Monday, June 30, 2008

Bikes and Bears in America




The Biker Started It:
Headline: Bicyclist going 45 mph hits bear in Boulder County.
One line story: "His bike was OK so he got back on it and pedaled to the hospital."

The Bear Ended It:
Headline: Bear attacks teen in Alaska bicycle race.
One line story: "Another bicyclist who found her sitting on the ground about 1:30 a.m. said she could utter only one word: 'Bear.'"
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Comparative Demography, Geography & Ecology


England, Scotland, and Wales have a combined population of 60 million and could fit inside the state of Idaho, which has a population of less than 1.5 million. To see a quick animation showing the relative speed of population growth in Britain, click here.
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America has two great advantages over England and most of Europe: more land and relatively fewer people.

Most Europeans cannot really fathom the size of the U.S., anymore than most Americans can fathom the size of Africa (which is nine times larger than the U.S.)

A few simple comparisons: The USA is more than 66 times bigger than England, and 38 times bigger than all of the UK.

For a direct comparison, all of the UK is smaller than Oregon, while England is smaller than Florida. Virginia (where I live) is the 37th smallest state (out of 50) and is 40,0769 sq. miles compared to England at 53,356 sq. miles.

While the U.K. is not large, it is more crowded, on average, than the U.S. The population of the U.K. is now over 60 million (including Northern Ireland), while the population of Oregon (which is the same size) is just over 3.5 million.

Virginia has a population of just over 7.5 million people. Even if scaled up to the size of the UK, it would have population of no more than 16 million, or about one-fourth the current population density of the UK.

One of the reasons America has so much wildlife is that we have not gut-shot all of our land with housing developments -- even if it does seem that way as you roll down the highway past strip-mall after strip mall.

The bad news is that according to the U.S. Census Bureau's middle range projections (which have been too low for 50 years!), the U.S. will add 125 million people to its population over the course of the next 50 years.

To put this number into perspective, this is a population larger than the current population of the United States west of the Mississippi River today -- or a population twice as large as all of the UK. More than 80% of this future U.S. population growth will be due to immigration.



On the map, above, all of the land that is colored is federally-owned (click here to see enlarged map). Almost all of this land is entirely empty, and often for a very good reason -- not too much water.

The light green land represents National Forest land -- hunting and fishing is permitted and generally encouraged, though it is regulated (at least in theory) so that wildlife values are preserved for future generations.

The yellow areas are land owned by the Bureau of Land Management (largely desert, scrub, and sub-standard grazing land). Here too hunting and fishing is permitted and generally encouraged.

The dark green lands are National Park lands. There is no hunting in our National Parks, but there is some regulated fishing.

The orange-colored lands are National Wildlife Refuges. Despite the name they are used for hunting; in fact they are mostly used for hunting, thanks to a tax on guns, ammunition and camping gear that is directed towards maintaining and expanding the National Wildlife Refuge system.

The grey-colored lands are owned by the Department of Defense, and hunting is allowed on much of this land.

Added to the above tally are a very large number of state parks, state Wildlife Management Areas, lands owned by timber companies (95% of our timber is grown on private land), and private farm lands (over 35 million acres of which are now in the Conservation Reserve Program to benefit wildlife). Despite the large amount of federal and state land in the U.S., more than 75 percent of all deer are shot on private property, and most terrier work is done on private farms as well.

Despite all of the federal wild lands out West, most terrier work is done in the East and mid-West, due to the absence of groundhogs in the West and a very very short denning season for fox. In addition, where coyotes are common, red fox numbers tend to be thin on the ground.

Western raccoons are large, but are more commonly found in barns, outbuildings and brush piles than in dirt dens. The American badger is a daily migrant and provides rare sport as a consequence, while the opossum is rarely large or fierce.
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Friday, June 27, 2008

Field Crop Prices are Shooting Through the Roof



This will impact almost everything by this time next year as it ripples up through the marketplace from meat to fuel, and from dog food to muffins.
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Nice Kitty!


The Supremes on Your (Restricted) Individual Right



The Supreme Court has overturned the gun ban here in Washington, D.C.

For those who want to read the opinion, click here

Getting rid of the D.C. gun ban will not change a thing on the streets of our Nation's Capitol.

D.C. criminals have always ignored the gun ban, while law-abiding folks generally don't shoot other folks.

As for the notion that personal gun ownership will deter street crime, don't count on it.

We do not live in a world of High Noon shootouts, but in a world of drive-by shootings, strong-armed stick-ups, drug deals gone bad, and cowards who shoot others in the back in parking lots. In the real world, punks and criminals almost always have the drop on the law-abiding, and that will not change.

Which is not to say this decision will not make a lot of noise. This being the political season, folks on both the right and the left are going to pander and play "gotcha" on guns as quick and as loudly as they can.

What makes this partisan posturing and pandering so funny is that, as far as I can tell, there's not a bit of difference between John McCain and Barack Obama on the Second Amendment.

John McCain does not own a gun and does not hunt. Neither does Barack Obama.

Barack Obama believes the Second Amendment is an individual right. So too does John McCain.

John McCain recognizes the need for gun licensing and certain "time, place, and manner" restrictions. Obama believes the same.

And it's not just Barack Obama and John McCain that are in agreement on the Second Amendment; so too is the U.S. Supreme Court.

As Justice Antonin Scalia (the most conservative member of the Court, and a hunter and gun owner) noted in today's opinion:

"Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose: For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Amendment or state analogues. The Court's opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms."


In short, while the Court ruled that the Second Amendment is an individual right, it also ruled that it is a right that is subject to licensing and time, place, manner, and gun-type restrictions at the state and local level. In fact, it is even subject to such restrictions at the building level.

Read the opinion.

You may agree or disagree with it, but this is now the law of the land and valuable guidance for state and local officials.

For those who want to know what I think (both of you), here are the links to what I have written about guns before:

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In closing, I should note that while John McCain, Barack Obama and Antonin Scalia are singing out of the same hymnal when it comes to the Second Amendment, John McCain is (arguably) a little shaky on the First Amendment which is why he has come under repeated attack by the National Rifle Association.

Ironically, the Supreme Court chose today to overturn part of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law which protected members of Congress from running against wealthy self-financing political rivals.

Apparently the Court felt that the legislation championed by Senators McCain and the Feingold violated the First Amendment.

Hmmmm. . . .

This is not the first time this month that John McCain has been at odds with the U.S. Constitution and the U.S. Supreme Court. Two weeks ago the Supreme Court said that detainees in Guantanamo Bay needed to be represented by counsel and could not be detained forever without charge or trial.

McCain, who is a little shaky on Article I of the U.S. Constitution (habeas corpus) objected.

Not all good conservatives did. Republican Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania (former Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee) saluted the Supreme Court's decision and "reaffirmation of the constitutional right to habeas corpus."

Which brings us around full circle.

Perhaps our Founding Father were not crazy when they wrote into the U.S. Constitution an individual right "to keep and bear arms."

After all, when push comes to shove we may yet need our guns -- to protect us from those who would jail us forever on charges never stated, and who would try us without counsel.

We may yet need our guns to protect us from people like John McCain who would subvert the U.S. Constitution while telling us "it's for our own good."
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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Terriers for Sale: Pets, Rosettes and Workers All






Legendary terriermen? Certainly! Were they selling legendary dogs? Perhaps. Perhaps not.

If a dog is excellent at age two and half, you have to wonder why it is being sold. As for puppies, they are more of a optimistic hope than a proven reality.

Both adverts could be offering very good things ... and they could also have been offering something that ended up being a little less than was required or wanted, depending on the throw of the dice and the nature of the homes they were placed in.

What is not in dispute is that both of these ads were placed by legendary terriermen about 45 years ago.

Bert Gripton and Frank Buck were the real deal. They lived to hunt their dogs and bred dogs as a supplement to their hunting activities. That said, both men were known to breed quite a few dogs and sell them off too -- mostly to people who did far less digging than the dogs deserved -- and almost certainly less than these legendary men themselves did.

In fact, dog breeding seems to be a common thread among the "famous" terriermen of the past. If you have heard of almost any terrierman now dead -- John Russell, Arthur Heinemann, Frank Buck, Cyril Breay, Bert Gripton, etc. -- you can be sure they were moving a lot of dogs, and not just a lot of dirt.

To say this is to take away nothing from Gripton or Buck, Breay or Heinemann (and several other good and worthy gentlemen still living and left unnamed). They deserve their excellent reputations. It is simply to say that just as we sing a paean to "foxes yet unseen," so too should we give a nod and pour a dram for the hundreds of unknown working terrier enthusiasts, game keepers and huntsmen who have done at least as much to preserve and protect working terriers over the years. They may be unknown, but they are the core of the cable that is the working terrier tradition.

Today, we commonly see people advertising puppies as being "sired by WHATEVER" and bought directly from So-and-So HIMSELF.

Fair enough, but have you seen the legendary WHATEVER in the field? Has HIMSELF actually dug on a dog any time in the last 20 or 30 years? Or is this just name-dropping and pedigree paper-chasing -- the very same thing we see with show ring breeders?

The situation becomes comical when people order dogs from people they have never met in countries they have never visited. Perhaps they traded a few emails with a Great Man. Perhaps they have even toured the kennel. Excellent.

One has to wonder about those forty terriers barking in the back of the Great Man's place, however. Even if a person digs every week, it's hard to find enough work for four or five terriers. Forty? Impossible. Yes, yes, dogs can be loaned out for work to the hunts, but that's not going on too much, is it? A hunt terrierman wants a dog that is reliable (and small), not a parade of green reeds that do not know their job. And no one in the U.S. is loaning out dogs at all; if the breeder is not working them his or her self, you can be sure they are not being worked at all.

Yet young and foolish dog buyers continue to drive the business of puppy sales, don't they? There has never been a shortage of puppy peddlers. That is true in the world of working dogs as well as the world of pets-and-rosettes.

The working boards are full of people that have never dug on a dog themselves, but who have a kennel full of puppies for sale. "Bred from THIS line out of WHATEVER" they proclaim, as if this line of nonsense tells you anything.

Just ask for pictures of the dam and sire working. "Oh I never thought to take a camera into the field ... I don't share pictures because the Animal Rights people might get a-hold of them."

Right!

Any variation on this nonsense, and it's best to keep moving. People that work their dogs in the modern world have pictures of their dogs working and (in America at least) they can take you out on any given weekend and show you their dogs doing their stuff in the ground. We are a hunting society, and there is nothing unethical about terrier work as we practice it.

As for all this focus on "lines" of working terriers, it is taken to a level of absurdity by the puppy peddlers. Anyone who knows anything about working terriers knows no true working dog is a "pure" anything, and genes are quickly diluted. "Descended from So-and-So" tells you almost nothing, especially if you never saw the dog work yourself. A first generation dog is only half that gene pool, and a second generation dog is a quarter or less. In the end you are buying a pig in a poke.

Yes, a cross between between Mike Tyson and Robin Givens might get you super-model looks with a boxer's hooks, but it is just as likely to give you an ugly, stupid, scrawny and foul-tempered kid who has small hands, a thin frame, and an irritating lisp. Cross Albert Einstein and Marilyn Monroe and you are just as likely to get Einstein's looks and Marilyn's brains as the other way around!

Breeding, of course, is important. Working dogs are more likely to descend from two working dogs than not, and the best practice remains, as always, to get dogs that have solid working sires and dams.

Just remember, however, that there are two sides to every breeding, and much of what is being crossed from one generation to another is entirely unknown even when someone has had a "line" of terriers for two or three generations. Not every cross is a success.

In any case, a working terrier is not all about genetics is it? How many good dogs have been ruined by young fools that over-matched a dog too young? How many people have heard people proclaim a dog "worthless" when it was only 14 months old? How many people leave their dogs caged and pacing in a kennel for 12 months out of the year and then expect the dog to work like a practiced veteran the three or four times a year it is let out to see forest or field?

If only these examples were rare! Sadly, they are not.

What made the dogs of people like Frank Buck and Bert Gripton exceptional was not just breeding -- it was that these dogs saw a lot of experience in the field and were raised by people who understood how dogs thought. These MEN were as legendary as the dogs. Sadly, their experience and knowledge does not convey with the pedigree.

The ads these genuine digging men men wrote for their dogs should be read. They speak volumes in a few words: "parents small," ; "trial if necessary," ; "parents can be seen at work six days a week."

Compare these small printed advertisements to the folks who now post elaborate graphics-filled web sites offering puppies for sale. Some web sites are all about ribbons and rosettes, while others show pictures of dogs chained out in dirt yards with photos shot through rusting wire mesh.

Different ends of the social spectrum, to be sure, but what both types of web sites have in common is that neither one mentions actual terrier work.

For puppy peddlers, taking dogs out into the field to work, weekend after weekend, is too close to real work. Dogs in the field might get injured and veterinary care and tools cut into profit margins. Field work time is in direct competition with show ring trial dates.

Besides digging on the dogs a couple of times a month is suspiciously like labor. For puppy peddlers, the bottom line is the bottom line, and it is all about cash and ego, not true terrier work.

Compare the size of the genuine earth dogs offered by people like Gripton, with the hulking dogs offered up for barn and brush pile work here in the U.S.

These over-large dogs are not true terriers. Terrier means "earth dog" in French. A terrier is a dog that is capable of going to earth and to which you dig to when you are hunting.

These over-large barn-and-brush pile dogs might be called "grangier" (a possible french world for "barn dogs") or even "arbrier" (a possible french name for "tree dogs") or "bidonier" (a possible french name for "trash-pile dogs") or "batimentiere" (a possible french word for "building crawl-space" dogs), but they are not true terriers if they cannot go to ground in dirt . . . . and do so in most of the settes they encounter in their area.





Bert Gripton used to advertise that his dogs could be seen at work six days a week. Not many can say that now (and, truth be told, not many could say it back then either).

Working six days a week? Think about what that means. Regular work, day in and day out, week after week, is hardly possible with a very hard dog that goes in and gets punch-drunk with bites and rips every time it goes to ground.

Yes, the folks who dig three days a year will tell you they value a hard dog. What they will not tell you, of course, is how little time they actually spend digging.

The more you dig on the dogs, the more you come to value brains, voice, balance, and a touch of discretion in a dog, and the quicker you are to sort things out at the end of a dig. A dog that is laid up for three weeks with a ripped lip is a bad outcome if you really serious about getting out and amassing field time. Not everyone is, of course.




Bert Gripton knew the value of a small dog!

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Wimbledon Needs Better Hawks




It seems officials at Wimbledon have come under fire for using a marksman to shoot down dive-bombing pigeons that their regular pigeon-deterrent hawks have not kept away from the courts and the restaurant. >> Story here
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Math Says It's About Time to Dump the Old Car



Watch the video, above.

That said, and because math is confusing for most people (me too!), I will put the numbers down on paper:

  • If your car gets 10 miles per gallon it consumes 10 gallons to go 100 miles.

  • If your car gets 20 miles per gallon it consumes 5 gallons to go 100 miles.

  • If your car gets 25 miles per gallon it consumes 4 gallons to go 100 miles.

  • If your car gets 50 miles per gallon it consumes 2 gallons to go 100 miles.

What this means is that a tremendous amount of gasoline (and money) can be saved by getting low-mileage cars off the highway.

Getting one person to switch from a 10-mile per gallon car to a 25-mile per gallon car will save as much fuel as getting THREE people to switch from 25-mile per gallon cars to 50-mile per gallon vehicles!

And the numbers are even more dramatic if you are driving one of the most common cars on the road -- the ubiquitous Ford Explorer (what I drive, it should be said).

It turns out that you will save more gasoline (and more money!) by switching from a 15-mpg Ford Explorer to 25-mpg SUV such as a Ford Escape Hybrid (32 mpg), Toyota Highlander Hybrid (26 mpg), Jeep Compass (25 mpg), Jeep Patriot (25 mpg), Kia Sportage LX (25 mpg), or Saturn Vue (25+mpg) than you would if you switched from a 51 mpg Prius to a 94 mpg Prius.

Here's the math, assuming you are driving 1,000 miles a month:

  • FORD EXPLORER TO SATURN VUE:
    1000 miles / 15 mpg = 66.7 gallons
    1000 miles / 25 mpg = 40 gallons

  • TOYOTA PRIUS 1 TO PRIUS 2 (2009 MODEL):
    1000 miles / 51 mpg = 19.6 gallons
    1000 miles / 94 mpg = 10.6 gallons


Bottom Line: Upgrading from an 51-mpg Prius to a 94-mpg Prius will save you 9 gallons a month or 108 gallons a year. Changing from a 15-mpg Ford Explorer to 25-mpg SUV will save you 26.7 gallons a month or 320 gallons a year, or about three times what the Prius 1 to Prius 2 upgrade will save you. Multiply by the current cost of gasoline to figure the total dollar cost savings.

Of course, if you switch from a 15-mpg Ford Explorer to a 94-mpg Prius, the savings are even bigger: 56.1 gallons a month, or over 672 gallons a year. At current gasoline prices of $4.10 a gallon (gasoline prices are higher in California), that's a savings of $230 a month.

Assuming the new Prius costs $24,000 (what the current Prius costs) and your old Ford Explorer has a trade in value of $7,000, the monthly payments (60 months/6.9 percent interest) would be $362.00. Throw in the fact that the value of a Ford Explorer is likely to fall a lot faster that a new generation Prius (to say nothing of the cost of maintenance on a Ford Explorer with 60,000 miles on it), and you can see that we may be at a very rapid tipping point in U.S. automobile consumption, with a real decline in gasoline consumption to follow.

We are not talking about future technology here -- this is massive change that is on your local car lot right now.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Pooper Scooper Barbie



The bright lights at Mattel have come up with Pooper Scooper Barbie.

Barbie's dog is a generic-looking Labrador called "Tanner." Barbie can feed the dog biscuits which then emerge from the dog’s rear-end. Barbie then has to pooper scooper them up with her baby-blue pooper scooper before Tanner wolfs them down again. Hey, that's just like real dog ownership! Order yours now.

And true to the blog "Stuff White People Like," Tanner the dog only comes with Caucasian Barbie. Perfect!




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A Daisy Chain



A photo of my late great terrier Sailor.

This groundhog was snared as it started to bolt, but when we pulled it out we found Sailor attached to the back end. This was a shallow dig, but an uncomfortable one as the ground was made up of almost solid cobble stone and roots. The hole was directly under a fallen tree trunk necessitating a lot of barring, as there was not much room for a shovel. Luckily, we hit the right spot with the locator box, and it was not very deep.

This groundhog was released to run another day, as it ended up without a scratch. A snare pole really is a wonderful thing for both dog and quarry.
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This Land Is Your Land


(Click to enlarge map)

I am ripping off a great little post from the smart and wonderful "Strange Maps" web site which has the graphic, displayed above, and the note that:


The United States government has direct ownership of almost 650 million acres of land (2.63 million square kilometers) - nearly 30% of its total territory. These federal lands are used as military bases or testing grounds, nature parks and reserves and indian reservations, or are leased to the private sector for commercial exploitation (e.g. forestry, mining, agriculture). They are managed by different administrations, such as the Bureau of Land Management, the US Forest Service, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the US Department of Defense, the US Army Corps of Engineers, the US Bureau of Reclamation or the Tennessee Valley Authority.

This map details the percentage of state territory owned by the federal government. The top 10 list of states with the highest percentage of federally owned land looks like this:
  • Nevada 84.5%

  • Alaska 69.1%

  • Utah 57.4%

  • Oregon 53.1%

  • Idaho 50.2%

  • Arizona 48.1%

  • California 45.3%

  • Wyoming 42.3%

  • New Mexico 41.8%

  • Colorado 36.6%
Read the whole thing >> here and then check out the rest of this geat little site. I love the map of Sherlock Holmes' apartment and the map of the missing rivers of London.
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Monday, June 23, 2008

Would You Sell Out America for 2 Cents?



In May of 2008 the Energy Information Administration of the U.S. Department of Energy released the following report about oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR):



"The opening of the ANWR 1002 Area to oil and natural gas development is projected to increase domestic crude oil production starting in 2018. In the mean ANWR oil resource case, additional oil production resulting from the opening of ANWR reaches 780,000 barrels per day in 2027 and then declines to 710,000 barrels per day in 2030. In the low and high ANWR oil resource cases, additional oil production resulting from the opening of ANWR peaks in 2028 at 510,000 and 1.45 million barrels per day, respectively. Between 2018 and 2030, cumulative additional oil production is 2.6 billion barrels for the mean oil resource case, while the low and high resource cases project a cumulative additional oil production of 1.9 and 4.3 billion barrels, respectively."


The report goes on to state:


"Additional oil production resulting from the opening of ANWR would be only a small portion of total world oil production, and would likely be offset in part by somewhat lower production outside the United States. The opening of ANWR is projected to have its largest oil price reduction impacts as follows: a reduction in low-sulfur, light crude oil prices of $0.41 per barrel (2006 dollars) in 2026 for the low oil resource case, $0.75 per barrel in 2025 for the mean oil resource case, and $1.44 per barrel in 2027 for the high oil resource case, relative to the reference case."


The Bottom Line: Since there are 42 gallons of gasoline in a barrel of oil, opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuges to oil rigs, pipelines, roads, and year-round settlement would mean an estimated benefit to you of less than 2 cents a gallon in 2025.

And what would be lost for that temporary 2-cent a gallon benefit?Nothing less than America's Serengeti.




Caribou herd, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge -- America's Serengeti.




Atigun Canyon, the Brooks Range - Arctic National Wildlife Refuge




Musk Ox - Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
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From Near Extinction to Common Pest in 50 Years



It is hard to describe the destruction of American wildlife between 1850 and 1900.

By 1850 all the Elk had been shot out in the East, the Forest Bison pushed into complete extinction, the Wolf extirpated from everywhere in the East but the Maine woods.

Between 1850 and 1900 the great herds of Plains Bison were cut down to within a few hundred animals of extinction, White Tail Deer and Wild Turkey were virtually extirpated along most of the Atlantic seaboard, geese and ducks of every type were slaughtered in dizzying numbers by shrapnel fired from cannon used by market hunters, and the beaver had simply vanished from every state East of Ohio. The Carolina Parakeet and Passenger Pigeon were gone, as was the Eskimo Curlew -- birds which once numbered in the millions.

The turn around in American wildlife populations began with passage of the Lacey Act in 1907, which banned market hunting.

A critical turn around in the fortunes of wild geese and duck occurred in 1935 when live decoys -- wild birds that had been trapped and made flightless with pinned or clipped wings -- was made illegal.

It looked like the ban on live decoys had come too late for some species, however. One of those species was the Giant Canada Goose which was thought to be extinct -- or nearly extinct -- in the wild.

The good news is that while there were almost no wild Canada Geese left, captive decoy goose populations still existed. With the 1935 ban on the use of decoy geese, most of these animals were released into marshes and onto ponds. Unable to fly, many of these animals quickly fell prey to fox and dogs, but some managed to grow back their feathers or live long enough to reproduce.

During World War II and into the 1950s, the descendants of once-captive Giant Canada Geese slowly multiplied in remote marshes and isolated ponds. While a natural recovery seemed to be occurring, these descendants of once-captive geese were largely non-migratory since, after three or four generations in captivity prior to 1935, they no longer had any "lead geese" to show them the way North.

In the 1960s the Giant Canada Geese population remained so low across the U.S. that it was considered extirpated in most states and near-extinct in the wild. In order to prevent extinction, a systematic effort was made to captive-raise Giant Canada Geese and introduce small flocks back into areas where they had once existed.

The introduction of Canada Geese was a phenomenal success. Absent hunting and disease, small flocks of Canada Geese grew by 10 to 20 percent percent a year -- a population doubling time of just 3 to 7 years time.

In a relatively short period of time, states saw a phenomenal growth in their Giant Canada Goose populations. Ohio, to cite on example, began with just 20 captive-raised birds in 1956, but by 2002 had a population of over 140,000 birds. Today almost all the geese you see in the Eastern U.S,. and Midwest are Giant Canada Geese.





The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates the current resident Giant Canada Goose population of the U.S. at 4 million birds and growing rapidly, with a small number of truly migratory Giant Canada Geese still found in the mid-Atlantic flyway.

Giant Canada Geese have also been introduced into other parts of the world, most notably Europe, where they are also thriving.

The "goose problem" today is not extinction but an over-abundance of geese in areas where heavy population densities may inconvenience golfers and cause eutrophication of farm ponds.

A boom in geese populations, however is not too bad a problem as problems go, and it has certainly been a benefit for fox which frequently raid Canada Goose nests in order to feed rapidly growing kits.

The rise of Canada Geese has also created a boom in sport hunting which now pumps hundreds of millions of dollars a year into rural economies. No one has benefited more from the demise of commercial market hunting than the sport hunter.

With the demise of market hunting, and with the assistance of capable wildlife managers, the Giant Canada Goose has returned, as has the wild turkey, the beaver, the bison, the elk, white tail deer, alligator and even the wolf. Truly, these are the good old days.



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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Skull Duggery in the Hedgerow


White tail deer skull


It's pretty common to find one or more skulls when out walking the dogs
. Skulls can tell you quite a lot if you look at them carefully -- the species of the animal, and the sex and age as well.

The skulls, above and below, are of common white tail deer. Deer do not have front teeth on their top jaw -- a feature they share with both cattle and sheep.

As with most herbivores, a deer has a loose bottom jaw that allows the teeth to slide left to right while chewing -- and a long row of molars at the back for grinding up plant material

Note that a deer's eyes are located on the side of the head. This feature is common to most herbivores, from rabbits to buffalo. Side eye sockets give a grazing animal a very large field of peripheral vision necessary to avoid predators (human, wolves, bobcats, coyotes), but a very limited sense of depth perception.

Predators, such as wolves, dogs, coyotes, fox, cats, bears and humans have eye sockets to the front which improves depth of field and focus which are necessary for successful hunting.

The age of a deer at death can be approximated by looking at the third premolar on the skull. Up to about 19 months of age, the third premolar has three cusps, but at about 20 months of age the third premolar is replaced with a tooth that has two crests.

At 2 1/2 years of age all the teeth are present and none really show any appreciable wear. All the cusps are relatively pointed and sharp.

At 3 1/2 years of age the crest of the teeth are starting to show some wear and becoming a bit blunt, and the last cusp on the last tooth looks a bit concave.

At 4 1/2 years the teeth are very worn, and the last cusp on the last tooth is sloped outward and downward.

At 5 1/2 years of age the crests of the teeth are nearly worn smooth and the dentine (the black part of the tooth) is wider than the enamel.

At 6 1/2 years of age the crest of the teeth are practically gone and most of the teeth will look quite flat.

At 7 1/2 years of age all the teeth are worn flat and show tremendous wear. Very few deer live much beyond this age.

I'm Voting Republican


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Saturday, June 21, 2008

What, No Helmets?

A Short History of Genius Public Policy Solutions



Problem:
We're running out of whale oil.
Solution: More harpoons!




Problem:
We're running out of billiard balls.
Solution: Shoot more elephants!




Problem:
The world's fisheries are in collapse.
Solution: More nets!




Problem:
We're running out of forest.
Solution: More chainsaws!



Problem:
We're running out of gasoline.
Solution: More drilling!
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Thursday, June 19, 2008

McCain Already Losing Battleground States

It does not look good in the battle ground states for McSame:

In the national polls, thinks look no better for McSame:

Moonshine Will Set You Free



Moonshine will set you free, but only if you put it in your car, motorcycle, or tractor, and only if you grow your own "fixings" on your own land.

For those interested in producing their own alcohol for fuel, this rig is the one you want. See the other little beauties on this site as well -- true works of art. And please, don't drink and drive.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Back to the Future!




That's an old Triumph Terrier (150 cc engine, circa 1955 or so). Lovely bike with a lovely name!

And yes, this is where a lot of commuters are going to be riding to work soon -- small-bored motorcycles that sip gasoline and/or that plug in. The Piaggio, which makes Vespa, is already selling a 3-wheeled hybrid motorcycle that gets 170 mpg (picture below) and a plug in motorcycle will be available towards the end of this year.




And, of course, there is the next year's Toyota Prius' which (if US News and World Report is to be believed) will get better than 90 mpg. I would note that the current Prius gets about 45 mpg in the real world, so if the next generation Prius gets even 60 mpg, it will be a big break through. The new version of the Prius (which has not been updated since 2004) will be lauched at the January 2009 Detroit auto show and will be available on lots in April of next year.

What's next: A how-to-distill-grass-clippings manual tied to low-power ethanol-sipping hybrid motorcycle. I think that combination is only 3-4 years away. Very back to the future!..Very

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Whiskey - Tango - Foxtrot



Dysfunctional people with their dysfunctional dog.
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Ted Williams on Killing Hawks for Pigeons



Roller Pigeon enthusiasts were caught out killing thousands of hawks and falcons in order to protect their odd-flying birds.

Ted Williams has finally written about it here. I blogged about it here almost a year ago, and there are links to posts by Steve Bodio, Matt Mullenix and and Rebecca O'Connor at the end of that squib.

As always Ted Williams does a bang-up job of reporting the facts and getting the story. A small sample:

In April 2003 Bob Sallinger, conservation director for the Audubon Society of Portland, rescued four peregrine falcon eggs from a bridge under construction, rappelling down to the nest. The society hatched the eggs and raised the chicks. Clark Public Utilities donated a crew and supplies to build a release tower on Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, and a volunteer, Ken Barron, lived on the refuge with the young falcons for six weeks as they acclimated to the wild. The four fledglings—much in evidence in and around the refuge—won the hearts of the public and the press. But one day they disappeared, never to be seen again.

According to Ivan Hanchett of Hillsboro, Oregon, a fellow roller pigeon defender shot them. Herewith, from the Birmingham Roller Pigeon Discussion Board, Hanchett’s take on the incident, posted shortly before he was convicted for hawk killing and meriting the additional charge of cruelty to language: “Well low and behold just across the street from the wildlife refuge lives a roller flyer and when the young became airbourne they found alot of led in the air space across the street where the rollers were flying LOL!! I laughed and laughed when I heard this story because of all the pain staking measures they took to get these birds to adolescence and than to have somone take them out simply was bliss!!” (Special Agent Hoy reports that when he was working undercover, Hanchett bragged to him that he shot many hawks but instructed him on quieter, more creative methods: “angling” for them with live feeder mice rigged with fish hooks, and catching them in live traps, then suffocating them in plastic bags.)


Ted Williams thinks there needs to be greater penalties under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. I am not sure I agree. Ramping up theoretical penalties as a way of expressing outrage is a typical political response to law enforcement problems, but it rarely works. In fact, if you want to discourage bad behavior you need to increase the chance of getting caught, and the chance that a penalty will actually be levied when caught. Higher fines can actually work against enforcement if judges, magistrates, and juries do not see them as proportional to the crime and if the chance of getting caught remains incredibly low.

As for roller pigeons and commercial fish farms, how about mandatory licensing and education courses for them -- the same as we have for hunters and hawkers? A little light kills a lot of darkness, and a license is a way of saying "law enforcement has a real interest here."
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Monday, June 16, 2008

The Last Rat Pit in New York

Example

The last rat pit in New York City was owned by Christopher "Kit" Burns, and operated as "Sportsman's Hall" at 273 Water Street. The building still stands.

Burns was supposedly a tavern keeper, but in actuality, he was one of the last of the "Dead Rabbit" gang made famous in the Martin Scorcese movie, "The Gangs of New York." The Sportsman's Club was ostensibly a bar, but it derived a large portion of its revenue from rat killing spectacles, and the occasional dog fight.

As James Dabney McCabe, writes in "Secrets of the Great City" (1868):

"Rats are plentiful along the East River, and Burns has no difficulty in procuring as many as he desires. These and his dogs furnish the entertainment, in which he delights. The principal room of the house is arranged as an amphitheatre. The seats are rough wooden benches, and in the centre is a ring or pit, enclosed by a circular wooden fence, several feet high. A number of rats are turned into this pit, and a dog of the best feral stock is thrown in amongst them. The little creature at once falls to work to kill the rats, bets being made that she will destroy so many rats in a given time. The time is generally 'made' by the little animal. . . . "


Kit Burns had two of his favorite dogs stuffed and hanging over the bar. One was called Jack, and was a black and tan terrier that had killed 100 rats in 6 minutes and 40 seconds, an American record. The other dog was Hunky, a dog fighting dog that expired after his last "victory".

Kit Burns's last rat pit fight occurred on November 21, 1870 according to Robert Sullivan's book, Rats, on an occasion when 300 rats were "given away, free of charge, for gentlemen to try their dogs with." Henry Bergh, who founded the SPCA, raided the establishment that night, and Kit Burns was rounded up. Though everyone involved was acquitted, Kit Burns caught cold and died before trial, and the Sportsman's Club was permanently closed.

Kit Burns's widow told a reporter from The Sun newspaper that Mr. Bergh, the SPCA man, was invited to visit her at her new home in Brooklyn "provided the gentleman will have the kindness to bring his coffin with him."
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Sunday, June 15, 2008

$4 a Gallon Is Killing Rural America



The New York Times, reports that $4 a gallon gasoline (and even more for diesel!) is killing rural America:

Tchula, Miss. — Gasoline prices reached a national average of $4 a gallon for the first time over the weekend, adding more strain to motorists across the country.

But the pain is not being felt uniformly. Across broad swaths of the South, Southwest and the upper Great Plains, the combination of low incomes, high gas prices and heavy dependence on pickup trucks and vans is putting an even tighter squeeze on family budgets.

Here in the Mississippi Delta, some farm workers are borrowing money from their bosses so they can fill their tanks and get to work. Some are switching jobs for shorter commutes.People are giving up meat so they can buy fuel. Gasoline theft is rising. And drivers are running out of gas more often, leaving their cars by the side of the road until they can scrape together gas money.

The disparity between rural America and the rest of the country is a matter of simple home economics. Nationwide, Americans are now spending about 4 percent of their take-home income on gasoline. By contrast, in some counties in the Mississippi Delta, that figure has surpassed 13 percent.

As a result, gasoline expenses are rivaling what families spend on food and housing.“This crisis really impacts those who are at the economic margins of society, mostly in the rural areas and particularly parts of the Southeast,” said Fred Rozell, retail pricing director at the Oil Price Information Service, a fuel analysis firm. “These are people who have to decide between food and transportation.”

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Saturday, June 14, 2008

Possum Production

In many ways, possums are cursed animals. Not only do they have small brains, they are not very fast, and are easily killed by coyotes, farm dogs, fox and owls.

The possum's competitive edge is in the reproduction arena, and here it is a true champion. A typical female possum will have two litters a year, each with as many as 18 young. The gestation period for a possum is just 13 days -- the shortest gestation period of any mammal in North America.

Possums are the primary transmitter of equine protozoal myeloencephalitis (EPM), the most commonly diagnosed neurological disease in horses. Common horse symptoms include incoordination, with one side usually more pronounced than the other; muscle loss; and weakness. Some horses may die, but even those that aren't severely affected may not be able to run or ride as well as they once did.

About 50 percent of all horses, regardless of breed, show exposure to S. neurona, the parasite which causes EPM, and which has been traced only to the opossum. Only a small number of these infected animals, perhaps one percent, actually get sick, but about 30-40 percent of those that do get sick don't respond well to existing treatments.

The bottom line: any farm that has horses should be glad to see you and your terriers, as you can rid the pasture of groundhogs and their holes which can break a horse's legs, and you can also get rid of possums in the barn and surrounds that might transmit a serious equine disease.
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Thursday, June 12, 2008

If You Say So ...


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Peggy Noonan Gives a Tip of the Hat

Ronald Regan's speech writer, Peggy Noonan, gives a tip of the hat in today's Wall Street Journal:

We will hear a lot of tasteful tributes this weekend to Hillary Clinton's grit and fortitude. The Washington-based media may go a little over the top, but only out of relief. They know her well and recoil at what she stands for. They also know they don't like her, so to balance it out they'll gush.

But this I believe is the truth: America dodged a bullet. That was the other meaning of the culminating events of this week.

Mrs. Clinton would have been a disaster as president. Mr. Obama may prove a disaster, and John McCain may, but she would be. Mr. Obama may lie, and Mr. McCain may lie, but she would lie. And she would have brought the whole rattling caravan of Clintonism with her—the scandal-making that is compulsive, the drama that is unending, the sheer, daily madness that is her, and him.

We have been spared this. Those who did it deserve to be thanked. May I rise in a toast to the Democratic Party.

They had a great and roaring fight, a state-by-state struggle unprecedented in the history of presidential primaries. They created the truly national primary. They brought 36 million people to the polls, including the young, minorities and first-time voters. They brought a kind of dogged brio to the year.

All of this is impressive, but more than that, they threw off Clintonism. They threw off the idea that corruption is part of the game, an acceptable fact. They threw off the idea that dynasticism was an unstoppable dynamic in modern politics, that Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton could, would, go on forever. They said: "No, that is not the way we do it."

They threw off the idea of inevitability. Mrs. Clinton didn't lose because she had no money or organization, she didn't lose because she had no fame or name, she didn't lose because her policies were unusual or dramatically unpopular within her party. She lost because enough Democrats looked at her and thought: I don't like that, I don't like the way she does it, I'm not going there. Most candidates lose over things, not over their essential nature. But that is what happened here. For all her accomplishments and success, it was her sketchy character that in the end did her in.

But the voters had to make the decision. So, to the Democrats: A nod. A bow. Well done.

May this mark the beginning of the remoralization of a great party.


Peggy Noonan's web site is >> here

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The U.S. Now Has More Lions Than Africa




I tossed the latest copy of Earth Dog - Running Dog
magazine into the truck on the way to work this morning, and was flipping through it at a traffic light when I opened it up to see the picture at left. Hey, I know that fellow!

And sure enough I do -- it's John B., who I see once a year at the only dog trial I go to, the JRTCA Nationals.

That's a 200-pound stock-predating Mountain Lion John hunted in Arizona a few years back (subscribe to Earth Dog - Running Dog magazine if you want to read the full story).

John's Mountain Lion got me to thinking about the rise of Cougar populations here in the U.S.

As regular readers might recall, a Mountain Lion was recently shot in Chicago, and roadkills in Iowa prove they have gotten that far east as well.

Rumors of Mountain Lions in Appalachia remain (as yet) unfounded, but it is agreed by all that it is only a matter of time before they come here. With over over 2 million acres of contiguous National Forest in Virginia and West Virginia alone, and plenty of deer, they will not want for food or space!

On a hunch, I did a little research and confirmed what I suspected: there are now more lions in the United States than there are all in all of Africa.

Now granted that Puma concolor and Panthera leo are a different genus of big cat, but a Mountain Lion is no small animal; it is, in fact, the fourth largest big cat in the world.

Right now there are more than 30,000 Mountain Lions in the U.S., and their numbers are slowly growing despite the fact that hunting these large animals is legal (if controlled by permit) in 10 of the 11 western states where they reside.

All in all, about 3,500 Mountain Lions a year are shot by U.S. hunters, and another 800 or so are killed by vehicle impacts.

A slow steady increase in Mountain Lions is excellent news, and the kind of thing we can live with provided the populations are allowed to expand in the right direction (i.e on public lands) and away from farms, ranches and suburbs.

The return of the Mountain Lion (along with the concurrent rise in bear, wolf, coyote, turkey, eagle, hawk, osprey, deer, elk, and beaver populations) is proof-positive that the American way of science-based wildlife management has been a roaring success.

This is not to say, of course, that there will never be human-wildlife conflicts. There always will be with large meat-eating predators.

Problem lions, wolves and bears will always have to be shot, but regulated hunting and culling of these animals does no long-term harm provided the slaughter is not indiscriminate and the wild habitat they require is preserved as large unbroken blocks of land.

The real threat to animals like Mountain Lions is not regulated hunted; it is unregulated population growth which results in more roads, more water consumption, and more sprawl.

If we protect the habitat, the wildlife will generally take care of itself.

But to take care of the habitat, we have to control ourselves.

We cannot allow U.S. population growth (largely driven by immigration) to increase our numbers to the point that humans become like locusts on the land. If we plough and graze fence post to fence post, fragment the forests, drain the rivers and streams for irrigation, and put in roads every mile or two (with shopping centers in between), it is not just Mountain Lion we will lose; it is wild America as we know it and love it.

And, to put on a point on it, it will not take much human population growth in Arizona, where this mountain lion was shot, to wreck things forever.

As John McCain recently noted, Arizona is already so dry the trees have been known to chase the dogs!

So heads up; human population growth is what is killing off Africa's lions.

Now that we have a healthy Mountain Lion population in the American West, let's make sure we do not allow human population growth to kill off our lions as well.

Let's not worry about sustainable levels of hunting, while ignoring unsustainable rates of immigration.

Yet, as far as I can tell, that is exactly what every Mountain Lion and Cougar protection organization in America is now doing. Talk about missing the forest for the trees!


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Gasoline Is FREE If You Put It on Your Credit Card




George W. Bush on February 28, 2008.

And no, he has not found Osama Bin Laden, did not know there were no weapons of mass destruction, had no clue about the mortgage mess, and did not understand that we might not be welcomed with open arms in Iraq.

And no, he could care less about the economy, America's rising national debt, the collapsing value of the U.S. dollar, or the fact that more than 46 million Americans have no health care. What's any of that have to do with governing>

But let's not be too critical of George W. Bush, eh? I mean after all he must be doing something right, as John McCain has voted with him 95% of the time. Carry on!


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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Will Exxon Decide Your Next Breed of Dog?



So many people buy larger cars and SUVS in order to carry their dogs around, that my web-friend Gina Spadafori has a whole web site devote to dog car selection.

But what happens when the price of gas shoots through the roof?

It does not take a psychic to see that this dog-car thing is a two way street.

If oil hits $200 a barrel (it's already at $130 a barrel) over the next year (which Goldman Sachs and others say it may) the cost of crude alone is going to be $4.76 a gallon. After you add on the costs of refining that oil into gasoline, distributing it, and taxing it (to maintain roads and bridges), pump prices could rise to $6 to $7 a gallon

What will that mean for the world of dogs? Well, for one thing it will mean fewer people will be willing to travel long distances to attend dog shows. It may mean less long distance travel for hunting as well.

More importantly, it will mean that getting a large dog will come with a new premium due to the rising cost of fueling a larger "dog car."

At $6 a gallon, and assuming a 12,000-mile year, an SUV that gets 15 miles to the gallon (i.e. a Ford Explorer) will cost you $4,800 a year for gas, while a Toyota Prius that gets 45 miles per gallon will cost you $1,600 a year in gas -- a $3,200 difference.

Assuming the dog lives 10 years and so does the car, the choice between a dog that requires an SUV and a dog that can fit in a Prius is a $32,000 difference.

Yow! Add in the fact that a larger dog will also cost more to feed, vet (larger dogs have larger medical bills too), and board, and you easily have a $50,000 cost differential between owning a small and large breed dog.

Bottom line: Rising gasoline prices may push more folks to smaller breeds such as terriers, dachshunds and lap dogs, and away from larger breeds such as Great Danes, Pit Bulls, Border Collies, Pointers, Greyhounds and Labrador Retrievers.
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Monday, June 09, 2008

Weather Blues



The weather has been a bit extreme this last week.

First up was a massive storm that blew in and tore up enough trees to leave more than 100,000 people without electrical power, including yours truly.

The good news is that I have a small generator, so we had TV and some lights in the house even if no computer, air conditioning or stove. We lost a few large limbs in the back yard which I chainsawed up this weekend. All in all, we got away cheap.

On Friday a really warm front moved in, pushing the temperature well past 93, and it has remained there for four days straight, which means no digging on the dogs. My cut off point for digging is anything over 90 degrees.

I did take Mountain walking in the 100-acre woods near the house, and we raised two deer who stood less than 30 feet away from us, secure that Mountain was on a leash and I meant them no harm.

The nearby woods are in fine condition thanks to the work of various Eagle scout projects which have left us with a deer salt lick, well-maintained trails, a small garden of native plants and flowers, and signs labeling common tree-species. All good.

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Because Throwing a Ball is Too Much Like Work



$500 and designed for dogs up to 30 pounds. Of course, a leash for the dog and a pair of sneakers for you will do the same thing, and both you and the dog will benefit.

Of course, if you have 30 Jack Russells, maybe this is the thing for that particular problem.
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Sunday, June 08, 2008

Extinction of the Caribbean Monk Seal


Caribbean monk seal -- taxidermied specimen at Harvard.


In a not-too-surprising announcement
, the U.S. Government has determined that the Caribbean Monk Seal is extinct.

This is not too surprising, because a Caribbean Monk Seal has not been seen for more than 50 years, and they were vanishingly rare for 100 years before that.

A look over the list of extinct mammals in the world suggests this extinction is indeed news-worthy because extinctions of mammals are very RARE.

Of all the mammals that have gone extinct in historical times, 10 are marsupials from Australia, 2 are ant eaters, 1 is a type of sea-cow, 29 are small rodents (mostly island-endemic species of mice and rats), 2 are types of pikas, 3 are types of shrews, 10 are species of bats, 5 are types of ungulates (gazelles and deer, more on them in a minute), and 4 are carnivores (1 island-endemic type of fox, 1 type of seal, 1 type of sea lion, 1 type of sea mink)

Animals that are not extinct because they were never a species include :
  • Aurochs which are now classified as simply a type of cow whose type has been recreated by backbreeding;


  • The Tarpan which is now classified as simply a type of wild horse whose type has been recreated by backbreeding;


  • Quaggas which have been shown to be nothing more than a coat-color variation of the Plains Zebra and which has also been recreated by backbreeding;


  • The Japanese Wolf which is simple a subspecies of wolf (Canis lupus) ;


  • The Mexican Grizzly which is simply a subspecies of brown bear (Ursus arctos);


  • The Bali Tiger which is simply a subspecies of tiger (Panthera tigris);


  • The Javan Tiger which is simply a subspecies of tiger (Panthera tigris);


  • The Barbary Lion which is simply a subspecies of African lion (Panthera leo) -- and it is a subspecies that appears to still exist in captivity;


  • The West African Black Rhinoceros which is simply a subspecies of black rhino (Diceros bicornis);


  • The Syrian Wild Ass, which is simply a species of Onager (Equus hemionus).

Of the 57 species that I have listed as exinct, some may not be species, some may never have existed, and some may still exist in the wild.

For example, I have included the Bluebuck among the extinct ungulates (it went extinct around 1800), even though the species is only known from four mounted specimens in museums, along with some bones and horns. While this animal is considered a species of the Hippotragus group which includes Sable (Hippotragus niger) and the Roan Antelope (Hippotragus equinus), I can find no evidence that actual DNA work has been done to confirm that this animal is not simply a local color variant of one or the other of these animals.

I have also included the Red Gazelle (Gazella rufina) in the ungulates list even though taxonomists now believe it is simply a variation of common Red-fronted Gazelle (Gazella rufifrons), and that the Red-fronted Gazelle is simply a variation of the Thompson's Gazelle (Gazella thomsoni);

Schomburgk's Deer is also included in the extinct ungulates, even though it probably still exists in Laos, as Schomburgk's Deer antler turned up in a medicine shop in 1999 and the country remains undersurveyed;

I include the Arabian Gazelle in the extinct ungulates list even though it is known from only one (!) example reportedly collected in the Farasan Islands in the Red Sea in 1825. There is considerable debate as to where this animal was actually collected (the gazelles now on the Farasan Islands are common Mountain Gazellem aka Gazella gazella), and whether it is simply a mislabeled Queen Sheba's Gazelle (see below).

Another "ungulate with issues" is the Queen Sheba's Gazelle. Though now listed as extinct, this designation is probably premature. This gazelle species was considered common in Yemen in 1955 and very little biological research has been done in remote part of this inhospitable country due to the rise of a marxist regime in South Yemen in 1969, and the rise of scores of local islamic warlords since the reunfication of the two Yemens in the 1990s. In addition, this gazelle may exist in captivity at the Al Wabra Wildlife Preserve in Quatar (see picture at right of an animal identified as a Queen Sheba's Gazelle).

Finally, just because a species is "written off" as extinct by the the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) does not mean that this animal has in fact disappeared from the face of the earth. In fact, the IUCN has to announce the rediscovery of extinct species often enough that a term has been coined to describe the phenomenon -- Lazarus Species.

In the world of mammals, nine previously-listed extinct mammals have been rediscovered alive since the 1990s, including one of my favorite ugly mammals, the Cuban Solenodon (Solenodon cubanus), and one of my favorite cute mammals, the Mahogany Glider (Petaurus gracilis).



The Almiqui or Cuban Solenodon was recently rediscovered. >> To read more
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