Leopard Attacks

In the Uttar Pradesh region of India, leopards and human continue to clash; two people have died recently, and several others have been seriously hurt. There are also unconfirmed reports of recent leopard attacks elsewhere in India.

The people of India have dealt with leopards for centuries. This photo is from a rescue operation in Pune this past January. Forestry officials tried to remove a leopard from a populated area. The result: five people mauled, one leopard dead. In May, villagers in Uttar Pradesh burned a leopard alive after it hurt a number of people.

Here’s an odd report of a wild tiger injuring several people. . . in South Africa. This would seem to be a translation error; tigers are not native to Africa, though both lions and leopards occur in patches there.

Deadly Kingdom, Chapter 19: The Cats

Hercules the Gorilla Dies

In pop culture, the gorilla’s dangerous and the chimpanzee’s cute. The gorilla is King Kong; the chimp is Lancelot Link or Cheetah. In reality, the gorilla is dangerous only when provoked—when shot at, for example, or when held captive. A famous example of the latter situation happened in 1998, when a gorilla named Hercules mauled a worker at the Dallas Zoo. Considering the power of a big gorilla, even events like that, which left everyone alive, are mild. The chimpanzee, on the other hand, can be genuinely dangerous. In the wild, chimps occasionally prey on human children. They don’t handle captivity well except when they are young. As they age, they can become extremely aggressive toward people. There are various cases of captive chimps biting and tearing off the fingers and facial features of humans; worse damage than that happens occasionally—castration, lost limbs.

Hercules has died at the Dallas Zoo. He suffered a heart attack after surgery to relieve the paralyzing effects of arthritis in his back.

In Oregon, a chimpanzee escaped from its cage and bit an intern at a wildlife sanctuary. The woman’s injuries were minor.

Food Chain: Encounters Between Mates, Predators and Prey

"Everything feeds on everything else, but we knew that anyway.... The difference lies in the vivid beauty of these weird, compelling photographs. The sharp, luscious colors erupt onto a stark white background."--The Independent on Sunday, London

I contributed an essay to accompany the beautiful and disturbing photos of Catherine Chalmers.

"A vision of the natural world we've never seen before."--Michael Pollan

Deadly Kingdom: The Book of Dangerous Animals

Publisher's hype:

In 2004, a buzzard attacked 22 people engaged in a bicycle race in Devon, England, damaging either the helmet or the person in all cases… 
In China, the bile of a bear is believed to have medicinal properties, and is removed by several methods including catheters. It is perhaps unsurprising that bears in this situation become irritable…
The black mamba is sometimes claimed to be the most dangerous snake in the world, based on its speed, aggression and disconcerting habit of turning up in toilets…
In this copiously illustrated, often darkly funny compendium of dangerous animals, one of our finest contemporary writers on the subject offers a comprehensive guide to virtually every animal that might pose harm to humans, from the aardwolf to the zebra shark.
In an engaging, idiosyncratic voice all his own, Gordon Grice presents findings that are by turns surprising, humorous and horrifying…How does a tiny box jellyfish, with no brain and little control over where it goes in the water, manage to kill a full-grown man? What harm have hippos been known to inflict on humans, and why?
At once hair-raising and mordantly funny, this unique work is destined to be a classic – appealing equally to intrepid explorers of nature and armchair scientists reading from the confines of a carefully locked home.

Contents of Deadly Kingdom:

The Carnivorids
  1. Wolves, Dogs, and Their Relatives
  2. The Bears
  3. The Cats
  4. The Hyenas
  5. Other Carnivorids
Aquatic Dangers
  1. Sharks and Their Relatives
  2. The Bony Fish
  3. The Whales
  4. An Assortment of Aquatic Dangers
The Reptiles and Birds
  1. The Snakes
  2. The Crocodilians
  3. The Lizards
  4. The Birds
The Arthropods and Worms
  1. Arachnids and Myriapods
  2. The Insects
  3. The Worms
Other Mammals
  1. The Hoofed Mammals
  2. The Elephants
  3. The Rodents
  4. The Bats
  5. A Miscellany of Minor Mammal Dangers
  6. The Primates

Bear attacks in the news

In Cambodia, two men were mauled by a bear of uncertain species. The Asiatic black bear and the sun bear both occur in the area. From the sketchy details in the article, this attack would appear to fit the MO of the latter species. It does not prey on people, but will claw them in a quick flurry when it feels threatened.

In Romania, a brown bear killed a 20-year-old man. Conflicts between people and brown bears are an ongoing problem in that country. These European brown bears are of the same species as the grizzlies and other browns of North America. They only rarely prey on people, but are touchy in defense and occasionally kill people in both hemispheres.

In North America, black bears have been in the news. Near Vancouver, BC, a black bear mauled a woman in her driveway. As she fought the bear, Neighbors and passing motorists came to her rescue, pelting the animal with rocks and threatening it with a broom. The bear finally broke off the attack when a motorist rammed it with his SUV. It retreated behind a house, where police shot it dead. The woman suffered significant tissue loss from one arm, four broken ribs, and serious lacerations to her head that required 20 staples. She also had lesser wounds all over her body. This appears to have been an attempt at predation. Here are articles from The Canadian Press, CTV, and the Globe and Mail. News photos show the bear as a rather unimpressive cinnamon-colored specimen; that color is not unusual among “black” bears.

The following day, officials shot another black bear in the same neighborhood after it broke into a house. This bear, a much larger one, had a history of threatening children.

Another black bear attacked an eight-year-old boy in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. The boy’s father and 10-year-old brother fought the bear off. The younger boy needed stitches and staples to close wounds to his torso, arms, and head. The father received minor wounds. Rangers shot and killed the bear, an 86-pound juvenile male.

There are eight species of bear, all of them formidable, though the panda and the South American spectacled bear hurt people only under extreme provocation. The sun and sloth bears, both found in Asia, don't prey on people, but are quick to perceive a threat and will claw people badly. The sloth bear, in particular, has killed many people in this manner. The remaining four species--polar, brown, American black, and Asiatic black--are all dangerous species that occasionally prey on people.

More information about bear attacks appears in Deadly Kingdom.

Tiger Attacks -- in Missouri

An odd coincidence: two tiger attacks in two days—both in Missouri. The first happened in Warrenton, not far from St Louis, where a tiger escaped its enclosure at an exotic animal sanctuary and mauled a volunteer worker. Surgeons amputated his lower leg. The Tiger News blog has some background, including allegations that the facility has not been properly run.

The second incident occurred in Branson West, where a 16-year-old worker entered a cage with a camera. One tiger knocked him down; two others seized him and dragged him into a water trough. Co-workers rescued him. At last report he was in critical condition with wounds that included bites to the neck.

Here’s more on both incidents from the Tri-City Herald.

UPDATE: This article from the Riverfront Times adds some useful context about the legal situation.

Elephant news

Near Tel Aviv, a seventeen-year old girl who trespassed in a zoo after hours was injured by an elephant.

Straight Dope has an interesting article on the aggression of wild African elephants toward rhinos. There’s an especially interesting claim that the elephants rape the carcasses of the rhinos.


Deadly Kingdom, Chapter 25: The Elephants

Alligator News

In Louisiana, an eleven-year-old boy lost an arm to an alligator. The gator was killed and the arm, still intact, extracted from its stomach. Doctors operated to re-attach it.

Alligators have killed some two dozen people in the US in the past 35 years. They have injured many more. Attacks on people are, however, rare.

Deadly Kingdom, Chapter 12: The Crocodilians

Articles and Essays by Gordon Grice

Hunger on the Wing
“The rosebushes took on the riddled look of lace, as though the grasshoppers had tasted the leaves and found them unappealing but serviceable.”
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Secrets of the Siberian Elm
“In a corner of the yard was an amputated limb, as long as I was and thicker than my thigh.”
Bite of the Hobo Spider
“. . . a blistering wound ringed with yellow, like the moon in a halo of smog, often accompanied by headaches and, in rare cases, disturbed thinking.”
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

“The small, half-decomposed body came in for autopsy swathed in champagne-colored sheets, the way it had been found in a mound of leaves.”

Paging Dr. Moreau
"On live TV, Kac pushed a thick hollow needle into the flesh of his left leg to insert the chip."


Nature Gothic: Best Wildlife Stories of Gordon Grice
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