Friday, August 13, 2010

Animal uprising: sensationalism at its most entertaining

Animal Planet first aired its hour-long program, “The Uprising” on Sunday, but my husband and I caught it on TV last night.
I was flipping through the channels when I came across images of dogs viciously attacking something. Generally speaking, any image of a dog on TV will make me stop on that channel.
At first, I was shocked at what the program was reporting — that packs of wild dogs are turning against humans, attacking them not just for food, but out of aggression alone. The wild dog segment of the program profiled an elderly couple believed to be killed by a pack of wild dogs and talked about the growing wild dog problem across the globe — even mentioning a giant pack of dogs in some remote country that targeted a small village and went on a rampage, killing nine people.
The segment also mentioned Detroit’s wild dog problem, which there most definitely is one. My husband works in the neighborhood streets of downtown Detroit every day and many of the guys in his crew keep bags of dog food in their trucks, throwing it out to those feral dogs that look sickly and emaciated.
The program went on to profile a number of incredible attacks launched by animals on humans — from New Dehli monkeys killing the city’s deputy mayor after he stepped out on a second floor balcony to the python problem in Florida’s everglades and perhaps most interesting, the growing coyote population of inner-city Chicago.
The coyote segment was perhaps when I realized just how far this show was taking rare instances and trying to turn them into a pattern.
A female singer was killed by a pack of coyotes in recent years. It happened somewhere out west and let’s be clear, this is an incredibly, incredibly rare incident. The show did disclose that no one really knows what happened to the young woman — whether she was somehow injured or had fallen prior to the attack — and that it’s only the second human death resulting from a coyote attack to ever have been recorded.
The show then turned to Chicago, where coyotes are adapting to the urban environment. Their inner-city population is increasing, yet in keeping with coyotes’ nature, they’re rarely seen.
I found the show to be captivating, but very sensational. They highlighted specific instances of extreme animal behavior from around the globe and mixed it in with some real problems, like invasive species of snakes invading Florida, and wrapped it all up in one big conclusion that animals are turning against humans because we’re taking up too much space.
The conclusion is the sensational part that I have a problem with. Animals are not forming some sort of animal army, communicating across their species and across the world to plot how they will eliminate humans. That’s just foolish.
And it’s foolish to make people terrified of coyotes or even wild dogs.
Coyotes are small animals who hunt alone except for in very rare circumstances. They naturally want to stay away from humans and I’ve heard wildlife officials say the scent of urine from a large lab is enough to keep a coyote at bay. Conversely, they do pose a threat to smaller dogs and cats and they definitely are here in Oakland County. (Read more about coyotes in Oakland County)
To make people think that coyotes might just gang up in a pack and set about killing humans on a regular basis is just sensationalism, though.
Same with wild dogs. Dogs do not revert to being hunters of wild game just because they’ve been abandoned. They’re far more likely to survive in an urban setting, where they can scavenge for food in garbage cans and outside residents, than in a rural environment. (Read an earlier post about dogs being abandoned in the wild)
Wild dogs can carry diseases, become territorial and behave aggressively in a myriad of situations, however. I recommend people stay away from feral dogs. You just don’t know how the dog will react to any sort of advances.
And while a growing wild dog population certainly is a problem, I don’t think it’s the type of problem this program chalked it up to be. There’s lots of reasons to worry about wild dogs, but the idea that our household pets might desert us and join up with a gang of wild dogs to exact revenge on us is not one of them.
Having said all that, I found the show absolutely fascinating despite it’s sensationalism.
Check it out for yourself and let me know what you think.

No comments:

Post a Comment