Let's face it, animals are bastards. With all of the ant slavery, ape war and duck rape in the world, it's easy to decide nature is something best left to the wild. But there are those animals that -- thanks to Disney and The Far Side -- we tend to think are more likely to dispense witty one liners than bite our face. But while we've been busy rooting for them, they've been quietly revealing their true colors ...
Squirrels are Exhibit A in what a cute face and a bushy tail can do for your cred among humans. As a species, we risk bodily injury and spikes in insurance rates whenever one dashes in front of our cars, because it is impossible not to feel like an asshole if you crush one. Hell, in Ice Age, the cutest character was the squirrel, and he had fangs.
The animal kingdom is like prison. If you don't try the softest guy on your cell-block, you become the softest guy on the cell-block. Unfortunately, this is a difficult lesson to teach children, because among the squirrels at Cuesta Park in Mount Park, Calif., word seems to be getting around that humans, unlike the Wu-Tang Clan, are something to fuck with.
"Come on, take the first swing. I don't even care."
Between May 2006 and March 2007, multiple squirrels attacked 13 people, mostly children. One four-year-old boy thought he was being hugged by his furry little woodland friend until it started digging its fingers into his scalp. At this point the boy started screaming and rolling in the grass, which we've found is usually enough to scare away anything within 20 feet of us. But in this case, the squirrel just dug in that much harder, playing scalp rodeo until a grown-up came over and broke things up.
Sure. Teach him to associate your fingers with food. Good plan.
Fish and Game declared the squirrels in the park a "threat to continued public safety" and began trapping and killing them. Not by using a cage with a bunch of nuts in it, but by using a decoy baby stroller. See, a number of the attacks had occurred when the squirrels jumped into baby carriages -- presumably to suck the infants' souls from their lips for some dark squirrel harvest. They'd been doing it so frequently that it was apparently the only way the park rangers knew to trap them. The day after the first squirrel was captured in a baby carriage, another squirrel jumped onto a four-year-old girl's face, leaving scratches to both cheeks and her forehead that likely would have spelled out "snitch" if squirrels knew how to spell.
This is not an isolated incident. A squirrel attacked six people in the U.K. before being captured, and the town of Bennington, VT, is currently being terrorized by a rogue gray squirrel. You might start thinking that our dogs and cats have the right idea, with their much more hostile stance toward inter-species relations, but that's just because you haven't heard what happened in a Russian park in 2005. A stray dog was barking at a gang of local squirrels, as dogs are wont to do. Likely former Spetsnaz agents, the squirrels became irritated and decided to shut the dog up in much the same way the Russian Mafia shuts people up: by killing it.
Not pictured: Baseball bats and a lot of lye soap.
According to eyewitness testimony, the squirrels descended and tore the dog to pieces. The linked BBC report notes that one Russian scientist questioned the authenticity of the report, and goes on to note that "squirrels without sources of protein might attack birds' nests," because Russian scientists are bad at being reassuring.
Between Gary Larson and those California Cheese commercials, they generally come off as good-natured, friendly herbivores. We tend to assume cows are content to eat grass and wait around to get killed by the gun from No Country for Old Men.
"Won't you please help me become a plate of hamburgers?"
Sure, we think of bulls as being large, dangerous idiots that will kill you simply for not being grass or a cow, but cows are considered about as harmless as a 1,500-pound creature can be, which is good, since there are nearly 100 million of them in America alone.
"We are legion. Also, moo."
In England, where both zombies and cows are more aggressive, the giant bags of hamburger meat went on a creepy, The Happening-style killing spree that left four dead in June and July of 2009.
Now, this was not an outbreak of mad cow disease or the result of a single farm where a farmer treated his livestock badly; these were four separate incidents, in four separate towns, over the course of two months.
Beware the Ides of March. But mostly beware the Cows of Summer.
In all the cases, the victims of the attacks were walking their dogs near cow fields where there were calves, and like any mother animal, cows are wary of predators near their kids. The problem is that cows don't know that Nibbles the Pomeranian is not a tiny, furry wolf. That, or they're just looking for an excuse to kill us and figured they'd get by on a technicality with the dog thing.
It's worth noting that in every case, the cow had to come charging out of the field, abandoning its child to kill an animal that was minding its own business and likely tethered to a nonthreatening, fangless human.
That mustache and those chaps won't be enough to save you.
A fifth person, former British House Speaker David Blunkett, was attacked but not killed while he was out walking his guide dogs. This is sobering news, considering the fact that in America, we have 77.5 million dogs that need walking and 96.7 million cows just waiting for an excuse.
Last week, a Texas deputy was called to get a stray cow out of the street. He was directing traffic around the cow when it charged him and tossed him into the air and then continued attacking his unconscious body. So apparently, sometimes they slip up and kill us for no reason at all.
You'd think they'd be more honored that we use the skulls of their loved ones to decorate our living rooms.
When we hear "deer," we automatically think Bambi.
We aren't talking moose here, just regular old deer. They are beautiful and graceful, with huge eyes (where do you think we get the term "doe-like?") and long, slender limbs. If there is any one forest creature that we as a race feel like we could walk up to and make friends with, it's deer. If Snow White can do it, why can't we?
No doubt there is a DIY site for seducing forest animals with song.
If you have cable, there's a chance you caught the episode of Animal Planet's Fatal Attractions covering an incident between a deer and a prison guard named Ronald Donah. Donah kept deer as pets, raising them from fawns. The problem was that when rutting season started, the males saw him as competition.
This isn't altogether uncommon among deer, who are apparently the irrationally jealous boyfriend of the animal kingdom. In 2005, USA TODAY reported on a rash of attacks by horny male deer. According to one biologist they interviewed, "as suburban homes encroach on deer habitat, deer that are fed by admiring humans -- or that browse on lawns and garden vegetables -- lose their natural fear of people." Fortunately, since 2005, mankind has learned their lesson about suburban expansion ...
That lesson: keep doing it, but scream loudly and brandish a handgun at every wild animal you encounter.
You might view that as animals just being animals, and not inherently evil. Which is probably why scientists couldn't figure out who was to blame when baby birds started showing up decapitated and legless all over Scotland's Rum Island after every full moon. While they searched for the tiny, mentally disturbed werewolves responsible, someone witnessed a deer chewing on a baby bird.
Soon, it was determined that the deer were using the light of the full moon to treat the island's baby bird population like a spread of hors d'oeuvres. Deer need lots of calcium to grow their antlers (or head knives, if you've ever been attacked by one).
Since milkmen rarely deliver to the forest, the deer started raiding the nests of Manx shearwaters and eating the heads and legs of their babies. Now mind you, a herbivore eating a baby bird whole would have been awful enough, but what the Rum Island deer are doing makes Jigsaw look like Dr. Kevorkian.
They specifically target the heads and legs, and then only the bones, spitting out the meat and skin like watermelon seeds. That sounds less like a friendly Disney critter and more like some dire alien ruminant.
This right here is definitely not Disney material.