This week's saga of the search for a rare but potentially deadly albino cobra snake in Thousand Oaks is just one of many stories where animals, wild and domestic, have put Angelenos on edge.
See also: Albino Cobra Is in Custody!
We're an exotic pet capital, and beyond that, Southern California exists on a perpetually porous boundary between urbanity and nature. And while the occasional coyote coming down from the hills to sniff around your backyard is a ho-hum occurrence in some parts of L.A., things aren't always resolved so quickly. Sometimes, when animals try to reclaim their rightful habitat or act on their impulses after a lifetime of captivity, things get scary.
Here are five human/animal interactions that remind us we're living on the edge:
5. Mountain lion attacks. In March 1986 at Ronald W. Caspers Wilderness Park in Orange County, a 5-year-old girl trying to catch tadpoles was nearly swallowed whole by a mountain lion amid unsettling silence. A passerby with a stick persuaded the cat to release its jaws from her head. She survived but remained blind in one eye and partially paralyzed.
4. Shark bites. On July 5 a shark took a bite out of a swimmer off the Manhattan Beach pier. The man in his 40s was part of a group of ocean swimmers who apparently crossed the path of a great white that had been hooked on a pier angler's line for as many as 40 minutes. Luckily the guy, who was bitten in his upper right torso, recovered. Some alleged that the fisherman had agitated the shark, and the city temporarily banned fishing from the pier.
3. Bear eats. Meatball the Glendale bear, a.k.a. Meatball 210, named for its federal wildlife number, was captured by TV news helicopters in 2012 going through garbage, testing out neighborhood pools and rampaging through backyards not his own. He got his name after he was spotted eating from a bag of frozen meatballs.
2. Alligator chills. Reggie the alligator mesmerized the city in the mid-aughts when he showed up at Harbor Regional Park's Lake Machado, the possible victim of an idiot adopting a pet who outgrew his caretaking abilities. Luckily, Reggie didn't eat anybody. Despite numerous sightings, he eluded the long arm of the pet police for quite some time, until he was captured in 2007 and sent to the L.A. Zoo, where he remains.
We saved the most terrifying animal-gone-wild story for last:
1. Chimp attacks. West Covina's St. James Davis and his wife had raised Moe the chimp as a son but had to give him up when authorities decided that he wasn't a legal pet. They were visiting Moe at a sanctuary in 2005—bringing a cake to celebrate his birthday—when two bigger chimps attacked Davis. The violence was extreme, and Davis pretty must lost his face, an eye and, yes, even his genitals. We'll leave some of the details to Esquire's famed account of the episode:
As St. James confronted the chimp, the six-two former running back turned to find a second chimp — also a male, this one older and bigger — bearing down on him as well. With both hands, he pushed the bigger animal. Both chimps pounced. One of the animals grabbed him in a bear hug before chomping into the bone above his right eyebrow. He then stuck his finger in St. James's right eye, gouging it out. The same animal clamped his teeth onto St. James's nose, biting it off, as the other chimp chewed away at St. James's fingers. In the melee, one of the chimps dug in his claws and ripped the skin off the right side of St. James's face, causing it to flop over and cover his left eye, temporarily blinding him. One of the primates sunk his teeth into St. James's skull. He then closed his jaws on St. James's mouth, ripping off his lips and most of his teeth. St. James tried to put one of his hands down the animal's throat, but the chimp just kept chewing on it and chewing on it, and he couldn't get it out.
… St. James fell to the ground, no longer able to defend himself, and for at least five minutes, the mauling continued as he lay helpless. One of the chimps gnawed on his buttocks and bit off his genitals. They ravaged his left foot, leaving it shredded. Blood poured from his body, and LaDonna was screaming. It looked as if they were eating him alive.
Sorry to leave you on such a down note. But think of it this way: When a potentially deadly snake was discovered slithering around an L.A. suburb yesterday, it turned out to be just another harmless day in wild L.A.