Thursday, August 28, 2014

Pandas show their true colors

There's a story getting very wide coverage this week, which almost gives me hope that I will no longer be a lone voice against the evils of pandas. For this one, there's no need to make a subtle argument about the disproportionate resources and attention that are being diverted to this species. This is one where they are really showing their true colors. It's hard to choose from the array of clever headlines, including at the Guardian, Pandering to the crowd: panda accused of faking pregnancy in bun fraud case,  but I'm going to go with the efficient summary at CNN:

Report: Panda 'may have faked pregnancy' for more buns, bamboo

A giant panda intended to be the star of the first ever live broadcast of the birth of panda cubs has lost the role -- after it was discovered the bear is not pregnant after all, Chinese state media reported.

Not only was it a phantom pregnancy but zookeepers suspect the panda, Ai Hin, may have been faking it to improve her quality of life, the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding told Xinhua on Monday.

Ai Hin, age six, had shown signs of pregnancy, including a change in appetite, moving less and an increase in progestational hormone in July, according to Xinhua.

But after observing her for two months, she began acting normally again, zookeepers said.

Experts say pandas sometimes carry on the behaviors associated with early pregnancy after noticing that they get preferential treatment, the news agency said.

"After showing prenatal signs, the 'mothers-to-be' are moved into single rooms with air conditioning and around-the-clock care," Wu Kongju, an expert at the Chengdu base, is quoted as saying.

"They also receive more buns, fruits and bamboo, so some clever pandas have used this to their advantage to improve their quality of life."

Photo from the birthday of my current least favorite panda at the National Zoo.

Monday, August 25, 2014

New bear advice: Forget it. We're doomed

So many animals are bigger and stronger and have sharper parts than humans. But we take comfort in our advantages: our opposable thumbs and our big brains that allow us to use tools and cleverness to defend ourselves. Cleverness like, say, hanging our food at the end of a long rope to keep bears from getting it when we're camping.

Or so we thought:
PULLMAN, MT — It may no longer be good enough to hang your food in a tree to keep it away from bears when you go camping, according to a first-of-its-kind study at the Washington State University Bear Research Education and Conservation Center.

Some — but not all — grizzlies can use primitive tools to thwart your efforts.
 The study’s participants are eight grizzly bears — five males and three females — who are challenged to get their paws on a glazed doughnut hung out of reach in their play area on the WSU campus.

Researchers place a sawed-off tree stump below the hanging treat to see if the animals will stand on it to reach the object of their desire. Once they do, the stump is turned on its side and moved away from the treat. Researchers observe whether the bears will move it back under the doughnut.

So far, researchers have identified one bear — a 9-year-old female — who has become the star of the show.

Kio, who was born in the center in 2005, has sailed through the tasks, while others are still discovering the basics.
“She manipulates an inanimate object in several steps to help her achieve a goal, which in this case is to obtain food. This fits the definition of tool use,” Nelson said.
From the researchers' description of the value of the findings, they're clearly the usual sort of experts who aren't clear whose side they're on. Sure, they say that understanding how bears think may help us solve "bear-related problems." But they're obviously really more interested in bear-centric issues: “Being able to problem solve allows for a species to ‘think outside the box’ so to speak. This may be important if habitat and food resources change.”

And apparently the average person is no better. Rather than being berated for setting up a study that helps bears learn to defeat fundamental human defenses, here's the complaint they have to address:
"People often don’t like to see us feeding the bears sweets such as doughnuts,” she said. “I really appreciate that and I am glad that people care. We do give sweets as special treats, but not as a major part of their diet.”

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Truth About Owls

I suppose it's inevitable that a generation that grew up on Harry Potter would consider owls cute and friendly creatures appropriate to decorate tote bags and baby clothes. If you want to know what these ruthless carnivores are really like, read this AP article that impressed even me, and I was sure I'd seen it all:

Owl soars into Idaho window and kills pet canary
An owl flew into a 10th story apartment in Coeur d'Alene, apparently opened a bird cage and killed one of two canaries inside, the residents said.

Sue Sausser said she awakened Sunday to find bird droppings and feathers all over her apartment, the Coeur d'Alene Press reported.

Sausser found the brownish, yellow-eyed owl between the wall and the chest of drawers on which the bird cage sits. It flew out the door and perched on their balcony railing long enough for them to take a few pictures. Don Sausser estimated the owl was 6 to 8 inches tall.

Sue and Don Sausser found one of their canaries dead in the cage. The other seemed jumpy and anxious, they said.

Beth Paragamian, wildlife education specialist with for Idaho Fish and Game and the Bureau of Land Management, said it's strange that an owl would be flying so high in an area without many tall trees and surprising that it would enter a residence, much less open a bird cage.

"That is very unusual," she said.

Don Sausser said they'll likely still leave their sliding glass door open on warm summer evenings, but plan to use twist ties to secure the door on the bird cage.

Heed the warning photographed by Flickr user Michelle Voli.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Snark Week

Shark Week may be over but it's not too late to head over to the excellent Last Word on Nothing where instead of fake TV about an animal that isn't nearly as dangerous as advertised, you can read about the bad behavior of nutria, chickens, moose, and squirrels. And if you don't, at least take this quote from a wildlife biologist to heart:
“Assume every moose is a serial killer standing in the middle of the trail with a loaded gun.”

Friday, July 25, 2014

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Midsummer Bad Animal Roundup

Slate tells the truth about those hamsters in the cute viral videos: They don't eat burritos, they eat each other.

Researchers discover that chimps follow stupid fashion trends

Wired talks to a guy who dissected drunken birds 

And we can't pass up yet another cat burglar:
The Palmers have had Sienna for years, and when the feline was younger, she would bring home gifts: birds, rats, mice and moles, for instance. - See more at:
The Palmers have had Sienna for years, and when the feline was younger, she would bring home gifts: birds, rats, mice and moles, for instance. - See more at:
The Palmers have had Sienna for years, and when the feline was younger, she would bring home gifts: birds, rats, mice and moles, for instance.  
But Sienna is aging and has put on a few pounds, so Palmer suspects the gloves are easy "prey" for the calico.
"Seriously, I think because she's too fat now and can't catch anything, she's picked up this glove thing," Palmer says, laughing. "I'm just so happy it's not mice and birds anymore. ... I would hate it when she brought them home."
Less happy is the original owner of the stash of fifty gloves:
"It was a pretty expensive selection of gloves," she said. - See more at:
"It was a pretty expensive selection of gloves," she said. - See more at:
"It was a pretty expensive selection of gloves," she said.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Bad Bird Book

Even if I wasn't brain dead from exhaustion and in need a vacation from the vacation I just took, there's nothing I could write today that would be more interesting than this post from Archie McPhee's Geyser of Awesome about the website The Mincing Mockingbird and their book Guide to Troubled Birds.

I'm going to hit Post now and spend the rest of the day ordering the book and reading the entire archive.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Bad Animal News Briefs

Baby Moose Takes A Break in Hotel Lobby
Conference Services Manager Katie Nelson said it stayed in the lobby about 10 to 20 minutes, lying on the floor. She said it's a pet-friendly hotel and thought at first it was a dog that had gotten off its leash.
Beaver Attacks, Pulls Man Off Kayak
BayCreek Paddling Center trainer Nate Reynolds saw part of the attack.

"I heard my name called out from the shop and I ran out the door to see a guy getting pulled into the water," Reynolds said, describing the attack. "It was like watching a horror film."

Reynolds said Cavanaugh was able to get to his feet and approach the dock, but the beaver would not let go of him, so Reynolds hit the beaver with a nearby paddle several times.

"The paddle broke and the beaver let go," he said. "He kind of disappeared for a few seconds but came back up so I hit him again."
 Bear Chase at National Institute of Health

A black bear caused a commotion at the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland, a close-in DC suburb that is definitely NOT out in the country and is way too close for comfort to Animals Behaving Badly Headquarters.  During the chase the bear taunted NIH employees on Twitter:
Sometimes late at night, I sneak into your lab and recalibrate your instruments. Nobody suspects the bear.
When you're done with the monkeys, do you just throw them away? Because, I could totally go for some monkey. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Animals Eating Things They Shouldn't

Today we have three very different stories of animals eating things they shouldn't be eating. The first is one of my favorite types: the charming zoo animal showing a crowd of naive animal lovers what nature is really like:

Polar bear eats peacock in Vienna zoo
Visitors were shocked to witness Lynn demolish the hapless bird, leaving nothing but a couple of feathers, before retiring for an afternoon nap.

It appears the unfortunate bird had taken a shine to the bear's new enclosure during the two and a half year construction period, and clearly had no idea its new residents weren't vegetarians.
From Pennsylvania, a headline that is perfect on its own:

Black Bear eats muffin, ignores police in Silver Spring

And finally, I highly recommend that you go and read this in its entirety, in which a scientist who is in denial about the dietary habits of walruses has to admit that they eat much cuter animals than just clams and other mollusks - and in fact, that science has been studiously ignoring the evidence for well over a century.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Canine classics

Some things never get old, and two of them are vulpine shoe-stealing and dogs driving cars (badly).

In England:
A fox is stealing dozens of shoes in a Leeds suburb and dumping them outside a woman's house.

The problem has become so bad that Elaine Hewitt has been forced to put a shoe rack outside her home in Horsforth so neighbours can reclaim their missing footwear.

Ms Hewitt said the vulpine crimewave began a few months ago when she found a single shoe in her back garden.

The fox is now leaving a shoe a day, ranging from sandals to work boots.

Ms Hewitt, who has seen the fox carrying shoes, said the animal favoured leather footwear and the shoes are not chewed or damaged.

"First of all we just collected them thinking they were too good to throw in the bin," she said. "We had a few phone calls from that and were able to give back and match up a couple of pairs.

"Then I decided the fox was a further afield than just around our immediate vicinity which is when I decided to put the table out on the street.

"The number of vehicles and passers-by who stopped to ask about it, to look and also to take their shoes back was absolutely astounding."

The fox appears to be the mother of five cubs and Ms Hewitt said she hoped the younger members of the family would not be taught about the shoe stealing habit.
And in Massachusetts:
Costello says it all started after he'd taken this normally frisky puppy for a walk by Bolivar Pond in Canton. He hopped into his car, and started it up, but Rosie had her own ideas.

"The dog jumped in and hit the gear shift and the car jerked and she fell on top of the gas pedal," Costello said. "It was just scary."

Then, he said, his puppy drove the car into the pond.

"The car went for a swim. We all did."

That's right: Rosie launched this car right into Bolivar Pond.

"[The] car was right here you can see the tracks," Costello said.

The 911 call even surprised Canton police.

"I've never heard of a puppy driving a car into a pond," said Officer Robert Quirk of the Canton police.
Despite the dangerous struggle required to save Rosie from the sinking vehicle, as usual, no one seems to blame the dog:
Canton police posted this lighthearted tweet, with a picture of the pup and a caption that read, "Perp says she was just going with the flow of traffic."

And Hermann says it's a day he won't soon forget.

"I work a lot of weekends and none as exciting as this one," he said.

As for Costello, the car - his daughter's - is a total a loss, but he says he has insurance. As for Rosie - she's ok - and unaware of all the commotion she caused Sunday.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Dead Duck Day Report

You can now read the full report of this year's Dead Duck Day, and the message I was honored to write, at this link.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Happy Dead Duck Day!

It's a very special Dead Duck Day, because I have been given the honor of writing the message to to read at this year's ceremony. I'll post a link when it is available. In the meantime, watch this TED talk by Kees Moeliker, giant in the science of bad duck behavior and organizer of the event.

Get your own devilduckie here

Monday, June 2, 2014

Animals Where They Shouldn't Be

- In Florida,  a bear that was tuckered out after rummaging through trash cans found a hammock in one resident's backyard and decided to have a rest.
"He got in the hammock like he was a tourist or something," said Vincent James, who owns the home and the hammock. "Then something spooked him and he ran right back there. Then half an hour later I come back and I saw there he is in the hammock again."
As usual, authorities washed their hands of the matter, saying that they wouldn't do anything because the bear wasn't "threatening" anyone. So, sadly, James decided that his only defense was to get rid of his lovely hammock.

-In England, police got an unusual call: a squirrel had jumped into a woman's handbag and refused to leave.
Officers arrived and removed the rodent, but before you rejoice that officials did the right thing for a change, the plot thickens: this was a non-native, invasive gray squirrel:
Under section 9 of the Wildlife & Countryside Act, it is an offence to release a grey squirrel into the wild. According to Red Squirrels Northern England, an organisation which works to protect red squirrels: "This means if you trap one, you are obliged to humanely dispatch it.
"You must not let it go as this act would be illegal."
In response to this, the police spokesman replied, no doubt with a wink:
 "I'm sure the squirrel in this case had managed to escape before a cage could be found."
And before you laugh that the woman called the police in the first place, read on:

-In Texas,  a woman was attacked by her neighbor's pet squirrel:
Elizabeth Orzechowska said she was unloading groceries from her car when she felt something climb up her leg.

"So, I looked down and it was a squirrel," Orzechowska said to Local 2. "It started running up my back, started scratching my back and biting my back."
Orzechowska went to the emergency room where she spent five hours getting stitched up and treated with antibiotics. She said she is in pain, her hands are swollen an she is unable to work. 
This incident belongs under today's heading because no one should have a pet squirrel in their home: it's illegal to keep one in Texas (and probably most if not all other places in the US.)  Knowing this, the woman released the rodent into the wild before it could be seized.

-Finally, from South Carolina, I leave you with this picture of an alligator at an outlet mall:

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Animal Home Invasions meet Clueless Experts

-Deer smashes into woman's home, jumps on her bed

We've seen this sort of thing before, but the interviewees in this news video are quite good at conveying the horror. "It sounded like a car crash," said one witness, as someone heroically followed a trail of bloody footprints - "It looked like a murder scene" - to find a 180 pound buck on top of an elderly woman in her bed. 

It's fortunate that citizens handled that situation well on their own, because in our next two stories, authorities are of their usual dubious usefulness.  In London, a fox was found sleeping in a couple's spare room:
Sarah Preddy and her partner Colin Linton were enjoying a Sunday morning cup of tea, when they discovered the ‘arrogant’ animal relaxing on the bed in their spare room after pet dog, Molly, became restless.

They said upon opening the door they saw bushy-tailed squatter had made itself at home on top of the duvet.

It apparently stayed at their house in Rosemary Avenue for another hour before it finally left, with Sarah’s step-sons managing to take photographs of the fox lying on the bed and then making its way out down the stairs.
Just as well they didn't ask for help because the supposed experts were clueless: A spokesman for the RSPCA said  "It is unusual for foxes to enter homes as by nature they will tend to avoid human contact. In the rare instances when they do venture into a home, it is likely they are attracted to food which has been left out." Apparently he hasn't read any of the four stories in this post of foxes in people's homes, three of which also involve them being in beds.

Finally, surprisingly soon after our last case. we've got a woman in Spain that was bitten by a snake in her toilet:

A poisonous snake is apparently living in the plumbing system of a block of flats in northern Spain, leading to one resident being bitten on the bottom as she sat on the lavatory and others using potties.

Iris Castroverde, 30, a hairdresser and mother of two young children, got the shock of her life when she felt a nip on her left buttock as she was seated on the loo.

The resident of a block in the small town of Naron, a suburb of La Caruna in the northwestern Galicia region, described how she heard a splash and then felt the pain in her bottom.

"When I turned around I saw a florescent yellow and green serpent about 20cm (8 inches) long disappear with the flush," explained the horrified woman.
Residents are pouring bottles of bleach and caustic cleaning products down the pipes in hopes of killing the snake. This approach doesn't seem particularly likely to succeed but I can't blame them for taking matters into their own hands, seeing the treatment the woman was given:
A hospital spokesman said: "We found four incisor marks in the buttock near the perineal area, and we followed standard practice for snake bites which includes a tetanus and rabies shot as well as administering an antidote. We had to remove the poison from the wound but some of it had spread into the body and we needed to give her an injection to counter that."
I'm mystified how they knew which antivenin to administer when reports are that the type of snake hasn't been identified and they're sure it's not a local species. You might be thinking that they are snake geniuses who know more than I do... except apparently they are unaware that reptiles do not get or carry rabies.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Aquatic attack squirrel and local news destroy my fantasy of Britain

Today was one of those rare days that I ran across an animal problem even I never thought to worry about. It happened in a swimming pool in Devon, England:
A squirrel sparked panic today after it dashed into a busy leisure centre before leaping in the pool and biting a swimmer on the finger.

When lifeguards tried to coax him out the creature leapt into the water and paddled around the deep end for several minutes.

A swimmer tried to fish the squirrel out of the water but was bitten on the finger before the animal scampered off through a fire exit.
Then to my horror, the "related stories" links presented with this article were a litany of problems that completely destroy my idyllic vision of the British isles. There's the seaside resort town in Cornwall that's battling a "plague of giant rats":
People living in the town say they have been plagued with the giant creatures and are worried the super-sized vermin are becoming increasingly bold.
Figures show the number of reported rats in the town has gone up 50 per cent in the last year.

Experts add that the rat population has been allowed to swell since the council stopped killing them for free.

One resident said: "I'm not happy with the situation. I have a daughter who's seven and she's seen dead rats in the garden. She's quite a girlie girl so she doesn't like them at all.

"They are massive - really big for a rat. Some of the cats that live further up the road would think twice about going after one."
And both of those rodent stories are nothing compared to this one:
Killer Asian hornet could arrive in the Westcountry 'within days'
Swarms of killer hornets that have plagued France could cross the Channel to the Westcountry within days.

Giant Asian hornets are responsible for the deaths of six people in France – and experts have warned that they could now be headed to the South of England.
The predators have jaws powerful enough to chew through regular protective bee suits and their venom, which they can spray, dissolves human flesh. If their venom lands in the eyes, the eye tissue will melt, according to a National Geographic documentary.
I don't know if you should reconsider if you were planning a vacation to England this summer - but if you go, seriously, don't ruin it by reading the local paper.

Squirrels should stick to their own facilities, like the one photographed by Jessica Lucia.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Bad Animal Roundup

-At a university in Wales, final exams in languages and law were halted and had to be rescheduled when pigeons caused a disruption in the exam hall. As a student explained:
"There were two pigeons that somehow got in the room and they were on top of the organs in the back of the room and would not just shut up. I guess a few people complained and then they ended the exam."
-A particularly bad case of Snake in the Toilet in Singapore:
She had just sat down on the toilet bowl when she felt a sharp pain.

She looked down and saw a 1.8m-long python writhing in the toilet bowl, its jaws clamped on the back of her right thigh.
As usual, experts were no use - a pest controller called in failed to catch the snake, perhaps due to questionable loyalties:
"The python looked tired and scared," said the pest controller, who declined to be named.
-Angry beaver delays traffic, roams town chasing people in Canada:
An angry beaver was roaming around Miramichi on Tuesday, creating traffic delays and chasing onlookers.

Jim O'Neill was driving his taxi when he noticed a man being chased by a beaver off King George Highway on Tuesday.

"You look out the corner of your eye and see a beaver backing somebody up the driveway,” he said.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Dolphin deadly sin

This needs nothing additional from me except to say that I haven't been so pleased with a story for a very long time.

Greedy dolphin 'died of gluttony' say marine experts

A greedy dolphin “died of gluttony” after stuffing himself with so many fish he could not eat any more, experts have said.
The mammal, dubbed Monty, was found with his next meal stuck in his throat by marine experts. Experts carried out a post mortem at the scene and found his airways blocked by a dab starving him of oxygen.
Rod Penrose, Strandings co-ordinator for Wales, helped carry out the post mortem on Monty.
“Its stomach was crammed full of fish, and I don’t think there would have been room for any more,” he said. “So when it swallowed this last fish, it must have been pushed back rolled into a cigar shape, and unusually then lodged firmly in the nasal passages.
“I’ve heard of this happening before but have never seen it. So you could say that Monty was killed by gluttony”.

Heed the warning not to feed the dolphins in that sign photographed by mwms1913, they sure as heck don't need it.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Beware Birds

My original plan had been to make a big deal of this article:

California woman lives Hitchcock movie as birds swarm home

about a woman who's got what she claims are now a couple hundred chimney swifts in her house:
When Brown came home on Friday, the birds were everywhere: in her kitchen, behind the TV, under the couch, and on the ceiling fan - nearly 70 birds loose inside her home.
"I think the most horrifying was how they got in and the mess that they were making while they were here, because birds are scared and they are pooping," Brown said.
To clean up, Brown fired up her vacuum.
"But when I did that, I scared them, and they came flying out of the chimney, and you're just dodging these black birds, so we were just chasing birds all over the house. It was nuts. I just assumed they were trying to get away from the storm, Friday night."
But since Friday, Brown says they've been back, every night around 8 p.m., like clockwork.
But probably we should be more worried about this one:
Man hospitalized after bird attack

Any comments by me would only take away from the drama of these excepts from this tale of people being attacked outside a shop in Texas:
"I took off my cap and started waving them away," said Hines over the phone. "All of a sudden it was more than one bird."

First one bird, then in seconds, three others.

"He was running, and I mean running," said Sieger.

"Running for fear of his life," added Michelle Bradley.

And the birds were close behind.

"The more I tried to fight them off," said Hines, "the worse it got. It was like why were they after me you know."

"All of a sudden that bird hits him, and he went flying," said Sieger.

Benny was down, bleeding and unconscious.

Benny also lost a tooth. People inside the store heard the commotion. They rushed to help the man on the ground and called 911. But no one knew what happened to him, until they checked the video.

And this tale gets creepier because today it happened again.

"I felt something on my neck, and there was a bird coming after my ass," said Sieger.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Animals vs Cars Roundup

-In England, one neighborhood suffering a months-long epidemic of flat tires finally exposed the criminal by installing TV cameras - and by paying closer attention to what was going on than the human who was on the scene every time:
Recent analysis of the CCTV has revealed the culprit, a border collie named ‘Jess’.

The dog, who is owned by someone in the local area has been using her daily walk to bite the two nearside tyres of cars she comes across. This caused a slow puncture and by the morning the tyre is flat.

PC Simon Amos, who solved the mystery, said: “These incidents have been happening for the last six months, with many residents being very upset at the thought of someone targeting them and causing the damage deliberate.

“The dog had been seen approaching the cars and many believe that she was just sniffing at the tyres. It isn’t until you take a closer look , that you can see her biting the tyres."
-In Florida, peacocks are attacking cars - and have been doing it for years:
Jade Hays couldn't believe her eyes when she saw a bird going bonkers over her car. The peacock caused hundreds of dollars worth of damage. "For all that to happen -- on my new car. It upset me. I actually called my mom in tears," she said.

Neighbors say the peacocks also break rip through pool cages and damage homes.
And here's a warning if you're in the market for a used peacock - make sure you inquire about whether it has a record:
Over the past couple of years, animal control has removed a dozen peacocks from this area.  They are sold at auctions.
-Finally, in Maine, the problem is goats:
A pair of Richmond goats found themselves on the wrong side of the law recently after attacking a car on Marston Road.
The car owner reported the apparently unprovoked attack around 6:30 p.m. on April 19, said Richmond Police Chief Scott MacMaster.
“Apparently the goats got loose from the neighbors’ and were climbing all over his car,” MacMaster said.
As we've seen again and again on this blog, officials washed their hands of the situation, despite the fact that these animals are repeat offenders:
“The vehicle owner was going to get estimates and give it to the neighbor and hopefully take care of it civilly,” MacMaster said.
No charges have been filed against the goat owner or wayward goats.
The goats are familiar to local law enforcement.
“They have been known to get loose in the past,” MacMaster said.


Thursday, May 1, 2014

Animals are bad, but people don't help

A roundup of stories where there's ample blame to go around all the species involved:

In England, a colony of 300 bats that roost in the church roof can't be removed because they are a protected species, despite the fact that their excrement damages historic objects and - horror of horrors - they've made couples decline to hold weddings there:
 Bats "showering" parishioners with faeces and urine at a Norfolk church appear to have "more rights that the worshipping community", a vicar said.
In Canada:  In Vancouver new law banning old-style doorknobs in favor of level-style is supposed to help the elderly and disabled. But some warn that it's enabling a bad animal:
True, elderly and disabled people find it easier to operate doors with handles. But so do bears. In British Columbia, bears have been known to scavenge for food inside cars—whose doors have handles, knob advocates point out. Pitkin County, Colorado, in the United States, has banned door levers on buildings for this very reason. One newspaper columnist in the pro-knob camp has noted that the velociraptors in “Jurassic Park” were able to open doors by their handles.
And finally, in Brazil, the video above shows staff fleeing from an ox that invaded a hospital - with a soundtrack of their co-workers laughing as they review the security cam footage of the incident. The clip also won a competition on social media. We can only hope that Brazilian bovines don't have access to the Internet, because this sort of success can only encourage them.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Dangerous Duck

Educating people about which animals they should be afraid of is one of the responsibilities of this blog. In that spirit, this story out of Oregon is an important one:

Domestic duck with 'dangerous propensities' leads to $275K lawsuit

It claims the plaintiff, Cynthia Ruddell, stepped out of her motor home on property owned by her mother in Estacada on May 7, 2012 when a "domestic duck" attacked her.
The woman fell on her outstretched hand, breaking her wrist and spraining her elbow and shoulder.
"I can tell you that when she first contacted me, we both shared a laugh at the circumstances around the accident," said Ruddell's attorney, Gregory Price. "But, unfortunately, the injury was pretty serious."
Ruddell had to get a plate and nine screws in her wrist. Further problems required a second surgery.
Sure, a duck attack sounds funny... which is no doubt why this problem was allowed to escalate, because it turns out this wasn't this duck's first offense:
 Price said the owner has acknowledged that the duck "had issues" before this incident, including prior attacks. The lawsuit states the duck had "abnormally dangerous propensities in attacking people in an aggressive manner similar to how it attacked and injured Mrs. Ruddell."
Of course, if you read this blog you know what ducks are like,  but perhaps you didn't fear for your own personal safety, and maybe thought you were OK with anything smaller than a goose. Now we know better.

Duck WAY too close for comfort by Jim Moran.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Cat sends three to hospital

I present this important story in its entirety. I'm assuming if you're a cat owner you'll tell yourself your cat would never do this, and that you're safe as long as you don't try to make it wear clothes like in the photo. But you won't be able to say you weren't warned.
Three Roseville residents and were taken to the hospital Tuesday night after they were attacked by a pet cat.

The three were treated for superficial wounds. The year-and-a-half-old cat - named Khat - clawed the face of its owner's sister, as well as the arms and legs of its owner's mother. It caused deep gashes on the legs of its owner's 10-year-old brother. Khat was taken to the SPCA.

"The cat ran and jumped on his leg and was like, attached to him," the owner said. She and her family asked not to be identified.
"He's never been an aggressive cat, he's never been mean, he just flipped," she said.

The family called Roseville police, which typically directs calls about animals to the city's animal control department. Animal control was closed, however, so the call was directed to the Roseville Fire Department.

It was "absolutely a first for us," Fire Captain Derek Carey said. "We tried to push it into a cage, and it grabbed on to my engineer's boot and turnout bottom and was hissing and going off."

Firefighters threw a fire blanket on the feline and used a metal pole to lure him into a cage, finally trapping the temperamental tomcat.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

New frontier in bad bird behavior

From England comes something that's new even to me: A racist bird.

At Warwick University they've had to erect a fence to protect people from an attacking swan - something that's not particularly unusual. But there's a novel wrinkle: this swan is said to only attack foreign students.
The animal – which is currently nesting – has been launching at people as they cross a footbridge over a pond at the university’s Gibbet Hill campus in Coventry, West Mids.
The footbridge is used by hundreds of students everyday wishing to get from their accommodation to their lessons at the university buildings.
But yesterday undergraduates revealed that the angry bird only seemed to be targeting students from ethnic minorities.
One 24-year-old student from India said: “These swans are very annoying, and the students feel as though they’re being bullied. I’m from India, and they attack me especially, they focus straight on me.
“We’ve been warned that the swans will be a bit feisty at this time of year, but they go for me all year round. I think they don’t like too many Indians in England – maybe the swans here are a little bit racist.”
Italian student Albertina Crocetti, 24, who is studying Physics with Business Studies, said: “It’s bizarre, she doesn’t seem to like foreigners and attacks them to defend her nest. She’s a true right winger that’s for sure – they certainly seem to be racially motivated incidents."

Monday, April 14, 2014

Mainstream media finally tells the truth about otters

There's nothing I could write today that would be more important than sending you off to read this article about the sex lives of otters in the Vancouver Sun. The first photo caption lets you know what you're in for:
Male sea otters are known to rape and drown young seals, returning to the carcass for sex days later, other animals such as a large dog and bird have also become victim of such attacks.
I've written about this behavior, of course, in what is the most highly-trafficked post on this blog.  But with how cute people think these animals are, it's a tale that can't be told too often. My compliments to the author.

(PS: I did not watch the video, which would not load for me, which I decided to consider a blessing. So you're on your own there.)

Important warning photographed by Flickr user vandy meares.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The battle against bad birds 'round the world

In San Francisco, there's a problem with plans to demolish the old Bay Bridge: unappreciative birds.

About 800 cormorants have been using the bridge as a nesting site since 1984. $709,000 was spent to build brand-new bird condos on the new bridge, but the state-protected birds have refused to move in:
Caltrans' inability to lure the cormorants over to the new span isn't for lack of trying. Biologists have been experimenting with bird decoys and cormorant recordings to get them to move to their new, rent-free pads.
They even furnished the condos with nesting material. The birds reacted by simply hauling the bedding back to their old digs.
The timing of plans to install some kind of bird-exclusion equipment before nesting season apparently fell apart, and now it's going to take an extra 12.8 million dollars to get the demolition back on track in time to try it again next year.

Bad bird behavior was also costly to government on a smaller scale in France, where a court battle was won by a couple driven to psychotherapy by a peacock:
A French couple won a €4,000 settlement from city authorities in Marseille after they were left depressed insomniacs who were forced into psychotherapy due to an extremely noisy Town Hall-owned peacock.
In January 2012 they won their suit against the city, but were awarded a mere €100 in damages. Outraged by the meager payout, the couple took their case to an appeals court, which recently ordered the city to pay €4,000.
Maybe these places should find a role model in Japan, where there's an effort in Ibaraki Prefecture to promote the eating of crows. These intelligent birds are notoriously troublesome in that country, as we've reported before, but hunters have found their weakness: they're easily attracted by piles of steamed sweet potato, another thing (aside from crows) that Ibaraki produces a lot of. They're said to taste good, and experts are thinking deeply about the possibilities of crow cuisine:
“It’s also a benefit to people to reduce the numbers of pests,” says Junichi Nakagawa, principal of the Nakagawa Cooking Art College in Mito City. The principal is apparently also studying new ways of preparing crow, possibly so that it might be sold as a specialty dish of the region to visitors.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Spiders Embarrass Major Car Company and News Organizations

If you're a long-time reader of this blog, you may recall that in 2011, Mazda had to recall  65,000 cars when it was discovered that spiders had taken a fancy to nesting in the fuel system of their Mazda6 sedan. 

You wouldn't think it would be that hard to outwit spiders, but apparently that wasn't the end of it, as this was announced a few days ago:
DETROIT (AP) — Mazda is recalling 42,000 Mazda6 cars in the U.S. because spiders can weave a web in a vent hose and cause the fuel tank to crack.

The yellow sac spider, which is attracted to hydrocarbons, builds webs that cause pressure to build in the fuel tank. That increases the risk of fuel leaks and fire.

Mazda recalled cars in 2011 for the same problem. It put covers on the vent line, but has found spiders can get past them.
 At the same time, spiders have been successful at confusing writers at many news outlets who headlined this story "Mazda Recalling Cars Due to Danger From Insect."

 Score: arachnids 2, major human corporations 0.

Photo of a much safer spider attack on a car, thoughtfully chosen so as not to freak the spiderphobic among you, by Flickr user Amanda.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Two bad birds

In England, even experts are forced to admit a bird is out of hand, although in a rather low-key way:
A "terrorist" pheasant has been attacking vehicles and chasing cats and dogs at a Cambridgeshire farm.

Anne-Marie Hamilton said the male bird, which she described as "a complete lunatic", arrived at Wood Farm in Hail Weston three weeks ago.

A delivery driver was trapped for 20 minutes after the bird blocked his way, flew at the bonnet then chased his van.

When it is not busy seeing off her dogs, cats and visitors' vehicles, the pheasant has taken up residence outside her patio doors.

"We keep a big stick there so we can get in and out," she said.

The British Trust for Ornithology said the pheasant was protecting his territory but was "a little extreme".
But in America, one officer showed how it's done, even for a minor infraction:
Corpus Christi Police apprehended a chicken after it crossed the road Sunday afternoon at the 1600 block of Agnes Street. Corpus Christi Police Officer David Saldana, known among his peers as the “Chicken Hawk,” saw a chicken cross the road at about 2pm Sunday. Officer Saldana attempted to detain the chicken for crossing outside of a cross walk, but the chicken fled on foot from Officer Saldana. The chicken jumped through the open window to an unoccupied vehicle in an attempt to escape, but there were no keys in the ignition of the vehicle. Officer Saldana successfully captured the chicken and placed the chicken in his patrol car. Officer Saldana then transported the chicken to Animal Care Services. The chicken was identified as a Black Australorp. Case closed.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Bad Farm Animal Linkarama

For today, links to some excellent pieces from elsewhere about bad farm animals:

How to Survive A Cow Attack
  Includes the excellent advice:
If you have a cow or bull that you know to be prone to violent outbursts, Sanderson says, get rid of it. Have a nice steak dinner. Invite your friends.
 Drunk Pigs 
“Some were looking at me like, ‘Woohoo!’” Shore says, her voice trailing away into laughter. “They were really, really, really drunk.” A few pigs were trying to walk but their back legs kept giving out, and the rest were spinning in circles, kicking up their back heels, and as Shore says, “snortin’ and dancing around; having a good ol’ time.”

NY State vs Feral Swine
Andersen figures the hogs have caused upwards of $40,000 in damage on his farm.

The worst loss was a corn crop that the pigs took out twice in a row, Andersen said.

"In a week they had cleaned the field. Eleven acres," he said. "I replanted it. Man, it was gorgeous. About four or five inches high. I was in there on a Thursday night. I came back on a Monday morning and it was gone. There wasn't a piece left anywhere, they just cleaned it. Went right down the rows, vrooooom."

Photo of brave law enforcement officer encountering a pig on the loose from the Santa Monica Police department's Facebook page.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Bad Animals at the Zoo

-When fifteen flamingos were found brutally murdered at a German zoo, some decapitated and apparently stabbed, the zoo director called it "shocking incident" and said zoo staff were "speechless". And the press immediately jumped to certain sorts of conclusions:
The flamingo killings in Frankfurt leave the German media guessing. "Who would do such a thing?" asks Die Welt daily. "Psychopaths? Was it a completely out-of-order test of courage among young people? Or was it Satanists?"
Nope: testing showed that the culprit wasn't even human -  it was a fox.

The zoo director is quoted as saying "we are relieved that we are not dealing with an animal abuser." Not sure why, since they're just as dead, and you can't even use the excuse that the fox killed out of hunger. But that's how it goes: animals always get away with murder.

-in Indianapolis, two orangutans escaped from their enclosure at a brand new $26 million dollar exhibit. They never got into public areas but apparently disassembled a camera, no doubt to erase evidence of their escape.

This sort of thing is no surprise to readers of this blog, and it certainly isn't to zookeepers. As a zoo spokesperson explained:
Unlike many other species, orangutans are "subtle" problem solvers, Simmons said. Instead of actively working at a problem — such as how to get out of an enclosure — they tend to think through a solution and then act, not giving humans any indication of their plans.
So despite all the human ingenuity put into making the exhibit escape-proof, they decided there was only one way to be sure: they're giving the animals two months in the facility before they open it to the public, to test whether it's really escape-proof. Good idea, as these two primates have proven.

Photo of an orang using an iPad from the National Zoo, where staff have apparently lost their minds - as if orangs can't make enough trouble on their own, what could they do with access to the Internet?

Monday, March 24, 2014

Elephants vs Parked Cars in Missouri

Elephant rampages in natural elephant habitat are so common that they're barely worth a mention on this blog. It's a bit different when they break out of a Midwestern circus and trash cars in a parking lot.
"Things started shaking, When I looked up I saw three elephants coming toward us," Sally Schmiz, a witness to the event, said. "These huge elephants literally went through these huge RVs. Then they went through two trucks breaking mirrors off, and panels off and breaking the windows."
Another witness overheard staff trying to recapture the pachyderms: a trainer reportedly yelled "we need pretzels, anything, just get me some food."

As I was always taught in my zoo jobs, keeping the public away from an escaped animal is a high priority, and the circus staff apparently did this effectively. The responsible thing to do, yes, but with the sad result that the photo above is the best I can find of the incident in progress.

The animals were reportedly brought under control after about 45 minutes and given the rest of the day off. Later coverage is headlined "Elephant trainers still don't know what caused elephant escape." But I note that the elephants in question had the job of letting children ride them, and while I am not making excuses, wouldn't that send you on a rampage too?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Stick 'em up

A brief item, but worth our undivided attention: Police in Tucson are looking for a man who robbed a bank with an unusual weapon. As a police officer told the news:
Dugan said the suspect approached the teller and put a basket holding a white Chihuahua on the counter. He then demanded money and fled westbound from the store on foot with an undisclosed amount of cash and the dog, according to a news release.
The article goes on to say that "No weapon was seen or mentioned," but obviously the teller knew better, as would any reader of this blog. We've seen rampaging gangs of them terrorizing a neighborhood, and the Chihuahua is one of the top three breeds mostly likely to bite people. With its convenient hand-held size, what better breed to use to rob a bank?

Monday, March 17, 2014

When cats - and the media - attack

No doubt you've already heard the story of the Portland couple who called 911 last week because their 22-pound cat had them trapped in their bedroom. I say "no doubt" because the local newspaper at this point has a collection of Headlines from Around the World. But in case you haven't, here's basically how it went down:
Dispatchers stayed on the phone while the couple locked themselves — along with their baby and the family dog — in a bedroom.
Owner Lee Palmer told dispatchers the 4-year-old male cat "has a history of violence," and had scratched his 7-month old son in the forehead. 
Palmer said he tried to get the cat off his son: "I kicked the cat in the rear, and it has gone over the edge. He's trying to attack us -- he's very hostile. He's at our door; he's charging us."

The dispatcher asked her supervisor if it was OK to send police on such an unusual call. It was. Meanwhile, on the 911 tape, the cat can be heard screaming in the background.
Police snared the cat and that might have been the end of it, except... the internet, and cats. So the couple's next problem was finding themselves in the middle of a media maelstrom.
On Monday, police issued a press release detailing the rescue. The story, too, went ballistic, attracting worldwide attention and keeping both Palmer and Barker’s cellphones buzzing and ringing into Tuesday.
In addition to the media attention, Baker and Palmer have been fielding calls from people who want to adopt Lux and others offering psychological counseling for the cat. Barker and Palmer are also expecting a call from the producers of the Animal Planet show “My Cat from Hell.”
The couple say that they don't want to get rid of the cat - which is what the poor folks would have to say when they're in the spotlight like this. And sure, they've been offered help.... but before they meet that TV star cat guy, I hope they realize whose side he's on. In an interview, while admitting he hasn't yet met the cat in question, he makes all kind of excuses: Maybe it's sick, and "he also suggests asking if there have been any changes in the home environment that might have led up to the attack."

And yes, to be fair, the scratch occurred after the baby pulled the cat's tail. But still, he considers every possibility except one: Maybe this cat is just plain bad.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Combination of bad animals close down school for a day

Just when I think I've seen everything... Hoofstock crashing into school buildings is nothing new. Dogs attacking other animals is certainly nothing new. Animals interfering with children getting an education -  we've seen that more than once.

But this is a combination that impresses even me: in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, three deer smashed into a school building, two dogs followed, and the result was mayhem:
When the officers arrived they found chairs knocked over in the lobby and broken glass at a door next to the cafeteria. They also found a deer on the floor being attacked by a German shepherd.
When officers passed another doorway, they found a second deer “sitting on the floor in distress.” Police said the animal was suffering from “apparent bite marks.” 
Officers found another dog, and another deer trapped in a hallway that was so badly injured that it died. The other two deer were later euthanized due to the extend of their injuries.

The dogs were captured, and their owners were located, but they're reported to be in the custody of animal control. No word on possible charges, but damage is estimated at up to $5000 and the two schools sharing the building lost a day of classes. A spokesperson said:
“The extent of the cleanup that was necessary was such that we could not open either school. It was a pretty gory scene.”

Monday, March 10, 2014

Bad bird roundup

Last week we saw what was possibly a bird-fish conspiracy against aircraft - frightening, but at least it's something you could avoid by simply never leaving the house. But that won't help, because as these two stories show, birds can get at you where you live:

-Try to help the environment and here's how birds will thank you: An English couple says they're living through hell because dozens of pigeons are nesting under the solar panels on their roof:
Stephen Fishenden and wife Linda, 65, of Wittenham Way in Chingford, say they have lived through “hell” since the birds began to seek shelter beneath the energy-saving panels, which were fitted by a contractor working for council homes manager Ascham Homes. Mr Fishenden first complained to Ascham Homes in March last year about the “horrendous” noise keeping them awake at night and his wife’s deteriorating health.

The 65 year-old said: "I specifically asked at the time if we would have any problems with birds and was reassured they would not be a problem.

"It has been hell and has made my wife ill. She’s asthmatic and is having to use her pump more regularly. We are both constantly awake and have had hundreds of sleepless nights. It is particularly horrendous in the morning."
-And if you need another reason to quit smoking, this one is for the birds: A London fire has been blamed by investigators on a bird with a butt:
"When we got up into the roof, we were baffled as there were no obvious ignition sources. No-one had been up to there for a long time and there were no electrics that could have sparked a blaze.

"Neighbours told us they often saw birds flying in and out of a hole in the roof. We believe that one of the birds picked up a cigarette butt that was still smouldering and dropped it into the nest, causing it to catch fire and set the roof alight."

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Surprising new animal threat to airplanes

The Internet continues to be obsessed with bad things happening to crocodilians: this time it's photos of an otter killing an alligator. I have to admit that is one bad-ass otter, but a far more important story is flying – or swimming – under the radar.

Birds crashing into planes is a widely acknowledged and serious problem. And we've seen other animals interfering with traffic on runways as well, including goats and turtles.

I was surprised that turtles could interfere with air traffic, even on the ground. But never mind that: now we've got a plane that was hit on takeoff by a FISH.

It happened at a military base in Florida where a plane aborted a takeoff after hitting what it assumed was a bird. But when the evidence was collected by the base's wildlife managed and analyzed by experts, a different story emerged.
“I found a fish on the runway,” says Garven. “It was a comical thing.”

Garven picked up the fish, a nine-inch sheepshead, and met the NOAA crew at Hangar 5, where she collected DNA samples from the jet. She sent that off to the Smithsonian Institution’s identification laboratory and two weeks later, received a report back.

The DNA on the plane belonged to the sheepshead.
The assumption is that an eagle was eating a fish on the runway, took off when the plane did, and dropped its lunch. Perhaps that's reassuring, compared to the idea that fish can attack a plane in flight. Or perhaps that's even worse: if birds no longer need to make suicide attacks to bring down aircraft, but can use weapons, there's nothing to stop them now.

Eagle collecting ammunition by Flickr user

Monday, March 3, 2014

Snakes too close for comfort

Snakes have been in the news lately. A snake-handling preacher's TV career came to an abrupt end when he died of a bite, and the Internet has seemed rather impressed by a snake that ate a crocodile in Australia.

These stories probably don't concern you, since you have the sense not to handle venomous snakes and to stay away from Australia where all of nature is trying to kill you - or at least stay indoors if you can't help living there. And you probably think if you leave snakes alone they'll leave you alone. Kind of hard to apply this advice, though, when they show up in your toilet.

In Mumbai, a woman had just used the toilet when she realized that everything in the bathroom was out of place, with toiletries fallen to the floor. She called her husband.
He suddenly heard the sound of water being displaced in the toilet bowl and before he could inspect it, the 6-foot cobra stuck its head out, much to the family's horror.
It took nearly two hours for experts to remove the snake from the pipes and take it away to be released, but for the family, it's not over, says the man.
"Now every time we want to use the toilet, we will inadvertently think about this incident."
And in Australia, even staying indoors doesn't help. When one Queensland man saw a snake in this toilet, he took it more calmly – after poking it and decided it was dead, he flushed it down and went about his business. Two days later he found he was wrong
"My partner came home to find the snake back and it was alive," he said. "Let's just say there were a few expletives."
Perhaps it's no wonder that the guy kept a cooler head than the family in the last story. While that Mumbai neighborhood is near a nature preserve, apparently snakes rarely come into buildings. Not so their relatives down under:
Snake catcher Bryan Robinson said toilet encounters were not uncommon. The Ipswich and western Brisbane business relocates at least one snake from toilet a month.
And it turns out that even staying far from the entire country of Australia might not help, as a woman in Sweden learned. She found an escaped pet snake on the floor of her apartment, and before authorities arrived, it had hidden inside her stereo loudspeakers.
"The woman was terrified for real, but we were not scared, we never are," Södermalm police told The Local.

In the end, the officers turned to the animal park for advice. Zookeepers suggested putting the entire speaker in a large bag and delivering the package to the park, and the police did as they were told.
Not only were the police unmoved, the director of the local aquarium that took the snake said that locals have little to worry about:

Any snake-fearing Stockholmers, however, have little to worry about. Wahlström explained that such cases only crop up once or twice a year.
I know that's supposed to be comforting, but you know what kind of snake that was? An Australian carpet python. Even Sweden isn't far enough away from Australia to get away from their snakes?