Polar Bear Breaks into Houses



No humans hurt in this incident from Newfoundland, but there were some duck-related tragedies. 


Newfoundland Polar Bear Attack: Animal Shot Dead After Attacking Homes, Livestock: "He said the bear beat in doors and broke windows at three other homes, and killed some sheep and ducks at a nearby stable without stopping to eat.


At one home, the bear "just broke the windows out of each side of the house and went on," he said. "It seemed like he was in a bad mood.""

Grice's Cougars on The Book Depository



We're just days away from the launch of Deadly Animals in the UK, and The Book Depository was kind enough to let me write about the book's beginnings. I'll paste on extract below, but follow the link for the whole article. 


Rooooooaaaaaarrrrrrr


"Victorian writers had no doubt that cougars were dangerous to humans. Some of their accounts, like an 1860 bit of fiction by Harriet Prescott Spofford, reek of melodrama. Spofford's "Indian devil," as the animal was often called at the time,has "breath like a vapor from some hell-pit." It stands in for Satan himself, causing the heroine trapped in its claws to engage in all manner of theology before escaping. (If you ever find yourself trapped in the claws of a cougar, a better strategy is to gouge the eyes. Eye-gouging beats theology every time.) Nonetheless, Spofford's story reveals some understanding of real cougars. She knew, for example, that a cougar can lick the skin from its prey with its "rasping tongue." And there are true accounts from that era, including one from the meticulous Charles Darwin, attesting that cougars occasionally ate people."

More Hand-Wringing from Florida: Gambian Pouched Rats



The latest animal invasion reported from Florida has been launched by the dreaded Gambian pouched rat. Surely a big rodent is no problem if you have plenty of pythons on hand?


Giant, nine-pound Gambian rats invading Florida Keys | The Sideshow - Yahoo! News:


"Gambian pouched rats are the largest known breed of rats in the world. They can grow up to three feet in length and weigh as much as nine pounds. Wildlife officials fear that if the large-sized rodents make it to the Florida mainland, they could devastate local crops if they reach the Florida mainland.


The U.S. Department of Agriculture has been working with Florida officials to wipe out the rodents, and there are only an estimate few dozen at large, but they can reproduce quickly and do so only five months after being born. "

Black Rat Snake


Another sign of spring: first rat snake sighting. 




Photography by Dee Puett.

Chinese Animal Attacks: Wolf or Feral Dog?

Wolf or Husky?

Wolves or feral dogs have apparently attacked at least seven people in China's Shandong Province. Two people are dead. Wolves are common in the province, though attacks on humans aren't. Police killed one wolf, but no one seems to believe it was responsible for any of the attacks. Another animal, pictured above, has been captured; police believe it is a wolf, but a man has come forward to claim it's his pet husky. Experts will test it to be sure. While all this has gone on, however, people continue to suffer attacks. 

Shandong sees another wild animal attack - China.org.cn: "Of the seven attacks in Zaozhuang city, 2 people have died with another 5 injured. In nearby Linyi City, a one-year old boy was hospitalized after being bitten by an animal that has been described as wolf-like."


A five-year-old victim of the mystery animal

Death Stories: Fossils




Ah, Lightning! How many times the shoals of terrified dolphins and the huge tuna were seen to flee before your cruel fury, to escape; while your fulminations raised in the sea a sudden tempest with buffeting and submersion of ships in the great waves; and filling the uncovered shores with the terrified and desperate fishes which fled from you, and stranded, remained to become the abundant prey of the people in the neighbourhood. . . How many kings, how many nations have come undone since the wondrous forms of this fish perished here in this cavernous and winding recess. Now destroyed by time, it lies patiently in this confined space with bones stripped and bare, serving as a support and prop for the superimposed mountain.
 -- Leonardo a Vinci

I made an appointment with a man who was said to know about the archaeology of the region. He had been there when the mummies came out of the caves some sixty years before. He had dug for some of them himself. It was said he had written on the subject, though he had never found a publisher. He was said to have a collection of artifacts.

Local people told me I should interview the man before it was too late. His only pleasures in life, they said, were ringing the church bell Sunday mornings and showing off his fossils. It was five in the evening when I reached his driveway, and the man’s wife rushed out the door to remonstrate with me for my tardiness, though in fact I was on time. She was a second wife, a seventy-year-old bride a generation younger than her husband.

She brought me inside, her talk all hurry and worry. She wore a cardigan and a long skirt that whipped in the wind until she wrestled the screen door shut. Barrettes ordered her gray hair. She brought me into the living room and hurried the old man in to meet me. His eyes were rimmed with a boiling pink, his skin spotted. He wore an oxygen tube, itself yellowed with age; his wife pushed the cylinder beside him on wheels as she urged him on. His shirt was buttoned off-kilter. The woman arranged us on a love seat so that I was on his right, next to his good ear. His memory was uncertain, but I gleaned a few of the details I wanted. Dusk came on as we talked; the single floor lamp lit only the far side of the man’s face, so that he faded out of my sight and became merely a silhouette and a smell of age.


The Crossing (from Gilgamesh)
In the Boatman's barge repose
living things of stone.
I seize the barge,
I fight the writhing things I find within,
I feel their venomous saliva on my hands
as they turn and turn within my grip,
as they try to strike. I bend them to my will.
I pin their wings behind their backs.
I kneel and trap a writhing heart
beneath my knee. The Boatman
surrenders to my will.
He takes me across wide waters;
we move the barge with shafts
I've cut from the ancient cedars,
the wood white within the bark
and red within the white.
The splinters scratch my hands.
We cross the waters
no one can cross.



“Show him your collection before he goes,” the woman said.

The man rose, supporting himself on a cane and my arm; his wife hovered with advice. They led me to an alcove, separated from their living room by a curtain.

“These are fossils he’s dug up over the years,” she said.

I cast my eye over the collection, which occupied a whatnot shelf and a dresser and a few adjacent bits of furniture. There were trilobites in shale; a geode sawn in half to show its crystals; a huge water beetle, obviously contemporary, pressed into tar. I had seen these tarred beetles sold as fossils at roadside stands; the seller could manufacture more when his inventory ran low.

“I found this one last week,” he said. I fingered the scrap of bone he handed me. It was, I thought, a beef-bone; my fingernail detected the scorings left by a sloppy butcher. “It was in our driveway,” he added. He rotated his entire body ten degrees to his left, a laborious movement that seemed to have no immediate purpose.

“What’s this one?” I asked.

“Which one?” he said.

“That’s an Indian’s foot,” the woman said, handing me the oblong stone. “He was going along, probably running away from a dinosaur, when he stepped in some lava. The dinosaur probably ate the rest of him, but his foot was preserved in the lava.”

“I got six of these,” he said. “Where are those other feet?” His eyes tried to scan the shelves, but only twitched ineffectually. The woman’s veined hands flittered over the shelves like moths and came to rest on another vague lump of stone.

“That must have happened pretty often, then?” I said.

“Yeah,” he said. “That’s why the good Lord killed off the dinosaurs before the white man got here. To make it safe for us.”

“Praise the Lord,” she said.


Mary Magdalena and Mary the mother of James and Salome bought aromatic spices to embalm the body of Jesus. Early in the morning the day after the Sabbath, they came to the sepulchre at sunrise. And they said among themselves, who shall roll away the stone that seals the sepulchre? For it was a heavy stone. But when they looked, they saw the stone already aside.

They entered the sepulchre and saw a young man sitting to the right. He wore a long white robe. They were afraid. He said to them, “Don’t be afraid. You’re looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was killed on the cross. Look where they laid him out: He’s not there. He has risen.

“Now go and tell his disciples and Peter that he’s gone before you into Galilee. There you’ll see him, as he promised.”

They rushed out; they fled from the sepulchre, trembling and amazed. And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

Mark 16:1-8

Yellowstone: Report on Man Eaten by Grizzlies

Site of last year's fatal attack

Michigan Man Fatally Mauled By Grizzly In Yellowstone National Park Tried To Defend Himself | National Parks Traveler:


"A father and daughter out hiking the trail the following day found his body, which had been cached under duff and debris, a common practice of bears intent on returning to a kill.


"I was hiking a little in front of my dad," the young woman wrote in a statement she provided rangers. "The trail started to go into some timber and there were five or six birds circling above the area. I climbed over a log that was across the trail and that is when I saw a plastic clear drink container with some pink liquid in it and what I thought was a backpack.


"As I got closer I realized there were boots sticking out, legs, and the upper part of the body was covered with dirt," the unidentified woman continued."


Thanks to Croconut for the news tip. 

Dog Injures Five Police Officers





Britain: Dog mauls 5 police officers, owner charged (VIDEO) | GlobalPost: "A man in the UK has been charged with possessing a dangerous dog after his animal mauled five police officers. The dog was shot dead.



Three officers are still in hospital after the "pitbull-type" animal attacked them on Thursday morning as they attempted to raid a house in Newham, east London, the Independent reported. One of them may require skin grafts."

Surfer Attacks Shark, Sort Of

Albert Kok/Creative Commons


Here's a new one on me. A surfer doesn't notice the shark nearby and falls onto it, whereupon it bites him.


AFP: Australian surfer attacked by shark:


""There were two bites. One is sort of half in his calf, that's taken a big chunk out of that," fellow surfer Tim Windisch told the newspaper.


"The other one is down to his heel. It's just right down to the bone. You could see the bone.""

Black Widow in the House


Bob Haynie sent me this photo of a black widow spider he found on the water heater in his garage. Bob is generally tolerant of spiders, even widows, in his house, but this one was too close to people for safety, so he killed it. 

Florida: Three Shark Attacks


It must be spring; I'm beginning to see reports of shark attacks in the US. The first two are minor bites, possibly  delivered by the blacktip sharks:


Shark Attacks, Florida: Two Teenagers Attacked At New Smyrna Beach | World News | Sky News:


"New Smyrna Beach, which is on the central east coast of Florida, has previously been voted the state's best beach but it has a long history of shark attacks.

It is now known as the shark bite capital of the world after frequent attacks each year and is said to have more reports of attacks per square mile than any other beach on Earth.
Part of the same stretch of sand had to be closed in 2001 after 10 shark attacks in just 10 days.

They usually involve black tip sharks, which inflict lesser injuries. A beach patrol official has previously described them as "like a vicious dog bite"."
Blacktips are generally under six feet long (though nine-footers have been recorded). They don't prey on people; attacks usually seem to happen in murky water, where a human foot might look like a fish. In hot pursuit of fish, blacktips will leap out of the water. They don't exactly check carefully before they bite. Attack records mention a lot of lacerated feet and legs, with the occasional bitten hand, buttock, or even groin. 


A third shark attack occurred the next day at Florida's Canaveral National Seashore (the scene of another attack recounted in my upcoming eBook short, Shark Attacks). This time the attacker was a bull shark, a far more formidable species that occasionally kills people. In this case, though, the victim escaped with injuries to his arm. 



Emu Bite


Readers of The Book of Deadly Animals will recall my own adventures down on the emu farm. Nobody hurt here, but a nifty photo.


Photographer attacked by angry emu as it lunges at him | Mail Online:


"'Then it started to get closer, so I started to get closer, the next thing I knew its beak was practically on the end of my lens.'"


Thanks to Hodari Nundu for the news tip.

Crocodiles vs. Fishermen in Kenya



Interesting report about people, animals, and scarce resources in Kenya:

Crocodile attacks take toll on Lake Victoria’s fishing communities  - Corporate News |businessdailyafrica.com:


"Lillian was woken up by frantic villagers knocking on her door. Her husband’s fishing crew had been attacked by a crocodile and George was missing.


“They said the crocodile was lurking in a patch of mangroves and attacked the fishermen as they were casting their net, seizing George who was at the front of the boat and dragging him away,” she recalls.
George is one of the victims of a human-wildlife conflict on the shores of Lake Victoria as strategic fishing grounds diminish and residents turn to dangerous spots."

Crocodiles Bite Hardest


'That's not a bite, mate': Australian saltwater crocodiles have world's most ferocious jaws - snapping shut with two-ton force that makes Great Whites look toothless | Mail Online:

"Saltwater crocodiles have the strongest bite of any living animal - beating Great White sharks.


The huge reptiles, which can measure more than 20ft, have jaws that snap shut with a force of 3,700lb, or almost two tons.


In comparison, the great white shark has a chomping capacity of 2,095lb at the tip of its jaws.


The spotted hyena has the highest recorded bite force in a mammalian carnivore, at just over 1,000lb."

Florida: Black Bear Bites Woman in Backside



Woman carrying bag of dog feces meets mother bear near food source. The rest just writes itself. 

Bear attacks woman Longwood Seminole: Woman attacked by bear in Longwood. - Orlando Sentinel:


""I could feel her breath on me. I've never been so terrified in my life," she said. "I guess by instinct I rolled over so she wouldn't hurt something vital. I didn't know what she was going to do and then the bear bit me in my butt.""

Brown Recluse Spiders in the News


The brown recluse spider is making news these days after a college student named Nikki Perez suffered a serious necrotic bite. Perez was passing through the Amarillo, Texas, airport at the time. I could have told her what a bad idea that was, though my own hassles there involved a rude security guard. Perez lost part of an ear and feared for her eyesight. 


The other interesting development is a study at the University of Kansas that suggest the spiders may move their range northward. 


The report linked here deals with these issues and has fewer blunders than most, which isn't saying much. The bit I've excerpted quotes Rick Vetter, who likes to point out that doctors know nothing about spiders and often misdiagnose lesions. Vetter, by the way, also doubts the danger of the hobo spider, an issue I've written about on this blog before. 


As mentioned in my books, I've been bitten by these spiders many times, usually when my curiosity led me into ill-considered prodding. I never suffered anything worse than a momentary flash of pain. That, or no reaction at all, is the most common outcome. 


Rotting-Ear Case the Work of Deadly Brown Recluse Spider - ABC News:


""My crusade is to stop stupidity in the medical community," Vetter said.


When doctors blame a skin lesion on the brown recluse, they might overlook other more serious conditions such as methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), diabetes or even lymphoma.


In a 2005 article he co-wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine, Vetter cited 40 other conditions that can cause necrosis often misdiagnosed as a spider bite.


Vetter was so tired of doctors blaming the much-maligned spider, he started the Brown Recluse Challenge. Of 1,800 specimens sent to him, only 350 turned out to be the real deal. And all were from the Midwest.


A brown recluse bite can be life-threatening in 10 percent of the cases, but Vetter estimates there are only one or two deaths a year, typically in small children."

Grice Speaks at the University of St. Thomas



Here's a brief news video about a talk I gave last week at the University of St. Thomas:


Thanks to Matt and Liz for inviting me and to the enthusiastic audience, who had great questions. 

Mantis vs. Mouse

If you've read The Red Hourglass, you already know how this is going to turn out. . . .

Coming Soon to the UK


Warning: The slightly re-titled paperback edition of The Book of Deadly Animals attacks the United Kingdom April 5. 

Wildlife Classics: American Buffalo



by Washington Irving

We emerged towards mid-day from the dreary belt of the Cross Timber, and to our infinite delight beheld "the great Prairie " stretching to the right and left before us. We could distinctly trace the meandering course of the Main Canadian, and various smaller streams by the strips of green forest that bordered :them. The landscape was vast and beautiful. There is always an expansion of feeling in looking upon these boundless and fertile wastes; but I was doubly conscious of it after emerging from our "close dungeon of innumerable boughs."

From a rising ground Beatte pointed out to the place where he and his comrades had killed the buffaloes; and we beheld several black objects moving in the distance, which he said were part of the herd. The Captain determined to shape his course to a woody bottom about a mile distant and to encamp there, for a day or two, by way of having a regular buffalo hunt, and getting a supply of provisions. As the troop defiled along the slope of the hill towards the camping ground, Beatte proposed to my messmates and myself, that we should put ourselves under his guidance, promising to take us where we should have plenty of sport. Leaving the line of march, therefore, we diverged towards the prairie; traversing a small valley, and ascending a gentle swell of land. As we reached the summit, we beheld a gang of wild horses about a mile off. Beatte was immediately on the alert, and no longer thought of buffalo hunting. He was mounted on his powerful half-wild horse, with a lariat coiled at the saddle bow and set off in pursuit; while we remained on a rising ground watching his maneuvres with great solicitude. Taking advantage of a strip of woodland, he stole quietly along, so as to get close to them before he was perceived. The moment they caught sight of him a grand scamper took place. We watched him skirting along the horizon like a privateer in full chase of a merchantman; at length he passed over the brow of a ridge, and down into a shallow valley; in a few moments he was on the opposite hill and close upon one of the horses. He was soon head and head; and appeared to be trying to noose his prey; but they both disappeared again below the hill, and we saw no more· of them. It turned out afterwards, that he had noosed a powerful horse, but could not hold him, and had lost his lariat in the attempt.

While we were waiting for his return, we perceived two buffalo bulls descending a slope, towards a stream, which wound through a ravine fringed with trees. The young Count and myself endeavoured to get near them under covert of the trees. They discovered us while we were yet three or four hundred yards off, and turning about, retreated up the rising ground; We urged our horses across the ravine, and gave chase. The immense weight of head and shoulders causes the buffalo to labour heavily up hill; but it accelerates his descent. We had the advantage, therefore, and gained rapidly upon the fugitives, though it was difficult to get our horses to approach them, their very scent inspiring them with terror. The Count, who had a double barrelled gun loaded with ball, fired, but missed. The bulls now altered their course, and galloped down hill with headlong rapidity. As they ran in different directions, we each singled one and separated. I was provided with a brace of veteran brass barrelled pistols, which I had borrowed at Fort Gibson, and which had evidently seen some service. Pistols are very effective in buffalo hunting, as the hunter can ride up close to the animal, and fire at it while at full speed; whereas the long heavy rifles used on the frontier, cannot be easily managed, nor discharged with accurate aim from horseback. My object, therefore, was to get within pistol shot of the buffalo. This was no very easy matter. I was well mounted on a horse of excellent speed and bottom, that seemed eager for the chase, and soon overtook the game; but the moment he came nearly parallel, he would keep sheering off with ears forked, and pricked forward, and every symptom of aversion and alarm. It was no wonder. Of all animals, a buffalo, when close pressed by the hunter, has an aspect the most diabolical. His two short black horns, curve out of a huge frontlet of shaggy hair; his eyes glow like coals; his mouth is open, his tongue parched and drawn up into a half crescent; his tail is erect, and tufted and whisking about in the air, he is a perfect picture of mingled rage and terror.

It was with difficulty I urged my horse sufficiently near, when, taking aim, to my chagrin, both pistols missed fire. Unfortunately the locks of these veteran weapons were so much worn, that in the gallop, the priming had been shaken out of the pans. At the snapping of the last pistol I was close upon the buffalo, when, in his despair, he turned round with a sudden snort and rushed upon me. My horse wheeled about as if on a pivot, made a convulsive spring, and, as I had been leaning on one side with pistol extended, I came near being thrown at the feet of the buffalo.

Three or four bounds of the horse carried us out of the reach of the enemy; who, having merely turned in desperate self defence, quickly resumed his flight. As soon as I could gather in my panic-stricken horse, and prime the pistols afresh, I again spurred in pursuit of the buffalo, who had slackened his speed to take breath. On my approach he again set off full tilt, heaving himself forward with a heavy rolling gallop, dashing with headlong precipitation through brakes and ravines, while several deer and wolves, startled from their coverts by his thundering career, ran helter skelter to right and left across the waste.

A gallop across the prairies in pursuit of game, is by no means so smooth a career as those may imagine, who have only the idea of an open level plain. It is true, the prairies of the hunting ground are not so much entangled with flowering plants and long herbage as the lower prairies, and are principally covered with short buffalo grass; but they are diversified by hill and dale, and where most level, are apt to be cut up by deep rifts and ravines, made by torrents after rains; and which, yawning from an even surface are almost like pitfalls in the way of the hunter, checking him suddenly, when in full career, or subjecting him to the risk of limb and life. The plains, too, are beset by burrowing holes of small animals, in which the horse is apt to sink to the fetlock, and throw both himself and his rider. The late rain had covered some parts of the prairie, where the ground was hard, with a thin sheet of water, through which the horse had to splash his way. In other parts there were innumerable shallow hollows, eight or ten feet in diameter, made by the buffaloes, who wallow in sand and mud like swine. These being filled with water, shone like mirrors, so that the horse was continually leaping over them or springing on one side. We had reached, too, a rough part of the prairie, very much broken and cut up; the buffalo, who was running for life, took no heed to his course, plunging down breakneck ravines, where it was necessary to skirt the borders in search of a safer descent. At length we came to where a winter stream had torn a deep chasm across the whole prairie, leaving open jagged rocks, and forming a long glen bordered by steep crumbling cliffs of mingled stone and clay. Down one of these the buffalo flung himself, half tumbling, half leaping, and then scuttled along the bottom; while I, seeing all further pursuit useless, pulled up, and gazed quietly after him from the border of the cliff, until he disappeared amidst the windings of the ravine.

Nothing now remained but to turn my steed and rejoin my companions. Here at first was some little difficulty. The ardour of the chase had betrayed me into a long, heedless gallop. I now found myself in the midst of a lonely waste, in which the prospect was bounded by undulating swells of land, naked and uniform, where, from the deficiency of landmarks and distinct features, an inexperienced man may become bewildered, and lose his way as readily as in the wastes of the ocean. The day too, was overcast, so that I could not guide myself by the sun; my only mode was to retrace the track my horse had made in coming, though this I would often lose sight of, where the ground was covered with parched herbage.

To one unaccustomed to it, there is something inexpressibly lonely in the solitude of a prairie. The loneliness of a forest seems nothing to it. There the view is shut in by trees, and the imagination is left free to picture some livelier scene beyond. But here we have an immense extent of landscape without a sign of human existence. We have the consciousness of being far, far beyond the bounds of human habitation; we feel as if moving in the midst of a desert world. As my horse lagged slowly back over the scenes of our late scamper, and the delirium of the chase had passed away, I was peculiarly sensible to these circumstances. The silence of the waste was now and then broken by the cry of a distant flock of pelicans, stalking like spectres about a shallow pool; sometimes by the sinister croaking of a raven in the air, while occasionally a scoundrel wolf would scour off from before me; and, having attained a safe distance, would sit down and howl and wine with tones that gave a dreariness to the surrounding solitude.

After pursuing my way for some time, I descried a horseman on the edge of a distant hill, and soon recognised him to be the Count. He had been equally unsuccessful with myself; we were shortly afterwards rejoined by our worthy comrade, the Virtuoso, who, with spectacles on nose, had made two or three ineffectual shots from horseback.

We determined not to seek the camp until we had made one more effort. Casting our eyes about the surrounding waste, we descried a herd of buffalo about two miles distant, scattered apart, and quietly grazing near a small strip of trees and bushes. It required but little stretch of fancy to picture them so many cattle grazing on the edge of a common, and that the grove might shelter some lowly farm house.

We now formed our plan to circumvent the herd, and by getting on the other side of them to hunt them in the direction where we knew our camp to be situated: otherwise, the pursuit might take us to such a distance as to render it impossible for us to find our way back before nightfall. Taking a wide circuit therefore, we moved slowly and cautiously, pausing occasionally, when we saw any of the herd desist from grazing. The wind fortunately set from them, otherwise they might have scented us and have taken the alarm. In this way, we succeeded in getting round the herd without disturbing it. It consisted of about forty head, bulls, cows and calves. Separating to some distance from each other, we now approached slowly in a parallel line, hoping by degrees to steal near without exciting attention. They began, however, to move off quietly, stopping at every step or two to graze, when suddenly a bull that, unobserved by us, had been taking his siesta under a clump of trees to our left, roused himself from his lair, and hastened to join his companions. We were still at a considerable distance, but the game had taken the alarm. We quickened our pace, they broke into a gallop, and now commenced a full chase.

As the ground was level, they shouldered along with great speed, following each other in a line; two or three bulls bringing up the rear, the last of whom, from his enormous size and venerable frontlet, and beard of sunburnt hair, looked like the patriarch of the herd; and as if he might long have reigned the monarch of the prairie.

There is a mixture of the awful and the comic in the look of these huge animals, as they bear their great bulk forwards, with an up and down motion of the unwieldy head and shoulders; their tail cocked up like the queue of pantaloon in a pantomine, the end whisking about in a fierce yet whimsical style, and their eyes glaring venomously with an expression of fright and fury.

For some time I kept parallel with the line, without being able to force my horse within pistol shot, so much had he been alarmed by the assault of the buffalo, in the preceding chase. At length I succeeded, but was again balked by my pistols missing fire. My companions, whose horses were less fleet, and more way-worn, could not overtake the herd; at length Mr. L. who was in the rear of the line, and losing ground, levelled his double barrelled gun, and fired a long raking shot. It struck a buffalo just above the loins, broke its back bone, and brought it to the ground. He stopped and alighted to despatch his prey, when borrowing his gun which had yet a charge remaining in it, I put my horse to his speed, again overtook the herd which was thundering along, pursued by the Count. With my present weapon there was no need of urging my horse to such close quarters; galloping along parallel, therefore, I singled out a buffalo, and by a fortunate shot brought it down on the spot. The ball had struck a vital part; it would not move from the place where it fell, but lay there struggling in mortal agony, while the rest of the herd kept on their headlong career across the prairie.

Dismounting, I now fettered my horse to prevent his straying, and advanced to contemplate my victim. I am nothing of a sportsman: I had been prompted to this unwonted exploit by the magnitude of the game, and the excitement of an adventurous chase. Now that the excitement was over I could not but look with commiseration upon the poor animal that lay struggling and bleeding at my feet. His very size and importance, which had before inspired me with eagerness, now increased my compunction. It seemed as if I had inflicted pain in proportion to the bulk of my victim, and as if there were a hundred fold greater waste of life than there would have been in the destruction of an animal of inferior size. To add to these after qualms of conscience, the poor animal lingered in his agony. He had evidently received a mortal wound, but death might be long in coming. It would not do to leave him here to be torn piecemeal, while yet alive, by the wolves that had already snuffed his blood, and were skulking and howling at a distance, and waiting for my departure, and by the ravens that were flapping about, croaking dismally in the air. It became now an act of mercy to give him his quietus, and put him out of his misery. I primed one of the pistols, therefore, and advanced close up to the buffalo. To inflict a wound thus in cool blood, I found a totally different thing from firing in the heat of the chase. Taking aim, however, just behind the foreshoulder, my pistol for once proved true; the ball must have passed through the heart, for the animal gave one convulsive three and expired.

While I stood meditating and moralizing over the wreck I had so wantonly produced, with my horse grazing near me, I was rejoined by my fellow sportsman, the Virtuoso; who, being a man of universal adroitness, and withal, more experienced and hardened in the gentle art of "venerie," soon managed to carve out the tongue of the buffalo, and delivered it to me to bear back to the camp as a trophy.

from A Tour of the Prairies, published in 1835.


New Discovery: Bears Use Tools


A brown bear was spotted and photographed using a rock to scrub itself. 

BBC Nature - Brown bear exfoliates using rock as a tool:
"The finding makes bears the fifth non-primate mammal known to make use of tools.


Sea otters use rocks to smash the shells of sea urchins and clams, Asian elephants have been witnessed using tree branches to swat flies, some bottlenose dolphins use sponges to cover their rostrum while foraging and humpback whales have been known to make use of bubbles to help them trap groups of fish."


Why is this a big deal? Because tools used to be regarded as one of the main markers of humanity. Using them has been seen as a symptom of that ill-defined quality, intelligence. 


Discoveries in recent years have steadily increased membership in the tool club. Besides the mammals listed above, we have anecdotal reports of raccoons using rocks to smash crayfish. Some birds have been proved to use tools--for example, the crows use blades of grass to probe for insects. Bernd Heinrich even witnessed a wasp using a twig to tamp mud. My guess is that there's a lot more intelligence on this planet than we ever suspected.



Hawk in a Bird Bath


Not your average visitor to the bird bath: Dee spotted this hawk in her neighbor's yard. She says it's probably a red-tailed hawk, though she didn't get a good look at the underside of its wings -- that would have helped her feel sure it wasn't the similar red-shouldered hawk. 






Photography by Dee Puett

Animal Attack Movies: Tarzan and His Mate



Animal Attack Quotient: Highest of all movies. This one features lions attacking people, rhinos attacking chimps, elephants squishing lions, a demented scene of a crocodile doing its death roll, ants eating a dead guy, a near-miss with a python, cannibal attacks, and much more.   


Cheese Factor: Well, you've got an army of guys in gorilla suits, plus a big dose of nutty 1930s racism. And that's before you even meet "the Lord of the Jungle."

Cockroach Defends Somebody Else's Kids

This is the sort of behavior I associate with mammals, but here it is in an insect. One cockroach gives birth; another female defends the young. 

Ant on Flower






Photography by D'Arcy Allison-Teasley

Ants Inside a Morning Glory

International Ant Week continues with D'Arcy's morning-glorious photos.





Tomorrow, Ant Week concludes with another inside look at nectar-gathering ants. 

Photography by D'Arcy Allison-Teasley

What Eats People, Part 16: Ants




In many countries, stinging insects are the wildlife most likely to kill a human being. In the US, for example, ants, bees, and wasps kill more than a dozen people a year, usually because of allergic reactions to the stings. The honeybee is our most frequent killer.


But those attacks are mostly defensive. The imported red fire ant deserves special mention because it's the only insect in the US that preys on people. That's happened several times in nursing homes, where helpless elderly people were partly eaten by fire ants, not necessarily after being killed. Elsewhere in the world, other ant species have attacked infants and hospital patients.


The ants are the smallest predators of people. 

Warring Ants Know Their Enemies



BBC Nature - Warring ants know their enemies

We begin International Ant Week with this interesting research about inter-species fighting. It reminds me of this passage from Walden:


One day when I went out to my wood-pile, or rather my pile of stumps, I observed two large ants, the one red, the other much larger, nearly half an inch long, and black, fiercely contending with one another. Having once got hold they never let go, but struggled and wrestled and rolled on the chips incessantly. Looking farther, I was surprised to find that the chips were covered with such combatants, that it was not aduellum, but a bellum, a war between two races of ants, the red always pitted against the black, and frequently two red ones to one black. The legions of these Myrmidons covered all the hills and vales in my wood-yard, and the ground was already strewn with the dead and dying, both red and black. It was the only battle which I have ever witnessed, the only battle-field I ever trod while the battle was raging; internecine war; the red republicans on the one hand, and the black imperialists on the other. On every side they were engaged in deadly combat, yet without any noise that I could hear, and human soldiers never fought so resolutely. I watched a couple that were fast locked in each other's embraces, in a little sunny valley amid the chips, now at noonday prepared to fight till the sun went down, or life went out. The smaller red champion had fastened himself like a vice to his adversary's front, and through all the tumblings on that field never for an instant ceased to gnaw at one of his feelers near the root, having already caused the other to go by the board; while the stronger black one dashed him from side to side, and, as I saw on looking nearer, had already divested him of several of his members. They fought with more pertinacity than bulldogs. Neither manifested the least disposition to retreat. It was evident that their battle-cry was "Conquer or die." In the meanwhile there came along a single red ant on the hillside of this valley, evidently full of excitement, who either had despatched his foe, or had not yet taken part in the battle; probably the latter, for he had lost none of his limbs; whose mother had charged him to return with his shield or upon it. Or perchance he was some Achilles, who had nourished his wrath apart, and had now come to avenge or rescue his Patroclus. He saw this unequal combat from afar—for the blacks were nearly twice the size of the red—he drew near with rapid pace till he stood on his guard within half an inch of the combatants; then, watching his opportunity, he sprang upon the black warrior, and commenced his operations near the root of his right fore leg, leaving the foe to select among his own members; and so there were three united for life, as if a new kind of attraction had been invented which put all other locks and cements to shame. I should not have wondered by this time to find that they had their respective musical bands stationed on some eminent chip, and playing their national airs the while, to excite the slow and cheer the dying combatants. I was myself excited somewhat even as if they had been men. The more you think of it, the less the difference.


I took up the chip on which the three I have particularly described were struggling, carried it into my house, and placed it under a tumbler on my window-sill, in order to see the issue. Holding a microscope to the first-mentioned red ant, I saw that, though he was assiduously gnawing at the near fore leg of his enemy, having severed his remaining feeler, his own breast was all torn away, exposing what vitals he had there to the jaws of the black warrior, whose breastplate was apparently too thick for him to pierce; and the dark carbuncles of the sufferer's eyes shone with ferocity such as war only could excite. They struggled half an hour longer under the tumbler, and when I looked again the black soldier had severed the heads of his foes from their bodies, and the still living heads were hanging on either side of him like ghastly trophies at his saddle-bow, still apparently as firmly fastened as ever, and he was endeavoring with feeble struggles, being without feelers and with only the remnant of a leg, and I know not how many other wounds, to divest himself of them; which at length, after half an hour more, he accomplished. I raised the glass, and he went off over the window-sill in that crippled state. Whether he finally survived that combat, and spent the remainder of his days in some Hotel des Invalides, I do not know; but I thought that his industry would not be worth much thereafter.

Next Time: A startling revelation about ants.

Thanks to J. Rodney Karr for the link.

Malaysia: Wild Boar Injures Two Women


Wild boar attacks two


""I was collecting wood when I saw the wild boar walking in front of us. We didn't have time to flee as it came charging at us.


"The animal bit me on my arms and legs before attacking my daughter," she said, adding that Sallek had tried to beat the boar off with a stick but this only sent it into a frenzy.


Dajang said she started shouting for help when the wild boar set upon Sallek. However, no one came."



Animal Attack Movies: The Lost World



The Lost World (1925)

Here's the original claymation dinosaur movie. A group of explorers find a plateau with relict populations of dinosaurs and ape-men. Doyle stayed hip to the latest research and, as Victorian sensationalists go, was pretty accurate about his animals. He's best known as the creator of Sherlock Holmes, but also wrote tales about a cave bear, a jaguar, a gigantic python, and a venomous snake trained to kill. Yes, I said he was accurate by Victorian standards, but that isn't saying much. A modern biologist would scoff at the idea of gigantic animals surviving on a plateau, because giants don't usually do well in isolated geography.

Anyway, Doyle didn't make the film, he only wrote the book. And the filmmakers weren't too invested in this accuracy stuff. Animator Willis O'Brien, however, has a fine eye for the motions of animals. 

Attack Quotient: High. Lots of dinosaurs, plus some ape-man action. 

Cheese Factor: Also high.

Assam, India: Leopards Wound Eight People

Rute Martins/Leoa's Photography/Creative Commons

Eight persons critically injured in leopard attack:

"The leopards were spotted in the field of one Bhagaban Deka this morning and as he raised a hue and cry, one of the animal injured him at Madhukuchi village in Rangiya subdivision.


The villagers rushed out with sticks and sharp weapons to attack the leopards who in turn attacked them and injured seven others.


While the villagers captured one of the leopards and killed it, the other escaped."

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