Sunday, February 27, 2005

Rabbit Realities vs. Elmer Fudd & Watership Down

Baby Eastern cottontail rabbits in a typical scrape nest. Note belly-fur nest lining.
There are 17 species of cottontails (Sylvagus genus) in North America, but none of them den underground.

Proof that most Americans spend far too little time in field and forest is the startling level of ignorance about American rabbits and hares. It seems most people know more about the rabbits of Watership Down and Warner Bros. cartoons ("Shhhhh, we're waa-bit hunting!") than they do the living, breathing bunnies that live in the parks and pastures within walking distance of their homes.

First the simple fact: No North American rabbit or hare dens underground. Though there are a lot of rabbit species in North America, all are "cottontails" -- various species and subspecies of the Sylvilagus genus.

No species of Cottontail Rabbit digs earth dens like its European counterpart, nor do North American rabbits or hares have their young underground. The North American rabbit (Sylvilagus genus) is not closely related to its European counterpart (Oryctolagus genus) -- they split from each other hundreds of thousands of years ago.

This is not to say a rabbit will not tuck itself under an old truck, under a pallet of wood near a barn, or between hay bales, especially in the presence of dogs or humans. They will also dive into a groundhog hole to avoid a dog or to get out of the weather if a really strong storm sweeps in, but they do not dig the holes nor do they enter them very deeply, nor do they stay in the mouth of a hole for very long.

While European rabbits make permanent communal burrows, North American rabbits make solitary (and well-concealed) "scrapes" on the surface of the soil. These scrapes (sometimes called "forms") are 6 or 7 inches long, about 5 inches wide, and about four inches deep. They are often shielded from view by tall grass and weeds. The mother rabbit will pull her own belly fur out in order to line the scrape and further hide the young (see picture, above). The mother rabbits will generally avoid the scrape during daylight hours when she might be seem, returning only under cover of darkness to feed her young. The baby rabbits, which are born without fur and with shut eyes, will be covered with fur and have open eyes in about 2 weeks, when they will begin to leave the nest and eat vegetation on their own.

The nesting density of cottontails is habitat-specific. In an unkempt orchard with thick grass you might find one rabbit next every 2 acres, while densities are likely to be about one nest per 7 acres in a rich hayfield, and 13 to 14 acres per nest in woodlands and dry rocky pasture.

A home range of three or four acres is very common for cottontails which , if chased, will stay within their home ranges rather than bolt cross country.

North America has hares too -- most of them we call "jack rabbits." Jack Rabbits and Snowshoe Hares are larger than most cottontails, have much larger ears, and are also faster. Unlike baby rabbits, which spend two or three weeks helpless in their nests, hares are born fully furred, eyes open, and ready to run "right out of the box". Hares build no nests of any sort.

Rabbits and Hares are "lagomorphs" -- a kind of primitive placental mammal dating back to the Paleocene times, about 62 million years ago in Asia. Along with rabbits and hares, this Order also includes the Pikas we find in the western US.

Lagomorphs practice "coprophagy" -- i.e. they eat their own feces. "First pass", rabbit pellets are greenish in color and are collected right from the animal's own anus. These rabbit pellets are then re-chewed in order to absorb all the nutrients in hard-to-digest plant material, much as a cow chews its cud.

By engaging in coprophagy, rabbits and hares are able to spend relatively little time exposed to predators in the field while feeding.

European rabbit warren near Susex, England. This is a scene you will NOT find anywhere in the United States, as none of our native rabbits den underground except the pygmy rabbit (about 1 pound in weight) which once lived in the Columbian Basin, but is now believed to be extinct in the wild.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Digging on the Dogs

The is Beth K's Pip doing the job. This was a six foot dig -- no huge dramas, just good digging in pretty solid dirt on a very nice winter day in the field.

Below is another day and another dig. This is Sailor with a very early Spring groundhog -- humanely dispatched and now firmly clenched between this little dog's teeth.

Where In the World?

The web site gets an interesting array of traffic from a suprising number of countries, ranging from Norway to Australia, from Canada to Spain. The six countries shown above -- the U.S., the UK, Ireland, Netherland, Australia, and Sweden -- represent just 100 visitors on a recent day.

Bellman and Flint Locator Now for Sale

The new terrier locator system from Bellman and Flint is now for sale. The collar is pictured above, and it is very large: 3" by 1.5" by 1.5". The handout from Bellman and Flint says "The Transmitter Collar sits comfortably on the side of the dog’s neck." Hard to know how it stays in that location without the collar being very tight.

The system is expensive: 287 pounds UK or about $500 U.S.

As noted before, this rig does not appear to be a new invention: it is simply the newest and most expensive Pieps avalanche locator box with a Pieps Powder Puff transmitter afixed to the dog's collar.

A working Pieps rig can be had for about $250 by simply buying a Powder Puff transmitter (about $75) and the older Pieps model for about $175. For more on this, see >> HERE An altnerative is to buy a new Pieps box off of Ebay for about $100 more. This will save you about $150 over the Bellman and Flint Pieps rig..

To order the Pieps rig from Bellman and Flint, see >> HERE

Good Lord, Man!


"If that's your wee white moose,
I dun wanna see your big black rrr-rats!"

-- Scottish Highlander on his first hunting trip to North America.
This albino moose was photographed in the Maine woods.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Eastern Coyotes

Eastern coyotes are larger than their Western counterparts
-- no one is quite sure why. One idea is that the Eastern coyote has cross-bred with wolves and farm dogs, but this is really unproven. What is clear, is that the so-called "Red Wolf" that once existed in the Eastern U.S. is really nothing more than a hybrid wolf-coyote cross. This has been proven with DNA tests of old "Red Wolf" skins kept at the Smithsonian, and also with DNA tests of the wild Red Wolves loose in the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern North Carolina.

The coyote, pictured above, was shot in the Adirondack's of New York and weighed 59 pounds -- a very, very large coyote. Most adult Eastern Coyotes weigh in at around 40 pounds.

Monday, February 21, 2005

91 Foxes: Ban Begins to Fail on Day One

Tally ho, the chase goes on
The Telegraph, Feb. 20, 2005

Numerous police officers accompanied the more than 250 hunts which took place yesterday, the first day that the sport became illegal. Despite the friendly exchanges between officers and huntsmen and women, the presence of the police posed a question: what public good were they trying to uphold?

The question is made particularly pertinent because police resources are stretched to the limit everywhere, and placing hundreds of officers on duty around law-abiding men and women in the middle of the countryside guarantees that those officers are not available for the more urgent tasks that confront them – such as preventing and investigating burglaries, robberies and assaults.

The question of what public good is achieved by banning hunting with dogs is one that those who have made the sport illegal have never been able to answer. Banning hunting will not protect animals: foxes will die more painful, and more lingering, deaths when they are gassed, or when they slowly bleed to death after being shot but not instantly killed. Nature is not beneficent, and the natural life-cycle of rural foxes

Numerous police officers accompanied the more than 250 hunts which took place yesterday, the first day that the sport became illegal. Despite the friendly exchanges between officers and huntsmen and women, the presence of the police posed a question: what public good were they trying to uphold?

The question is made particularly pertinent because police resources are stretched to the limit everywhere, and placing hundreds of officers on duty around law-abiding men and women in the middle of the countryside guarantees that those officers are not available for the more urgent tasks that confront them – such as preventing and investigating burglaries, robberies and assaults.

The question of what public good is achieved by banning hunting with dogs is one that those who have made the sport illegal have never been able to answer. Banning hunting will not protect animals: foxes will die more painful, and more lingering, deaths when they are gassed, or when they slowly bleed to death after being shot but not instantly killed. Nature is not beneficent, and the natural life-cycle of rural foxes, which sees them dying of starvation when they themselves are too old to kill other, smaller animals, does not support the view that hunting produces a uniquely painful death. , which sees them dying of starvation when they themselves are too old to kill other, smaller animals, does not support the view that hunting produces a uniquely painful death. . . .

The essential thing for those who hunt is now to find a legal way to continue their sport and so preserve the infrastructure necessary for its survival. To judge by what happened yesterday, hunters are successfully achieving this feat: 91 foxes were killed, the majority through the legal method of releasing a terrier to flush a fox from its hole, then shooting the fox as it emerged, and throwing the carcass to the hounds. No one could claim that this is kinder to the foxes. When hunting with hounds was legal, the chased fox at least had a sporting chance of getting away; now it is illegal, it has none.

Yesterday, packs of hounds out trail hunting – following the scent of a dead fox laid earlier by huntsmen – picked up the scent of a live fox and gave chase, on occasion catching up with it and killing it. But although observers from the League Against Cruel Sports said such activity was "suspicious", it is not obviously illegal, and there were no arrests. It is difficult to see how a successful prosecution could be brought in such a case, for the hunters cannot be responsible for their hounds' sudden decision to do what comes naturally. No doubt, however, there will soon be a test case to resolve the issue. In the meantime, some form of the chase should continue within the bounds of the law – in the hope that, eventually, a less spiteful Parliament will see sense and repeal the ban.

Teaching the Pups

Here's Beth's pup, Tara, learning how to snare a groundhog. I'm going to teach her how to use a posthole digger next.

It's great fun watching the little gears in their heads turn and click into place. All three of the pups are heads-down scenting, honoring well next to the holes, and otherwise showing they have the right stuff. A very promising litter that appears to have a bit of brains.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

The Growth of Earthdog Events

The March 2005 edition of Dog World magazine notes that "With 23 breeds eligible to compete, and nearly 5000 competitors every year, earthdog trials are among the fastest growing of canine performance events."

Earthdog events are not close approximations of real work -- in some small ways they are harder and in some major ways they are easier -- but they are fun for those who want to "explode the genetic code" of their dogs.

The primary defficiency of earthdog events is that the tunnel pipes are enormous (9 inches by 9 inches) so that even the largest Kennel Club terrier can get down the pipe with relative ease, leading some people to think even an over-weight Scottie can actually work in the field.

A go-to-ground tunnel has an interior space of 81 square inches, a real den pipe is more likely to have a diameter closer to 35 square inches.

To read a short history of go-to-ground trials, see >> Here

For practical tips on getting your dog started at go-to-ground trials, see >> Here

For an introductory article from the AKC Gazette, written by Jo Ann Frier-Murza, see >> Here (PDF, year 2000)

Friday, February 18, 2005

Gamekeepers' Code Of Practice For Terrier Work

In the UK, a legally enforceable code of conduct strictly regulating the use of dogs underground has been published.

The Code, drawn-up by the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) and approved by Defra, has effect as part of the Hunting Act which came into force today.

Under the "gamekeeper's exemption" in the Act, a single dog can be used below ground to flush out a wild mammal if this is to protect birds for the purpose of their being shot. This is to allow pest control necessary for shooting to continue unaffected by the Hunting Act.

The strict conditions in the exemption and the Code are designed to prevent abuse and to protect the welfare of the wild mammal and the dog. Failure to abide by the Code is a criminal offence and can lead to a fine of up to £5,000. It may also result in disciplinary action or expulsion by organisations endorsing the Code.

The Code, produced following a consultation with shooting groups and animal welfare organisations, is supported by a Good Practice Guide prepared by BASC.

Some bits and piece from the Code:

  • "The terrier's role must be to locate the wild mammal underground and cause it to ‘bolt’ (leave the earth or den) as soon as possible so that it can be shot by a competent person and humanely dispatched. It should not be intended that a terrier will fight the wild mammal. "
  • "Only terriers that are ‘soft’ (those that habitually stand off and bark at the wild mammal) must be used. Terriers that are ‘hard’ (those that habitually fight) must not be used. "
  • "The terrier being used must always be fitted with an electronic locator so that its exact position underground can be tracked. "
  • "There are circumstances where, by virtue of public safety, avoidance of risk to other wildlife and practicality, it is preferable to use an experienced terrier to locate a fox in its earth and enable it to be killed humanely. "

Tailing Out a February Groundhog

Tailing out a February groundhog. This little fellow was released for another day.

Digging out another one the same day. The hole got deeper, and of course it got wider as well.

Two very young pups check out their first fox sette.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

The Ban Begins: A History Up to Now

The first attempts to ban fox hunting in the U.K. took place more than 50 years ago. Below are some of the key date in the debate:

1949 - Two private member's bills to ban, or restrict, hunting fail to make it onto the statute books. One is withdrawn, the other is defeated on its second reading in the Commons. The Labour government appoints a committee of inquiry to investigate all forms of hunting. The committee concludes: "Fox hunting makes a very important contribution to the control of foxes, and involves less cruelty than most other methods of controlling them. It should therefore be allowed to continue."

1970 - The House of Commons votes for legislation to ban hare coursing. However, the bill runs out of time when the general election is called.

1992 - A private member's bill to make hunting with dogs illegal is rejected by the Commons. The Wild Mammals (Protection) Bill, proposed by Labour MP Kevin McNamara, is defeated on its second reading.

1993 - Labour MP and animal rights campaigner Tony Banks fails in his attempt to get Parliament to pass his Fox Hunting (Abolition) Bill.

1995 - Labour MP John McFall is unsuccessful with his private member's bill to ban hunting with hounds. The Wild Mammals (Protection) Bill passes its second reading in the Commons. But it is heavily amended before it falls in the Lords.

May 1997 - The Labour Party wins the general election. In its manifesto it promises: "We will ensure greater protection for wildlife. We have advocated new measures to promote animal welfare, including a free vote in Parliament on whether hunting with hounds should be banned."

5 November 1997 - Labour MP Michael Foster publishes a private member's bill to ban hunting with dogs. The government delivers a blow to the chances of the bill becoming law by refusing to grant the legislation any of its Parliamentary time.

1 March 1998 - After the Foster bill passes its second reading in the Commons, the pro-hunting Countryside Alliance organises a massive protest rally in London. An estimated 250,000 people join the countryside march to protest against the bill and threats to other aspects of rural life.

13 March 1998 - Hunt supporters celebrate as the Foster bill runs out of time during its report stage in the Commons. The bill is talked out by hunt-supporting MPs who table hundreds of amendments to block the legislation's progress. Mr Foster pledges to fight on.

3 July 1998 - Mr Foster withdraws his bill citing the "cynical tactics" of his opponents. He insists that to carry on would deprive other valuable legislation, such as a law on puppy farms, of valuable Parliamentary time. He predicts that fox hunting will still be banned during this Parliament. But he says it is now up to the government to see the job through.

8 July 1999 - Prime Minister Tony Blair makes a surprise announcement that he plans to make fox hunting illegal and before the next general election if possible.

12 July 1999 - Labour denies that Mr Blair's pledge is connected to an extra £100,000 donation it had received from an anti-hunt pressure group. The Political Animal Lobby (PAL), had previously given £1m to the party before the 1997 election. PAL had also made donations to the Tories and the Liberal Democrats.

21 July 1999 - Labour MSP Mike Watson announces plans to put forward a private member's bill in the Scottish Parliament to ban hunting with dogs in Scotland. He predicts the bill could come into force by Spring 2000.

15 September 1999 - Hunt supporters set up a national body, the Independent Supervisory for Hunting, to ensure hunting is carried out in a "proper and humane manner".

1 October 1999 - Tony Blair insists he can deliver his promise to ban fox hunting before the next election, despite claims that it will have to wait until the House of Lords is reformed.

11 November 1999 - The government announces it will support a backbenchers' bill on fox hunting.

14 November 1999 - Home Secretary Jack Straw announces an inquiry into the effect of a fox hunting ban on the rural economy, to be led by Lord Burns.

March 2000 - MSP Mike Watson's bill starts its passage through the Scottish Parliament.

April 2000 - Mr Straw looks at producing a bill where MPs choose between the three options of an outright ban, no change and stricter regulation of hunting.

30 May 2000 - Labour backbenchers urge the government to put its weight behind a hunting ban or risk losing voters, and Labour MP Gordon Prentice proposes an amendment to the Countryside and Rights of Way Bill to ban the sport.

June 2000 - The Burns inquiry says between 6,000 and 8,000 jobs would be lost if hunting was banned, half the number suggested by some pro-hunt groups. It finds no conclusive evidence that foxes suffer physical pain when pursued, but accepts they do not die immediately.

February 2001 - Hunting suspended because of the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak.

28 February 2001 - MPs vote by a majority of 179 for an outright ban as the hunting bill clears the Commons

26 March 2001 - House of Lords votes by 317 to 68 against the ban. The hunting bill runs out of time when the general election is called.

June 2001 - The Queen's Speech promises another free vote for MPs on hunting.

October 2001 - More than 200 MPs back a Commons motion calling on the government to honour its promises and make time for a vote on banning hunting.

February 2002 - Scottish Parliament bans hunting in Scotland. Three years later, all the hunts are still in effect, not a single conviction has been won, and more fox are being killed than ever before as the law requires dox that are bolted or chased to be shot.

28 February 2002 - Ministers ready to set out timetable for a hunting bill.

March 2002 - The House of Commons and the House of Lords are asked to choose between three options: a complete ban, the preservation of the status quo and the compromise of licensed fox hunting. The Commons opted for a complete ban while the Lords chose the "Middle Way" option.

3 December 2002 - Rural Affairs Minister Alun Michael unveils the Hunting Bill, which would allow some fox hunting to continue under a strict system of licensing but would outlaw hare coursing and stag hunting. Mr Michael says he hopes the compromise would avoid further lengthy battles between the pro-hunting Lords and the anti-hunting Commons.

26 June 2003 - Commons Leader Peter Hain tells MPs he has been advised that major amendments to the bill - such as moves towards a complete ban on hunting - could mean it has to be sent to a standing committee and cause delays.

30 June 2003 - An amendment from Labour MP Tony Banks proposing a complete ban is passed by 362 votes to 154.

1 July 2003 - Alun Michael says that he would be surprised if there was not a ban on fox hunting, with a few exemptions, by 2005. MPs vote to turn the Hunting Bill into an outright ban on hunting with dogs after five hours of intense Commons debate by 362 votes to 154.

10 July 2003 - Hunting Bill clears the House of Commons after MPs give the measure, which makes no provision for compensation, a third reading by 317 votes to 145.

21 October 2003 - The bill returns to the House of Lords for its committee stage. A cross-party group of peers throws out MPs' plans for a complete ban and replace them with a licensing regime for fox and stag hunting, as well as hare coursing. But anti-hunting MPs vote for the bill to be re-written to become a wholesale ban on hunting with dogs in England and Wales. The House of Lords then rejects that call in a vote and the legislation runs out of parliamentary time.

8 September 2004 - The government announces plans to give MPs a free vote on the Hunting Bill by the end of the parliamentary session in November. The Bill is similar to the one originally proposed and would lead to an outright ban on fox hunting. Rural minister Alun Michaels says the fox hunting issue has already taken too much parliamentary time and the government is prepared to deploy the little-used Parliament Act to over-rule the Lords if peers try to block it. But Commons leader Peter Hain says, if the bill becomes law, an actual ban on fox hunting would not come into force for two years. This would allow people involved in hunting to wind down their businesses, but also avoids pro-hunting demonstrations during 2005's expected general election campaign.

19 November 2004 - The ban is passed, over the objections of the House of Lords, using the Parliament Act. This is only the third time this Act has ever been used.

28 January, 2005 - The High Court rules that the ban is legal.

18 February, 2005 - The ban on fox hunting in England and Wales officially begin amidst confusion as to how it is to be enforced.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Meanwhile, Back in Translyvania

The Express On Sunday, January 21, 2001
By Karl Kirk in Slobozea, Romania

HUNTSMEN are being invited to take their sport to Romania if it is banned in Britain.

Millionaire businessman Guiseppe Bacchi, who owns huge tracts of land there, says costs are low and there are "more than enough foxes for everyone".

British hunters could even have their own horses and hounds and have them permanently based in Romania.

"It's a great solution," Bacchi said yesterday. "There are lots of foxes around here and even if no hunts move here we might even buy one, or at least buy real British hounds to provide the feel of the hunt for guests."

Hunters who take up his invitation could find themselves galloping past a life-size replica of JR Ewing's Southfork ranch from the eighties' TV soap Dallas.

The estate was built to cash-in on a wave of Dallas fever after the country's former dictator Nicolae Ceausescu allowed the soap on TV.

The ranch ended up in Mr Bacchi's hands after the previous owners were caught up in a series of financial scandals and its founder, Alexandru Ilie, was jailed for fraud.

Mr Bacchi said it was too soon to decide whether the ranch will maintain its Texan image and fittings - complete with a Cadillac outside the front door - or be changed into a copy of an English country home.

He will also have to decide what to do with the open-air stage and 200ft-high copy of the Eiffel Tower - which he admits do not fit in with the image of traditional British fox hunting.

His estate dominates the eastern plains of Romania, outside the town of Slobozea on the main road between the capital Bucharest and the Black Sea port of Constanta.

Slobozea was one of Ceausescu's industrial centres, but now suffers from high unemployment after the dilapidated communist factories were closed.

It would welcome an invasion of British huntsmen as the resort has not brought in income for years.

When the flow of holidaymakers dried up, the ranch became known as a den of iniquity and a hang-out for foreign mobsters.

"I think it would be really great to see and would also bring a lot of Romanians here just to see the British hunters," said Petra Moise, 24, a shop assistant in a local boutique. "Perhaps Prince Charles will bring his sons here - there are lots of girls who would find that interesting."

Taxi driver Ion Georgescu, 53, said the hunt would bring much-needed finance into the area, where salaries average around GBP40 a month.

"Only the Mafia use my taxi these days - and even they are running out of money," he said.

"It would be nice to have some colour around here and at least there would be something to go and see."

Teacher Catalina Suciu, 29, said: "Our town used to be famous because of Southfork and that was a bit embarrassing for us sometimes. But having English fox-hunters here would really put us on the map."

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Terrier Is Termite Terror

Pest Control, June 1, 2002
Loyal Termite & Pest Control Co. unleashes termite K-9

RICHMOND, VA -- Loyal Termite & Pest Control Company, Inc. recently acquired Hunter, central Virginia's first "termite detection dog." The company has been working with renowned professional dog trainer Bill Whitstine in Florida. Whitstine has trained K-9s for more than 15 years, for law enforcement officials to detect everything from drugs and fire accelerants to explosives.
These termite K-9s are trained using the same conditioning as bomb and drug dogs.

Hunter is a Jack Russell terrier who was rescued as a puppy from the North Pinellas County, FL, Humane Society. To show his thanks for a second chance at life, he graduated with honors from his Termite Detection Training School.

At 3 years old, Hunter is an old pro at finding termites. He loves his job so much that he works 7 days a week doing calibration exercises to keep his nose finely tuned.

Jack Russell terriers were originally bred as hunting dogs, so Hunter was a great choice. He may be small at only 17 lbs., but his size is an advantage. He is able to get in places too small for human inspectors and larger dogs.

At best, only 15% of a structure is accessible to conventional human visual inspection techniques. To Hunter, virtually 100% of the structure can be inspected, as he is capable of detecting the termite scent at the molecular level of parts per trillion.

Monday, February 14, 2005

The Cow and the Derrick


I hunt several farms where corn and soy are grown and beef cattle are raised. One farm is entirely organic, and the cattle there are grass-fed Angus. Another farm has a mixed herd of cross-bred beef cattle, and they too are grass fed. A third farm has few cattle, but they raise over 1,500 acres of soy and roast it for cattle feed. All three farms also grow corn.

I mention this because in many ways these farms are oddities. When I was a young boy, almost all beef cattle were grass-fed, but today most beef comes to the table not from the farm, but the feed lot. You can drive a long way in parts of America today and see mile after mile of corn without ever seeing a cow.

A corn field is a lovely thing, but if you know what you are looking at it's easy to have mixed emotions. If you walk through a modern American cornfield today, you will find no weeds; almost all corn is now "Roundup Ready," which means it has been genetically engineered to be immune to the powerful herbicide "Roundup". Most soy is now Roundup Ready as well.

It has been said that the rise of modern feed lots has transformed cows from natural solar-powered ruminants into artificial fossil-fuel-guzzling hamburgers on the hoof. Because corn depends on fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides -- and machines to harvest, plant, and transport it -- it has a high "oil price." It takes about 1.2 gallons of oil to grow a bushel of corn which is then converted into a few ounces of beef.

Corn, and to a lesser extent soy, are the main live stock feeds used today because they are so cheap and plentiful. This is due, in part, to federal crop subsidies (in the form of cheap water, low-cost loans, and price support programs), genetic engineering, and petrochemical fertilizers. It is also due to the tremendous natural potential of America's lands, and the expertise of American farmers.

As a result of our tremendous corn-and-soybean glut, the USDA encourages farmers to find a new markets for corn and soy, and -- absent a new market to dispose of it -- that means turning as much of it as possible into animal feed.

Compared with grass or hay, corn is a compact and portable, making it possible to feed tens of thousands of animals on small plots of land -- the modern American feedlot.

We are not going back to grass-fed beef, for the simple reason that there are too many people in the U.S. and they are too demanding. Grass-fed beef tends to be harvested in late Fall, after fattening up all summer, and before the grass grows dormant in winter, while corn-fed beef can be harvested all year round. People want to eat McDonalds, and they do not want to eat beef "in season" like sweet corn and tangerines.


Sunday, February 13, 2005

The Terrier Will Give Summary Judgement

Three Years After Scotland's Ban

On February 13, 2002, after months of passionate debate, the Scottish Parliament voted 83 to 36 to ban fox hunting with dogs.

Or at least that is what was reported.

Now, three years later, not one single hunt has ended, no one has been successfully prosecuted for riding hounds to fox, and terrier work is more common than ever.

One thing has changed, however.

Now all foxes are killed, since the law requires that all foxes that are bolted by terriers or chased by hounds be shot on sight.

When the history of "the law of unintended consequences" is written, the Scottish fox hunting ban will, no doubt, get its own chapter. It was a stupid and un-needed law, and it was poorly written to boot.

Now having done something stupid once, the U.K. is going to do something twice by implementing another version of "the ban" in England and Wales.

Already law enforcement officials are saying they do not know how to enforce it (how do you lock up 200 horses?) and that they are not quite sure what is being banned (how does a drag hunt look different from the old non-drag hunt?).

Terrier work is allowed so long as there is written permission from a land owner who wants to control fox in order to protect bird populations that are to be shot. One has to wonder if it is OK to protect birds that are not to be shot?

As noted, it is a stupid law and poorly written. Something this poorly crafted and this unpopular is not going to work.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Redneck Fantasy Hunters

Redneck Fantasy Hunters have always needed this, and now (thank God!), it's been invented. Remember "Billy Bass" the electronic animated bass that sang songs? Well now you can own something waaaaaay better. Hang it on the wall next to Billy and let them sing a duo!

Buck The Animated Deer
Item No: 29980 Price: $159.98

Life-Size 10 Point Buck Sings, Dances, And Moves To The Beat. Let Buck be the life of the party as he moves and grooves to the music. Mount him on the wall and let your friends admire your hunting skills. Then click the wireless remote... and get ready! Enjoy their stunned surprise and side-splitting laughter as Buck belts out songs like "Rawhide," "Friends in Low Places," and "Sweet Home Alabama" while his head bobs, his mouth moves exactly to the words, and his ears wiggle to the beat. Use the included wireless microphone to join the song karaoke style -- or watch his mouth move as you entertain your guests by speaking through the microphone! Buck looks incredible in your den or bar and adds flawless animation for party memories that will last a lifetime. Includes Buck with removable antlers, wireless microphone (uses 9 volt battery, not included), remote control (uses 3 "AAA" batteries, not included), mounting bracket and hardware, and DC adapter.

Click here to order yours!

Great Trucks for Fantasy Hunters

Get your cool ride out to the hay fields at

Perfect for mowing down the hedgerows and making that indelible impression on local farmers.

This "Badonkadonk Land Cruiser/Tank" is for sale at (would we make that up?) and it costs less than a regular car. >> Buy yours now!

No telling how long this bad boy will last. They're not sellig these down at Rebel Yell Used Cars (yet).

More Fun Stuff for Fantasy Hunters

Fantasy Hunting has never been easier thanks to the amazing array of products now just a click away. Need to convince people you've found a really nice fox sette or have coyotes and black bear visiting your drinking spot in the Pick-n-Pay Parking Lot (right behind Rebel Yell Used Cars)? No problem. We gotcha covered.

Gen-u-whine plastic animal crap can be yours, and in all the right flavors for the wannt-a-be terrier enthusiast -- red fox, grey fox, marmot, mink, rabbit, mouse, possum, rat, and even wolf (for those of you with imaginary fell terriers). Order yours >> here

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Yorkies as Fast Food for Horned Owl's

From the Winnipeg Sun, Canada - Jan 26, 2005

A tiny Yorkshire Terrier was almost a late night feast when he was attacked by a determined owl last week.

Caillou, a three-year-old male terrier weighing about 1.6 kilograms was on the veranda in the back yard of a home in nearby Rockland, Ont., that he shares with owners Josee Brennan and Jean Lamoureux.

It was about 11:30 p.m. and Caillou was having his final out before settling down for the night. advertisement

"We put him outside every night before bedtime," says Brennan.

"Luckily, my partner was watching through the window or else I think the dog would have been gone. He saw this shadow come down, and - it was snowing that night - he just went outside barefoot and grabbed this thing and started shaking it.

"The dog was under its talons. Jean kept shaking it, and the dog got free. Caillou came back inside and he was just soaked in blood. A few seconds later I guess there would have been no dog. It was quite a terrible scene; the dog was soaking in blood as he had been injured by the bird. My partner also got a few scratches in the process.

"This was unreal, it was unbelievable. The dog shivered throughout the night."

Caillou was taken to a veterinarian and treated for a puncture wound under his neck but did not require stitches, said Brennan.

"That was the worst one. He had a few others on his head and neck. He's very traumatized, but he's fine. There were feathers left on the ground because of the fight, and the vet confirmed that it was an owl."

Bird expert Bruce Di Labio, who examined feathers, believes the culprit was a great horned owl.

"Only a great horned owl is big enough to go after a small dog. They'll go after skunks and other prey."

There have been numerous sightings of great grey owls in the Ottawa region this winter, the birds having moved south for food.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Clear Fox Sign

The fox scat on this sette is a very clear signal this is a fox den.

This too appears to a fox sette, but the large number of recently opened groundhog burrows on this property give pause.

The large number of very clear fox prints going from a swampy area below the sette up to the sette clinched the deal, however. Unfortuntately it was about 60 degrees out this first week of February, and no one was home.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Pop Goes the Groundhog

Groundhogs can do a lot of damage to an alfalfa or soybean crop, but there's not much a famer can do to combat them short of shooting them (some farmers have scabbards for their .22 on their ATV's), or trapping them.

One new alternative is the "Rodex 5000" which is a rig that shoots a combination gas that is 97% oxygen and 3% propane down the hole until a gauge says the level is right. A spark then detonates the gas, with the resulting shockwaves killing the groundhogs, groundsquirrels or prairie dogs.

The systems is considered to be environmentally friendly, humane and effective, and cost about 15 cents per hole to treat (not including the $2,000 for the equipment). The only drawback to the system is that in areas with a lot of very dry grass there may be a danger of fire from the quick flash that can come out of a hole.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

How Foxhunting Became So Divisive in the UK

In a 6,800-word article in the January 24 edition of New Yorker magazine, Jane Kramer tries to figure out how fox hunting became so divisive in England. Though a very long piece, and well-writtten, Ms. Kramer paints a muddier picture than necessary. The core story is that fox hunting rose up with the rise of the Enclosure Movement in the late 18th and early 19th Century. Much of the class issues in the UK today derive from this push of people off the land and into the cities at this time. Apparenty teaching animus acorss generations is a practice not restricted to the Middle East and certain African tribes.

Where Ms. Kramer gets it right is in the very important role of the hunt in protecting wildlife habitat, and the very marginal role that fox hunting plays in actually controlling fox numbers.

Hunt volunteers protect the habitat of hundreds of species. They mend fences, maintain the walls and hedges they jump, root out foxes that have gone to ground on local farms, dispose of dead farm animals, tend the covers in which foxes hide or dig their lairs, and, most important, help to manage a fox population that has multiplied so wantonly since the extinction of Britain's wolves (the fox's natural predator), in the seventeenth century, that foxes are now dug into the back yards and public parks of Central London and can be seen daily strolling around the city. On Armistice Day, in November, hundreds of people watched a fox circle the "remembrance" poppies in the gardens of Westminster Abbey while the Queen was leading a silent prayer. A month later, a Guardian photographer recording "a day in the life of 10 Downing Street" snapped pictures of a fox strutting past the Prime Minister's front door, right between visits from the Italian and Azerbaijani Prime Ministers and the arrival of the German Chancellor. ("Four old foxes in one day," a policeman at the corner said.)

Somewhere between twenty and twenty-five thousand foxes are killed in hunts in England and Wales each year, and hunters maintain that, while this accounts for less than a quarter of the total killed -- most are run over, or shot or trapped or poisoned by farmers, or savaged by farm dogs -- foxhunting is by far the most rational way of culling, or, you could say, the least compromising to the "welfare of the fox."

"The hound goes for the fox, it's natural," Captain Farquhar says. "But the process is selective. It follows the rules of nature. The weak fox and the sick fox get caught, but a vixen, say, either heavy or in milk, doesn't scent, and so she's safe." Most foxes get away. And most people regret it. Even the country's prodigious animal-rights lobby -- which includes, among others, the R.S.P.C.A., the League Against Cruel Sports, and the Political Animal Lobby -- admits that foxes can be serious pests."

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Happy Groundhog Day!

The roots of Groundhog Day go back to the Bible and perhaps even earlier. The Romans considered February [the name comes from februa, to purify] as "a time of cleansing in preparation for a fresh start" because the month comes halfway between December 21, the first day of winter in the Northern Hemisphere, and March 21 (the Spring or Vernal Equinox).

The connection to the Bible is that in Hebrew tradition mothers were required to purify their children in the temple 40 days after giving birth. Mary, mother of Jesus, purified Jesus on Feb. 2nd, 40 days after Jesus's birth, establishing the tradition of the "Feast of the Presentation."

The early Christians, working off of an earlier Roman tradition, associated February 2nd with the lighting of candles (i.e. "the bringing of new light") and established "Candlemas" as a Christian tradition.

A Candlemas rhyme was developed to mark the occassion of the turning of the seasons, and the rhyme suggested that Candlemas itself was a kind of weather predictor:

"If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Winter has another flight.
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Winter will not come again."
Somewhere along the way the weather-predictive power of Candlemas came to be associated with badgers. No one is quite sure why, but it is probably due to pre-Christian Germanic traditon that associated the romantic roamings of this large weasel with the start of a slowly lengthening day.

In any case, when German and Dutch immigrants came to Eastern North America there were no badgers to be found, and so they transposed their badger tradition to the groundhog, which also burrowed in the ground and which also came out of hibernation at approximately the same period of time.

In 1887, Clymer H. Freas, city editor of the Punxsutawney Spirit Newspaper in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania came up with the idea of a "Punxsutawney Groundhog Club" as a kind of boosterism for his ill-begotten city (the name Punxsutawney means "place of sand flies").

It was a crazy idea, but perseverence paid off. Over the course of several years, story and ritual were heaped up, and the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club stoked the flames of a myth, claiming that "Punxsutawney Phil" was a legendary groundhog that never died and could predict the weather for six weeks in advance.

In December of 2004, the 100-year-old civic boosterism of Clymer H. Freas came to its latest fruition when Congressman John Peterson (R-Pa.) managed to snake $100,000 in Federal funding out of Conggress for a "Punxsutawney Weather Discovery Center".

The "grand opening" of the Punxsutawney Weather Discovery Center will be Groundhog Day, 2006, but (you will be relieved to hear) it already has a home on the Web. Just >> Click here.