Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Ken Burns on America's Best Idea: National Parks

Ken Burns has come through again. His new venture is a 12-hour, six-part documentary series filmed over the course of six years at some of our nature's most spectacular locales: Acadia, Yosemite, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Everglades, and Gates of the Arctic.

This is a story about the people who made it possible: rich and poor; famous and unknown; soldiers and scientists; natives and newcomers; idealists, artists and entrepreneurs.

This land is your land.

The series premieres Sunday, September 27th, 2009.

Veterinarians Call for End to "the Ban"

Fox populations are exploding in the U.K. and the issue of control is moot. The only question now is whether it will be through vehicle impact, starvation, disease, poison, shooting, snares, or a return to hunting with hounds.

A bipartian Parliamentary group in the UK, working with the Veterinary Association for Wildlife Management, has issued a new report [PDF] which concludes that hunting with dogs is the most effective way of controlling foxes, and that all arguments of cruelty are "invalid" as predation by larger canids has been the way of the fox since before man walked the earth.

The publication goes on to to note that hunting with hounds is "demonstrably the natural and most humane method of control," and there was "never any scientific evidence" to support a ban.

The all-party parliamentary Middle Way Group worked with the Veterinary Association for Wildlife Management (500 veterinarians across the U.K.) to produce the document, which concludes that the hunting ban of 2004 is "unscientific, unenforceable, socially divisive, and harms, rather than improves, animal welfare," and called for the ban to be repealed.

Alison Hawes, regional director of the Countryside Alliance, said the findings were another step towards the repeal of the ban which the organisation has been campaigning for: "We are now looking at the probability of a repeal, rather than the possibility. The ball is really rolling in that direction."

David Cameron has already pledged the Conservatives will hold a free vote on the issue in Parliament if they come to power in an election likely to be held next year.

Trapping is not an option for fox control in the U.K., as it is in the U.S., because the use of traps was banned in the 1950s. Ironically, the ban on traps was supported by the mounted hunts who thought it would strengthen their hand as the "preferred" method of fox control. >> To read more >> To read the press release [.doc]


The Flowbee for Pets?

"Flowbee may be used on pets with a Pet attachment. Please note when cutting your pets coat down to 1/2" inch, it is essential to use the pet attachment. This will keep the pet's skin in place."


"It sucks as it cuts."

I'm sure.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Digging on the Dogs

Pearl listens to Mountain under ground.

I have been a bit of a physical wreck recently, first with elbow bursitis (drained, and now fine), and then falling 12 feet off a cliff (I could have fallen 90 feet so I am not complaining) which strained a ligament in my right knee and buggered my right elbow.

The right elbow is now fine, and the right knee is about 90 percent (it only hurts a little when I go up stairs, and get in and out of the truck).

So am I all better? Not quite. Now I have tendinitis in my left arm!

No matter. I went digging yesterday despite the tendinitis, and though my left arm hurt a bit, my knee held up under the weight of the pack and the tools, and the dogs had a blast.

Mountain is, literally, standing on her head to pull out a small groundhog being bolted by Pearl.

Pearl with one of the three small groundhogs taken this day. We bolted another small one, and also a raccoon which skittered to freedom thanks to one of the unseen holes in a brushy six-eyed sette.

Pearl listens to Mountain underground.

Mountain can be seen just inside this enormous old tree trunk. There is a groundhog pipe right in the middle. She has found there before, but I never even try to dig it. No one home today.

Mountain and Pearl look to retrieve a dispatched groundhog that gravity slid back into the hole. Where did it go?

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Kill Devil Terrier

Some people seem to have all the luck.

First, Luisa over at Lassie Get Help, manages to find a genuine Shenandoah Mountain Cur -- a breed first made famous by Custer who had two of them during his Virginia campaign, one of them named Smoky, and the other Fire. Fire died at the Little Big Horn, but Smoky (the better dog, and a gift to Custer from Queen Victoria through Lord Buckley) survived. Until Luisa's magical find, I was sure the Shenandoah Mountain Cur was extinct.

Now Doug, over at the Harris Hawk Blog has managed to find what must surely be one of the last Kill Devil Terriers in existence -- a dog made famous by Orville and Wilbur Wright.

The first Kill Devil Terrier was acquired by Orville and Wilbur in 1902 at Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina while they were waiting out the weather to test their second big glider.

The dog came to the Wright camp with a load of food rations. The old man who drove the food wagon out to the dunes came out with the dog, and no one noticed he did not leave with it until very late in the evening, when the dog appeared over a dune, just in time to lick the pots clean from the evening meal.

It was two weeks before the wagon returned with another provision of food, and during that time, Wilbur and Orville became very fond of the dog who not only kept rats and Grey Fox out of the rations, but who also served as a quick and ready wind sock.

Years later, Orville would note,

"The dog was key. Without him, we might have died long before we got off the ground, for we were terrible at gauging wind velocity. It was Wilbur who noticed that we never had any real success unless the fine fur along the dog's ears was riffling out in the wind. After that, we never flew without asking the dog's permission."

In fact,the absence of a Kill Devil Terrier at Fort Myers, Virginia is said by some to have been the cause of the first avian fatality in the world. While some blamed the crash on a crack in the right propeller, it was properly pointed out that everything was smashed after the crash, and that the absence of the dog, named Flyer, was only real variable from earlier successful flights.

After that, of course, it was considered bad luck by early fliers not to have some sort of representative of a Kill Devil Terrier with them at all times.

Some simply carried a small stuffed dog, or painted a small picture of a Kill Devil Terrier near their landing gear, but others -- particularly early barnstomers -- had the real thing with them whenever they traveled.

Over time, as technology progressed and superstition subsided, fewer and fewer avaiators took real dogs with them in their airplanes, and today many flyers have never even heard of a Kill Devil Terrier.

The last pure Kill Devil Terrier known to exist prior to Doug's discovery was owned by Amelia Earhart, who disappeared with her dog while flying over the Pacific in 1937.

What an amazing thing to rediscover a remnant population of these dogs still in existance, and just 10 miles from Kill Devil Hills, too!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

A Wildlife Transmitter Beats an Arrow In the Neck

Black-tailed Godwit

Remember, when we were kids and people said the birds "flew south" for the winter?

Well, believe it or not, that was about all we knew for a lot of species.

Birds disappeared flying south in the Fall and came back, flying north, in the Spring. Where these birds went, exactly, and what they did when they got there, was a bit of a mystery.

Beginning in the 16th Century or so, some bird owners (pigeon fanciers and falconers mostly) began banding or ringing the legs of select birds to establish ownership.

The first record of a metal band attached to a bird's leg was in 1595, when one of Henry IV's banded Peregrine Falcons was lost in pursuit of a bustard in France. It showed up the next day in Malta, 1,300 miles away!

In the early 19th Century, the world began to get a glimpse into the scope of avian winter migrations, thanks to an arrow in the neck. Atlas Obscura tells the story:

Until the 19th century, the sudden annual disappearance of white storks each fall had been a profound mystery to European bird-watchers. Aristotle thought the storks went into hibernation with the other disappearing avian species, perhaps at the bottom of the sea. According to some fanciful accounts, “flocks of swallows were allegedly seen congregating in marshes until their accumulated weight bent the reeds into the water, submerging the birds, which apparently then settled down for a long winter’s nap.” A 1703 pamphlet titled “An Essay toward the Probable Solution of this Question: Whence come the Stork and the Turtledove, the Crane, and the Swallow, when they Know and Observe the Appointed Time of their Coming,” argued that the disappearing birds flew to the moon for the winter.

On May 21, 1822, a stunning piece of evidence came to light, which suggested a less extra-terrestrial, if no less wondrous, solution to the quandary of the disappearing birds. A white stork, shot on the Bothmer Estate near Mecklenburg, was discovered with an 80 cm long Central African spear embedded in its neck. The stork had flown the entire migratory journey from its equatorial wintering grounds in this impaled state. The Arrow-Stork, or Pfeilstorch, can now be found, stuffed, in the Zoological Collection of the University of Rostock. It is not alone. Since 1822, some 25 separate cases of pfeilstorches have been recorded.

What happened next? Well, quite a lot.

The 19th Century was a period of explosive scientific discovery, and people began to move beyond simple banding to establish ownership, to banding as a method of tracking birds across time and space.

Among the first to step forward in the name of Science was John James Audubon, who attached small ringlets of silver wire to the legs of a brood of Phoebes near Philadelphia so he could firmly establish that birds raised in one area were the same ones who later returned to nest in that same area.

In 1899, Hans Mortensen, a Danish school teacher, took the idea of bird-banding one step farther, and began banding wild birds with metal rings that had his name and address on them. It was Mortensen that invented the system of bird banding we use today, though it should be said that it was the Smithsonian Institution, here in Washington, D.C., which really popularized bird-banding, and made it an avenue of mainstream scientific inquiry.

For about 100 years, bird banding was how we tracked bird migrations around the world, and to tell the truth, it was not that great a system.

In a world of billions of birds, only a small fraction-of-a-fraction were ever going to be banded, and most of these were ducks or geese which had an obvious economic value. Smaller birds of no obvious value were much less likely to get banded, and only those birds shot or netted ever had any hope of having their identifications seen, much less returned to the proper data-keeper.

The result: until only a decade or so ago, we still had a very imperfect knowledge of where birds went when they "flew south" for the winter, and we knew even less about where they stopped and fed along the way.

The good news is that in the 1990s, the process of electronic miniaturization progressed to the point that scientists could begin to put transmitters on really large birds like hawks and cranes, and data from those transmitters could be uploaded to satellites. Today, the science of miniaturization has progressed to the point that it's possible to put a transmitter on a hummingbird -- even a dragonfly -- although we still need an airplane or car to follow on behind the smallest of transmitters.

It is hard to overstate how important electronic tracking is to wildlife management and protection. A small story, however, might give a clue.

Three of the very first miniature electronic tracking transmitters capable of linking up to a satellite were attached to Swainson's hawks back in 1994. Within a few days, two of the transmitters conked out, but the transmitter on the third bird retained power and showed the hawk traveled from southern Canada down the American Midwest into Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and past Ecuador into the Pampas region of Venezuela.

Scientists quickly scurried off to see if they could locate the animal.

What they found in Argentina was both amazing and disturbing.

The amazing part was that Swainson's hawks, which are solitary hunters in North America, assembled into large communal flocks of as many as 7,000 birds on their winter hunting grounds.

The disturbing part was that in Argentina Swainson's hawks lived on swarms of locust-like grasshoppers, which were being systematically poisoned by organo-phosphate pesticides.

The bug spray, in turn, was killing off the Swainson's hawks in droves.

As they drove into the area where the hawk's signal had last been heard from, scientists were alarmed to find thousands of hawks already dead under their roosts.

To make a long story short, that year 25 percent of all the Swainson's hawks in the world were killed by pesticides in Argentina -- a phenomenon that would never have been known had it not been for wildlife tracking telemetry.

The good news is that by switching to different types of pesticides, Argentina's farmers were able to sharply reduce grasshopper infestations while doing little serious harm to wildlife --a "win-win" for all sides.

As you might suspect, the brave new world of wildlife transmitters is still giving us a lot of new information, and great stories as well.

For example, one of fifteen Black-tailed Godwits released in the Friesland area of the Netherlands last Saturday arrived in Senegal in West Africa on Tuesday morning. The distance of 2,500 miles (4,000 kilometres), was covered by the bird in two days of nonstop flying.

Today, scientists are able to track bird populations around the globe, and load this information into graphics-based data bases so the general public can follow these epic migrations.

And it's not just birds that migrate, is it?

On every continent mammals, birds, fish and even insects migrate extraordinarily long distances.

It's not just Monarch butterflies that fly south for the winter for example -- it's a lot of dragonflies as well.

And it's not just herring and salmon that migrate out of oceans and up our rivers and streams -- it's perch and eels too. Out in the oceans, shark, tuna, whales, penguins, and sea turtles are swimming vast distances in never-ending seasonal circles, as they have for millions of years. On land we have long-distance migrations by caribou, bison, pronghorn antelope, elephant, wildebeest, and zebra.

How do the animals find their way? No one is quite sure.

No doubt there are a lot of factors that help guide them -- the position of the sun, wind, smell, temperature, sound, and visual landmarks, for starters. We know, for example, that when pigeons get closer to home, pigeons will actually follow roadways, same as you and I.

Migrations at night, when most birds fly really long distances, however, may be due to an internal magnetic compass that is hard-wired into the brain and working off of a bit of superoxide.

And it's not just birds that have this bit of electro-chemistry firing off in their brain -- bats do too.

And if bats (mammals) have electro-magnetic compasses in their brain, why not fish?

The main benefit of wildlife transmitters, of course, is that by tracking animals -- so many of which move about only at night -- we are better able to protect vital wildlife and ancient migration corridors.

That's a benefit for everyone -- the wildlife, hunters, and Mother Nature included.

On a more personal level, of course, the tremendous strides made in wildlife transmitters over the last two decades, have been an enormous benefit for those of us who engage in highly-skilled primitive hunting with dogs, hawks, falcons, and ferrets.

Yes, hawks and falcons are still lost rather routinely, but falconry transmitters and Yaggi locators offer some hope of recovery.

In the world of terriers and ferrets, the development of small low-frequency transmitters means long layups underground and long and dangerous digs are less frequent than they once were.

Even houndsmen and pet owners have benefited, thanks to tracking collars to serve their various needs.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Want to read another amazing bird migration story? Check out A Shearwater's Endless Summer from a March 2007 post to this blog.

Good Luck With That

A Galápagos Hawk (Buteo galapagoensis) tries to nail a Galápagos Tortoise.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson :: Earth Song


You are here.

You will never be anywhere else.

Take care of it.

* * *

I was never a huge Michael Jackson fan, but I will give a hat tip to the fact that he was a very gifted musician and dancer, and had a social conscience revealed in such songs as "We Are the World," "Man in the Mirror," "Heal the World," "Cry," and "Earth Song."

If you have never seen this video or heard this song before, there is a reason for that. For whatever reason, "Earth Song" was never released as a single in the United States.

Coffee and Provocation

  • Stupid on a Stick:
    Fetchstix is trying to sell the canine equivalent of a "pet rock." Picture above for the unbelievers. Instead of buying this kind of crap, how about making a gift to a local canine rescue ... or even a human shelter?

  • Revenge of the Deer:
    Feral dogs kill a lot of deer. Now comes a report of deer killing pet dogs. The Missoulian reports that a dachshund was killed by a deer in its yard and that a 3-month-old Yorkshire terrier was stomped to death by a doe.

  • Lynx Return to Colorado:
    Lynx seem to have have finally taken hold in Colorado. The population is still small and perilous, but we have a second generation now.

  • Spotted Owl Nonsense:
    I object to contrived crisis, whether it is on the left or the right. An example of a contrived crisis on the left is the supposed near-extinction of the "Northern Spotted Owl"." Why the quotes? Simple: there is no such species. There is a Spotted Owl, Strix occidentalis, and only a Spotted Owl. They are common, and cross-breed quite freely with barred owls. A "Northern" Spotted Owl is merely a subspecies of a common animal, and a subspecies is, by definition, not a species. Most bird subspecies are virtually undifferentiated from their main types, and that is true for the Northern Spotted Owl, which is simply a Spotted Owl who -- due to geography -- is living around a lot of old growth timber. YES, preserve old growth timber. But be honest that you are preserving the trees for the trees. It is a good enough reason. Spotted Owls can live in virtually any kind of habitat -- old growth, not-so-old growth, and even desert scrub.

  • Termites are Smarter than the Kennel Club:
    Mother Nature abhors long-term inbreeding to the point that female termites are able to reproduce both sexually and asexually. The asexually produced termites (i.e. self-clones) mostly grow up to be queen successors – so-called "secondary queens" – which remain in the termite colony and mate with the king. The result is large broods of babies without the dangers of inbreeding, as secondary queens have no genes in common with their mate.

  • Pepper Moths Return to Pre-Pollution Color:
    Do you remember learning in school about how Pepper Moths in the U.K. had changed their color from mottled white to dark grey-black in order to camouflage themselves better amidst the dirty grime and pollution of the 19th and 20th Centuries? Well guess what? It appears that with cleaner air, the Pepper Moth may be reverting back to its original mottled white! This is not only a positive sign for the environment, but also living proof that Natural Selection is at work all around us.

  • Looks Aren't Everything:
    After two decades of research, John Byers has shown that female pronghorn antelope do not simply select mates with the biggest body or the most impressive horns, but instead select mates with the best vigor and best stamina; traits that will give their offspring the greatest chance of success.

  • Governor Mark Sanford on Bill Clinton's Extra-marital affair:
    "This is very damaging stuff. I think it would be much better for the country and for him personally (to resign)... I come from the business side. If you had a chairman or president in the business world facing these allegations, he'd be gone."

  • Alec Baldwin Says "Don't Take the Bait"
    Alec Baldwin says ignore the Sanford mess: "Now is a wonderful opportunity to show the country what Democrats/liberals/progressives/unaligned learned from the Clinton era. Whatever personal problems that public officials deal with privately, leave them alone....The rest of the world is about to kick this country right where it counts when it decides to go off the dollar as the reserve currency, and you want to spend five minutes over the fact that Sanford was cheating on his wife? Don't take the bait. Move on."

Thursday, June 25, 2009

"Pedigree Dogs Exposed" to Air on Canadian TV

Pedigree Dogs Exposed, the documentary that rocked the dog world in Britain and Australia, is coming to CBC in Canada on Sunday, June 28, 2009 at 8 pm ET.

Spread the word!

Since the broadcast of this documentary in the U.K. last August, the British and Australian Kennel Clubs have announced a wholesale review of every pedigree dog breed.

Now comes word from the CBC that Canadian Kennel Club is also undertaking it's own review.

Progress! And more to come, I will wager.


Keep Being Awesome

Click picture to make it bigger.


Undiggable Earths

This groundhog sette ran more than 6 feet deep through broken slates mixed with thick tree roots. This is a diggable earth, but one you do not want to tackle solo, as I was this day in the field. This is when you want a dog that will come out rather than force you to dig down to it.

If you dig very much, your dog will eventually enter a sette that, for one reason or another, is undiggable. Perhaps it is a fine-looking earth that, when shovel is put to soil, turns out to be a heap of roofing tin covered over with dirt -- or worse, a mound of steel-belted radial tires! I have had dogs enter settes that ran under huge pieces of broken iron sewage pipe that had been dumped into a ravine, as well as rock settes and massive hay bale stacks that were not going to be shifted without a backhoe.

Sometimes a sette is theoretically diggable, but you really would prefer not to. A 10-foot solo dig for a groundhog? Not if you can avoid it!

What do you do when your dog enters an earth that could only be dug if you were forced to chainsaw down the tree and prize out the roots?


Stand back, far away, and sit down. Do not smoke, do not talk, and do not stand up. Do not sit near the sette -- you want to be so far back from the hole that the dog cannot hear you breathe or smell you. Do not shift your weight or bang your tools -- just sit and wait and watch the hole.

How long do you wait? That depends. Most dogs will come out between a half hour and an hour after they enter. What happens if they don't? You wait some more. Do not go back to the sette and do not call the dog.

Waiting is hard, especially if it's a green dog, or you are a green digger. There's a natural desire to do something -- to start digging, to call the dog, to shove a mirror and light down the hole, to walk around topside boxing for location, etc.

If you have really ascertained that the earth is undiggable, resist temptation.

Two or three hours may go by with the dog not coming out. The good news is that most dogs will exit on their own before this amount of time has passed. Be patient.

It is in these undiggable earths that small vocal dogs prove their worth, because these dogs are less likely to get stuck, are more likely to be able to turn around underground, and are less likely to shove dirt behind them that might "bottle them up" from behind.

If the dog is vocal, and you are quiet, you should be able to hear it bay when you are close to the sette (provided it does not have a mouth full of fur).

When the dog does appear, do not walk up to it, but instead turn your back, walk slowly away, and quietly call its name -- the dog will most likely follow. If it does not follow, and instead dives back into the hole, simply sit down and wait some more -- the dog will be out again, soon enough. Now you are simply in a waiting and training game.

An experienced dog will understand, in time, that you are a team and that if you are digging it has to hold ground, but if you are not digging for a long period of time it may be a signal to come out.

Dogs learn, provided we are consistent and give them lots of experience. It is on the experience end that most terrier owners fall down.

The Cull of the Wild

This book set out the tenets of wildlife management still in use today.

This post is reprinted from this blog circa June, 2005

Despite a three-fold increase in U.S. population since 1900, the U.S. now has more bear, cougar, buffalo, turkey, geese, duck, fox, raccoon, possum, alligator, groundhog, bald eagle, pronghorn, wolf, coyote, bobcat, and deer than at any time in the last 100 years. Beaver, turkey and river otter have been reintroduced into areas where they were wiped out, and wolf, elk and cougar are beginning to return to the east.

Though animal rights organizations decry sport hunting, the truth is that organizations such as Ducks Unlimited, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Trout Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, Quail Unlimited, and the National Wild Turkey Federation are the backbone of true wildlife protection in the United States. These organizations, and their state and local affiliates, work to protect and improve habitat across the U.S., as well as fund wildlife reintroduction and research campaigns.

For their part, groups such as the Humane Society of the United States and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) are little more than direct mail mills. Both organizations are entirely absent from all habitat protection efforts in the U.S., and neither organization runs even a single animal shelter in the U.S. despite the scores of millions of dollars they collect from the public. Instead these organizations send out millions of pieces of direct mail every year -- all of it highly emotional and designed to get suburban matrons to part with their "most generous gift of $10, $20 or even $50".

One of the perennial topics of animal rights direct mail campaigns is a push to outlaw trapping. Carefully staged photos and antique traps are used to pluck at the heartstrings, but donor beware! It should serve as a warning that blue-chip environmental organizations such as the National Audubon Society have sued the Humane Society (and won) in order to preserve the use of leghold traps as a wildlife management tool. All of the wolves now in the Yellowstone, for example, are routinely caught in leghold traps in order to inoculate them against rabies and distemper and to switch out the batteries on their radio-tracking collars. Modern leghold traps, properly set, are far more selective and less brutal than those that existed 100 or even 50 years ago -- a fact conveniently omitted from the direct mail literature of animal rights advocates.

Trapping for pelts in the U.S. is now largely independent of wildlife numbers -- when trapping numbers go down it is not because of a dip in the target species population, but because of a dip in pelt prices.

As of this writing, green (untanned) fox or raccoon pelts sell for between $8 and $12 dollars apiece -- not much considering the time and effort it takes to boil, dye and and wax a trap, set it out, check it daily, and skin and flesh the resulting catch.

That said, a surprising number of fox and raccoon are still trapped in the U.S. In the winter of 1999-2000, for example, when pelt prices were quite low, 29,739 fox were trapped in the state of Virginia (15,632 red fox and 14,107 Gray Fox), as well as 83,369 raccoon, 3,304 coyote, and 3,050 bobcat. In Pennsylvania that same year, 63,654 fox were taken (26,794 Gray fox and 36,860 red fox), as well as 107,407 raccoon, 9,508 coyote, and 58 bobcat.

For comparison purposes, the state of Virginia is 42,700 square miles in size, and Pennsylvania is 46,058 square miles in size as compared to England, which is 50,800 square miles and all of the UK which is 94,200 square miles in size.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

To Satisfy Your Thirst While Digging on the Dogs

To satisfy your thirst while digging on the dogs, consider the terrific-looking SIG water bottle pictured at right. No "rescue markup" on this item, which is extruded from a single piece of aluminum, crack-resistant, and completely reusable and recyclable. A ground-breaking interior lining is 100% effective against leaching and combats residue build-up, so your SIGG Lifestyle Bottle is easy to clean and ensures that all you taste is the water, juice or the energy drink that you just poured into the bottle, even after its been sitting in the Sun!

Want to look hot (while staying cool)? How about our nice golf shirt, with all proceeds going to Jack Russell rescue?

Trying to stay warm? We have coffee mugs too, and hooded sweat shirts, with all proceeds going to Jack Russell rescue.


What's It All About?

A recycled post from this blog, circa 2005

What is it about dogs?

There is no simple answer to such a simple question. Instead there are as many answers as there are people.

For most a dog is simply a happy greeter at the door that never asks too many questions. For this alone people spend enormous sums on food and veterinary care, forgiving stains on rugs and holes in gardens, hair on the couch and strange smells in the den.

For other people dogs are other things.

Some show ring enthusiasts love the competition, while others value the friendships that develop at ringside.

Agility and fly ball competitors love the speed of their sport, the cleverness of their dogs, and the challenge of cross-species communication and instruction.

For those of us with hunting dogs, the joy is going into field and forest with a companion that offers an entirely new way of looking at the world. For many of us it is a return to childhood, when we saw nature at a smaller level as we turned over rocks looking for fishing worms, or caught frogs and turtles by the pond, or climbed trees to steal a peak at a nest of doves.

Dogs give us us an excuse to venture back into thickets again, to jump from rock to rock down a stream, and to poke about in fields.

The process of hunting forces those of us that rush too fast through life to slow down and pay attention to detail. If we are going to get any good, we have to learn about wildlife and the land. We have to give the dog experience and gain some ourselves.

As dog and owner progress, they begin to work as a team and a kind of trust develops. The dog is seeing the world through the human's eyes, and the human is seeing the world through the dog's eyes. Both are looking at the world through a new set of glasses.

Nothing brings joy to an honest working dog so much as the work. I have only to pick up a shovel and put it into the truck to get my terriers bouncing off the driveway in anticipation. The genetic code explodes in them like a watch spring released from tension. The dogs know what shovels are about, and they can think of nothing but work until they are nearly too tired to stand at the end of the day.

I confess I do not understand people that buy well-built hunting dogs and then do not allow them to hunt. In my mind, owning a well-built working terrier and not working it is like owning a rare bottle of wine just to read the label. People do such things, but I do not understand it.

Each to their own, of course. Different strokes for different folks. God bless them all.

That said, if all a person wants is a house pet or a show dog, may I recommend a Shitzu or Pekingese, a West Highland White or even a Fox Terrier?

Leave the hunting dogs for the people willing to hunt them, and leave the good wines for the people willing to pop the cork.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Supreme Court Greenlights Killing All Life in Lake

No more fish from Lower Slate Lake thanks to the Corps of Engineers.

Here's the short story: An Alaska-based gold mining company wanted to dump 4.5 million tons of heavy-metal-tainted tailings and slurry directly into Lower Slate Lake in Alaska's Tongass National Forest, knowing it would kill all life in that lake.

The Bush Administration's Army Corps of Engineers greenlighted that idea and issued a permit.

Now the U.S. Supreme Court has said killing all life in that lake is fine -- go right ahead. Read the complete story in The New York Times and the Alaska Daily News.

And what is to prevent the Army Corps of Engineers from greenlighting the dumping of toxins in lakes, stream and rivers near you? Not a damn thing!

And what has Sarah Palin, the Governor of Alaska to say about all this?

Up to her neck in ambition, babies, a pregnant teenager daughter, and various klepto-scandals, she none-the-less has the time to twitter that the Supreme Court decision was "good news on responsible development & great jobs for AK" and that the "Court's ruling a green light for responsible resource dvpmt," because it created 300 temporary jobs in her state.

Wow. Think about how many lakes, forests, streams, rivers, and mountains she would be willing to kill in order to create the 2.6 million jobs lost in the last year of the Bush Administration.

Lower Slate Lake is soon to be a stinking dead zone.

The High Cost of Animal Rights Rhetoric

A recycled post from this blog circa February 2005.

What would happen if hunting and trapping were eliminated?

Well, your taxes would go up, for starters.
In addition, wildlife-car collisions would kill and injure many thousands of Americans every year.

The Potential Costs of Losing Hunting & Trapping was compiled by Southwick Associates for the International Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies in Washington, D.C. Southwick calculates that if hunting and trapping were eliminated, wildlife-auto collisions would result in an additional 50,000 injuries per year and $3.8 billion in additional auto repair costs. Health care and disease control costs would jump by $12.45 billion just for rabies alone and homeowners would see an additional $972 million in damages to homes annually.

Hunters and trappers today provide their wildlife-control services for free to the taxpayer. In the absence of public hunting and trapping, the potential cost of government-run substitutes for hunting and trapping was estimated at $934.2 million to $9.3 billion to control whitetail deer, $132 million to $265 million to control fur-bearers, and $16 million to $32 million annually just to control beaver.

For the complete copy of this report, please visit the Southwick Associates website >> HERE and click on Free Reports and select The Potential Costs of Losing Hunting and Trapping as Wildlife Management Tools (bottom of page).

Monday, June 22, 2009

A Rare Photo of Laika

A recycled post from this blog, circa this day in 2005

The above photo is a rare picture of the space-dog, Laika, in her space suit. Though often described as a "husky," Laika was, in fact, a 13-pound, smooth female fox terrier mix which had been a stray on the streets of Moscow. Females were chosen because they did not have to stand and lift their leg to urinate. Astronaut dogs were trained to stay very still for long periods of time (they spent 15-20 days at a time in small boxes) and to wear a pressurized suit and helmet.

"Laika" was launched into space in Sputnik 2 on November 3, 1957. Laika, whose real name was Kudryavka (Little Curly), was dubbed "Muttnik" by American newspapers.

Laika was the first living creature ever to be launched into earth orbit, and it was known that she would die in space, as there was no recovery method for true orbital flight in those days.

At the World Space Congress in Houston in November of 2003, Dimitri Malashenkov of the Institute for Biological problems in Moscow finally revealed that immediately after launch Laika's capsule reached speeds of nearly 18,000 miles per hour. As the pressure in the capsule increased, Laika's pulse rate increased to three times its normal level. Five to seven hours into the flight, no life signs were evident, and it is believed Laika died of over-heating, stress, and pressure. Sputnik 2 fell back to earth on April 14, 1958 -- four and a half months after leaving earth -- and burned up on re-entry.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Coffee and Provocation

  • 95 Percent of Blogs Are Abandoned and Gathering Dust:
    The New York Times reports that 95 percent of all blogs are abandoned, some after the first post. Richard Jalichandra, chief executive of Technorati, says that at any given time there are seven million to 10 million active blogs on the Internet, but "it’s probably between 50,000 and 100,000 blogs that are generating most of the page views." Hmmmm. I gues this blog counts as a success then, as its rank as of this morning is 80,959. In other news, Google announces that their free blog service (and our host), Blogger, is turning 10 years old in August and that "Every minute of every day, 270,000 words are written on Blogger."

  • Camera Trap Codger is Back!
    He's been out of commission for a while, but he's back in the saddle again. Check it out!

  • My Hummingbird Can Kick Your Peregrine Falcon's Ass:
    Not only can a humming bird fly faster than a Peregrine Falcon in full dive mode (base on on how many body-lengths a minute it travels), but it also pulls a lot more G's doing it.

  • Pictures Tell the Tale -- Tattood Girl Is Retarded :
    Did you see the story in the news about the girl who got 56 stars tattooed all over one side of her face? She claims she "fell asleep" and only intended to get two small ones put on, and she is suing the tatttoo parlor. Fell asleep? Look, I don't care how many beers, shots of whiskey, ruffies, downers, and eight balls of heroin you have inside you, you are NOT going to fall asleep with this guy holding a needle gun in front of you. Not. Going. To. Happen. Ever. Please go to the link and scroll down. Now imagine that face within a few feet of yours, a needle gun in his hand, and he is working just a few inches from your eye. Sleep? I don't think so. In fact, you may never sleep again after seeing his picture!

  • Krispy Kreme Donut Pollution in My Backyard:
    It turns out that Krispy Kreme donuts is not a good neighbor, and they're not a good neighbor right in my backyard. As The Fairfax Times notes, "The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has filed a $20 million lawsuit in Circuit Court against North Carolina-based Krispy Kreme, alleging that its Lorton plant has destroyed local wastewater pipes with 'doughnut grease and slime.' The suit alleges that 'excessive quantities of highly corrosive wastes, doughnut grease and other pollutants,' from the plant have caused millions in damages and even sparked environmental concerns. Court documents claim that the Lorton factory rolls out about 83 million doughnuts a year, producing as a byproduct somewhere in the neighborhood of 15,000 gallons of waste every day.... The county recently provided the prolific doughnut maker a bill for nearly two-million-dollars, saying that's how much it has cost to repair damage directly related to the manufacturer. The additional $18 million in fines addressed in the suit are punitive."

  • Save Us from Pointy Knives!
    Devout readers of this blog might remember that a few years ago I put up a short post about how "British Medical Experts Campaign for Long, Pointy Knife Control." Now certified morons geniuses in the U.K. have figured out how to make a knife that cannot stab. Read all about it here. And if you ever see anyone with such a knife, be sure to shoot them... or hit them on a head with a brick... or run them over with your car. They sure as hell cannot stab you back!

  • Montana Forester Named U.S. Forest Service Chief:
    Tom Vilsack, the Sectretary of Agriculture which, rather oddly, is in control of the our national forest system, has named Montana forester Tom Tidwell as the new head of the U.S. Forest Service. Tidwell is a 32-year Forest Service employee and now supervises national forests through northern Idaho, Montana and the Dakotas. He began his career at the Boise National Forest, and has since worked in eight different national forests across three regions, and was a legislative specialist in the D.C. office as well. His appointment has been praised by Mike Francis at The Wilderness Society, as well as Chris Wood at Trout Unlimited, which is a good enough recommendation for me.

  • Obama's Choice for Fish and Wildlife Service is Veteran Biologist:
    President Barack Obama has tapped U.S. Fish and Wildlife service veteran Sam Hamiliton (see bio) to serve as Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Said Ducks Unlimited: "Sam Hamilton is not only a strong wildlife professional, he is also an advocate for hunting and fishing and other wildlife-based recreation." Not everone was as pleased as Ducks Unlimited. Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) blasted the choice based on the fact that he "green-light suburban sprawl in shrinking Florida panther habitat."

  • New BLM Head Has the Experience:
    President Barack Obama has tapped Bob Abbey, a former aide under Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, to head the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. Abbey was director of the Nevada office of the Bureau of Land Management for eight years, where he oversaw 48 million acres of public land managed by the bureau in the state, oversaw a staff of 700 employees in eight field offices and the state office, and managed an annual operating budget of $51 million. The BLM manages 256 million acres -- more than any other Federal agency -- and almost all of it is located in 12 western states.

  • Red-tail Hawks Nesting at Rayburn House Office Building:
    I have often seen red-tail hawks on the Capitol grounds, especially in the area right in front of the Supreme Court where the underground visitors center (i.e. the Congressional bomb shelter) is being built. This is the first time that I know of, however, that a red-tail has decided to build a nest on a Congressional building. Nice!

  • Obama Gives a Shout Out to the Number Two Religion:
    From a Whitehouse transcript of the June 19th, 2009 prayer breakfast: "We can begin by giving thanks for the legacy that allows us to come together. For it was the genius of America’s Founders to protect the freedom of all religion, and those who practice no religion at all. So as we join in prayer, we remember that this is a nation of Christians and Muslims and Jews and Hindus and non-believers. It is this freedom that allows faith to flourish within our borders. It is this freedom that makes our nation stronger." For those who are wondering, the #2 religion in the U.S. is no religion at all, and it is the only "religion" that is growing rapidly. In the U.S., people with no religion at all far outnumber all the Jews, Mormons, Muslims, Buddhists and Jehovaha's Witnesses combined. There are more people without religion in the U.S. than there are Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Pentecostals, or Episcopalians.

  • Lear's Macaw Population Rebounding:
    Thanks to successful conservation efforts, the Lear's Macaw is now only Endangered, instead of Critically Endangered.

  • Curlew Population Tracking:
    In order to avoid the extinction fate that befell the Eskimo Curlew (its population once numbered in the millions), scientists are now using satellite telemetry to track the migration of Long-billed Curlew from their breeding grounds in Montana to their wintering grounds on the coast. The Long-billed curlew is the largest shorebird in North America

  • Tracking Penguin and Tiger Crap:
    Scientists are now using satellites to track penguin colony locations and size. Apparently jealous of all the attention the penguin-poop story has gotten, tiger researchers decided to announce some old news as new news: that DNA from tiger poop can help them estimate the cat's numbers in the wild.

  • Camera Traps Reveal Snow Leopards in Afghanistan:
    Despite 30 years of war, snow leopards seem to be doing OK in Aghanistan. Four of the five camera traps placed in a narrow strip of land that straddles Tajikistan to the north and Pakistan to the south, photographed different snow leopards on several occasions.

  • Caribou and Reindeer Populations are in Decline:
    How steep is the decline? How about 60% in the last 30 years?

Kris Kristofferson :: Sunday Morning Coming Down


Saturday, June 20, 2009

Can Wild Animals Be Gay?

Time magazine has a long article on Why Some People Are Gay: Notes (and Clues) from the Animal Kingdom.

We have known for at least a decade that hundreds of animal species — including birds, reptiles, mollusks and, of course, humans — engage in same-gender sexual acts. But no one is quite sure why....

One particularly charged finding is that in most species besides humans, same-gender pairings rarely lead to lifelong relationships. In other words, when one attractive bonobo male eyes another in a lovely patch of Congo swamp forest, they occasionally kiss and then move on to other oral pleasures, but they don't bother anyone afterward about trying to legalize their right to an open-banana-bar ceremony. In fact, they are likely to move on to girl bonobos: most animals that engage in same-gender sex acts do so only when an opposite-sex partner is unavailable.... And yet the study's authors, Nathan Bailey and Marlene Zuk of UC Riverside's biology department, report some exceptions, like the laysan albatross. Last year, researchers studying a Hawaiian colony of albatrosses found that nearly a third of all the couples involved two females who courted and then shared parenting responsibilities.... Male chinstrap penguins also form long-term relationships, at least in captivity. And some male bighorn sheep will mount females only after the females adopt male-like behaviors.

So what's the conclusion to the article?

There isn't one! No one knows anything for sure, other than a certain amount of this kind of thing seems to be entirely natural, if (obviously) exceptional.

And, of course, some animals are more gender-bender than others:

Bottlenose Dolphins are, apparently, "possibly the most bisexual animal on earth" and engage in frequent same-sex sexual activity. Roughly 50% of male dolphins have sex with other males. Scientists think this sex may help strengthen alliances among small groups.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Darwin :: The Movie called "Creation"

I am looking forward to this one. The two stars of Creation -- Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly -- are married to each other, and both are very fine actors. No release date, as far as I can tell, but it must be in the Fall of 2009.

In other news, they were filming an unnamed movie on my parents block in Washington, D.C. yesterday. Apparently Jack Nicholson is the star. I did not see him, alas, but I did see a lot of movie rigging and dozens of 20-somethings keeping everyone out of harm's way. The show most go on!

2,500 Year-Old Falcon Nest

The latest from the BBC:

A 2,500-year-old bird's nest has been discovered on a cliff in Greenland.

The nesting site is still continually used by gyrfalcons, the world's largest species of falcon, and is the oldest raptor nest ever recorded.

Three other nests, each over 1,000 years old, have also been found, one of which contains feathers from a bird that lived more than 600 years ago.

Read the whole thing.

Preserving Working Lacy Dogs

Sometimes a letter comes in over the transom that is so well written and spot-on that I have to give it space and quote it verbatim. Such is the case with a letter I received this week from Julie Neumann in Texas:

I'm a huge fan of your site and read both the blog and your articles quite often. Thank you for taking such a firm stance on the maintenance and promotion of working breeds as just that... working breeds!

I own a Lacy Dog, a compact and gritty cur breed developed in Texas to work free-range hogs and cattle. Unfortunately they come in a unique blue variety and were named the State Dog of Texas in 2005. (Visit http://www.nationallacydog.org for more info and this flickr set for pictures.) This has lead to countless pet homes acquiring them for their good looks and Texas panache. And because some people have marketed them as rare blue pets, many new owners realize too late they've made a mistake, including myself. I was a very active person, I liked to job and hike, but lived in an apartment in Austin. When I researched the Lacys and contacted breeders, I was told that lifestyle would be perfectly acceptable for a Lacy. WRONG! It started out with baying children and dominating dogs at the park and turned into serious human and dog aggression by the time Sadie was a year old. None of the obedience training we tried made a difference. After getting kicked out by my roommates, I was faced with two options: get rid of the dog, which would likely mean euthanasia at the vet or the pound, or take drastic measures to save her.

Luckily a hog hunter offered to train her to hunt wild boar, the job that was ingrained in her genetic code, to see if a job could make a difference. Despite being a vegetarian hipster chick that wanted nothing to do with hunting, I drove Sadie out to the country and left her with the hog dogger for a month. It made an incredible difference. Suddenly my uncontrollable dog had an outlet for all that drive. She was allowed to chase and bark at hogs as much as she wanted. Her needs as a working dog were finally being met and everyone was much happier. Now she hunts once or twice a month and competes in hog baying competitions. We also do agility, which is a nice way to get her mental and physical exercise during the week, but it's no substitute for pigs. I try to educate anyone that is interested in this unique breed about the realities of owning a Lacy Dog.

Of course there is the flip side to this, and that's the degradation of Lacys as working dogs. Because the trend towards pets is fairly recent, it is still reversible, but people are already breeding pets to pets, ignoring working traits and simply producing more pet puppies. This is compounded by a misguided belief in some circles that drive will be there no matter what. But other breeds have demonstrated that if you don't use it you lose it. And it's likely these breeders are actually selecting against working instincts, because Lacys who do well in pet homes probably don't have the drive needed to get the job. This breed excelled as a working dog for over a century, but it will take a concerted effort by dedicated breeders to preserve that.

Julie has put up a new blog post
of her own entitled, Are you a good match for a Lacy Dog?

Perfect! Read the whole thing!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Bruce Friedrich Is a Certified Moron

Who is Bruce Friedrich?

He's the certified moron, media-whore and PETA bozo who has castigated Obama for killing a fly, and who is pictured at right.

What did I tell you?

A moron.

A media whore.

But wait.
There's more.

You see, this is the same Bruce Friedrich who is also a self-described advocate for terrorism, telling an animal rights convention in 2001 that “blowing stuff up and smashing windows” is “a great way to bring about animal liberation.”

Friedrich went on to say:

"I think it would be great if all of the fast-food outlets, slaughterhouses, these laboratories, and the banks that fund them exploded tomorrow. I think it's perfectly appropriate for people to take bricks and toss them through the windows."

This is who PETA has speaking about the President of the United States: a self-admitted advocate for terrorism. And they think this is the way to persuade or move policy?

Losers. Pathetic, brain-coddled losers.

Eco-warrior Evicted: Cave Dwelling Has No Fire Exit

The title in The Telegraph is priceless: "Eco-warrior evicted from cave dwelling without fire exit"

Hilaire Purbrick, 45, has inhabited the seven-foot cave he dug on his plot and dined off the land for the past 16 years.

But after having the dwelling checked by the fire brigade, Brighton and Hove City Council decided it did not have enough exits and sought an injunction banning him from entering it.

Mr Purbrick ignored the order and continued to live in the cave, but was pulled back into court on Tuesday when a judge granted the council a possession order which will allow him to be formally evicted and banned indefinitely from the site.

Mr Purbrick now plans to take his fight to the European Court of Human Rights, claiming his right to a private life and freedom has been breached by the order.

"I am still living there and intend to continue to do so," he said. "I know lots of people in this town who live in houses with only one door with no fire exit."

The keen gardener has a history of overcoming legal challenges to his earthy home.

In 1999, town hall authorities threatened to remove him, claiming he was running an illegal vegetable shop.

But Mr Purbick won a reprieve after claiming his site "was hardly a Sainsbury's" and he only had one customer – a pregnant woman who bought his sprouts.

The following year he successfully fought an eviction order after complaints he was keeping chickens and bees without permission.

Granting the possession order at Brighton County Court, Judge Jonathan Simpkiss said there were legitimate health and safety concerns that the cave could collapse.

"The council considers this was a danger to life. They have a responsibility to the public," he said.

Mr Purbrick's decision to appeal to the European courts was made after the judge refused leave to appeal in a UK court, saying it was a "hopeless cause of trying to resist the inevitable".

What is so funny here is that this gentleman is clearly doing no harm to self or others. He has been living at this cave site for 16 years, albeit with a lot of controversy.

Is he runnning down property values? Sure, maybe. But isn't that done every time someone parks a broken down car in their driveway, puts a pink flamingo on their lawn, or paints their house bright blue?

Of course, a lot of places have laws prohibiting that kind of stuff. But not this part of the U.K., apparently. Instead, their best, winning arguement is that this man's cave has to have a fire exit. Priceless!

If I was advising this fellow, I would suggest he put in to have his abode declared a UNESCO World Heritage site, or some such thing.

And why not? Here is a Briton living traditionally as his ancestors did -- in a cave, surrounded by a garden, bees, chickens and dogs. His is an ancient British tradition. Should it not be preserved?

Of course, he could just pull out a shovel and dig an exit, couldn't he? I will pay for the framing lumber and door. Would that silence the critics?

A Baby Groundhog Discovers Dirt Dens

Cson has been rehabbing an orphaned baby groundhog who seems to get the idea pretty quickly that holes in the ground are very good places to check out. Nice!

Groundhogs are actually members of the squirrel family, and when they are very small, they look quite a bit like regular tree squirrels.

By late Fall, if all goes well, this little fellow will be pushing about 10 pounds, and by the end of its second year, if it has had a good feed, it will weigh in at around 15 pounds.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Who Is the Man? Who is the Dog?

Who is this Man? Who is this dog?

And what does any of it have to do with hunting and fishing?

Answer: That's Teddy Roosevelt, one of three honorary terriermen on Mount Rushmore (Who are the other two?)

The dog is Skip, a mutt terrier cross (or feist) owned by legendary bear hunter John Goff. Goff gave Teddy the dog after Skip charged a bear, much to Teddy's delight.

As I note in a previous post entitled Rat Terrier Origins:

In 1905 Goff was hired as a bear hunting guide by President Theodore Roosevelt. During the trip Roosevelt was enchanted by the boisterous bravery of a small black and tan terrier that joined the bear-hunting fray. The dog was named "Skip," and for the remainder of the trip he managed to find himself in Roosevelt's lap or on his saddle.

Goff gave the terrier to Roosevelt at the end of his stay, and Roosevelt brought the dog back to the White House where it found work chasing rats in the basement and served as progenitor of the breed we know today as the American Rat Terrier.

Skip died the year before Roosevelt left the White House and was buried on the back lawn. The dog was so loved, however, that when Roosevelt left he had the dog exhumed and the body reinterred at Sagamore Hill, the family's New York estate.

I give a more detailed accounting of Skip and another terrier called Jack, noting the differences between the two and showing pictures of them each at the White House, in a longer post on Teddie Roosevelt's Terriers. Links are also given in this post to contemporaneous Roosevelt correspondence which showed that Skip was Archie's dog just as Jack Was Kermit's.

The importance of Teddy Roosevelt in the history of American hunting and fishing is not due to his legendary prowess in the field, or the fact that that this man left the Presidency to go on a year-long hunting trip in Africa. No, the importance of Roosevelt is in the fact that he helped establish America's land ethic (one later strengthened by Aldo Leopold) and did it by simply drawing boundaries on a map in order to create 150 new national forest areas in 21 states, four national game preserves, 51 federal bird sanctuaries, and 18 national monuments. No other President, before or since, has done as much to protect the heart and soul of America as Teddy Roosevelt did. For the back story here, read the post entitled Shooting Out the Land.

So who are the other honorary terriermen on Mount Rushmore? Read about one of them here >> Feists: From Washington to Lincoln to Faulkner. Yes, here at Terrierman, we give a hat tip to Old Abe if for no other reason than he wrote a long poem about bear hunting with terriers.

The other honorary terrierman on Mount Rushmore, of course, is George Washington, who helped win a war and forge a nation by a small kindness to a dog and its owner. I write a bit about that in the post entitled America's Founding Terrier.

Bottom Line: All that is great and good about this nation is connected to hunting with terriers. Let us never forget that!