Mange-crazed wombat attacks Victoria bushfire survivor

April 12, 2010

A survivor of Australia’s deadly bushfires was set upon and dragged to the ground by a crazed wombat, ABC news reports.

Bruce Kringle, 60, who was made homeless by the “Black Saturday” blazes, was living in a caravan whilst awaiting the completion of his new, permament home, when the maniacal marsupial attacked.

Kringle inadvertantly trod on the hairy-nosed beast when leaving his caravan. The wombat “proceeded to get rather nasty,” in the words of the attending paramedic, and subjected Kringle to a 20 minute ordeal, gnawing his leg, upper arm, and chest.

Kelly Smith, a friend of Kringle, told AAP: “Bruce managed to find an axe and kill it.”

Department of Sustainability and Environment spokesman Geoff McClure speculated that the creature may have been suffering from mange. “In the advanced stages wombats become very irritable and anyone who approaches them, they usually view as a threat and may run towards them,” he said.

In this light, the killing of the mangy marsupial may have been merciful, despite Battling Bruce’s unconventional choice of instrument.

BBC News has some handy wombat facts, which include skill in producing cube-shaped droppings.


Winston the bulldog bests Tennessee cops

March 28, 2010

A Tennessee patrolman had cause to call for backup this week as a crazed bullldog made short work of his patrol car.

According to a report at chattanoogan.com, officers unsuccessfully tried to subdue Winston with pepper spray and a Taser.

Winston’s owner, Michael Emerling, expressed gratitude for the restraint exhibited by the police. “In other areas near here, police have shot dogs for much less,” he said.

The motor-munching mutt has been bound over to keep the peace for six months, lest he be declared a dangerous dog.


Monster squid menace Pacific coast

January 16, 2010

Back in July 2009, when I reported on the Anchorage Horror, a correspondent alerted me to another terrifying invasion that menaced the Pacific coast of the United States: los diablos rojos had arrived in California.

The Humboldt squid, which shares its name with the cold current that sweeps up the west coast of the New World, is a large, agressive, marine invertebrate, qualities that place it high on a list of disconcerting species.

Now, a combination of increasing numbers and a propensity to show up in unexpected locations has propelled it to number one.

Dosidicus gigas are ordinarily found in cool, deep waters off the coast of South America. But they have recently been found as far north as Washington, British Columbia and Alaska.

Such changes in distribution have prompted scientists to ask more about their migratory patterns. One hypothesis suggests that the squid are especially well-adapted to the hypoxic zone, an oxygen-poor portion of the water column lying between 200 and 600 metres below the surface.

Changes in oceanic conditions, linked to climate change and the influence of the El Nino Southern Osscilation, have caused a vertical expansion in the hypoxic zone. Together with the depletion of competitive predatory species such as tuna, these changes have brought the squid to the attention of humanity.

Fisherman's friend

Marine biologists are quite literally grappling with the mystery of the invertebrate invasion, New Scientist reports, and are attempting to fit the cephalopods with radio tags — an endeavour that requires skill, strength and nerve.

The squid are so enraged by the intervention of the scientists that they squirt caustic ink at the humans’ eyes, and flash deep red by activating their chromatophores, a behaviour that earns them their Castillian moniker — the Red Devil.

And who can blame them? By comparison, the traditional tool used to haul 50 lb Jumbo Squid from the depths, the jig, makes a fakir’s sword-swallowing act look like a blancmange-eating competition. Small wonder that the creatures are roused to sufficient heights of knavishness to interest California’s game fishermen.

So is the Humboldt Squid’s fierce reputation justified?

Roger Uzan, who filmed the menacing molluscs for an otherwise faintly preposterous documentary, noted they “appeared more curious than aggressive” when approached on their own terms. Indeed the species has even exhibited cooperative and communicative hunting behaviour.

So whilst we scan the skies, plaintively wondering whether we are alone, we might also consider the possibility that intelligent, alien lifeforms with an evolutionary pedigree that exceeds our own by at least 480 million years can be found much closer to home.

TLDR:


Camel horde besieges Australian town

November 26, 2009

When camels come, they come not single spies but in battalions

A town in Australia’s Northern Territory has been besieged by legions of thirsty camels, The Times reports.

Residents of Docker River, NT, are even now trembling in their homes as a thundering herd of feral dromedaries lays waste to their town in search of liquid sustenance.

Townsfolk first noticed the vanguard of the humpbacked horde in October, as a few desperate dromedaries sought respite from Australia’s endless drought. As the weeks wore on, the thirsty beasts gradually swelled in number, cracking open fire hydrants and moisture condensers in an attempt to slake their burning thirst.

“Some people are opening their windows and all they see is camels,” Graham Taylor, chief executive of the MacDonnell Shire Council, told The Times.

Taylor has secured emergency funding from Northern Territory’s local government to hire helicopter-borne marksmen in an effort to exterminate the marauders from the air.

However, reports have emeged that a division of camels has seized control of the local airport, “causing problems with medical evacuations.”

“More and more keep arriving! The numbers are building daily!” Taylor screamed into a shortwave radio, moments before he was replaced by the sinister hiss of static.

Camels were introduced to the antipodes in the mid-nineteenth century in an attempt to tame the arid interior. Having lately cast off the shackles of human bondage, the creatures have successfully established a feral population that is estimated to exceed a million in number.

Through wanton environmental destructiveness, they have earned themselves an A$19m price on their heads. But if this month’s developments are any guide, the Australian federal government has had its work cut out.


Lions slay white tiger at Czech zoo

November 23, 2009

Two lions burgled the enclosure of a rare white tiger at a zoo in the Czech Republic, killing the occupant, BBC News reports.

The big cat blue-on-blue is attributed to the zoo’s peculiar cage rotation policy. Lions and tigers share nocturnal accommodation in the same “pavilion”, and are released into separate open-air enclosures at daybreak.

But for reasons that are not at all clear, the external habitats are assigned to different species on a rota system.

The friendly-fang incident took place when the two lions — Sultan and Elsa — prised open a trap door leading to their previous accommodation, perhaps in an attempt to reclaim their old territory, and surprised Isabella, the new occupant.

Staff rushed to respond to the tigress’ cries for help, but in vain.

Head-scratching zoo director David Nejedlo told the BBC: “The current security system has been in place for 12 years and such an accident has never happened before.”


Hiker battles bear with iPhone

November 2, 2009

Bear attack? There’s an app for that.

A Vermont hiker warded of a bear attack armed with nothing more than her trusty iPhone, CNet News reports.

Kris Rowley, Chief Information Security Officer for the state of Vermont, was enjoying a wilderness hike when she noticed a bear taking an unhealthy interest in her progress. Realising she was completely unprepared to repel the impending attack, Rowley reached for the nearest weapon — her iPhone.

“In a semi-panic, I threw the phone at the bear.”

The woodland gods smiled upon Rowley that day, as the bear eschewed the gamey tang of human flesh for the satisfying crunch of Cupertino’s most famous export.

Two days later, Rowley returned to the scene, this time armed with her trusty Louisville Slugger, and retrieved her iPhone from the mossy loam. Sadly, the device was damaged beyond repair. Nevertheless, Vermont’s indomitable CIO decided to wing a warranty request.

Unfortunately, the humourless Apple employees at her hometown’s self-appointed “Genius Bar” refused her petition, no doubt citing the following po-faced exceptions to the Apple warranty:

This warranty does not apply: … to damage caused by accident, abuse, misuse, flood, fire,
earthquake or bear attack; (c) to damage caused by operating the product outside the permitted or intended uses described by Apple (e.g. to ward off a bear attack); (d) to damage caused by service (including upgrades and expansions) performed by anyone who is not a representative of Apple or an Apple Authorized Service Provider (“AASP”) (e.g. a wild bear); … (f) to consumable (i.e. edible) parts, such as batteries, unless damage has occurred due to a defect in materials or workmanship; (g) to cosmetic damage, including but not limited to scratches, dents and broken plastic on ports (e.g. by scoffing, nibbling, chomping, gumming, nomming or otherwise attempting to consume said device or parts) ; or (h) if any Apple serial number has been removed or defaced (e.g. by a bear).

The moral of the story? Fight bears if you must, Goldilocks, but don’t mess with the mighty Apple.

(Thanks are again due to Tim, whose horoscope this week includes an unexpected visit from a tall, dark and extremely hairy stranger)


Motorist alerts plod to charity-running “gorilla”

October 6, 2009

A Leicestershire motorist dialed 999 to report the sighting of a gorilla on the A6, only for police to discover the offending primate was a charity runner in fancy dress, The Daily Fail reports.

Rory Coleman, dressed in his gorilla costume

Jogger Rory Coleman, pictured, told Middle England’s favourite outrage factory: “I wasn’t very far from Twycross Zoo which has a large collection of primates so maybe motorists thought one of them had made a run for it.”

Fingernail-gnawing police, who, I might add, are looking an awful lot younger these days, initially refused to accost the manimal, fearing it might be some kind of swan-roasting asylum seeker hell-bent on depressing house prices in the region.

“I think [the police] twigged I wasn’t an actual gorilla when they saw I was wearing trainers and had a rucksack on my back,” Coleman mused.

A sheepish spokeswoman for Leicestershire police said: “We did receive a call from a member of the public on Wednesday at about 4.30pm who reported seeing a gorilla on the A6 and was concerned for their safety.’