In the beginning of things men were animals and animals men. ~ Algonquin saying

"For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much — the wheel, New York, wars and so on — whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man — for precisely the same reasons." ~ The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Friday, October 22, 2010

Increase in Wild Animal Attacks

 "There are strange things lost and forgotten in obscure corners of the newspaper." ~ Arthur Machen
It seems we've been hearing about a lot of strange animal behavior the past few years; increases in some animal populations, like bear, wild hogs and deer for example, and an increase in attacks on humans by these animals.

As we know, as we humans expand our habitats, we are also intruding on animal habitats. Combined with a plethora of events: climate changes/global warming, decrease in food supplies, mange and other diseases are just some of the reasons for this. Animals become more aggressive, more used to, and unafraid of, humans, more aggressive due to hunger, disease, loss of habitat, etc.

Two recent events (one fatal) from the Pacific Northwest illustrate this almost apocalyptic aggressive animal behavior.

In Washington state, Robert H. Boardman was on a hike in Olympic National Park. He was killed by a mountain goat as he tried to get the goat off the trail as his companions had walked on ahead: [Mountain goat kills man in Olympic National Park]
Other acquaintances — Jessica and Bill Baccus and their three children — were hiking the same trail. When they reached the saddle at the top of the trail, they found Willits, frantic and cellphone in hand. Willits told them a mountain goat had attacked Boardman and that the goat wouldn't let people get near him.
Boardman was lying motionless farther up the trail, about 100 feet away, while the animal stood over him, Jessica Baccus said.
"The mountain goat was terribly aggressive," she said. "It wouldn't move. It stared us down."
Bill Baccus, a park scientist, had his park radio and immediately called a dispatcher. Because Baccus has spent a lot of time around mountain goats, he led the effort to try to lure the goat away from Boardman.
Three people spread out along a slope, shouting and pelting the animal with rocks, Jessica Baccus said. The goat, distracted by the reflective light of a hiker's silver space blanket, finally backed away after about 15 minutes.
Today, in Umatilla, Oregon, a bird watcher was attacked by a buck mule deer. Quentin Hinds was bird watching near McNary Dam. He began to take photographs of the deer, who attacked him. Hinds was taken to the hospital and treated and released.

It is mating season, as the article points out; [Deer attack sends Oregon bird watcher to hospital] people are urged to be aware of this and be respectful and wary of their surroundings.

There are so many odd stories, often downright strange and tragic ones, of animals behaving very unusually indeed. Sign of the times -- yet another signal from the earth, our environment, consciousness, that things are dreadfully wrong?

These stories remind me of the classic Arthur Machen story The Terror,[1917] where animals commit acts of murder upon humans. The story was a metaphor but regardless, it also stands on its own as an eerie portent.

Responding to aggressive wildlife, authorities and citizens also become aggressive. Again in Oregon, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife in Ashland encourage bow hunters to go hunting for deer. Some residents agree it's a good idea and something needs to be done to combat deer attacks; Ashland has had deer attacking humans and/or their pets as they walk their dogs, deer crashing through glass doors and windows, deer conflicting with humans on the street. . . (and I know it's in bad taste but I can't help but think of Monty Python here.)

Other Ashland residents are not welcoming of the bow hunting idea:
A handful of residents at the meeting said they didn't think Ashland had a deer problem and they were strongly against killing the animals.
"I have never had a problem with any of the deer," said Sallie Rose Sandler. "Is there no animal that can live without fear of humans, or do we have to kill them all?"
Cougars are another animal that are a problem for many areas in the country, including Oregon. Once unusual to see cougar in human populated areas, cougars are becoming more visible in urban areas. Just today an item appeared in the Register Guard about a cougar seen twice during the afternoon -- unusual time of day for a cougar sighting -- in a residential area. While this particular neighborhood is  "wild and isolated," it's still habitated by humans and, as the article points out, residents are worried because school buses pick up and drop off students in the area. We've also had recent reports of cougars seen in local parks, and, a few years ago, the Register Guard published a photograph of a cougar sleeping in a tree -- on the University of Oregon campus.

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