Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Where in the World?

A bit of code on the main page of www.terrierman.com tells me a few general things about people visiting the web site: How many people are coming to the site, what search words they use, what the referring link was, and what country the visitor lives in.

This morning, most visitors came from the U.S. (not suprising), but the last 100 people also included people from: Canada, Sweden, Germany, the United Kingdom, Japan, New Zealand, Italy and Ireland.

Thanks to all who come to visit, and a special thanks to all who pass on the link and/or post it to other terrier, dog and hunting web sites.

California Struggles with Smart Fox

The San Franicisco Chronicle of August 16, 2004 notes that California is still stuggling with wildlife management problems exacerbated by the fact that the State has made it difficult to use traps and human population densities have made it difficult to use a gun safely:

"Among the scores of species that permanently reside or migrate through the marshes is the California clapper rail, a reclusive wading bird that is listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. The rail has staged a resurgence in recent years, primarily because of a variety of marsh rehabilitation projects, such as those underway at the Hayward Shoreline.

But the rail has a dire enemy at the shoreline -- something DiDonato has been combatting with only mixed success.

"Eastern red foxes showed up in the Bay Area in the 1980s," DiDonato said. "We don't really know how they got here, but they've given us tremendous grief from the beginning."

That's because eastern red foxes are devastatingly good at what they do: predation. They are larger and more aggressive than the rather demure indigenous gray foxes and have been supplanting them whenever the two species come in contact.

Worse, they're implacable when it comes to gobbling clapper rails.

"Gray foxes generally won't venture out onto the tidal flats where the clapper rails breed and forage," DiDonato said, "but the eastern reds aren't at all afraid of getting wet. So wherever they get established, the rails just disappear."

Red foxes can be controlled fairly easily with leg-hold traps -- but California outlawed the use of these devices in the 1990s.

"That really narrowed our options," DiDonato said. "We can use box traps, and we can shoot them. But they're extremely wary of box traps, and we can only shoot them in certain situations -- early in the morning or at dusk, when the risk to the public is nil. Plus, they're very smart, so we don't get many opportunities for a shot."

Monday, September 27, 2004

Next Generation Terrier Telemetry?

A company called Bellman and Flint is supposed to be on the verge of putting out a new "Terrier Telemetry" box and collar. I am told the box is adapted from an avalanche rescue box, and might look a bit like the avalanche box pictured above. Bellman and Flint is not associated with Deben, so this is an entirely different rig and real competition. Deben, of course, is coming out with its own improved collar and box at the end of October. Click here to see what that will look like.

The Bellmand and Flint collar and box combination is reputed to have an LCD display, read up to to 60 metres in any direction, shows which direction the dog is moving, and enable the use of multiple collars. The collar is to have a battery warning light and be home repairable, and runs off a larger camera battery than the Deben collars. The price for the complete outfit is said to be around $380, but it will have a 5-year guarantee.

The picture shown above is of an avalance rescue box of the general type that Bellman and Flint is suppsoed to be adaptating for terrier work. This particular box can be used to track multiple signals underground (that's what the "options" button is all about).

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Water Garden Bolting

I took a walk around a small farm and the water gardens on Sunday -- checking holes and otherwise avoiding digging while waiting for the corn to come off. The big corn hoppers were already placed at the edges of the fields, so the harvest is just waiting for a dry spell. It's been a bumper crop in this area, with perfect weather all summer. Big round bales are being loaded and moved out to other farms -- the first sign of the end of summer.

I found what I think is a fox den at the corner of a small and very old cemetary. I will have to let that go -- a grave is not 6 feet away, but it did get me to wondering what the fox has found while excavating. I did note a loaded persimon tree in the hedge nearby; a good thing to hit after the first frost when the fruit begin to turn really sweet.

I found a secret pond tucked back into a small woods and covered over in duck weed. There was a huge blue heron on the pond, and a number of good-sized old holes in the woods above the pond -- worth a look now, and later in January when the fox will be looking for likely denning sites.

I left both dogs in the car at the farm, but took Mountain out for a jaunt at the big water garden up the road. She busted a flock of geese into the air, and a couple of blue herons as well, then bolted one groundhog out of a short hole in a berm at the edge of a dry pond, before jungling up another small groundhog in a shallow scrape of a pipe at the top of another berm. Though I was without a shovel, I had a small knife and opened up the edge of the hole to let Mountain at it.

All in all a short day, but a very relaxing one and not without a small bit for Mountain who certainly needs more solo time.

Real Hogs and Little Dogs

Noodling around the internet, I found this picture of a boar taken on the Suwannee River in Florida. This monster weighed in at 1086 pounds and is as big as a buffalo.

This pig is mixture of Russian Board and domestic pig -- it's the domestic pig blood that made him get so huge. Boars of this size are very rare, and they are inedible as their glands taint the meat -- a reason domestic boars are gelded when young.

Most pig dogs are cross-bred pit bulls, but some pig dog packs find a use for a small terrier to bolt hogs out of thick brush. These dogs are smaller than the pitbulls, but are almost always too large to work underground quarry. Me, I'm sticking to underground game.

For an amusing story about terriers hunting wild pigs in France, see >> Cut to La Chasse

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Anywhere But the Pet Store

A small observation: Pet stores levy huge markups on the most basic products, and big cost savings can be had by getting the same items at the grocery store.

A case in point: I just paid $3 for a nylon snap-clip collar that cost $7 at the pet store. Dog food is also cheaper (and fresher!) at the grocery store than it is at any of the local pet stores. Both regular and flea shampoo is much cheaper at the grocery store. The most expensive source of rawhide chews is the pet store; the least expensive is Target. Home Depot has the cheapest 25 pounds bags of sunflower seeds -- pet stores and the Wild Bird Store will leave you broke. Bottom line: before you consider a specialty store, price check at the stores you frequent every day --- and NEVER pass up a dollar store that actually sells stuff for a dollar.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

The Wrong War


September 18, 2004
The New Class War


A PICTURE sticks in my mind from Wednesday's amazing scenes in Parliament Square.

It is of a beaky-looking, middle-aged fellow, whose check shirt, tweed jacket and tie identify him, if his face did not, as a member of the upper classes. And he has blood all over his forehead - presumably having been hit by a policeman's baton.

A member of the upper classes protesting in Parliament Square and being hit by a policeman: both parts of this statement would have been barely credible even a few years ago.

Such people do not normally have fisticuffs with the police. They are traditionally on the side of law and order. P.G. Wodehouse's Bertie Wooster and his pals might vie to capture a policeman's helmet on Boat Race night, but they did not find themselves at loggerheads with the servants of the State.

I have been wondering when was the last time in English history that a man in uniform might have hit a member of the upper - what used to be called the ruling - classes. Not, I think, since the English Civil War, when some rude Roundhead would have cheerfully smashed his halberd over the refined pate of a Cavalier landowner. Not for over 350 years. A shiver ran down my back when, on Thursday morning, this newspaper described the previous day's events as the English Civil War.

The man in a check shirt is a symbol of what many Labour backbenchers loathe. He is privileged, probably well-off and privately educated. He also hunts foxes. Let us pay those backbenchers the compliment of saying they do care a bit about the fox.

But their focus is the man in the check shirt who hunts the fox.

They want to hurt him. Do we seriously believe they would have voted to ban hunting if it were an exclusively workingclass pastime?

Earlier this week, the journalist and writer George Monbiot admitted that the Bill to ban hunting has little to do with animal rights, and a lot to do with rolling back what he called the forces of feudalism. This is the authentically nasty voice of the old, vengeful Left.

Only a little less nastily, Leftish commentators and Labour politicians have complained about the invasion of the Commons chamber by five protesters as though a constitutional outrage has been committed. The Guardian newspaper in its editorial evoked images of the Luftwaffe. Is the Left's anger conditioned by the fact that at least some of the invaders might be described as toffs?

Of course the invasion was indefensible, but I don't recall one tenth of the huffing and puffing in the same quarters when three lesbians protesting about Clause 28 abseiled into the House of Lords chamber in 1988.

But what is truly disturbing is that the Left's class-driven analysis of what happened on Wednesday is tragically and fatally wrong. They are fighting their enemies of 50 or 100 years ago. The demonstration in Parliament Square was not dominated by toffs. There were some country gentlemen and even the odd marquess. But there were many more people who would describe themselves as middle, or even as working, class. Ordinary farmers, steel erectors, hunt workers, farm labourers, garage mechanics, rat catchers, you name it.

People of all classes and differing backgrounds united around a common cause: hunting.

In fact, it is difficult to think of any cause which has brought together so many people from different sections of society since we faced a common enemy in World War II. I suspect that some of the demonstrators may not hunt at all.

Something even more fundamental - and much more dangerous to Tony Blair - animated them: an idea of their cherished liberty as freeborn Englishmen being threatened by busybody politicians.

This is the scale of Mr Blair's idiocy. He personally does not hate the beaky man in the check shirt, although his wife, Cherie, may do so. The Prime Minister is not a class warrior.

Maybe he associates fox hunting with the 'forces of conservatism' which he famously promised to extirpate, but if he had felt very passionately on this score he would not have waited more than seven years to introduce this Bill.

He does not appear to have strong feelings about fox hunting one way or the other. On Wednesday, he did not even bother to vote, and his spokesman has since claimed that the Prime Minister would have preferred a less draconian Bill.

What? So why did he allow this one to be introduced? He has acted in the most cynical manner conceivable. There is no other plausible motive for this legislation than a desire on Mr Blair's part to appease Labour's class-obsessed, antihunting backbenchers who have grown increasingly critical of him, particularly because of the Iraq war. With an election looming, he wanted to reinvigorate his troops, and he hoped that a Bill outlawing hunting would do the trick. Now that he sees the rumpus he has caused, he has the effrontery to claim he did not really want this Bill at all.

His monumental miscalculation has been to believe that the measure would inconvenience a small class which is no longer greatly respected in much of the country, and which is far less powerful than it used to be. But this little exercise in social engineering has spectacularly backfired, as it should have been obvious to him that it would.

The protesters were not defending the rights of the upper classes or of Mr Monbiot's feudal barons. They were defending their right to live their own lives as they wish without metropolitan lawmakers and bureaucrats interfering.

Hunting is the cause, but it is not the only one. Other grievances coalesce around the central complaint: creeping taxes; oppressive red tape; endless politically correct diktats on how people should lead their lives; New Labour's neglect of the countryside, and its almost wilful failure to understand the concerns of its inhabitants; and the Government's incompetent handling of the foot and mouth crisis.

On Wednesday some deep, explosive trigger was touched.

The generally well-behaved and law-abiding protesters who had made their way to Parliament Square let out a cry of pain which in some instances boiled over into violence. The police sometimes overreacted, and in a few cases seemed to have started the fighting.

Whether by design or incompetence, Mr Blair has succeeded in uniting a formidable coalition of diverse interests and classes.

Comparisons have rightly been made between these people and the opponents of the poll tax, whose protests helped to bring down Margaret Thatcher.

Obviously there are similarities.

But those who demonstrated against the poll tax were not so broadly based in a social sense.

Nor did they believe, as most of those in Parliament Square did, that their very way of life was threatened. People who think that are bound to fight.

The Prime Minister is embarked on nothing less than the restructuring of Britain. A new class order is being created.

The traditional upper classes were first marginalised by the abolition of the right of nearly all hereditary peers to sit in the House of Lords. Now they find themselves potential adversaries of the State which they have traditionally supported.

Far from having the classless society that Mr Blair promised us, we have new and potentially dangerous divisions opening up.

The rift is between the countryside party - that diverse group of people we saw in Parliament Square, some of whom live in towns - and the new metropolitan elite, represented by Tony Blair and New Labour, which does not govern in the interests of the whole country.

This new class has been some time in the making. It is bossy, interfering and ignorant of the currents of British history. It lays down its own laws, and often governs via quangos. It is forever setting targets - at schools, in the police, in the NHS - which it hardly ever meets. It loves paperwork and control. It likes giving the people what it thinks best for them rather than what they want - for example, more grammar schools.

The metropolitan elite is also authoritarian, and identifies with an ever more powerful State.

Dozens of new restrictions have been dreamt up by David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, of which the proposed identity card is potentially the most coercive.

If Mr Blunkett had his way, most of us would end up by being tagged, or watched by hovering police helicopters. The only compensation is that most of this 'Big Brother' surveillance does not work very well. The metropolitan elite is not notably competent, thank God.

The BBC helpfully defends the interests of our new governing class. True, there was a brief fallout when Alastair Campbell, the Prime Minister's erstwhile director of communications, presumed too far on the Corporation's compliance, and tried to get it to do things which even it would not agree to. But the row over the BBC's coverage of Iraq was settled by the Hutton report, and the BBC has generally reverted to its former obeisance towards New Labour.

Indeed, its coverage of the demonstrations in Parliament Square was obligingly considerate. Whereas Sky News and ITN showed many pictures which seemed to convict the police of being too free with their batons, BBC television was more circumspect in its coverage, preferring to pay much more attention to the invasion of the Chamber than the bloody scenes in Parliament Square.

The new metropolitan elite has its fingers in almost every pie.

There are one or two institutions which have enough self-respect, as well as pride in their own traditions, not to be suborned. I am afraid I would not include the Church of England or the universities in this category. The Armed Forces do remain comparatively independent, though even they are being hacked around as, uniquely in an ever-expanding public sector, they are forced to endure cutbacks.

Unsurprisingly, the metropolitan class knows very little about the countryside, the final redoubt. Of course, it has been happy to see the withering of the old upper class which it aims to supplant. It never imagined that the toffs could find common cause with wider interests in the countryside, and that it would face an alliance of traditional classes whose shared purpose is to defend their way of life.

These are the new fault lines in our society, and no one should doubt that they are potentially far more dangerous than the old class differences. When respectable, law-abiding citizens are hit over the head by batonwielding policemen in Parliament Square, surely we can all see that something has gone dreadfully wrong.

The Prime Minister promised to rebrand Britain. Now, with his casual and ill-thought-out attempt to outlaw hunting, he threatens to give us his new class order. I am afraid there is going to be bitter dissension and worse fighting ahead, which is why I trembled at the invocation of the English Civil War.

Like a moody and restless child, Mr Blair has taken the settled jigsaw of English life and thrown the pieces into the air. God alone knows where, and how, they will land.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Digging on the Dogs

Another Sunday in the field with the dogs, this time with a very high hole-to-quarry ratio (i.e. a lot of holes and not too much quarry at home). Shannon, Blair and Elizabeth and I hit half a dozen holes in a hedge and then another dozen across a field, and another dozen and a half across another hedge and small woods near a creek. Nothing home. Lore finally found in a small sette on a slope above the creek. The two small dogs could barely get into the pipe, and when we dug down to them it turned out that the groundhog had collapsed the pipe behind it. The entire sette was in loose powder, as fine as talc, which was held up by broken slates arrayed like a house of cards. It did not take much to collapse the tunnel, and after a while it became clear this groundhog was doing that all the way down the pipe. Smart hog! We gave this one best and looked for a better situation.

The dogs found again in a field sette on top, and Sailor bayed it up and moved it around. I dropped a hole down to it and tailed it halfway out, but we decided to let it stay in the stop-end so the dogs could school on it. Lore and Roxy bayed it up and it eventually bolted it out a side pipe. The dogs followed it back into the earth and bottled it up again in a stope-end. I tailed it out of this second hole and dispatched it -- a condition of hunting this farm.

We moved on to the next farm, but not before meeting the new farm manager at Nick's who advised me that a number of groundhogs had moved into holes up near the buildings. We'll hit them next time. There are some raccoons in there too according to Sean, the previous farm manager.

At the next farm we walked down the the high ridge above the flood plain, and Sailor found again on a slope covered with grape vines as thick as my wrist, and under a large black walnut tree. Shannon and I boxed her at 10 feet -- too deep to dig in this tangle of roots, rock and vine. We listened to her bay for about 15 minutes and then moved down the slope looking for new holes. Sailor eventually caught up with us and the dogs found again low on the slope. This hole did not appear to be very long or deep from the sound of the dogs baying, but it was under a solid wall of massive black walnut roots. It would take a chainsaw to get to the dog and it was a very tight hole. I scraped the pipe out a bit, but there was no digging this one. We checked about two dozen more holes down the bank, but they were all empty.

Roxy bays down the pipe

We headed back to the vehicle, but when we got there we noticed that two of the dogs had gotten sidetracked in the field. Looking back, we could see Mountain and Roxy nosing around a sette we had missed. We walked back to the sette, and Mountain slid in and began to bay. This sette was underneath massive powerlines that were sizzling hot, however, and the Deben box would not work. Mountain would not come out, however, so we left her in the ground and walked back to the vehicles about 150 yards away. Mountain came out of the sette eventually, but she would not abandon it -- she just looked back at us as if to say "Come on, fools, it's over here!"

I went back to the sette and found no other bolt holes. A quick probe with the bar suggested the pipe was dead straight for at least 5 feet. We decided to dig without the benefit of a box reading. After three 4-foot holes in very hard and dry earth, we accounted for a nice and very agressive groundhog with a 15 inch chest and a scale weight of 11 pounds. All the dogs schooled on this one a bit, but Mountain punked out after getting a long thin rip to her lower muzzle.

The farmer drove up at the end of the dig, and I talked a bit with him about cows and fertilizer and hay -- a really nice fellow with one of the most beautiful farms in Maryland. We filled in the holes well, as these were in the middle of a field where the cows should be grazing soon.

As we packed up the dogs and tools at the end of the day, a flock of wild turkeys sauntered past to go down to the oak trees down by the river. These are truly magnificent birds. Seeing wild turkeys always gets me happy and excited, as they are a living monument to the success of the hook-and-bullet conservation movement.

Shannon and Lore with the last one of the day

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

The Divisive Politics of Intolerance


From: The Telegraph, Sept 12, 2004

The death of the hunt will be Blair's memorial
By Max Hastings

In the days when he was a Tory MP, George Walden observed that he was personally indifferent about the survival of fox hunting, but that any society capable of tying its legislature in knots to secure the sport's abolition had got its priorities perverted.

Well, now we know that this Government is indeed willing to tie the legislature in knots, and has got its priorities perverted. A host of Labour MPs who would not look up from the trough to attend a debate on child cruelty, defence, anti-terrorist measures, rail safety, wind farms or the Day of Judgment will crowd the Chamber to abolish fox hunters.

This, of course, is what it is about. Animal welfare has nothing to do with the case. Cars will continue to kill far more foxes than hunts. In hunting countries, foxes that have been lovingly preserved for the pleasure of hunts for centuries will be shot, trapped or gassed. The ban will achieve only the visceral gratification of the Labour Party. It will give the likes of John Prescott something to crow about from his dunghill at the Party Conference - and mark my words, he will.

I predicted almost two years ago that Tony Blair would get himself into such trouble over Iraq that he would feel obliged to toss the fox hunters to his backbenchers. The jackals would need a bone to gnaw while the great issues of the day escape unheeded up the road from Basra. So it has proved.

A Prime Minister who has massively deceived the nation over Iraq, appointed a master of deceit as Britain's EU Commissioner, dumped a discredited crony on the Secret Service as its director, holidayed with an Italian sleazeball and conspicuously flinched from serious reform of Britain's public services, looks like freeing himself from his own party dissenters at the cost of a few thousand hounds' lives. It is not a pretty deed, even from a man in a special relationship with God.

As an aficionado of 19th-century sporting literature, last night I sat in bed with a famous hunting treatise, pondering the words of Scarth Dixon in 1899: "I take it that no one," he wrote confidently, "save a few ill-conditioned brutes and some faddists - who think to crush the sporting instincts which are the survival of centuries with a little vulgar invective and false logic - wishes to have fox hunting done away with."

Well, Mr Dixon, it is a bit complicated. There are these MPs in Parliament nowadays who have a thing about people who gain pleasure from sport - yes, the real kind, not watching football on television. They feel strongly. It is called class war. No, Mr Dixon, they do not think of themselves as anarchists or nihilists. They simply represent a huge urban majority, determined to rearrange the English countryside to fit their own ideas.
Let us leaf through that massive tome, the 1840 Encyclopedia of Rural Sports, in search of arguments that might impress Mr Tony Banks, Sir Gerald Kaufman and their kin. Ah yes, here we are: some promising headings: "The benefical Effects of Field Sports on the Mind"; "Field Sports Inimical to Idleness"; "The Social Character of Man advanced by Field Sports"; "The martial character of Man originated in Field Sports, and is greatly sustained by their Agency".

Yet I fear that none of these considerations will influence the Banks-Kaufman axis. Less still are they likely to heed remarks about the tolerance of minority cultures. Abolishing fox hunting is deemed a symbolic step in bringing about the "irreversible change in British society" for which New Labour salivates.

It represents the destruction of a fragment of old Britain that is being blue-pencilled from the script. No matter that this same old Britain is law-abiding, tax-paying, decent, responsible, self-reliant and patriotic. It speaks with accents that have no place in a modern suburban monoculture. It possesses values and virtues which must be viewed with contempt in the golden age in which our great football clubs set a moral tone for the nation. And, of course, it votes Tory.

I supported Tony Blair's claims to govern at two general elections, and have also backed some of his doings in office, not least the removal of hereditary peers from the House of Lords. I still believe that Mr Blair is a man of greater stature than John Major was, and that the Tories' exile from power is largely their own fault.

This may cause you to mock my indignation about fox hunting and mutter: "You were one of the silly ****ers who put this lot there." I clung to a thin hope, not that Mr Blair would save fox hunting as a matter of principle - for his own are infinitely flexible - but that he would reject a course so bitterly divisive, that must make a sworn enemy of any citizen committed to personal liberty. The late Roy Jenkins was a prominent example of a libertarian who cared nothing for fox hunting, yet who spoke out for its survival because he cherished tolerance above all things.

Now, the Labour Party proposes to flaunt its own intolerance. If this miserable little piece of legislation is hammered through Parliament, I am not optimistic about saving the sport. Precisely because those who hunt are law-abiding people, I doubt whether many will defy even a rotten law.

There will be a long, messy rearguard action, in which lots of us will do our best to embarrass Blair's Government as it deserves. But Labour will probably succeed in extinguishing this great heritage. The end of hunting will not change my own life, because I do not hunt. But it will be a desperate sadness, because of what it will say about the manner of Britain New Labour is creating.

In politics as in life, no quality is more precious than generosity of spirit. The ugliness of abolishing hunting lies in the spiteful spirit which underpins it. The price Labour will pay for its triumph is the forfeit of any vestige of moral respect, among all manner of people whose respect is worth having.

The countryside has lost the political and economic power which it possessed for centuries. This reflects the march of history. What does not, however, is this sorry attempt by the representatives of the urban and suburban majority to impose upon the rural minority the values of the pavements and concrete citadels. It is a new tyranny, and a profoundly unnatural one.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Hunt Supporters Dare to "Blair All"

When politicians cannot tackle complex problems like failing economies, they often turn to imaginary problems and invented controversies. In the U.S. we have flag burning, in the U.K. they have fox hunting.

Unable to actually do something meaningful on either the home or international front, Tony Blair has suddenly decided to drop everything in order to push through a ban on the the use of hunting with dogs.

In an effort to push back, at least a little bit, pro-hunt campaigners in the U.K. staged a demonstration outside Cherie Blair's 50th birthday party at the Blair country house at Chequers.

In is unclear whether these and other protests will matter: Blair has said he is going to use procedural rules to ram through a ban on fox hunting, never mind that his proposed legislation has only minority support among U.K. voters. Blair seems to think democracy is a good idea for Iraq, but not necessarily the ticket at home.

Blair's big concession is that his proposed hunt ban will take effect two years from now "in order to ease the transition in the countryside."

It is a poison pill, and people in the U.K. are crazy if they swallow it.

Thank goodness things are a bit different in the U.S. Both of our current Presidential candidates hunt and fish, as do many members of the Supreme Court (including the female Justices). The Congressional Sportsman's Caucus is one of the most powerful bipartisan groups on Capitol Hill, and they ensure an ever-expanding amount of land protected by conservation easements for sport hunting and angling.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

New Deben Box and Collar

Deben will be introducing a new locator box and collar in later October of 2004 -- their first upgrade in decades.

The new box will feature a "search" mode good for 20 ft. By sliding an external switch on the side of the box, it can be stepped down for depth location of 10 ft.and under.

There are no external depth controls; all the information is shown on a calibrated LED bar graph display. A clicking sound is also emitted, and it gets louder the closer you get to the collar.

A kit consisting of 1 collar and 1 locator box will cost £125 UK, or about $225 U.S. For a U.S. source, check the JRTCA web site towards the end of October.

With luck, the first collar and box may find its way over to the U.S. by the time of JRTCA Nationals which is October 22-24 at Havre de Grace, Maryland (Steppingstone Museum, Susquehanna State Park).

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Economics & Politics of Hunting

With bird in hand.

"As a life-long hunter and fisherman, I am proud to be among the millions of American sportsmen and sportswomen who are dedicated to conserving fish and wildlife and passing along the American hunting and fishing heritage to the next generation." - Sen. John Kerry

There are no vegans on Mount Rushmore -- but there is Teddy Roosevelt who hunted rats with his terriers in the basement of the White House.

Major on-the-rack magazines and TV shows in the U.S. are devoted to hunting, and several members of the Supreme Court are either hunters or anglers (or both).

Both John Kerry and George W. Bush hunt, while the Congressional Sportsman's Caucus and Foundation are among the most powerful bipartisan groups on Capitol Hill.

Here in Virginia the public decided that hunting, fishing and harvesting game should be considered a right, and that right is now in the State Constitution -- similar language is being embraced in other states. Meanwhile, in West Virginia, the ACLU is suing so people can hunt on Sunday.

The most important part of the politics of hunting, however, is grounded in the economics of hunting.

Click here to read a well-written study on the economics of hunting packed with solid numbers you can use in debates, letters to the editor, and when teaching others about the economic value of hook-and-bullet conservation.

The simple truth is that hunting and wildlife viewing are worth more to the American economy than many major industries. In fact, economists now recognize that there is no amount of timber that can be extracted from our National Forests that comes close to equaling the value of those forests as recreational centers.

Yet, the U.S. Forest Service continues to LOSE over $1 billion a year selling our timber and our wildlife heritage to for-profit timber companies, even as we taxpayers foot the bill for ripping new roads into wilderness areas.

Why does this travesty continue? Simple: Payola politics. The current head of the U.S. Forest Service is a timber and paper company lobbyist who is setting policy because because a handful of big timber companies slipped over $4 million into the campaign coffers of George W. Bush during the year 2000 election cycle. As a direct result of this kind of "Crony Capitalism," a paper company lobbyist is now in charge of our National Forest system.

Republicans interested in moving beyond crony capitalism to embrace the land ethic of Teddy Roosevelt (who created the U.S. Forest Service, the National Wildlife Refuge Systsem, and the National Parks system) and the positive environmental record of Richard Nixon (who created the Environmental Protection Agency and signed into law the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act) are encouraged to see the web site of Republicans for Environmental Protection.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Bronze Medallion Dogs

A few working American Jack Russell Terriers.

  • Hills Dale Quienita (below)
    Groundhog, Raccoon, Red Fox
    Owned & bred by Larry & Linda Morrison

  • Wild Remain Sumo (below)
    Groundhog, Opossum, Raccoon
    Owned & bred by Aurora Rubel

  • Smoky Mountain Bang (below)
    Raccoon, Groundhog, Opossum
    Owned by Mary Beth Clark, Bred by Mary Beth Clark, Debby Calloway, Jane Longendorfer

  • Northwood Riot (below)
    Raccoon, Groundhog, Red Fox
    Owned by Shannon Osby/Linda Cranford & Bred by Linda Cranford

  • Dutch Creek Joule (below)
    Raccoon, Opossum, Groundhog
    Owned & Bred by Bonita Knickmeyer

  • Conqest Cayenne (below)
    Fox, Groundhog, Raccoon
    Owned by Char Smith & Bred by N. Gaye Redpath

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Rabies Vaccine in Maryland

From The Washington Post, August 23, 2004

In Md., an Air Assault on Raccoon Rabies
Arundel Drops Fishy, Vaccine-Spiked Bait to Help Prevent Virus in Top Carrier


No one can say for certain when the first rabid raccoon ambled through the Washington region, but biologists peg it at the late 1970s. From there, raccoon rabies blossomed through Virginia, Maryland and the District.

Today, if a rabid fox lashes out at a group of children, as happened this month in Herndon, chances are it got its rabies from a raccoon, biologists and public health officials say.

Volunteers Martie Pennington and Debbie McLean await the helicopter that will carry them over Anne Arundel County to drop rabies vaccine cubes.

Household pets catch the deadly disease relatively rarely. But raccoons have become the carrier of choice -- and the target of a multimillion-dollar campaign to cover their habitat (virtually everywhere) with millions of matchbox-size, fish-scented blocks spiked with a two-milliliter pouch of liquid rabies vaccine.

In the Washington area, the effort began in 1998 in Anne Arundel County, which dispatches airplanes, helicopters and pickup trucks loaded with the vaccination biscuits. Nationally, a massive campaign is underway, dropping about 8 million of the vaccine treats from the Gulf of Mexico to Lake Erie.

The national effort aims to stanch the westward flow of raccoon rabies, which developed after the virus, once confined to Florida and Georgia, began to spread.

Anne Arundel is the eastern front of the battle, and this year Garrett County in Western Maryland became the western edge of the national campaign. The idea is to bring the two fronts together somewhere around the Washington area within the next few years and, ideally, eradicate the raccoon strain of the rabies virus entirely.

Dogs were once the most pernicious carriers of the disease. No longer, said Joseph Horman, public health veterinarian for the Anne Arundel Health Department.

"If you go back to the '40s and '50s, you had a dog rabies problem," Horman said. "That's not so true anymore. It all changed with raccoons."

Summer always brings a spike in reported cases of rabies. Human deaths are exceptionally rare in the United States. The last confirmed human rabies death in Maryland was in 1976; in Northern Virginia, a man died in a freak exposure in 2003. If contracted by humans, the disease can be fatal. Once symptoms develop, rabies is always fatal.

As suburbs move farther into rural areas and animal habitats shrink, however, reports of human exposure to rabies tend to increase. Biologists say that makes the effort at least to control raccoon rabies -- and possibly eradicate it -- an important insurance policy.

"When the raccoon rabies epidemic began [in the late 1970s], raccoons began to quickly dominate in terms of total number of rabies cases in the United States," said biologist Dennis Slate, national rabies coordinator for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. "The thing about raccoon rabies that's very problematic is that, unlike other rabies strains, it spills over into other species very easily."

The leap that took raccoon rabies from the South to West Virginia in a matter of years puzzles epidemiologists. Some speculate that people wanting to hunt them moved them from the South to the mountains of West Virginia. Others believe it might have been an effort by wildlife officials to bolster a local raccoon population in West Virginia with southern raccoons.

Horman leads the guerrilla vaccination effort in Anne Arundel, where reported cases of rabies spiked in the mid-'90s. Health officials began spreading the raccoon "bait" in the Annapolis area in 1998, and it seemed to put a dent in the problem.

They expanded the program gradually until the entire county was covered. This summer, Anne Arundel experienced a marked rise in reported cases of rabies. As of Aug. 10, the county had 18 confirmed cases of rabies in animals -- almost matching last year's total of 20. In Montgomery, Fairfax and Prince George's counties, the number of confirmed cases of rabies is about normal, officials said.

Last week, as helicopters loaded with thousands of pieces of bait lifted off from Tipton Airfield in Anne Arundel, biologist Jeremy J. Smith of the Agriculture Department drove a pickup loaded with several hundred of the bait pieces and tossed them out of the cab. More than 416 square miles -- the entire county -- will be covered with vaccine dropped from helicopters, planes and pickups. Officials say the baits don't pose a risk to humans or pets.

"We just saturate the areas where we expect raccoons to live," Smith said. "In other words, everywhere."