Dangerous animals

Articles in ‘Dangerous animals’

Is the economic “crisis” in Spain helping the Iberian wolf?

March 17th, 2014

lobo_iberico1An interesting article in the Guardian about the Iberian Wolf states that Spain is now a wolf stronghold and there are thought to be more than 250 breeding groups totaling more than 2,000 individuals. But, is the Spanish economic “crisis” really the reason for population increase or is it because of better education, local awareness and more land under the protective arm of natural and national parks?

See also the Iberianature Forum Topic – Wolves in Spain

Wolves traditionally flourish in times of political and economic crisis. Their return to Europe in the past 20 years is thought to be linked to widespread rural depopulation and the collapse of the Soviet Union. The demise of the USSR saw a near 50% increase in the number of wolves in the 1990s, as animals that had been kept under control by state-sponsored culling were left to roam unchecked and many packs crossed into sparsely populated areas of Poland, Germany and Scandinavia. Read the rest of this entry

Portuguese Men O’ War in Spanish Mediterranean

May 26th, 2009

Photo by Scott Sonnenberg (wikipedia)

The Portuguese Man O’ War (Physalia physalis), one of the world’s most poisonous “jellyfish”, has been spotted off the Andalusian coastline near Almeria and along the Costa del Sol between Cadiz and Malaga. This is the first time they have reached Spain’s coasts for ten years. Scientists have warned the creatures could soon arrive in waters around the Balearic Islands and the Catalan coast. The species is not a true jellyfish but but rather a siphonophore – a colony of four kinds of minute, highly modified individuals, which are specialized polyps and medusoids.

Their sting is 10 times stronger than an ordinary jellyfish. Wikipedia notes:

The stinging venom-filled nematocysts in the tentacles of the Portuguese Man O’ War can paralyze small fish and other prey. Detached tentacles and dead specimens (including those which wash up on shore) can sting just as painfully as the live creature in the water, and may remain potent for hours or even days after the death of the creature or the detachment of the tentacle.Stings usually cause severe pain to humans, leaving whip-like, red welts on the skin which normally last about 2–3 days after the initial sting, the pain should subside after about 1 hour. However, the venom can travel to the lymph nodes and may cause, depending on the amount of venom, more intense pain. A sting may lead to an allergic reaction. There can also be serious effects, including fever, shock, and interference with heart and lung action. There have even been deaths, although this is rare. Medical attention may be necessary, especially where pain persists or is intense, or there is an extreme reaction, or the rash worsens, or a feeling of overall illness develops, or a red streak develops between swollen lymph nodes and the sting, or if either area becomes red, warm and tender.

Treatment for Man O’ War stings elsewhere on the body involve washing the affected area with salt water and then applying ice to dull the pain. More here

“Climate change is changing the migration patterns of many creatures. If they establish themselves it would be very worrying because they really are very dangerous,” Xavier Pastor, the European director of the Oceana ecological campaigning group, told the Independent.Even dead or washed up on shore the creatures still pose a threat because their tentacles retain their poison.”The Portuguese Man O’ War hasn’t been seen in the Mediterranean for a decade, and its appearance off the Spanish coast could herald a process of colonisation, which has happened with other invading species,” Mr Pastor said. Read in The Daily Telegraph

The Portuguese Man O’ War (named caravela-portuguesa in Portuguese) is named for its air bladder, which looks similar to the triangular sails of the Portuguese ship (man-of-war) Caravela latina (two- or three-masted lateen-rigged ship caravel), of the 15th and 16th centuries. As can be seen in the photo. Photo (wikipedia)

See also last year: Portuguese man o’war threat in Cantabrian Sea

Tiger mosquito continues to spread

May 26th, 2009

The tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus)  is continuing its seemingly unstoppable march across Catalonia and is now present in 87 municipalities. The insect was first detected in the Iberian Peninsula in Sant Cugat del Vallès in 2004.

El Periodico

Hunter injured by bear

October 27th, 2008

Update 27/10/2008. It is clear that this story has been blown out of all proportion to the facts and the risks involved. A man received slight injuries to his foot, and the result is the call for the removal of all bears from the Pyrenees. How many slight injuries to feet are sustained every day in the Pyrenees due to a whole host of reasons? Skiing accident. Let’s ban skiing. Iron falling on your foot. Let’s ban ironing. Children playing in the park. Let’s ban playing.

Thankfully the Catalan authorities are seeing sense in this matter and are refusing to listen to the yuppie owners of Vall d’Aran. As Simon on the forum points out the Catalan Minsitry of the Environment should no more take into account the opinions of hotel owners than these should listen to the former’s advice on how to make beds. For me, the underlying problem is the ridiculous amount of local automony and respect afforded to a small area, just because they happen to speak a different language. The Aranese have powers in the environment, while the next valley along which doesn’t happen to speak a different language, doesn’t. This means that they can I think, in effect, legally remove the bear in question. These small number of persons, in many cases greedily linked to the skiing and hotel industry, are going against what by all accounts are the wishes of the majority of people in Catalonia who want to maintain the bear reintroduction programme. It’s a mockery of democracy.

Update 26/10/2008. The Aranese authorities are now searching for the bear Hvala with the objective of shooting it with tranquillising darts and removing it from the wild. They claim this is to avoid a “generalised vendetta” against all bears in the area (El Periodico) Meanwhile, the ecological organisation Depana while lamenting the injuries to the man, lay the blame at poorly organised boar hunts, and note that bears and boar hunting are perfectly compatible when managed properly, citing the example of the Cordillera Cantábrica.

Original story. Bad news for bears in the Pyrenees. A boar hunter in the Vall d’Aran was bitten today by a bear and has suffered minor injuries to his foot and hand. Although this is the first time a human has been attacked by a bear in the Pyrenees since the reintroduction programme began in 1996, it has led to calls from the Aranese government for the removal of all bears from the range, claiming that the “bear reintroduction experiment has failed”. One suspects that the Aranese authorities have been looking any excuse to stop the programme. So far the Catalan government has called for calm. The bear in question is “called” Hvala, the same bear which was filmed last month. New Vote No to reconsidering the reintroduction programme at La Vanguardia below.

Portuguese man o’war threat in Cantabrian Sea

July 20th, 2008

Portuguese man o'war

Photo by Scott Sonnenberg (wikipedia)

In recent weeks the presence of Portuguese man o’war (Sp. carabela portuguesa- Physalia phisalis) has been detected at various points on the coasts of Asturias, Cantabria and the Basque Country. Several people have been stung in beaches in Guipúzcoa (Ondarreta and Zarautz) and in Cantabria (Isla) although nobody has yet been seriously injured. Four years ago, the massive presence of the species forced the closure of several beaches in Asturias. Experts believe that the rise in the temperature of the Cantabrian Sea due to climate change has brought the Portuguese man o’war here with warmer waters. The cooler waters of Galicia have so far been free of the threat. El País. The purple Man-o-war is not a true jellyfish, but a colony of hydrozoan polyps. It can in extreme cases provoke a cardiac arrest and death in particularly sensitive persons.

Note the English and Spanish etymology comes from the creature’s air bladder, which looks similar to the triangular sails of the Portuguese ship (man-of-war) Caravela latina (two- or three-masted lateen-rigged ship caravel), of the 15th and 16th centuries. See Wikipedia

See also: Sharks, weaver fish, jellyfish and other dangerous animals in the seas around Spain

Jellyfish plague warning

February 29th, 2008

Scientists have warned of a new plague of jellyfish to hit Spain this summer. The Guardian here reports that scientists were “alarmed to detect large numbers of the Pelagia noctiluca, commonly known as the “mauve stinger”, growing in the winter”.

..A study has revealed that jellyfish proliferate throughout the year, not just in the summer. Between November and January, scientists discovered 30 colonies, or blooms, ranging in size from four to 10 jellyfish per cubic metre of water, all along the Catalan coast. “The problem seen on the beaches is not the main concern for scientists….Jelly expert Professor Gili, noted “For us the major worry is the global disequilibrium in the sea caused by over-fishing.” In 2006, the Red Cross treated 21,000 people who had been stung on the beaches of Catalonia, while on a single day in August, 400 bathers were treated at a beach in Málaga. One cause of the problem is the decrease in leatherback turtles, a principal predator, which have been driven to the point of extinction because the beaches where they lay eggs have been used for tourism.

Murcia shark closes beaches

August 30th, 2007

Several beaches in La Manga, Murica, have been closed after bathers spotted a shark – apparantly shortfin mako shark (marrajo, Isurus oxyrinchus). This is despite calls for calm from Murcian shark experts who note that the mako is not dangerous (La Verdad). Let us hope this does not have the same lamentable ending as this month’s shark in Valencia. The mako is now considered endangered as it is a favourite catch among commercial and recreational fishermen.  See also sharks in Spain

200 cases of tularemia in Castilla y Leon

August 29th, 2007

The Junta del Castilla y León have confirmed 42 new cases of tularemia (also known as rabbit fever) among the population, in all probability trasmitted directly and indirectly by common voles after the explosion of their population in the region. So far in 2007, a total of 200 people have caught the disease, endemic to the region, though last year there was only one case. El Pais See also Explosion of common vole population in Castilla

Wikipedia notes on tularemia “The disease has a very rapid onset, with headache, fatigue, dizziness, muscle pains, loss of appetite and nausea. Face and eyes redden and become inflamed. Inflammation spreads to the lymph nodes, which enlarge and may suppurate (mimicking bubonic plague). Lymph node involvement is accompanied by a high fever. Death may result”

Note: with antibiotics tularemia is not usually life-threatening though the recovery period takes time.

Man survives viper bite

July 24th, 2007

A hiker has survived a viper bite in La Pedriza, Madrid, which would make it a Lataste’s viper or snub-nosed viper. 3-4 people probably die a year from viper bites in Spain, although this figure may now be lower due to the expansion in rural health facilities and the fact that there aren’t as many people working in the countryside. Sobrevivir a una víbora El Pais

Photo of a Lataste’s viper or snub-nosed viper

Venemous snakes in Spain + Bites and stings from animals in Spain Iberianature

Black flies in the Ebro

July 22nd, 2007

My Tortosí friends have been complaining about these for several years now. The images of the bites I’ve seen on TV are nasty. We’re actually dealing with two species from Africa Simulium intermedium and Simulium ornatum On occasions, farmers with orchards along the River Ebro have had great difficulty harvesting their crops

Black flies in Catalonia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_fly

Spain hit by plague of blood-sucking black flies

Dale Fuchs in Madrid Monday June 25, 2007 The Guardian

A plague of black flies has prompted authorities in north-eastern Spain to issue warnings on TV and fliers advising people to cover up and avoid riverside areas in the early morning and dusk.
The insect has been quickly breeding – and sucking blood – along the rivers and reservoirs of Catalonia and Aragon, causing alarm in small towns.

Only two to three millimetres long, the fly is much smaller and harder to spot than most mosquitoes, but its voracious bite sent more than 2,000 people to hospital last year in Catalonia alone. Its vigorous jaw, which releases a cocktail of chemicals, can produce allergic reactions.

“If the mosquito is a neurosurgeon that bites with a probe, the black fly is a butcher that scratches the skin and makes you bleed,” Raul Escosa, member of an Ebro river environmental board, told El Pais.
“We had to take my 18-year-old daughter to the dermatologist and the allergist because she had a dozen swellings of eight to 10 centimetres,” said Jesus Llop, a town council member in the town of Mequinenza.

The black fly, an umbrella term for several Simulium species, was first detected in the region in 1997, and it has been making its annoying presence increasingly felt. Unlike the mosquito, it breeds in clean river water. Regional experts believe the current outbreak stems from improvements in water quality and new irrigation channels, which created a new habitat.

The insect injects an anaesthetic, an anti-clotting agent and a vasodilator into the skin of its host, who belatedly notices the damage after the fly has moved on. In Switzerland an attacking swarm reportedly killed a calf.