Saturday, October 18, 2008

Animal News

It's that time again. Time to update everyone on the latest events in the animal kingdom.


Squirrels are back in the news, those cute little rodents that, in the past, have been leg biters, spies, archaeologists, and snake attackers. Now an anti-war lefty squirrel has roughed-up an Iraq War veteran. The State Journal-Register carried the story October 14, 2008.

Frank Garren is tough guy. The 6-foot, 4-inch former Army sergeant was awarded a Purple Heart after surviving a roadside bomb while deployed in Iraq in 2004. He knows about combat and quick reactions.

An angry squirrel is another matter, said Garren, who reported just such a run-in recently in Washington Park.

“You might expect a mugging in the park, but not to be attacked by a tree rodent,” the 34-year-old Springfield resident said Monday. “I never thought a squirrel could kick my (behind).”

He said the animal, which Garren estimated weighed 2 to 3 pounds, pounced on his head after he simulated a squirrel call to get its attention Sunday afternoon.

Garren walked away with several scratches on his face and head, and a newfound respect for a squirrel’s agility.

“I think next time I’ll keep my distance,” he said.

Good decision.


The bird news is less violent.

An American bird made the British press. The Telegraph reported October 10, 2008, that an alder flycatcher (Empidonax altnorum) was photographed in Cornwall, the first time that species has ever been spotted in the UK. Here he is:

And the Telegraph reported October 11, 2008, that a rare black barn owl has also been spotted--in captivity.

This young barn owl is one in a million after being born with a rare genetic condition that has made her feathers jet black.

Sable, who is two years old, suffers from melanism, a 100,000-to-one gene mutation that makes her the exact opposite to an albino.

Baroness Sasa Vonbarth und Kippenruer, who runs the Hereford Owl Rescue, described Sable as "peculiar" but "very beautiful".

She said: "Sable is very peculiar or I suppose you could say a freak of nature because melanistic owls are usually killed at birth or chucked out of the nest by their mothers.

"The parents think that because a chick is not white they shouldn't feed it. However, she is captive bred as were her parents so she survived.

"Strangely Sable is much stronger than a normal barn owl whereas an albino is much weaker and has a very bad immune system.

"However, if she got out into the wild she'd be dead within 12 hours. You would think black would work at night but in reality she would be mobbed and killed by other owls."

This is Sable:

Mouse v. Viper:

The Telegraph reported October 9, 2008, about an intrepid mouse (most likely related to the attack squirrels). I won't post any pictures, because a very good friend of mine (who only rarely reads my blog but might choose now to do it again) once responded to a funny-story email I sent her, with a picture of a snake in a computer, by sending me flaming hate email in reply telling me to NEVER, EVER send her a picture of a snake. If you want to see the pictures, follow the link to the Telegraph article.

A mouse bit a venomous viper to death after it was thrown into the snake's cage as a lunchtime snack.

Firefighters in Taiwan who were looking after the snake - which had been found in a local resident's home - thought that the live mouse would make a perfect lunchtime treat.

But the furry creature had other ideas. Instead of cowering from the 12in snake's gaping jaws and long fangs, it went on the offensive.

"It attacked the snake continuously, biting and scratching it," one firefighter said.

Viper venom is poisonous for mice, but the snake proved unable to land a killer bite.

What a mouse!

Leopard v. Crocodile:

The Telegraph reported July 18, 2008, on yet another mouse-bites-snake style of story. See the article for the pictures.

A series of incredible pictures taken at a South African game reserve document the first known time that a leopard has taken on and defeated one of the fearsome reptiles.

The photographs were taken by Hal Brindley, an American wildlife photographer, who was supposed to be taking pictures of hippos from his car in the Kruger National Park.

The giant cat raced out of cover provided by scrub and bushes to surprise the crocodile, which was swimming nearby.

A terrible and bloody struggle ensued. Eventually, onlookers were amazed to see the leopard drag the crocodile from the water as the reptile fought back.

With the crocodile snapping its powerful jaws furiously, the two animals somersaulted and grappled. Despite the crocodile's huge weight and strength, the leopard had the upper hand catching its prey by the throat.

Eventually the big cat was able to sit on top of the reptile and suffocate it.

And that's the news from the animal world, until next time...

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