Saturday, October 31, 2009

Fantasy Creatures and Halloween


This post is recycled from 2004.

People seem to have a need for fantasy. I have written in the past about "fantasty diggers" but perhaps something should be said about fantasy creatures as well.

There is the fellow who claims to be an expert in wildlife who says he hunts blue fox, which he describes as a cross between a red fox and a Gray fox. That would be a fascinating cross (!) as these two animals are not remotely related to each other and cannot mate (nor do they wish to).

The same fellow chimed in that American rabbits den underground and that there are rabbit warrens in America. In fact no American rabbit dens underground. All of our native rabbits are cottontails (which is a genus, not a species) or hares and they nest in the shallowest of scrapes in the dirt. The pygmy rabbit, which lived in a small section of the West and was no bigger than a rat, was the one exception, but it is now believed to be extinct in the wild.

America runs rife with fantasy animals. There is Big Foot and Sasquatch, but also the Chupacabra, the Mothmen of Ohio, the Ozark Howler, various types of vampire dogs and Werewoves, and "Chessie" the Lake Champlain version of the Loch Ness Monster.

The U.K. has the same phenomenon, where loose, sem-feral lurchers and sheep-worrying dogs are described as the "Beast of Bonndwyyn" or some other interesting-sounding place.

Tracks are carefully photographed, and the brave locals point to the big claw marks as proof that a large feral cat (a black panther or jaguar or American cougar) is running loose in the allotmments.

In fact, the claw marks are proof that it is not a big cat -- all cats except cheetahs retract their claws when walking or running. If you see claw marks in a track, you have a dog. A dog that looks a lot like a large wild cat is most probably a lurcher. There may be a few feral swamp cats in the UK (as well as Scottish wild cats) but if you have ever seen one of either species, you will not worry about much livestock being lost -- both are hardly bigger than a large house cat.

Tonight, when you see monsters running through your streets, try to remember it's Halloween, and not Chupacabra hunting season. Fantasy is a fine thing -- so long as it's not confused with reality.

4 comments:

Retrieverman said...

Anyone who thinks Vulpes and Urocyon can interbreed is a moron. Anyone who thinks Vulpes and Urocyon are closely related is also a moron.

There is a blue fox. It is a color variant of the Arctic fox that turns bluish gray in the winter, instead of white. In the summer it turns solid blackish or chocolate-brown. Some of them also have blazes on their faces that make them look like collies: http://bioweb.uwlax.edu/bio203/s2008/olson_alex/blue%20morph%20arctic%20fox%20kit.jpg

(These are not Belyaev foxes.)

One little correction the Mothman is from West Virginia. He is associated with a bridge collapse on the Ohio at Pt. Pleasant, WV. Pt. Pleasant makes a big deal out of the Mothman as tourist trap. Although the bridge was going to Ohio, West Virginia owns the Ohio River and all the bridges, so technically, this happened in West Virginia.

You ought to read all the craziness on the Mothman. It's surreal!

PBurns said...

Yes, I know of the "blue fox" that is the arctic fox. There is also a "blue fox" that is a marketing device in Asia for some sort of fur.

This fellow, however, claimed to be hunting them in ... Kentucky.

Not likely. What he was seeing is a "cross fox" -- a red fox with a dark patch on its shoulderss. As common as rainwater, and simply a color variant of red fox which goes from straw-colored, to red, to black (on rare occassions).

As for the Mothman, I am saying it's Mom was from WVA and its Dad was from Ohio, and its from WV if you are Jewish and from Ohio if you are a North American Reformed Druid (my church, it turns out) where lineage springs from the fathers side :).

P

mattinidaho said...

The pygmy rabbit is not extinct in the wild. It is not common, but I have never read any biological account that suggested they were extinct. They are still out there in sagebrush country around the West.

There is, however, a subspecies in the Northwest that is believed to be extinct.

PBurns said...

THANKS! I see you are right -- the subspecies is extinct ("The last male purebred Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbit, found only in Douglas County, Washington, died March 30, 2006, at the Oregon Zoo in Portland. The last purebred female died in 2008."), but the larger species itself is still scurrying around out there in the sage. See >> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pygmy_Rabbit

The max weight is 1.1 pounds.

P