Kleptoparasitism; an octopus named Fred; moose chasers

Mishaps and mayhem from around the region.



Nature photographer Kevin Ebi has captured bald eagles snatching food from crows, great blue herons and even other eagles, but he’s never seen anything quite like what played out in the blue sky above San Juan Island National Historical Park. Ebi spent the afternoon watching eight young foxes romp on the prairie. One kit managed to snag a rabbit by the foot, though the rabbit pulled free and scurried to the safety of its burrow. Another got luckier, and Ebi photographed it prancing off proudly with a rabbit dangling from its mouth. Then the scream of a bald eagle cut through the air, and sure enough, a huge raptor swooped down and “lifted the young fox and rabbit into the sky.” Eagles are strong — they can lift about half their body weight of five or six pounds — but Ebi says the double burden of a fox with a rabbit in its mouth must have been excessive, especially since the airborne fox kept fighting to hold on to its prey. Finally, the eagle transferred the rabbit to its right talon and released the fox, which dropped some 20 feet, setting off “a small dust cloud when it hit the ground.” The fox trotted off unhurt, though another photographer on the scene, Zachary Hartje, thought it “looked scared” as it ducked into its den afterward. The air battle lasted less than 8 seconds. You can watch all this on Ebi’s blog, Living Wilderness. For the record, reports the Seattle Times, when a predator steals another animal’s prey, it’s called “kleptoparasitism.”

Food fight!
Kevin Ebi



Giovanni DeGarimore, the owner of Giovanni’s Fish Market in Morro Bay, sells pink shrimp, local sole and crab, but you won’t find octopus for sale at his place. DeGarimore, an avid scuba diver, once played hide-and-seek with an octopus in Fiji — “an experience I’ll never forget,” he said, he told Morro Bay Tourism — and he says the animals are among the most intelligent and feeling creatures on the planet. So when a local fisherman caught a giant 70-pound octopus in his crab net, DeGarimore spent a few hundred dollars to buy the animal. Naming it “Fred,” he boarded the octopus at his fish market for a few days before releasing it back to the ocean — in a secure spot away from risks like sea lions. “It might not change the world,” he said of Fred’s release, “but if it makes me happy, and makes Fred happy, then it was worth it.”



The headline in The Salt Lake Tribune was “man bites police dog,” but the kicker was even better: “Who got the rabies shot?” A man — who was clearly high on illegal substances — was arrested after he rammed his car head-on into a police vehicle and then refused to get out of the car. An officer shot him with a stun gun, but when that failed to move him, a police dog was brought onto the scene, whereupon the man bit the dog “as it was biting him.” An officer and the dog were injured in the confrontation, but both will recover, said Detective Matt Roper. No word on those rabies shots, but it sounds like they were needed.



You could almost hear the Montana Democrat’s frustration: Sen. John Tester could not believe it when Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, once Montana’s sole congressman, proposed a paltry $8.1 million budget for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which is entitled by law to some $900 million from off-shore oil leases. “Public lands is a Western thing,” said Tester. “We’ve got to have an advocate in the administration — that’s you. … Whoa, come on, $8.1 million? … Are there no projects nationwide? Because these ecosystems are not going to be around in 20 years.”



Pet fish can be hazardous to your health. Six people from the Tucson area were hospitalized recently after their fish tank made them sick. The cause? Zoanthid corals on the bottom of the tank were releasing a toxin called palytoxin, reports Tucson News Now. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the toxins are dangerous to humans, though apparently not to fish.



A man chased a moose onto the median of a busy highway in Frisco, Colorado, and then loitered dangerously close to the huge animal, which was clearly agitated, its ears back. A motorist stopped to take a photo and posted it on social media. The same day, a woman posted a video on Facebook of herself feeding a moose through her car window. This behavior is wildlife harassment and anything but safe for the people involved, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife. But on the bright side, says Summit County wildlife manager Elissa Slezak, thanks to social media, wildlife harassers can be warned and ticketed, and perhaps, at the very least, educated.


Tips and photos of Western oddities are appreciated and often shared in this column. Write [email protected] or tag photos on Instagram.

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