There are days when I think the Internet is one of the most useful tools in modern times. From e-mails to Web searches, it is pretty amazing that technology moved us from the Pony Express to the Internet in about 130 years. Then there are days when I curse all the nonsense that perpetuates over the Web. I am specifically speaking of the animal related stories that grow from sometimes legitimate photographs to the most preposterous fiction imaginable and then turned into “fact” by Internet miscreants. Let’s examine a few:
The fifteen foot, 170 pound rattlesnake:
The real record Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake (EDB) was 8’ 3”. Its weight was unknown but it sure wasn’t 170 pounds. Those weights are reserved for the large constrictors. That EDB, while very impressive, is an aberration by today’s standards. If you see one over five feet nowadays consider yourself fortunate. All the folks who bragged about killing some really large EDB’s back in the day really did was delete some awesome genetics from the EDB gene pool. We have five EDB’s here at Naples Zoo and they are all 5 ½ to 6 feet. But these are zoo snakes that get fed consistently throughout the year. Our biggest weighs in at a healthy 15 pounds. I have also grown weary of all the tales that start with, “his head was on one side of the road and his tail was on the other.” Fat chance, this is a rattlesnake we’re talking about here, not a python.
King snake eats monitor lizard in Arizona:
There are king snakes in Arizona but monitor lizards do not live in the U.S. There are fifty some monitor species and they are naturally found in Africa, Asia, and Australia. In this series of photographs it is a Black-headed python eating a goanna lizard (monitor) in Australia.
Alligator with a wild pig in its mouth crossing a road near Sarasota, Florida.
Yes, our alligators are more than capable of killing and eating our feral hogs. However, this photo is actually of a Nile crocodile with a juvenile warthog in its mouth crossing a road in Africa. Just like our gators, crocodiles are ambush predators. Prey animals learn at an early age that the simple act of getting a drink can be a risky undertaking.
Alligator swims with deer in its mouth.
Yes, the pictures are real but were claimed to have been taken in nearly every southern state from South Carolina to Texas. The facts are that an employee of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service took these from the air while en route to work a prescribed fire at the Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia.
Man-eating Brown Bear
This series has been circulating for more a decade now. The bear in the photos was legally killed on Kodiak Island by a licensed hunter. Over the years, gruesome real and staged photos showed an apparent bear attack victim and severed body parts. The story grew into a revenge mission to kill the man-eating bear, which is this instance was never the case.
So my personal advice is just delete these irrational animal pictures and stories from your In Box. I have seen so much misinformation on the Web and also on some of these television nature shows that I have pretty much decided that a well researched and written book is the only way to go.