Big Rattlesnake . . . but not that big

Got another of those hoax emails that seem to be circulating all the time. This one purports to show a giant rattlesnake captured in the St. Augustine area. Supposedly the snake was 15 feet long and "could easily swallow a two-year-old child."

The snake and the photos are real, according to, but the angles exaggerate the size. In reality, the Eastern diamondback rattler rarely exceeds eight feet. No rattlesnake has ever swallowed a human child. For Deadly Kingdom, I searched hard for any verifiable cases of snakes eating people--and came up empty. Big constricting snakes, such as Burnese pythons, have occasionally killed people, but without swallowing them afterward. In every case, the snake was a captive specimen.

Real rattlesnakes can be dangerous, of course, but more often things turn out as this case did: humans scared, snake dead.

My video on rattlesnakes:

Victim's scars, medical bills replay horrors of chimp attack

A detailed article about a chimpanzee attack from last year in Florida.

Victim's scars, medical bills replay horrors of chimp attack - St. Petersburg Times

"I felt like I was in a horror movie or something," Maturen said earlier this month. "I could see (blood) in my hair, on my hands. There was just blood everywhere."

Coyote attacks Halifax meter reader

In Nova Scotia, a meter reader ran into a coyote and her young--and got bitten. His coat stopped the bite from breaking skin. A passerby unleashed his German shepherd, which chased the coyotes away. Details:

CBC News - Nova Scotia - Coyote attacks Halifax meter reader

Possibly the coyote felt her young were in danger.


We went fishing the first morning. I felt the same damp moss covering the worms in the bait can, and saw the dragonfly alight on the tip of my rod as it hovered a few inches from the surface of the water. It was the arrival of this fly that convinced me beyond any doubt that everything was as it had always been, that the years were a mirage and that there had been no years. The small waves were the same, chucking the rowboat under the chin as we fished at anchor, and the boat was the same boat, the same color green and the ribs broken in the same places, and under the floorboards the same fresh-water leavings and debris--the dead hellgrammite, the wisps of moss, the rusty discarded fishhook, and the dried blood from yesterday's catch.
E. B. White
"Once More to the Lake"

This is one of the great nature essays, in my opinion. But when I first read it, I had to wonder: What the heck's helgramite?

I looked up the answer and then forgot it, but living in Wisconsin has made me much more interested in helgramite, the aquatic larvae of the dobsonfly. You see them in ponds and rivers, these wriggling segmented things that eat other buggy things in the water. They're used for bait. I've read that they sometimes bite unwary fisherman.

It was the adults that really impressed me, though. We caught one somewhere or other and, after looking it over, decided it would make a good meal for our beloved pet toad, Soil. Soil didn't agree. He retreated from the much smaller creature as far as he could, shrinking into himself. The dobsonfly climbed onto Soil's head and bit him. Soil twitched and clawed at himself, but didn't try to run any further. It almost seemed as if he were willing to sit there and be eaten like the pudding he resembled. We were forced to rescue him.

A couple of years later, we were headed into the library one evening when we saw what appeared to be a dragon guarding the door handle. We hid behind the car, but since it only milled around flexing its wings, we approached and made the capture. By tossing a ruler into its jar, we found that it measured five inches. We took a few photos of this monster. This is a male, which, my reading tells me, has mandibles meant for clasping his mate. Supposedly they are too large and unwieldy to use for biting. There's mention, though, of a stinging repugnatorial fluid sprayed from the rear. I took no chances: I kept my hands to myself.

Parker also photographed this big male for his slideshow "Wildlife Close to Home." I've run that show here before, but for those who haven't had a chance to see it, here's the rerun.

Zoo worker loses fingers in chimp attack

Another case of chimps biting off human body parts. This one sounds minor compared to some of the chimpanzee incidents reported here and in The Book of Deadly Animals.

“The keeper at the Riverside Discovery Center in Scottsbluff, Neb., on Friday afternoon was petting a 40-year-old chimpanzee who apparently did not want to be touched, according to police. When the chimp grabbed the keeper's hand, the keeper started screaming, causing the chimp to scream, police said. This attracted another chimp, who also grabbed the keeper's hand."

Detailed Accounts of Chimpanzee Attacks:

Deadly Animals (UK)

The Book of Deadly Animals (US)

Related Post: Travis the Chimp Attacks

Keeper killed by elephant

Purdue grad killed in elephant accident

A keeper has died from internal injuries after an African elephant leaned against her. This is not an uncommon way for captive elephants to kill. Some sources are painting this as an accident, while at least one claims the elephant refused to release the woman.

Leopard injures six people

A leopard wandered into the Indian town of Karad, where it was accosted by crowds of frightened people. At least six people were injured. Police tried to control the animal with clubs, but were forced to shoot it when it appeared on the verge of killing a 42-year-old man.

Mumbai Mirror - Mumbai Mirror

Rhinoceros attacks 7-year-old

In India, a seven-year-old girl was "grievously injured" when a rhinoceros strayed from a wildlife park and attacked her in the courtyard of her house.

The Telegraph - Calcutta (Kolkata) | Nation | Rhino attacks child at home

Never Get Off the Bus

In China, a bus driver giving a tour of a wildlife park left the bus to check on things when it got stuck in the snow. A resident tiger pounced and dragged him into the woods.

And I thought snow was a hassle in Wisconsin. . . .

Siberian tiger attacks and kills bus driver in China as tourists watch in horror

Endangered crocodile species kills man

In Malyasia, a man was killed by a false gharial. Although all crocodilians are potentially dangerous, this species has not previously been known to kill people. It specializes in fish. The bottom photo shows that it has a long, slender snout adapted for that purpose. Its legs are also small for a crocodilian; that's because it spends a lot of time in the water even by croc standards and doesn't need to get around on land.

One factor that probably made a difference in this case was the gharial's size. The bigger a crocodilian gets, the greater the range of prey it can take.

Endangered crocodile species kills local man – Orangutan Foundation

Colonoscopy result: a cockroach

As mentioned in Deadly Kingdom, cockroaches have been found in pretty much all human orifices. Here's a lovely example:

NCBI ROFL: An unusual finding during screening colonoscopy: a cockroach! | Discoblog | Discover Magazine
"A 52-year-old woman with a history of depression was referred by her primary physician for colorectal cancer screening. She had no family history of colorectal cancer and a review of systems was positive for abdominal bloating. Bowel preparation was done using 4 L of polyethylene glycol the evening prior to screening colonoscopy. The procedure was uncomplicated with no gross mucosal pathology, however, an insect was found in the transverse colon."

The roaches above are harmless pets, never found in the location mentioned in the article. I hope. (Thanks to the crew at Twin Cities Reptiles for this photo op.)

Study writing with me

UCLA Extension and I are doing it again. This time, we're offering the popular online course Intermediate Creative Nonfiction. People have taken these courses from Italy, Malaysia, and even Antarctica, as well as all corners of the US. Most find the virtual classroom surprisingly comfortable and friendly. Here's more info, and of course you can email me with any questions.

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