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Animals
From nj.com:

If you want to bombard a township with calls from angry people, start a rumor that cats and dogs are going to die.
That's exactly what happened Tuesday and today, when an Internet rumor claiming the local animal shelter in Montgomery was going to close and all cats and dogs remaining there would be euthanized.
And it happened across the country, too, as a viral rumor with countless incarnations made similar claims about shelters in communities named Montgomery. Only one shelter, located in a Texas County by the same name, is closing and its operator was working to find homes for all the pets, according to a local newspaper there.
(Thanks, Joe!)
Categories: Animals, Urban Legends
Posted by Alex on Wed Sep 23, 2009
Comments (3)
From Wired.com:

On September 5, Saskatchewan fisherman Sean Konrad caught a 48-pound, world-record rainbow trout. The fish came from Lake Diefenbaker, where trout genetically engineered to grow extra-big escaped from a fish farm nine years ago...
Technically known as triploids, they’re designed with three sets of chromosomes, making them sterile and channeling energies normally spent reproducing towards growth.
In 2007, on a message board of the International Game Fish Association, the angling world’s record- and ethics-keeping body, some fishermen argued that triploids were unnatural, as divorced from the sport’s history as Barry Bonds’ home runs were from Hank Aaron’s.
The IGFA refused to make a distinction between natural and GM fish. Neither would they distinguish between species caught in their traditional waters and those introduced into new, growth-friendly environments, such as largemouth bass whose extra-large ancestors were imported from Florida to California in the 1960s.
But to purists, there was a difference between transplantation and outright manufacture.
The Konrad brothers’ response on the message board was curt: “Stop crying and start fishing.”

Big Gary, the Museum's Deputy Curator in Charge of Fish, says: "I'm voting 'cheat' on this one, but it's an interesting debate nonetheless."
Categories: Animals, Sports
Posted by Alex on Mon Sep 21, 2009
Comments (14)
Dog owners in the town of Basildon are concerned that someone may be trying to poison their pets. They've organized meetings to discuss the danger. Not that any dogs have been poisoned so far. No one has even seen any signs of poison around. But an email rumor has everyone spooked.
Categories: Animals, Urban Legends
Posted by Alex on Tue Sep 08, 2009
Comments (4)
After receiving a complaint that some residents of a Houston apartment complex were barbecuing stray cats, the Bureau of Animal Regulation and Control investigated but determined the complaint was a hoax. But their conclusion isn't that reassuring, because after analyzing bone fragments from nearby dumpsters, the bureau did find that "There are animals that have been consumed that are similar to the size and structure of a cat."

So, if not cats, what were these animals that were consumed? Small dogs? Giant rats? Chupacabras?

Also, this is news to me. According to Texas Penal Code 49.02, it's legal to cook and eat cats "as long as it's a wild or stray cat and was not killed in a cruel manner." But you're not allowed to cook your pet cat.
Categories: Animals, Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Alex on Thu Jun 18, 2009
Comments (11)
If you're well-versed in hoax lore, you might have heard the story of the South American Reetsa Expedition. It's a hoax attributed to the New York City prankster Brian G. Hughes, who was active as a hoaxer from around 1895 to 1910. (He died in 1924.)

He pulled off quite a few hoaxes. Around 1895 he submitted a cat to the New York cat show, claiming it was a rare breed known as the Dublin Brindle. After it won a prize, he revealed it was just an alley cat. A few years later he tried a similar stunt at a horse show, submitting a horse named Puldeca Orphan. It was really a street-car horse from the railway company. (Puldeca Orphan = Pulled a Car Often)

But the South American Reetsa Expedition was, according to H. Allen Smith, author of The Compleat Practical Joker (1954), one of his "most celebrated gags." Hughes told the media that he had financed an expedition to search for a rare South American creature, the Reetsa. For a year he supplied them with updates about the expedition. Then, finally, he announced that a Reetsa had been caught and would be shipped to New York City. On the day of its arrival, reporters were gathered at the pier as Hughes proudly led a mangy bull down the gangway. Reetsa was "a steer" spelled backwards.

The story of the Reetsa Expedition is told in many anthologies of hoaxes. For instance, it appears The Big Book of Hoaxes (the cartoon anthology of hoaxes). It's also mentioned on the wikipedia page about Hughes.



Since I've been adding a lot of new material to the Hoax Archive recently, I decided it was high time to add the Reetsa Expedition. But instead of just parroting the standard story about the hoax, I tried to track down some original news reports about it. I figured there would have to be something. However, I've been able to find absolutely nothing. There's no mention of it in any newspaper archive, such as newspaperarchive.com, the google news archive, or the proquest archives. I found quite a few obituaries about Hughes. They described many of his pranks and hoaxes, but none mentioned the Reetsa Expedition. That alone contradicts the claim that it was his most celebrated hoax. In fact, the earliest reference to it I can find is in H. Allen Smith's 1954 book, and Smith offered no date or source for the tale. So I'm concluding that it's one of those classic hoaxes that never actually happened. Kind of like the September Morn hoax I debunked a few months ago. Though, of course, I'm willing to change my mind if anyone can unearth any evidence that it did occur.
Categories: Animals, Pranks
Posted by Alex on Wed Jun 10, 2009
Comments (6)
China's official news agency, Xinhua, is claiming that thousands of dolphins spontaneously decided to protect a fleet of Chinese merchant ships that were being attacked by Somali pirates:
The Chinese merchant ships escorted by a China’s fleet sailed on the Gulf of Aden when they met some suspected pirate ships. Thousands of dolphins suddenly leaped out of water between pirates and merchants when the pirate ships headed for the China’s. The suspected pirates ships stopped and then turned away. The pirates could only lament their littleness befor the vast number of dolphins. The spectacular scene continued for a while.

The NY Times is skeptical, though it concedes that the US military has been training dolphins for years, so maybe the Chinese have perfected the use of dolphins as an anti-piracy force.
Categories: Animals, Military
Posted by Alex on Thu Apr 16, 2009
Comments (4)
There's a lot of speculation in the town of York, New Hampshire Maine about the skunk signs that were placed on many traffic-enforcement signs on April 1st. The signs feature hand-painted, smiling skunks wearing yellow sashes with the word "Enforcer" painted on. The signs also have a drawing of a zebra with the statement, "Whoever says they did it, didn't do it." When asked if the police were going to be contacted, Community Development Director Steve Burns said, "They're our No. 1 suspect." After collecting all the signs, Burns received a mysterious note made from words cut out of newspapers: "Honorary special agent Burns, enforcer skunks in your protective custody ... Be watchful. ... escape possible!" [Seacoast Online]
Categories: Animals, April Fools Day, Pranks
Posted by Alex on Wed Apr 08, 2009
Comments (4)
Why did pranksters steal a lamb from Jim Dufosee's field on Salisbury Plain and leave it on a doorstep of a house in Pound Street. Nobody knows. However, the picture of the lamb being held by the farmer should provide you with your daily dose of cuteness. [wiltshire.co.uk]
Categories: Animals, Pranks
Posted by Alex on Wed Apr 08, 2009
Comments (0)
A NY Times article about the biology of deceit notes that among primates there's "a direct relationship between sneakiness and brain size." It offers this story:

chimpanzees or orangutans in captivity sometimes tried to lure human strangers over to their enclosure by holding out a piece of straw while putting on their friendliest face.
“People think, Oh, he likes me, and they approach,” Dr. de Waal said. “And before you know it, the ape has grabbed their ankle and is closing in for the bite. It’s a very dangerous situation.”

Apparently dolphins are also capable of deceit:

After dolphin trainers at the Institute for Marine Mammals Studies in Mississippi had taught the dolphins to clean the pools of trash by rewarding the mammals with a fish for every haul they brought in, one female dolphin figured out how to hide trash under a rock at the bottom of the pool and bring it up to the trainers one small piece at a time.

My cat is definitely capable of deception. Sometimes she'll pretend to be sleeping, but when you walk by her, Whack!, she gets you with her paw.
Categories: Animals, Science
Posted by Alex on Tue Dec 23, 2008
Comments (10)
From Cabela's you can buy actual Jackalope Sausage:

The jackalope is nearly impossible to find, yet, we've successfully located the elusive animal and captured its wonderful flavoring. Jackalope (i.e. antelope, rabbit and beef) are mixed together and smoked slowly for mouth-watering results. An amusing gift for the skeptic and believer alike. Contains three 6-oz. "jackalope" summer sausages.

Eating this would be kind of contrary to the idea of trying to Save the Jackalope. Nevertheless, I've ordered some to find out what it's like.
Categories: Animals, Folklore/Tall Tales, Food
Posted by Alex on Tue Dec 23, 2008
Comments (2)
Black Dog Syndrome is defined as "the propensity of dark-coated animals to be passed over for adoption [at animal shelters] in favor of their lighter counterparts."

Reasons why the syndrome may exist: the age-old association of light with good and dark with evil; "Black dogs often don't photograph well. Facial features disappear, and animals can appear less expressive"; "black dogs sometimes fade away into the kennel shadows".

And apparently black cats face the same problem as black dogs.

However, there's debate over whether this syndrome is real. Many shelter and rescue leaders insist it's real, but skeptics note that the statistics don't seem to back up this perception. The general manager of the LA Animal Services Department notes: "In the last 12 months... 27% of the 30,046 dogs taken in by his department were predominantly or all black. Of those that were adopted, 28% were predominantly or all black." Link: LA Times.
Categories: Animals
Posted by Alex on Mon Dec 08, 2008
Comments (10)
When the Obamas recently announced they were searching for a dog to have in the White House, they noted that one of the criteria was that it would need to be hypoallergenic, since Malia is allergic to dogs. The media quickly raised the possibility of a White House poodle, since poodles are supposedly a hypoallergenic breed.

Skeptics have quickly pointed out that the idea of a hypoallergenic dog breed is a myth. Individuals dogs may produce less of the protein that causes the allergic reaction (and this protein can be found in the dander, urine, saliva, and fur of dogs). However, there is no dog breed as a whole that produces less of the protein. And if someone is very allergic to dogs, they're going to react to all dogs.

So, assuming that Malia's allergies are relatively mild and manageable, instead of focusing on certain breeds, the Obamas should test individual dogs for their compatibility with Malia. However, it is true they should avoid long-haired dogs because such dogs trap more allergens in their fur, in the same way that a shag carpet traps more allergens than a hardwood floor.

Links: Yahoo! News video, How Stuff Works. (Thanks, Big Gary!)
Categories: Animals, Health/Medicine
Posted by Alex on Mon Nov 17, 2008
Comments (9)
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