Friday, September 30, 2005

Full of Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing

Fox hunting in England has been almost completely unaffected by the highly contested ban on the sport introduced earlier this year, according to research by the BBC News website.

To read more, see >> HERE

Digging in the Flint Hills

Out here on the edge of the Piedmont area of Maryland and Virginia, the ground varies dramatically from farm to farm, and even from area to area on farms. This klitter was excavated by a groundhog whose burrow entrance can be seen just behind Sailor, inside the eye-brow-like root of a small tree. The fact that groundhogs dig up and move stones as big as grapefruits is fairly impressive to me. I have seen groundhogs do some amazing things with rocks in this area -- and had to dig out the dogs from such rubble too.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

The Dysfunctional Terrier World

I have just finished reading "Heartsblood: Hunting, Spirituality and Wildness in America" by David Peterson. This is a pretty philosophical book (not my normal fair), but I did manage to tease out a few nuggets of gold from the gravel.

For those that have puzzled over the odd clash of cultures we see on the terrier boards, a small section of Peterson's book might be of interest and perhaps provide some illumination.

Peterson, who is a die-hard Colorado bowhunter (mostly elk), notes that back in 1978 Yale University behavioral scientist Stephen Kellert authored a paper entitled "Attitudes and Characteristics of Hunters and Antihunters" in which he summarized his research into the psychology and world-view of these two opposing groups of people.

Kellert breaks hunters down into three core groups:

  • Utilitarian-meat hunters;

  • Domination-sport hunters, and;

  • Naturalist-nature hunters.

Kellert notes that while the groups blur a little at the edges, these three psycho-demographic groups do exist, and represent striking differences of attitude within America's hunting population.

Utilitarian-meat hunters represent about 44 percent of all American hunters. This group tends to talk of "harvesting" game as a renewable resource and many have a "pioneer spirit" forged in self-sufficiency. As a group utilitarian-meat hunters tend to be older, more rural and less educated, but test pretty well when it came to knowledge about wildlife. Few Americans oppose them.

The second group, the domination-hunter, comprise about 38 percent of all hunters. Most domination-hunters are urban men, have served in the military, and see hunting as a way of expressing their manly prowess. Domination hunters know very little about wildlife, and many actually fear it, having an exagerated "dangerous game" mindset of the kind we often see in pulp hunting magazines ("Mauled by a Grizzly," "When Sharks Attack", "Stalked by a Killer Moose"). Domination hunters showed little interest in wildlife in their youth, and as adults tend to see wild animals as uncontrolled and therefore as "bad" or nuisance animals. The domination hunter is the group non-hunters dislike, and which antihunters try to use to negatively portray ALL hunters.

The third group of hunters -- naturalist hunters -- represent less than 18 percent of all hunters. This group tends to be younger, more educated, and with higher levels of education and income than the other groups. This category also includes more women hunters. Nature hunters tend to backpack, bird watch and camp, as well as hunt. This group also spends more time actually hunting than either of the other two previous groups. Nature hunters have far and away the highest level of knowledge about wildlife and seek an intense involvement with wildlife and do not fear it.

Kellert also goes on to analyze antihunters as a group and finds, not surprisingly, that about 80 percent are women. Most are urban women living on one coast or another.

Antis had very little actual experience with wildlife and, along with domination hunters, had "among the lowest knowledge-of-animals scores of any group included in the study."

In another ironic parallel with domination hunters, "it appeared that antihunters manifested more fear and lack of interest in wildlife" than average Americans.

What was striking to me about reading Kellert's research was how it might explain the dysfunctional clash of cultures we see on terrier discussion boards, where the largest group of American hunters (utilitarian meat hunters) are very thinly represented.

Instead, we see large groups of pet-show antihunters (almost all women) clashing with macho-men domination-hunters. Neither group seems to have very much knowledge about wildlife. One group does not hunt at all, and the other does not seem to hunt very much. And for both groups -- dog show people and domination hunters -- the terriers are less about the dogs and the wildlife than they are about social interactions with people. Or, as Kellert put it when talking about domination-hunters, "hunting was appreciated more as a human social than as an animal-oriented activity."

In normal conversations about hunting and wildlife, utilitarian-meat hunters and nature-naturalistic hunters form a majority and center talk near some sort of rational fact-based middle. In the absence of utilitarian hunters, however, the terrier world swings wildly off center, bouncing off the two-polar extremes (macho domination-hunters and PetSmart anti-hunters and ribbon hunters).

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Garbaging for Bears

In my opinion, Ted Williams is one of the finest hook-and-bullet writers in America today. He is smart, articulate, does the research, and thinks for himself.

In short, to ideologues on either end of the spectrum he is a dangerous man.

The piece below comes from High Country News, which is one of the better small publications in the United States, and it goes to the heart of the manipulation of the American public by both the "animal rights" movement and by those who would similarly milk America's hunters and anglers.

Whem Hunters Close Ranks and Close Minds, by Ted Williams

In a few states it is still legal to attract bears with bait for the purpose of shooting them. I call it "garbaging for bears," and, as an avid hunter, find it repulsive - basically assassination. But this is not an article about garbaging for bears. It is an article about the slow, painful maturation of hook-and-bullet journalism in America and about the main force impeding it - demagoguery masquerading as conservation.

"To continually brand all criticism as anti-hunting rhetoric and all critics as anti-hunters only serves to paint us into an ever smaller corner," wrote ardent hunter and Colorado bear biologist Tom Beck in a commentary on hunting black bears over bait. The piece, titled "A Failure of the Spirit," was adapted for the September 1996 issue of Outdoor Life from a pre-publication copy of A Hunter’s Heart, a collection of essays compiled and edited by David Petersen. "How fulfilling is it to shoot a bear with its head in a barrel of jelly-filled doughnuts?" read Outdoor Life’s subhead.

Having once had the job of translating into people-talk what fish and wildlife biologists write, I was flabbergasted by Beck’s piece. It was not at all the sort of thing I’d come to expect from his profession. It sang. The prose was eloquent and lean, the arguments clear and compelling.

I’ll even take some of the credit for steering the piece to a wider readership, since I had tipped off Petersen that huge changes were under way at the 99-year-old magazine.

Out was the old editorial regime, which had seen an "anti-hunter" behind every glacial erratic, which believed that there were certain facts that Outdoor Life’s 1.3 million subscribers shouldn’t know, and for which "conservation" meant tooting around the nation in a 29-foot gas-guzzling "Pledgemobile" entreating the unenlightened and, of course, unsubscribed masses to mouth an ancient mantra called the "Outdoor Life Conservation Pledge."

In were editor-in-chief Stephen Byers and executive editors Will Bourne and Bob Brown, smart, tough journalists who understood the real threats to fish and wildlife, who wanted to teach sportsmen how to help themselves, who were committed to challenging readers to thought and action even if it meant making them mad.

"You don’t lose readers by pissing them off," Byers told me. "You lose readers by boring them."

If you are now rummaging through the September 1996 Outdoor Life for "A Failure of the Spirit," you’ll not find it. The essay was pulled by a bureaucrat at Times Mirror Magazines, publisher of Outdoor Life, on July 24 at virtually the last possible instant. According to The New York Times, the bureaucrat was senior vice president Jason Klein, but Mr. Klein declined to speak with the The New York Times reporter, and Outdoor Life’s publisher, Michael Rooney, referred all calls to Mr. Klein.

Times Mirror had been frightened into its decision by the Ohio-based Wildlife Legislative Fund of America, a group claiming to defend hunting and wildlife management. The Wildlife Legislative Fund had accused Beck of revealing facts sportsmen shouldn’t know and expressing opinions sportsmen shouldn’t hear. And it had prognosticated that his comments on bear baiting would be useful to the vile and ubiquitous "antis." It told sportsmen to complain to Outdoor Life.

Sportsmen responded as if they had been invaded by body snatchers, deluging Byers with faxes, letters and e-mail messages, all of which he showed to his superiors. "I thought sitting on them would be deceptive," he says.

So Byers and Bourne resigned from Outdoor Life, protesting Times Mirror’s beta-wolf tradition of licking the muzzles of paranoid readers, then rolling on its back and urinating on itself (HCN, 10/28/96). I was refreshed to see outdoor editors with integrity. They reminded me that hook-and-bullet journalism doesn’t have to be an oxymoron.

Of course, the Wildlife Legislative Fund had never read what Tom Beck had to say. But Beck, a hunter and a professional wildlife manager in Colorado, was known to harbor incorrect and seditious ideas.

For example, he had dared to question the moribund sport of garbaging for bears, arguing that there can’t be much thrill of the chase if there is no chase. He had suggested that the sport itself - not criticism of it - is fodder for the antis who are forever holding it up as an example of all hunting. He had revealed that spring baiting results in orphaned cubs. And he had opined that baiting at any time of year trains bears to lose their wildness and self-sufficiency, transmuting them into trash-can-bashing, beehive-smashing vagabonds.

In Beck’s own censored words for Outdoor Life: "I firmly believe that baiting creates "nuisance" bears. Black bears are naturally wary, instinctively avoiding close contact with humans. But large amounts of tasty food, easily obtained, defeats this wariness. By baiting, we create lazy bears who have been rewarded, not punished, for overcoming their fear of humans."

According to the Wildlife Legislative Fund, Beck had helped poison the minds of his fellow Coloradans, who in 1992 voted three-to-one to ban bear baiting. Then he had expressed his dangerous opinions in Idaho, where 45 percent of all bear hunters oppose baiting. Clearly, argued the fund’s directors in Ohio, he needed to be silenced.

I would have appreciated Beck’s essay even if I’d disagreed with it. The value of such writing is that it gets sportsmen thinking and exchanging ideas, something Outdoor Life readers hadn’t done a whole lot of before the new editors took over.

The late Canadian angling author Roderick Haig-Brown’s critique of the mass-circulation hook-and-bullet press is, if anything, more applicable today than when he wrote it a generation ago: "Its faults are timidity and conformity. It dare not shock or extend its readers, it must not frighten them with abstract or deeply considered ideas, it must somehow catch and hold even the dullest mentality - or risk a reduction of the advertising rates. With so much at stake (articles) are mainly staff written or else edited into inoffensive inanity."

Equally applicable are Aldo Leopold’s words, older still: "The sportsman has no leaders to tell him what is wrong. The sporting press no longer represents sport; it has turned billboard for the gadgeteer."

Even in 1981, when Gray’s Sporting Journal sent me to Maine to observe one of the last hunts in the state’s last spring bear season, there was no clear consensus among sportsmen about garbaging for bears. Hunters were united only in the strength of their opinions, most saying, "Hell, yes!" and "Hell, no!" A reader poll by The Maine Sportsman, the state’s leading hunting-and-fishing publication, had just revealed that 52 percent of the respondents opposed bear baiting in spring or fall.

Back then managers liked baiting lots more than they do today and lots more than hunters ever did. The "concluding comments’ of participants of a bear-management conference at Kalispell, Mont., read as follows: "Because bear habitat is thick woods, cedar swamps, etc., and the black bear is elusive, bait hunting is a necessary harvest method. Without this method in remote areas, successful hunting would be very difficult."

Imagine how that line of reasoning would have set with the late dean of Atlantic salmon angling, Lee Wulff, who, in pursuing the most challenging of all game fish, purposely handicapped himself by using tiny dry flies and wispy trout rods: "Because Atlantic salmon habitat is thick woods, cold, wild, hard-to-get-to rivers, etc., and the Atlantic salmon is elusive and apt to shun flies, spearing it is a necessary harvest method. Without this method in remote areas, successful fishing would be very difficult."

So that I would not be accused of unfairness, I sought out the bear-baiting outfitter with the best reputation - Jack Hegarty of Jackman, Maine, a gentleman and a conservationist. During his gun-safety pep talk to his clients, Hegarty produced a huge pair of skivvies with a hole in the exact center of a skillet-sized circle of dried blood. The hole had been excavated the previous year when the former owner of the skivvies had accidentally discharged his holstered .45 automatic.

When Hegarty found him, he was standing wide-eyed in the road, swaying. "I think," declared the hunter, "that I have shot myself."

Hegarty asked for and was granted permission to have a look. "He had a fat ass," mused Hegarty, superfluously. "And I grabbed one of the cheeks and pulled it up, and I said, "Hey, you did shoot yourself! ’ ’The bullet hadn’t hit anything important.

So Hegarty got a doctor to sew up the new hole in the guy’s gluteus maximus, and he was back watching garbage the next morning.

For five hours and 16 minutes I watched garbage with an 18-year-old hunter I’ll call George, from Paeonian Springs, Va. Besides 500,000 black flies, the only wildlife I saw was a red squirrel. George, who only heard it, thought it was "a bear for sure." George had saved his money for this dream hunting trip, and all he got to see of the storied north woods was one acre around an onion sack full of rotten meat hanging from a tree 80 feet from a dirt road.

According to the Wildlife Legislative Fund, this is hunting, and anyone who says different is abetting the antis and needs to have a sock jammed in his mouth.

What astonished me about the Outdoor Life fiasco was not the demagoguery of a group that purports to speak for hunters, but sportsmen’s reaction to it. They made cyberspace resonate with outrage, disgust and amazement, as if this were somehow aberrant behavior. It wasn’t. The Wildlife Legislative Fund does this sort of thing all the time. When New Mexico banned spring bear hunting four years ago, the fund spewed shrill action alerts, warning that "the antis were successful in their efforts to influence the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish to drastically curtail bear hunting" and that "the antis are busy doing what they are good at - knocking down the wall, one brick at a time."

Not a word was true. Still, it generated an Outdoor Life piece in which hunting editor Jim Zumbo warned readers that states are abolishing bear-hunting opportunities "under unremitting pressure from animal-rights organizations."

There was "unremitting pressure" all right, but it was coming from enlightened wildlife professionals worried about the resource. As Bill Montoya, then director of the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, wrote the fund: "(Your) article is a great disservice to the sportsmen of our state and to all of your readers ... We have strong indications that hunters were removing bears faster than bears were being recruited into the population as yearlings. That cannot be allowed and our concern is not new ... Some individual hunters opposed the changes, but sportsmen as a group understood the need and recognized the necessity for reduction in bear harvest ...

"Significantly, during the entire months-long route the recommendations took through these hearings, none of your imaginary "antis’ were present or heard from ... Your article, however, has done more for the cause of the "antis’ than any adjustments we could have made to the bear season. Without their saying a word or lifting a finger, you have given them complete credit for eliminating a season when in fact they were not involved ... We have observed the groups you purport to oppose using demagoguery to increase membership and raise funds, but are very disappointed that the fund apparently is using the same tactics of paranoid disinformation."

Montoya’s admonition produced no change in behavior. When Mollie Beattie, the late director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, settled a lawsuit brought by the National Audubon Society, the Wilderness Society and other environmental groups by signing an agreement to end such incompatible activities on national wildlife refuges as jetskiing and waterskiing, the fund told sportsmen to send it money so it could stop her from also banning hunting and fishing.

Like corpses in Night of the Living Dead, sportsmen, including many of my fellow outdoor writers, marched to their checkbooks and word processors. This, despite the fact that hunting and fishing weren’t even mentioned in the suit, and no one at the Fish and Wildlife Service had ever dreamed of banning these legitimate, compatible uses.

Playing Howdy Doody to the fund’s Buffalo Bob, Vin Sparano (Byers’ predecessor at Outdoor Life) editorialized that Beattie’s refuge stewardship "puts hunting, fishing and trapping in danger on 100 million acres’ but that "all is not lost" because groups like the fund are pressuring the Fish and Wildlife Service "to continue hunting and fishing programs within the National Wildlife Refuge System."

When Mollie Beattie opened 15 additional hunting programs and six additional fishing programs - something she had planned to do all along - the fund bragged that it had "bloodied" the service and had "forced it to shelve its plans to restrict hunting on the national wildlife refuges."

Outdoor writers by the drove interviewed the pooh-bahs of the Wildlife Legislative Fund. I asked Refuge Division chief Rob Shallenberger - the person in charge of America’s 510 national wildlife refuges - how many outdoor writers had talked to him.

"I would say less than half a dozen," he told me. "And I had to do some of that on my own. I used to write articles for outdoor magazines, and I have a lot of friends in that community. And I frankly was disappointed in the rapidity with which outdoor writers sucked up all the material they got. They didn’t ask for clarification or comment. Some of that stuff that got printed was almost inexcusable. A lot of us were personally affronted by that. Wait, folks, at least give us the courtesy of a phone call."

Even if the fund’s supporters don’t have a problem with the organization trying to shut up an honest journalist, they ought to have a problem with it wasting their money on a fool’s errand. At least since the time of Socrates, the attempted silencing of presumed heretics has only amplified their voices. So it has been with Tom Beck. People who never even thought about bear baiting - readers of The New York Times and High Country News, for example - are now tuned in.

Meanwhile, I have not quite given up on Outdoor Life. Fortunately, Bob Brown remains on the staff, and he prevailed on Times Mirror to let him publish Beck’s essay in the November 1996 issue. With it appeared an opposing view by Craig McLaughlin, a respected bear biologist from Maine with credentials almost identical to Beck’s and who had neither seen A Hunter’s Heart (now in print) nor been shown Beck’s Outdoor Life piece. It’s not that Times Mirror found courage; it’s just that the bad press frightened it even more than the gas and wind from the fund.

The incident has even helped forge a policy statement by the American Society of Magazine Editors, stipulating that editors "need the maximum possible protection from untoward commercial or other extra-journalistic pressures’ and that when they are pushed around by outside interests the society’s board will investigate and possibly suspend the publication from the National Magazine Awards.

So, for all the wrong reasons, Times Mirror finally made the right decision. At least on one issue, the result will be dialogue, an exchange of ideas, a challenge to thought and action. Maybe it will be the start of something new.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

No Viagra Needed

My parents came back from Alaska a few months ago with a club-like thing made out of what appeared to be pertified bone.

In fact, it was petrified bone, and about three feet long.

My father told me that modern solid bone versions were once used to club baby seals in Alaska and Canada. Did I know what it was?

Actually, I did -- an Oosik, or walrus penis bone, though I had never actually seen one before, much less a fossilized one.

A fossilized oosik? How cool would that have been to take into show and tell as a kid? Very!

Most people are a little surprised that quite a few animals have penis bones, as humans don't (men a purely vascular wonder).

A few pictures to satisfy the curious:

Red Fox Penis Bone

Domestic Dog Penis Bone

Badger Penis Bone

Gray Wolf Penis Bone

Raccoon Penis Bone

Wolverine Penis Bone

For folks looking for a "special" set of earings, or perhaps a toothpick for the boss at Christmas, you can buy raccoon penis bones for just $2 apiece >> here

Monday, September 26, 2005

Double Raccoons

The first hole of the day contained a raccoon, and after Mountain had worked it to a stop end, I boxed and was surprised to find she was only 2 feet down.

It was a very quick dig through very dry soil, and when I got down to the dog, I found the hole was completely filled with fur. The raccoon would not show me its head, even when prodded, so I partially tailed it out and slipped a snare pole over one leg and pulled out an 18-pound female.

As soon as this raccoon was pulled clear, a second raccoon bolted from the hole. This second raccoon was the largest I have seen to ground and was about 1/3 larger that the first and must have been the male, as it had a head like a skillet and was rolling in fat. I guess the corn fields to the left and right of this hedgerow had provided pretty good pickings!

I repaired this den well, as I have worked several fox along this stretch of hedge, and hope to do so again when winter comes rolling around. Mountain got a little puncture on one cheek, but was otherwise fine.

Friday, September 23, 2005

New Dog Flu Mimics Kennel Cough

The New York Times, Thursday, September 22, 2005
Highly Contagious Dog Flu Spreads

Donald G. McNeil Jr., Carin Rubenstein,

A new, highly contagious and sometimes deadly canine flu is spreading in kennels and dog tracks around the country, veterinarians said Wednesday.
The virus -- which scientists say mutated from an influenza strain that affects horses -- has killed racing greyhounds in seven states and has been found in shelters and pet shops in many places across the country, though the extent of its spread is unknown.

Dr. Cynda Crawford, an immunologist at the University of Florida's College of Veterinary Medicine who is studying the virus, said it spreads most easily where dogs are housed together, but it can also be passed on the street, in dog runs or even by a human transferring it from one dog to another. Kennel workers have carried the virus home with them, she said.

How many dogs die from the virus is unclear, but scientists said the fatality rate is more than 1 percent and could be as high as 10 percent among puppies and older dogs.

Crawford first began investigating greyhound deaths at a racetrack in Jacksonville, Fla., in January 2004, where eight of the 24 greyhounds who contracted the virus died.

"This is a newly emerging pathogen, and we have very little information to make predictions about it," she said. "But I think the fatality rate is between 1 and 10 percent."

She added that because dogs have no natural immunity to the virus, virtually every animal exposed will become infected. About 80 percent of dogs that are infected with the virus will develop some symptoms, Crawford said. She added that the symptoms are often mistaken for "kennel cough," a common canine illness that is caused by the Bordetella bronchiseptica bacteria.

Both diseases can cause coughing and gagging for up to three weeks, but dogs with canine flu may have fevers as high as 106 degrees and runny noses.

A few will develop pneumonia, which is sometimes fatal. Antibiotics and fluid cut the pneumonia fatality rate, she said. The virus is an H3N8 flu closely related to an equine flu strain. It is not related to typical human flus or to the H5N1 avian flu that has killed scores of people in Asia.

Experts said there are no known cases of the canine flu infecting humans.

"The risk of that is low, but we are keeping an eye on it," said Dr. Ruben Donis, chief of molecular genetics for the influenza branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is tracking the illness.

With the approach of the human flu season and fears about bird flu in Asia, there is much confusion among some dog owners who have heard of the disease.

Crawford said she was fielding calls from kennels and veterinarians across the country worried that they were having outbreaks.

"The hysteria out there is unbelievable, and the misinformation is incredible," said Dr. Ann E. Hohenhaus, chief of medicine at the Animal Medical Center in New York. She said she had heard of an alert from a Virginia dog club reporting rumors that 10,000 show dogs had died.

"We don't believe that's true," she said, adding that no dogs in her Manhattan hospital even had coughs.

Donis, of the CDC, said there is currently no vaccine for the canine flu. But he said one would be relatively easy to develop because a vaccine that prevents the related horse flu exists.

The canine flu is less lethal than parvovirus, which typically kills puppies but can be prevented by routine vaccination.

Laboratory tests, Donis said, have shown that the new flu is susceptible to the two most common anti-viral drugs, amantidine and Tamiflu, but those drugs are not licensed for use in dogs.

The flu has killed greyhounds at tracks in Florida, Massachusetts, Arizona, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Texas and Iowa. Tracks and kennels have been forced to shut down for weeks for disinfection.

In Chestnut Ridge, N.Y., about 88 dogs became sick by early September, about 15 percent of whom required hospitalization, according to Debra Bennetts, a spokeswoman for Best Friends Pet Care, a chain of boarding kennels. The kennel was vacated for decontamination by Sept. 17.

About 17 of the infected dogs were treated at the Oradell Animal Hospital in Paramus, N.J., where one died and two more were still hospitalized, according to a staff veterinarian.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Beaver's Patient Revenge

From High Country News in Colorado
Revenge of the old-timers: The Beavers are Back, by Bill Croke

At a recent barbecue during a breezy Sunday afternoon on the South Fork of the Shoshone River, near Cody, Wyo., I saw the largest beaver I’ve ever seen. It was floating in the river’s current like a big dog.

The beaver looked to be about three feet long from nose to flat tail, and must have weighed 40 pounds. It had a huge, whiskered head that reminded me of a Scottish terrier’s. Our host, one of those modem cowboys who makes a living thanks to a computer and high-speed Internet service, called us over to look, and we stood around with our beers and watched in amazement. My friend, whose place sports some big cottonwoods bordering a stretch of the river, took lots of pictures, but also studied the beaver with some alarm.

As the animal slowly swam upriver, it seemed to scan the jumble of trembling young willows and cottonwoods on the opposite bank. Our host suddenly mentioned that he’d had a crabapple tree ransacked by a grizzly last year, the bear even tearing off some limbs.

A beaver isn’t a grizzly, of course, but you get the idea: It can do a lot of rearranging of the scenery. All this got me thinking about the role this durable aquatic rat — Castor canadensis — played in the history of the American West. After all, the beavers started it, our relentless moving into the country’s interior. We wouldn’t be here without them.

Beaver was the material of choice for hats, and in pursuit of pelts in the 17th century, the French methodically worked their way west from eastern Canada, thus exploring half a continent. By the 1790s, British traders were probing the Pacific Northwest coast by sea in search of furs.

Though Thomas Jefferson sent Lewis and Clark on their legendary journey of discovery in 1804 for a myriad of reasons, a major object was to counter British influence and open the region to American trappers. One of those trappers, John Colter, was the first white man to discover what is now Yellowstone National Park, in 1807. Three years later, John Jacob Astor sent the ship Tonquin and its crew to establish Astoria, the first city in Oregon, a place originally devoted to the fur trade. From the mountain men who brought in beaver and other furs to the settlers who followed in wagon trains, the West’s population boom was under way.

Today, the beaver is seen as a nuisance across much of the subdivided West. This totemic animal and its engineering machinations are responsible for flooded subdivisions and chewed-down ornamental trees.

It’s a typical story in the New West: People love wildlife until it eats the pets, shreds the shrubbery or floods the basement. As for the beaver, it’s spawned a new breed of trapper: Politically correct newcomers want problem wildlife trapped alive and unharmed, then relocated to more natural — and convenient — surroundings.

Just type "Live Trapping Services" into Google or some other search engine, and listings will pour in from across America. What would Jim Bridger and Kit Carson make of these modern-day mountain men who make a living returning beavers to the wild?

Occasional nuisance or not, we have to give Castor canadensis credit for possessing a quality that writer Wallace Stegner said was lacking in many of us. Stegner said if the West were to become a society that matched its scenery, it needed "stickers" willing to commit to a place, to weather its busts as well as its booms, and to work to create durable Western institutions.

That’s what the beavers did, building dams that tamed floods. For thanks, we’ve subjected them to trapping and destroyed their lodges with dynamite. Yet, given a chance, the beaver or its progeny gets right back to work. The same might be said for my friend and his entrepreneurial adventures in cyberspace. I assume his virtual occupation will keep him in the West, but then again, you never know what people will do, and you certainly never know about the economy.

A bunch of us stood watching that big beaver swim upstream. It looked as if its periscope nose made the wide wake in the water all by itself. I wondered if the beaver would return some night to have a go at my friend’s luscious cottonwood trees. My friend was already talking about putting heavy chicken wire or some other barrier around them. I was thinking that the drama might play out as a struggle between two determined Westerners.

Meanwhile, those young willows across the river trembled in the breeze.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Sunday Out With the Dogs

Another Sunday, another dig. It was about 87 degrees out when we called it quits for the day at around 1:30. There is the smallest feel of fall despite the heat.

The dogs worked a third groundhog in a barn, at the farmers request, but they could not drive it from the enormous maze of tunnels under the concrete slab. I say it was a groundhog, but at times it sounded like a raccoon and there were raccoon tracks in the dried mud where water had come into the building during some period of enormous rain.

Very Scarey

Sunday, September 18, 2005

The Dogs of Hurricane Katrina

Standard poodle in the debris and water.

Notice the two dogs to the right -- strangled and dead after jumping over the rail.

Wet and bedraggled with nothing to eat and no dry spot to rest.

Four large dogs on a wet car roof. No telling how long they have been there.

A matted terrier of some sort tries to find something to eat by licking the sharp metal edges of a can.

A young dog in oil-contaminated water. As desperate as it gets.

Unspeakable joy, unspeakable sorrows.

Flat bottomed boat from the DNR with dog crates on a rescue mission.

Hope has arrived for this dog. No telling where the owners are, however, and there are many more dogs than people with homes to care for them.

Why You Will Never Dig A Hole to China

Ah the internet is great stuff. A fellow with waaaaay too much time on his hand has hacked Google Maps and created a web site where you can click on any place in the world and it will tell you where you would come out if you just kept digging .... and digging ... and digging ...

It seems all of us, all over the world, were told we would "end up in China," but in fact that can't possibly be true. In fact, unless you live in a remote part of South America, it's not true. If you are in America or Europe you end up in the Ocean.

Check out the map hack >> HERE

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Ex-RSPCA boss: bring back fox hunting with dogs

Woops -- the people were right. Again.

From The Birmingham Post:

A former chairman of the RSPCA has attacked the organisation for supporting the fox hunting ban.

John Hobhouse said shooting foxes was crueller than hunting with hounds which should be allowed under licence with extra legal protection for wild animals.

In a letter to The Times, John Hobhouse, who was a member of the RSPCA council for 20 years and its chairman for seven, said: "Recent peer-reviewed research demonstrating high levels of wounding in shot foxes, shows that more animals will suffer for weeks before gangrene finally causes a painful death.

"It must bring many people to accept the irksome truth that shooting creates greater cruelty for the fox than hunting with hounds.

" The Hunting Act is severely flawed and unworkable. It should be amended as a matter of urgency. For an Act of Parliament, purporting to relieve animal suffering, to do exactly the opposite is very sad.

"That the RSPCA, which does immensely important work on so many animal welfare fronts, has been party to this fiasco is a tragedy for the many animals the Act sought to protect.

"It was also a mistake to give the impression that hunting hounds could be taken in by the RSPCA kennels.

"These animals if they can be re-homed at all, will require far more attention than other dogs and the RSPCA will not be able to cope. For every hound saved, four or five other dogs will be denied help."

Lembit Opik, Liberal Democrat MP and co-chair of the Middle Way Group of MPs which wants licensed hunting, said: "I am encouraged but not surprised that Mr Hobhouse has taken this view."

"Now, here's the deal, we only have room at the RSPCA for one of you."

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

How to Skin Out a Raccoon

Wasco Taxidermy mount, large raccoon with 16.5 inch chest.

This little instruction manual comes from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources
, and I include it here as an object of interest, not to encourage people to kill and skin out an animal in the hope of getting a mount.

Most wild-caught animals are not in prime winter fur when caught, and skinning out an animal well enough -- and getting it to a taxidermist in time -- are best left to experts.

You will save little or no money by supplying a pelt to a taxidermist which can otherwise be acquired fresh, frozen and in excellent shape for as little as $30-$40. Taxidermy is expensive -- expect to pay about $70 to get a skin tanned and about $300 for a decent mount.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Penny Pinchers and the the Season Change

Coming up the driveway last night, I could just barely feel it -- the smell of Fall and the change of seasons. It's another three months before the groundhogs disappear, and it's fox time, but it's never too early to look for bargains on cold weather stuff.

Here are three places where very-low cost stuff can occassionally be found at incredibly low prices. Get on their email list for the best deals. Recent offers include $10 Swiss military mountain boots, $4 for Swedish wool pants with cargo pockets, $1 for three Swedish wool military scarves, $12 for an Australian wool sweater, $15 for Austrian camo parka, $15 for a 1.5 million candlepower spotting lamp, denim shirts for $12 each, etc. Some deals are better than others, of course, and odd sizes are common. Remember that if you don't actually need it for yourself or for a gift, it's a 100% waste no matter how cheap it is.

For those interested in another place that is likely to have it
(and to compare prices) see >> Cabela's

Sunday, September 11, 2005

A Stack of Problems

The Express, October 12, 2004
By: John Chapman

A TEAM of rescue workers struggled over two days to save a schoolboy's pet dog, trapped inside a huge bonfire pile.

Mylo, a Jack Russell terrier, out walking with his owner, 10year-old George Smith, suddenly chased a rabbit - and vanished into the 20ft-high stack.

George could hear two-year-old Mylo whimpering, but could not see him. Eventually, George ran home to his father - also called George - in Swanmore, Hants.

Mr Smith, 30, a tree surgeon, said: "I thought it would only be a couple of feet of wood. I never thought the pile would be so big.

It was the size of a house. So we dialled 999." By chance, eight members of Hampshire's urban search and rescue team, specially trained for worldwide rescue operations , including earthquakes, were at the county fire and rescue service's headquarters in nearby Eastleigh.

The team, with five firefighters, rushed to the scene and worked to free the dog. Schoolboy George sat by the woodpile, calling out to Mylo, as the firefighters used thermal-imaging cameras to find him deep inside the bonfire.

For three hours, there was silence. The 13-strong team were about to go home for the night when Mylo suddenly responded.

George Smith senior said: "The chief of the team said they would have to give up if there was no sign by 6 pm. At 5.55 pm, we heard Mylo whimpering.

After working for six hours, the team left, but returned next day and spent another three hours digging a ground-level tunnel.

And at 11am on Sunday - 24 hours after he went missing - Mylo was found trapped between branches, and rescued.

Owner George said: "There were times when I thought he might be dead. I'm really thankful for all the help from the firefighters." Mike Gates of Hampshire fire and rescue said: "Everyone was delighted."

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Meanwhile, in Terrebonne Parish Louisiana ....

HOUMA, La. Terrebonne Parish nutria took the hardest hit this season from a four-dollar-a-tail bounty offered by the state.

Terrebonne led the state in collecting nutria tails during the Louisiana Coastwide Nutria Control Program's third season, which stretches from November through March.

More than 80-thousand of the marsh-eating rodents were killed in Terrebonne this year -- and about 297,000 to 500,000 stateawide.

The state total is down considerably from the 2004 total of 332,000 to 600,000.

The state Department of Wildlife nad Fisheries says that's largely because floods from Hurricane Ivan wiped out many nutria in Plaquemines and St. Bernard Parishes. It says the Plaquemines Parish harvest was down by nearly 48-thousand, and the figure was down by nine-thousand in St. Bernard Parish.

Friday, September 09, 2005

The Transvestite Dogs of the AKC

Why do I call them "transvestite dogs"?
Simple: they may look the part, but they can't do the part.

Some, of course, don't even look the part. "I'm not saying you're not feminine darling, all I'm saying is you've got to shave closer."

The Seattle Times, May 27, 1990
By: Ranny Green

After finishing Richard Wolters' hard-hitting "Duck Dogs: All About the Retrievers" (E.P. Dutton, $ 18.95), I was left with a sense of guilt.

Since 1984, Sunny has been a beacon in my life. This mahogany-colored golden retriever always has a ball in her mouth when I come through the front door each night. It's play time, she's saying, as I look for an easy chair following 30 to 45 minutes of freeway madness.

Our family had owned German shepherds previously but when Cindy, our 14-year-old shepherd, died in the early 1980s, I opted for a "golden" future. I'd researched the breed thoroughly and decided it would fit the family's lifestyle superbly. And it has.

I was looking for a family pet and companion animal, not a hunter. And when I spotted a classified advertisement in The Times for a 3-year-old, well-mannered female, a non-hunting golden retriever, I responded. It was love at first sight. And still is.

In "Duck Dogs," however, Wolters, a hunting-dog authority, says, "The history of every hunting dog that has become popular through the AKC (American Kennel Club) show ring is the same - the dog has lost its working ability. The key to the problem is popularity.

"Once a great hunting dog, today the cocker is useless in the field," says Wolters. "It can't hunt its way to the meat counter in a supermarket. The poodle was No. 2. It has been taken out of the duck marsh and made into a sissy. It is now dressed in ribbons. The AKC English setter's silky coat, down to its knees, would be ruined in a brier patch, and it has lost its nose. The Irish setter has been made into a high-strung blooming idiot. The list goes on. If the men who started the AKC 100 years ago could see what their organization has done to our hunting and also to our working dogs, they would turn over in their graves."

Last year the cocker spaniel remained No. 1 on the AKC registry list for the seventh consecutive year, followed in order by other noted hunting breeds - Labrador retriever, poodle and golden retriever.

By 1980, the AKC divided these dogs' activities into two categories - the show ring and field trials, leaving no place for the hunter and his dog, Wolters claims.

Hunters became fed up with this dilemma, prompting the founding of the North American Hunting Retriever Association.

The association sponsors field tests for working retrievers through which a dog can advance to eventually attain the coveted master hunting retriever certification.

Wolters says the purpose of NAHRA to save the Labrador and golden from the fate of popularity is recognizing some success. "No longer is there a fear that Labradors will disappear from the field as the cocker, poodle, Irish setter and the AKC English setter before them." But, he concludes, the golden is another story. The golden people, he says, are not taking advantage of the program.

Meanwhile, "both the American and British kennel clubs have allowed the mainstream of the breeding of their retrievers to lose the purpose for which they were originally developed.

". . . It takes centuries of concentrated effort to make a hunting dog and fewer than 40 years to undo the work. Dogs don't get into that kind of fix themselves, and neither the hunter nor the field trialer can be held responsible. The blame belongs to the show ring and the resultant marker."

The AKC has taken a stance that it has no right to order national breed clubs to alter their stance or emphasis.

Wolters adds, "Most breed clubs are run by show people. They write the physical standard for the dog, which unfortunately over a period of time tends to become a standard of fads having little or no functional purpose."

While Wolters criticizes the hunting deterioration of several breeds, let us not forget that the Labrador and golden retrievers continue to display their working mettle as superb Guide Dogs and hearing dogs daily. Thousands of others, like my Sunny, are perfectly content to play the role of an extraordinary companion animal, yet they long for much-needed water and field exercise or a daily neighborhood jog.

Ranny Green's Pets column appears on Sundays in The Times.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Delisting Wolves in Minnesota

I post this picture, lifted some time back from a place now forgotten, because it gives folks some idea of the size differential between wolves, coyote and red fox.

I am always amazed at the notion, among some slob-hunters, that environmentalists are some sort of lock-step automatons, or that good people cannot disagree about wildlife management plans. The article below, written by the great wildlife writer Ted Williams, details the controversy over "delisting" the Grey Wolf from the Endangered Species Act in Minnesota and several other states. The article originally appeared in Audubon magazine. The picture (above) did not come from the magazine.

Audubon magazine


Living With Wolves

Wolves are thriving in the Midwest's north woods--and killing dogs and calves in the adjacent farmlands. Is it time to take Minnesota's wolves off the endangered-species list?

By Ted Williams

Wolves have inspired, haunted, and eluded me most of my life. I've looked for them in Russia, Canada, Alaska, Montana, and Idaho, mingled my prints with theirs across a dozen wilderness meadows, picked through hair and bone chips in their scat. Once, in the Bitterroot Range, I heard a wolf howl and was on a high for an hour until another hiker informed me that he had just met a biologist who, on a search for wolves himself, had been trying to "howl one up." Despite all my efforts, I didn't encounter a wild wolf until August 16, 2000, and on that day I saw three.

The first was from a pack that hunts the eastern edge of the Red River Valley, where Minnesota's boreal forest opens into the sparsely grassed bed of ancient Lake Agassiz. She had green eyes, a thin face, long black guard hairs on her back, brown fur on her legs and belly, and a collar of blood where Bill Paul of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services had shot her.

He'd baited his leghold trap with rotten moose liver and concealed it in dirt excavated by pocket gophers. The brush was torn up, but I could see that the struggle had been brief, probably because she'd chewed on the trap and ingested the tranquilizer tab. We weighed her, hanging her upside down from a scale lashed to a shovel handle and raising the ends high above our heads so her muzzle wouldn't touch the earth. Then Paul sliced open her gut cavity, pulled out her stomach, and retrieved the base of the tranquilizer tab along with calf hide still bearing fur.

At 58 pounds, this wolf, probably last year's pup, was not the "killing machine" that rancher Gary Mathis of Gonvick, Minnesota, had said she was. And that was part of the problem. Older, more experienced wolves like the three Paul had trapped here earlier in the summer will generally kill a calf cleanly. But this one had been making a bad job of it. Mathis showed me the results--four gravely wounded calves. A fifth had been put down when his abdomen filled with urine. Three of the survivors looked as if they might make it, but the fourth--with a raw, grapefruit-size divot on her rump--appeared terminal. The state would compensate Mathis for the dead stock but not for his vet bills.

Paul killed another wolf 60 miles to the northwest in the town of Grygla, and cattle rancher Terry Cleven brought his young son out to see it. The kid, wearing a Minnesota Timberwolves basketball shirt, was considerably less interested than his dad, who had grown up farming this land. Cleven, too, referred to wolves as "killing machines." This animal, scarcely bigger than the first, had apparently given birth the previous spring because her nipples were black, but they weren't swollen, so the pups probably hadn't lived long. Paul started trapping this farm 15 years ago when Terry's father, Albert, ran it. Since then Paul and his colleagues have killed about 20 wolves here. In this part of the state you can remove an entire pack and the area will be recolonized in a year or two.

Earlier in the week I'd visited Longville, Minnesota, where not a whole lot happens, unless you're a wolf. "Welcome to Longville, pop. 224," read the sign. "Building permits required. Turtle race every Wednesday--2:00 p.m." Bob Lewis, who drives a cement truck, and his girlfriend, Terri Winger, met me at the One Stop, where Terri works. On the morning of March 13, 1998, they had let their two-year-old poodle, Jake, out to do his business when two wolves appeared by the garden. "I hollered and clapped my hands, and they took off, but then they turned around and came right back," said Lewis. "Terri started yelling at them, too."

"One grabbed Jake by the head and the other had him by the rear end, and they killed him," Winger added. "Bob's got kids, but I don't. So what I did was lose my child."

Lewis and Winger directed me to the former sheep farm of their friend Buzz Lilyquist, a large, white-haired man with a Navy anchor tattooed on his left forearm. He'd just come in from hanging garbage in front of stands he rents to bear hunters. Jelly doughnuts work best, he says; scraps from the butcher shop are a close second, but he quit using them because they attracted wolves, which he thinks scared off the bears. The wolves, Lilyquist claimed, had run him out of the sheep business. "In 1996 I lost 10 head; in 1997 I lost 30," he said. "You lose 30 head when you're operating with less than 100 ewes, and you just can't keep going. I think we should reserve a section of Minnesota for wolves--I would suggest the Boundary Waters [Canoe Area]--and maintain a population there so we could say, ‘Yes, we have wolves in Minnesota.' But beyond that I say get rid of them. Who needs them?"

Midwesterners are going to have to learn to live with wolves. Each spring, 2,000 pups are born in Minnesota alone, and the 150 to 225 wolves Wildlife Services takes from the population each year won't even make a squiggle on the expansion graph. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) believes that the state has never had more wolves. That is because there have never been more deer. In fact, the deer population now provides more meat per acre than the wolves' historical prey base of caribou, moose, elk, and bison. Moreover, 30 to 50 percent of the total wolf population would have to be removed annually just to keep it from expanding. That probably couldn't be done without bounties and an all-out, 1950s-style air and poison war, a political and legal impossibility.

While wolves are expanding their range elsewhere--particularly in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Wisconsin, and Michigan--they've become major nuisances only where humans and their livestock ulcerate the big woods of Minnesota. Unless the state comes up with an effective management plan, the political climate in America will be such that wolf restoration, now under consideration in northern New England and New York, will have little chance.

Most pet and livestock owners in Minnesota haven't lived with wolves for long, and they're not very good at it. According to a report in the Minnesota Outdoor News, wolves killed 23 dogs last winter and spring along the shore of Lake Superior in the 15 miles between Hovland and Grand Portage. When deer are driven here by the brutal northern winter, people provide them with food. That keeps them around houses and attracts wolves. Without prompting, Terri Winger, Bob Lewis, and Buzz Lilyquist all proudly informed me that they feed deer in winter. Bill Paul tells ranchers how important it is to bury their dead stock. But carcasses keep getting tossed over fences, setting the table for wolves and giving them a taste for beef and mutton.

Many of the people in Minnesota who are losing pets and livestock to wolves blame the Endangered Species Act. For them, at least, it has worked too well. In 1974, just nine years after the state did away with its $35 wolf bounty, Minnesota's wolves--at that time the only viable population in the contiguous United States--were listed as endangered. Even Wildlife Services wasn't allowed to kill them. Instead they had to be trapped and transported to the northeastern part of the state, where they were released in occupied wolf range, a practice arguably less humane than shooting them, because they were killed, maimed, or driven out by established packs.

Four years later Minnesota's wolves were downlisted to threatened. This meant that federal agents could kill depredating animals, a response that was favored by knowledgeable advocates of wolf restoration because pups can learn from their elders the dangerous and somewhat aberrant behavior of killing domestic stock. But until the wolf is delisted, private citizens who encounter wolves attacking their animals have no legal recourse other than to shout and clap their hands the way Winger and Lewis did.

When the wolves south of Alaska and Canada were listed as endangered 26 years ago, the population in Minnesota was thought to be between 750 and 950, and there was no known pack activity in Wisconsin or Michigan. In due course, a federally appointed team of the nation's foremost wolf biologists set the following recovery goals: Minnesota would need between 1,251 and 1,400 wolves, and Wisconsin and Michigan a combined population of 100 for five consecutive years. At that point the Minnesota wolf would be delisted (taken off the federal threatened list with management passed to the state), and the Wisconsin and Michigan wolves would be downlisted from endangered to threatened.

In 1998 the most sophisticated census methods available to the Minnesota DNR revealed a state population of 2,450. A year later Wisconsin's wolf population was estimated to be between 197 and 203, Michigan's between 175 and 200. With wolves thoroughly recovered in these three states and with roughly twice as many animals as were needed to ensure their viability, the recovery team urged the Interior Department to cancel all Endangered Species Act protection for western lake-state wolves. Nothing happened. "It's like The Wizard of Oz," comments recovery-team member Mike Don Carlos of the Minnesota DNR. "You get the ruby slippers, you make it to the Emerald City, and you still don't get to go to Kansas."

In 1998 the Interior Department had said it was going to delist wolves in all three states. Now it is talking only about downlisting Michigan and Wisconsin wolves to threatened status. Spooked by the prospect of endless, grossly expensive litigation, the department has a long record of not delisting recovered species when it gets pressured by groups committed to permanent protection of all species and all individuals of all species. The court battles bleed away limited resources, thereby denying effective protection to creatures that really might vanish from our planet. Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt recognizes the problem. "This program is like an emergency room and a recovery ward in a hospital," he declared. "Once the patient's trauma is past and recovery is progressing well, it's time for the patient to get on with life. We are at that point with some of our wolf populations. Our goal is not to keep them in the hospital indefinitely. Perpetual protection is not the goal; seeing species reach the point that they can survive in the wild, on their own, is."

One of the strongest voices for wolf recovery has been that of U.S. Geological Survey senior scientist L. David Mech, North America's most experienced wolf biologist and a member of the recovery team.The worst thing we can do to wolves, Mech submits, is to let them become pests. What he fears most is a backlash--currently in the making--from the politically powerful livestock industry. "Wolves have filled up all of the wilderness and the semiwilderness in Minnesota," he told me, "and now they're getting into the agricultural land. In Poland wolves have been exterminated three times and overprotected three times. So the Poles have gone through three cycles."

Having experienced one such cycle and hoping to avoid others, the Minnesota DNR created a "roundtable" in 1998. It worked about as well as King Arthur's. Thirty-three citizens representing every conceivable interest, notion, and superstition about wolves--from ranchers to trappers to deer hunters to environmentalists to animal-rights zealots--were instructed to hatch a plan for managing the state's wolves, a plan that would placate everyone and at the same time convince the federal government that wolves could be safely delisted. All members of the roundtable had to be in favor of the plan; one "nay" and it would be scuttled. The legislature would then ratify the plan, and the DNR would live by it.

The roundtable process was doomed from the start. The representative of HOWL (Help Our Wolves Live) successfully intimidated the other members into not even discussing hunting or trapping by the public. At the 59th minute of the 11th hour, all hands agreed to a plan that would do nothing to slow wolf expansion into farm country but would at least allow people to shoot wolves caught in the act of attacking their pets or livestock. All roundtable members promised to stand by the plan, including the HOWL representative, although she burst into tears and claimed she'd been bullied into signing. At least the animal-rights people kept their word. The cattlemen, on the other hand, quickly reneged, and unsuccessfully pushed their own bill, which would have cut the current wolf population in half.

The one thing worse than management by public opinion is management by politician. After an agonizing two-year gestation, the roundtable plan was discarded by the Minnesota legislature, which then came up with its own version. If and when the federal government delists Minnesota wolves, the legislature's bill, signed by Governor Jesse Ventura on May 15, will divide the state into two management zones. In the northern third, where 90 percent of the wolves still abide, people will be able to legally destroy a wolf seen "in the act of stalking, attacking, or killing" pets or livestock. In the southern two-thirds of the state, people will be entitled to state-sponsored wolf trapping if their pets or livestock "were destroyed by a gray wolf within the previous five years," and "a person may shoot a gray wolf on land owned, leased, or managed by the person at any time to protect the person's livestock, domestic animals, or pets." In other words, you get to decide what the wolf might be up to. If you think it looks hungry, that's good enough. Few people ever see wolves, hungry-looking or otherwise, so the bill won't affect the population. But even some of its most conservative backers worry that it's a lousy precedent and a lousy lesson. Still, given the public's passions about wolves, maybe it's the best that can be done. Mech thinks it will at least satisfy the Interior Department so that it can delist the wolf and get on with its important work of saving genuinely endangered species.

That may not be enough. Though Minnesota Audubon, the National Wildlife Federation, and other conservation organizations agree that the wolves have recovered here and actively support delisting, other groups are fighting it. On August 17 the North Star chapter of the Sierra Club, the Humane Society of the United States, Defenders of Wildlife, the Minnesota Wolf Alliance, and the Friends of Animals and Their Environment announced that they were filing a lawsuit to overturn Minnesota's wolf bill. According to the Sierra Club, the 2,450 population figure is "based on questionable estimates of average pack sizes and a survey of hunters and wildlife managers in northern Minnesota which asked them how many wolves they thought were living in their area!"

"True?" I asked Mech, who didn't hesitate to pummel the DNR in the press for trying to manage wolves by public opinion.

"Not true," he said. "The survey was state-of-the-art. They looked at average pack size and average territory size in five intensive study areas. And then they sent questionnaires to professionals in the field--not hunters--outside those areas to see if wolves were present."

The DNR's Mike Don Carlos had this to say: "The methodology we use to survey wolves in Minnesota was plenty good enough for these people when it showed low numbers. The attack on the science only occurs when the science doesn't support a political agenda."

Passions about wolves are more easily acquired than knowledge, something I was reminded of repeatedly during my day in the field with Wildlife Services biologist Bill Paul. Not that Paul is without such passions; I believed him when he told me he likes wolves and regrets having to kill those that deviate from their normal diet. But he understands wolves, too, and he understands his role as a buffer between old prejudices and a rapidly expanding wolf population. He says he'd like to save wolves from a Polish-style treadmill of complete protection and near-total extermination.

Paul, a lean, fit man who has been a federal biologist since 1975, is happy for his gray beard and hair because, finally, people don't say he's too young to know much about wolves. I watched him inside a farmhouse in Puposky, doing some of his most important work--sitting at a table, drinking coffee, listening, talking, sounding authoritative but not scientific or professorial, and speaking genuine northern Minnesotan, you betcha. The coffee server was John Gilbertson, who had just lost three sheep. Through his kitchen window I looked out at the 526-acre patch of green shaved out of the northern wolf woods. The place is a magnet for deer and therefore wolves, and periodically some of these wolves--like the two Paul had killed here yesterday--sample domestic ungulates. At relevant points in the conversation, Paul would slip in information about how to live with wolves--such as the importance of burying dead animals and making sure pregnant ones give birth inside a barn. It was clear to me that Gilbertson thought this Fed was okay. It was also clear that neither Gilbertson nor any of the ranchers I met that day would be taking the law into their own hands.

But Paul's effectiveness is going to diminish fast. He has but five assistants for the entire state, and because federal wolf killing is so hated by the general public, it's one of the first programs to get its funding slashed.

Paul and his crew will respond to a complaint only if the stock owner can produce a carcass. Usually, they can tell if the animal has been dispatched by a wolf instead of a coyote, bear, or bobcat. "We try to investigate all complaints within 24 or 48 hours," says Paul. "It's real important to get out there right away. We look for tracks, skin out the animal, and check the size of the canine-tooth holes. Then we'll look at the feeding pattern. Wolves are heavy feeders. They'll tear a whole carcass apart, and they can crush the big leg bones."

Learning to live with wolves is a good idea not just because there is no other choice but because it is profitable--in fact, a huge net gain. In 1999 Minnesota paid $64,918.50 in wolf-damage claims verified on 87 farms, or about one percent of the farms in wolf range. Known livestock losses (and there were surely many others that were unreported and unverified) amounted to 20 cows, 7 yearlings, 79 calves, 3 sheep, and 897 turkeys. Meanwhile, in 1999, about 50,000 tourists who came to the North Woods town of Ely visited the International Wolf Center--a wolf museum with dioramas, all manner of scientific data displayed in easily understood formats, prints and text defining wolf lore and attitudes through the ages, artifacts, lectures, videos, and live wolves. Each nonmember adult paid an entrance fee of $5.50.

Sixteen miles east of the Wolf Center, I stopped in to see my friend Jim Brandenburg, the wildlife photographer--a man made prosperous by Minnesota's wolves. One wolf you may have seen staring at you from books and magazines (including the cover of this issue of Audubon) essentially paid for the log house Brandenburg built on his 1,500-acre inholding in the Superior National Forest. As we sipped scotch in the living room, I could hear the brook through the photo-quality glass windows as it crashed over a ledge and flowed west and north through wilderness rivers and lakes to Voyageurs National Park, Lake Winnipeg, and Hudson Bay. Ravenwood, as Brandenburg calls his place, is wilder than some of the surrounding national forest and the nearby Boundary Waters Canoe Area because it is essentially tourist-free. "It represents my cathedral, my dream, my sanity," he wrote in his book Brother Wolf. "I come here to work and think, and it is very cherished for all of that, but more so because it is a place where wolves live."

We put down our glasses and wandered out into a windless night fragrant with balsam and wet forest duff. The northern lights glowed faintly through solid cloud cover, and loons yodeled from Moose Lake. We drove to ridges around Ravenwood where we could make out the jagged tops of northern conifers wrapped like torn crepe paper around the margins of obsidian lakes. Each time we dismounted from the van there was no sound save our breathing and the whine of mosquitoes, and then Brandenburg would cup his hands around his mouth and howl--a long wail like the distant whistle of a Canadian-Pacific locomotive. At five locations within 30 square miles, wolves answered him. He didn't have to howl from Fernberg Lookout; two lonely pups with high-pitched voices were conversing from opposite ends of the valley.

You don't need to hear or see wolves to appreciate them. Just knowing they're out there, coursing through unroaded forests, leaving prints in mud or snow, flowing around or over lakes and muskeg, silhouettes against starlight, sensed or imagined--that's enough for me, and for thousands of people who come to northern Minnesota to find strength and renewal in wilderness. As Brandenburg puts it, "If a country is wild enough for wolves, then it is wild enough for the human spirit."

It had all been better than I could reasonably have expected. But then something happened that I'd known was about impossible. At midnight a wolf answered Brandenburg from the road, very loud and close. "We may be able to see that one," he whispered. "Don't slam the door." He drove slowly toward it for maybe three-quarters of a mile, and there was our wolf--trotting along a ditch beside the Fernberg Trail, no bigger than the two I'd seen earlier in the day and just as brown. It crossed 30 feet ahead of us, and Brandenburg spun the wheel to keep it in the headlights. Then it melted into the infinite North Woods, and in that instant, at least, all was right in wolf country.


Ted Williams has yet to perfect his wolf howl, but he is trying.



What You Can Do

Living with wolves is a fact of life in Minnesota, the first U.S. state where wolves have been supported in agricultural areas. Many conservation groups worry that if the wolf population here is not managed correctly, there will be a public backlash against wolves elsewhere.

"We strongly support delisting wolves," says Tim Dawson, a representative of Minnesota Audubon who lives in the heart of wolf range and worked on the state's wolf roundtable. "Wolf recovery has been a success here; it proves the Endangered Species Act works. If they are delisted, the current management plan passed by the legislature won't threaten the existence of wolves in Minnesota, but it will need to be very carefully monitored by the Fish and Wildlife Service."

Minnesota Audubon advocates management by the state, compensating farmers for losses, and supporting efforts to reduce depredation. Farmers can help prevent wolf trouble by burying dead livestock, not feeding deer, and using guard animals.
If you have problems with wolves on your land, call a conservation officer with the DNR or with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services at 218-327-3350. For tips on protecting pets and livestock, contact the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (651-296-0591; and ask for a copy of "Wolves in Farm Country." To find out more about wolves or to follow progress on the management plan and delisting debate, visit the International Wolf Center in Ely, Minnesota, or go to the center's web site, .


Wednesday, September 07, 2005

New Orleans Pet Rescue Gathers Steam News Staff

With progress being made in evacuating people from New Orleans, some are turning their attention to other living creatures affected by the flooding: pets.

People left thousands of dogs, cats and other family pets behind in the rush to escape either Hurricane Katrina or the flooding that followed.

"We alone at the Humane Society of the United States, through our 1-800 number, logged 1,500 calls from people who lived in New Orleans and said they left their pets there," the Humane Society's Wayne Pacelle told Canada AM Tuesday.

"They simply misjudged how long they'd be gone. They left food for a couple of days, and now of course, people won't be able to enter for months."

Many of those animals sit forlornly on the rooftops of flooded homes, slowly starving to death as rescue boats ignore them, looking for people instead. Some have even tried swimming to boats, only to be rebuffed by the rescuers.

"A lot of these animals are pit bulls, rottweilers. We're not approaching the dogs if we can help it," says Jitm Metza, a U.S. Coast Guard searcher.

One fear is that after seven days in the hot sun, with no food, and drinking nothing but polluted water, the dogs might be dangerous.

On dry land, stray dogs have formed packs to scavenge the city for food.

Help for animals, however, is coming.

"There are hundreds of people on the ground now, who are trained in emergency animal rescue disaster response, just waiting to get into the areas hardest hit," Betsy Saul, president of, told CNN on Monday.

It appears that pets were one reason why many people stayed behind in the flooded city. One man "refused to leave even at gunpoint when he was ordered to leave by the patrolmen in our boat," said CTV News Toronto's Paul Bliss.

"He said no because he had seven dogs that he want stay and take care of."

CTV's Jed Kahane met another couple who turned down a ride out to wait a few days and walk out of the flood zone with their dogs and other pets.

"They're dependent," Adrienne Price said, a snake around her neck. "This is my kid. These are my babies."

Many people who did evacuate were forced by authorities to abandon their pets before being whisked off to a different city or state.

Saul said there is information available at, "and certainly if they want to contact us directly ... we can get make sure they have the information they need to get to the (bus)."
The ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) also has a searchable online database to help reunite pets with their owners. Volunteers who want to help can register on the society's website.

Several temporary animal shelters have been set up around southern Louisiana and Mississippi -- some next to shelters for human evacuees so people could visit their pets, she said.

Louisiana State University is providing shelter for hundreds of dogs and cats in an arena. One such shelter in Gonzalez, La. is taking pictures of every animal and uploading them to the Internet.

Besides pets, the flooding has damaged some of New Orleans' animal attractions.

The electricity failure meant no ability to pump oxygen into the water at the New Orleans aquarium, resulting in the deaths of about one-third of the 4,000 fish there.

At the zoo, 12 people are trying to take care of about 1,400 animals. After seeing what Hurricane Andrew did to Miami's zoo in 1992, the New Orleans facility upgraded its hurricane preparations, so losses there were minimal.

Russell Rescue & Hurricane Katrina

To find out what you can do to help terriers and terrier owners displaced by hurricane Katrina, see >>

"We Don't Need No Thought Control"

From the Sunday Times of London:

THE rock musician Roger Waters, who fronted the reformed Pink Floyd at this summer’s Live 8 concert, has become the first celebrity to leave Britain in protest at the ban on hunting. He has gone to live in America “in disgust” at what he says is an unfair attack by Tony Blair’s government on Britain’s countryside community.

Waters never swapped Pink Floyd for hunting pinks but he is a keen shooting and fishing man. He supported the Countryside Alliance’s rearguard action against the ban with a benefit concert at the Albert Hall.

He has now packed his shooting sticks and fishing rods and moved to the Hamptons, the millionaires’ playground in New York state.

Waters, who unveils his new work, Ca Ira, an opera about the French revolution, in Rome in November, said last week: “To slap down a perfectly gentle, fair-minded and honest yeoman-like minority in that way was just disgusting. It is also bloody stupid.”

He believes it could be “the thin end of a very thick wedge” and that shooting could be the next target for animal rights campaigners.

The musician, 61 this week, still has a £1m riverside home in Hampshire and a £6m house in London that is also the office for his musical enterprises. His main home is now a waterside mansion in the Hamptons where his neighbours include Sean Combs, the rap mogul now known as Diddy.

Waters’s daughter India, a model who lives in New York city, is a frequent visitor and he has already ordered rods from President George W Bush’s favourite angling shop, to catch giant tuna.

Waters, whose wealth was valued at £78m in this year’s Sunday Times Rich List, said: “I’ve become disenchanted with the political and philosophical atmosphere in England. It’s so mealy mouthed. I’m lucky enough to have the freedom to live where I want because I’ve made a few quid. The anti-hunting bill was enough for me to leave England.”

The musician, who is interviewed in today’s Culture section, added: “I did what I could. I did a concert and one or two articles, but it made me feel ashamed to be English.

“I was in Hyde Park for both the Countryside Alliance marches. There were hundreds of thousands of us there. Good, honest English people. That’s one of the most divisive pieces of legislation we’ve ever had in Britain.”

The Countryside Alliance hailed Waters as the first person to carry out his threat to leave Britain. At the height of the hunting debate several prominent hunt supporters said they would consider leaving if the bill became law.

The Prince of Wales, who hunted with the Beaufort Hunt along with princes William and Harry, is reported to have told a government minister at a private gathering that if the ban went through he might as well leave the country and spend the rest of his life skiing. Others said they would move their hunting activities to Ireland.

An alliance spokeswoman said: “We have had one or two people who would have left Britain anyway but Roger is the first to quit because of the hunting ban.”

Waters said in one interview: “Some of us are gatherers and some of us are hunters. I’m a hunter. I need the mud of a river oozing between my toes.”

His views were formed at an early stage when his grandparents used to drive him to see foxhunts. In more recent years he went regularly to Boxing Day meets near his Hampshire home until they were halted because of anti-hunt protesters.

The bass player and vocalist, who was one of the founding members of Pink Floyd 40 years ago, was also a member of a “shooting supergroup” that included Eric Clapton, the guitarist, and Stevie Winwood, the former Traffic singer who is the son of a gamekeeper.

The trio have regularly shot at Stanage Castle in the Welsh Marches, home of Jonathan Coltman-Rogers, high sheriff of Powys. Lord Heseltine, the Conservative former deputy prime minister, is another regular gun there.

An insider said: “Roger is not a son of the countryside but Stevie has authentic country qualifications. When these lot turn up in their plus fours, they out-country-gent the country gentlemen.”

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

At the End of a Short Day

Sailor and Mountain at the end of a short day. Sailor worked the first one, and Mountain the second, but I dug both and was a bit knackered by the heat after only two short digs. It was only 80 degrees out in the shade, but of course we were not in the shade. My only excuse is that the soil is very hard right now due to lack of rain, and the second dig was very rocky.

We were off the farm by 1:30, so it was a nice quick bit of business for all of us.

Gas is up to $3.15 so that's an additional expense. Before winter hits I have to get a new vehicle with four-wheel drive, but if gas keeps going up they may be givimg them away free with a full tank and an oil change.

Mountain is repaired from the barbed wire rip under her back leg from a few weeks back. She got a long but shallow ear rip on this outing, but that should heal up by next week and she is not bothered by it.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Watched in the Hedgerow

Sailor gets her groundhog. This one lost its tail in the scuffle.

The dogs and I had a friendly watcher at the first dig of the day -- a hawk flew in to see if we might be scaring up a few mice as well as a whatever else we were doing.

This sette was right at the base of this tree, so the hawk was straight above us. My camera does not have a telephoto (only good for close snaps), but you can see the hawk on the branch to the right of the trunk, below -- a Redtail.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Time to Step Up

The area devastated by Hurrican Katrina is over 90,000 square miles -- as large as all of the United Kingom, including England, Scotland and Wales.

As I write this, scored of thousands of people are still trapped behind disease-infested water. They are hungry, scared, thirsty and sick. They have been failed by poverty, stupidity, hubris, and several generations of Government, of which the current administrations in Louisiana, Mississippi and Washington are but the latest cringing and pathetic incarnations.

I will stay out of the politics, and try to keep it to people and dogs.

People first. Please do what you can. Send money, and do not be tight about it.

After you have sent cash, send letters to your local newspapers asking for a public accounting of past, current, and ongoing government failure.

If you have friends or family in the area, now is the time to step up and offer a room, cash assistance, or the loan of a car.

If you have a free moment, take time to send emails to corporations asking them to step up to the plate by offering free or low-cost construction materials, a few days free lodging, diapers, medicine, clothes, soap, food, storage, free kennel sections for pets, free camping gear, etc. Something's got to give, and if it's not us, who is it going to be?

If you are overseas, now is the time to give back something to America. We will not ask for it, but by God you should step up and give it, as no country has ridden in more often to save the bacon of poor people in other countries than the U.S. A million of America's most impoverished are now homeless, jobless. They are simply wiped out.

For those of you in the Southern U.S. that have kennels with room to spare, a lot of people with dogs are now trapped in their cars or in hotels without good alternatives for their animals. Again, now is the time to step up.

Veterinary technicians or veterinarians who would like to volunteer in the disaster area can do so through the Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine. To volunteer, contact Dr. David Senior, or by phone at 225-578-9551.

Here is more info from LSU's website:

Animal Evacuation and Recovery Plan for New Orleans
The Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (LA/SPCA), the Louisiana Veterinary Medical Association (LVMA), the Louisiana Animal Control Association (LACA), and the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine (SVM) are managing animal evacuations and recovery plans for New Orleans pets and displaced animals.

Pets Traveling With Owners

** Lafayette: The LVMA is currently accepting pets at the Blackham Coliseum in Lafayette, LSU in Shreveport, the Monroe Civic Center for small animals and the Ike Hamilton Center for large animals in Monroe, the Farmer’s Market in Alexandria, and the LSU Agriculture Center/Parker Coliseum in Baton Rouge. Owners must be housed in a Red Cross shelter; owners are responsible for caring for their animals, including feeding and cleaning. Animals will be accepted 24 hours a day. Veterinarians will be on hand to handle any medical needs.

** Baton Rouge: While owners are responsible for the feeding and cleaning of their pets at the Parker Coliseum in Baton Rouge, the SVM, along with volunteers from the Baton Rouge Veterinary Medical Association, will provide veterinary care. If for some reason, an owner is unable to care for a pet sheltered in the Parker Coliseum (e.g., the owner is housed in a special needs shelter), SVM student volunteers will provide primary care, such as feeding and cleaning. The East Baton Rouge Animal Control Center will be taking stray animals. The Parker Coliseum will be staffed 24 hours a day by a supervising veterinarian and student volunteers from the School of Veterinary Medicine. Pets in the Coliseum will be given physical exams and Bordetella (kennel cough) vaccinations. If a pet requires medical attention and veterinary monitoring, it will be sent to the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital.
Financial donations are being accepted to fund the animals’ care through the Dr. Walter J. Ernst, Jr. Veterinary Memorial Foundation at the Louisiana Veterinary Medical Association at 1-800-524-2996. Make checks payable to the LVMA Dr. Walter J. Ernst Veterinary Memorial Foundation (write Disaster Relief Fund on the memo line) and send to the LVMA, 8550 United Plaza Blvd., Suite 1001, Baton Rouge, LA 70809. They will be able to use these funds quickly.

A regional donation center is being established. Needs include: large air kennels and metal cages, leashes, disposable bowls, canned cat and dog food, disposable litter pans, spray bleach, paper towels, sheets, towels, locks, hoses, bottled water, trash cans, trash bags, pooper scoopers, cat litter, extension cords, fans. The most urgent needs are kennels and monetary donations. For more information or to make donations of the materials listed above, please call the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine at 225-578-9900 ( or the LVMA at 1-800-524-2996 (