either. They may be camera thieves, but their bloodthirsty reputation is much exaggerated. As we saw last week, a human is much more likely to be killed by a cow than a shark. People think that sharks are ruthless killing machines, when in truth we're far more dangerous to them than they are to us, since humans kill millions of sharks every year.

The filmmakers did get the camera back and finish their documentary. I haven't seen it, so I can only hope that it's not another of those shows that makes us waste time being afraid of the wrong animals.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Bad animal identification gone wrong

As we saw in the previous post, it's a common problem for people to be afraid of the wrong animals. And this problem is compounded by the fact that - as we've also seen many times before - some people can't even tell whether something is an animal or not.

Two recent cases show people getting it wrong in both directions:

- A Swiss office building was evacuated when a giant bird-eating spider was found on a table. Police were called and when they arrived with an animal expert, it was quickly discovered that it was a fake spider. Employees were subjected to a 20 minute lecture on how to tell real animals apart from toys.

Reports don't mention whether this lecture also included the fact that these spiders are not in fact particularly dangerous to humans - certainly not justifying the evacuation of an entire building. Seriously, folks: just empty a trash can and turn it upside down over the spider before calling for help.

- On the other end of the spectrum, a no doubt distracted mother of two toddlers spent at least three days living with a boa constrictor in her bathroom because she mistook it for a banana:
Stacey Way, 28, said: "I was wiping the bathroom floor when I noticed what I thought was a mouldy banana my toddler had shoved down the side of the water pipe.
"I know it sounds ridiculous, but I thought 'I'll get that in a minute with my gloves on' and then just forget all about it.
"Three days later I was bathing my two little ones and wiped around the floor again when I saw that this thing was sticking out more than before but as I got closer it went back in.
"I was so shocked, I couldn't believe it. I looked closer and realised that the banana, or now snake, had a mouth."
People: The photo up above? Closeup of an albino boa constrictor. This photo, on the other hand:
That's a banana. Make note of it.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Sharks are the wrong animal to worry about

It's beach season, and some recent news about shark attacks combined with the sensationalism of a certain cable station's Shark Week may have you questioning your travel plans. If so, you're committing the common error of being afraid of the wrong animals.

In fact, if you're not careful, moving your vacation to some bucolic inland spot may just put you at more danger. If you've read the book, you know that cows kill an average of twenty people a year in the US. With sharks to blame for at most 1 to 3 deaths per year, that means that you're much more likely to be killed by cows than a shark.

What's more, with cows, it's personal. Sharks just think you're a delicious seal and mistakenly take a taste. But here's some detail from the CDC report on bovine murder:
In about 3/4 of the cases “the animal was deemed to have purposefully struck the victim.”

One of the murderous bulls had been hand-raised and bottle-fed by the victim and his family.
If you don't believe it, check out this story of a vengeful bull in India:
The bull apparently kept a watch on frail Bhoop Narayan Prajapati, 65, and attacked him when he was having his morning tea, a day after he had thrown hot water on it for sitting in front of his hut. Prajapati ran inside his thatched hut to escape, but the bull followed him, pushed him to the ground twice and gored him. 
Apparently there was a long history between this man and this bull:  Six months earlier, he hit the animal with a stick and it retaliated, landing him in the hospital for a month.

And not only did the animal plot its revenge for months, it made sure its attack had been successful, and after he died, it returned to gloat:
The bull followed the man when he was being taken to a hospital and later appeared at the crematorium during his funeral.
All I can say is, there's something a shark would never do - I'm definitely going to keep vacationing at the beach.
Cow warning from Switzerland passed on by Flickr user Kecko.