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Remembering Hitchcock's "Birds"
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Why Are Wild Animals Behaving Badly?

By James Donahue

That our overcrowded society is encroaching on the habitats of the beasts of this planet is no secret. And it is understandable that creatures like wild bear, elk, wolves and even the sharks are sometimes coming in fatal contact with humans.

But some recent events have been so bazaar it makes us wonder at times if the the creatures of the Mother Earth aren't turning on us by design. It is almost as if our sentient mother is becoming well aware that we have overcrowded her surface and are killing her by sheer numbers. And she may be fighting back in unique ways.

Consider the scorpion that recently found its way into an American Airlines flight from Miami to Toronto and stung a male passenger. The incident delayed the flight while investigators combed the plane for any other scorpions that might have been "planted" or accidentally brought aboard in someone's luggage.

It wasn't long ago that a pilot flying a private aircraft over Ohio was forced to land after a snake crawled out from under the instrument panel. The pilot told of holding the snake in one hand while bringing the plane in with the other. It turned out that this snake was not poisonous and the pilot was not harmed. The creature was safely released in the wild.

Some of the reports are more serious.

Off Fort Myers Beach, Florida, a number of bull sharks rammed and eventually sank a shrimp boat, eventually breaking the vessel's tail shaft and leaving it adrift and sinking about 100 miles off the coast. Captain Roger Schmall radioed for help and another boat picked up the crew about two hours later. The boat could not be saved and it eventually sank.

In the eastern Indian state of Bihar, at least 35 people were left injured this year after a pack of jackals attacked a village in Madhubani District. Authorities said the animals were apparently prowling for food and clashed with people in the town.

Something seems to be seriously wrong with the birds in and around Camberra, Australia. Last week parachutist Nicky Moss had just made a jump and opened her chute when two large eagles attacked it, one of them getting tangled in the lines at about 8,200 feet in the air. She said the birds swooped down and attacked the parachute, tearing at it, and at one point even slamming into the back of her head. Fortunately for Moss the attack ended while she was still about 100 meters above the Earth and she landed safely.

Aksi at Canberra, flocks of magpies have been swooping down and attacking people, much like the late film-maker Alfred Hitchcock depicted in his horror classic The Birds. People there say the birds seem to come out of nowhere, scratching and clawing heads and faces with their claws and beaks. Favorite targets appear to be cyclists, red-haired women and mothers with baby strollers. While humans are the main targets, the magpies have been observed pecking other birds to death. Some scientists believe the strange attacks are somehow linked to the bird's mating season.

Another problem developing throughout Australia is the invasion of a breed of ants that somehow were imported from Argentina. Since their arrival, these ants have proved to be highly aggressive, are forming what has been described as a "super colony," and are showing up all across the continent. These ants attack everything, they threaten the local insect population and even are displacing native plants and animals. One colony in Melbourne was discovered that stretched at least 100 kilometers across the city.

In the northern plain of Afghanistan, where the U.S. military still battles with militant Islamic groups, a story of attacks by "pisho palang," or a killer cat, is trickling into the news. Residents of the Village of Shonali claim that at least four or five people have been killed in cat attacks and dozens of people have reportedly fled their homes in recent months to escape this mystery creature. There are theories that some large cats, perhaps tigers, crossed the mountains from China and are attacking the villagers for food. Others say it is a military weapon. "Before this new army came here we didn't have cats," one man said.

And last year at least 20 people in Mansiche, Peru, were reportedly attacked and bitten by vampire bats that swarmed down on them as they were walking home from their jobs. Rabies was feared, but tests proved that the bats were not infected.

Elsewhere, animals are beginning to display bazaar behavior patterns. Large flocks of birds have been observed flying straight into the ground and to their death. Elsewhere, birds are literally falling dead out of the sky.

In Turkey, sheep herders last year watched helplessly as an entire flock of sheep jumped off a cliff and plunged to their death. An estimated 450 animals from 26 families all jumped off the cliff, in spite of efforts by the owners to stop them. At least 1,500 sheep took the leap, but those that jumped later lived because they landed on the bodies of the other animals and their fall was cushioned.

--February 6, 2007