Zoo bear mauls man

It's amazing how many zoo visitors find it necessary to jump into animal pens. In 2006 a man climbed into a lion enclosure at the Kiev zoo and proclaimed that God would save him, if He existed. Turns out the lion was an atheist. A few years before that, a woman committed suicide in Singapore by jumping into a crocodile exhibit. Earlier this year there was a case of attempted suicide involving polar bears. Of course, many people who do this sort of thing turn out to be either schizophrenic or clinically depressed.

The latest case happened in Bern, Switzerland. A mentally handicapped man deliberately jumped into an enclosure housing two brown bears. One of the bears mauled him. Police shot the bear to save him. The man is in the hospital with serious head and leg injuries. The bear is being treated with antibiotics to prevent infection of his bullet wounds. Because the bullet fragmented on entry, veterinarians deemed it unwise to operate.

Related Post: Russian Bear Attacks

Whitetailed deer attack

In a back yard in the Oklahoma community of Enville, a woman was attacked by a white-tailed deer buck. The woman escaped with some injuries. The deer remained outside her home, apparently looking for more trouble. He got it in the form of a deputy sheriff. The buck charged at the lawman and was shot dead.

The news report I've linked to describes the attack as "shocking," but deer attacks aren't that unusual. Bucks become extremely pugnacious in mating season. Mostly they duel each other for mating privileges, but occasionally they take out their frustrations on other species.

There's a greater danger than attacks, however. About 100 people a year die in vehicle collisions with whitetailed deer. The species is found in most of the US and southern parts of Canada.

Llama Attacks

Llamas may look silly, but they can be formidable. When used as guards for sheep, they've been known to kick coyotes to death. In a recent attack, a Texas man was kicked, boxed, bitten and thrown. He needed more than 700 stitches.

Like other members of the camel family, llamas have cleft palates and long necks. Their hooves, such as they are, ride high, the same way our toenails do; they walk on the bottoms of their two toes. They are cud-chewers with triple stomachs. Sometimes they hock cud-riddled loogies from deep within that complicated gut—a way of disciplining herd-mates or people. Their red blood cells are oval—most mammals have disk-shaped cells.

Experts claim attacks on people usually happen only if the llama has been reared with too much human contact. It comes to see people as herd-mates and may feel the need to rise above them in the pecking order. That may be what happened in this Texas case. Or it may be the llama perceived the man as a threat.

More about llamas as guard animals.

Chimpanzee Victim Speaks

Charla Nash, who was mauled by Travis the chimpanzee, was on TV yesterday. Here are highlights of her appearance on Oprah. Ms. Nash's injuries are gruesome, so let the squeamish beware.

I feel dirty for even mentioning Oprah, but since she's the one with access, I'll also link to her website, where another video tells of Nash's daily routine.

Spiders and Insects Enlarged

Andrew L. pointed me to the work of Thomas Shahan, a student who takes beautiful photographs of arthropods. Here's Shahan on the Today Show. I wish they had let him show more of his work, but not to worry: here's his work on Flickr.

An Urban Hawk

Reader Steve V. sent in these photos taken by his friend Mike H. They show a hawk perched on a minivan in the middle of a grocery store parking lot in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania. It has just taken a rabbit, which can be seen in its talons. Camp Hill has a population of 3552 people per square mile, so this is not the sort of place you'd expect a hawk to feel comfortable. You can see people standing surprisingly near, and Steve tells me the area lies among active roads and stores. Mike snapped the photos with his cell phone.

Steve wonders about hawks adapting to hectic city life. I've never seen anything quite like this with hawks, but I do recall some city encounters with other birds of prey. Once while my family and I were driving in suburban St. Paul, a bald eagle took a squirrel from the road right in front of me. We were going about 50 miles per hour, and I thought I would hit the eagle. It was so close to my car that I lost sight of it as it dipped beneath my hood. However, it rose immediately, unharmed, and as we swept past I saw the gray squirrel motionless in its grip.
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