Wolves have gotten a bad rap where pop-culture is concerned: They're constantly menacing peasants or participating in rape metaphors involving young girls visiting elderly relatives. But despite this age-old slander, not a single wolf-related fatality was recorded in the entire 20th century for all of North America. Even non-fatal attacks happened less than once a year.
Regular dogs kill more people.
But just as humanity started changing its tune and embracing our awesome wolf brothers -- depicting them as sexy, caveman-faced hunks in Twilight, buying our three-wolf shirts, and teaching them to high five on command -- everything changed. After 100 years of peace, there have been two fatal wolf attacks in the last decade. Less-fatal skirmishes are also getting more frequent, as well as attacks on livestock and pets.
What the hell did we do?
Two things lie behind the twenty-first century's Rise of the Wolves (as our grandchildren will surely call it, in hushed whispers, lest the Great Pack hear them and sniff out their hiding caves).
They tore our greatest armies into Kibbles and Bits
The first is habituation, which is the same problem as the cougars, essentially. We have taught them to be unafraid; they think of us as free meals in pants. The other reason is the increase in the number of wolf hybrids. There are dog/wolf mixes being currently and deliberately bred by people who decided that owning a dog didn't make them feel masculine enough. The only problem being that these hybrids have a tendency to combine hunting instincts with people-friendliness, which in turn leads to a lot of people in Tapout shirts getting mauled.
"Man, one of those would look pretty bitchin' in my living room."
But there's a far more dangerous hybrid out there: In 20th century North America, hunting and deforestation in the east almost completely killed off the wolf population .This allowed the more adaptable coyote to spread eastwards in their place.
Eventually, the wolves and coyotes started falling in love -- nudging deer eyeballs adorably at one another, maybe inadvertently sucking down different ends of the same tendon and having their bloody muzzles meet in the middle -- and then came all the little hybrid pups being delivered by the storks, who were, of course, mauled to death upon landing. Because these hybrids are not only more numerous than wolves, but are actually more dangerous than their purebred counterparts. They're called coywolves (a portmanteau of coyote and wolf) and like the dog hybrids, they combine the wolf's tendency towards pack hunting and predation with the coyote's lack of shyness around humans.
So...they should be called 'not-so-coywolves'?
Unlike the dog hybrids, however, there's nothing rare or exotic about them: The coywolves have seen a massive population boom in the Northeast, replenishing the dwindling wolf numbers and then some. So, because we hunted them nearly to extinction, the wolves have essentially formed an alliance with the coyotes and birthed a whole new creature...and it is not afraid of us. In the words of Roland Kays, Curator of Mammals at the New York State Museum: "We drove this species from the area and it...came back in another form." We can only assume he was abruptly pulled away, screaming, before he could append "for vengeance" to that statement.
Humans have long considered elephants our adorable phallic-faced friends. We pet them in zoos, ride on them on vacation, and draw cartoons about them discovering the inner power within themselves. For creatures their size and overall power, elephants are pretty chill, really.
A little homophobic sometimes, but pretty chill.
But not anymore.
Elephant attacks on humans have dramatically increased in the last couple of decades, and elephant-related deaths now number in the hundreds every year.
Who the fuck thought it was bright to arm them?
What the hell did we do?
In the wild, elephants grow up inside an intricate social structure. Much like humans, elephant children stick with their parents for a long time, and even when they're fully grown, they communicate with each other almost constantly. They even mourn their dead. This complicated structure basically serves to civilize the young elephants. It teaches them how to be reasonable, happy, productive members of society.
That is, unless humans kill the elephant's entire family, leaving him a broken shell of an elephant with nothing to lose.
So if you're going to poach, poach thoroughly.
Poaching, hunting, and other general dickhead behavior have messed up the social structure of elephant culture so much that it has begun to break down altogether. Gangs of roving elephant berserkers now haunt Africa and India, attacking and terrorizing the species that killed their families...which is us.
That's right: Elephants are now basically a species-wide Batman.
...except instead of just hunting down human criminals, they attack villages, crops, cars, and pretty much anything else that gets in their way. We're not just talking trampling deaths, or goring when cornered, or any other behavior that can be chalked up to misunderstanding: Elephants are actually ambushing villages in the night, pinning people down, and savagely stabbing them to death with their tusks, not stopping until a compassionate and understanding elephant leader drags them away while whispering "it's over, Wrinkles, it's over. He's dead. It's done, man. It's done."
Who could have guessed this would come back to haunt us?
In the last three decades, three people have been killed in the Great Kali River, which forms part of the border between Nepal and Northern India. It's strange, because crocodiles and other major aquatic predators are unknown in the area, and besides that, witnesses described the unfortunate victims being dragged underwater by something that looked like an "elongated pig," never to be seen again.
Was this the long-awaited Revenge of the Baconed?
But alas, scrap your design sketches for Pig-Shark: The River Stalker, because we already know the killer: Catfish. Yep, the fish with the cute whisker-looking things on its face that goes well with cornmeal. Like a Yakov Smirnoff routine come to life, the Goonch catfish native to the Great Kali river have begun eating YOU.
What the hell did we do?
The Great Kali River is a popular resting place for bodies after Hindu funeral rites, in which the dead are cremated on the river's edge. The funeral pyres eventually sink into the river, where they become easy meals for the local catfish. After years of nibbling on the freshly cooked corpses, the catfish have developed an insatiable taste for human flesh. And that's absurd, really: If somebody pitched that to you as the premise for a horror movie, you'd ball up their script and hurl it into the garbage, laughing -- or else give them directions to the abandoned gas station that houses the SyFy Channel headquarters.
"Fantastic! We'll call it, Goonched."
But it actually gets even crazier: In 2008 a British biologist managed to catch one of the creatures by luring it in with a fake funeral pyre. His catch revealed that this diet has also allowed the already-massive Goonch catfish to increase significantly in size. But how big could a catfish possibly be? You order it in a restaurant and you're hungry again an hour later, right?
These monsters often measure around six feet long and weigh over 150 pounds!
Oh, and some species of catfish have fucking legs.
So, there you go. Now you know what to pray for at night: That nobody starts a beach-themed funeral home in your town, because apparently all it takes to turn the menu from Red Lobster into a stygian nightmare is your dead grandmother's thigh meat.
We'd like to conclude this article by saying: Buy guns. Lots and lots of guns.
Order the Cracked.com book, which is the only place you can read about Four Mythological Beasts That It Turns Out Actually Exist. For more ways Mother Nature is downright frightening, check out 5 Lovable Animals You Didn't Know Are Secretly Terrifying.
And stop by Linkstorm to learn how you can arm yourself against Mother Nature's hooligans..
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