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bear by san

March 2017

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bear by san

Wanted Poster, circa 1765



Really, how do you beat that caption?

"Picture of the monster that lays waste in Gevaudan. This beast is as big as a young bull and she attacks by preference women and children. She drinks the blood and bites off the heads and carries them away."

Yes, I'm researching again.

1,145 words so far today. And I have to pause, while I figure out exactly what the monster is* and how it got there and why it's being triggered by what's triggering it. I've done a whole bunch of reading up on maulers recently, though (for obvious reasons). They're a pretty common cryptozoological category, and as far as I know, the most recent series of reported attacks is one in Bulgaria 1993. We actually have a local example here in Connecticut--the Glastonbury Glawackus, which was spotted several times in the thirties, although I don't believe that one's credited with any deaths. [prevailing theory is that it was a displaced wolverine or fisher cat.])

Actually, a wolverine, except for size, fits the description of la bête du Gévaudan exceptionally well, right down to the pale stripe on its chest. Of course, wrong continent, and even allowing for exaggerration, as happens when people are excited, there's a world of difference between thirty-five pounds and the size of a yearling bull. Also, wolverines, mythology aside, tend to be exceedingly retiring beasts.

Maybe it was a translocated wolverine with a pituitary condition.


*hint: it's not actually la bête anthropophage du Gévaudan, though our heroes could be forgiven for thinking so.)



On a totally different topic, as long as I'm having a think break, all this talk of predators and a conversation in chat about polar bears (polar bears give me a wiggins. I've been six inches from an adult male lion (this adult male lion. there was glass! he was leaning on the glass!) and I've held a falcon on my glove and looked it in the eye, and I did not have the ice-cold skin-crawling reaction I do to being within eyeshot of a polar bear, even when the bear in question is safely on the other side of a twenty-foot trench and a glass wall. )

Polar bears have those eyes. And that snaky head. And they look at you with so much interest, as if they are considering their plan of attack.

You see, most large carnivores look at a human and see another large carnivore, which generally puts us into the category of "not worth the effort unless I'm really hungry." Polar bears look at a human, and start doing mass to energy conversions to try to figure out if it's worth the calorie expenditure to run you down.

The only thing I've experienced that came close was being scared half out of my wits by a mount of Therizinosaurus on the first of two occasions when I saw the traveling feathered dinosaur exhibit. (I saw it in San Diego and at the ROM.)

You see, in San Diego, they had it set up so you rounded the corner, came around the velociraptors, and paused to read a sign--and then looked up at the display. And some clever Joe had arranged the display so that when you looked up, you were exactly at Therizinosaurus' point of focus. Therizinosaurus is thirteen feet tall and has a long snaky neck and three foot claws. Three. Foot. Claws.

Look at your arm.

That's a claw.

If you ever want to know what a prey freeze reaction feels like from the point of view of a shrew? This is the way to learn it.***

Polar bear attention works, too.

Anyway, that scene in Carnival where [spoiler] is confronted by the [spoiler]? Yeah. That was me and Therizinosaurus.


***Therizinosaurus, entertainingly enough, was probably an herbivore. But man, that model looks hungry.

Comments

With all this talk of Parisian wolves, I'm assuming you've seen the film "Brotherhood of the Wolf?" It's a french Film with Hong Kong fight director. GREAT FREAKIN' MOVIE!
Also, you realize that that "Spoiler" you just gave about Carnival could have related to three different characters, in three different scenes, responding to the same "spoiler." I'm just sayin'.

And yes, just finished Carnival. :-P
If you ever want to know what a prey freeze reaction feels like from the point of view of a shrew? This is the way to learn it.***


We went to a wildlife park outside Spokane this spring. (In fact my default icon is one of their signs, but never mind.)

So, I'm wandering about admiring the many fine big cats and the bears and waiting for the mid-afternoon bear cub feed and pet. A freight train went thundering down a nearby track. One of the big male lions bestirred himself and roared at the train in that 'hey, big loud thing, outa my territory' way.

I was close enough to feel it vibrate my chest wall. I was looking right at him.

And just for a second my body locked up and my monkey brain shrieked 'what the hell are you doing, that's a LION, you idiot!'.

It was a very interesting feeling.

Our problem is that we probably look too much like walking seals.
Also, a polar bear has twice the weight advantage on us that a lion does. And is unlikely to be fooled by the "things that stand up are big!" thing, having that behavior themselves.
Yep. Polar bears are the only large predator that actively hunts humans, when the bear is healthy. All the others only do us when their ill or starving or by accident.
Most of the time.

There were those two lions in East Africa....upon which the movie "The Ghost and The Darkness" is based.
Um, we have wolverines here in Europe, too. Both here oop Norf in Scandinavia, and in the Baltic countries and Russia, too.
There ya go, exposing the limits of my knowledge. I thought the big mustelids were new world!

Thanks!
While I would never, EVER want to be near a polar bear without a very solid barrier between us, I gotta say, the polar bears at the San Diego Zoo seem very sociable. They like to press up against the glass, or lie on their backs and look at people upside down. Somehow, it doesn't make me feel like a snack.

The tigers, on the other hand, give my monkey brain the heebie-jeebies. Early one foggy morning, my four-year-old and I walked up the Tiger River trail all alone, not another human in sight. We looked into the tiger enclosure... no tiger. Walked up to the second viewing point. No tiger. The third view is set under a rock roof. Just as we reached it, came a roar that vibrated my heart against my ribs. I grabbed my kid and ran like hell. I was totally convinced the tiger had gotten out.
You know that tiger *lives* for misty mornings. *g*
What a great picture!

Bears frighten the fuck out of me.

Here, we just have a big black cat. It's one of THOSE big black cats that aren't supposed to live in England. Tell that to the hand-reared lamb it skinned and gutted in the field opposite my bedroom last winter.

Mauler!

More things in heaven and earth, Horatio.
I spent part of my childhood in the Serengeti National Park, where my dad was doing research for his PhD in wildlife ecology. Lions didn't freak us out: we got used to them, and to the roars, and even had a couple of close encounters with them unintentionally. They're OK. It's even possible - not recommended, but possible, and we didn't do it deliberately :D - to walk through a pride unmolested. They hunt every other night, and it's teh second night before the hunt, when the young males are getting antsy, hungry, and restless, that they're likely to be more of a danger.

Leopards, on the other hand? Well, put it this way: my dad was the least romantic, least anthropomorphizing person I ever knew. One day he was driving back from whereever he'd gone, window down, arm out, enjoying the day. One part of the road had a few trees leaning over it, forming a tunnel. As he drove under them Dad spotted a leopard in one of the trees. He rolled up his window. He told me the leopard looked at him doing that and said, "If I'd wanted you, I'd have had you."


The lion story I referred to: we camped out for 3 or 4 days every few weeks so Dad could survey bird species and grass heights. We pitched a tent and stored stuff in it and cooked in and near it, and slept in the car. One evening my parents were struggling with the kerosene stove (in the tent: it was the 70s and nobody's heard of safety :D) and I went outside the tent with a flashlight, to get out of the line of fire. And then I saw the lioness sitting there, about ten feet away, curious about the strange noises coming from this thing.

Lions tend to act like big housecats when they're fed and complacent: they'll investigate your campsite and play with the guy wires on your tent and such. Friends of ours, who slept in their tent, woke up to find a lion had clawed a big slit down the back of their tent in the night. This lioness wasn't hungry and wasn't hunting, luckily. I ran back in the tent, shrieking "There's a lion out there!" Dad put me on his shoulders, and Mom held an insect net above her head to appear bigger, and we slowly made our way to the car and spent the rest of the night there. We drove around a bit first, and discovered that a pride had decided to camp out in and around the kopje (rock formation) where we'd set up camp. :)

We had friends doing lion research for George Schaller who spent a night in an upside-down Land Rover after they hit a hole and rolled it following a pride after dark. The lions thought this was the most entertaining thing evar omg, and spent the night draped over and around the car.
...great stories. thanks!
Tigers look at you and see lunch.
It's not a matter of "if." It's a matter of "when."
And they're so damn blase about it.
Even tigers mostly don't eat people, actually. But when they start, they're hell to stop.
...So I am just sitting here drunkenly innocently reading this whole post, and suddenly I have a Barry! on my lap, and he is a fiend!! and is sinking fangs into me at all points of the compass, and I'm sitting here thinking "I'm sorry? What was your point, exactly...?"
he's practicing to be une bete when he grows up.
1. Okay, with chicken feet like that, the beast really could have strangled its victims! (I know, I know, loose definitions of "strangle.")

2. The freeze instinct, and the feedback loop of the animal witnessing the freeze instinct, is the reason I spent much of my childhood afraid of large dogs. They could just always tell that I was the scared one. When I got taller, and discovered how stupid dogs really are, I stopped being afraid, and dogs stopped finding me so interesting.

3. The memoir Miles from Nowhere, about a couple biking their way around the world, includes an anecdote about an unlucky camper whose neighbor on the campground startled a young bear out foraging. The bear ran away, and tripped over the guy wires to the next tent over, and fell in a flurry of fur and canvas directly onto the camper in question. Camper woke up with a bear paw sprawled on his face, and waited in a cold sweat for the poor dumb bear to get up, regain its dignity, and walk away.

Even if it's an apocryphal story, it's still pretty funny.
Three feet? You're significantly taller than I am. I hold out my arm full-length, I turn my head the other way and touch my nose. That's three feet. (That's how I rough-measure a yard of fabric; it's traditional and it works for my body.)

So I'm just saying, at arm's length I'm still inside that claw.

Glastonbury Glawackus

when i was kid in Windsor, about 1960, the people at Bart's Hot Dogs (all roads lead to Bart's" had pictures of a something they had found dead alongside the road... I dont have an idea of scale, it was like a fox with wierd feet, but the hunters were pretty excited about whatever it was..

The said they had sent pix to the smithsonian, and been pooh-poohed for their troubles..

If Bart's is still there, they probably still have the pictures..

I didn't look very closely at the picture at first

So what I thought I saw was an old engraving of a strange-looking poodle that had attacked some children for some reason. Amazing what I think I see when I'm just not paying attention, isn't it?

Re: I didn't look very closely at the picture at first

That thing looks exactly like an old engraving of a cranky poodle!

We went up to Tromsø last winter, and the first thing we saw when we got off the plane was a sign that they had at the end of the gangway in the airport, with a picture of two polar bears chewing on an unidentifiable but human-sized carcass, and the caption "Take The Danger Of Polar Bears Serious."

I really want to go to Svalbard someday, but apparently if you're going to go tourist you have to have someone hanging around with a gun whose only real job is to watch for polar bears & shoot them if they run up on you.
Ironically, that's also how I feel about cats and babies...they're always watching me...planning something...waiting to make their move...*glares at infant and kitten suspiciously*