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Welcome to my Nightmares of Nature.
I'm Naomi Wilkinson, and I'm coming face-to-face
with the nightmares of the animal world.
The ones that make your spine tingle...
..your heart beat faster...
..and your blood run cold.
What's that noise?
Are they truly terrifying?
Or is there a twist in the tale?
Come with me as I shine a light
on wildlife's deepest, darkest secrets...
and see if you can guess which will be my worst nightmare.
This time we're in the mighty US of A, baby!
Look out America, we have arrived!
It might be hot, sunny and glamorous,
but life won't be a beach for me here.
By land, sea and air, I'm on a mission to find some truly bizarre
and dangerous wildlife.
But don't let that put you off. I'm sure I'll find
something cute and furry to look at too.
Just hope it hasn't got big teeth.
First stop is the harbour
where I've got a date with a slippery customer.
Some creatures of nightmares are disgusting. Come with me
cos over here, I've got some really revolting characters to show you.
In here, these are hagfish.
Now, these rather grotesque-looking creatures slither along
the watery depths of the ocean looking for food.
They are almost blind,
but they do have a really well developed sense of smell and touch,
so they use these whisker-like tentacles around their mouth
to feel around and they use their noses to smell for a meal.
They are really weird! They have no stomach, no jaws, no true eyes
and teeth on their tongues! Eugh!
Now when they find a meal,
they'll use these quite terrifying-looking mouthparts
to rasp and chew away at the food. If they find a dead or a dying fish
they will bury their way inside
and literally eat it from the inside out!
They are really ugly! I'm sorry, boys, but you are!
But it doesn't end there.
They have one of the most horrific defence mechanisms.
If a predator tries to bite one of these,
the attacker will find its mouth and its gills
gummed up with slime.
That's why they're otherwise known as slime eels.
I'm going to try to try and show you how they produce slime, by lifting
one out of here and putting it into this tank so we can have
a good old look at it!
Which means that I've got to put my hands in there.
I don't want to do that! Right, shall we do it?
-Go on, Naomi!
Will it bite me? I hope not. Right. Ooh!
I don't know what it is going to feel like. Slippery, I think.
Ooh, I don't want to do it.
Right. Get brave. Oh, oh!
Gosh, it's slippery. It's just slipped straight out of my hand!
Oh, my gosh, I don't like them!
Right. Oh! That one is trying to bite me.
Just go ee-ee-ee!
They kind of do this.
Right, come on, Mr Slippery from Slipsville.
I got a cheer from the restaurant!
That's very nice!
You can see he's got mucus glands running along the side of his body.
They can have up to 400 glands per fish, and these mucus glands
secrete a mix of protein and sugar. When it mixes with the sea water,
it becomes the slime. And the protein strands in the slime
make it very, very sticky!
OK, so I've managed to get one in there, I'm going to see
if I can get a few more in with him,
so we can get loads of slime going on.
Woah, come on, Naomi! Oh no!
Oh, right, we've got three in here now!
OK, I'm going to pretend I'm a predator,
having a go at the hagfish,
and see if it does anything to get rid of me...
Oh! Yes, it started to do it, I felt it! Straight away.
Yes, here we go, look. Eugh! Almost instantly it is producing tons
and tons of egg-yolky slime! That's incredible!
One single hagfish can turn a 25-litre bucketful of water
into slime in minutes! This is crazy, just look. I can lift out
handfuls of the stuff! If you chew on hagfish slime, it will expand!
But I'm not going to demonstrate that bit!
It's just like thick bogey, really.
Surely this has got to be my worst nightmare?
After freaking myself out with the disgusting hagfish,
I fancy taking it easy - and there's a nightmare creature
living here in California that takes chilling out to a whole new level.
I've heard the best way to hang out with them is to use paddle power.
Ha-ha, let's do it!
SEA LIONS BARK
Listen to the sea lions!
No, they're not the nightmare I'm looking for.
Perhaps the nightmare is underneath me,
lurking in all that seaweedy kelp.
It's a sea otter.
That's it! My sea-faring Californian nightmare is...the sea otter!
Hang on a minute. A sea otter?
Sea otters are the smallest marine mammal in the world,
and they spend pretty much all their time in the water, hunting, feeding,
even sleeping. They'll sleep just like this, as you can see them now
on their backs. They'll just wrap themselves
around a little piece of kelp, so they don't float away!
That one's just doing a roly poly!
They've got the densest fur of any mammal.
You think your dad's hairy -
well, these guys have got 100,000 hairs per centimetre.
So that's why they don't feel the cold sea water,
it keeps them protected. Their fur's also got specials oils in it
to keep it waterproof and it also helps them float.
That's why they can just bob around on the surface like little corks!
A nightmare of nature. Are you serious?
Surely these guys are only a nightmare if you're a clam?
Clams are a sea otter's favourite food.
They'll dive down to the kelp bed or sea floor to gather them,
then bring them back to the surface together with a large stone.
Floating on their back, they balance the stone on their tummies
and smash the hard-shelled seafood to pieces, so that they can get
to the tasty stuff on the inside.
I think that makes them pretty smart!
This is the life, eh, sea otters?
This is the life.
But that's enough loafing around. I'm here to find out
why these fluffy bundles are causing a nightmare here in California,
so I need to get the gossip from the locals.
Ahoy there, Captain Christian!
I hear you're just the man who can tell me
why sea otters are a nightmare.
-I will, I'll tell you why they're a nightmare to my boat.
-I'll just follow you, shall I?
-Yeah, come this way.
So, every once in a while we catch 'em over here on the bow of the boat.
They like to swim up and have their backs along the bow there
and smash their clams there on the bow. They rip up all the paint,
they chip the fibreglass.
Believe it or not, these naughty nightmares are vandals.
The crafty scallywags chip away at the fancy boats in the harbour
to smash open their seafood suppers,
and Captain Christian is not best pleased.
We have to haul the boat out,
so it's a pretty extensive bit of damage they end up doing.
-Yeah, and when are they doing this?
-They'll do it at any time of the day,
the worst time is three in the morning when I'm sleeping.
-Cos you sleep on your boat, do you?
-I sleep on my boat, right here.
So, your head's right next to where they're banging?
Right where they're banging! They wind up, get a good old crack on it.
-Do you catch them in the act?
-Catch 'em in the act.
I like to sneak up along the deck, so I scare 'em real good,
-so he gets away, yah!
-Do you just shine a torch on them?
No, I just lean over the top of the railing and go, "Get out of here!"
Poor little things. And he'll go...
-And they're gone.
-They're gone, yeah.
-So, when they're done eating...
-Ah, look, look, look down here!
Would you believe it, is this something they've been munching on?
-Nice bit of crab!
-So when they eat this
and the clam shells and everything,
they poo it out and it's all chewed up, so when we run off the dock
in bare feet, we step on it and cut our feet up.
-Cut your feet on crunchy crab poo?
Do you dislike them because of it? Because I think they're so cute!
You know, I dislike getting up at three o'clock in the morning
to shoo them away, but for the most part, I like them!
They're too cute not to like!
-They have got really sweet little faces!
-Yeah, little puppy dogs!
So I can see why for some people like Captain Christian,
they are an absolute nightmare, but for me, no way.
Sea otters are just furry fuzzballs, way too cute.
Couldn't possibly be my worst nightmare.
Well, not until I save up enough money to own my first yacht, anyway!
Next, we're leaving the coast and heading inland.
I'm going to meet a bird who is a real nightmare of nature
in the looks department.
# You ain't got no alibi
# You ugly, hey, hey, you ugly. #
Seriously, I'm talking this is a bird that has a head
only a mother could love! So, I'll take you down to meet Joseph
to get a close-up look at it.
And he's part of the Californian Condor Recovery Programme.
-Hey there, Naomi!
-Wow! What is going on here?
So this is a juvenile California condor
-who we're just about to let go.
-We're going to release it into the wild?
-Yeah, releasing him right into the wild.
-That's so special!
Just processed him, we're ready to let him go.
-So what happens?
-So I'm just going to set him down here.
Get his feet on the ground and then he wants to go, so...there he goes!
The Californian condor is the biggest bird in North America.
Its wingspan is nearly three metres from tip to tip -
that's like the height of your living room.
They've been brought back from the brink of extinction
by the work of scientists like Joseph.
So, that's not the only one you're helping out today then?
No, I've loads more to show ya! So come take a look.
Shall we get going? Wow! How many birds have you got in here?
Ah, there's about 20 birds in here,
so it's a pretty good portion of the wild population.
-We're running around with a net, trying to catch one?!
-Yeah, so James
is going to start flushing them off these high perches.
-You try and catch them in flight, do you?
-No, we're going to wait
until they get down on the ground.
Cor, the noise their feathers make is incredible!
There you go. This guy here, he's making it easy on us.
So I've got him in the net and I just got to get him out of the net...
So I'm just going to set him down over here.
The reason we're doing this is to give them, like, a little check-up.
-Yes, we'll give them an exam.
-Oh, he's watching you.
Yeah, so he's really interested in biting me,
but if I move slow enough,
I can just reach right up and get a hold of his head.
It's kind of a trust issue.
-There, I got him.
-So there he is, out of the net.
There he is, number 60. Oh, look at his face!
-Do you think they're attractive?
-Yeah, erm, you learn to like them.
Hmmm! Let's go and check you out then.
Naomi, do you think you can help me handle this condor?
-Do you think I can handle it?
-I definitely think you can.
OK, so the first thing we're going to do is set the condor in your lap.
He'll hold it out like the bird was in flight position,
that's a comfortable position for the bird.
That means it can't push down and fly away.
Now you're going to take this arm and hold that wing,
-hold it up against your body.
-Cor, he's strong, isn't he?
They are pretty strong, but you're stronger than him,
-especially with his wings folded.
So now we're going to have to control
this nice, sharp beak that he's got here.
-Could this take my finger off?
-It definitely could go down to the bone!
-Keep that thumb on top of his skull.
Hold onto the skull, and then you want to just press that head
-back against the nape of the neck.
-And this isn't hurting him at all?
-It's not hurting him at all.
-So you have control of the condor!
The underside of his beak is so soft.
Can't quite get over how soft that skin feels.
I want you, Naomi, to just kind of roll the bird up this way
and we're going to slide one of the legs out in between your legs.
Now we can roll him back down.
So now I have the leg to draw the blood.
You're going to draw blood from him?
Yes, we're going to draw blood. Unfortunately, this is like a trip to the doctor's for the condor.
So this is a bit of a messy job here
cos condors will wee all over their legs.
I have to clean all that excrement off their legs before I draw blood.
Why do they do that?!
Yeah, it seems kinda silly, but that's the way that condors stay cool.
Condors don't sweat like we do, they don't pant like dogs do,
they wee on their legs, and that gets their legs nice and wet,
then that wetness evaporates, and keeps them cool.
Now, if my ugly friend reminds you of a vulture,
there's a very good reason for that.
Just like these vultures, condors are nature's cleaner-uppers.
They scour the plains looking for dead stuff to eat.
Both condors and vultures have bald heads and necks,
which they can stick into carcasses to get at the soft,
grim stuff inside - without a face full of feathers,
it's much easier to keep yourself clean.
So does anyone find this bird attractive?
Does he have a girlfriend?
This bird just became an adult bird, so he's on the market!
-So not yet.
He is actively looking for a mate, and just by the look of him,
I think he'll do well.
He's a pretty good-looking bird.
# You're beautiful, you're beautiful... #
Once the birds have had their check-up, it's time to fly.
Once they're in the sky where they belong,
you can see how stunning condors truly are.
It's really quite calming to watch.
And from here, I can't see his ugly mug!
-It'd be pretty cool to fly like a bird, wouldn't it?
Every time I watch a condor soar, that's what I think about.
-Well, I do have something for you, speaking of which.
Joseph, that's very kind, you shouldn't have!
"Click your fingers"?
Looks like I'm going to be taking a flight of my own.
Well, the condor is one of the largest flying birds in the world.
And today there's going to be another big bird taking to the skies!
This is about 11m of wing,
I'm going to need all the help I can get to get me airborne!
We've got the technical gadgets so you can come along with us for the ride,
and also my pilot, Rob. He's going to keep me safe aren't you?
I feel sick now.
Look where we're going to run straight off the edge of a mountain!
Got to be mad!
Oh, this is crazy high!
So, are we actually ready to go now? Are we actually going?
-Screaming is allowed.
Yeah, I might scream I'm sorry,
-I'll try not to deafen you too much.
-Do we have any ear plugs?
I'm absolutely terrified now!
I'm excited, I want to do it, but I'm really, really nervous!
My word! Ha!
Oh, it takes your breath away, doesn't it?
'Now I really know what it's like to fly like a condor.'
This is so cool!
It's making my eyes water.
Ah, I feel the air!
I just totally felt the thermal.
Hang gliders and condors use similar techniques to fly.
So we're all looking for that hot air rising from the ground
to provide us with the lift.
They're called thermals to keep us up in the air. Woo!
This is a proper bird's-eye view absolutely incredible!
I can't believe how high we are.
We're flying at about 1500m, a condor would be flying at about 4500m.
That's so high!
Makes you realise how incredible their eyesight is, because they can spot a carcass from up here,
even with binoculars I wouldn't stand a chance!
And they can see something as small as a rabbit. It's nuts!
Oh, wow. I think I can see the crew I can make out a couple
of tiny little dots down there.
Not sure if I'm waving at the crew!
Just as we get ready to land. Coming in really quite fast!
And there's our crew. Hi!
Oh, I've got jelly legs, watery eyes, I'm shaking like a leaf!
Thankfully, I haven't weed down my legs like a condor.
Rob, thank you that was just something else.
Wow! What an incredible experience!
I mean, first getting to meet a condor,
then fly like one, I mean it's got to be said
when it comes to looks and appearances,
the condor is a nightmare of nature but they make that flying look so easy.
For me, jumping off the top of that mountain has surely got to be
one of my worst nightmares!
Here in California, there is one nightmare of nature
that is truly deadly.
I'm talking about the rattlesnake.
Rattlesnakes get their name from the bracelet of dead scales at the end of their tail.
They use it to warn predators to stay away -
but over 800 Americans are bitten accidentally every year.
I'm not sure there is anywhere safe from these slithering serpents.
Luckily, there are doctors on hand to help
so I've come to the home of Dr Sean Bush, who is an expert in these
snakes and their venom. I want to try to find out what all the fuss
is about and what it might feel like to get bitten!
-Nice to meet you.
-Come on inside.
I'd like to introduce you to my latest snakebite patient.
She was bitten by a rattlesnake just two weeks ago.
-No way! Oh, hello, Sierra.
-Can I shake your hand?
Nice to meet you. How do you do?
-You were bitten by a rattlesnake two weeks ago.
Tell me what happened.
All right, I went to the shed with my dad,
and then I went in the house, and then the snake was in our porch.
And then my dad carried me in the house and I was screaming
-on the floor.
-I bet you were.
-And then my dad was freaking out.
I'm not surprised!
-Where did it bite you?
So the bite mark's gone, completely. Did you feel its teeth go in?
-And then what happened to your body?
It was swelled up like that.
It changed colour, like black and red and blue.
-Your leg went black and red and blue?
-But you feel better now?
I'm really glad you're all right.
What should I do so that I don't get bitten by a rattlesnake
when I'm going out and about?
You better watch out!
And Sierra is absolutely right.
I HAD better watch out and get kitted up, because Dr Sean
is going to introduce me to one of California's most dangerous
rattlesnake species - and this one was found in someone's back garden!
Come on then, Dr Sean, let's take the snake out.
-I'm going to stand at a safe distance.
OK. I'm going to just open this and set it on its side
-and let the snake come out.
-Where's the best place for me to stand?
I think you're pretty good, you're out of the strike range, so that'll work.
-And there he is.
-There he is.
-Oh my goodness!
The Southern Pacific rattlesnake can grow to well over a metre long,
have 2cm fangs which can grow back if broken.
They also have potent venom,
and one bite can kill a human within 24 hours.
-Naomi, would you like to have a closer look at the snake?
-She says, tentatively.
-Here we go,
I've got this tube that I'm going to see
if I can persuade the snake to go into.
By holding it in the tube, Dr Sean and I can study the snake
without us hurting the snake or the snake hurting us.
-And there he is.
-Oh my goodness, I can see his eyes!
Just can't believe I'm this close to a rattlesnake!
So its fangs are hidden inside?
Right, the fangs fold back against the roof of the mouth.
And then venom comes from the venom glands, and goes down the hollow
fangs and injects like a hypodermic syringe into the victim.
By injecting lethal venom directly into its prey, the rattlesnake
ensures its victim is dead before it's swallowed - whole.
-If you want, you can hold him.
-And you stay right there.
-I'm going to stay right here.
-Holding something that has the power to kill me?
-As long as you don't panic, we're good.
-If you get bit, then it's OK to panic!
We want to tag this snake, so that whenever we release him,
we want to see if he crops up again in someone's yard.
-We'll get a little nail polish here.
Yeah, cos that stays on. I got a nice blue colour to match.
Would you like to do the honours?
-Let me get a hold of the snake, as it makes me
more comfortable when I'm holding it.
-Don't let go until I'm sure I've got a good grip.
-No worries. Not letting go of that.
-All right, now let go.
Do you mind if I use this colour?
-It's more my shade.
So I'm just going to paint all around that last rattle, yeah?
-Is that too much?
-Put a lot on there, so we'll be able to see it.
And this won't do any damage to it?
No, it's just like painting your fingernails.
Once this rattlesnake is back in the wild,
he'll be easily recognisable with his bright pink tail.
Looks lovely suits you, that colour!
Not sure he agrees.
So rattlesnakes are extremely well-equipped for hunting,
and as we have seen, they can inflict a very nasty bite.
People here in California? They just have to get used to living
side-by-side with them.
I'm not sure if they're my worst nightmare or not
but at least I made one look a bit prettier!
I wonder if they'd like eye shadow and lipstick as well.
I dunno do snakes even have lips?
Well, I've had some pretty scary nightmares here in California,
from the hideous hagfish to the air-conquering condor
and yacht-wrecking otters.
But which one gets the title of California's worst
nightmare of nature?
Well, it has to be the snake that could have me
fighting for my life in intensive care.
The rattlesnake is definitely my California nightmare of nature.
And here is a clam an otter's bite-size treat.
Hard, tough outer shell, hiding a tasty morsel inside.
I've just got to work out how to get into it.
Oh. This'll do it.
Easy if you've got the right tools.