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It had been a beautiful, clear day in the Italian mountain villages near the town of Friuli. The only thing unusual was the behavior of the animals that evening.
Peasants working in the fields near the mountains of San Leopoldo heard unusual noises in the woods.
"Look there," said one villager as he pointed upward. "I've never seen anything like it in the region before."
The others glanced up to see more than a dozen roe deer huddled together on the slopes above the village. "There are more deer nearby with their heads down."
"That's strange," said another man. "They're not grazing." He shrugged his shoulders. "Deer never come down into the valley this time of year."
The deer were not the only animals acting strangely. Chickens refused to enter their roosts. Cats in the village mysteriously disappeared. Mice and rats ran around freely. Cattle began bellowing, and the village dogs barked furiously. Many pets refused to enter the homes of their owners. At 9 P.M. on the evening of May 6, 1976, a powerful earthquake (6.5 on the Richter scale) thundered through the area. It destroyed or damaged nearly all structures. Numerous aftershocks turned what was left standing into rubble.
Did the animals sense the disaster that was to come? Do they possess a sixth sense that enables them to predict danger? Many people think so.
As early as 373 B.C, the Greek historian Diodorus wrote that all animals, especially rats, snakes, and even worms and beetles, left the town of Helice in masses one day. A few days later a violent earthquake struck, destroying the city, which sank into the Gulf of Corinth.
Throughout history, there have been accounts of the strange behavior of animals prior to earthquakes and other disasters. So many, in fact, that the Chinese have set up a nationwide earthquake alarm system by having their citizens carefully study animal behavior.
It paid off on February 4, 1975, when a 7.3 quake struck the city of Haicheng. The Chinese had predicted the disaster after noting the actions of panicked cattle, farm animals, and pets in the area. People had been evacuated into shelters. Animals and valuables had been removed from buildings. Although many structures were destroyed, few people died in the quake itself.
Some scientists believe that animals react to physical changes in the earth and the atmosphere just prior to an earthquake. Is there a rumbling or movement of the ground that animals detect before humans can? Do they notice changes in the magnetic and electrical fields of the earth's surface before an earthquake strikes? Or do animals possess extrasensory perception (ESP)special powers beyond the normal five senses of touch, sight, hearing, smell, and taste?
Whether the explanation someday proves to be scientific or psychic, the reason for this unusual animal behavior is still a mystery. But one thing is certain. People who live around possible earthquake sites are paying closer attention to their pets and livestock. It could be a matter of life or death!
Copyright © 1994 by RGA Publishing Group, Inc.