Harvestman and Carrion Beetle


Liz sent me these nifty photos she took of a harvestman, or daddylonglegs.









In the bottom picture, you can see what looks like the bud of a purple flower. It's actually a carrion beetle, a very cool critter in its own right.




If you're wondering what a harvestman is, take a look at the mini-documentary Parker and I made about them a while back:


Monkey Gets Loose, Attacks Man


A pet capuchin monkey bit a man in Florida. His injuries are minor. Capuchins aren't especially big, but they've been known to cause serious injuries by biting repeatedly. In a 1997 case, one of them nearly killed its owner and amuptated some of her fingers.

The video linked below shows firefighters trying to capture the monkey. They eventually succeeded.


Monkey Gets Loose, Attacks Man - Video - WPLG Miami

Snapping Turtles


Thanks to Jake M., who worked as a wrangler at my summer wildlife program for kids. More recently, he was kind enough to show me some snapping turtles he captured. That's me above, handling one of the little beauties. I'm the one on the right. After cleaning the leeches off them (below), Jake released these turtles into the river where he found them.


Jake and I probably deserve any bites we get while playing with snapping turtles, but unprovoked attacks happen occasionally. Some swimmers have lost toes to large snappers. The power of the bite is phenomenal. The video below shows a captive snapper feeding on rats. It's a good illustration of the animal's predatory technique: seize with the mouth, then decapitate or eviscerate with a quick stroke of the claws.

This video is not for the squeamish.

Elephant kills 3


An elephant has killed three people and injured others near Dehra Dun, India. Male elephants in the condition called musth have always been a danger, but in recent years competition for resources has meant that almost any elephant can become dangerous.

Elephants are still used as beasts of burden in parts of India. Most of them never hurt anybody. 

Advise from WII sought to check attacks by rogue elephant - The Times of India


Reindeer attacks woman


In Britain, a reindeer spent more than two hours trying to gore a woman. She emerged with surprisingly minor injuries.

Scientist injured by shark in the South Pacific


A grey reef shark (also known as a whaler) repeatedly bit a scientist with the Nature Conservancy. The man was trying to release the shark from a net in which it had become entangled. The man's injuries are minor.

The grey reef shark is a member of the requiem family, which includes the tiger, bull, and oceanic whitetips sharks, among others. Like many of its relatives, it is known to attack humans on occasion. It is not known to have killed anyone.

Kiwi's horror shark attack - national | Stuff.co.nz

How to identify a shark on a biting rampage. - By Julia Felsenthal - Slate Magazine

How to identify a shark on a biting rampage. - By Julia Felsenthal - Slate Magazine: "From the diameter of the bite, scientists may be able to suss out the shark's size. The way that the victim's flesh is torn surrounding the points of incision can indicate the motion the shark used while biting; some sharks, particularly smaller ones, have the flexibility to vigorously shake their heads while attacking. Examining the bite marks, as well as the places where shark teeth scraped on human bone, can reveal whether the teeth had smooth or serrated edges."

Deer versus Dog, Cat, Human




In British Columbia, a deer has thrashed a newspaper carrier. The man ended up with eight stitches and a black eye. He says he didn't see any fawn nearby, but of course fawns try hard not to be seen.

Another deer incident, from a few months back, was captured in this video. It features a domestic cat finding a fawn, to the discomfort of the doe. A dog gets involved too. Whether it was just passing by or had scented the fawn is impossible to tell from the clip. Violence ensues.

Giraffe tramples man to death

Giraffe tramples man to death - Newsday: Everyday News for Everyday People

Giraffes are a traffic hazard in Africa, much like the deer are in North America. What we have here, though, is a far more unusual scenario: A giraffe purposely killing a human.

Red Sea Shark Attacks

Matawan Creek, New Jersey


Red Sea Shark Attacks: Killing Spree Puzzles Scientists - Yahoo! News

I'm not recommending this news report, which is a bit misleading on several points, but wanted to mention a couple of important items in it.

First, it quotes George Burgess of the International Shark Attack File confirming that one particular oceanic whitetip shark was responsible for at least two separate attacks. "We can actually say with certainty that one individual shark was involved in two of them without fail," he says. "That has not been documented before." I'd only add that while it hasn't been documented to a scientific certainty before, there's no real doubt that a single shark mauled three people in Matawan Creek, New Jersey, in 1916. One of those victims provoked the shark by trying to stop it from feeding on the child it had killed. The other two attacks were unprovoked. Two other people were taken by sharks in the ocean nearby around this time, but we can't be certain the same shark attacked them.

Scientists do not believe sharks ever take people as preferred prey. It would appear that the same shark rarely attacks more than one human in a lifetime. It's hard to be certain because it's difficult to prove which shark is responsible for a given attack.

The other important item here is an admission by the authorities that the sharks they caught last week were the wrong ones. "We did some efforts last week but I think we failed." and Salem Saleh, director of the Tourism Authority in
Sharm-el-Sheikh.





Egypt shark attacks: 'Multiple species' behind attacks

A few clarifications. There have been three attacks. The first one injured two people. Early reports had the second one also injuring two, but the BBC is saying only one person was injured on that occasion. The third attack was the fatal mauling of a German woman.

As this story mentions, experts have studied the photos and confirmed that at least two different species are involved, including an oceanic whitetip shark and apparently a shortfin mako. Both of those species are known as kill people on occasion. The Egyptian government claimed that the mako it killed earlier this week was one of the culprits, but this seems doubtful. Its identity could be established either through its stomach contents or possibly by comparing it to the photo taken right before the attack.


BBC News - Egypt shark attacks: 'Multiple species' behind attacks

Shark Attacks: Livestock carcasses in the Red Sea?


One theory offered in explanation of the recent shark attacks in Egypt claims that the sharks were drawn by the carcasses of sheep in the water. This news report from a few weeks ago confirms that a ship did dump many carcasses and that the resulting pollution was heavy enough to cause concern at Sharm-el-Sheikh. According to the theory, scavenging sharks followed the drifting line of easy meals to the resort beaches where people were in the water.

Blood in the Red Sea: Eyewitnesses Describe Shark Attacks


A British tourist took this photo of a victim pulled from the water after being mauled by a shark. The article linked here has eyewtiness accounts from two British couples.


Sharm-el-Sheikh shark attack: Photo shows blood in Egypt's Red Sea | Mail Online


Meanwhile, experts are saying the wounds indicate at least two different sharks are involved in the three separate attacks. Pictured below is an oceanic whitetip shark photographed just before one of the attacks and believed to be the culprit. Conservation officers killed a smaller oceanic whitetip and a shortfin mako shark, but there seems to be no evidence linking those two to the attacks.




Update: The full story of the attacks at Sharm El-Sheikh:


Deadly Kingdom cited in Cougar Story

Cougar sightings are controversial these days. Lots of people spot cougars, or think they do. Wildlife officials are often skeptical. This article does a great job explaining how that skepticism comes about. Coincidentally, it also cites a certain naturalist author with cougar experience.

Experts weigh in on cougar sighting | Denton Record Chronicle | News for Denton County, Texas | Local News

Meanwhile, in Alabama, a man survived an attack by a cougar (which in that part of the country is often called a panther).

Egyptian shark attacks fifth person

That resort in Egypt has suffered yet another shark attack. This time the victim is a 70-year-old German tourist. She died before reaching the hospital after the shark amputated her hand or (according to a different source) her arm.

Egyptian officials had already killed two sharks. They released a video (linked in the post below) and this photo, both of which show a small mako. Though makos do sometimes attack humans, reports claimed the shark involved in the two earlier attacks  was an oceanic whitetip. Those attacks left four Russian tourists hospitalized.


The reports so far do not make clear whether one shark is responsible for all the attacks. Oceanic whitetips sometimes travel in pairs or larger groups.

Oceanic whitetip shark kills German tourist near resort in Egypt: officials

Oceanic Whitetip Shark attacks tourists in Egypt


At a resort in Egypt, three people were mauled by an oceanic whitetip shark in two separate incidents.

Experts cited in the article I've linked below say this is extraordinarily rare, with only nine documented attacks by this species on record. That's a misleading claim, though, because the oceanic whitetip has certainly taken many victims of shipwrecks. It's not possible to document which species killed a particular person in those circumstances, but survivor accounts of disasters like the sinking of the Indianapolis in World War II give strong evidence that this species took dozens, and in a few cases hundreds of people.

The oceanic whitetip doesn't get the press of the great white and the tiger shark, species that routinely come close to shore and occasionally take people. But when people venture into the deep water, this very common and widespread species is likely to be nearby. I venture to guess that it has eaten more people than any other shark species.


Egypt closes beaches over shark attacks | World news | The Guardian

Update:
This report claims there were four victims in the two incidents, all of them critically injured. Apparently at least one, and possibly two, people lost limbs in the second attack.

Black Widow Pictures




Thanks to everyone who sent in photos of harvester ants. The contest is over, and the winner is Mike Dekker. Mike will receive a free copy of The Book of Deadly Animals (that's what they're calling it in the UK) when it's published next year.

Mike also sent me these images of the black widow in his garage. The purple plastic storage container in the background makes the widow look almost green.

Black Widow Bite -- a story from The Red Hourglass

Otter Attack Video



The latest victim of an otter attack in Boca Raton filmed the whole thing. Looks like a provoked attack to me. The young man continues to harrass the animal even after it's retreated a couple of times. The otter bit him on the leg.

Update: Authorities have recovered a dead otter and are testing it for rabies. The young man in this video has already undergone rabies treatment.

When fox attacks fail


In Massachusetts, a fox attempted to attack several people, including a police officer in his cruiser. It tried to climb a ladder to get at a man on a roof. In its most dramatic feat of incompetence, the fox failed to injure a little girl when her dogs roundly thrashed it.

Dogs guard girl when fox attacks

As often mentioned here, rabies is the likely cause when foxes attack--especially when they attack animals far too large to serve as prey.

Otter Attacks Three



Third person is bitten by an aggressive otter in West Boca Raton | raton, boca, west - Top Story - WPEC 12 West Palm Beach

Here's a story about what seems to be a highly territorial otter. This link has some rough video:

http://www.fox11online.com/dpps/news/national/south/angry-otter-attacks-florida-residents-ob10-tvw_3659400

None of the victims has been seriously injured, but rabies is a concern.

Cougar on a Leash





Last time, I showed some of Wayne Allison's photos of cougars. Today's slideshow  is from Allison's encounter with a young pet cougar in a suburb of the Twin Cities.

"It was all muscle," Wayne's daughter D'Arcy told me. She noted that the cougar's build surprised her—its long, flexible spine, its powerful haunches. She and her mother and another woman played with the cougar on the lawn in front of D'Arcy's office building.

The owner told how his pet had once saved him from a mugger. The mugger approached him from behind as he was loading stuff into his vehicle. The man heard a voice demand his wallet. Then he heard footsteps running away. The mugger had caught sight of the man's formidable passenger.

D'Arcy enjoyed meeting the cougar, which stayed on its leash the whole time. But she says she had a very uncomfortable moment when  some children passed by on their bikes. "You're used to seeing a pet cat focus in on a bird like that," she said. "I wasn't used to seeing a big, powerful animal look at children that way."

An Urban Cougar





"I have one of those," the delivery man said. He seemed to be pointing to the framed print behind D'Arcy's desk. Since the print showed a cougar, she had her doubts. He assured her that, yes, he actually had a pet cougar. It had the run of his house, and when he came home in the evenings, it bounded up the basement steps to meet him.

The cougar (also called a mountain lion or puma) in the picture had been photographed at a zoo by D'Arcy's dad, the wildlife photographer Wayne Allison. His slideshow above includes the photo from D'Arcy's wall. She knew Wayne would be interested to meet a cougar up close. So when, in the fullness of time, the delivery guy offered to bring his pet by D'Arcy's office, she phoned Wayne and told him to bring his camera. As if he'd ever leave home without it.

Next time, you'll see what happened when Wayne Allison met the cougar. 

NEXT CHAPTER


Photos courtesy of D'Arcy at Taltos Horse Tribe.

Leopard Attack


In West Bengal, a leopard attack that left one person hospitalized has farm workers spooked.

The leopard doesn't get as much attention in the Western press as a lot of lesser predators do, but some think it's the world's premier predator of human beings. It ranges across Africa and Asia, and it's very good at living close to people.

Bull Kills One, Injures Another


Man killed and wife injured by bull - Telegraph



Raccoon Victim Comes Home


Baby home, recovering from raccoon attack

The Newton Citizen has this follow-up to the case reported last week. It seems criminal charges are in the works, but the police aren't saying yet who these charges will be directed against. Georgia law prohibits keeping wild animals as pets; that would seem to be the issue here.

Russian Bear Attacks


A Kamchatka brown bear killed by sport hunters.


With a black bear attack in the news here in the US, this might be a good time to look at some recent bear news from elsewhere. In the Komi region of Russia, a lean year caused by a heatwave has brown bears raiding crops, killing livestock, and despoiling graves. One brown bear was killed Monday in the Tyva area of Siberia after trying to attack people.


Brown bears from around the world, including the grizzlies, Kodiaks, and Alaskan browns of North America and the Kamchatka bears of Russia, are now regarded as belonging to the same species. It's interesting to note in one of the articles above that Russian officials advise fighting back if attacked by one of these animals. In North America, the more common advice is to try playing dead. Neither method has a good success rate. The size and weaponry of the animal mean even brief, defensive attacks can be fatal. In the opening frame of the slide show below, you'll see the claws of a brown, which can be five inches long.


Wayne Allison's photos of grizzlies:

Black Bear trouble in Washington State


Neighborhood on edge after bear attack near Gig Harbor | Seattle News, Weather, Sports, Breaking News | KOMO News | Local & Regional

A woman and her dog battled a bear on the streets of Gig Harbor, which is near Tacoma, Washington. This news report calls it a "vicious attack" by the bear, but the details suggest the bear only harmed the woman when she tried to protect the dog who started it all.

Thanks to Kathy B. for the news tip.

Lion Attacks in Zimbabwe


The BBC is reporting a man killed by lions at a national park in Zimbabwe. The article linked here mentions other wildlife problems in the area, including other lion attacks and a fatal elephant attack. The Metro used the same source for the story; it's interesting how different the causes sound in the two papers.

More about the Georgia Raccoon Attack



This local news video has more details on the attack that left a baby critically injured. It now appears that the raccoons were not pets, but possibly had been habituated to human contact through repeated feeding.

As reported earlier, authorities have ordered rabies tests, but that would seem to be a mere formality; this is clearly a predatory attack. The animals used strategy to reach the child and eventually retreated from an attack. The choice of prey was highly unusual, but everything else about their actions is normal raccoon behavior.

Raccoons attack baby in Newton County  | ajc.com


Raccoons attack baby in Newton County | ajc.com

In Georgia, two raccoons have attacked a nine-month-old baby in her home, leaving her in critical condition. Her mother was apparently sleeping in the same room at the time. It's not clear at this point whether the raccoons were pets. Rabies tests are underway. 

Outside Reviews Deadly Kingdom

Outside Magazine was kind enough to list Deadly Kingdom among the best new books of the summer. That happened back in the June issue, but I just found out about it the other day, so here I am bragging about it in the fall. "Read it for lines like this: 'Men sped across the face of the water, propelled by unseen sharks,'" advises Outside. Here's the full article.

A Beastly Menagerie


Sir Pilkington-Smythe, best known to readers of my links section as the wit behind The Ever So Strange Animal Almanac, has a new book out. The mission of A Beastly Menagerie: Sir Pilkington-Smythe's Marvelous Collection of Strange and Unusual Creatures is to catalog the weirdest animals on earth. This volume surveys such creatures as the microscopic water bear, which can withstand 1000 times as much radiation as a human; the male hooded seal, which doubles the size of its head by inflating the lining of its nostril; and the Jesus Christ lizard, which runs on water. My fellow danger fans will be happy to know that it also includes some old friends of ours, like the candiru, which swims up the human urethra and "sticks out a spike so it can't come out, even if you ask it really, really nicely, and offer it all sorts of cash incentives." On the tendency of vampire bats to share their meals with each other, Sir P. remarks, "All very well, if indeed the idea of vampires vomiting blood into each other's mouths is all very well."

Pilkington-Smythe is hilarious, but he's also well informed, and if you're not careful, you'll learn a lot from this book. The star-nosed mole gives him occasion to mention the ten (not five) human senses, and the mating habits of the right whale lead to a discussion of sperm competition.

I wish I had the vocabulary to tell you how beautifully designed this book is. It's the most gorgeous volume on nature I've seen since Eyelids of Morning. Highly recommended. 


The Daily Iowan on Deadly Kingdom


Thanks to the Daily Iowan, the campus newspaper of the University of Iowa, which profiled me on the occasion of my visit to Prairie Lights. Reporter Alyssa Harn talks not only about Deadly Kingdom, but also about the personal stories behind the book. There's even a mention of Parker's pet leopard gecko.

Kansas City Chimp caught on video

http://news.yahoo.com/video/kansascity-kmbc-18211647/escaped-pet-chimp-captured-unharmed-22540471

Here's video of the escaped chimp I mentioned earlier.

Iowa City Rocks

I had a great time at Prairie Lights in Iowa City, where Jan, Paul, and the crew really know how to make a writer feel welcome. It was great to catch up with old friends like David and Stephanie and to meet new folks like Sam and Luke. Thanks to everyone who turned out, and especially to Paul for setting the whole thing up.


The picture shows Prairie Lights' most famous customer. He stopped by in March. I emailed the other day to suggest he swing by for my signing, but I never heard back. He must have had something else going on.

Chimpanzee Breaks Lose in Kansas City

MSNBC is reporting that an adult chimpanzee ran lose in Kansas City yesterday. No one was hurt, but the chimp apparently did try to get at a motorist in her vehicle. The report claims the chimp weighed 300 pounds. That's probably wrong, as an adult female chimp would usually run less than half that size. Still, any adult chimp is much stronger than a human and capable of doing damage.


The chimp's owner eventually lured it back into a cage.

Zebra attack


In Zimbabwe, a woman was badly mauled by her pet zebra. The zebra also killed a cow. I kid you not.

The Devil Went Down to Iowa

I'll be at Prairie Lights, one of the country's premiere independent book stores, this Monday evening to read, talk, and sign copies of Deadly Kingdom. If you're anywhere near Iowa City, come see me.

http://www.prairielights.com/live





October 18, 2010 - 7:00pm
Prairie Lights
GORDON GRICE
Event Image
Gordon Grice will read from his new book, Deadly Kingdom. In this elegantly illustrated, often funny compendium of animal predation, Grice, hailed by Michael Pollan as “a fresh, strange, and wonderful new voice in American nature writing,” presents findings that are by turns surprising, humorous, and horrifying. Personally obsessed by both the menace and beauty of animals since he was six years old and a deadly cougar wandered onto his family’s farm, Gordon Grice now reaps a lifetime of study in this unique survey. Deadly Kingdom is both a good read and a great resource. Gordon Grice has written for The New Yorker, Harper’s, Discover, Granta and other magazines. His first book, The Red Hourglass, was named one of the Best Books of the Year by the Los Angeles Times and the New York Public Library. His work has been anthologized in The Best American Essays. 

Gorillas

Wayne Allison's images of gorillas.

More Monkey News

In Malaysia, a monkey has killed a newborn baby in a predatory attack. The article doesn't tell which species of monkey this was.

Lion versus Trainer



A couple of recent attacks point up the dangers of lion taming. The video above shows an attack in a Ukraine circus. The one below is from the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas. When captive lions attacks, the motive may be related to dominance. The lion sees an opportunity to achieve a higher rank in the pride when a more dominant animal--his human trainer--looks vulnerable. Once the attack is underway, the lion's predatory instinct may kick in as well.

Photograph This Ant and Win a Prize


Help! I'm seeking an original photo of a harvester ant. We don't have them here in Wisconsin, but you folks in the Southwest may still be able to find them at this time of year.

These are large ants with the nasty sting. They live in holes usually on clear ground, such as a road; the hole may be surrounded with gravel from their deep diggings. The top photo here shows the individuals clearly. The bottom will give you a good idea of their den sites. For those of you near my old home in the Oklahoma Panhandle, these are the very common big ones. I don't care which color.


I'm choosing photos for the British edition of Deadly Kingdom, and this is something I'd especially like to have, but I won't be able to take the photo myself because of the travel and so forth. I'd want an unpublished photo at high resolution. The pay for the winner will be a free signed copy of the British book. If I get several to choose from, I may post some of them on the blog.


Monkeys of New Delhi



At the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, rhesus macaques have pilfered the possessions of athletes. This sort of thing is common in New Delhi. Monkeys even injure people on occasion. In one notable case, a city official died after monkeys hurled a flower pot onto his head. Hindus, who comprise 87% of the population of the city, hold the animals sacred. For that reason, the monkeys roam unmolested. At least, by people.

The solution to this monkey problem may be bigger monkeys. The Indian government keeps a squad of trained langurs for just such an emergency. These slender monkeys may stand five feet high. They treat smaller simians as rivals for food, and are often willing to kill them.

Wild langurs occasionally harm people, just as macaques do. These trained ones will remain leashed, as in the video above, until the trainers spot a likely crowd of trouble-making macaques.  

The Coyotes of New York

Interesting article about the troubles in Westchester County, where coyotes have bitten a couple of people recently. Unlike a lot of news stories, this one has real biology behind it.

"There are generally three underlying reasons for animal-human conflict: expanding animal population, expanding human population, or a change in philosophy by the people in a wildlife-populated area."

More about Our Changing View of Dog Attacks

Over on Facebook, Jay posed this question about my last blog post:


But at the same time, ``fight´´ dogs are being scrutinized as potential threats. Here in Denmark many apartments will not allow them, certain dogs must be muzzled, and owners of certain species are not allowed to continue breeding their dogs. In your research, do you find that ownership of these dogs has increased or simply the coverage?






My answer is that the coverage definitely affects ownership of the different breeds. To take only one example, we know that German shepherds became much more popular in the 1960s after viewers saw TV coverage of the race riots--specifically, they saw white cops using the dogs to attack black citizens. Of course, not everybody who bought a shepherd was a racist, but that sort of discomfort about race and violence continues to play a part in choice of breed. What shifts, really, is our cultural stereotypes of the breeds. Across decades, we’ve seen the idea of a macho dog change -- Dobermanns, Rottweilers, pit bull terriers, and others have at different times been perceived as dangerous to outsiders and therefore valuable for the safety of their owners.


That doesn't make things any simpler, because all dogs are the same species. The different breeds aren't as distinct as they seem. It’s true that fighting dogs are bred for traits that make them more dangerous; particularly, breeders try to eliminate the natural tendency to retreat when injured. An animal with a diminished sense of self-preservation can do a lot of damage. In that sense, the macho dogs of today tend to be more dangerous than the relatively healthier and more intelligent macho dogs of earlier decades. But few dogs are purebreds; and the breeds, no matter how careful the pedigree, only have tendencies, rather than predictable traits. (In fact, purebreds in general tend to be less mentally stable than mongrels, because the purity of traits comes from inbreeding.) Laws aimed at particular breeds tend not to work well, because the definition of each breed is subject to manipulation. For example, if the law says you can’t breed rottweilers, you can breed a mix of Rottie and mastiff. Or you can say you are; how is a cop responding to a complaint supposed to know the difference? In various parts of the US, this tactic allowed unscrupulous breeders to get around restrictions on wolf-dog hybrids.


Dog-fighting, and breeding dogs for fighting, is nothing new. You can find references to it in Mark Twain, for example. But the attitude toward it was very different. For one thing, there was no secret about the racial motive for owning tough dogs. White settlers would explicitly say that they obtained a particular dog because it reacted strongly to “Indians.” I don’t know how it is in Denmark, but in the US I’d argue that we still have a lot of racial tension that, rather than being openly talked about, is sublimated into issues like this dog thing. Another difference between us now and in the days of our grandfathers is that it used to be acceptable for the average citizen to shoot or poison a dog that endangered people. The owner might not like it, but if the shooter could show that the dog was threatening children or livestock, law and common opinion supported him. I realize this sounds unpleasant to the modern ear, but it’s just how things used to be. In Darwinian terms, selection worked against dogs that threatened humans inappropriately. . . at least, humans of the same race. That’s no longer the case.


Violence against dogs in general used to be far more acceptable. There have always been people who loved dogs, but I’d say the idea that they were personal property to be disposed of as one saw fit was much stronger up until a generation or two ago. In books from a century ago, I find references to boys torturing dogs to death as an ugly act, but a normal one. Nowadays, of course, the prevailing view is to see violence against pets as perverse, a symptom of incipient serial murder.


Because each person was entrusted to protect his own family and stock, there was far less emphasis on the pet-owner’s responsibility for his animal’s actions. A surprising example of this fact crops up in Edgar Allan Poe’s “Murders in the Rue Morgue.” That’s the one in which mysterious murders turn out to have been perpetrated by an orangutan. Once the truth comes out, the owner doesn’t get in any trouble, because it’s clear he wasn’t in on the actual violence and didn’t train the ape to perform it. It’s just fiction, of course, but the attitude is authentic to the era (mid-1800s).

Dog Attacks: A Changing Culture


If you look through newspapers from, say, forty years ago, you'll find a few cases of "dog bite." They turn up mostly in the police reports. If you look through news reports on the web today, you'll find a lot more cases, and they won't be called "dog bites" but "dog attacks." In fact, the perpetrator may not be called a "dog" in the headline but a "pit bull" or some other specific breed.

I receive several news items like this literally every day. These abundant news reports are the reason, I assume, that people are always asking me why there are so many more animal attacks these days. Every animal is different, but the truth in most cases is that attacks probably haven't become more common. Only the reporting of them has. It used to be that a "dog bite" was considered trivial, whereas now a "dog attack" sounds serious. Then as now, a few deaths were mixed in with the minor injuries. But the spin has changed.

There are a lot of reasons for that. One of them is suggested by the frequent bulletins I get advertising the services of attorneys. By re-branding dog bites as a serious problem, some lawyers have created a new revenue stream. We Americans used to deal with a problem dog by shooting or poisoning it. Nowadays we sue its owner.

(Cartoon courtesy of James Twiggs.)

Rhinoceroses on the Rampage




In Deadly Kingdom, I talk a lot about the dangers posed by captive animals. I was delighted to find this article describing animal escapes throughout American history. The article deals with everything from boas to bulls, but it has especially interesting anecdotes about elephants and rhinoceroses. Who knew rhinos can escape their pursuers by diving?


The first exhibited rhino came to Europe in the early 1500s, and they've been popular attractions ever since. The most famous rhino in history was probably Clara, who served as a model for such artists as Oudry (top), Longhi (middle), and Albinus (below). Dont' ask me why Albinus put Clara into a drawing of human anatomy, because I don't know.



Wildlife Photographs: Wayne Allison's Raccoons



Minnesota photographer and animal lover Wayne Allison took hundreds of animal photos in the late 20th century. Used by permission of D'Arcy Allison-Teasley, who blogs at http://www.taltoshorsetribe.blogspot.com/.

The Day After Summer

For a lover of nature, all tasks are about the journey. Maybe that explains why my son the photographer and I were out at four in the morning to pay the gas bill. Sure, tedious details of my life could explain why I left that chore for the odd hour, but really it was the storm. We wanted to be in it.

The usual thunderstorm things happened: rain blowing in on us, which was a refreshment at first, then a call to close the windows; the asphalt no longer gray, but black as a racer snake; the sudden smudged beauty of ordinary brake lights.

All at once, just as we passed the Catholic cemetery, dozens of yellow leaves leapt out. It was like driving through a swarm of butterflies. We heard them tick hard against the windshield and the grill.

"I guess summer's over," I said.

I realized then that my friends and I have been hinting at that for days now, mentioning the early dusks and the corroded brassy look of the so-called silver maples. But this was decisive, this blast of dead leaves. And I thought of the way it was back in Oklahoma. Nothing there was final. The leavings of a blizzard might melt to a soggy seventy the next day.  There was no need to shovel snow, because winter, like everything else there at the foot of the Rockies except death, was fitful and would undo itself soon enough. Wisconsin has never ceased to amaze me with its precision: here we were on the night of September first, and summer was washing away before our eyes. I'd never quite grasped that there were places in the world where calendars made sense, had something to do with the objective world.

However, the storm wasn't through. We had to pass the cemetery again a few minutes later on our way home, and just after we did, an arthritic strand of lightning dangled from the sky. To me, it seemed as if the sky had turned a pearly blue where nothing existed except that bluer thread. Parker thought, but wasn't certain, that he saw it hit a light pole near the traffic signal we were approaching. I was too blinded to see anything of the sort. For a moment after the strike, the entire sky remained that bright and pearly blue, and then, as if a switch had been thrown, everything was dark. I'm still not sure what the moment of lingering light was; we both saw it, and it didn't feel like that sting of sensation that remains on the retina after brilliance. We saw treetops around us, and the brows of buildings; it was only the sky that seemed replaced with blue. Then the traffic signals, which had been working fine before, began to blink nothing but red.

We'd neglected to bring the camera. Late the next afternoon, however, as Parker and his mother and brothers were on the road for other errands, the weather was indecisive. No two directions seemed to match. Parker snapped away, mostly through the windows of the moving car.



Wayne Allison's Wolves




More images from Minnesota photographer Wayne Allison. Courtesy of D'Arcy Allison-Teasley at www.taltoshorsetribe.blogspot.com/.

Incident at Yellowstone: Bison vs. Humans

At Yellowstone, tourists somehow aggravated a bison, which soundly thrashed them. At the hospital, they faced something even more formidable: the health insurance industry.

Patas Monkey Attacks

In Indiana, a pet patas monkey had a tantrum and inflicted minor injuries on a teenager and the family dog. Here's the full story, which includes some good background on the dangers of keeping a primate as a pet.

Wayne Allison's Orangutans

Wayne Allison's haunting images of the Asian ape.

Bull Fight: Everybody Loses

This happened in Spain Wednesday. They're reporting more than 30 people injured. The bull was killed.

Washington Post reviews Deadly Kingdom


The Washington Post has once again proved itself to be a paper of taste and distinction:




Alligator vs. Goose


Reader Attackturtle was having lunch with his wife at their pond when they witnessed nature in startling action. Someone else was feeding stale bread to the turtles in the pond. Geese crowded in to swipe the bread. And then a young alligator, which AT estimated at four to five feet in length, grabbed a goose. The gator made no attempt to roll or drown the goose, relying on the bite alone to subdue it. When AT approached with his camera, the gator swam away at a leisurely pace. At first glance, the photo looks like a some weird hybrid animal out of Greek myth.

(Thanks, Attackturtle!)

Gordon Grice Talks Animals


Here's me on the radio with host Steve Scher, talking about animal attacks. We talked about sloth bears (pictured), grizzlies, dogs, and many other animals. You'll also hear some harrowing stories from callers.

Grizzly Bear Attacks Three at Yellowstone

"She was hunting us, with the intention of killing us and eating us," said survivor Deb Freele after being mauled by a grizzly at Yellowstone last week. The bear broke her arm and left her with bite wounds requiring surgery. It stopped the attack when Freele played dead. A man named Ronald Singer was also injured. His fighting, and his girlfriend's screams, seem to have discouraged the bear.

The bear killed another man.

Officials verified that the bear they trapped was the correct one through tent fibers in its scat, a broken tooth left at the site of one attack, and now, as the video mentions, through DNA.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10212/1076687-84.stm#ixzz0vTj6bOsy

See Wayne Allison's grizzly bear photos.

Fox Attacks


In Vermont, a rabid fox attacked a boy and his ax-wielding parents. The Bennington Banner tells more:

Eight-year-old Rimmele Wood was playing in his family’s yard when the fox appeared and bit him on the leg on July 11, according to his father, Ned Wood. The fox "latched onto" the boy’s leg, he said, and was not letting go.

Ned Wood said he was able to kill the fox with an ax and free his son. "My wife brought me the ax and I dispatched it rather quickly," he said.

Dr. Robert Johnson, the state’s public health veterinarian, said the attack was the sixth rabid gray fox bite of a person this year in Vermont. The state typically sees just a "handful" each year, he said, but the high rate this year is not alarming, he said.

In other fox news, people have asked me about the recent attack on twin babies in the UK. Most fox attacks are, like the one in Vermont, the result of rabies. But the UK incident was clearly a predatory attack. Babies are small enough to fall within the acceptable size range for fox prey. In my files I have other cases of foxes sneaking into homes on food raids, but pet cats are the usual victims.



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