Stories tagged animal attacks

This is pretty weird. A 19-year-old woman was just attacked and killed by two coyotes in Nova Scotia, Canada.

Setting aside the horrible tragedy of the story... this is kind of strange. Coyotes don't often weigh more than 50 pounds, and they're usually pretty cautious of people. But apparently attacks on humans occasionally do happen. I guess it sort of makes sense, though—while larger predators, like wolves and big cats, are generally pushed out of a region by humans, coyotes are better able to adapt to human environments, and they can hang around in urban and suburban areas. (Although this incident happened outside the city, it looks like.)

Anyway... I never really considered coyotes to be dangerous. This was surprising.

May
19
2009

It's dreaming about biting things: And then clawing them.
It's dreaming about biting things: And then clawing them.Courtesy Ltshears
I know that the title of this post subjects the deadliness of the Komodo dragon to the entire spectrum of relative notions of danger, but be assured that all of them are accurate.

Did you think that the Komodo dragon was not deadly at all? Wrong. It is at least somewhat deadly.

Were you under the impression that the Komodo is about as dangerous as a baby? No, sir. The Komodo is about as dangerous as a dog with a gun in its mouth.

Have you been operating under the notion that a Komodo dragon is no more potentially dangerous than a monkey with a box of grenades? The joke is on you. Komodo dragons are as dangerous as Rambo with a box of grenades.

And so forth.

Mostly, though, if you thought that the Komodo dragon was dangerous only for its filthy mouth, you’ll be surprised to discover that its venom is also quite dangerous.

You may remember some of Science Buzz’s extensive Komodo dragon coverage, in which we make mention of the Komodo dragon’s famously dirty mouth. Komodo dragons routinely say words so filthy and embarrassing that they could (and do) make sailors blush and feel ashamed of their sexuality. The disgusting language that passes through it makes the average Komodo an ideal home for all manner of dangerous bacteria. When the Komodo bites its prey, some of that bacteria is passed into the wound, quickly resulting in a severe infection. This has been a pretty standard explanation of how the Komodo dragon is able to take down animals as large as wild boar and deer (also, being a 150 pound lizard helps, of course).

The field of Komodo dragon research is booming, however, and that group is never satisfied with old answers. With the help of a zoo’s terminally ill Komodo dragon, researchers have now determined that the toxic bacteria in the Komodos’ mouths is only the beginning of the story. Or at least an interesting chapter that isn’t totally vital to the plot of the story. Nope, it’s the venom, they argue, that’s the real killer.

Komodo dragons have a much weaker bite than crocodiles of similar size, the study revealed. But crocodiles are adapted to hold onto their prey. (To drown it, or break it, or whatever. I’m not a crocodile.) Komodos bite and then release. Their teeth create a nice gash, and specially modified salivary glands introduce the lizards’ venom into the wound. The venom has both anti-clotting and hypertensive agents in it. That means that the bite would both increase an attacked animal’s blood pressure, and prevent the wound from closing up. So the animal would bleed to death. Or it wouldn’t necessarily bleed to death, exactly; it would actually probably just bleed until it went into shock and fell over. Then it would get 150-pound lizarded to death. If it managed to survive all the biting, poisoning, and clawing, then it might have the chance to get a fatal infection from the mouth bacteria.

The last time I saw the Komodo dragon in the news, it was for an attack on a Indonesian fisherman, who died of blood loss before his friends could get him to a hospital. That sort of makes sense with this new study, I guess.

After analyzing living Komodo dragons, the scientists looked for similar anatomical structures (for venomous salivary glands) on the fossils of its extinct relatives. They found them on Veranus megalania. The megalania was pretty much just like the Komodo dragon, except that it was probably about 25 feet long, and might have weighed as much as a couple thousand pounds. This means that it would have been one of the largest venomous animals to ever live. It’s interesting to think that an animal that large would even need venom (It seems to be combining a couple different killing strategies, you know?), but I guess it doesn’t matter much, because the megalania went extinct about 40,000 years ago. This is about the same time that humans first arrived in Australia (where the megalania lived), so if the world works anything like an action movie, humans and megalania might have had at least a few epic battles. (One is happening in my head right now. Trust me, it’s awesome. Oh, no! Arthur just got bitten!)

It feels pretty good, doesn’t it, finally being on the leading edge of Komodo dragon research again.

Mar
24
2009

A Komodo dragon gnaws on a water buffalo: The buffalo may or may not have been on a quest.
A Komodo dragon gnaws on a water buffalo: The buffalo may or may not have been on a quest.Courtesy Mats Stafseng Einarsen
In a classic case of life-imitates-art, a man on a quest was attacked by dragons early this week.

Although… appreciation of the above statement depends on your ability to accept “Harry Potter” as art, and your willingness to interpret a fatal animal attack as anything other than a tragedy.

Neither point is a problem for me.

Indonesian adventurer/fisherman Muhamad Anwar was questing on a forbidden isle at the time of the attack. Anwar’s quest mostly involved searching around for sugar-apples, but still, the whole thing is very Goblet of Fire, I’d say. So let’s say he was looking for dragon eggs, instead of sugar-apples.

Questing for dragon eggs on a forbidden island probably always involves some hazards, but this particular forbidden island happens to be forbidden because it’s part of Indonesia’s Komodo National Park. That means that it has actual dragons. Oooh.

Whether or not Anwar found any dragon eggs was not made clear in the article, but he certainly found some dragons. Or they found him. Anwar was severely mauled by a group of Komodo dragons, and bled to death as a group of fishermen took him to a clinic on a nearby island.

Komodo dragons are the heaviest lizards in the world (an easy 150 pounds in the wild, with captive individuals growing even larger), and they’re carnivorous, which makes them pretty frightening and fascinating right off the bat. There are a few additional characteristics of Komodo dragons, however, that should be taken into consideration when questing in dragon country.

1) Komodo dragons have poor hearing. So, when on an egg quest, be sure to sneak quietly. Note from the author to the author: John, This doesn't make any sense.
2) Komodo dragons do, however, have an exceptional sense of smell. Or, if not smell exactly, chemical analysis. Komodo dragons sample the air with their long forked tongues, and use a Jacobson’s organ like snakes. So be sure to sneak quietly and odorlessly.
3) Komodo dragons have huge teeth and bloody spit. Komodo dragon teeth can grow up to an inch long, but gum tissue covers most of each teeth. That means that when the dragons do much chewing… things get bloody. The bloody saliva, however, makes a nice environment for item number 4.
4) Komodo dragon bites are way toxic. Many monitors (the larger group of lizards that Komodo dragons belong to) have slightly venomous bites, which cause swelling, shooting pain, and disruption of blood clotting. The main danger from the bites, though, is the massive colony of toxic bacteria each Komodo dragon keeps in its mouth. Dozens of species of bacteria have been isolated in dragon mouths, and if an animal isn’t killed by a Komodo dragon’s initial attack, it will generally die within a week anyway, thanks to massive bacterial infection. So be sure to pack your protection from poison potions (or just a ton of powerful antibiotics).
5) Komodo dragons are capable of parthenogenesis. Think, “Jurassic Park,” and you’ve got it. In the absence of male individuals, a female Komodo dragon can still produce offspring. Where the sex of humans is determined by the pairing of X and Y chromosomes (you get one from each parent, if you’re XX, you’re a girl, if XY, you’re a boy), Komodo dragon sex is determined by “ZW” chromosomes. ZZ individuals are male, and ZWs are female. A mother dragon can give one Z chromosome to an egg, and the egg will duplicate that chromosome to become a ZZ individual, a male. If the mother passes on a single W chromosome, the egg may still duplicate it, but WW individuals aren’t viable, and never develop to hatching. So even if a forbidden island was cleared of male dragons, it still may not be safe for questing in the following generations.

All things considered, it’s probably best to avoid Komodo dragons entirely on quests. Unless you’re questing to the zoo.

Mar
13
2009

Good advice: In any language.
Good advice: In any language.Courtesy troshy
Ahem.

Your day: Wake up, fart, lie in bed for a while, fart, get up, shower, force pie down your pie-hole, look at the calendar, realize that it is (once again) Friday the 13th, realize that nothing good will happen to you today even if you don’t get killed by a man in a hockey mask.

Wrong!!

I can’t comment on your chances of getting chopped down by a man in a hockey mask (it depends on your social circle), but the rest of your outlook on the day is, frankly, ridiculous. What about a Friday Extravagaaaaanza? Because we have one here on Science Buzz. Today! Today is Friday!

Seeing as how it is the 13th, however, this will be no Friday Cotton Candy Extravaganza, or Friday Ballroom Dancing and Butterfly Kisses Extravaganza. Nope. This Friday is all about the strained relationship between man and beast, and the dangerous head it can come to.

Millennia ago, when man first domesticated a few of the monsters wandering the wild world, a fragile alliance was formed. Whether through selective breading, or lucky natural mutations, some members of a few animal species became more amenable to a symbiotic relationship with humans. Some wolves, for instance, probably began to lose their fear of humans around 17,000 years ago (and perhaps much earlier). These wolves began to hang just a little closer to human camps, feeding on their trash and alerting the camp if any other animals approached. As the relationship grew closer, humans would provide the wolves (or dogs, eventually) with food and shelter, and the dogs would provide humans with all sorts of neat dog tricks, like hunting, pack-hauling, protection, etc.

But wolves/dogs, like all domesticated animals, occasionally resent this arrangement. They miss running around, and hanging out with their wild animal pals, and coming home drunk sometimes. Their human masters sense this, and think, “Hey! Why am I the bad guy? I didn’t make you do this. And maybe sometimes I want to run around a little too. But no, I have to stick around and feed you, and clean up your excrement.” And so the tension builds.

And it builds.

And it builds.

And it… BAM! Friday Extravaganza! Horse bites off man’s testicle! Man bite dog! Animals around the world attack each other, humans!

Let us consider the horse-on-testicle attack.

Little has been reported about the event, but here’s what we know: the biting took place in the very recent past in Indonesia. The man was unloading the horse’s cart, when, according to witnesses, the horse suddenly lunged at the man, and went straight for the crotchal region. Upon excision, the testicle was neither chewed nor swallowed. The horse, called “Budi,” simply spat the organ out onto the pavement, where it was collected by a bystander and delivered to the hospital, with the hope that it might be reattached. (My guess is that it wasn’t.)

If we look at a horse’s teeth, we’ll find that the placement of the molars takes them out of the ball-biting equation, especially when we consider the report that the organ remained relatively undamaged. Because it was a male horse, it’s possible that canine teeth were involved (male horses often have 4 or 5 canine teeth), but it’s almost certain that Budi’s incisors did the bulk of the damage. Horse incisors (their flat front teeth) are well designed for snipping and sheering vegetation, so they probably made short work of the spermatic cord and scrotum. I don’t suppose it was a tremendously clean cut, however.

The horse’s owner (who is not the man who was attacked) offered small consolation. The animal was trained, he said, but sometimes turned wild, and had bitten in the past.

In our other animal/biting news, the trial of an English dog-biter has just wrapped up. After being bitten on the hand himself, 29-year-old Philip Carter returned the favor to his cross terrier, Splodge. As was the case with the crotch-biting horse, what might have been hilarious in a cartoon ended up in a bitter, bloody mess. Bitten on the nose “in self defense,” Splodge received no medial treatment until the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals arrived at the scene. Carter was arrested, and only just finished his trial, where he was fined and warned that any further dog-biting would result in a prison sentence.

Aside from canine damage and potential legal ramifications, there are some important health considerations associated with dog-biting. Dogs are, of course, vectors for rabies, and I don’t think biting a rabid dog is much safer than being bitten by one. Dogs can also be infected with a variety of tick-borne disease, like Lyme disease and Rock Mountain spotted fever, although I’m uncertain if they can be passed on through a skin-breaking bite. A small host of canine fungal infections can infect humans, as well as a handful of parasites and a nasty little flesh-eating disease called Leishmaniasis.

So, if you needed any other reasons not to bite dogs, or why you should be afraid of horses…

You can now get back to your Friday the 13ths.

Feb
26
2009

Montecore mourns the loss of T.I.G.E.R.S.'s innocence
Montecore mourns the loss of T.I.G.E.R.S.'s innocenceCourtesy Esparta
So… in the last month, six people in Sumatra have been killed by tigers.

What are you going to do with that, JGordon? Are you going to turn six awful, grisly deaths into some kind of joke?

Thank you, no. I’m not a jerk. Getting killed by a tiger would be a terrible way to die. And the deaths of six real people aren’t funny… or cool… or whatever you maniacs think.

That’s why we’ll be ignoring the tragedy of this news item, and re-imagining it as an awesome cartoon adventure series—something to fill the void left when the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles forgot their roots, or when the Power Rangers all got arrested in that human trafficking sting operation.

And so, allow me to present the T.I.G.E.R.S., Tactical Intervention Gamma: Eco Recovery Strikeforce (You know what? Chill. We can work on the acronym later.)

The T.I.G.E.R.S. are an elite unit of, like, talking tigers. They have been tasked by the Rainforest League to protect the jungles of the world from deforestation. Kong, a wise old silverback gorilla, heads the League.

It’s like Captain Planet, without the creepy blue guy. (Who was he, anyway? The villain?) Isn’t that awesome?

The T.I.G.E.R.S. are:

T-Bone: The crazy one. Dynamite? Oh, this dynamite? (Y’all know what I’m talking about.)

Stripes: The funny one. Think Michelangelo. (Not the original Michelangelo, who gave the world David; the better one, who gave pop culture nunchucks.)

Sheba: The lady tiger. She’s probably good with knives, or something.

Montecore: the smart one. He’s also old. And he’s one of those white tigers, like the one that hugged and kissed Roy into the hospital

And, finally, Tigrus, the leader. He’s really big, and has a tiger-gun (it’s like a regular gun, but with stripes on it.)

I’m thinking that episode 3 of T.I.G.E.R.S. will probably cover this incident. (Episodes 1 and 2 I’m saving for introducing the main villain, that blue guy from Captain Planet.)

I think it will go a little something like this…

The T.I.G.E.R.S. are on a mission in Sumatra, creeping though thick undergrowth.

Tigrus: All right, men-

Sheba: And ladies.

Tigrus: -and ladies. We’re in enemy territory now. Keep your heads down. You all know the mission—we sneak into the logging camp, put sleeping pills into their water barrels, and get out.

Montecore: And the Rainforest League ships the sleeping beauties to Greenland.

Tigrus: Exactly.

T-Bone: I don’t see why we can’t just do it my way—a little T N T, and it’s C U later loggers.

Sheba: No! Nobody gets hurt, remember? And an explosion like that could damage the trees!

T-Bone: Hey, you have to break some eggs to make a good explosion, you know?

Tigrus: T-Bone…

T-Bone: Okay, boss! Take it easy.

Stripes: What’s that noise? It sounds like giant mosquitoes!

Montecore: Those are chainsaws, Stripes.

Stripes: I don’t know... It sounds like mosquitoes to me.

Montecore: No. Those are Husqvarna R-7 long-bar chainsaws.

Stripes: If you say so. But don’t come crawling to me for calamine when you’ve got the world’s biggest bug bite.

Sheba: Oh, Stripes.

Tigrus: Shhh! What’s that sound?

Stripes: I think it’s mosquitoes.

Tigrus: No, Stripes, not that… it sounds like footsteps!

A logger holding a lunchbox walks into the clearing. He is surprised to see the T.I.G.E.R.S. commandos.

Logger (translated from Malay): Hello!

T-Bone: This kitty toy is mine!

Tigrus: T-Bone, no, wait!

It’s too late: T-Bone has already leapt on the man. Screams. Cut to commercials.

Return to show. The T.I.G.E.R.S. are in the same area of the jungle. Montecore is covering his face with his paws, possibly crying. The rest of the team stands around T-Bone, who is covered in blood.

Sheba: T-Bone… what have you done?

T-Bone: I don’t know what happened! He was encroaching on my territory, and instinct just kicked in… I couldn’t stop myself…

T-Bone tries to wipe the blood from his face, but his bloody paws just smear it around.

Tigrus: This is bad. This is really bad.

T-Bone: I… I didn’t have enough space! We’re being forced to compete for resources!

Tigrus: Shut it!

A device strapped to Tigrus’ arm begins to beep

Tigrus: Oh, no! My Rainforest League communicator! It’s Kong!

T-Bone begins to shiver. Monticore is sobbing loudly now. Kong’s voice come’s from the communicator.

Kong: Agent Tigrus? What’s your status?

Tigrus: We… ah… we had to abort the mission, Kong.

Kong: What happened? Is everyone all right?

Sheba begins to answer, but Tigrus holds a paw over her mouth.

Tigrus: We’re all fine, thank Mother Nature. But that blue guy from Captain Planet showed up, and… one of the human loggers was killed.

Kong (angrily): The blue guy! Will his thirst for blood never be sated? This is bad news men… Kong waits for Sheba’s correction, but she can say nothing with Tigrus’ paw still over her mouth. Anyway, you all had better head for the extraction point. Oh, and Tigrus?

Tigrus: Yes sir?

Kong: Don’t worry. We’ll make that blue guy pay for this.

Tigrus: Yes sir. turns off communicator Ok, everybody. Pull yourselves together. We have to get out of here. T-Bone, try to clean yourself off. Stripes… What are you doing Stripes?

Stripes is going through the logger’s fallen lunchbox.

Stripes: I’m just seeing what he brought for dessert!

Everybody (except Montecore, who is still crying): Oh, Stripes…

Cue theme music

Not bad, huh? We have a very tricky situation here: Sumatran tigers, of which perhaps only 400 or so still live in the wild, are losing their habitat to deforestation. Sumatrans, however, are just trying to make a living, and sometimes resort to illegal logging practices. Extensive encroachment into the tigers’ habitat is proving dangerous for everything involved. But I think I handled the issue pretty tastefully, all things considered.

If anybody needs me, I’ll be wherever rich and famous cartoon creators hang out.

Oct
29
2007

A Rhesus monkey: Full of hate, a monkey's most powerful emotion.  (phot courtesy of OskarN on flickr.com)
A Rhesus monkey: Full of hate, a monkey's most powerful emotion. (phot courtesy of OskarN on flickr.com)
A week ago Sunday, the Deputy Mayor of New Delhi, India, died as a result of being attacked by monkeys.

Deputy Mayor S.S. Bajwa was attacked by Rhesus Macaque monkeys on the balcony of his own home. Overwhelmed by the monkey pack, Bajwa fell from the balcony, and sustained severe head injuries upon impact with the ground.

Rhesus Macaques generally live in “troops” of about 20 individuals (a group this size is technically referred to as “pretty scary”), but troops have been known to be as large as 180 individuals (technically “super scary”). In addition to small but thriving colonies in Florida and South Carolina Rhesus monkeys can be found across southern Asia from Afghanistan to China. They are particularly populous in cities like New Delhi, where they have overrun many public buildings and neighborhoods. Coincidentally, these locations have recently been added to my list of places I don’t want to live: Florida; South Carolina; New Delhi all of southern Asia.

Part of the problem in New Delhi is that some devout Hindus consider the Macaques to be manifestations of the monkey god Hanuman, and encourage their occupation of public places by feeding them peanuts and bananas. Unafraid of humans, even Deputy Mayors, the Macaques will sometimes bite or steal food from people.

Rhesus Macaques are also extensively used as biological and medical test subjects, leading some (me) to theorize that this may have been a misguided revenge killing. What’s more, Macaques have accumulated significant space travel experience (NASA launched a bunch in the 50s and 60s, and Russia sent one into space as recently as 1997), and have even had their genes spliced with those of a jellyfish, making them powerful and unpredictable potential foes to humanity.

In an effort to deal with the Rhesus situation, Delhi authorities have employed monkey catchers who use langurs, “a larger and fiercer kind of monkey,” to scare away or catch the Macaques. Nothing stops a dangerous monkey problem like “larger and fiercer” monkeys.

Speaking of deadly arms races, last week was also the 45th anniversary of the Cuban missile crisis. Will humanity never learn?

Jul
16
2007

The Fearsome Ratel: Sure, it isn't giant, and it's not eating a person, but you try doing that to a snake. Man, those mustelids are something else. (photo from Wikipedia commons)
The Fearsome Ratel: Sure, it isn't giant, and it's not eating a person, but you try doing that to a snake. Man, those mustelids are something else. (photo from Wikipedia commons)
Sometimes things happen in the real world that are so cool that my imagination just has to sit down in the corner and pout with jealousy.

Rumors have been spreading in the Iraqi port city of Basra that giant, man-eating badgers have begun to stalk the city at night. Many believe that British military forces stationed in the area released the creatures. A spokesman for the British forces said this: “We can categorically state that we have not released man-eating badgers into the area.”

Iraqi scientists believe that the offending creatures are much more likely to be a type of Honey Badger, or Ratel, than a genetically engineered weapon of the Brits. However, the badgers are reported to have killed livestock on the outskirts of the city, and even to have attacked some humans, and many insist that these incidents began only after the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and so the rumors are dying hard.

Ratels are in fact native to the region, but are nocturnal and generally avoid humans. They are also fearsome hunters, with prey ranging from earthworms to small crocodiles, and have been known to attack animals much larger than themselves.

Also, Wikipedia’s entry on Ratels includes this statement: “Several African tribes report that the honey badger attacks the scrotum of larger mammals if provoked and has even castrated humans.” This is an unsourced claim, but it’s one of those things where I’d just as soon err on the side of safety with Ratels. At the very least, one can’t blame the people of Basra for getting a little jumpy around them.

Night of the Killer Badgers

Jun
16
2007

Well, the end of the world has started again, and it's happening in Germany (big surprise there - any country that shows so much affection for the fifth horseman, Hasslehoff, has to be tempting the apocalypse).
They are watching you: Watching and waiting, and their time has come (photo by ghat).
They are watching you: Watching and waiting, and their time has come (photo by ghat).

It has been reported that a mad squirrel attacked and injured three people in the town of Passau in southern Germany. The creature first ran into a house and "leapt from behind on a 70-year-old woman," before latching onto her hand with its teeth. The horrified woman ran into the street, where she managed to shake the squirrel off. The squirrel then attacked a construction worker, biting him on the hand and arm before he could fight it off with a measuring pole. Its thirst for human blood not yet slaked, the tiny monster ran into a nearby garden, where it attacked a 72-year-old man. Though bitten on the hands, arms, and thigh, the pensioner still managed to then kill the squirrel with his own crutch. (A similar thing happened to me once, but the crutch only knocked me out).
A dangerous game.: We have let them get too close...(photo by sooz)
A dangerous game.: We have let them get too close...(photo by sooz)

As much as I would like to consider this an isolated incident, and just blame it on Germany, I'm afraid we could be in some serious trouble here:

Squirrels invade SoCal!

Spanky the drug-dealing squirrel attacks cops!

Who thought Florida was safe?

28 Squirrels Later

The San Jose Massacre

The list goes on and on, my friends. But this has to be the scariest thing I've read in my life.

Lock your doors and protect your nuts.
It's Mad Max from here on out.