Margot (midnight_birth) wrote in margot_quotes,

Look Big: And Other Tips for Surviving Animal Encounters of All Kinds by Rachel Levin.


Title: Look Big: And Other Tips for Surviving Animal Encounters of All Kinds.
Author: Rachel Levin (essays by Brooke Borel, Bonnie Tsui, Chris Colin, Vanessa Hua, Samin Nosrat, Rebecca Flint Marx, Peter Orner, and Diana Kapp).
Genre: Non-fiction, how-to guides, animals, humour, essays.
Country: U.S.
Language: English.
Publication Date: 2018.
Summary: As humans encroach on wild places, encounters with animals—from bears, bison, mountain lions, and mice to turkeys, ticks, rats, and raccoons—have become increasingly commonplace. But, wait, what are the rules for facing a moose up close? Do you run from a coyote or stand your ground? How deadly, really, are black widow spiders, rattlesnakes, and sharks? Listed alphabetically from alligators to woodpeckers and packed with expert tips and fascinating animal facts, the book is a must-have survival guide for outdoor, urban, and suburban encounters alike. It also includes 10 essays of personal experiences (some excerpts from longer works on the subjects): In Ants in the Minivan by McKenzie Funk, the journalist describes his horrifying experience with ants in his car, and taking the power back. In Grizzlies in Alaska by Peter Fish, the writer recounts his experiences when his "vacation" turns out to be being dropped off alone on an island for a day to survive, where he encounters a mother bear and her cubs. Bed Bugs on My Mind by Brooke Borel is an excerpt describing her awful insomnia and experiences with bed-bugs. Cockroaches in New York (Of Course) by Bonnie Tsui is a classic New York tale of a bad cockroach infestation, a fancy, expensive pest-control device, and the horror that it resulted in. In Coyotes in my Face by Chris Colin, the journalist describes his first experience camping alone, and coming face-to-face with a coyote. In Deer in the Suburbs by Vanessa Hua, the author describes how hitting deer where she grew up was a right of passage, and the poignant lesson she learned while watching her biology teacher dissect a pregnant doe. Mice in the Backseat by Samin Nosrat is a cute story of the woman trying to get a mouse out of her car. Bunnies in the Backyard by Rebecca Flint Marx, the writer describes her love for bunnies in her childhood, and the memorable time when her dog had killed one. Raccoons in the Kitchen by Peter Orner is a humorous story about encountering two giant raccoons unapologetically feasting in one's kitchen. In Rats in the Bedroom by Diana Kapp, the writer describes living behind a construction site, and having her home overrun by rats as a result.

My rating: 7.5/10
My review:

♥ Clearly, we humans need a reminder of what to do when we encounter all sorts of animals; whether we're in Banff or Boulder, the Bob Marshall Wilderness or Brooklyn. It may not be fair, but it's on us—we're the humans. We've invented driverless cars and robots that cook crab bisque; it shouldn't be that hard to figure out how to peacefully coexist with coyotes.

~~from Introduction.


♥ Every body of freshwater in Florida has alligators in it," says Ken Rice, director of the U.S. Geological Survey, Wetland and Aquatic Research Center in Gainesville. "You just don't always see them."

What to do: Run—zigzag, straight line, doesn't matter. Alligators might be the only predators in the world you'd have a shot at beating in a race. Though they rarely pursue on land, around water, stay alert. Alligators ambush. They latch on to prey, roll it underwater until drowned dead, then toss it back like a tequila shot. Which means that adult humans aren't easy eating. Put up a decent fight, and the alligator might decide to ditch you. "They prefer not to contend with violently struggling prey," says Allan Woodward of Florida's Fish and Wildlife Research Institute. "Scream. Splash. Kick. Sure, try and punch the snout or gouge out the eyes," says Woodward. "No guarantees, but it has worked before."

♥ 1.3 million: Number of alligators in Florida.

380: unprovoked attacks on people since 1948.

24: People killed by alligators since 1973.

$100: Cost to wrestle a live alligator at Gators Reptile Park in Colorado.


♥ Humans have 100 billion brain cells. Ants have 250,000 brain cells. Which means a colony of 1 million ants has 250 billion brain cells. (No wonder we're having trouble outsmarting them.)

♥ "No one has ever studied what really works," says Brian Fisher, entomologist at California Academy of Sciences. Until now.

Last year, his team launched a citizen science project, urging people with ant-infested homes everywhere to try DIY solutions and send in their results. There's no winner yet, but so far the strongest contenders seem to be lemon and cinnamon. Why? Fisher and his team are still figuring that out. But the rest of those cockamamy concoctions? "Probably bogus," he predicts.

..The best plan of attack is to caulk ants' entryways, says Fisher. Use Vaseline if you have to.

And if nothing else works, according to the 5,000 impassioned posts on Amazon, TERRO Liquid Ant Baits (the superstar of ant traps) will... until next season.


♥ They are flying mammals, the only ones in the world.

♥ Only about 1 percent of bats carry [rabies], but still, bat encounters are the most common way for people to get rabies in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

What to do: ..Take a plastic container that has a lid, approach slowly, and place the opens container over the bat. Slide the lid under and, quickly, duct tape it shut. Don't kill it; that's illegal.

♥ One brown bat devours 1,000 mosquitoes in an hour.


What to do: ..DO NOT RUN; it will chase you (bears can motor up to 35 mph). Give it space, Say hello, out loud, in your most soothing yoga's teacher voice.. while slooowly backing away in the direction from which you came.

It's not about whether a bear is black or brown (and black bears can be brown, by the way), but how a bear is behaving, says LeGrandeur. "Read its signals."

..Defensive bear behavior: Ears back, paws swatting, jaw clacking, huffing. Black bear cubs may climb a tree.

Your behavior: Retreat gradually while turned sideways and avoiding eye contact. Appear as unthreatening as you know you are.

Predatory bear behavior: Ears forward, head up, staring at you, quietly stalking.

Your behavior: Look big. Lock eyes. Shout. Throw stuff. Be intimidating: let it know who's, supposedly, the boss.

There's a good chance the bear will leave. If it doesn't and charges? "%#@&." If it's defensive—it's bluffing. Probably.

.."Every muscle in your body is telling you otherwise, but DO NOT RUN." Instead, stand your ground and bust out the bear spray—98 percent of people who use it (properly) are unscathed.

..If a bear lays its paws on you...

Mama black bear or mama grizzly bear defending her cubs: Play dead.

Male black bear: Fight back, usually.

Male grizzly: It depends. Is the bear defensive? Play dead. Predatory? Fight for your life.

♥ Black bear population: At 650,000 and counting. / Grizzly population: Only 1,800 left in the Lower 48; but tens of thousands in Alaska and British Columbia. / Bears eat 25,000 calories a day... and only one person a year.


Bed bugs is a misnomer. They're not just found in beds. In motel rooms, apartments, and multimillion-dollar homes, yes—but also in theater seats, taxis, the spines of popular library books.

♥ That's what they do, by the way; they suck your blood—and you don't even feel it. They just leave itchy welts and then squirrel away to digest, have sex, and lay eggs until they crawl back for more. It's an all-consuming battle that has driven people to insomnia, PTSD, and divorce.

♥ Bed bugs can live eighteen months without feeding. Sure you could move out for a bit, but they'll still be there when you get back. / Of those people bitten by bed bugs, 70 percent react to the bites; 30 percent don't. You might not even know you have them. / It's not your fault. Having bed bugs in your home has nothing to do with its cleanliness.


♥ About 4 percent of Americans are sensitive to insect stings. Signs are sweating, swelling, and passing out. Scarier: About sixty people a year die from stings.

What to do: Don't entice: no perfume, no cologne (please). But yes to deodorant, body odor attracts bees; sweat actually angers them. That "no floral prints" thing? It's BS, says Demain.

When a bee starts bugging you, don't swat. It'll just piss it off. Stand as still as a statue. Step on a log and you are suddenly swarmed? Run. You're just as fast as a bee, but it'll usually give up before you do. Jumping in a lake won't save you: they'll just wait until you resurface.

Get the stinger out ASAP, before the venom spread. Don't pinch—it'll sink further. Flick it off with your fingernail or a credit card. Wasps, yellow jackets, and hornets don't leave a stinger—they just keep going. Ouch.

Wash with soap and apply ice.

♥ Most painful place to get stung? Your tongue, says Justin Schmidt, author of The Sting of the Wild, who's been stung at least 1,000 times. Everywhere. Close second? Inside your nose.


♥ Size: Up to 2,000 pounds; heaviest land mammal in North America.

♥ Today there are only 30,000 or so wild bison in North America and about 400,000 livestock.

What to do: If a bison is blocking a Yellowstone road, yield. Slow down, be patient, and wait for it to move—no honking, no speeding away; just chill and enjoy the scenery. It's rare, but bison have been known to attack cars—and anyone who stupidly gets out of their car. Hiking or biking when a bison gets in your way? Give it a wide berth, a football field's worth. Especially during rutting season, July through August: Mama bison are mean. If you see one paw the ground or shake its head or snort or raise its tail or, god forbid, charge—at 40 mph—with its two-foot-long horns coming straight at you... good luck.

♥ The minimum distance you should be from a bison, per [Yellowstone] park rules, is seventy-five feet.


♥ Despite 2,500 black widow run-ins reported annually in the United States, it appears only one or two people ever have, says Dr. Paula Cushing, an evolutionary biologist who studies arachnids at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. Rick Vetter, an entomologist at the University of California, Riverside, agrees. "Poison control says six or sever deaths due to spider a year, but their numbers are always suspect. People don't die from black widow bites, not anymore.

What to do: Remain calm and call poison control, stat. Jumping around will only speed the spread of the spider's venom in your bloodstream. Please don't try and suck it out like you're Michael Clarke Duncan in The Green Mile. (Do you really think that works?) Wash the site with soapy water. Apply ice and await the arrival of the antivenom. (Or the Ativan.)

♥ Female black widows are the most poisonous spider in North America. Their venom is fifteen times more powerful than a rattlesnake's.


What to do: It'll typically dart before you can even identify it, but if it doesn't and it starts growling? Something's wrong—it's probably rabid. So get the hell out of its way, grab your pets, and call Fish and Wildlife. Or you can try doing what one guy from Florida did when he got jumped: he got a good hold on its neck and choked it to death.

♥ The bobcat population in the United States (2 to 3.7 million) has doubled since the 1990s in pretty much every state, thanks to protections and the fact that bobcats are so damn adaptable. / In the 1990s, there were 65 bobcat sightings reported in Connecticut. In 2015, there were 200.

Mountain lion: Up to 160 pounds. Tawny beige coat, muscular. Tail 2 to 3 feet long.

Bobcat: Up to 30 pounds. Furry spotted coat, sinewy. Tail 6.5 inches long.

Bottom line: You'd rather run into a bobcat.


♥ The dirtier your home, the bigger your infestation, guaranteed, says Steinau.

Food is all they're after, and it comes in various forms; Grilled cheese crumbs, cooking grease, that invisible glue that holds cardboard boxes together. You could sleep with a can of Raid (people do), but the real key is to let the roaches starve. And know this: if you see them during the day, you've got a real issue.

What to do: What's the first step when you catch a cockroach crew coming through? Ideally, vacuum with a heavy-duty Dustbuster, though even a broom will do. Then dump everything into a Hefty bag. Before you cinch it tight and take it far, far away, sprinkle baby powder inside. Roaches' waxy shells are not unlike a baby's shiny bum; the powder sticks but will smother instead of soothe. Sprinkle an almost invisible layer on your floor, too.

Roach baits are good, says Steinau. Flushing agents are bad. "They just lure the roaches out of hiding; they start running—and then you've got a bigger problem."


♥ There are roughly 92 million head of cattle in this country. A ratio of one cow to every three-and-a-half humans..

♥ ..between 1993 and 2013, fifty-four people were injured by cows in the UK countryside; one-quarter of them died.

What to do: Give 'em six feet at least. Cows have personal space issues, too. They don't like it when people get too close. Also avoid stepping behind their butt. It's a blind spot.

If you come across a cow, just keep walking. Don't stop and stare (so rude). Keep your voice down (loud talkers agitate). Just let the cow chill, like it likes to: neck down, chewing its cud. But if it raises its head—get out of there.

♥ Between 2003 and 2012, E. coli-tainted beef sickened 1,144 people, hospitalized 316, and killed 5.

♥ Sharks kill one American a year. Snakes kill six Americans a year. Cows kills twenty Americans a year.

♥ The last three decades have seen 281 bull attacks: 149 were fatal.


♥ Only two people have been killed by coyotes in North America, including a folksinger in Nova Scotia in 2009. National Geographic made a short film about it, called... Killed by Coyotes.

♥ Coyotes have no qualms climbing an apple tree. But please don't feed them. "A fed coyote is a dead coyote," she says—the less afraid they are of us, the more aggressive they will get.

What to do: If a coyote starts trailing you and your dog, it's just curious. Keep calm. Channel your inner frat guys and "haze" it, says Fox—no beer funnels, only bold actions. "Be big, bad, and loud."

Hiding behind a bush won't help alter coyote behavior in the long term. Yelling will. Stand tall, make eye contact, wave your arms bark bark "Go away!" Bang pots, blow a bullhorn.

..Don't haze a mom with pups. Just look big and slink away. Otherwise throw rocks, scoop up pets and babies—and definitely don't start sprinting. Wile E. Coyote may never have caught Roads Runner, but a real coyote could certainly catch you.


♥ Crows were reticent, respectful, and by the early 2000s, decimated by West Nile virus. But now the black-feathered scavengers are back, big-time.

..Crow populations are rising exponentially, John Marzluff, professor of wildlife science at The University of Washington] says. In Seattle, there are thirty to forty times more crows than there were in the 1960s. In the 1980s, the Golden Gate Audubon Oakland Christmas crow count hovered between 30 and 90 crows. In 2010, it was 1,100. Aspen has lots of crows now, when thirty years ago, it didn't.

♥ The craziest thing; crows remember faces, for years<. So don't piss them off. A man in Seattle once picked up a dead crow tin his backyard and was dubbed a crow-killer. Harassed by the birds for months, he eventually moved... in the middle of the night. Another crow target grew a goatee and a moustache, let his hair get longer, donned different hats, and still, the crow was not fooled.

What to do: Face the crow head-on. They prefer to attack from behind. Cross the street. Carry an umbrella. Don't throw rocks, or they'll literally come back to bite you—routinely. If things get bad, you could try a disguise. "But it'd have to be a good disguise," says Marzluff. Wearing a surgeon's mask has been helpful, but but foolproof. It's also not a bad idea to carry unshelled peanuts to scatter in the ground. But even feeding it might not help, says Marzluff. If the crow really hates you, you're pretty much screwed.

♥ Crows can be picky. An experiment showed crowds prefer french fries to a McDonald's bag over those in a plain brown paper bag. / The oldest crow in captivity lived to be fifty-nine tears old. / Australian magpies are worse, says Marzluff. "They'll actually poke your eyes out."


♥ ..whether we've got 31 million or 34 million deer in the United States, it's still a lot of deer, 100 times more than there were 100 years ago.

More deer means [1] more ticks and [2] more car crashes—1.25 million a year. According to State Farm's annual claims report, more drivers are hitting deer than ever. Statistically, white-tailed deer kill more people a year (about 200) than any other animal in North America. It's funny that deer aren't as feared as bears and mountain lions—they should be.

What to do: ..Ideally, you hit the brakes before hitting the deer. If not, keep driving. Don't swerve. Colliding with a car barreling towards you at 50 mph is worse than running into a buck.

♥ "If a deer's pinning its ears and stomping, get outta there," says Mark Vargas of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. If it comes at you, antlers and all: Fight back. Get behind a tree.


♥ ..dogs, all kinds of dogs, bite 4.7 million people a year; one in five bites becomes infected with bad stuff like rabies or tetanus; and twenty to thirty people die, annually, at the paws of someone who is supposed to be your best friend.

That's more people than sharks, alligators, snakes, and bears kill combined. And yet people love pups anyways! About 40 percent of American households have one.

♥ Between 2005 and 2016, 392 Americans were killed by dogs. / Pit bull advocates will balk, but according to, pits were responsible for 65 percent of these deaths; rottweilers, 11 percent.


♥ Found mostly in Africa and China, but 0.1 percent of the world's 41 million-strong donkey population resides in North America.

♥ There are also donkey people, more than you might think. They even have their own magazine: Mules and More.

"I'd wager people with pet donkeys is at its highest since the late 1800s," says Steve Stiert, who teaches Donkeys 101 at the State University of New York Ulster and leads a donkey meetup group in the Hudson Valley. Membership is nearing 600.

♥ In Colorado, people run with donkeys. It's called pack burro racing, and with a slogan like "Celebrating 70 Years of Hauling Ass," what's not to love?

♥ Donkeys eat: mostly grass, about 6,000 pounds per year. / Donkeys live: for about thirty years. (Oldest recorded donkey was fifty-four, Suzy from New Mexico.) / Donkeys kill: mostly small dogs, not humans. Though, not long ago, a 500-pound donkey did trample to death the mayor of a small town in Texas.

What to do: ..Read its signals: ears back, tail swishing, head swinging—not good.


♥ Female dust mites lay one to three eggs a day. / One dust mute can produce twenty droppings a day. / A dust mite's life span is six to eight weeks. / The number of dust mites on your mattress is anywhere from 100,000 to 10,000,000.


♥ A male seal can impregnate up to fifty ladies in one season. / Their teeth are as long as your fingers but fortunately dullish. / Still, when an elephant seal does bite someone, it's usually a scientist. And its usually in the butt.


♥ Foxes mate for life, which is impressive. Then again, they live for only about three years.


♥ Fruit flies and human share 75 percent of disease-causing genes, which is why researcher love them. And in the name of science, we should too. / It's not just fruit. They'll breed anywhere stuff ferments..


♥ Once on the brink of extinction, there are now some 6 million geese in North America—the majority resident—the population of which has exploded since 1980 from 300,000 to approximately 4.5 million today, says Dr. Paul Curtis, wildlife specialist at Cornell University.

The problem is, one goose squeezes out two to three pounds of poop ever day. ..But it's also a health hazard: feces carry E. coli and salmonella, capable of fouling water supplies and forcing temporary beach closures, says Curtis.


♥ "More people come into the emergency room for horse-related injuries than for motorcycle accidents," says Jason Hanley, an ER doctor in Washington. "And they look just as bad."

Thirty million people ride horses in America (it's unclear whether that includes pony rides, and petting zoos..). As beautiful as horses are, they're also kind of treacherous.

One in five riders is injured from a fall; one in three from just standing near a horse. Head injuries, busted torsos, broken bones, total paralysis like Christopher Reeve, too. And death, around twenty people every year.

(Professional horse jockeys have it the worst: thirteen have died on the track since 2000. (Though the racehorses are the real victims: hundreds of horses die every year at racetracks across America.)

What to do: ..Julie Goodnight, of DirectTV's Horse Master, outlines a horse's three weapons "in order of deadliness": teeth, front legs, back legs (i.e. biting, striking, kicking). So stay in front or below its face and out of its blind spots. If you have to go behind a horse, place your hand on its body and keep talking, gently, like Bob Ross. Stay out of a horse's mouth. And if it starts "lipping" you—that's a prelude to a bite, not a kiss.


♥ ..500,000 people are stung in Chesapeake Bay alone; and 200,000 are stung off Florida. In New Hampshire, one lion's mane jellyfish once washed up on shore and somehow its fragmented tentacles stung 150 people.

♥ It's the Portuguese man-of-war we need to worry about, which stings 500,000 people annually in the Unites States, sometimes fatally. It is "hands down" the deadliest in North America, warns Gershwin. And we're seeing more of them, as with many jellyfish, due to overfishing and warming seas.

What to do: Understand what a purple flag in the sand means: stay out of the water. It makes for a bummer of a beach day, but it's better than thousands of toxic harpoons shooting into your leg. Slathering on anti-jelly notion like Safe Sea can't hurt. "Stinger suits"—which create a barrier over your skin that the nematocysts can't penetrate—offer more protection, says Dr. Lucas Brotz, at the University of British Columbia's Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries.

If a jelly latches on, get it off—with tweezers or a stick, not your fingers. Douse the affected are with seawater. If it's a box jelly (found in Australia and the South Pacific, but also in Hawaii, Florida, North Carolina), try vinegar to neutralize the stinging cells. But—confusing—don't use vinegar on man-of-war or lion's mane strings. What about urine? Nope. A study in Honolulu found that—contrary to popular belief—peeing on a jellyfish sting just makes it worse. Depending on the local species, sometimes cold packs help, sometimes hot packs help, and sometimes, maaaybe sprinkling McCormick's meat tenderizer on your leg like its a lamb chop helps, too.


What to do: ..A lot of lice have grown resistant over the years to the ol' over-the-counter Rid or Nix routine. According to a recent study, 98 percent of head lice in the United States now carry gene mutations for pesticide resistance—up from 37 percent in 2001. SO it's no surprise that new innovations have emerged. The most promising, according to Pollacks, is the FDA-registered AirAllé device used by Lice Clinics of America, a franchise proliferating (to five-star Yelp raves) almost as quickly as lice itself. The high-heat technology professes to kill lice and 92 percent of eggs in a single $150 visit—a relative bargain. But the cheapest, easiest guarantee? Shave your kid's head. Hair—it grows back.


What to do: "Has nothing to do with cleanliness," says Cooper, "just poor maintenance." Wonky gutters, worn garage doors, cracks in foundation: mouse house. Give them a gap as small as a dime, and they'll squeeze their way in.

To find the holes, sprinkle flour along a suspicious wall and then look for little footprints.

..Grating a bar of Irish Spring soap supposedly deters them; they hate the minty smell. Otherwise, the classic snap trap remains the easiest—and most humane—way to ensnare. Hold the cheese, please, says Cooper. What mice really likes is peanut butter.


♥ Says Mike Porras of Colorado Parks & Wildlife, "You face far more danger from a moose than you would a bear or a mountain lion." Marvelous.

What to do: An Alaskan wildlife biologist once told a news reporter: "Assume every moose is a serial killer standing in the middle of the trail with a loaded gun."

Alrighty then: if you come across a moose close-up, back away slowly, palms up. If its ears pin back and its hackles raise and it starts smacking its lips—or peeing—expect a charge. Unlike bears, when it comes to moose, run like mad. Moose are just as fast, but they supposedly won't chase you very far. Plus, you are more nimble than a half-ton animal—get behind a boulder or tree. Or better yet, climb it. If you're attacked: now is the time to play dead.


♥ Also known as: The Deadliest creatures in the world.

♥ Not all 3,000 species transmit diseases, but the ones that do may kill a million people a year. In 2015, 429,000 people died from malaria alone. Worldwide, mosquitoes kill more people annually than people do.

In America, though, mosquitoes kill "only" 100 people per year—mostly from sporadic outbreaks of West Nile virus.


What to do: If, one day, you do meet a mountain lion on the trail, or, uh, in the city (one was spotted roaming San Francisco not long ago), try your beast to look big... and very much alive. Stand tall. Stare the lion in the eye. Open your coat. Grab your kids, without bending over. Don't run (mountain lions are faster). But don't just stand there, looking scared out of your mind, either; that suggests you are easy prey. (Which, let's be honest, you are.) Instead, intimidate. Wave your arms. Yell. Scream. Throw water bottles, rocks, whatever you've got. If attacked, "Give 'em hell," says Yovovich. Whatever you do, don't lie down or play dead—or they'll eat you for dinner.

♥ 1: Number of deer a mountain lion kills a week.

1: Number of humans mountain lions kill in the Unites States a year.


♥ "Playing possum" is a real thing. If cornered or attacked, an opossum will freak out and fake its own death: fall down, foam at the mouth, drool, piss, and ooze some gross green liquid. It works! Nothing wants to eat that.

♥ ..opossums are actually the closest thing we've got to kangaroos in this country. Opossums: America's only native marsupials.

♥ Hard-core omnivores, they raid trashcans, chicken coops, and fruit trees—but they won't chew wires, rarely attack, and even more rarely carry rabies. Opossums are god's nocturnal gift to gardens, too, devouring snails and slugs. And they're nature's best defense against Lyme disease: one opossum eats 4,000 ticks a week.


♥ Also known as: Tigers of the sky.

♥ (Owls are the only animals that'll dare to down a skunk). They'll also scarf down a porcupine, no problem.

♥ Owls talons are said to be as strong gas a German shepherd's bite. / The biggest predatory threat to barred owls is great horneds. / Only one person has ever been killed by a great horned owl.


♥ There's a real love-hate thing going on when it comes to people and pigeons. But unless you're the Bird Woman in Mary Poppins, the Brooklyn artist who goes by Mother Pigeon, or a member of the century-old National Pigeons Association (like Mike Tyson, who has 1,800 of them), it's mostly hate.

Especially if you're Sean Childers, assistant vice president of operations at Texas Tech University, whose department spends $100,000 a year cleaning up after pigeons. It's the campus architecture, Childers explains: Spanish Renaissance, all those eaves and ledges.

♥ Pigeons mate for life. / They breed at least six times a year. / The population declined 46 percent between 1966 and 2015, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey, and still they're everywhere: more than 1 million pigeons in New York City alone.


♥ Slowpokes and totally near-sighted, these extra-large rodents wouldn't stand a chance in the wild if it weren't for the 30,000 four-inch quills hiding beneath their hair, each tipped with hundreds of microscopic, backward-facing barbs that detach upon physical contact. No, they don't shoot. But they do sink ever deeper into the skin, until you pull them out.


♥ Found: Wreaking havoc throughout suburbia.

Size: A pineapple, but softer.,

♥ It's hard not to adore something that bounds around with a fluffy white pom-pom on its butt.


What to do: Like Motel 6, leave the light on. Set a radio outside turned in to National Public Radio. (Just anchor it, or they may walk off with it. True story.) Sprinkle ammonia on each trash bag. They hate the smell as much as we do. Get those heavy-duty bungee cords that snap tightly. String flashing Christmas bulbs around the trash area.

..If you panic, the racoon panics.


♥ They say there's about one rat per person in the United States.

♥ They spread dozens of diseases, like hepatitis C and salmonella; they occasionally bite babies; and rats even contribute to depression, according to a recent study. They also eat their own poop..

What to do: Basically, you want to starve the suckers. Take away their water source (rats need to drink ten times their body weight in water a day), fix plumbing leaks, and empty buckets of old rainwater.

..But real rat relief may be on the way, thanks to a new technology called ContraPest: contraception for rats! Brilliant. Sustainable. Humane. It's been tested by the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority and Housing Authority and pest control pros coast to coast.

♥ Rats can swim up your toilet. / They have sex for pleasure, too, a lot of sex. (Female rats can mate up to 500 times in a six-hour period.) / Two rats mating, over an eight- to twelve-month life span, will generate 15,000 descendants.


♥ A fascinating website called ranks fear of snakes, ophiodiophobia, second of all phobias, just behind spiders and above... everything else: Heights, public speaking, belly buttons (omphalophobia; it's a thing). Kids, though, love snakes. And 1,300 kids get bitter every year, about half by rattlers, with copperhead bites on the rise.

♥ But the good news: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, of the 7,000 people in the United States bitten by venomous snakes each year, only about 0.2 percent of bites end in death.

What to do: ..If you accidentally step on one and get bitten: keep cool.. But seriously, don't run; getting your heart rate up makes the venom seep faster. Skid the snakebite kits and tourniquets; that's outdated advice.

..A sunny, 90°F day is a snake weather. No flip-flops, wear boots. Jeans, even. (A study actually proved denim's effectiveness against venom injection.)


What to do: If you've got a beach house, get a sheepdog. Wheeler found walking a sheepdog along the beach at dawn and dusk reduced the number of seagulls by 99 percent.


♥ Found: All oceans; all climates.

Size: A softball, covered in needles.

What to do: ..What definitely doesn't work is pulling out the quills. "Too brittle; they just disintegrate," he says. Tweezers don't do much.

Soaking in vinegar, or superhot water with a little Epsom salt, helps the spines soften. Otherwise, "there's really nothing you can do," says Verbeck. "You just gotta wait it out."


♥ Found: In every ocean, shallow water included. "If you've been in the water, you've been within ten feet of a shark," says George Burgess, director of shark research at the University of Florida. "I guarantee it."

♥ In 2016, there were four fatalities worldwide. Your odds of being killed by a shark are, according to Burgess, "as close to zero as you can get": About a 1 in 3,748,067 chance during your lifetime according to the Florida Museum of Natural History. There are bigger fatal beach hazards to worry about: drowning (1 in 1,134 chance); sun/heat exposure (1 in 13,729); driving to the beach (1 in 84).

What to do: ..In the twenty-five years he's (voluntarily) been circled by sharks, he's never once been chomped. He's had two very close calls, though. Both times the sharks rushed him—and both times he played the aggressor, pounding the shark on its sensitive snout with his camera, and it retreated. Burgess backs that up. "Punch it on the snout, then swim like hell."

..The real secret to survival is not panicking, says Verbeck. If a shark comes around, huddle back-to-back with whoever's nearby. Don't start splashing or going crazy. "Be still, let it swim to you—and then make a movement toward it," he says. It's counterintuitive, Verbeck admits; your instinct is to flee not swim right at it. "But that's what you've got to do."

If it does take a bite, battle. Poke its eyes, claw its gills.

..As for the "shark repellents" on the market—Shark Shield, No Shark, Shark Shocker—they are not worth the money, says Burgess.

♥ 52 million: Americans who swim in the ocean every year.

1: Americans, on average, who die from a shark attack every year. (Not to say there are no unprovoked attacks, though. In the United States in 2016 there were forty-three; in 2015 there were fifty-nine. 40 to 50 percent of all unprovoked shark attacks in America occur in the Sunshine State.)

6: People killed by sharks worldwide a year.

70 million: Sharks killed by people a year. "So who's the attacker," says Burgess, "and who's the attacked?"


♥ Size: A big fluffy beanbag chair, at best. A frail, fleshy old man at worst.

♥ There are 5.2 million head of domestic sheep in the United States..

♥ "Sheep are the most submissive creatures ever created," says Catherin. It's the Great Pyrenees guarding them against the mountain lions and coyotes that'd otherwise take 'em down.

Dog walkers: Take extra caution. A guard dog can't distinguish between your yellow lab and a lone wolf, says Catherin. "They're hardwired to go after any canine."


♥ Best remedy for pets: Bathe them in 1 quart of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide, 1⁄4 cup baking soda, and 1 teaspoon liquid pet shampoo.


♥ "Squirrels have taken down the electrical power grid more times than the zero times hackers have," Peter W. Singer, of the Brookings Institution, once said. That's almost 900 times since 1987, according to Cuber Squirrel1, which tracks these things.

♥ In 2016, a squirrel also took down a trio of old folks at a Florida retirement community. There was biting and scratching, until eventually someone threw the squirrel outside.


♥ Also known as: pancakes of the sea.

What to do: If you still manage to step on one, there's nothing you can do but soak your foot in superhot water until the pain eventually subsides. Lifeguard stations in Orange County have buckets of hot water waiting, with chairs.

♥ The most famous people to die by stingray (and some of the only people to die by stingray): Australia's Steve Irwin (stabbed in the chest) and Odysseus (killed by his son with a spear tipped with its venomous spine). / According to TripAdvisor, seeing "Stingray City" is the number 1 of 167 things to do on Grand Cayman, where people pay to pet, feed, and kiss stingrays..


♥ The longer they suck, the greater the risk of getting Lyme disease, which causes fever, fatigue, arthritis, and paralysis—and affects 300,000 people in the Unites States, a number that has more than doubled since 2001.

What to do: ..So wash everything on high heat—then bathe (within two hours, says the Center for Disease Control and Prevention). It takes a tick twenty-four to thirty-six hours to get comfy and infect you, so search and seize ASAP.

Don't use your fingers to remove a tick. You'll just crush it, and it'll spew its guts, and you'll have a greater risk of getting whatever it's got. Use tweezers. Pull upward with steady pressure; it'll pop out. Wash the bite, flush the tick down the toilet, and if you're in prime Lyme disease territory, for the next month, look for red splotches, a bull's-eye rash, and any symptoms. If you catch Lyme disease early, it's totally treatable.

♥ Felicia Keesing, an ecologist with the New York-based Tick Project, found that more mice means more Lyme disease. According to Keesing, mice infect 95 percent of ticks that feed on them. And one mouse might have fifty to one hundred ticks on its face.


♥ US turkey consumption has increased 104 percent since 1970. / Wild turkeys sleep in oak trees. / Male wild turkeys provide zero parental care.


What to do: ..If a whale is coming too close, start drumming on the side of your kayak, says Spencer. Otherwise the whale may not hear you. It may see you, but think you're a sea lion (whales likely don't see color.) Link up kayaks to look larger.

..Whales have bad moods and prickly [personalities, like people. "But they aren't going to eat you," says Spencer. They might charge, though. Imagine a forty-ton truck on the loose underwater.


♥ A wild pig i no Wilbur. Lovable these invasive nuisances are not. They are more destructive than one hundred high schoolers at a house party: doing 1.5 billion worth of property and environmental destruction annually. A few years ago, the U.S. Department of Agriculture put $20 million toward defeating them. And still, the pigs are winning.

Hairy and hulking, wild pigs travel in sounders of up to one hundred animals. They are always hungry, capable of putting back everything from pecans to entire carcasses. They've got sharp tusks, a 30-mph charge, and the ability to transmit a bunch of disease. And there are 7 million of them in America.

.."Thew wild pig is the most prolific large mammal on the face of Earth," says Dr. Billy Higginbotham, wildlife specialist at Texas A&M. One pumps out a litter of five or six pigs at least once a year.

♥ Still, seven people a year worldwide are pummeled by a wild pig.

What to do: ..But if you're just out for a walk in the woods and are suddenly approached by a sounder, stay cool. They'll probably turn away. If not, climb a tree—and get at least six feet high or they'll climb after you. If charged, sidestep it.. Otherwise, you've got no choice but to fight back, while standing. You do not want to get knocked down.


♥ After near-extermination, gray wolves have been making a bit of a comeback in recent decades, thanks to protection under the Endangered Species Act. Controversially delisted in some states, there are not some 5,500 gray wolves in the lower 48; 11,000 in Alaska; and 60,000 in Canada..

What to do: .."Use your voice. Yell. Throw rocks. Look big. Never turn your back on a wolf or on any predator. You want to know where it is." And with wolves, definitely don't run. "You could try climbing a tree?" she offers. "But that's never a very good option."


♥ Pileated, red-bellied, the northern clicker—they all peck, from dawn on, hammering their beak at 15 mph, 20 times per second, about 12,000 times a day. They do it to establish their turf, turn on chicks, and dig for insects. And when they start excavating chambers to roost, chiseling away like Geppetto, they turn trees, telephone poles, and house siding (cedar, redwood, even metal) into Swiss cheese.

♥ In 1995, a flock of northern flickers grounded the space shuttle Discovery by drilling holes in the fuel tanks. NASA "pecker checkers" rigged "predator eye" balloons and plastic owls, and played tapes of hooting great horned owls to deter further damage. It worked.


..Of all human deaths each year, animals cause only about 0.008 percent.

Deer: 200

Bees, Wasps, and Hornets: 60

Dogs: 20 to 30.

Cows: About 20.

Horses: 20

Snakes: 5

Bears: 1

Sharks: 1

Alligators: Fewer than 1.

Mountain Lions: Fewer than 1.

Coyotes: Fewer than 1.

Black Widows: Fewer than 1.


♥ Horrified, hands gloved in ants, I threw the car seats on the lawn, ripped out the bucket seats, and froze. Then I remembered the Shop-Vac, sitting idle for six years. The ants didn't stand a chance. I aimed the tube and sucked clean every crack, every seam.

Satisfaction. Power. Some soldiers are attracted to the machinery of war, to the weapons in their hands. Suddenly, crouched inside a beige minivan, holding the world's most powerful vacuum, I understand.

~~Ants in the Minivan by McKenzie Funk.

♥ I stood, frantic, in the fluorescent[lit basement of my building, stuffing armfuls of my life into a coin-0operatyed washing machine. And then a dark speck on the mattress pad caught my eye. Lint? I brought the gauzy white fabric closer. And there we were, assailant and victim, eye to eye.

Like I said, I was sleep deprived. I blame mu bad bed-bug manners on that. But truth is, I panicked: I flicked that vermin as hard as I could. Where it landed, I don't know.

Possibly on that neatly folded pile of laundry in the corner?

Neighbors, forgive me.

~~Bed Bugs on My Mind by Brooke Borel.

♥ One day, one of Matt's human roommates went out and bought—not as mousetrap or a roach motel—but the Lexus of pest-eradication stations: The Rat Zapper 2000, a $40, battery-operated contraption that promised to take care of everything.

They set the Zapper down in a grungy corner of the kitchen, baited with cheese. And then they promptly forgot to look inside for oh, I don't know, weeks.

Finally, someone did look inside—not me—but I still throw up in my mouth a little bit to recall what was found: a dead mouse... being eaten by a swarm of cockroaches. The roaches were alive. Inside the Rat Zapper. Munching on a mouse. THE ROACHES WERE ALIVE INSIDE THE RAT ZAPPER, MUNCHING A MOUSE. It was like the Turducken of household vermin.

Cringe. Collect yourself. Then marvel. The cockroach has essentially been around for 320 millions years. It has persisted because it is able to survive tough times (decapitation, say, or starvation). But also because of its ability to eat anything: glue, fingernail clippings, each other. Mice.

~~Cockroaches in New York (Of Course) by Bonnie Tsui.

♥ The only coyote I'd ever seen was in cartoon form. This one was rather real. A sweet-looking beast with a bushy tail and an obvious curiosity, about me.

Later I'd struggle to explain how I could've been terrified of non-existent cougars yet totally unfazed by a coyote more or less in my lap. Truth is, something was going on between us. For a full minute, we stared into each other's eyes, two creatures communing peacefully and improbably across the vast chasm that separates us.

Then, as human do, I ruined the moment. I reached for my goddamn camera.

I'll never forget the look of betrayal that flashed over the coyote's face as my shutter clicked. He actually cocked his head, baffled by my lameness. Our spell broken, it gave me one last glance, then trotted off on its elegant toothpick legs and vanished into the trees.

The photo? Haven't looked at it since.

~~Coyotes in my Face by Chris Colin.

♥ One morning, our class watched, fascinated and disgusted, as he dissected a pregnant doe. Her eyes had gone glassy, but her body was not yet stiff. With a scalpel, he slived open her belly to reveal a cloudy amniotic sac. Then the smell hit, insides suddenly on the outside.

We recoiled but could not tear ourselves from what we saw next: a glistening, perfect pair of fawns who looked like they were sleeping, as if they might suddenly open their eyes and prance onto our lawns and into the cul-de-sacs we all called home. It was a lesson my teacher somehow knew was impossible for a bunch of teenagers to find in any textbook: death reminding us of the wonders of life.

~~Deer in the Suburbs by Vanessa Hua.

♥ I loved all animals, but this felt personal; my dog had murdered Peter Cottontail.

To love rabbits is to love the security of children's books, which is the only place a rabbit gets a happy ending. Loving them in the real world entails knowing the bunny is not long for it, bound to fall prey to a hawk or raccoon, a car tire, or an otherwise typically civilized Airedale terrier.

..Like the deer and groundhogs who threatened the crocuses he planted, my father, like most homeowners, regarded rabbits as pests. He later built a fence. But it didn't deter my love for those bunnies. Still today, somewhere in the Michigan soil, there's a shoebox buried with a little piece of my heart.

~~Bunnies in the Backyard by Rebecca Flint Marx.

♥ I looked in, and there they were: twp gastronomically ecstatic raccoons on the counter. Striped, food-drunk cuddlies feasting, feasting. Two raccoons who were not only not afraid of me, the apartment's original leaseholder, but also stood there staring at me hard, their mouths still chewing, as if they wanted to see into my soul. What kind of human was I? Was I the purveyor of all this bounty, this sad dude in a flannel? "You cooked this roast?" they seemed to say.

♥ I wondered if they were a couple, husband and wife. She was bigger than he was. Cheese drooped off her snout.

I grabbed a broom and tried to shoo them off. Neither flinched, no matter how much I poked. Eventually, they departed on their own terms, clearly satisfied. If raccoons can saunter, those two sauntered. He followed her out the door and into the night.

~~Raccoons in the Kitchen by Peter Orner.
Tags: animals, arachnids, arachnology, arthropods, birds, entomology, essays, excerpt, fish, herpetology, how to guides, humour, insects, marine biology, non-fiction, reptiles, sharks, survival, trivia, zoology

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