Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Ken Burns on America's Best Idea: National Parks

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

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

This land is your land.

The series premieres Sunday, September 27th, 2009.

Veterinarians Call for End to "the Ban"

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

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

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

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unenforceable, socially divisive, and harms, rather than improves, animal welfare," and called for the ban to be repealed.

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

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

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


The Flowbee for Pets?

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


"It sucks as it cuts."

I'm sure.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Digging on the Dogs

Pearl listens to Mountain under ground.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pearl listens to Mountain underground.

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

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

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Kill Devil Terrier

Some people seem to have all the luck.

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

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

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

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

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

Years later, Orville would note,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Good Luck With That

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

Friday, June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson :: Earth Song


You are here.

You will never be anywhere else.

Take care of it.

* * *

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

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

Coffee and Provocation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, June 25, 2009

"Pedigree Dogs Exposed" to Air on Canadian TV

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

Spread the word!

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

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

Progress! And more to come, I will wager.


Keep Being Awesome

Click picture to make it bigger.


The Cull of the Wild

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

This post is reprinted from this blog circa June, 2005

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

To Satisfy Your Thirst While Digging on the Dogs

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

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

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


What's It All About?

A recycled post from this blog, circa 2005

What is it about dogs?

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

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

For other people dogs are other things.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Supreme Court Greenlights Killing All Life in Lake

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The High Cost of Animal Rights Rhetoric

A recycled post from this blog circa February 2005.

What would happen if hunting and trapping were eliminated?

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

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

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

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

Monday, June 22, 2009

A Rare Photo of Laika

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Coffee and Provocation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kris Kristofferson :: Sunday Morning Coming Down


Saturday, June 20, 2009

Can Wild Animals Be Gay?

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

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

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

So what's the conclusion to the article?

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

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

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

Friday, June 19, 2009

Darwin :: The Movie called "Creation"

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

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

2,500 Year-Old Falcon Nest

The latest from the BBC:

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

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

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

Read the whole thing.

Preserving Working Lacy Dogs

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perfect! Read the whole thing!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Bruce Friedrich Is a Certified Moron

Who is Bruce Friedrich?

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

What did I tell you?

A moron.

A media whore.

But wait.
There's more.

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

Friedrich went on to say:

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

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

Losers. Pathetic, brain-coddled losers.

Eco-warrior Evicted: Cave Dwelling Has No Fire Exit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Baby Groundhog Discovers Dirt Dens

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

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

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


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Barack Obama Kills With His Bare Hands, and on TV

Remember when we were told that Obama was an animal rights loon?


This man killed a living animal on national TV, and he did it with his bare hands and without so much as blinking.

Get 'er done. A true American. No apologies, no whining, and faster than a Shaolin monk. Pest control at its fineset.

Her Hind Quarters Were So Strong

"Shawn was only 17 years old, so we never got to breed her..."

Hat tip to John for this one!

A Martin Clunes Piece on Ratting with Jack Russells

Video link

Host Martin Clunes does a short segment on ratting with Jack Russell Terriers. This is from August of 2008, and for some reason the piece is replayed in slow-motion on the second half of the clip.

Though it is mostly instinctive, a terrier needs little bit of experience to get really good at ratting. The best dogs tend to snap rat spines hard, drop them dead, and move on, as crunching on a rat for too long is a time-waster if more rats are boiling out from under a feed bunker, a load of hay, a trash tip, or a compost pile.

The location featured in this video seems to be raising pheasants for the shoots. Obviously, you cannot use rat poison in a place like that, nor do you have complete control over feed. Chicken and turkey farms are also famous for rats, as are dairy cow feed bunkers or any place where shelter (such as a hay mow) is in close proximity to feed.

Rat control today is far more advanced than it was 30 years ago. Today multiple types of bait are rotated so rats do not develop tolerance, professional plastic or metal bait-stations keep non-target animals out and so they can be placed rather thickly along alleys and rat runs, while computerized schedules remind owners to fill those bait stations on time and with the proper mix. The result: Far fewer places to rat today than there once were.

For some very basic information on ratting with terriers, see this section of Terrierman.com

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Inbreeding Fish to Death

Hatchery trout being restocked in Pennsylvania.

It turns out that it's not just dogs, cows and chickens that suffer deficiencies when inbred. So too do fish. As Scientific American reports:

Plummeting numbers of several salmon and trout species have conservationists looking more and more to hatcheries — where fish are reared in comfortable captivity and then released into natural bodies of water. But this strategy may hurt wild populations, according to a paper published this week in Biology Letters.

Researchers at Oregon State University (O.S.U.) found that not only do hatchery-raised steelhead—a Pacific trout sharing the same genus, Oncorhynchus, as salmon—produce relatively fewer and weaker offspring once back in a natural environment, but so do their wild-born spawn....

....Araki and his colleagues looked at the Hood River steelhead supplementation program in Oregon and found that trout fry raised by two hatchery-reared parents had just 37 percent of the reproductive success of those with two wild-born parents, even though both sets of offspring were born in wild waters. If the fry had a mix of one wild and one hatchery-raised parent, then it had 87 percent of a pure-bred wild fry’s reproductive fitness.

Scientists are studying the issue, and are not certain the cause for the decline in fecundity, but inbreeding depression in hatchery stock is strongly suspected.

Coffee and Provocation

Rat-Free After 139 Years:
Back in 1870, a Japanese shipwreck put the rats on Alaska's Rat Island. The result: wholesale decimation of the native bird population as the rats ate eggs and killed babies in their nests. Now, after a few tons of rat poison have been put on the island, Alaska's Rat Island is now officialy rat-free. On the down side, there may have been some accidental bald eagle deaths from the rat poison: 41 Bald Eagle carcases were found on the island after the winter thaw. Some eagle mortality is normal, but these numbers seem to be higher than usual. Bald eagles, however, are not rare in coastal Alaska, and they will recover very quickly. For more on the impact of rats on island bird populations, see >> Rats and Extinctions

Creating a New Species With One Mutation:
From Science Now: Catching one species in the act of becoming two is no easy feat. Yet evolutionary biologists working in the Solomon Islands may have done just that. They have found that a single genetic change turns a small, brown-bellied bird black, possibly leading it to mate with like-colored birds -- and setting it on the road to becoming a new species.

How You Spend Your Day:
Report: 90% Of Waking Hours Spent Staring At Glowing Rectangles

Secret Wildlife Reintroduction Succeeds:
From The Financial Times: "The large blue butterfly, which became extinct in Britain 30 years ago, has returned in large numbers after being reintroduced from Sweden in a secret conservation project. Today large blues are present on 33 sites in south-west England, from chalk downs to railway embankments, and are spreading across the Polden Hills."

What Limits the Size of Birds?
What limits the size of birds? It turns out that it's the time it takes for a bird to replace lost feathers. So how is that there used to be a bird with a 20 foot wingspan -- almost as as big as a Cessna airplane? It seems this giant bird lost all its feathers at once, and then fasted while those lost flight feathers grew in. Or at least that's the theory today.

A Folding Military Mountain Bike?
Not only does such a thing exist, but the U.S. military buys them. "The Paratrooper® is a full size, 24-speed mountain bike designed to endure any terrain at high speed in silence with no heat signature. In addition to the high performance feature, the bike folds simply without the use of tools. By turning one quick lever, the Paratrooper® folds in less than 30 seconds into 3' x 3' pack that can be dropped from a plane, strapped to the side of an LAV or thrown in the back of a trunk." Check it out (video). Price: $800.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Should Uncle Sam Finance Cabela Customers?

Should Uncle Sam be helping to underwrite credit cards for Cabela Customers?

Or is this just stupid-on-a-stick -- more all-too-easy credit being extended to minimum wage morons who should be learning to live within their limits rather than spending on things they really do not need?

From The Wall Street Journal:

Factory worker Dennis Davis recently stopped at the Cabela's store here to buy a $90 carrying case for the long-barreled Contender pistol he uses to shoot pesky groundhogs at his brother's farm. He paid with a store-issued credit card.

The U.S. government helped finance the transaction. Earlier this year, it recharged the credit-card operations of the Nebraska-based retailer of hunting and camping gear with nearly $400 million of federal financing...

.... Thanks to federal loans, Cabela's Inc. didn't have to slash credit to its customers... "Had we not been able to refinance this [debt], we would have massively reduced credit limits and canceled cards," says Cabela's chief financial officer, Ralph Castner. Now, Cabela's is pushing customers to borrow more. On a recent morning, employees near the entrance of the store in Hamburg encouraged customers to sign up for new cards.

Gentler Chickens Means More Eggs

Scientists have figured out that breeding gentler laying hens may not only result in less mortality, but also in more eggs.

"When housed in communal cages, the kinder, gentler line had a 20 percent mortality rate, compared to 54 percent for the control line and 89 percent for the commercial line. Egg production was increased in the gentler birds, compared to the control line and the commercial line under the same conditions."

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Not the Perfect Dog for Everyone

Inuit dogs in fan hitch. Click for bigger.

From the latest issue of The Fan Hitch comes this piece by Mark Hamilton entitled Why Inuit Dogs?:

The Inuit Sled Dog as a working animal was and is shaped by the harsh requirements of life in the polar region. It has evolved into a breed that enthusiastically works in all arctic weather conditions. It seems to be genetically programmed to survive even in conditions of privation. The dogs are intelligent and clever. They express enjoyment in their work and their lives. I've found them to be brave, reliable, honest and to have seemingly boundless enthusiasm for everything they do. I love this breed and frankly find it difficult to imagine myself with any other breed of dog.

But reality is that most of the Inuit Dog's finest attributes are of little or no value when living the easy life this far south of the tree line. The Inuit Dog's legendary endurance under difficult circumstances goes largely unchallenged at 41.78º north here in Connecticut. We don't have polar bears down here, which pretty much obviates our need for keeping a bear dog close at hand. Yes, we have black bears, but generally they can be chased off if you just bang a couple of pot lids together.

On the other hand, the Inuit Dog's equally legendary enjoyment of a good brawl among themselves and their ability to take advantage of humans incapable of projecting a leadership aura is not diminished in any way by living so far south of the tree line. What becomes apparent as a result of the dogs being here are the number of people living close at hand who are incapable of understanding the breed's behavior (i.e. we live among people who have embraced a Disney-like world view).

The point here is simple: Working dogs are not for everyone and often come with real liabilties. If you are looking for a lap dog or simple suburban pet, an Inuit Dog is not for you!

Green Cows Produce More White Milk

Earlier this week, I put up a blog post entitled Inbreeding and the Axis of Production, detailing how famers are very careful to keep coefficients of inbreeding low in their dairy cow herds.

Why do farm managers work to keep inbreeding values low? Simple: the higher the inbreeding score, the less milk produced. Inbreeding is bad for dairy production.

So how are today's dairies doing, in terms of production?

Extremely well! In fact, modern dairies produce far more milk per cow than their analogs did 25, 50 or 100 years ago.

Consider these numbers from Cornell University's Journal of Animal Science, and what they mean for a greener, cleaner world:

[T]he carbon footprint for a gallon of milk produced in 2007 was only 37 percent of that produced in 1944. Improved efficiency has enabled the U.S. dairy industry to produce 186 billion pounds of milk from 9.2 million cows in 2007, compared to only 117 billion pounds of milk from 25.6 million cows in 1944. This has resulted in a 41 percent decrease in the total carbon footprint for U.S. milk production.

Efficiency also resulted in reductions in resource use and waste output. Modern dairy systems only use 10 percent of the land, 23 percent of the feedstuffs and 35 percent of the water required to produce the same amount of milk in 1944. Similarly, 2007 dairy farming produced only 24 percent of the manure and 43 percent of the methane output per gallon of milk compared to farming in 1944.

Which beggars the question: If famers can make better cows without inbreeding them to death, how come the Kennel Clubs cannot do the same for dogs?

And the answer is quite simple: They can!

But to do so, they are going to be have to abandon 19th century eugenics theories that put a premium on breed and race purity.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Arlington, Virginia :: The Rap


This is what Arlington, Virginia is today: Whole Foods, Cheesecake Factory, Orvis Shop, Gold's Gym, and Starbucks, Starbucks, Starbucks ...

This is wonderfully done and all too true! There is not a single spot in this video that I do not know like the back of my hands. It was different 35 years ago, I assure you.

The fellow who made this video seems to have talent and humor by the trainload. Check out his Tabbouleh Song and other videos.