Archive for the ‘wildlife’ Category

Well, West Virginia really isn’t either.

But I mean come on! This is obviously a raccoon. Having caught a few raccoons in traps just like this one, they all make this growl! It’s almost diagnostic of a raccoon.

Of course, the hands give it away, and I’d like to know what state wildlife official deemed this thing a “canine.”  What breed of dog has hands?

Just watch this clip and try to keep your head from exploding. The stupid. It hurts.

I don’t care if this man has hunted raccoons with dogs for years. Raccoons don’t make that growl when dogs are chasing or killing them. That’s a threat growl they make when they are in cage traps.

Raccoons basically do look a lot like dogs with hands. When Miley first encountered one in a cage trap, she went into play bows in front of it.

It was less than impressed.

Chupacabras are just normal animals that are hairless for some reason. The most common chupacabra is a mangy fox or coyote.  Most of our native carnivorans are well-furred out, so when they lose their hair for some reason, most people are shocked at what their bodies actually look like underneath.

Raccoons really don’t look much like raccoons when they lose their hair.

But if you know that a raccoon is basically a dog-like animal with hands, I don’t think you’d be able to mistake it for anything.

But maybe I’m weird in that I’ve seen too many raccoons up-close that it’s hard for me to see how anyone could be so daft as to declare this poor animal a unique species.

However, this is the internet. And many people don’t go to the internet to find out things.  They go to the internet to believe.

So I bet as soon as a sane, qualified zoologist declares this chupacabras to be a raccoon, there will be all sorts of denials that there is no way this animal could be a raccoon– and, of course, there will be a conspiracy theory or two spun out of it.

(See the Montauk Monster debacle, if you don’t believe me!)







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Deer in March

While going out in search of peenting woodcock last night, I came across three does grazing the frost-bitten grass.

They must have been pretty hungry, because they didn’t run when I approached. I was able to get within 30 feet of them, while the lead doe just glared at me!






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prince harry feral water buffalo

There is much nattering among the ARista lobby in the UK over this photo.

Prince Harry killed a buffalo.

Won’t someone please think of the children?

The big outrage is that his father, Prince Charles, just recently made ending the illegal wildlife trade a major public campaign of his. Prince Charles and Prince William are going to be in a film that talks about wildlife conservation.

And I think this is wonderful.

But then Prince William is seen hunting wild boar in Spain, and people lose their minds. Never mind that wild boar are actually overpopulating in large parts of their range on the European continent. They were actually extirpated from the British Isles but were accidentally restocked when a few escaped English game farms. The animals are still very uncommon in the UK, so most people have no idea what wild boar actually do when they exist at very high numbers. Namely, they destroy crops and forest land, and without large numbers of wolves– their only real natural predator– the only way to manage them is through culling or hunting. Hunting raises some funds for wildlife conservation, but if you cull, you have to pay for the professional cullers.

So it would be much more sensible to allow hunting, don’t you think?

But the real outrage I’ve seen is about Prince Harry killing this buffalo while the whole family has pledged to support wildlife conservation as their major campaign this year.

He must surely be a hypocrite! Right?

Well, behind the outrage there is a story.

The buffalo that Prince Harry killed was an Asian water buffalo. These animals exist in both wild and domestic populations in Asia, and there is a bit of debate as to whether there is only one species of water buffalo in Asia or two of them. The two species are not split between wild and domestic, but rather, there is a river population and a swamp population that differ in chromosome number and almost never interbreed in their native range in the wild. They are both sources for the domestic water buffalo, and in captivity, they do cross and produce fertile offspring despite the chromosome number difference.

Prince Harry did not kill a wild water buffalo of any species.

He wasn’t even in Asia when he shot it.

He was in Argentina.

What are water buffaloes doing in Argentina?

Well, they were brought to South America as meat, dairy, and draft animals. Now, it’s certainly true that certain game ranches in South America do raise water buffalo to hunt, which is certainly a problem, but killing an invasive species– especially a feral domestic animal– is one of the best things that can be done to protect wildlife.

In the Southern Cone of South America, there are big game ranches that have stocked their lands with water buffalo and even red deer. Now, these ranches may be criticized for many things, but they do keep some areas wild that would otherwise be used for agriculture or development, which winds up being good for at least some native species. Would it be better to have these ranches with a few small herds of managed feral buffalo or to have them filled with Indicus cattle?

And this is not much different from the English sporting tradition of managing the legendary wild park cattle as a game species. At least, no one in Argentina made up any nonsense about these buffaloes being an ancient native species.  According to legend, these wild white cattle were the original wild white aurochs of England, when in truth they were nothing more than feral domestics that were selectively bred through culling to have the white coloration. And they were bred as game animals in exactly the same way the Argentines breed water buffalo.

Not a single royal is going out and shooting endangered species. They are not going to Africa and shooting “Cape” buffalo or elephants.

They are not shooting tigers or rhinos.

And by campaigning for real wildlife conservation and not animal rights outrages, they are actually doing the world a lot of good.

Real conservation is not anti-hunting. It sees hunting as an important management tool that can be used to reduce populations and generate revenue at the same time.

This is where the animal rights outrages come into total conflict with scientific management and sound economics. You cannot save animals because you get enough people in your wealthy, developed country to look down their noses at hunters. You can only save animals when you can create some economic value for the animals in their native countries or, at the very least, be able to find some intelligent way to mitigate any damages caused by such animals.

This is the big problem in conservation.

We have many people in the West who want to save species, but they don’t live in the countries or regions where these animals exist. Westerners are outraged at the poaching and habitat destruction, but they fail to understand that these issues are the symptom of greater human problems. When you have people living on the edge, your morals as well-fed Westerner really don’t mean much. You can be outraged all you want, but unless you address the human problems with conservation, all you will have is outrages and bromides.

I wish the royal family the best of luck in their venture in trying shed light on the need to conserve wildlife, but i also hope they can talk some sense into their citizens about the importance of hunting in conservation. I think this would be a great opportunity.

Otherwise, people are going to go on and on complaining about the supposed hyprocrisy of the royal family.

Of course, I’m not even a monarchist, and I’m very happy to live in a republic!




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Bobcat track in the thaw


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Painting by Heywood Hardy.

fox killing mallard

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One of the few stories on the blog in which he have real photographic evidence. This was in the November of 2007, when my uncle decided to turn  my grandpa’s land into a game bird preserve. (All photos courtesy of Laura Westfall Atkinson).

pheasant stocking

Nice cock!

pheasant stock with maddie

“I want to kill them!”


maddie wants the bird

She would be on it like white on rice.

Maddie's owners, Jeanne and Doug Westfall. Doug bought the birds in Ohio the day before.

Maddie’s owners, Jeanne and Doug Westfall. Doug bought the birds in Ohio the day before. 

Willie doesn't think much of the damn birds.

Willie doesn’t think much of the damn birds.


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fox defending its kill

There is a certain amount of ignorance that exists among urban dwellers, especially those in the United Kingdom, a nation that has killed off all its large predatory mammals and left the countryside to the red fox and the European badger.

This ignorance sees animals like red foxes as noble creatures on the same level as dogs, which means that it is inherently immoral to kill them for any reason.

Anyone who kills a fox in the UK is automatically demonized to almost the same level as a pedophile.

I find this utterly shocking.  I have never killed a fox, but members of my family certainly have. During the ’60′s and ’70′s, my father’s family made a decent income trapping and shooting foxes for their fur. These foxes financed long industrial strikes, which I thought most of the socialist Brits would support. These actually were red foxes, whose pelts uplifting the plight of the working class, which also financed my grandfather’s relatively generous retirement, a lot of which was actually spent on improving habitat for wildlife.

My grandpa knew the red fox inside and out.  He knew just where to place his traps, and he also knew how to modify them to hold the fox as humanely as possible. It was not about the torture of the fox. It was about catching and holding it as soundly as possible.

When fox numbers were so strictly controlled through this profitable culling, there were plenty of game birds around. Ruffed grouse existed in numbers that I cannot even imagine today. Now, it’s certainly true that ruffed grouse prefer early succession forests to mature ones, and because timber prices are so low, most of the forests have been allowed to mature beyond their optimum harvest date.

But I don’t think that having uncontrolled fox numbers is actually a good thing for ruffed grouse numbers.

Of course, red foxes are being controlled through coyote predation, and coyotes don’t really waste their time on ruffed grouse– too hard to catch and too small a meal.

If coyotes control fox numbers, then it will be likely be a good thing for ruffed grouse.

What I’ve just described to you is something that is well-understood in the ecological literature. This particular case, of course, has not been confirmed in any study, but I certainly do think it’s worth examining. (It has been confirmed with ducks, coyotes, and foxes, however.)

This phenomenon is called the mesopredator release hypothesis, and it is actually been confirmed time and again in the wildlife management and ecology literature.

The hypothesis goes like this:

Historically, our ecosystems were full of large, slowly reproducing predators– wolves, tigers, cougars, great whites etc. These are the so-called apex predat

And these predators hunted big game, but they also hunted smaller predators that reproduce relatively quickly, like foxes, raccoons, stingrays, etc.

These smaller predators evolved to have very high reproduction rates. It was the only way they could keep their numbers going through a constant onslaught of predation from the bigger predators.

The smaller predators hunted smaller prey, and these prey animals were often too small for the bigger ones to waste time chasing.

So the bigger predators kept the smaller ones under control, just as the smaller ones had evolved to produce more and more offspring. Smaller predators did not significantly reduce populations of smaller animals because their numbers were controlled by the big ones.

Over the past 10,000 years, man has waged war against the bigger predators. We’ve killed off nearly all the lions in Asia, as well as almost all of the cheetahs. Wolves are gone from much of Europe and the United States. Both wolves and Eurasian lynx are gone from Great Britain, and since foxhunting has been banned, the only thing controlling foxes are cars and shooters. And mange, of course.

In this world, mesopredators are still reproducing at the same level they always were, but nothing is controlling their numbers.

Small prey species suddenly find themselves experiencing high levels of predation, and their numbers begin to drop.

At this point, we are never going to have the same ecosystems that we had before. We are not going to have vast populations of wolves controlling the fox numbers any time soon.

So the solution to this problem is to cull them.

And that’s why I don’t denigrate the fur trade. It’s why I don’t cry about foxhunters and foxhounds. It’s also why I don’t worship at the altar of feral cat protection. Feral cats are part of the mesopredator problem as well, and they might actually be the worst offender after the red fox.

There are valid scientific reasons why we must control the numbers of mesopredators, and being so squeamish about controlling foxes or cats or raccoons is being more of an animal rights fanatic than it is being a conservationist.

Animal rights is actually not about ecology, and the way it is logic falls,  the right of any animal to life trumps sound wildlife management.

That’s insanity.



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Camouflaged deer

This is why the turn gray in winter:


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He is putting in an application to be their retriever!


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From WTOP:

Fairfax City wants to become the first community in Virginia to use surgical sterilization to control its deer population.

All that’s needed to go forward with the experiment is final approval from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, and approval looks likely.

The man who will lead it, wildlife biologist Dr. Anthony DeNicola, has run similar programs in other parts of the country.

He estimates the City of Fairfax has between 50 to 75 deer within its 6 square miles, fewer than he initially expected.

Under the five-year program, the female deer will undergo surgery to remove their ovaries, with a goal of having all the does sterilized by the second year.

“The reason we target females in deer is they’re a polygamous species. Meaning one male will copulate or breed with multiple females,” DeNicola told city councilmembers this week.

He said the city’s density will actually help researchers get their job done.

“Your deer are used to seeing cars. You probably pull in your driveway, you see them, they ignore you. We take advantage of that.”

“When we come along … usually escorted by an (police) officer, they can’t differentiate our presence from anyone else’s or obviously our intention.”

DeNicola said when conducting sterilization programs in other cities, they’ve typically stayed on public roads and in parks.

“We’ll only engage deer if we see them on a front lawn, in a park area, some type of road frontage area,” he said.

Does will be shot with tranquilizer darts, carefully transported to a central location for surgery and given numbered ear tags before being released.

Some does will be fitted with something else.

“We’ll have 20 individuals that will have individual radio collars that are trackable.”

Nicola said in the past, he’s used six different trusted veterinarians to conduct the procedures.

“We feel comfortable that the animals are treated humanely, and that we can do this in a reasonably efficient manner.”

DeNicola said typically the cost of the sterilization program is about $1,000 per deer, but that can drop to $500 per deer if volunteer veterinarians are used.

This is going to cost the city of Fairfax money to “spay” the deer.

West Virginia’s urban areas have a somewhat more effective and cost efficient plan.

I just can’t believe that people would waste money on something like this. It doesn’t cost much to have an urban bow hunt!

$1,000 a deer.

Just please some AR fanatics.






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