Friday, November 30, 2007

Getting Rid of Nutria at Blackwater

Kill 'em (above) and Grill 'em (below).

Blackwater Wildlife Refuge is on Maryland's eastern shore.

For more on the history of the invasive water rodent know as the Nutria or Coypu, see "Nutria: The Tabasco Sauce Rat" -- an earlier post on this blog.

For information on releasing your dog from a trap, especially a conibear trap, see "Releasing Your Dog From a Trap" on the main web site. Remember: It's trapping season right now in most areas!


Web Sites I Liked Enough to Boomark

If you know of other great web sites and blogs I should check out
, send them to me ( And, as always, gratuitous linking to this blog is also always appreciated.


Thursday, November 29, 2007

Dashboard Earth

Some years back, while working for one of the "Big Green" environmental organizations, I made an internet "Dashboard" for Earth showing spinning counters for human population growth (U.S. and world), soil loss, coal and oil consumption, forest loss, etc.

The internet being what it is, this idea has not only been improved upon, but made transferable and is now being given away for free. Check out "Poonwaddle" and load your own counters on to your own blog or web site.

Click on the "Now" button at the top of the counter below, and you will see human population growth, resource use, and some health care data in more-or-less real time since you clicked on the button.

To see a larger view of the counter below, click here.


Counting Things

aCounting "Authority":
The Terrierman blog recently slipped past the 60 count on the Technorati Authority meter (whatever that is), which is not too much compared to Blue Crab Boulevard (414), 2Blowhards (273) or the Pet Connection Blog (168), but the secret to my happiness has always been to keep my expectations very low. So let me just say: "Mission accomplished!"

aVisitors to the Terrierman Blog:
The blog counter in the right gutter has registered 225,000 visitors from 173 countries since April of this year. Still not much love from Togo or Madagascar, but I am hoping to generate a huge surge of interest from stone-age countries in Africa before the end of the year.


Hair Dye Rots Your Brain

Hair dye rots your brain.

Everyone knows that. Dumb blonde jokes have gained traction for a long time for a pretty good reason.

Further evidence can be found by looking at the plethora of spokes-idiots that have "stood up" for PETA -- dimwits such as the dyed, injected, and lifted Pamela Lee, the vacuous Christina Applegate, the faded blossom that was once Alicia Silverstone, and the tattooed, pierced, and shocking "Pink" who seems to be a bit of a gender-bender fantasy for nearly everyone, and who also likes wearing high leather boots (God bless her).

Now, to put jelly on the mutton comes the latest news: It seems Madonna has dyed a bunch of her sheep pink for a Vogue photoshoot at her Wiltshire estate.

The RSPCA, which seems to have nothing better to do, has expressed outrage that Madonnas's sheep were dyed various cool colors, saying that "even though the dye may be safe for the animals, those who copy this stunt might not be so careful."

Huh? What the Hell? This is a problem? Are there armed gangs of roving lunatics roaming the English countryside and "improperly" dying sheep? Is there a "proper" way of dying sheep?

Surely I am making this up? Sadly, I am not.

It seems the RSPCA is very concerned about dyed sheep. They have put this front and center even though it is perfectly safe, as they themselves admit.

Meanwhile, animal rights lunatics have found nothing necessarily wrong with having sex with animals provided "no animal is harmed in the making of this movie." PETA guru Peter Singer has said so, and PETA itself has given a cautious endorsement.

And, as I recall, the ever-vigilant RSPCA was dead silent when Madonna came out with those pictures of her and the dog in that all-metal-covered sex book of hers.

And no, my copy is not for sale. Try Ebay.

The mind crumbles.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Un-Natural Selection: Breeding Dogs from Foxes

How do you make a dog?

Simple: Just take the calmest most gentle fox you can find, and keep breeding and culling them for 40 years. And Yes, it's been done.

For an easy-to-read version of the story, click here. The original March 1, 1999 article from The American Scientist is here. The authors of this article note that:

"[After] 40 years and 45,000 [fox]... our experiment has achieved an array of concrete results. The most obvious of them is a unique population of 100 foxes (at latest count), each of them the product of between 30 and 35 generations of selection. They are unusual animals, docile, eager to please and unmistakably domesticated. When tested in groups in an enclosure, pups compete for attention, snarling fiercely at one another as they seek the favor of their human handler. Over the years several of our domesticated foxes have escaped from the fur farm for days. All of them eventually returned. Probably they would have been unable to survive in the wild."

As the foxes became tamer, some of their ears flopped (only elephant ears flop in the wild), their tails curved over their back like many domestic dogs (and like the wolf-dogs kepy by the American Indians), the legs got shorter, the heads got wider, their snouts got shorter, their bark became dog-like, and specific color phases occured, such as white added in the head region.

A Footnote: The Russian researchers which had spent 40 years doing this study became a victim of cost cuts after the fall of the Soviet Union, and they were forced to start selling tame foxes as house pets.

For a video version of the story, with Ray Coppinger doing the explaining and Dan Ackroyd doing the narration, see the clip below:

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Liberal Case for Gun Ownership

Yesterday morning Redskins football player Sean Taylor was shot by a burglar trying to break into his Miami home in the early morning hours.

All day yesterday, Taylor was in critical condition and the situation was the talk of the town here in Washington, D.C. where guns are already an ongoing topic of conversation thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to review the 31-year old D.C. handgun ban.

We are going to hear a lot about guns in the next few months and most of it will be "sound and fury signifying nothing."

The simple truth is that guns are here to stay, like it or not.

And, as shocking a piece of news as this is to some people, guns are not all about hunting; self-defense is (on very rare occasions) an acceptable reason to draw and fire a gun.

The odd thing about guns in the debate about Presidential candidates is that there is not much any presidential candidate can do (or should do) about them.

After all, Congress makes the laws, and the Courts interpret them. A President has no role in changing or interpreting the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. We are not a monarchy, and no one is electing Rudy Giuliani, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, or Mitt Romney king.

That said, the gun debate will be fought, so as we enter the debate season, let’s review the numbers and the history.

First the numbers.

More than 70 million responsible tax-paying citizens own more than 200 million guns in this country.

Let me make that number a little more meaningful: If you stand in front of your house and look at the house to the immediate left and right, there's an almost 100% chance that one of these three abodes has at least one gun inside.

And yet, for all that, I am willing to bet that no one was shot on your block this week, this year, or in your lifetime.

The biggest caucus on Capitol Hill is the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus with 300 members in 46 states. These folks represent the interests of America’s hunters and anglers, and this is the most important environmental caucus on Capitol Hill. And, for the record, they are almost all strong supporters of the Second Amendment

More than a few members of the U.S. Supreme Court are hunters and gun owners, as are a tremendous number of lower-court judges. In fact, it's estimated in judicial newsletters that up to 25 percent of all judges in some states have a concealed weapons permit.

Judges may look down their nose at crime, but a lot of them also look down the barrel of a gun once in a while, and self-protection arguments for gun ownership do not necessarily fall on deaf ears in court.

While guns are intrinsically dangerous, people know that and, for the most part, act accordingly.

Over the last four decades, while the stock of civilian firearms rose 262 percent (largely due to population growth), fatal gun accidents dropped by nearly 70 percent.

In short, contrary to popular belief, there is not an "epidemic" of gun violence in America; there is merely an epidemic of political grandstanding, saturation media, and direct mail.

Which is not to say the gun violence does not exist. It does. People are shot everyday in this country, as Sean Taylor and his family can confirm.

But people die of bee stings every day as well. The simple fact of the matter is that more people drown in backyard swimming pools than are killed by accidental gun deaths in this country. Yet we do not have a full-court press to ban backyard pools, do we?

So many Americans have been conditioned to see guns as something more than the inanimate objects that they are.

People do not see cars as evil, even though cars kill far more people than guns.

Swimming pools are not seen evil, but more kids drown in swimming pools than are killed by guns.

Tobacco is seen as a vice, but it is still sold in grocery and convenience stores despite the fact that it kills more than 440,000 people a year.

Alcohol is involved in more crime than guns and it kills more than 100,000 Americans a year, but we still serve it on airplanes and at baseball games.

Guns -- and guns alone -- are considered inherently evil and sinister.

Each to his own, of course. If people want to demonize guns, there's not much you can do about it. Some people demonize wolves, bears and snakes as well. Others demonize religious or racial groups.

And yet, are we not Americans? The Ku Klux Klansman, the ACLU-card holder, the communist, the Gay Pride activist, the militant feminist, the vegan, the Orthodox Jewish Rabbi, the black Baptist minister, the union-card boiler maker, and the retired Colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps all may differ from each other in terms of race, religion, and politics, but they all believe in the First Amendment.

You do not need to be Mormon to respect the concept of separation of Church and State, nor do you have to be a hate-spewing Klansman to value free speech.

By the same token, you do not have to own guns or even like guns to respect the Second Amendment.

What were our Founding Fathers thinking when they wrote the Second Amendment?

Well, they were not engaged in narrow partisan politics. They were not posturing for Fox News or trying to “make nice to soccer moms.”

These were serious men who came fresh from the white-hot forge of revolution. A war had just been fought to overthrow the yoke of an oppressive and unresponsive Government that invaded homes without warrant and which exposed the populace to "dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within."

In short, while it was a bit hotter back then, the issues we face today are not so completely different.

As left-wing, NPR-loving Virginia author Joe Bageant notes in his book Deer Hunting With Jesus:

”With Michael Savage and Ann Coulter openly calling for putting liberals in concentration camps, with the CIA now licensed to secretly detain American citizens indefinitely, and with the current administration effectively legalizing torture, the proper question to ask an NRA members these days may be 'What kind of assault rifle do you think I can get for three hundred bucks, and how many rounds of ammo does it take to stop a born-again Homeland Security zombie from putting me in a camp?'

"Which would you prefer, 40 million gun-owning Americans on your side or theirs?"

Bageant is not a new liberal, but an old liberal – the kind that once protested things and took to the streets in opposition to stupid wars, and which stood up to be counted when civil rights were being violated.

The old liberals know the value of guns.

They know that after the Civil War, southern whites denied blacks the right to own guns, because it was easier to lynch an unarmed black man than it was one who owned a deer rifle and 200 rounds of ammunition.

Some gay Americans have discovered this secret knowledge as well. As Jonathan Rauch wrote in Salon magazine back in March of 2000:

"Thirty-one states allow all qualified citizens to carry concealed weapons. In those states, homosexuals should embark on organized efforts to become comfortable with guns, learn to use them safely and carry them. They should set up Pink Pistols task forces, sponsor shooting courses and help homosexuals get licensed to carry. And they should do it in a way that gets as much publicity as possible."

If this sounds like Revolutionary talk, it is. It is the kind of language our revolutionary Founding Fathers might have used if they were gay, or black, or Hispanic, or Muslim, or Jewish and living in America today.

”Don’t Tread On Me,” was not a bumper sticker back then – it was a warning every bit as ominous as the shake of a rattlesnake’s tail.

The notion that our Founding Fathers contemplated armed insurrection inside the United States seems to surprise some people.

But it shouldn’t.

The Good Old Boys of Virginia -- Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Washington -- knew that power belonged to the people only so long as the power of the state could be met with an equal power organized by the populace at large working in tandem.

Guns were not to be used capriciously, but they were part of the long term plan crafted by our Founding Fathers to protect this great nation from powerful, cunning and patient forces of oppression -- whether those forces came from within or without.

But of course the Second Amendment was not just about securing freedom at the national level. It was also about securing some modicum of personal protection at home as well.

Our Founding Fathers were not living "on the grid."

In 1776, you could not dial up a patrol car and expect someone to show up at your door a few minutes later.

On the empty plains and in the dark woods, it was every man for himself, and a prudent person was both well-armed and quite cautious.

But, to tell the truth, is it really that different today? If you are a suburban housewife, or a well-heeled lawyer with cable television in the den and GPS in your Mercury Mountaineer, you may not know what it feels like to live 20 miles outside of town and up a dirt road. But if you spend some time out on a farm, and also happen to be a member of a religious or racial minority, you may come to a whole new world of understanding.

That, apparently, is what has happened to Michelle Obama. As Barack himself put it in a recent campaign stop:

"Michelle, my wife .... was driving through this nice, beautiful area, going through all this farmland and hills and rivers and she said 'Boy, it's really pretty up here,' but she said, 'But you know, I can see why if I was living out here, I'd want a gun. Because, you know, 9-1-1 is going to take some time before somebody responds. You know what I mean? You know, it's like five miles between every house.'”

Yeah, I know what you mean.

But guns are not just a rural security need. There is, argueably, a place for a gun, even in top-end homes in Miami. Homes like that of Sean Taylor.

And what if you are one of those poor unfortunates living in a down-at-the-heels neighborhood? Don’t these folks have security needs that trump those of rural Iowa farmers?

As suspender-wearing, commie-loving Joe Bageant notes in Deer Hunting with Jesus:

"Most liberal antigun advocates do not get off the city bus after working the second shift. Nor do they duck and dodge from street light to street light at 1 a.m. while dragging their laundry to the Doozy Duds, where they sit, usually alone, for an hour or so, fluorescently lit up behind the big plate-glass window like so much fresh meat on display, garnished with a promising purse or wallet, before they make the corner-to-corner run for home with their now-fragrant laundered waitress or fast-food uniforms. Barack Obama never did it. Hillary Clinton never did it. Most of white middle-class America doesn't do it either. The on-the-ground value of the Second Amendment completely escapes them."

To which I can only add that Rudy Giuliani never rode the City Bus at midnight either. Neither did Mitt Romney. Or Sarah Brady. And all of them are Republicans.

The point here is that the gun issue is not about Democrats vs. Republicans, or liberals vs. conservatives, or even rural residents vs. urban residents.

It's about something deeper and more important than that: it’s about empathy and respect and tolerance.

It’s about recognizing that not everyone goes to nine-to-five jobs in air conditioned offices while commuting down safe suburban streets.

It’s about recognizing that not everyone can afford to have an ADT alarm system installed in their house.

And, most important of all, it’s about not living in fear of the fact that people who look different from you, who think different from you, and who pray different from you, may have rights too.

And not just First Amendment Rights, but Second Amendment rights too, including the right to protect their house and home from invasion and robbery.

But if everyone has guns, won't we all live in fear? Won’t small altercations inevitably rise to violence due to the close proximity of weapons? And what about school shootings?

Well, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, guns help prevent crime.

Approximately 2.5 million Americans protect themselves with guns every year. Most of the time, the gun is never actually fired –- it is simply brandished, and the person breaking and entering is told to “get the f*ck out of here” and that’s exactly what happens.

Job done.

Yes, citizens do occasionally shoot and kill people while defending themselves and their property. In fact, citizens shoot and kill twice as many criminals as police do every year.

Yet, only two percent of civilian shootings involve an innocent person mistakenly identified as a criminal. By contrast, the error rate for police officers is eleven percent.

In short, guns are routinely used to deter crime, but these guns are rarely fired. When citizens do fire a gun to deter crime, they are rarely acting like Yahoos.

Which is not to say that Yahoos, criminals and crazy people do not exist; they certainly do. But these people exist with or without guns, and are a danger to us all, with or without a gun.

Remember, Yahoos in cars kill far more people than Yahoos with guns.

And as for criminals, do you really think they are going to be deterred by gun laws? Have these people been deterred by our drug laws, our murder laws, or our robbery laws? Why would the gun laws be treated with any more respect?

As for the shooting of small children, both in and outside of school, the phenomenon has never been common, and the numbers are going down.

New York City -- ground zero in the war against guns -– has 2.6 million children under the age of 10 and approximately 3 million guns owned by adults.

Yet, accidental gun deaths among children under age 10 averages only 1.2 per year in that city.

Clearly, most gun owners are pretty safety-conscious. The same cannot be said for automobile drivers or mothers who do not bother to read the instructions that come with child safety seats.

But, as I said, statistics are cold comfort.

Early this morning, while I was writing this blog post, Sean Taylor died. His encounter with a burglar entering his home early yesterday morning was a decidedly one-sided affair.

Let the theorists talk now. It will not matter to Sean Taylor. He is dead.

Raccoon Biological History

The raccoon has had a tremendous reversal of fortune in the last 70 years both in terms of numbers and distribution.

By the late 1980s, the number of raccoons in the U.S. was estimated to be 15 to 20 times greater than the number that existed during the 1930s.

This reversal of fortune is partly due to the widespread regrowth of forests and revegetation of riparian areas, partly due to the rise of suburbia where they do so well, partly due to a decline in trapping and hunting, partly due to raccoons spreading out into new areas with the arrival of human-based food and denning structures (especially in the Plains states), and partly due to the stocking of raccoon in areas as far flung as California and Alaska (where islands were stocked with raccoons from Indiana).

Raccoons are not native to most of Canada, and in fact some tribes in northern Canada still do not have a name for the raccoon.

There are now raccoon populations in Germany (introduced in 1934) and they are spreading into France and the Netherlands. In 1936, raccoons were released into the former Soviet Union, and commercial trapping began in 1954. By 1964 the number had risen to over 40,000, but due to deep loose snow (which makes winter foraging very difficult) the raccoon seems to only thrive in the Caucus region and Byelorussia.

Most of a raccoon's diet is fruits, berries, nuts and seeds, and they strongly prefer to den near water (average distance 200-400 feet) which is why berry-rich and nut-rich hedgerows near water, corn and soy fields are the most likely location to find them.

In the spring, diet may be supplemented with birds eggs and hatchlings, and in the fall wounded wildlife may also be an important food source. In late fall acorns are important, and in the summer insects. Crustaceans are preferred all the time. Frogs are rarely eaten as they are hard to catch.

Raccoon population densities are extremely variable and depend almost entirely on food. Densities range from a low of 1-3 per square kilometer for North Dakota and Manitoba to 4-14 per square kilometer in Texas chaparral, to 15-20 in the tidewater and marshy areas of Virginia.

Numbers as high as 30 per square kilometer are reported in some swamps and waterfowl areas (where eggs, nestlings and wounded birds are important food supplements), and on the Swan Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Missouri (a marsh), 100 raccoons were removed from a 102 acre tract -- a density level of 250 per square kilometer.

Raccoon home ranges also depend on food density. A typical range is 100 to 250 acres, but they may be as small as five acres to as much as 12,000 acres depending on food availability. Male raccoons always have much larger ranges than females, and almost always leave the area they are born in.

Canine distemper and rabies appear to be the major population control agents for raccoons, with distemper capable of wiping out a raccoon population in an area.

The spread of rabies was greatly accelerated northward in the eastern U.S. in the 1970s due to several thousand raccoons from Florida being used to restock depleted hunting club lands in North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Raccoons often move their young from tree dens to ground dens in the spring, when they are 45-65 days old, perhaps so they will not fall out, and perhaps to encourage them to start foraging on their own.


Monday, November 26, 2007

Shotgun News: They Must Be Joking

Item #1: A Credit-card Sized Shotgun. CBS News reports that a "local gun maker and gun shop are debuting a new type of firearm" -- one that can fit in your shirt pocket. It's a two-shot weapon made from a piece of metal the height and width of a standard credit card, and about half an inch thick. Each barrel fires seven standard steel BBs, and it will retail for $100. This is a small muzzle-loader shotgun fired with an electronic trigger. Will it stop a crook? No, but it's about perfect for blowing your balls off when it misfires in your pocket. And believe me, when I say it will be in a man's pocket: No woman will be stupid enough to own one. For those who would prefer to make their zip guns the old-fashioned way, see this handy little visual guide, and realize you are probably breaking about 7 laws and are likely to kill yourself too. A better option that will get you a lot more attention (and less jail time) is this 144-shot Gatling Gun. Or just get a real gun -- an honest derringer will fit in the palm of your hand, and if you get a Smith and Wesson 317 Kit Gun or Taurus knockoff, probably no one will laugh at you behind your back.

Item #2: Pink Shotguns.
Pink seems to be the latest gun craze, judging by all the articles written about this girly-color annodization and dyed wood stunt. Personally, I think it's an insult to women, but then I think most women's magazines are an insult to women. What the hell do I know? In any case, anyone looking to take their gay lover or their 12-year old "My Little Pony" enthusiast hunting can get a Remington 870 (available in 20-gauge) for $370. Operators are standing by. And no, it does not look like they make a 16- or 12-gauge version in pink of this most-popular of shotgun models.

Item #3: Season Shot. After your woman has been blazing away in the field with a pink shotgun (see above), she will be able to spend less time in the kitchen cleaning the birds thanks to "Season Shot" -- a buckshot made of compressed and bonded spices which supposedly disintegrate inside the bird and help flavor it. Apparently this is not a joke (though it does sound like it). Does the seasoning ruin the barrel? Does the shot have to be FDA-approved? Is this just a ploy so that next time Dick Cheney shoots someone in the face, the White House can say that it was simply a "light peppering with a touch of lemon?" I have many questions, but if this is a joke, it's a pretty damn elaborate one, and David Petzal was sucked in too. A hat tip to Lisa B. for this one, and my apologies for the misogyny in the opening line. It just sounds better with a little misogyny thrown in. Like pheasant with lemon pepper buckshot.

Predators and Duck Demographics

The October-November issue of National Wildlife magazine, the house organ of the National Wildlife Federation, has a piece on it about skunks which notes that a research project on Mephistus mephistus being conducted by Travis Quirk, and funded by Delta Waterfowl, is being done in a 30-square mile area of Manitoba "that once was one of the most productive duck-breeding regions in the province. '

However, as the article notes,

"Nest success has fallen well below the population maintenance levels in recent decades and the main culprits are the growing numbers of nest-raiding skunks, raccoons, foxes and mink. 'There are a lot of animals out there that eat duck eggs,' Quirk says, 'even white-tailed deer and ground squirrels.'

"Waterfowl managers estimate that predators typically destroy 90 percent of upland duck nests across the northern prairie breeding grounds, along with countless songbird nests. When predator numbers climb, nest success declines in lockstep. On a smaller research plot within Quirk's study area, only 1 percent of the mallard nests produced ducklings when his skunk population peaked at four per square mile, more than double the number when he began the study.'


Sunday, November 25, 2007

Setting Up a Camera Trap in My Yard

Inspired by Chris Wemmer at the Camera Trap Codger, and feeling more "spendy" that usual, I dropped $100 and bought a digital trail camera with a 2 Gigabyte memory chip (it will fit my new Nikon L-11 too).

The trail camera model I chose was due to: 1) its relative cheapness, and; 2) the fact that it's a 4 megapixel dedicated unit that comes complete with case, flash, infrared motion detector, and laser pointer (to figure out where the lens is looking).

Basically, this is the kind of kit that would have cost a small fortune a few years back, but it's now cheaper than a decent truck tire. God bless technology.

The 2 GB memory chip will hold a ton of pictures (about 1,800 at high resolution) and the 6 D-cell batteries that fire the camera will supposedly keep it running for about 60 days.

I ordered my camera -- a Moultrie Game Spy D-40 from a place called "Wing Supply" that advertises through Amazon, and it came in very short order via Parcel Post, and was in excellent working order right out of the box.

The first order of business was getting D-cell batteries, and then reading the manual.

I got the basic instructions sussed out over coffee (the camera will fire 1,2 or 3 pictures at various resolutions, as well as take 30-second video, and it will also fire day and/or night, and time-and-date stamp the pictures, etc.).

From reading Camera Trap Codger's excellent posts, and from reading a little from others on line as well, I had learned that camera theft can be a problem, and so too is hiding the camera and placing it correctly so that critters don't notice it too much.

Because I have had electronic cameras before, I also know they are very sensitive to water and shock. My idea was to rig up a camouflaged case for the camera that would further help it keep out of water and perhaps cushion it from shock as well.

Now, to be clear, the Game Spy D-40 is in a hard case that is "double-boxed" in a hard Pelican-type plastic which has gaskets around the edge and also at the lens hole.

That said, in my experience, you can never do too much to keep water out of an electronic camera, and shock is always a concern for any camera going into forest and field.

In order to help protect the camera on all points, I decided to use the shiny, disposable, clear-plastic "snap pack" display case that the camera had originally come in as the "frame" around which to build a foam-and-wood protective camouflage cover for the camera.

The first stop was at the local hardware store for a can of spray urethane insulation. I sprayed this in lumpy mounds on to the outside of the clear disposable-plastic display shell that had once come with the camera.

I then filled the deep inside channel at the back of the snap pack with urethane in order to provide a little more stiffness to that part of the cover.

The spray urethane foam bonded hard and fast, and when it was dry I sprayed-painted it green and daubed a little black paint on top for a camouflage effect.

I then cut out the front of the case so that the lens and sensors of the camera could look out and "see" the wildlife, and I cut a small drain hole at the very bottom in case water did get in between the layers of foam.

Next I cut a piece of plywood to serve as the back of the mount, and I camouflaged it with paint as well.

Once the paint on the plywood was dry, I glued the plastic back of the snap pack case to the plywood with heavy-duty industrial glue (i.e. Liquid Nails).

My idea was simple one: Screw the plywood back of the mounts on to a metal stake.

Once the stake was hammered into the ground, the camera could be carefully slipped into the plastic snap-pack-and-foam slot that was glued to the wood. The fit would be perfect, and hold the camera finger-tight all around the edge.

Once the camera was in the protected slot with the plywood back, the camouflaged foam "outer housing" would go over the front of the camera, protecting it even more from weather and shock, while also helping to break up the outline of the camera from probing eyes. The two small bungee cords (supplied with the camera) would hold the foam cover tight and further secure the entire camera to the plywood screwed to the stake (the plywood can also be screwed or bungeed to a tree separate from the stake).

Between the camera and the snap pack, I would place a short note explaining that the camera was being used by a "field biologist working on his PhD," and that if the finder would leave the camera alone and leave their email address, I would send them all of the pictures from this camera.

Of course the first part of this story is a white lie, but I figure that anyone that gets that far into the inside of the camera case is either a thief, an anti-hunting vegan, or a kid, and the trick is to give them "something for nothing" while guilt-triping them into leaving the camera alone. Plus, I will send them pictures!

Why not just bolt the camera down? I will do that too, trust me! For now, however, the camera is located in front of the greenhouse where the dogs cannot trip the remote switch, and where I have been (occassionally) feeding a few fox and raccoon visitors.

I completed the camera mounting setup today, and so far it seems to work as intended. We'll see if it can go the distance, and if it actually helps keep the camera dry, safe and less visible.

My first, rather modest picture with the camera is appended below. Not much eh?

Well, that's going to be the main difference between me and the Camera Trap Codger, and Cliff over at Game Camera Photo Logbook.

While they have terrific and clear shots of Mountain Lions, Bears, Turkey, Otter, Bobcat, and Grey Fox. I'm going to have very blurry pictures of common backyard birds that I will not be able to identify even with a Sibley Guide. And that's not a joke; that's they way it's going to be.

Welcome to my thick-thumbed life. The secret to my happiness has been keeping my expectations very low.

On the upside, I'm pretty sure I will learn a bit just by playing around (send me tips, folks) and I should get a little better as time progresses.

Plus, it's not like I have to pay to develop the pictures to see what I have on the camera. God bless digital cameras.

At the worst, I figure I will eventually get some mediocre shots of red fox, raccoon, possum, and deer that come in and out of my yard at night. We even have a 10-point buck that occassionally visits the goldfish pond.

Tomorrow I will cook up a little of the beaver castoreum I have out in the garage and see if I can get the camera up and "really running" for tomorrow night. Today was really just a practice session.

There's nowhere to go but up.

Is this a vireo? A catbird? Nope,. a plain old mockingbird. The birds I know best are ones that come in a bucket.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Biggest Environmental Troublemaker Ever?

Why can't we have great TV like this? I want to be the host, just so I can wear the great getup, especially the hat.


Friday, November 23, 2007

Mike Huckabee: Chuck Norris Approved

Here at Terrierman, we continue to celebrate political underdogs.

This time, it's GOP underdog Mike Huckabee who Outdoor Life magazine notes helped pass Amendment 75, "The Conservation Amendment."

This amendment to the Arkansas state constitution designates 1/8 of 1 percent of the state's general sales tax go to four agencies, including the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC), which has used the approximately $26 million a year that is generated to build state-of-the-art nature centers.

For his good works and dedication to conservation initiatives in Arkansas (the state which was the last stonghold of the Wild Turkey back in the 1930s), Mike Huckabee has not only been inducted into the Arkansas Outdoor Hall of Fame, but has also been named Man of the Year in 1997 by the American Sportfishing Association.

Now some are sure to note that Huckabee does not believe in evolution. Don't I consider that troubling?

Well yes, a little, but I am pretty broad-minded and tolerant. I do not think Mike Huckabee has to believe in Darwin; it's enough that Darwin believes in him.

Besides, isn't it possible that Governor Huckabee might evolve a bit on this issue if we give him a little more information and time? After all, it was Charles Darwin himself who wrote, in the 1869 foreword to The Origin of Species, that "I see no good reasons why the views given in this volume should shock the religious sensibilities of anyone."

Exactly right. Something had to be the first motion. Why not God?

And isn't it the least bit refreshing to have a candidate who actually believes in something and will not back-pedal on everything?

And how about that immigration policy!

A shout-out to Gina Spadafori at Pet Connection who sent me the video first, and to J.R. Absher's Newshound blog which provided a link to the Outdoor Life notations. Y'all are the best!

Heather Mills Is An Insane Idiot

Heather Mills is more than just a greedy gimp: she's also stupid and crazy.

I never thought I would feel sorry for Paul McCartney, but I do. It seems he has been bedding someone who is even crazier than he is.

To support the last statement, I urge you to read the latest headline (I do not make these things up) from The Telegraph (U.K.):

Drink rats' milk, says Heather Mills

Words fail me. They really do. And this woman cries because she gets bad press? Imagine.

Form for Function: Span Quarry, Not Just Dogs

Spanning a small-to-average groundhog. Notice how long a groundhog body can get when stretched under its own weight. These things are built like sacks of water.

This groundhog spans to the spot on my thumbs where I want a dog to span to. If my thumbs do not overlap all or most of the first joint, the dog is too big to easily get into most earths in the Eastern U.S.

I look for dogs with chests of 14 inches or less, and recommend that people who are serious about hunting their dogs do not compromise on this all-important point.

Remember that as a dog gets older, it's chest will generally spring out a bit and sometimes it gets less flexible too. A dog that is marginal for size at one year of age is only going to get bigger in the chest as time goes on. You want a dog that can hunt well past age six or seven, right? Then get a smaller dog.

But aren't fox bigger? Nope -- not really. It says quite a lot that the largest red fox taxidermy mannequin in the world has a 14" chest, while some are sold with chests as small as 11 inches.

A fox is not built like a dog; it is built like a cat and underneath all that fur, it has the body shape of a small whippet.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

I'm Cooking the Turkey This Year

God help us all.

If anyone wants to know what it's like, see this old Gene Kranz home movie. Kranz, for those who may not remember, was the head of Mission Control during the Apollo 13 mission. A complete and perfect movie. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Supremes Launch Missile Against Rudy & Romney

Watch this video to the end, in which Lawrence Keane of the National Shooting Sports Foundation reacts to Rudy Giuliani's recent speech to the National Rifle Association, and in which he agrees that (gasp) Hillary Clinton has been less insulting and less patronizing to gun owners than Rudy Giuliani has been.

Amazing. But I guess Mr. Keane is in a pretty good position to know who has been pissing on his leg for the last decade.

And, apparently, it wasn't Hillary.

Why is this a big deal? Simple: the U.S. Supreme Court has just decided to examine one of the most disputed provisions of the Constitution – the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.

The specific question is whether a Washington, D.C.-law that bans the use or possession of all handguns is constitutional. This is the very kind of gun law that Rudy Giuliani has championed for New York City.

Now, to be fair, Rudy is not completely crazy. The central question is whether "time, place, and manner" restrictions can be placed on gun ownership. A close reading of the Constitution suggests that they probably can. Of course, a close reading of the Constitution also suggests that they probably cannot.

To tell the truth, the Second Amendment is a linguistic mess. It means whatever you want it to mean.

"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

That's the entire language.

Now here's a question: Is the right to bear arms reserved to a "well-regulated militia" (i.e. the National Guard), or is "the right of the people" a right without apparent restriction or qualification, the same as the First Amendment as written in the U.S. Constitution?

Who knows? All we know for sure at this point is that the Supreme Court will have another crack at it.

In truth, gun cases are very rarely brought to the Supreme Court because both sides are terrified of losing. For all their bluster, neither Sarah Brady nor the National Rifle Association are all that cock-sure and confident about the legality of their absolutist positions.

Look at the Second Amendment again. The term "gun" is never used. The word that is used is "arms."

Is the Second Amendment a full-employment act for prosthetic arms makers, or perhaps a repair order for the "Venus de Milo"?

Probably not. But assuming "arms" actually means weapons, does it mean any weapon can be carried by anyone anywhere?

If so, can a baby have a fully loaded Colt Python? Can kids bring machetes to school? Why is it OK for the State of Virginia to ban gun ownership by crazy people (like the Virginia Tech shooter) and felons? Why can't terrorists carry guns (or even bombs) on to an airplane? After all, the right of free speech (the First Amendment) is not a restricted right. Why should the Second Amendment be?

But, of course, if it's not a restricted right, odd questions may arise. For example, can I bring my fully-loaded bazooka to the U.S. Capitol and use my Leupold scope (I just welded it to the barrel last week) to check out the detail on the statue of "Freedom" located at the top of the dome?

And why not? Is the Second Amendment unrestricted, or not?

So why is Supreme Court action on this gun case such political dynamite? Simple: The Supremes will hand down their decision in late June of 2008 – four months before voters go to the polls to elect a new President.

During the run-up to the Supreme Court decision -- and for months afterwards -- the gun issue will be white hot.

And that's not a good thing for Rudy Giuliani or Mitt Romney, as it exposes their weakest flanks.

Of course, guns are not a strong issue for Democrats either.

But the blow-back for Democrats is not as likely to be as severe. The reason for this is that the folks who tend to vote Democrat are comfortable with the "nuanced" position that folks like Hillary, Obama, Giuliani and Romney have tried to carve out on the Second Amendment.

Not so, many conservatives and gun enthusiasts who see the Second Amendment as a simple litmus test. For these folks, Republican candidates who offer only tepid support for gun owners (and who may also flip-flop like a carp on a boat deck on other conservative social issues), may give them very little reason to go to the polls.

Add into the mix the fact that Giuliani is weak on immigration (see Giuluini video below) and that Mitt Romney appears to be the political equivalent of a cross-dresser, and a lot of Republicans are left wondering why the GOP is even holding a convention at all.

New York City? Massachusetts? These are the Republican candidates for President? Good Lord!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Fox Hunting

"Sport hunting." Some folks say this as if it were a crime or a sin, but if they paid attention, they would see that animals do it too, and who but God made the animals? An example is this vole, cut in two by a fox and left uneaten. Fox will do this if they are well-fed; the act of hunting is enjoyable to them, and they do not stop hunting, even when full. Neither will a cat, which will play with a living mouse before killing it and walking away leaving it uneaten.

This was not a cache, by the way -- this was photographed as found, on top of the grass, and abandoned without hurry.

Stray Pictures From a Very Small Sunday

Pearl found this possum in a hedgerow dump full of old pieces of metal
, tires, boards, barbed wire and even an old chicken coop. This was an undiggable sette, with a huge roll of steel fencing pinned to the top of the earth by a tree that was growing through it. No matter; Pearl had fun, and I was happy she found before Mountain did -- a rare win for her.

Mountain found in this sette
which was in the middle of an enormous old Sycamore tree -- another undiggable sette. The side of the tree trunk was covered over with huge rounds of wood cut from the top of the tree which had blown over some years earlier.

At the end of this last day of the groundhog season (they are starting to hibernate), two were found, none were dug, and there was no regret. The dogs came away healthy, and we all had a happy day in the field.

Fox season will start in January.

One Nation, Indivisible

"The pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; . . . But I've got news for them ... We worship an awesome God in the Blue States, and we don't like federal agents poking around our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and have gay friends in the Red States. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and patriots who supported it. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America. In the end, that's what this election is about. Do we participate in a politics of cynicism or a politics of hope?" . - Barack Obama, 2004

This morning, the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll shows Sen. Barack Obama has surged to a 4-point lead over Hillary Clinton, and an 8-point lead over John Edwards, with only one month to the Iowa Caucus.

Giuliani is leading on the GOP side of the race.

I think if Obama can rip through the gossamer-thin film of "inevitability" surrounding Hillary Clinton, he will be President. . Giuliani is simply not presidential timber; he's too mercurial and too provincial (even more provincial than George W. Bush).

Which is not to say Barack OBama is going to have a cake walk. He's going to be Swift-boated by the folks at Fox and by the whispering campaigns of right-wing emailers who will pass on what they think are clever nigger jokes laced with suggestions that the Senator from Illinois is really a Muslim fanatic in drag.

There's only one problem with that attack plan: Barack Obama.
The more you see of this guy, the more you realize how incredibly solid he is. As time goes on, more and more people are going to pay attention, and the folks making the sniping comments about race and name are going to look smaller and smaller until at last they both reveal and embarrass themselves at the same time.

As for Rudy Giuliani, he has the opposite problem; the more people see of him, the less impressed they are going to be.

But don't take my word for it: Go to Youtube and look at Obama speeches and Giuliani speeches. Watch a couple. Noodle around. Educate yourself. And then vote as you see fit.


Monday, November 19, 2007

Bow and Gun Stock in the Hedge

The dogs and I came across this den yesterday morning, and it looked like it had been aerial bombed by Black Walnuts.

Which, of course, it had. I guess that's why they call it Fall.

Black Walnuts are fairly allelopathic, which means the roots of the tree put out a chemical that discourages many (but not all) plants from growing underneath and competing for nutrients and water.

Other plants that are allelopathic include some common invasive plants, such as Ailanthus, Garlic Mustard, and Japanese Knot Weed, as well as Rhododendron.

Black Walnut, of course, is a prized furniture wood, and is also used to make gun stocks.

Here's another aerial bombing. These are Osage Oranges (which are not an orange), which are about the size of a softball (i.e. you can barely span them with both hands) and which are quite heavy.

Osage Orange is sometimes called "Hedge Apple" (though it is not an apple), and it was once used by Native Americans for making bows, and later by early settlers looking for rot-resistant fence posts.

Osage Orange, along with Honey Locust (a very common tree) and the Kentucky Coffeetree (quite rare) are trees that have large fruits and seed pods with thick protective coatings or thorns.

It is believed that these protective coatings are natural defenses designed to help protect the fruit of these trees from over-grazing by mammoths that roamed through this area perhaps as recently as 10,000 years ago.

The largest Osage Orange Tree in the world is in Virginia, and is reported to have been planted by Patrick Henry's daughter from seeds brought East by Lewis and Clark.

The largest Kentucky Coffeetree in the world is in Maryland.

The largest Honey Locust tree is in Pennsylvania.


Saturday, November 17, 2007

Music You Should Have In Your Truck

Alison Krauss and Jerry Douglas do James Taylor. If it gets better than this, I haven't seen it. Made in America by Americans. Yes, we do still make something. And it is something good.

John Prine and Iris DeMent -- as twisted a pair as you will ever find at the phone company. And don't Iris look just a little mortified at the lyrics? John will do that. God Bless America, land that I love. Heart of a nun, libido of a stallion, broad-shouldered, dirt-loving, skinned knee nation that she is.

Gillian Welch & David Rawlings do Red Clay Halo. Make sure they play this one at my funeral.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Flowering Bamboo Makes for Rat Boom ... and Bust

Every 50 years, the Melocanna baccifera bamboo flowers in the nothern Indian state of Mizoram, and when that occurs billions of bamboo seeds are produced which, in turn, boosts the Bamboo Rat population to astronomical levels.

What happens next, is a bit disturbing: the bamboo dies to the ground, and the rats then move outward, destroying crops like locusts on the land.

The last big rat pandemic in Mizoram (part of Assam) occured in 1959 (the year I was born), and mass famine resulted. Will that happen this time? Probably not, due to good roads to help bring in food and (just as important) many tons of rat poison.

Apparently there's a good article on all this in the current issuse of Vanity Fair magazine. A hat tip to the Old Man (hallowed be his name) who called that one in. We at, of course, are taking the story straight to video (see above).

For those interested in a few more articles on the continuing Global War on Rats see:

Still want more? See the Rat Dog web site (now a subsidiary of Ratdog was the first version of the site, and is now presented in a much reduced form. For the record, however, it is older than the Grateful Dead remnant band by the same name.


Coffee and Provocation

Fake Snake Heroics:
One of the many fakes on television are the various poisonous snake shows, of which perhaps the most famous was one put on by Steve "the Crocodile Hunter" Irwin in which he supposedly handled the 10 most poisonous snakes in the world. And, believe it or not (a miracle!) all of the world's most poisonous snakes are Australian. How convenient for the producers! Only one problem with this little plot: It's all nonsense. Almost none of the snakes that Steve was mucking about with are very dangerous to humans. It seems "the most lethal" of the Australian snakes -- the Western Brown, the Fierce Snake, the various Tiger Snakes, the various Taipan, the Olive Whip Snake, various Sea Snakes, the Eastern Brown, the King Brown, the Death Adder -- are only rarely lethal to anything larger than a mouse. More people die in Australia from falling off a horse than from snake bites. In fact, Australia's deadliest animal is the same "most dangerous animal" we have over here: the Honey Bee! For more truth about fake nature on TV, see earlier posts on National Geographic's Phony "Wolf Man" Stunt and Man Versus Truth: More Fakery from the U.K.

Lundehunds Are a Six-toed Hunting Dog:
I have been meaning to write about the Lundehund, Norway's Puffin-hunting dog, but the smarties over at Damn Interesting beat me to it. Check it out.

Mother Maybelle Carter Will Be On the Harp:
Red Shipley, the unordained pastor of the "First Church of Field and Stream," which meets in my truck on Sunday morning ("Let Us Prey"), has gone to heaven. He was 70 years old, and he had just retired after 40 years of being the voice of bluegrass on WAMU radio. For the last 25 years, his show has been called "Stained Glass Bluegrass" and it was a smart mix of old and new Bluegrass and "country gospel" linked by Red's calm and familiar voice. I will miss Red a lot. Red's request was that in lieu of flowers, contributions be made to the International Bluegrass Music Association. Yes sir: May the Circle Be Unbroken.

Stop Her Before She Writes Again!
Gina Spadafori has another blog: The Year of Living Greenly. Check it out. Gina puts the "pro" in prolific writer.

Canned Fox Hunting:
I have blasted canned hunting before, and asked where you draw the line (see "Hunting and Fishing Like Adults"). Now authorities in Virginia, North Carolina, Alabama, and other states are asking the same question as they come down on canned fox chases/hunts where fur-farm fox are released into giant pens in order to train fox hounds to scent and chase. Or at least that's the theory. I have never been to such a facility, nor have I seen one, nor have I even met anyone (to the best of my knowledge) who has ever been to one, or seen one. A small question, however: How were the dogs trained before these stocked pen operations existed? Has the quality of the dogs fallen this low, or is it just the quality of the dog men? I would venture to say the latter, and not the former. Men fail dogs more often than dogs fail men.

The Nose Knows:
Dog noses are wonders of nature, as any DEA officer, man-tracker, bird hunter, or terrierman can tell you. Now, environmental scientists and conservationists are coming to realize dogs can sniff out quite a lot, from scat of rare, endangered, or hard-to-locate species to invasive species such as Zebra Mussels. And, of course, there's termites, mould, cancer, money and agricultural produce as well.

Just Doing Some Gardening, Officer:
Over at My Bit of Earth, there's a nice (and innocent) piece on collecting Morning Glory seeds. Morning Glory seeds are a wonderful flower, but so invasive that it's hard to explain to the law why you are collecting them to "share" with friends. The law? Well yes, you might end up explaining quite a lot to the law. Not that I ever have. But I have friends, and they say (allegedly) that Morning Glory seeds are one way to make LSD (use a reflux tower and about a quart of petroleum ether), and so collecting them from the wild to "share them with friends" may be looked upon with suspicion by some hippie-chasing authorities. Or so I am told. The suspicion may be a little more pronounced if your blue Morning Glories are trailing over a white picket fence fronted by a nice full border of red poppies with a large clump of white Datura flowers on either end. And yes, I am a very good gardener. Honest.

Getting it Right on Immigration:
The smarties over at Blue Crab Boulevard have a nice piece on immigration that references a nice op-ed over at The Blue Crab Boulevard piece frames what I think is the best political response to immigration. Gaius Arbo suggests that the proper response is a "High fence, wide gate and a hearty welcome for those who play by the rules. It does not matter where you came from, if you play by the rules and want to be an American, you are welcome here. That simple, that powerful, that American. Make sure that people who are here legally have a path to upward mobility by ensuring that a flood of illegal immigrants are not cutting the props out from under the ones who play by the rules. They will vote for the party that ensures they have a way up. They will detest the party that is trying to keep them down." Bingo! And might I add that one of the rules is a simple one: there are limits. We cannot take all of the world's displeased and dispossesed. For those who wonder why I am talking about immigration (What's that got to do with hunting or conservation? ), read The Real Threat to Hunting in America and Drawing the Line at the Border for Wildlife's Sake.

Land of the Rising Sun(fish):
The Emperor of Japan says he's the person that brought the aggressive American sunfish to Japan more than 50 years ago -- a species introduction which is now pushing the Japanese rosy bitterling to critical numbers. Ah well, these things happen: The living God works in mysterious ways.


I am SUCH a Good Terrier Trainer

I am SUCH a Good Terrier Trainer.

And you can be too!

Just click on this link and tell Sparky what you want him to do. (Flash Required)