Alligator Attacks 84-year-old Woman

Scubadive67/Creative Commons

Florida alligator attacks 84-year-old woman, rips off her arm - latimes.com

"The woman's left arm was missing, he said, but she had stopped screaming and did not appear to be in any pain. She kept muttering, "Gator, gator," he said, and asking for her late husband."

Shooting an Elephant


A Wildlife Classic by George Orwell

In Moulmein, in lower Burma, I was hated by large numbers of people – the only time in my life that I have been important enough for this to happen to me. I was sub-divisional police officer of the town, and in an aimless, petty kind of way anti-European feeling was very bitter. No one had the guts to raise a riot, but if a European woman went through the bazaars alone somebody would probably spit betel juice over her dress. As a police officer I was an obvious target and was baited whenever it seemed safe to do so. When a nimble Burman tripped me up on the football field and the referee (another Burman) looked the other way, the crowd yelled with hideous laughter. This happened more than once. In the end the sneering yellow faces of young men that met me everywhere, the insults hooted after me when I was at a safe distance, got badly on my nerves. The young Buddhist priests were the worst of all. There were several thousands of them in the town and none of them seemed to have anything to do except stand on street corners and jeer at Europeans.

All this was perplexing and upsetting. For at that time I had already made up my mind that imperialism was an evil thing and the sooner I chucked up my job and got out of it the better. Theoretically – and secretly, of course – I was all for the Burmese and all against their oppressors, the British. As for the job I was doing, I hated it more bitterly than I can perhaps make clear. In a job like that you see the dirty work of Empire at close quarters. The wretched prisoners huddling in the stinking cages of the lock-ups, the grey, cowed faces of the long-term convicts, the scarred buttocks of the men who had been Bogged with bamboos – all these oppressed me with an intolerable sense of guilt. But I could get nothing into perspective. I was young and ill-educated and I had had to think out my problems in the utter silence that is imposed on every Englishman in the East. I did not even know that the British Empire is dying, still less did I know that it is a great deal better than the younger empires that are going to supplant it. All I knew was that I was stuck between my hatred of the empire I served and my rage against the evil-spirited little beasts who tried to make my job impossible. With one part of my mind I thought of the British Raj as an unbreakable tyranny, as something clamped down, in saecula saeculorum, upon the will of prostrate peoples; with another part I thought that the greatest joy in the world would be to drive a bayonet into a Buddhist priest's guts. Feelings like these are the normal by-products of imperialism; ask any Anglo-Indian official, if you can catch him off duty.

One day something happened which in a roundabout way was enlightening. It was a tiny incident in itself, but it gave me a better glimpse than I had had before of the real nature of imperialism – the real motives for which despotic governments act. Early one morning the sub-inspector at a police station the other end of the town rang me up on the phone and said that an elephant was ravaging the bazaar. Would I please come and do something about it? I did not know what I could do, but I wanted to see what was happening and I got on to a pony and started out. I took my rifle, an old 44 Winchester and much too small to kill an elephant, but I thought the noise might be useful in terrorem. Various Burmans stopped me on the way and told me about the elephant's doings. It was not, of course, a wild elephant, but a tame one which had gone "must." It had been chained up, as tame elephants always are when their attack of "must" is due, but on the previous night it had broken its chain and escaped. Its mahout, the only person who could manage it when it was in that state, had set out in pursuit, but had taken the wrong direction and was now twelve hours' journey away, and in the morning the elephant had suddenly reappeared in the town. The Burmese population had no weapons and were quite helpless against it. It had already destroyed somebody's bamboo hut, killed a cow and raided some fruit-stalls and devoured the stock; also it had met the municipal rubbish van and, when the driver jumped out and took to his heels, had turned the van over and inflicted violences upon it.

The Burmese sub-inspector and some Indian constables were waiting for me in the quarter where the elephant had been seen. It was a very poor quarter, a labyrinth of squalid bamboo huts, thatched with palmleaf, winding all over a steep hillside. I remember that it was a cloudy, stuffy morning at the beginning of the rains. We began questioning the people as to where the elephant had gone and, as usual, failed to get any definite information. That is invariably the case in the East; a story always sounds clear enough at a distance, but the nearer you get to the scene of events the vaguer it becomes. Some of the people said that the elephant had gone in one direction, some said that he had gone in another, some professed not even to have heard of any elephant. I had almost made up my mind that the whole story was a pack of lies, when we heard yells a little distance away. There was a loud, scandalized cry of "Go away, child! Go away this instant!" and an old woman with a switch in her hand came round the corner of a hut, violently shooing away a crowd of naked children. Some more women followed, clicking their tongues and exclaiming; evidently there was something that the children ought not to have seen. I rounded the hut and saw a man's dead body sprawling in the mud. He was an Indian, a black Dravidian coolie, almost naked, and he could not have been dead many minutes. The people said that the elephant had come suddenly upon him round the corner of the hut, caught him with its trunk, put its foot on his back and ground him into the earth. This was the rainy season and the ground was soft, and his face had scored a trench a foot deep and a couple of yards long. He was lying on his belly with arms crucified and head sharply twisted to one side. His face was coated with mud, the eyes wide open, the teeth bared and grinning with an expression of unendurable agony. (Never tell me, by the way, that the dead look peaceful. Most of the corpses I have seen looked devilish.) The friction of the great beast's foot had stripped the skin from his back as neatly as one skins a rabbit. As soon as I saw the dead man I sent an orderly to a friend's house nearby to borrow an elephant rifle. I had already sent back the pony, not wanting it to go mad with fright and throw me if it smelt the elephant.

The orderly came back in a few minutes with a rifle and five cartridges, and meanwhile some Burmans had arrived and told us that the elephant was in the paddy fields below, only a few hundred yards away. As I started forward practically the whole population of the quarter flocked out of the houses and followed me. They had seen the rifle and were all shouting excitedly that I was going to shoot the elephant. They had not shown much interest in the elephant when he was merely ravaging their homes, but it was different now that he was going to be shot. It was a bit of fun to them, as it would be to an English crowd; besides they wanted the meat. It made me vaguely uneasy. I had no intention of shooting the elephant – I had merely sent for the rifle to defend myself if necessary – and it is always unnerving to have a crowd following you. I marched down the hill, looking and feeling a fool, with the rifle over my shoulder and an ever-growing army of people jostling at my heels. At the bottom, when you got away from the huts, there was a metalled road and beyond that a miry waste of paddy fields a thousand yards across, not yet ploughed but soggy from the first rains and dotted with coarse grass. The elephant was standing eight yards from the road, his left side towards us. He took not the slightest notice of the crowd's approach. He was tearing up bunches of grass, beating them against his knees to clean them and stuffing them into his mouth.

I had halted on the road. As soon as I saw the elephant I knew with perfect certainty that I ought not to shoot him. It is a serious matter to shoot a working elephant – it is comparable to destroying a huge and costly piece of machinery – and obviously one ought not to do it if it can possibly be avoided. And at that distance, peacefully eating, the elephant looked no more dangerous than a cow. I thought then and I think now that his attack of "must" was already passing off; in which case he would merely wander harmlessly about until the mahout came back and caught him. Moreover, I did not in the least want to shoot him. I decided that I would watch him for a little while to make sure that he did not turn savage again, and then go home.

But at that moment I glanced round at the crowd that had followed me. It was an immense crowd, two thousand at the least and growing every minute. It blocked the road for a long distance on either side. I looked at the sea of yellow faces above the garish clothes-faces all happy and excited over this bit of fun, all certain that the elephant was going to be shot. They were watching me as they would watch a conjurer about to perform a trick. They did not like me, but with the magical rifle in my hands I was momentarily worth watching. And suddenly I realized that I should have to shoot the elephant after all. The people expected it of me and I had got to do it; I could feel their two thousand wills pressing me forward, irresistibly. And it was at this moment, as I stood there with the rifle in my hands, that I first grasped the hollowness, the futility of the white man's dominion in the East. Here was I, the white man with his gun, standing in front of the unarmed native crowd – seemingly the leading actor of the piece; but in reality I was only an absurd puppet pushed to and fro by the will of those yellow faces behind. I perceived in this moment that when the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom that he destroys. He becomes a sort of hollow, posing dummy, the conventionalized figure of a sahib. For it is the condition of his rule that he shall spend his life in trying to impress the "natives," and so in every crisis he has got to do what the "natives" expect of him. He wears a mask, and his face grows to fit it. I had got to shoot the elephant. I had committed myself to doing it when I sent for the rifle. A sahib has got to act like a sahib; he has got to appear resolute, to know his own mind and do definite things. To come all that way, rifle in hand, with two thousand people marching at my heels, and then to trail feebly away, having done nothing – no, that was impossible. The crowd would laugh at me. And my whole life, every white man's life in the East, was one long struggle not to be laughed at.

But I did not want to shoot the elephant. I watched him beating his bunch of grass against his knees, with that preoccupied grandmotherly air that elephants have. It seemed to me that it would be murder to shoot him. At that age I was not squeamish about killing animals, but I had never shot an elephant and never wanted to. (Somehow it always seems worse to kill a large animal.) Besides, there was the beast's owner to be considered. Alive, the elephant was worth at least a hundred pounds; dead, he would only be worth the value of his tusks, five pounds, possibly. But I had got to act quickly. I turned to some experienced-looking Burmans who had been there when we arrived, and asked them how the elephant had been behaving. They all said the same thing: he took no notice of you if you left him alone, but he might charge if you went too close to him.

It was perfectly clear to me what I ought to do. I ought to walk up to within, say, twenty-five yards of the elephant and test his behavior. If he charged, I could shoot; if he took no notice of me, it would be safe to leave him until the mahout came back. But also I knew that I was going to do no such thing. I was a poor shot with a rifle and the ground was soft mud into which one would sink at every step. If the elephant charged and I missed him, I should have about as much chance as a toad under a steam-roller. But even then I was not thinking particularly of my own skin, only of the watchful yellow faces behind. For at that moment, with the crowd watching me, I was not afraid in the ordinary sense, as I would have been if I had been alone. A white man mustn't be frightened in front of "natives"; and so, in general, he isn't frightened. The sole thought in my mind was that if anything went wrong those two thousand Burmans would see me pursued, caught, trampled on and reduced to a grinning corpse like that Indian up the hill. And if that happened it was quite probable that some of them would laugh. That would never do.

There was only one alternative. I shoved the cartridges into the magazine and lay down on the road to get a better aim. The crowd grew very still, and a deep, low, happy sigh, as of people who see the theatre curtain go up at last, breathed from innumerable throats. They were going to have their bit of fun after all. The rifle was a beautiful German thing with cross-hair sights. I did not then know that in shooting an elephant one would shoot to cut an imaginary bar running from ear-hole to ear-hole. I ought, therefore, as the elephant was sideways on, to have aimed straight at his ear-hole, actually I aimed several inches in front of this, thinking the brain would be further forward.

When I pulled the trigger I did not hear the bang or feel the kick – one never does when a shot goes home – but I heard the devilish roar of glee that went up from the crowd. In that instant, in too short a time, one would have thought, even for the bullet to get there, a mysterious, terrible change had come over the elephant. He neither stirred nor fell, but every line of his body had altered. He looked suddenly stricken, shrunken, immensely old, as though the frightful impact of the bullet had paralysed him without knocking him down. At last, after what seemed a long time – it might have been five seconds, I dare say – he sagged flabbily to his knees. His mouth slobbered. An enormous senility seemed to have settled upon him. One could have imagined him thousands of years old. I fired again into the same spot. At the second shot he did not collapse but climbed with desperate slowness to his feet and stood weakly upright, with legs sagging and head drooping. I fired a third time. That was the shot that did for him. You could see the agony of it jolt his whole body and knock the last remnant of strength from his legs. But in falling he seemed for a moment to rise, for as his hind legs collapsed beneath him he seemed to tower upward like a huge rock toppling, his trunk reaching skyward like a tree. He trumpeted, for the first and only time. And then down he came, his belly towards me, with a crash that seemed to shake the ground even where I lay.

I got up. The Burmans were already racing past me across the mud. It was obvious that the elephant would never rise again, but he was not dead. He was breathing very rhythmically with long rattling gasps, his great mound of a side painfully rising and falling. His mouth was wide open – I could see far down into caverns of pale pink throat. I waited a long time for him to die, but his breathing did not weaken. Finally I fired my two remaining shots into the spot where I thought his heart must be. The thick blood welled out of him like red velvet, but still he did not die. His body did not even jerk when the shots hit him, the tortured breathing continued without a pause. He was dying, very slowly and in great agony, but in some world remote from me where not even a bullet could damage him further. I felt that I had got to put an end to that dreadful noise. It seemed dreadful to see the great beast Lying there, powerless to move and yet powerless to die, and not even to be able to finish him. I sent back for my small rifle and poured shot after shot into his heart and down his throat. They seemed to make no impression. The tortured gasps continued as steadily as the ticking of a clock.

In the end I could not stand it any longer and went away. I heard later that it took him half an hour to die. Burmans were bringing dash and baskets even before I left, and I was told they had stripped his body almost to the bones by the afternoon.

Afterwards, of course, there were endless discussions about the shooting of the elephant. The owner was furious, but he was only an Indian and could do nothing. Besides, legally I had done the right thing, for a mad elephant has to be killed, like a mad dog, if its owner fails to control it. Among the Europeans opinion was divided. The older men said I was right, the younger men said it was a damn shame to shoot an elephant for killing a coolie, because an elephant was worth more than any damn Coringhee coolie. And afterwards I was very glad that the coolie had been killed; it put me legally in the right and it gave me a sufficient pretext for shooting the elephant. I often wondered whether any of the others grasped that I had done it solely to avoid looking a fool.


Autumn, 1936

Whale Swipes Boat; Man Pursues in Dinghy



Whale nearly steals boat after angler goes ashore to fish:

"The rope got snagged in the mouth of the whale and it began pulling the boat, while Huisken and his fishing partner began a pursuit in the dinghy.

"Our 17,000-pound vessel was looking like a bathtub toy!" Huisken wrote. "

Immortal Viper


I was interested to read this snaky passage in the ancient epic Gilgamesh. I'll take a stab at rendering it here (not that I read the lingo; I'm just updating older English versions). Our mythic hero has gone diving for the flowers that will protect him and his people from the horrors of death, when. . . . 



His shovel dug until the wounded earth
began to suppurate. He dug some more,
with naked hands he clawed the mud
aside until the mud was dirty water,
then water clean enough to drink but cold
as winter. Into this seeping blackness
he dove; beneath it, lit with a fungal light,
the plant grew, the one he'd heard would make
a man immortal. He took it in his hand
and it wounded him.
            Its thorns had teeth. Its roots refused
his invitations. He broke the bony stalk,
but the fiber of it resisted almost to the end
of the air he'd gulped. He saw the blood ravel out
like black strings from his wounded hand.
At last the plant gave way and he rose
through water cold enough to make his jaws ache.
In breathless panic he touched the rooty roof of the deep.
He couldn't find the opening he'd made.
He pawed and pushed for it and finally, his chest chilled
and on the verge of bursting, his head popped through.
He had to shoulder up and out as if from a womb.
Lying finally in the sun, his hand too cramped with cold
to let the plant go, he gulped the air. The wounded hand
bled a thread—red now—into the swirling mud.
The stalk he'd broken off was black as a charred bone.
Its leaves waved even in the shallow mud,
suspiring. As for the flowers along the stalk,
their hundreds of white foliations
lay folded within them. When he rubbed one flower
like a pebble between his finger and thumb,
it smelled of honey and blood and sexual dreams.

He found a pool where he could bathe and bind his hand,
in warm water exposed to the sun this time.
A stream ran into the pool and made it bubble and sing.
But from downstream a snake swam, drawn by the scent
of the flowers. In the water it tossed like a tassle in wind.
On land now, it seemed to pour like handfuls of wheat,
in no direction particularly, but somehow
its mixed motions moved it forward, toward the plant.
It made no sound. The bending of the grass made the man see.
He lunged out of the water to seize the snake.
It was gone with the flowers of immortality in its mouth.
And what the man had seized was its sloughed skin,
white as the hottest fire, the pattern of the snake's hide
lingering like a ghost's afterthought in the white. 


Photography by D'Arcy Allison-Teasley

New Spider with Big Claws






The spider's not really new--in fact, it looks to be one of the oldest extent groups--but it's newly discovered. It's been over a century since such a discovery in spiders. 


Velociraptor spider discovered in Oregon cave (pictures)


"Spanning four centimeters with extended limbs, the spider spins sparse webs on cave ceilings. The researchers consider it is most closely related to goblin spiders, but more primitive still. Almost nothing is known about the new species' behavior; even what it eats remains a mystery. In fact, the researchers have tried feeding captured spiders various foods, but to date the arachnids have refused the offerings and perished. Still, its sickle claws suggest that Trogloraptor marchingtoni is a stupendous hunter. "




Thanks to Dee and Croconut for news tips.

Vampire Bat Bites Confer Some Immunity to Rabies


Just the other day I was explaining to Griffin how rabies is almost always fatal. (He asked.) But here's new information suggesting people can develop some immunity in places where vampire bats often feed on them.

Why you want a vampire bat bite | Fox News

"Rabies has been thought of as virtually 100-percent fatal unless treated immediately, but new research shows that a small number of isolated Peruvians have natural immunity from the animal-transmitted disease.

Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that one in 15 people living in the remote Amazonian region in Peru were protected without medical intervention against the virus that kills more than 55,000 people globally every year."




Carp








Photography by Dee Puett

Rattled Leaves



I've already done my annual post to celebrate the onset of autumn, but there's no stopping me. Music performed by Incorporal Air, written by Conrad and me; photo by Parker Grice. 

Some Grice for the Halloween Season


Encouraged by the reception of Nature Gothic (which was #9 in Amazon’s Kindle Wildlife category the other morning), we’ve decided to go ahead with two new ebooks for the Halloween season. Both are shorts: much bigger than a magazine article, much smaller than a full-length book. If you’ve read Shark Attacks or Nature Gothic, you’ll be familiar with the size.



First, for those of you who are always nagging me to shut up with the science and just tell a story, I have a Halloween ghost story that will scare the blazes out of you: “Sugar,” now available on Amazon.com. What’s so scary about sugar? And why are the children acting so strange? Read the story to find out. A suggestive horror tale in the tradition of Edgar Allan Poe, J. Sheridan LeFanu, and Ambrose Bierce.  7,100 words.




And for those who are more into my nonfiction stuff, here’s another Halloween treat: The Mummy of John Wilkes Booth. In 1903, a drifter named David E. George died in the Oklahoma Territory after confessing his awful secret: He was John Wilkes Booth, the man who killed President Abraham Lincoln. His death was only the first stage in a macabre journey that took his mummified body around the country. He endured a train wreck, an autopsy, and the attentions of a souvenir-hunter who tried to take his ear. Was he the real Booth? This is the story of America’s most bizarre conspiracy. 10,500 words.



Sentimental Journey: Cypress



I meant to take a look at my old dorm. Everything I passed on campus was nostalgic. Here was the grassy slope where I had ditched class to sit talking with a young woman named for a painter. Here was the time capsule, left by the generation of students before mine and meant for those yet unborn, jutting like a marble mushroom into the geometry of the flower garden. And here, almost the last thing to see before my dorm, was Theta Pond.

The pond is eternally haunted by my memory of the first weekend I spent at college: sitting on a bench in my loneliness, soothed by the waters and the shade, wishing, paradoxically, for greater solitude—for I had never felt at home since we left our country house on the High Plains, and here I was in a town of tens of thousands, where trees loomed all around. And as I sat feeling lonely and admiring a wooden footbridge that spanned a part of the pond, a rat emerged from beneath it and foraged at its footed support. I took it as an emblem of despair.

Often in the past I have regretted being such a fool when I was young, but on this sentimental journey I wasn’t so hard on my former self. I felt tender toward him. He’s young enough to remind me of my sons. I chose a bench of weathered boards in old-fashioned cement, one that might feasibly have been the very one from that lonely memory. The pond has parts that flow into each other, and several bridges, and many cypresses, and a dedicatory slab—none of that was clear in my memory. I looked at the particular footbridge; it was ratless. Further out, however, a white duck with chocolate trim inverted itself in the water and paddled its fleshy legs like mad against the air and finally righted itself with something stringy hanging from its beak.

I took a berry fallen from a cypress, and a lichened flake of its bark. Something to remember it by. And then I sat on a bench, drenched in a sadness beyond my power to describe, but a kinder sadness than the one I’d felt when I was young. And as I sat a detail with no nostalgia value finally made its way into my attention: a police car with active lights. In fact I had noticed it when I arrived at the pond and assigned it no particular significance; I suppose I thought someone had been caught speeding.

Now I noticed that the police car with active lights was not singular. And I became aware of something that was, I think, obvious, if I hadn’t been so drenched in memory: That all along the avenue something solemn was going on. Yellow police tape, and cops stationed on foot at each compass point, facing outward, hands on their belts, staring at nothing. An ambulance; many other cop cars. I counted a dozen sets of rotating lights. Something awful had happened—just before I arrived for my reverie, as it turns out. I wandered up. A motorcycle lay on its side. A huge planter stood beside the crosswalk. Ceramic pieces of the planter lay broken out. Skid marks suggested the geometry: the bike had hit a speed bump, ricocheted off the planter, and come to rest twenty feet beyond. Next to the planter lay a sheet covering a shape, but the sheet looked like a Japanese flag, for a red sun coincided with the human head beneath.

I asked other rubberneckers what had happened. Someone said the cyclist had been fleeing police when he hit the speed bump. (Next morning, the campus newspaper quoted the police as denying the pursuit.) I stood there as the afternoon mellowed into dusk. The red and blue lights kept turning. The police moved within their cordon, seeming to accomplish nothing. The sap of the cypress lay in the whorls of my fingers, too viscous to rub away.

Related Posts:
Sentimental Journey: An Abandoned House
Edgar Allan Poe's Trees

Photo: "Cypress Pod as Human Head" by Parker Grice

Silly Goose vs. Aquatic Bird

Evil Goose

I never thought of golf as a contact sport, but it seems I was misinformed.

Golfer injured in bird attack sues the county - Mauinews.com | News, Sports, Jobs, Visitor's Information - The Maui News


"In a claim Sakamura filed against the county in March, he said he was golfing with five other men when a duck or goose "charged me and bit my pant leg." He said he tried to back away and fell onto his back and side as the animal continued to attack, biting his hand hard enough to cause bleeding. He said he pulled the bird off and went to his cart to get a Band-Aid. Sakamura's claim also says he suffered an L-4 compression fracture in his back from the attack."

Illustration based on a photo by Joe Thomissen/Creative Commons

Pygmy Hippo Attacks Zookeeper


They look cute. Their name is cute. Their teeth--not so cute. 

Czech Pygmy Hippo Attacks Female Zookeeper At Dvur Kralove Zoo

"The female keeper, who was experienced, was being treated in the intensive care unit at a hospital in the nearby city of Hradec Kralove.

Hospital spokesman Zdenek Tusl said the woman had lost a lot of blood due to right-leg injuries and doctors were battling to save her leg.

Pygmy hippos weigh up to 275 kilograms (600 pounds)."

Mystery Animal Kills 3

D. Momaya/Creative Commons

A man-eating animal has attacked four people in India--but what kind of animal?

Meerut villages on edge as mystery animal kills 3 - Indian Express

"Three women have been killed and one seriously injured in attacks by a wild animal.

However, it is still not clear whether the tormentor is a leopard or hyena or stray dogs. While villagers claim that it is a leopard, Divisional Forest Officer(DFO) Lalit Kumar Verma said it could be either a hyena or a group of wild or stray dogs since no pug marks could be collected."

The photo shows the distinctive pugmark of a striped hyena--exactly the kind of evidence the authorities need to solve this mystery. 

Suicide by Crocodile

MartinRe/Creative Commons

A surprisingly common method of committing suicide: a trip to the zoo. 

Thai woman feeds herself to crocodiles - Indian Express

"A 36-year-old depressed woman 'fed herself' to crocodiles at a popular tourist attraction in Thailand.

The hard pressed woman had told her husband that she was going to see a doctor and after that she would visit a popular crocodile Farm in Samut Prakarn just outside Bangkok.

She reportedly never returned home."

Autumnal: The Birds

A Murmuration of Blackbirds/Dee Puett

Sunday morning, September the second, we saw birds fly by the kitchen window. When the supply of birds should have run out, it didn’t. On and on they flew, half a dozen visible at a time, all of them passing to the north. They were dark, though not dark or large enough to be the usual crows. We guessed from their numbers they must be starlings. Outside I found they had come to rest in my neighbor’s cottonwood trees. We could not see them at first, but their noise—a high-pitched rustling, as of water heard in a dream, made us know to keep looking for them, and after a moment my eyes picked them out, dark leaves among the golden ones. A moment later they took flight again, rushing off to the east this time; but each tree remained full, because the tree beyond it refilled it with more birds even as it emptied. For minutes on end we watched, the same spectacle renewing itself, and then Tracy said, “That’s nature for you. Fascinating, yet boring.”

I had not until this episode realized the cottonwoods had gone gold. Most days I stroll around my back yard, which is defined by pines. They stay the same color. I had to raise my eyes to see the gold flickering like flimsy coins. Now the cottonwoods were rustling at their own lower pitch; it seemed like the same song I’d heard from the starlings, but played on a different instrument. It made me recall that I’d already seen the sumac along the highway reddening. I told Tracy how the change had sneaked up on me, and she smiled in a way that let me know she’d noticed it long ago.

Coral Snake Bites Florida Man

Norman Benton/Creative Commons

Coral snakes belong in the same family as cobras. Their bites contain dangerous  neurotoxins. Despite their potent venom, they are considered less dangerous than rattlesnakes and other pit vipers, which can be bigger and more aggressive. Coral snakes in the US almost never bite unless a person handles them. . . or steps on them: 

Snake bitten: Miramar man survives venom of coral snake - Sun Sentinel

""I felt the most horrifying burn in my leg, and looked down and the snake was chewing on my foot," the 53-year-old Miramar resident said Sunday from his bed at Memorial Regional Hospital. "I almost died.""

Thanks to Croconut for the news tip.

Crocodile Bites Off Man's Hand


Crocodile bites hand off of homeless man in Cancun | Fox News: "CANCUN, MEXICO –  Mexican authorities say a crocodile attacked a homeless man and bit off his right hand near a lagoon in the resort city of Cancun.

Cancun tourist police say in a Tuesday statement that Alejandro Lopez was wandering near an area of mangroves when he was attacked.

Police found the 27-year-old man lying on the shore of the Nichupte lagoon Monday and took him to a hospital."

Pictured above is an American crocodile, a species found in the Yucatan (among other places) and known to occasionally take people. It's possible, however, that the attacker in this case was a Morelet's crocodile. This species has not traditionally been regarded as a man-eater, but Croconut tells me they have attacked several people in recent years, including an intoxicated man who encountered several of them--fatally--at a lake near Tampico. 

Son Mistaken for Monkey, Shot Dead

Honza Soukup/Creative Commons

Bizarre news item from Nepal. 

Man mistakes son for monkey, shoots him dead - Yahoo! News

"Chitra Bahadur Pulami had been climbing a tree to chase away macaques that had become a nuisance to the family but his father Gupta Bahadur, 55, spotted the boy and opened fire, wrongly believing him to be one of the animals."

I don't know which species of monkey the farmer has been having trouble with. Nepal's gray langur, pictured above, can grow to five feet tall.  

Thanks to Dee and Croconut for the link. 

New eBook! Nature Gothic Debuts

I'm proud to announce my new eBook:


Nature Gothic: Best Wildlife Stories of Gordon Grice


Nature Gothic is my personal top five: the best of all my wildlife stories. Some have appeared here on the blog before, others only in magazines or books, but never before have they been gathered into one handy little package. (If you've read my other books, you've only seen about  one-fifth of the material in this one.) At 9600 words, this is just about the size of my well-received National Geographic eBook, Shark Attacks (which was #3 in yesterday's "Fish and Sharks" category on Amazon). This one's even more affordable--just 99 cents. 


Man Faces Diarrhea and Crocodile Attack

Gregg Yan/Creative Commons

Man surives crocodile attack during bathroom break - New York Daily News


"Pai was at work on a new bridge when he ran to the river to relieve himself after a stomach ache struck.
"A two-meter-long crocodile suddenly pounced out of the water and bit me in the waist,” Pai told The Star newspaper."

Although it's seldom mentioned in polite newspapers, people often fall victim to predators while relieving themselves. Big cats and crocodiles sometimes learn human routines and take advantage of them. 

The crocodile in question is presumably of the saltwater species (pictured here eating a pig). 

(Thanks to Croconut for the news tip.)

Northern Water Snake (2 of 2)


"The little water snake was doing some hunting along a little marshy area beside the dam. He had his head behind some grass clumps and I could not see it, and since copperheads can be marked very similarly I felt it would be a wiser choice to see his head. So I used my walking stick to gently prod him and let me tell you, he was completely unimpressed! He coiled immediately and of all things, he shook his tail the same way a Rattler would do, and started making short lunging head thrusts at the stick. He never once took his eyes off me as I walked around him, and with every step I took, he would lunge his head at me as a warning. I am pretty sure that the hikers who passed by thought I was rather nuts because I was laughing at his actions."
--Dee Puett, Photographer




Northern Water Snake (1 of 2)



"The fellow on the log is a Northern Water Snake. He was probably about 4 ft long or so. I recently read up on these guys, since I encounter them on a rather frequent basis. According to what I have read, they are not classified as venomous, but they do inject a small amount of anti-coagulant venom when they bite. They are also quite aggressive in defending themselves if they feel threatened. I have another set of photos that support that theory coming next."
--Dee Puett, Photographer

(That other set is coming up tomorrow.)


Man Attacks Porbeagle Shark


The porbeagle (Lamna nasus) is, like the great white shark, a member of the mackerel family. It is believed to have injured people in a few other cases, but its small size (under 300 pounds) means it can't really be considered a predator or people. 

BBC News - Fisherman escapes shark attack off Islay

"The 7ft porbeagle took hold of Hamish Currie's steel toe-capped boot after the skipper hauled it on to the deck of his vessel.

Mr Currie, 53, from Saltcoats, Ayrshire, targeted the shark after hearing reports of it attacking seals.

He was left shaken after the shark clamped its jaws around his foot and bit a hole in his boat."

Mr. Currie's claim that his victim was "a bad, bad shark" is my giggle for the day. Surely one is allowed to bite in self-defense?

Giant Jackass Kills Mayor


The mayor of a Texas town was killed by his own donkey. I don't hear of many donkey attacks; the ones I do hear about are usually a matter of territorial defense, as donkeys don't like strangers in their pens. For that reason, some farmers use them as guards for llamas and other livestock. 

Territorial defense doesn't seem to be the case here, however. Authorities explained it thus:

Texas mayor killed by huge pet donkey — RT

"“They can become very aggressive, very mean, sometimes triggered by a female in heat,” said Atoscosa County Chief Deputy David Soward. “We’ll probably never know what triggered it, but it was evident that this particular donkey was involved, based on the evidence at the scene and what we saw on this donkey.”"

I've often been told that donkeys are more intelligent and less temperamental than horses. 

Update: Dee found this interesting video about a donkey guarding livestock against a cougar:



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