Thursday, October 22, 2009

When Animals Attack

If you’re an outdoor exerciser like myself, at some point you’ve probably unexpectedly encountered an animal. A lot of the time, with me anyway, it’ll be a loose dog, or an unfriendly one trying hard to escape a leash. I’ve had dogs chase me while running, and others try to nip at my ankles or jump on me. Strangely, it seems to be the small dogs out there most ready to attack. Why is that, anyway?

In Australia, it’s not just the dogs you have to watch out for - it’s the birds! When spring rolls around (September-November down under), the nesting season for Australian magpies begins, and the birds get territorial. It’s a full on war in the skies for a good six weeks, with magpies attacking any bird within pecking distance. It’s not just other birds they’re after though, they seem to be particularly fond of swooping (and sometimes actually pecking) cyclists and runners.

This was all new to me when my husband and I arrived here a year and a half ago, I had no idea what to expect. A few weeks into spring last year, I stopped cycling outside and moved it indoors, even though I was training for a triathlon at the time. I stopped because one morning a magpie came after me. As soon as I turned around to face it, the bird backed off a bit (they like to be stealthy and attack when you’re not watching), but it continued to taunt me for about a block or so. I was shaken from the incident, and even though only something like 9% of magpies swoop, I was convinced they would peck my eyes out or something. Paranoid, I know. I continued running, but mostly avoided areas with large trees.

This year, I’ve decided to relax a bit. Now that spring is in full effect here, the magpies have returned. Just this morning two of them came after me while I was out running through a nearby park. I ended up having to run with my head facing backwards, hands in the air and shouting at them until I was out of their range. Basically, I looked like a complete fool, but I’ll be out there again tomorrow morning.

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