Grizzly Bear Up Close

Minnesota photographer and animal lover Wayne Allison took hundreds of animal photos in the late 20th century. Courtesy of D'Arcy Allison-Teasley at Taltos Horse Tribe.

Grizzly kills man at Yellowstone

A grizzly bear that had been tranquilized, collared for research, and released killed a 70-year-old man near the entrance to Yellowstone Park. Officials killed the bear. DNA tests have confirmed it was the one that killed botanist Erwin Frank Evert.

This article from the Billings Gazette mentions the interesting role wind may have played in the attack. It doesn't mention that being tranquilized can in itself make a bear more aggressive than usual. We may never know whether that was an important factor here.

(Next time: Grizzly photos you've never seen before.)

Related Post: Confirmed: Grizzly Killed Hiker in Yellowstone

Man-eaters in my email

I often get email forwards making preposterous claims about animals. Recently my mom sent me one that purports to sort the true from the fake. Unfortunately that email didn't cite its sources, so I'm not sure how many of its "real" ones to believe.

Anyway, here are a few impressive photos culled from forwards. I'll limit myself to the crocodilians today.

According to, this is a 13-foot American alligator that had been living in a drainage ditch behind someone's house in Texas.

Here's an alligator swimming with a deer in its mouth. This one's legit.

This one supposedly shows human remains being taken from a crocodile. I don't know whether it's true, but I do know other such photos have been debunked. Incidentally, the most often viewed post on this blog shows the aftermath of a legitimate attack by a Nile crocodile on a zookeeper.

Here's a big Nile crocodile from the Congo. The forwards had it swimming the streets of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

A Cry in the Night

A sudden sobbing in the night. After a shocked pause, the dogs of the neighborhood began to bay. I recognized the voice of the yellow Labrador across the street; other dog voices spread out into the distance, like ripples from a dropped stone. The sobbing did not stop. It was a liquid clatter, its tempo rising and falling, but always loud.

It roused my wife and me from our midnight drowse. The windows were open to the cool. The moon was already high enough to shine in the west window; I had wondered whether I should pull down the blind so its milky light wouldn’t keep me awake. Now I was at my window, looking for a clue, but the pines stood silhouetted and offered no answers.

“What’s that?” my oldest son Parker said, emerging from his room. I told him it was some hurt animal, but that was all I knew to tell. This interesting mystery seemed to clear the sleep from his eyes in a second. As I watched, a yellow cat emerged from the woods, slipping away low to the ground. Having gained the meager shelter of our tomato plants, he paused and looked back over his shoulder. A guilty look, I thought. Maybe he was the author of this distress. I pictured a nest of birds brutalized into noise by the cat. This was hardly likely, because the distress of prey doesn't scare a cat. It excites him to further violence. Besides, the volume of the noise argued for something with larger lungs than any bird I expected to find in our little woods.

The sound had gone on for several minutes. I heard a neighbor open his back door, and somewhere else someone told her dog to be quiet. No matter how hard I stared into the dark woods, nothing seemed to move.

I went to my back door. I hated to open it, because I knew how noisy it was; often when I went out, the crows stopped their conversation to look at me before flying off, as if annoyed at the intrusion. But the squeal of the hinges didn't stop the sobbing clatter. I stood on the back porch to listen. It had changed now, slowed. It sounded like weeping translated into some foreign tongue. Something was still alive and, I imagined, mourning its pain.

“It was like those sounds we used to hear,” my wife said the next morning.

“What sounds?”

“The ones that weren’t owls.”

I remembered then. We had heard them in the spring, when we began, after a winter’s hiatus, to leave our windows open at night. They were soft question marks of sound. We would hear one or two syllables at a time, and when I went to the window to attend them, they were gone. The discussion of them had always run roughly the same, and we switched roles for the repeat performances:

“What was that?”

“The dishwasher.”

“Not that. The other thing.”

“Maybe it’s an owl. It sounds like an owl.”

“Sort of, but not really.”

“No, not really.”

These episodes seemed important to the current mystery. I felt certain that the non-owl of spring had been living in peace, doing whatever it was he did; but now, on the verge of autumn, he’d fallen victim to violence.

As usual, I couldn't leave the doings of an animal uninvestigated. Next morning Parker and I walked the woods behind our house in search of clues: tracks, broken branches, body parts. I saw nothing out of the ordinary. The forest bore no signs of mayhem beyond the usual—the chewed scrap of a deer’s scapula, for example, but the crust of lichen on it meant it was the mayhem of an older year. A chickadee went flittering ahead of me at height, suspecting me of bad intentions, I suppose. The trees resisted my advance, so that my path into the woods was a tangle. In the distance a jay made his complaints. We went slowly, taking time to bend or break the branches at eye level. We stooped to look at the ground. Saplings rooted in leaf mold and soil, riddled with filaments of root and coated with moss.

If the woods weren't talking, maybe the library would. It supplied me with a tape of wildlife sounds. Parker and I hunched in front of the stereo a couple of nights later to listen. The biologist who recorded it might have been a children’s TV host dipped in sugar, but I tolerated him because I couldn't let the mystery go. He intoned:

“Hear the singing of the green frog.”

A menacing belch, cut by stutters into a slow rhythm.

“He got that right,” Parker said.

“Hush now,” said the biologist, “and listen to the gentle sounds of the spring peeper.”

A squeaking rattle, like the jostling of bubbles.

“I've heard that before,” Parker said.

“One of the most startling sounds heard in our woods is the fighting cry of the raccoon. Listen now.”

It was the racket we’d heard in the night, the racket that had waked the neighbors and the dogs. Even the pauses were right.

“Cool,” Parker said. “Now we know.”

We stopped the tape. It was cool, I guess. But it was also disappointing. I couldn't forget the beauty of an ordinary night sanctified by mystery.

Video: Pelican Eats Pigeon

It turns out animals sometimes eat other animals. To judge from the comments I've heard people make about this video, that information is brand new.

Pelicans are a minor danger to people: Like other large birds, they sometimes collide with aircraft and land vehicles, causing wrecks.

Of Wolves and Bison

I recently came across this passage by the 19th Century painter George Catlin. It's a vivid depiction of the brutal relations among bison, wolves, and people. Catlin feared the extinction of both the bison and the Plains Indian cultures. It didn't occur to him to worry about the wolves.

The white wolves follow the herds of buffalo from one season to another, glutting themselves on the carcasses of those that fall by the deadly shafts of their enemies, or linger with disease or old age to be dispatched by these sneaking cormorants, who are ready at all times to relieve them from the pangs of a lingering death.

Whilst the herd is together, the wolves never attack them, as they instantly gather for combined resistance, which they effectually make. But when the herds are traveling, it often happens that an aged or wounded one lingers at a distance behind, and when fairly out of sight of the herd, is set upon by these voracious hunters, which often gather to the number of fifty or more, and are sure at last to torture him to death, and use him up at a meal. The buffalo, however, is a huge and furious animal, and when his retreat is cut off, makes desperate and deadly resistance, contending to the last moment for the right of life—and oftentimes deals death by wholesale to his canine assailants, which he is tossing into the air or stamping to death under his feet.

During my travels in these regions, I have several times come across such a gang of these animals surrounding an old or a wounded bull, where it would seem, from appearances, that they had been for several days in attendance, and at intervals desperately engaged in the effort to take his life. But a short time since, as one of my hunting companions and myself were returning to our encampment with our horses loaded with meat, we discovered at a distance a huge bull, encircled with a gang f white wolves; we rode up as near as we could without driving them away, and being within pistol shot, we had a remarkably good view, where I sat for a few moments and made a sketch in my note-book; after which, we rode up and gave the signal for them to disperse, which they instantly did, withdrawing themselves to the distance of fifty or sixty rods, when we found, to our great surprise, that the animal had made desperate resistance, until his eyes were entirely eaten out of his head—the grizzle of his nose was mostly gone—his tongue was half eaten off, and the skin and flesh of his legs torn almost literally into strings. In this tattered and torn condition, the poor old veteran stood bracing up in the midst of his devourers, who had ceased hostilities for a few minutes, to enjoy a sort of parley, recovering strength and preparing to resume the attack in a few moments again. In this group, some were reclining, to gain breath, whilst others were sneaking about and licking their chaps in anxiety for a renewal of the attack; and others, less lucky, had been crushed to death by the feet or the horns of the bull. I rode nearer to the pitiable object as he stood bleeding and trembling before me, and said to him, "Now is your time, old fellow, and you had better be off." Though blind and nearly destroyed, there seemed evidently to be a recognition of a friend in me, as he straightened up, and, trembling with excitement, dashed off at full speed upon the prairie, in a straight line. We turned our horses and resumed our march, and when we had advanced a mile or more, we looked back, and on our left, where we saw again the ill-fated animal surrounded by his tormentors, to whose insatiable voracity he unquestionably soon fell a victim.

Starfish and Nemertean Worms Go Scavenging

Gorgeous but gruesome footage of life beneath the Antarctic ice. If you'd prefer to sea it without Oprah's hammy voice-over, here's a version narrated by David Attenborough.

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