Monday, December 30, 2013

Dolphins do drugs

If you read this blog, you already know the truth about dolphins: they like to kill babies (of their own species and others), commit sexual assault (on their own species and as in the video above, ours), and don't always push drowning swimmers towards shore.

What's left? You won't be surprised to learn that they've figured out how to abuse drugs. On a BBC program set to air in Britain later this week, they're shown getting high on puffer fish, which contain a toxin that gets them high:

"This was a case of young dolphins purposefully experimenting with something we know to be intoxicating," said Rob Pilley, a zoologist who worked as a producer on the series

"After chewing the puffer and gently passing it round, they began acting most peculiarly, hanging around with their noses at the surface as if fascinated by their own reflection."
Mr Pilley said that the dolphins treated the puffer fish differently to their regular prey, which they usually rip apart.
And like any experienced drug user, dolphins appear to know their product.
"The dolphins were specifically going for the puffers and deliberately handling them with care. Dolphins seem to be experts on how to prepare puffers and how to handle them."

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Animals on Santa's "Naughty" List

A couple of animals that got into holiday trouble:

-In Alberta, Canada, an elk got tangled in Christmas lights and needed to be rescued:
The bull elk was spotted wandering near the Alberta mountain town with lights and candy cane ornaments strung up in his antlers. 
Parks Canada, which responded to a resident's call, tranquillized the elk to get him untangled. About 4½​ metres of lights were trailing behind him. 
"We thought that it could get wrapped up in its legs and cause some injury and/or get wrapped up in a bush," said resource management officer Blair Fyten.
Their calm reaction is due to the fact that this is actually nothing new:
"Every couple of years we'll get an animal that's got Christmas lights on him and sometimes they're able to shed the lights themselves, and sometimes they're wrapped up so tight that we have to intervene."
This year, at least two animals have been trapped in Christmas lights, he said.
And in Australia, one croc is already on the list for only getting coal next year after being greedy when Santa visited Crocosaurus Cove in Darwin:
Saint Nick took a dip in the Cage of Death to cool off and say hello to 5.5m-long croc Chopper.
"The water was really refreshing - I'm not used to all this heat and humidity," the North Pole dweller said.
But when Santa dropped in on another inmate named Burt, the 700kg monster made like the Grinch and stole the big man's sack.
The staff at Croc Cove leapt into action to save Christmas and to ensure Burt - who is a sizeable specimen at 5.1m - didn't end up with a bellyache.
They failed to tempt the seasoned reptilian negotiator away from his stolen booty until handlers upped the ante with a whole chicken. He dropped the sack and ate the chook- feathers and all.
Santa said the 80-year-old croc would be blacklisted for many a Christmas to come.
"Most of the crocs will get some nice big bits of special Territory ham (wild boar) but old Burt will only find coal in his stocking when I come back on Christmas Eve," he said.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Local Heroine in the War Against Bad Animals

We've seen it time and time again on this blog: people are left at the mercy of bad animals by the very agencies and authorities that ought to be in charge of helping them. But to be slightly cheerful for the holiday season, here's a sort of encouraging story of an unconventional success.

In one part of India that's plagued by elephants, state officials proclaimed themselves helpless in the face of a herd that entered the city of Rourkela back in July. They corralled the beasts into a football stadium but then had no idea how to get them back to the forest.

Who did they turn to? A 14-year-old girl, named Nirmala Toppo.

The BBC explains her methods:
Nirmala says she talks to the herd in her local tribal dialect - Mundaari - and persuades the animals to "return to where they belong".
"First I pray and then talk to the herd. They understand what I say. I tell them this is not your home. You should return where you belong," says Nirmala who is a Roman Catholic.
Her mother, she says, was killed by wild elephants and that was when she decided to learn the technique to drive them away.
In her work, she is assisted by her father and a group of boys from her village.
"We surround the herd. Then I go near them and pray and talk to them."
Some city folk are skeptical of her abilities, but locals say that people who live among elephants have to know how to cope with their bad behavior.
Niel Justin Beck, a member of the district council in Jharkhand's Simdega area, where Nirmala comes from, says due to their co-existence with the wild animals, the tribal people know how to deal with them.
"In Jharkhand, we call Nirmala a lady Tarzan. Whenever marauding elephants enter a village or destroys crops, the local forest department officials never turn up.
"It is then that the villagers approach Nirmala for help. And she is able to successfully drive away the herd after talking to them."
This is not an entirely heartwarming tale - after all, this is an animal that's been the cause of 800 human deaths in the state in the past decade, and the goverment has to rely on a child to solve the problem? But at least they knew who to ask - and they paid her, too - so we're going to chalk this one up as a success.

Good advice photographed by Flickr user brett burton.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Dogs Down Under

As if Australia didn't have enough animal problems, what with half the animals being venomous and the other half being invasive species eating all the cute native ones and the GIANT FERAL GOLDFISH, man's supposed best friend really isn't helping:

- They've got one amazingly efficient bad dog:
A jaywalking dog has caused a four-car collision, a five-woman fight and a two-man punch-up in Katherine.
The dog ran in front of a car, which managed to stop in time, as did two more vehicles following But then things went downhill:
"However, the driver of a fourth vehicle travelling behind was apparently distracted and was unable to brake in time to avoid rear-ending the vehicle in front, which pushed all of them into the rears of each other."
Supt Foley said a heated exchange between the women followed. An intoxicated man who witnessed the incident reportedly got into a scuffle with one of the women's boyfriends, who turned up on the scene.
-Elsewhere, toad-licking to get high is apparently becoming a canine epidemic:
QUEENSLAND dogs are getting addicted to the hallucinogenic sweat that oozes off the backs of cane toads.

Vets warn that some dogs are so desperate for a fix they deliberately hunt down the amphibians to stimulate the excretion of the deadly poison, then lick their prey.

Like all addicts, the pooches are risking their lives for their cheap thrill.
Jonathon Cochrane from the University of Queensland's School of Veterinary Science said there were some dogs he dubbed "serial lickers" who would be treated for cane toad poisoning a few times a year.
"To say a dog or a cat is having an hallucination is impossible, but some do star gaze or track something across the room that isn't there and others just stare out of the cage while we're monitoring them," he said.
One commenter on the article tells of a particularly persistent pooch:
My parents' dog 'enjoys' an occasional froth at the mouth, dilated pupils and convulsions. Has been 'enjoying' it for years....We have tried everything to get rid of the toads but when the dog wants one it will find it. Even when it is colder. It is almost like the dog has them 'stashed' somewhere.
 -However, if it's any comfort, unlike so much other Australian fauna, at least dogs usually won't kill you - but watch out for your fellow citizens, and caterpillars:
Human Bites Kill More Than Dog Bites in Australia
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australians are more likely to die from caterpillar bite, gas cylinder explosion and falling off the bed.
Hot water taps, for some uncanny reasons, seem to kill more people than venomous spiders... Poisonous plants and animals killed much more than lizards and snakes.

Ominous cane toad by Flickr user tubagooba.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Cats inspire year-long crime spree

Cat lovers, we know how you rationalize it. Whatever number of cats you have, it's not too many - only other people are crazy cat ladies. And whatever you buy to spoil your kitties is just the basic necessities.

One Japanese man, I am sure, used to be just like you. And it led to a year-long crime spree where police say he stole 18.5 million yen (that's around 185,000 in US dollars) so that around 120 cats (that's around 120 in US cats) could eat only the best:

Mamoru Demizu, 48, is suspected of breaking into houses to steal cash and jewels on 32 separate occasions.

He told police that he stole things to come up with the money to feed scores of his feline friends, spending up to 25,000 yen a day, an officer said.

“He said he felt happiest when he rubbed his cheek against cats,” the officer said.

Unemployed Demizu kept one animal at his home in Izumi City, and about 20 in a nearby warehouse, while feeding 100 more strays that lived in the neighborhood, the police said.

“He would give them fresh fish and chicken, not cheap canned food,” he said.
Cat lovers, take heed: you're on a slippery slope.

Many Japanese cats - of the only good kind - by Flickr user Wintersweet.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Unemployed Huskies Turn to Crime

Some breeds of dogs were bred to do a job. And like humans, when they can't get work, they may turn to a life of crime.

A Dollar General store in South Carolina was robbed twice within a few minutes in broad daylight of dog treats, dog food, pig ears and beef bones. Fortunately, security cameras were rolling, revealing that the thief was a husky named Cato. From what his owner says, the dog had no excuse, but he's obviously been practicing:
She said she’s not sure if this is his first theft, but he has gotten into other local businesses. “He’s gotten into Ingles. He’s gotten into BI-LO. He goes to Pizza Hut. And he goes up to Yo Cup which is downtown too,” she said.
Darden said he’s not hungry. “Look at him, he’s fat,” she laughed. “Yes! I feed him. There’s food in there. There’s treats in there.”
This isn't the first time this sort of thing has happened - in 2009, a husky did the same thing in Utah, after disregarding an electronic fence and making a round trip of twelve miles to a grocery store.

So if you've got a husky and no sleds for it to pull, do your duty to the community and keep close tabs on it. 

Monday, December 9, 2013


As if Australia didn't have enough animal problems, what with half the animals being venomous and the other half being invasive species eating all the cute native ones, LOOK AT THIS.

The scientist interviewed in this article is concerned about the fact that fish dumped into the local waterways by irresponsible pet owners can introduce diseases. And goldfish can do their own special damage: they like to dig around in the muck, which can cause algal blooms. Worse, apparently when the eat the algae, it doesn't kill it - it passes through their gut "reinvigorated."

But come on, surely that is not the scariest part, this is:
Dr Morgan said that his team had discovered 40 centimetre-long feral goldfish that weighed up to two kilograms.
"In WA, we have the fastest growing goldfish in the world," Dr Morgan said.
"They just eat and eat and grow and grow."

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The truth about animal relationships

You should go read this post at The Toast, because there is nothing I could write today, or possibly any other day, that would equal it:

A Slideshow Of Different Animals Who Are Not Friends And Have Never Met


Photo by Flickr user Leo Koolhoven via the interesting Animals Sitting On Capybaras Tumblr, which you should also check out, but without assuming that they are enjoying it, you know?

Monday, December 2, 2013

Tools and shoes

I can't think of a way to make a connection between these stories except to make a bad pun about the Crocs, and no one wants to hear that. So let's just leave it at: here are my favorite two stories I've collected since last week.

-We've seen plenty of cats who make collections of stolen items from around their neighborhood, but this one in New Zealand is impressive for her focus on a single type of rather large prey: she collects shoes.
A cat-burglar with a penchant for footwear is behind the disappearance of about 50 shoes in Arataki.

The cat has brought back all sorts of shoes from gumboots to Crocs, individual shoes to pairs, kids to adults and even a boxing glove. He drags those that will fit through the cat door while the rest remain on the drive or in the garden.
"The crazy thing is that there are pairs sometimes so he must be going back because he couldn't carry two," Miss Graham said.
-It was once thought that tool use was one of the things that separated humans from other animals. It's long been clear that this isn't true, and of course, once you can use tools, you can use them to behave badly.  A recent paper describes crocodiles in India and alligators in the US that will lurk around egret and heron colonies with sticks balanced on their snouts. As blogger Darren Naish explains:
Birds approach to collect the sticks for use in nest building and… well, let’s just say that it doesn’t end well for the birds.
It's pretty clear this is no accident: the crocs only do it during nesting season.

(And if you still aren't convinced that this is something animals can do, follow the link to read about a bunch more animals that use bait to attract prey.)

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Science confirms that cats are assholes

Admit it, cat owners. This is not a surprise:

Cats recognise their owners' voices but never evolved to care, says study
Any cat owner will tell you that although they are sometimes kept as pets, felines are beholden to no one.
A new study from the University of Japan has confirmed this, showing that although pet cats are more than capable of recognising their owner’s voice they choose to ignore them.
The study tested cats in their own homes by playing them recordings of strangers and their owners calling their names. The cats' body language revealed that they did distinguish their owner's voice from the other. But they couldn't be bothered to get up and do anything about it.

The scientists suggest that this is due to the evolutionary history of cats, which haven't been selected for thousands of generations to attend to human commands. What the authors of the study seem to be more confused by - as am I - is the human side of the equation:
The study concludes by observing that “the behavioural aspect of cats that cause their owners to become attached to them are still undetermined.”
In other words: so why the heck do people like them anyway?

Three cats ignoring Flickr user Virany.


Monday, November 25, 2013

New heights in bad animal traditions

Some traditions have been going on for so long, it's hard come up with something original. You'd think that dogs eating homework and birds pooping on cars would be included. That makes these two stories all the more impressive.

-Rome drowns in bird droppings as austerity bites
Rome is facing a "guano alarm" as millions of starlings leave the city covered in a thick layer of droppings, Italian media report.

Some four million starlings annually overwinter in the capital, but this year spending cuts have derailed efforts to discourage the birds from settling in central areas. In previous years, anti-starling measures have included pruning plane trees and broadcasting amplified cries of birds of prey through loudspeakers.

The tree-lined Lungotevere, the boulevard running along the river Tiber, is particularly badly affected. Sections of it are thick with droppings, creating slip hazards for pedestrians, cyclists and motorbike riders alike.  Pedestrians arm themselves with umbrellas or run for cover. The situation is so bad that some residents bang on pots and pans in the streets and squares to scare the birds away, just as people used to do in years gone by.
- Dog Needs Surgery After Eating Girl’s ‘Volcanic’ Homework
It’s the oldest line in the classroom – “My dog ate my homework.” But in this case it was painfully true.
“I made a volcano project out of candy and I pinned the candy to a foam base,” Payton said. “I woke up one morning and I came down to my desk and it was just all over the floor.”
An X-ray showed fifty straight pins in the dog's stomach. They were removed by a vet. The homework was done over - this time, with glue.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Emu Invasion

Today I had planned to write about deer in places they shouldn't be, for instance:

-The one in Indiana that smashed through a window into an elementary school and smashed out through another one ("This is the third one we've had," said a school official)
-The one in France that got stuck on a garage roof and had to be rescued
-The one that broke into a crab restaurant in Long Island and caused several thousand dollars worth of damage

But heck, we've seen all that before. What we haven't seen is this:
Emus are stopping traffic in the main street of Longreach in western Queensland as the drought forces them into town to look for food.

The emus have been walking residential streets in Longreach for some months but they are now in the main street, halting traffic and feeding in garden beds.

Longreach Mayor Joe Owens says they seem at home.

"They are taking absolutely no notice of the people, or the cars or dogs," he said. "When they are crossing the street, people have to stop for them. They just toddle across as they please."
And don't think this is the normal way of life in Australia - they haven't seen this before either:
Grazier and naturalist Angus Emmott says he has never seen them in the centre of town and it is quite a novelty.

"I think the locals are quite enjoying the scene of having them outside their shop fronts - that is something I haven't observed before," he said.

"The roos and the emus are just desperately seeking something to eat and a bit of greenery, so they are marching in and getting it wherever they can. It is doing away with their natural cautiousness of man, so they are marching right up into the main street."
Don't miss the rest of the photos here.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Brilliant bad animal headlines

Brilliant headlines, I meant, but now that I think of it, these are some pretty brilliantly creative and successful bad animals too - not that that's a good thing:

Man’s thumb nearly bitten off after giving escaped monkeys an egg sandwich
Ricky Strong had four monkeys pounce on him, and one of them nearly bit off his thumb.

“I had to hit ‘em and fight them off me and I went to run and get away and I actually face planted into that tree. And then I ran out of here bleeding running all the way down here and two of them come chase me running me all the way to my house.”

The monkeys got loose midday Thursday from a Wedgewood shed.

Strong’s hand is now in a cast, his shirt has claw marks in it, and his jeans are stained with his own blood.

And this all started because he gave one of the escaped monkeys an egg sandwich.

“He actually came to me and walked up my arm,” Strong explained.

Strong walked with the monkey back to the shed where the other three primates were.

Strong was about to leave and then a cat showed up.

“And when it did, the one monkey threw like a toolbox at the cat,” says Strong.
Then a dog got on a deck and started barking and all four of the monkeys jumped on Strong.
License to Quill
With needle-sharp quills, some longer than the average human forearm, porcupines sport one of nature’s most frightening defenses against predators. But a new study shows they can be fearsome killers as well. Researchers in Italy have found that the rodents can slay dogs, foxes, and even badgers. Scientists monitored porcupines in Tuscany for about 18 months... In one such case, two porcupines ran backwards, forcing a dog into their den, where they fatally impaled it with their quills. Other porcupines killed four other predators, two badgers and two foxes, over the study period; such deaths have never been previously recorded in scientific literature.
Mutant Rats Have Invaded British Parliament; Experts Blame Evolution
The British government is reportedly spending the equivalent of more than $11,000 a month fighting mutant rats that have infested Parliament.

According to the Daily Star, pest control experts at the House of Commons spent £7,000 (about $11,216) dealing with poison-resistant -- ergo, "mutant" -- rodents in a single month. That bill represents an increase of 15 percent from two years go.

That's not all. The rats are apparently spreading across the UK. International Business Times reports that the mutants look like normal rats, but eat poison pellets intended to kill them "like feed."

"Normal rats are being killed off by poison, so these resistant species are taking their place. It's only natural that their numbers are expanding," British Pest Control Association spokesman Richard Moseley told the Metro. Ain't evolution a rat bastard?

Different sort of mutant political rat by Flickr user Kenya Allmond.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Disrespecting the Dead

There are a ton of bad animal stories I need to catch up with. But when you get a story about animals desecrating a cemetery, it's just got to stand alone. From The Telegraph:
As a way to save money at a village churchyard, it had seemed like a splendid idea.

But a scheme to let loose a flock of sheep in a graveyard to keep the grass down has backfired, after they grazed on floral tributes and mementoes left for loved ones.

The ten ewes were introduced to Holy Trinity Church in the aptly-named village of Grazeley, Berkshire, because the parochial council said it could no longer afford anyone to mow the lawn.

But Nicola Millard, whose grandparents are buried there, said: “The condition is awful - basically they’ve ruined all the flowers and bent forward one of the headstones, and there is a lot of debris over the graves.”

Vic Jerrom, who has several generations of ancestors buried there, described the damage as 'very disrespectful' to those laid to rest.

"It's a mess, the sheep are grazing on the graves and of course there is sheep droppings everywhere. It's despicable" he said.
And from the local media:
Vic Jerrom, secretary of Grazeley Village Hall committee, said he has had several people complaining about the sheep.

He said: “I have had two people saying they were absolutely in tears and one said she couldn’t get to her father’s grave to put a wreath of poppies on it."
 Don't miss additional photos of the carnage at that link.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Everything old is new again

Anji Thornton-Randall and Andy Dawson with Bluebell and some of her ill-gotten gains.

These are all examples of classic bad behavior we've seen many times before - but isn't tradition grand?

Swedish beaver grinds traffic to a stop
Motorists in central Sweden were left in a jam on Friday apparently due to the work of a busy Swedish beaver.

The traffic jam occurred at lunchtime near Borensberg in Östergötland, where police have blamed a beaver for felling a tree, which resulted in a blocked road and long queues of motorists.
Cat dials the police
MOST people who dial 999 when there’s not an emergency risk being charged with wasting precious police time. But Bruce Lee, a caller from Kilburn, is expected to escape prosecution: he’s a pedigree Singapura kitten.
Officers broke down the door of his owner’s flat on Thursday morning after the home-alone cat accidentally stepped on the house phone, dialling 999.
Not taking any chances, police rushed to the scene, only to find Bruce Lee hiding under a mountain of clothes in a wardrobe.
Fox gets into bed with human
A DARING fox decided to seek out a midnight snack before snuggling up on Jessica Lambert’s bed.
Jessica, 11, woke up to find the animal in her downstairs bedroom at home in West Mersea. She gave it a stroke and excitedly popped upstairs to tell her parents about their house guest.
Mum Charlotte said: “It had gone through two large cat flaps. We have a cat and dog which use them, and the fox was the size of a labrador.
“Luckily, Jessica loves animals so she wasn’t scared, and just stroked it before coming upstairs to tell us. I thought she was dreaming, but when we came down it was back in the pantry.”

Finally, another traditional tale, but with a twist - look who the owners are:

Meet Bluebell, Wokingham's kleptomaniac cat burglar
The mischievous moggie has nabbed socks, a rugby ball, clothes and even Sellotape, and her owners are both police officers. While most moggies proudly present birds and mice to their humans, the two-and-a-half-year-old has also been hunting everything from pants to house keys.
Miss Thornton-Randall, 35, a Detective Constable with CID, joked: “We have tried giving her a curfew and have put a bell on her collar. She’s a little monkey."
Miss Thornton-Randall said: “Not long after she was with us, things kept going missing and then appearing in the house. Like the plug from the sink is loose, it doesn’t have a chain, and it went missing, we looked everywhere. Three days later there it was on the carpet outside the bedroom door. The same with Andy’s razor from the bathroom.”
Bluebell then ventured further afield and as her home backs on to Fishponds industrial estate, a collection of workmen’s items found their way into the couple’s home including insulating tape and heavy duty gloves Miss Thornton-Randall said: “Last year we went away and someone looked after the cat and they sent us pictures of things she brought back including a long, chiffon scarf. “
She must go into people’s houses because she brought back a rubber duck like you would have in the bath. She once brought back a Radley purse with someone’s door keys in it – we had to take it to the police station.”

Monday, November 4, 2013

Catching up with bad animals

A few of the things bad animals have been up to while I was too busy on the other side of the planet to keep an eye on them:

Fire officials say hungry pup started Wash. apartment fire
Fire officials say a dog reaching for treats turned on a stove and started a fire causing smoke damage to an apartment in the central Washington city of Wenatchee.

Wenatchee Fire Marshal Mark Yaple tells KPQ radio that it appears the black Labrador was reaching for a bag of dog food left on a stove top when it turned on the stove with its paw.
Meerkats 'pay rent' to dominant female to stay in group
Some subordinate female meerkats wet-nurse a dominant female's offspring in exchange for not being evicted from the group, a study suggests.
Man attacked in Moyock by escaped monkey
Rick Story was bitten as he helped owner Richard Shiflett get some of the monkeys back to the garage where they're kept.
"It really did a number on my thumb. It ripped it right here, and right here .. Tried to rip it right off I think," he said.
Finally, I have to give credit to one part of the mainstream media that was on the case while I was gone- on Slate:

Sea Otters Are Jerks. So Are Dolphins, Penguins, and Other Adorable Animals
Dolphins kill other marine mammals and fish just for fun and commit infanticide. This only gets creepier given the recent suggestion that dolphins actually have names that they call one another. I can’t say I look forward to the day when scientists discover dolphin slurs. Seeing a dolphin at sea should be just as chilling as how many people feel when they see the sinuous silhouette of a shark.

That photo is not the dog in question, but another dog that has been known to do the same thing, so it's an isolated incident.

Thursday, October 31, 2013


Due to my being too jetlagged to form coherent sentences, in lieu of an actual post, I ask that you please accept this photo of the candy they sell at the goat cafe in Tokyo.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Temporary suspension of service

I am headed to Japan to investigate the rumor that people there have gone so mad for animals that there's a cafe in Tokyo where you can eat a meal with goats. In the meantime I recommend these essays elsewhere for your reading pleasure:

The Bunny Manifesto

Zombies vs Animals

Monday, October 21, 2013

Animals where they shouldn't be, automotive edition

From near Lake Tahoe comes this excellent headline:
Truckee Police See Rise in Bears Getting Stuck in Cars
In the last two weeks, police say three bears have become trapped in cars in Truckee.
What is excellent is the clear implication that bears get stuck in cars there regularly enough that you have to have three in quick succession for it to be remarkable. This of course should be no surprise to readers of this blog, who've seen this sort of thing before.  As the article warns, "Experts say bears know how to open unlocked car doors," but don't be impressed by how smart they are, because the also regularly manage to lock themselves in and can't figure out how to get out -  and they tend to react by trashing the vehicle in frustration.

Still, that is an easy problem to solve compared to the next one. All you have to do is lock your car door, and at least if a bear does get into your car, it will be obvious. Not like this:

Toyotas recalled for spider-related problem
Toyota is recalling 870,000 vehicles because a problem with an air conditioner part could cause airbags to deploy unnecessarily .

In some cases, the problem was caused by spiders.

Sometimes, their webs can create a blockage in a drainage tube coming from the air conditioning condenser. That can cause water to drip down onto an airbag control module, causing a short circuit. That, in turn, could cause the airbag warning light to light up on the dashboard and it could even cause the driver's side airbag to deploy, something that happens with explosive force.
 And before you comfort yourself with how rare this sort of problem must be, let me remind you that in 2011, Mazda recalled 65,000 cars because of spiders nesting in the fuel system.

You know what? Maybe you should just take the bus.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Animals where they shouldn't be

-The end of the government shutdown is good news for the fight against bad animals, which have been running amuck in the most high-profile place possible. The White House garden is being devastated by squirrels feasting on the produce, and a fox has taken up living in the grounds.

The photo above is from a blog about the garden that first reported the situation. The story was picked up by international media, but because the employees that could evict the critters were furloughed, the world could do nothing but look on helplessly. We hope the relevant staff are on the case promptly this morning.

 -And on the other side of the world, this one calls for another photograph:
A kangaroo shut down part of Melbourne Airport on Wednesday when it hopped through a terminal and into a pharmacy, airport officials said.

Customers inside the drug store alerted Australian police, who were forced to lock down part of the Qantas terminal so wildlife workers could tranquilize the wayward kangaroo.
A quote from another article gave me pause:
Neil Mitchell said the kangaroo should get used to attention.
"That kangaroo will be world famous soon - the English, Chinese, they'll be fascinated!"
I have to wonder: does giving these animals publicity just encourage them - am I part of the problem?

Monday, October 14, 2013

A symbol of the nation

Columbus Day has become a national holiday of ambivalence: a celebration of the 'discovery' of our country, which is understandably a bit annoying to the people who were already here. So it's an appropriate day for a story that shows that our national animal symbol is not all it's cracked up to be either:
He's a symbol of everything our great country stands for. The majestic bald eagle. It doesn't get more patriotic than our nation's bird. Most people are glad to see a slice of Americana in their own backyard. But in Sebewaing...
"He's a nuisance bird," resident Tami Bieri said. Tami Bieri is fed up. Ever since the young animal made his presence known just off Beck Street. Bieri says the bird that her daughter named "Derrick" has been terrorizing her pets.
"I left my two dogs outside and my smaller dog was attacked by an eagle. And then as the eagle was taking off with the dog, my Jack Russell attacked the eagle and both dogs got away," Bieri said.
As usual, the authorities are no help:
Now Bieri wants something done to evict the newest feathered resident. But so far, she says she's not getting much help. "He's federally protected. I've called the DNR, the Sebewaing police, and they pretty much say there's nothing they can do because the eagle's not injured," Bieri said.
And here's an expert's suggestion for how to defend your poor innocent pets from a large bird of prey:
"Clap your hands and yell at the bird when you see the bird around, bang on a pot when you see the bird around, go out there with an umbrella, flap the umbrella opened and closed to try and spook the bird off just so it doesn't feel settled around people," bird expert Karen Cleveland said.
Good luck with that.... on yet another day where animals have the freedom to get away with whatever they want in this great country of ours.

Eagle by Flickr user Jason Mrachina. Majestic, sure, except maybe to the fish...

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Fair warning

In Sweden, a woman was sent to the hospital when a gorilla with very good aim threw a rock at her:
The woman, 38, was hit in the forehead by the stone, which was thrown by one of the five gorillas at the Kolmården National Park in central Sweden. The stone measured roughly five centimetres in diameter, said Marjorie Castro, head of the zoo.

"At first everything seemed fine. She was bleeding a little from her forehead, but seemed to be in good health," Castro told the Aftonbladet paper. "But she was hit in the head and gorillas have enormous strength, so we called an ambulance. After a while, she felt weak and we had to lie her down."
The zoo made rather lame excuses for not forseeing the problem (my italics):
Castro added that the gorillas have never thrown things at visitors before, with the exception of lighter objects like grass.
 Right, so what were the odds these powerful and intelligent apes were going to eventually try something else? And in fact, other visitors said it had happened before:
However, following the news of the stone-throwing gorilla, other Swedes shared similar stories about their experiences with the Kolmården primates. The mother of a 7-year-old boy told Aftonbladet that Enzo the gorilla had thrown a stone at her son in July last year.

"I got so scared and was thinking 'Please, don't throw rocks," the boy told the paper. "They are scary."
Sensible child!

I mean seriously, look at the arm muscles on that gorilla from Wikipedia, what were they thinking?

Monday, October 7, 2013

Rowdy Raccoon Roundup

From all across the continent, raccoons acting like hooligans:

-In the Bronx,  a pack of raccoons are terrorizing people at a train station, from jumping out of trees unexpectedly to ominously pacing the station platform, resulting in the most bemusing sentence of news reporting in today's batch of stories:
The mammal is very intelligent and will eat garbage.
Right, because that's an intelligent thing to do.

Elsewhere in the city a while ago, a woman was mugged by raccoons in Central Park :
Takara Larson, 26, of Bedford-Stuyvesant says she was scratched and bitten by a pair of raccoons that “appeared to be on drugs.”
“They were both on me. One was licking my leg and the other one sank his teeth in my other leg,” Larson told the Daily News Thursday. “It just seemed like they were hungry or deranged.”
 -In a Virginia suburb of Washington DC, raccoons are attacking people on their own property:
"Out of the corner of my eye I saw a raccoon. He walked up to me quickly and as I’m stepping away from it … he starts mauling my ankle.”
Alboum had been playing on her porch with her 4-year-old daughter at the time of the attack. After she was bitten she was taken to the hospital and received nine shots for rabies.
Another woman, who was pregnant, was also attacked in a separate incident. She was also treated for rabies.
And of course we've got our usual alleged animals experts who don't know whose side they are on:
However since the raccoons were not found and tested, animal control experts could not say if they had contracted rabies or another potentially dangerous disease.
“Innocent until proven guilty, we say,” Deputy Animal Control Officer Kimberly Corcoran told WJLA-TV of the possible rabid raccoons.
-Finally, in one neighborhood terrorized by raccoons in British Columbia, one man has been attacked four times, and now carries bear spray when he walks his dog. But again, a local government official shifts the blame:
"I understand people's concerns, but it's also a people-driven problem."
This official claims the problem should be blamed on people who are feeding them. But as far as this blog is concerned, this often-heard reasoning is faulty. If people are feeding you, animals, shouldn't that make you be nice to them?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Frankenstein's Bovine

In Korea, this is how a cow thanks the person who gave it life:
A cloned cow attacked its “creator” last week just ahead of the Chuseok holiday, inflicting injuries on the world-renowned embryologist, who will need eight weeks of medical treatment.

Prof. Park Se-pill at Jeju National University had five of his ribs broken and injured his spine in the Sept. 15 attack, the university on the scenic resort island said Sunday.

“Park was video-recording a black cow, which he cloned from species indigenous to Jeju four years ago, and all of a sudden, it charged and attacked him for 15 minutes,” a school official said.

“The 800-kilogram black cow is very strong because its cell donor was the best available. Park could not escape easily because he wore a special suit and long boots. He is now being treated at the university hospital.”
“We didn’t have the cow neutered because we have to check its virility. Hence, it often gets very restless,” Park said.

The 54-year-old said that the cow is now in a barn and no special measure will be taken despite the incident.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Belated bad animal headlines

My Internet was out for two days, and I couldn't even blame it on animals. Here's some of what they were trying to get away with while I was off the grid:

Wild Hogs Roam Streets, Scare People Near Atlanta
Some parents fear sending their children to a school bus stop in the Lithonia area, where up to four of the hogs are roaming the streets and eating trash in front yards.
“My children are petrified,” Taneisha Danner told WSB-TV.

Danner and her family just moved into their home from New Jersey.

“I have little ones that get on the bus at 6:40 in the morning,” she added. “So, I’m sorry. I’m not built to fight off wildlife.”
Crafty fox steals balls at Swiss golf club
“He comes every day, steals the balls and plays with them,” Murielle Guex, manager of the Moulins snack bar, located across from the course, told the 20 Minutes newspaper.

“He picks up the balls, then immediately runs away,” Guex said.

“He is fantastic and very couragous,” she said.

“He dares to come very close to people.”

The fox first appeared on September 6th and has since absconded with more than 100 balls, according to reports.
Check out video here.

And finally, just so you don't think this has stopped happening: Dog shoots man.

Unrelated but oddly appropriate photo by Flickr user Dan Perry

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Score one - or two? - for the humans

It's a recurring theme of this blog: it's not just that animals are bad, it's that people keep letting them get away with it.  But this week we saw one human demonstrate how to stand up to bad animals when a bear walked into a bar in Alaska:
Around 9:15 p.m., C. Scott Fry, the hotel and bar manager, watched the black bear walk down the sidewalk past the hotel  lobby.

“And as soon as he got to the bar door, it made a left and walked in like he wanted to have a beer,” Fry said.

Ariel Svetlik-McCarthy was tending bar last night. She says it had been quiet up to that point. She realized the bear was inside and freaked out.

She yelled, “No bear! Get out! No! You can’t be in here!’”

Within seconds, the black bear obliged.
And in Connecticut, there was a case where the law took the human's side - but now the decision is hanging in the balance:
After a horse named Scuppy bit a boy in the face, a Connecticut court came to a conclusion that threw animal lovers: Horses are a naturally vicious species.

In February 2012, the mid-level Appellate Court overturned a lower court ruling and said that testimony by Timothy Astriab, whose family owns the farm, demonstrated that Scuppy belongs to ‘‘a species naturally inclined to do mischief or be vicious.’’
If you read this blog, you know that that description is true of every species. But horse lovers are appealing this decision, and we'll be keeping an eye out for the result.

Horse teeth coming at you by Flickr user jafro77

Monday, September 23, 2013

Livestock Overhead

'Bored' horse climbs on top of New Brunswick family's roof
A New Brunswick couple was baffled after a family member sent them a photo of their horse perched on the roof of a garage.
Stephen Downey and his wife Pat raise racing horses in Hampton N.B. But despite their experience with the four-legged beasts, they say they were baffled after seeing a photo, taken by Stephen's brother Archie, of a young colt on the garage roof.
"It looked like Archie had done a joke on Stephen and Photoshopped the horse on the roof because that just doesn't happen" Pat Downey told CTV Atlantic. "You would never get a horse to do something like that."
There was a hole in the roof where were the colt had put a hoof through. Pat Downey says it would have been a drop of more than 3.5 metres if the colt had plunged through.
"I think he was just bored," Downey said. "He's like a two or three-year-old kid and he was just looking for some excitement and he got into trouble like a regular kid would do."
This blog is very slowly amassing a collection of large farm animals on the roofs of buildings. In 2009 we had a cow on a roof, in 2011 a sheep, and now, it's a horse. I'm looking forward to pigs on a roof in 2015.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

New frontiers in bad animal behavior

-Snake pickled in wine for three months wakes up and bites woman

In China, alcohol with a viper in it is used as a medicinal drink. But if you're not careful, it can end you up in the hospital instead of keeping you out of it:
When the bottle ran dry the woman opened the top to pour in more alcohol. As she did so the snake suddenly started breathing and wriggling, and sprung out of the bottle. The viper bit the woman on her finger as she tried to swat it away.
-Elk family trashes Norway school
Our janitor he came to school and he saw a broken door," Solveig Eid, the headmistress of Risil School, told The Local."He thought that some children or teenagers had been having a party or whatever and had broken the glass."

It was only when he went to check the school's security video that he identified the true culprits.
-Police called when ferret goes on hour-long rampage
"I tried to shoo it away but it just kept going for me and going for me. This went on for about an hour or so. It just kept trying to bite me. It was horrible and my ankle is painful to walk on."
The ferret was finally lured into a box with a piece of ham, but also bit the officer who came to take it into custody. It's now at an animal shelter, where they say:
"Owing to his temperament, we'll probably be looking for someone experienced in ferret care."

Monday, September 16, 2013

Pigs running amuck

It's been too long since we caught up on the wild pig problem. Recent stories have people throwing up their hands and saying there's nothing that can be done - but one fellow is setting an example, and we'll be keeping a hopeful eye on his progress.

-Campers told to lock up food and drink after feral pig goes on bender in Western Australia and ends up in altercation with cow
The animal was seen stealing three six-packs of beer from campers before ransacking rubbish bags for food.

One camper reported seeing the pig guzzling the beer before getting involved in an altercation with a cow.

"In the middle of the night these people camping opposite us heard a noise, so they got their torch out and shone it on the pig and there he was, scrunching away at their cans," said the visitor, who estimated that the pig had consumed 18 beers.
"Then he went and raided all the rubbish bags. There were some other people camped right on the river and they saw him being chased around their vehicle by a cow."
The pig was reportedly last seen resting under a tree, possibly nursing a hangover.
-Horde of Pigs Goes Hog Wild in San Ramon
"It looks like a tornado has hopped from yard to yard," Carrie Spurlock said. "We've tried to deter them, but they keep coming back."
A visit to the neighborhood by NBC Bay Area on Wednesday revealed a dozen or so front lawns looking like they had been professionally rototilled by the porcine critters destroying property in a neighborhood where home prices start at more than half-a-million dollars.
Neighbors have been frustrated with trying to get rid of the pigs. They've used pesticides to kill insects, which the pigs like to dine on. They've installed motion-sensor lights hoping that would keep the animals away. They said they've called the Department of Fish and Game but have got the runaround. And they've called a trapper, who set up 10 traps around the neighborhood. All to no avail.
-Kingwood residents might be stuck with wild hogs eating everything
"If you put a sprinkler system in your front yard and run it regularly, you are creating a hog habitat," Crenshaw said. "They want to eat grubs and bugs and all the stuff right below the soil surface.
Hogs on the hunt know what's there because they can smell it, he said.
"They will root it up and eat everything," he said. "They have now demolished what a lot of people spend good money on to have a nice-looking yard."
There's no easy way to get rid of feral hogs in an urban area, since residential hunting is illegal.
The wildlife official in that story says that trapping is the only possibility, but says residents will have to arrange it on their own, and goes on to whine about all the problems it causes once you've got the hog in a trap:
It can't simply be released on someone else's land or public land because it could have a disease that can be transmitted to domestic pigs, he said.
The only meat packer in the area that's certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to process feral hogs is in Porter.
"You have to take it to them live and they have to run tests to make sure it doesn't have wildlife diseases," he said. "If they take it, they're agreeing to have an animal on site for a month."
But elsewhere in Texas that's not stopping them:

-Hired Hog Trapper Has Three Years To Clean Out Dallas 

Trapper Osvaldo Rojas isn't a whiner, and he isn't deterred by what these animals can do to him personally:
"I've had quite a bit of injuries: stitches, a couple of broken bones," he says. "About eight pairs of boots, you name it, jeans. I just stopped buying jeans. I just wear them ripped now. There's no reason to keep buying them if they're gonna continue to get ripped, so might as well keep wearing 'em."
And he says he's got what it takes to do the job:
His plan involves placing large traps with video cameras all around the city, luring the hogs with feeding stations. Once the entire pack is in the trap, he closes the gates from his smartphone. Constant video surveillance allows him to study their behavior for days.
Rojas estimates it will take about two years to trap most of the hogs, and then the last year to capture the stragglers. He says has a strategy that sets him apart.
"It doesn't take much, but it has to do with patience," he explains. "I can sit out there for eight hours and not see anything, and I'm totally fine. It takes somebody to have patience. And a little bit of know-how."

Monday, September 9, 2013

Bad animals old and new

-Another squirrel in toilet. In this case the victim called 911:
Woman: "I have some kind of animal in the toilet in my bathroom."
Dispatcher: "Like, what's it look like?"
Woman: "Well, it's gray. That's all I can tell you. I didn't look real good because it scared me to death. I'm sorry."
Dispatcher: "But it's not like one of your animals, like a cat or something?"
Woman: "No. My cat is in my office behaving herself."
-Drunken elk threatens homeowner:
Get ready for the season of drunken elks. As ripe fruit falls from the trees and ferments on the ground, it is time for some of Sweden’s most majestic wild animals to act in a most un-regal manner.
One home owner east of the capital has already been confronted by a mob of boozed-up elks. The five animals, feasting on rotten windfalls, “were threatening” and refused to let him into his garden.
“Sensibly enough the elks left the scene when police arrived,” writes Albin Näverberg on Stockholm police’s website.
To prevent further elk booze-binges the home owner, who lives in Värmdö, east of Stockholm, was advised to remove the apples from his yard. “The elks will have to get drunk somewhere else,” writes Näverberg.
-Those are classics, but here's a new one by me: Millipede probe after train crash
An investigation is underway to see if a Portuguese millipede infestation contributed to a train crash on the Joondalup line this morning.
Public Transport Authority spokesman David Hynes said millipedes had created similar problems at Wellard railway station in the past and could be seen on the tracks at Clarkson this morning.
“When the train squashes them they tend to make the tracks slimy,” he said. “That’s a phenomenon we’re aware of and we will investigate whether it was a factor at Clarkson.”

Photo of Swedish elk from Radio Sweden, who helpfully remind that Americans call it a moose.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Animals where they shouldn't be

-There are some things I post on this blog that you probably think, "that's one in a million. I don't have to worry about that." You probably thought that, for example, about the woman who woke up to find a fox in her bed with her. But you'd be wrong:
Man discovers a FOX in his bed after rolling over to give his girlfriend a cuddle 
Leon Smith was dozing in bed when he thought his girlfriend Sophie Merrell had lovingly nuzzled the back of his neck.

But she had already gone to work, and when Leon reached out for a cuddle he felt fur - and found himself in bed with a fox who had sneaked in through the cat flap.

Leon, 30, from Hampton Hill in London, told The Sun : "I just couldn't believe it. It was so calm, just staring at me."

The IT worker grabbed his phone and took a quick snap of the cheeky fox before it turned tail and went back through the bedroom door.
 -But don't think animals are running out of ideas for getting into places they shouldn't be. Here's one we haven't seen before:
Beaver breaks into Oregon Zoo's otter exhibit
PORTLAND, Ore., Aug. 29 (UPI) -- Officials at the Oregon Zoo said a mountain beaver was returned to the woods after trespassing in the facility's otter exhibit.
Zoo officials said the rodent, also known as a boomer, was discovered swimming Tuesday in the moat for the river otter exhibit at the Portland facility, KGW-TV, Portland, reported Thursday
The zoo's Twitter page said the animal was returned to the wild.
As someone who's provided daily room service to zoo animals, I don't blame this beaver for being jealous.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Animals vs Technology Roundup

Bird poop disables 25,000 traffic signals in Nagano
According to the Nagano branch of the Chubu Electric Power Company, a large number of birds had been defecating on an insulator in the Idegawa Substation in Matsumoto. The pile of crap got so huge that it dripped down a meter length of the insulator and caused a short triggering an automatic shutdown. 
Snakes Blamed for Power Outages
Snakes are not the only suspects in this case; their accomplices appear to be birds.
“We believe the snakes are being brought in by owls or by feeding hawks, searching for relatively open spaces to consume their prey,” said Austin Partida, the co-op’s member relations/public relations manager. “The snakes are making contact with the ground wire and the oil circuit reclosers. That causes arcing, and the flashing apparently scares the hungry birds away.”
How One Nuclear Missile Base Is Battling Ground Squirrels
The squirrels, each about a foot long and 1-2 pounds, dig extensive underground tunnel networks (they’ve been known to excavate tunnel systems more than 30 feet in length). At Malmstrom, they’ve developed an annoying habit of tunneling underneath the fences that protect each nuclear missile’s silo.

For an underground barrier, they initially tested steel fabric (similar to steel wool) and a metal chain-link mesh, but they were no match for the squirrels. “They just tore through steel fabric, with their claws and ever-growing incisors, and squeezed right through the chain-link mesh,” Witmer says.
Kittens Shut Down Subway in Brooklyn
Two kittens ran onto subway tracks in Brooklyn Thursday, and the MTA halted trains on two lines for about an hour as workers in reflective vests tried to corral the felines, witnesses and officials said. 
But as it turns out, NBC 4 New York can confirm that herding cats is a difficult feat.
 The MTA shut off power to the area so workers could go down and try to coax the kittens into carrying cases. The frisky kitties were later rescued and were in the custody of Animal Care & Control.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

A bad animal classic

Some things never get old, and a Cat Burglar is one of them.
Naughty Norris first started pilfering from local residents around a year ago – dragging food taken from bins through his cat flap.
But his crime spree soon escalated and he started stealing bras, knickers, pants, T-shirts, dusters, gloves, dish cloths and boxer shorts.
He has also come back with unopened tube of gravy paste, a German sausage, baby clothes and someone’s running kit – and even a bath mat and towel set.
Two-year-old Norris has amassed such a huge pile of knickers his owners have red-facedly delivered letters to residents admitting they may have of some of their property.
Norris brings most of his hoard through the cat flap – but if it can’t fit through he leaves it on the mat outside.
Owners Richard and Sophie Windsor, of Bedminster, Bristol, reckon Norris is trawling washing lines for his ill-gotten gains.
Richard, 26, a graphic designer, said: “He was perfectly well behaved up until the age of one, then he started to turn to a life of petty crime.
“He first started bringing things in from the recycling bins when he was about one. At first it was just the odd thing – but over the last four months, he has really started to up his game.
“Initially it was dusters and dish cloths but this has now intensified to clothes, including bras, pants, T-shirts and jumpers.
“We have even had a pair of washing-up gloves – each brought in on a separate night. He goes out in the evening and then returns quite late on or in the early hours.
“He brings his stolen items in and then meows and meows to announce he is back so we will go and see what he has brought in. Sometimes he will go out multiple times during one night."
The couple are now trying to reunite the items with their owners after collecting a huge stash of Norris’ stolen goodies in a special cat swag bag.
They delivered letters explaining Norris’ naughty habit, appealing to anyone who was missing items from their washing line to get in touch.

“So far we have been able to reunite a number of items – including a towel set, some oven gloves, a bath mat, some baby clothes and some running gear – with their owners.
“Fortunately all our neighbours have been very good natured about it and think it is funny. At least now they know where to come if something disappears mysteriously.”