WhatTheyThink    WhatTheyThink.com    Blogs    PrintPlanet


Chew Chew Train

By on June 28th, 2013

It is not often—or ever, really—that one comes across the phrase “string of beaver attacks,” but it’s a phrase which this blog, in its infinite whimsy, can scarcely pass up. And, yes, that appears to be exactly what has been going on in Belarus (h/t Charlie Pierce):

It was the most serious in a string of beaver attacks on humans in Belarus, as the rodents have turned increasingly aggressive when confronted by humans after wandering near homes, shops and schools.

The beaver population in Europe has been on the rebound after the animals were nearly hunted to extinction in the 19th century. Worldwide, there are only two beaver species left alive, the Eurasian beaver (Castor fiber) and the North American beaver (C. canadensis). (The North American beaver has seen its numbers plummet from more than 60 million to 6–12 million as of 1988, although it, too, is happily on the upswing.) They have been hunted not only for their fur, but also for their glands, which are used in perfume and medicine. Also helping their decline along had been ecosystem loss from tree harvesting and other land uses. Restrictions on hunting and the introduction of new populations over the past century have brought the rodent back from the abyss, and in Belarus alone the beaver population has climbed back to 80,000. (The UK has been considering further reintroducing the beaver, following the successful Scottish Beaver Trial, which sounds like some very strange Court TV programming.)

One consequence, though, of larger and newly introduced beaver populations is increased human-beaver contact as the critters wander into populated areas. Beavers are not generally prone to be aggressive (they are also not carnivores, their distinctive dentition notwithstanding), and their first instinct when encountering other creatures—like humans—is to swim for it. But, when that’s not an option, they’ve got teeth and they know how to use them. So the most recent attack can’t be blamed entirely on the beaver:

The fisherman wanted his photo shot with a beaver. The beaver had other ideas: It attacked the 60-year-old man with razor-sharp teeth, slicing an artery and causing him to bleed to death.

As he tried to grab the animal, it bit him several times. One of the bites hit a major artery in the leg.

There are a few Hollywood celebrities who react the same way to paparazzi.

And whilst the Belarus beavers (which wouldn’t be a bad name for a band or a sports team, by the way) are decidedly camera-shy, in other nature-is-running-amok news, it turns out that some ants in Germany are practical jokers, pulling the old “ring-the-doorbell-and-run” gag:

An elderly woman in Germany who heard her doorbell rung repeatedly late at night naturally called the cops….But when they arrived, officers didn’t find anyone at the door. On closer inspection they found that ants had built such a large nest that it was pressing the doorbell components together to make it ring.

It turns out that certain species of ants are attracted to electrical currents—sometimes fatally. Still, there is a kind of X Files or Fringe feel to the whole thing. Also, too:

[ants] do have sophisticated communication systems — so sophisticated that researchers at the University of York are working on outfitting a thousand northern hairy wood ants with tiny radio receivers.

And, fittingly, the radios will only play songs by Them.