The African elephant is the most formidable animal on land. It isn't always interested in hurting you, but when it is, it does the best job. A British tourist recently had the merest hint of this fact on safari. The link takes you to a story with a gruesome picture of his injured leg. This is a minor injury for a person who's tangled with an elephant. When I was writing Deadly Kingdom, my publishers asked me in literally hundreds of passages to tone down the violence and gore. (I wasn't being gratuitous; animals mauling people just isn't a uniformly cheerful topic.) A lot of those disputed spots were in the elephant chapter, and they involved such phrases as "his head exploded" and "plucked off his limbs."
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Here's a report and video of a recent incident in Japan: a moon bear beat the hell out of nine tourists, then was shot dead by hunters. The moon bear, also known as the Asian black, Tibetan, or Himalayan bear, is about the same size as the North American black bear, topping out at about 330 pounds, but this seems to have been a small one.
The report says, "It is unusual for Asian black bears to attack humans so it is unclear what prompted the creature to go on the rampage." Actually, the only mystery is why it attacked the first man. After that, another man beat it with a stick. When the bear grabbed him, people tried to help by scaring the bear off with their car horns. A scared bear is a dangerous bear.
Like its North American cousin, the moon bear occasionally eats people. Bile farmers also get mauled once in a while. Yes, I said bile farmers. Bear bile is supposed to have medicinal properties, so farmers keep the animals in pens and drain their bile with catheters. In a 2005 case, half a dozen moon bears got their paws on a bile farmer named Han Shigen. They tore him to pieces and were in the midst of eating him when police arrived. Every career has its pitfalls, I suppose.
Russian Bear Attacks
Grizzly Kills Man at Yellowstone
Zoo Bear Mauls Man (Not for the squeamish)
Bear Attacks in the News (Attacks galore)
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
A hunter received minor injuries when a wolf attacked him near his campsite on the Kuskokwim River in Alaska. The hunter's brother killed the wolf; its carcass tested positive for rabies. The hunter will be fine.
Meanwhile, coyotes bit a couple of folks in Los Angeles. These seem to be very minor incidents. Coyotes have occasionally tried to snatch children in Southern California, even killing a girl in one case, but they are generally more dangerous to pets than people.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
Most of the primitive fish known as lampreys spend their childhoods as filter-feeders, taking nutrition from the organic scraps floating in the water. As adults, many lamprey species turn parasitic. A lamprey latches onto a fish with its sucking mouthparts, then gouges into its flesh with teeth and a tongue like a drill bit. It drinks the blood of its host and sometimes grinds up muscle tissue as well. A lamprey attack can kill its host.
The species pictured above, the sea lamprey, may be familiar to many readers for its well-publicized invasion of the Great Lakes, where it has depleted indigenous species like lake trout. Recently, though, the sea lamprey has made its return to the Balkan Sea. The lampreys announced their return by attacking a couple of swimmers. Lampreys are a fairly minor danger to a creature with hands to remove them--but the removing isn't much fun.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
My son Parker came back from a state park the other day with these images. The spider is a member of the family Agelinidae (I'm not sure which species). This kind of spider builds a sheet-like web with a funnel-like retreat at the edge. Most of them, including this one, are harmless. A potentially dangerous member of the family is the hobo spider. It's been accused of causing necrotic lesions like those that sometimes result from the bites of the brown recluse.
Monday, September 7, 2009
An Indian newspaper reports that four people were hurt by a jackal. This would be the species known as the golden jackal, which has the roughly the same size and eating habits as the American coyote.
A canid launching seemingly pointless attacks like these is almost surely rabid. The article mentions another jackal hurting 20 people a couple of months ago, and there are a few deaths from jackal attacks in the historical record. Jackals are not considered dangerous to people except when rabid.
(I wrote about jackals in the Middle East in The Red Hourglass.)
UPDATE: The Times of India is now blaming a hyena, not a jackal, and the attacks have continued. A few years ago in India, a rabid striped hyena injured 70 people. These animals are about the size of German shepherds, but their jaws are more powerful. They occasionally prey on children. These, however, are clearly not predatory attacks. They would seem to be the work of a rabid animal in the mad phase of the disease. It will die soon; the only question is how many it will hurt before it does.
Brief video of a striped hyena captured on a US military base in Iraq:
Video of a striped hyena eating:
Thursday, September 3, 2009
A couple of canine attacks in the news this week. First, a fox attack. I don't often mention the antics of rabid foxes, because they're so frequent it would get tedious. A fox isn't big enough to prey on people, but in the throes of rabies, it will bite without provocation. But here's a new twist: a woman was sitting on her porch swing when the fox attacked, and she was rescued by her cat!
Coyote attacks on people are far less common. This week's happened in a yard in Fort Smith, Arkansas. This, too, was probably a case of rabies. Coyotes have (very rarely) launched predatory attacks on people.