Killer Whales vs. Sharks in New Zealand

Interesting orca behavior in the video linked here--and a dog gets involved. 

Orca attacks shark in surf zone as beachgoers watch in awe:

"The video clip shows what appears to be a male orca, or killer whale, fiercely harassing a shark near the small breakers, and a large shark beaching itself, perhaps in an attempt to escape the orca, only to be harassed by a barking dog. "

10 Wacky Animal Stories of 2011

Kevin Deacon/Creative Commons

Live Science has this very entertaining write-up about the bizarre animal discoveries of the past year. The quote below may remind readers of the slow loris, whose toxic strategies I mentioned here a while back.

10 Wacky Animal Stories of 2011 | LiveScience:

"By utilizing the same plants that African tribesmen use to poison their arrows, the furry fury known as the African crested rat can incapacitate and even kill predators many times its size, research published in August found. The rat chews poisonous bark and spits the poison onto its furt coat, which has specialized hairs with pores to absorb the animal's poisonous spit, which protects them against predators like dogs."

Vultures Take Cattle

(Dellex/Creative Commons)

Yet another unexpected effect of exterminating wildlife: From Spain comes the news that vultures are taking cattle. The vultures are no match for healthy adult cattle, but they take calves and, in the case reported in the news story linked below, a cow weakened by giving birth.

Scientists are attributing this behavior to the lack of easier meals--the dead animals, wild and domestic, the vultures would prefer. My correspondent Croconut, who alerted me to this story, tells me the vultures are protected, but there's been some success setting up feeding spots for them so they won't attack livestock.

Like the predatory kea parrots of New Zealand, the vultures simply begin to eat the livestock alive. The keas are known to take flesh from the vulnerable backs of sheep. The sheep often survive the attack, only to die of infection later.

Keas (klaasmer/Creative Commons)

The news story doesn't say which species of vulture is involved. I suspect it's the large and abundant griffon vulture, which can weigh over 15 pounds. Much rarer, and thus probably not the culprit here, is the cinereous vulture (pictured), by some accounts the largest bird of prey in the world. It can reach twice that weight, and its wings can span ten feet.

The article is in Spanish. English-speaking readers may get a hoot, but probably not much information, from Google's bizarre translation of it; I provide a sample below.

The vultures are finished with a cow and a newborn calf Pascualcobo. "The vulture, scavenger, has no ability to directly kill cattle, unlike the wolf," he said from the agricultural organization, stressing that the fresh cow, unable to lift, "it was easy to start devour, peck peck on the back, in soft, just whence the calf. "

Thus, the cow had eaten the back "no kill", thus "great suffering" for the animal, while the calf started eating the eyes and the soft parts, "until the animal died of suffering and bled."

Cheetah the Chimp Dies?

None of these is the same Cheetah who may have just died.

This chimpanzee supposedly played in Tarzan movies of the 1930s and has just now died at age 80. That would be a phenomenal age for a chimp.

Chimp from 1930s US 'Tarzan' films dead at 80 - Yahoo! News:
"The Florida chimpanzee -- which reportedly arrived at the sanctuary in 1960 -- loved finger-painting and watching football, and was soothed by Christian music, the sanctuary's outreach director Debbie Cobb told the Tampa Tribune.

Ron Priest, a sanctuary volunteer, told the Tribune that Cheetah stood out because he could walk upright with a straight back like a human. "When he didn't like somebody or something that was going on, he would pick up some poop and throw it at them. He could get you at 30 feet with bars in between," Priest said."


Photography by D'Arcy Allison-Teasley

The White Cat

I don’t usually run fiction here, but what the heck, let’s do something different. This short story originally appeared in Vestal Review. It’s read here by James Addison Conrad. Not for the faint of heart.

The Book of Deadly Animals on Ever So Strange

Some nice (and funny) words for The Book of Deadly Animals the other day on Ever So Strange.

A Description of Water

I never saw water so polished and glassy, like clarid polished marble, reflecting everything quite clean-cut in its lucid abysm, over which hardly the faintest zephyr breathed that still sun-down; it wimpled about the bluff Boreal, which seemed to move as if careful not to bruise it, in rich wrinkles and creases, like glycerine, or dewy-trickling lotus-oil; yet it was only the sea: and the spectacle yonder was only crags, and autumn-foliage and mountain-slope: yet all seemed caught-up and chaste, rapt in a trance of rose and purple, and made of the stuff of dreams and bubbles, of pollen-of-flowers, and rinds of the peach.  

Text by M. P. Shiel

Photograph by Parker Grice

Wild Boar Attacks Woman in Ohio

Wild Pig Attacks Woman in Lawrence County, Ohio: "The complaint, filed by Sgt. Randy Goodall states, "I observed some type of animal jump up and attack (Scott) around the neck and shoulders."

It goes on to state Goodall "fired two shots into the animal from atop the edge of the roadway at a distance of approximately 20 feet. The animal attempted to approach the couple and then turned and tried to run toward me. I fired an additional shot into the animal, killing it as it rolled down the hill."

Scott was bitten several times on her legs and hands.

"I don't care what people say," she says. "They're dangerous.""

Revisiting Dingo Attack on Baby

The video summarizes the case made famous in a Meryl Streep movie: A dingo took a human baby from a tent, and the mother was blamed for it. As described in The Book of Deadly Animals, the evidence against Lindy Chamberlain was never credible, while the reasons for doubting a wild dog would prey on a human child were wishful thinking. A new study, mentioned in the link below, confirms that dingoes sometimes take large prey. This should be no surprise if we recall that they belong to the same species as wolves and dogs. The most telling evidence, however, is that other children have been killed by dingoes in the years since this case made news. 

Evidence growing for Azaria dingo attack: "A 2011 study of dingo scats showed dingoes could prey on relatively large animals, like wallabies, not just small creatures like rats.

"The second body of evidence that may well be of interest are the events of Fraser Island, showing that when humans and dingoes are in relatively close proximity, that dingoes become sufficiently emboldened to attack humans," he said."

The Spider and the Rose

Photography by D'Arcy Allison-Teasley

Related Post: Design

What Color Is This Cat?

Further to yesterday's post about oddly colored pets, Croconut provides these photos of his cat. He says it looks green to him. Others say gray-black. I confess it looks brown to me, except maybe around the neck. Anybody want to say purple?

Red and White

At the swimming pool I met a family whose pets were all the wrong colors.

Steve and his brother Eli cleared land with chain saws for a living. Steve had two daughters who had no fear of strangers (or at least of me). The ten year old asked me all sorts of questions: Where do you live? Where'd you get those ugly swimming trunks? Do you like hamburgers or hot dogs better?

That last question somehow led to me getting invited to the family cookout. I rode to their place in the back of Steve's pickup with Eli's dog, a red Doberman pinscher named Gertrude. I was a little apprehensive about getting close to a strange Doberman, but I felt better when she slunk over to me and pushed her head under my hand to be petted.

I had never seen a red Dobie. She looked about like the inside of a red velvet cake. Eli said she was one of only 60 in the country. He had paid good money for her. He mentioned all the surgeries she had had because of her stomach problems. "Didn't you have surgeries?" he said in a baby voice and kissed her on the mouth.

Once we arrived at Steve's place, he brought out his own pet. I nearly dropped my hamburger. The pet was white and had demonic red eyes, and the first thing it did was run up Steve's left sleeve and come out his right.

"It's an albino ferret," Steve said, too late to prevent my stomach from jumping onto my left shoulder blade.

I never found out why both brothers had chosen pets of unusual color. When I mentioned the subject, Eli said “I don’t consider Gertrude a pet. She’s more like a child.”

Later, Steve said, "Eli goes overboard about that dog. Doesn't he, Precious?" And he kissed the ferret.

Photo: Marshman/Creative Commons

Troubled Skies

I hate the kind of calendar that shows me, for example, a snow scene in February. In February, I have seen plenty of snow, can see more of it any time I want by looking out my window, and really would prefer to see less of it. I'd like a calendar that shows the opposite of whatever I can see from my own window.

In that spirit, I offer a few spring skies. These first two shots are from shortly after dawn; the sky looked volcanic, but nothing much happened.

These next four shots were taken within four minutes in mid-morning, all from our back yard. The sky's color changed rapidly (all of these are the real colors, not manipulated). A storm rumbled in shortly.

Related Post: The Day after Summer

Photography by Parker Grice

Gibbon Attacks Toddler

In a Malaysian zoo, a siamang has attacked and severely injured a three-year-old boy. 

The siamang is the largest of the gibbons or "lesser" apes--as opposed to the better known "great" apes, including the chimpanzees, orangutans, and gorillas. This article lists the attacker at 38 kilos (84 pounds), which is probably a typo; the average for this species is under 30 pounds, though they may stand four feet tall or so as they waddle on the ground. They'd prefer to swing by their arms. 

The news report (linked below) gives no information on the reason for the attack, though all primates are potentially dangerous and can become aggressive for no obvious reason.

The most startling characteristic of the siamang, aside from biting zoo visitors, is its habit of inflating its neck to the size of a pumpkin and bellowing like a game show contestant imitating a pig. This sound can be heard by gibbons in the next neighborhood. 

'Tame' gibbon attacks boy at zoo - General - New Straits Times: "I was shocked and screamed. My husband, who at first did not realise what was happening, acted fast and held the gibbon's head. But it refused to let go of my son's thigh. The gibbon only let go when another visitor kicked its stomach."

Escape of the Snapping Turtle

Captured by kids, this snapping turtle strives to escape. 

Released, it makes its break. 

The kids follow and watch. 

At last, with a little human help, the turtle reaches the safety of the river. 

Photos by Elizabeth Murphy

The Times on Deadly Animals

A nice mention for The Book of Deadly Animals the other day in the Times of London, which praises the book as "Nature writing--but not as you know it."

Arana Capulina -- A Black Widow Spider

As readers of The Red Hourglass will know, the black widow spider is a special favorite of mine. Hodari Nundu recently sent me these photos of a black widow he found building a web above his cat’s litter box. 

Hodari captured the spider in a jar, then released it outdoors. 

Hodari tells me that where he lives in Mexico, this spider is sometimes called viuda negra, which means black widow, and sometimes araƱa capulina, or black cherry spider. It’s a nifty name because, aside from the outward resemblance between spider and black cherry, both are also toxic. The leaves and seeds of the black cherry contain cyanide compounds that often kill livestock. 

Rasbak/Creative Commons

A Warning to Intruders

I directed my glass [i.e., telescope] to the house. There were no signs of life, but there was the ruined roof, the long mud wall peeping above the grass, with three little square window-holes, no two of the same size; all this brought within reach of my hand, as it were. And then I made a brusque movement, and one of the remaining posts of that vanished fence leaped up in the field of my glass. You remember I told you I had been struck at the distance by certain attempts at ornamentation, rather remarkable in the ruinous aspect of the place. Now I had suddenly a nearer view, and its first result was to make me throw my head back as if before a blow. Then I went carefully from post to post with my glass, and I saw my mistake. These round knobs were not ornamental but symbolic; they were expressive and puzzling, striking and disturbing—food for thought and also for the vultures if there had been any looking down from the sky; but at all events for such ants as were industrious enough to ascend the pole. They would have been even more impressive, those heads on the stakes, if their faces had not been turned to the house. Only one, the first I had made out, was facing my way. I was not so shocked as you may think. The start back I had given was really nothing but a movement of surprise. I had expected to see a knob of wood there, you know. I returned deliberately to the first I had seen—and there it was, black, dried, sunken, with closed eyelids,—a head that seemed to sleep at the top of that pole, and, with the shrunken dry lips showing a narrow white line of the teeth, was smiling too, smiling continuously at some endless and jocose dream of that eternal slumber.
Heart of Darkness
Joseph Conrad

When I was a kid, common wisdom was that you could keep coyotes out of your pasture by shooting one of them and draping its carcass over the barbed wire. Supposedly the other coyotes would take the hint. Maybe that was the thinking behind the carcass you see here. D’Arcy was out early one morning, photographing the prismatic frost that covered everything, when she noticed this dead raccoon. She was repulsed, but knew the duty of anyone with a camera and a blogging friend.

Book of Deadly Animals Reviewed in Mail on Sunday

Another full-page rave for The Book of Deadly Animals, this time in Britain's Mail on Sunday. 

"Though I can imagine this book making a perfect stocking-filler for adolescent boys, it's also a beautifully written, well-researched work," says reviewer James Delingpole. He gives it four stars. 

The Book of Deadly Animals, By Gordon Grice - Reviews - Books - The Independent

A good review in the Independent:

The Book of Deadly Animals, By Gordon Grice - Reviews - Books - The Independent:

"Gordon Grice treats his deadly subject with wit and wry humour, but he does not sensationalise it"

American House Spider

With egg sacs

Photography by Dee Puett

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