Archive for September, 2012

Komondor vs. coyote


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There are two basic reasons:

The first is that fennec foxes don’t have the same musk glands as other vulpine foxes.

That’s actually quite a plus.  Other foxes– especially red foxes– are known for producing an odor that smells something like that of a skunk.

Fennecs don’t produce that odor.

The other is that fennecs live in packs.

They don’t live in packs to hunt larger prey, but their family groups have essentially the same dynamics as a wolf pack.

A wolf pack is based upon a mated pair that have an intense pair bond, and virtually all the other animals in the pack are their grown offspring, which stay behind to take care of their younger brothers and sisters.

This same dynamic exists with fennec foxes.

With more than two adults to forage over the desert, the young fennec kits get more attention and more food than they would get if only their mother and father were caring for them.

Humans have already domesticated one dog species that has this particularly social arrangement.

It’s actually been suggested that reason why humans domesticated wolves so easily is that both humans and wolves have similar social arrangements. Both wolves and humans may have recognized as similarity in this regard, and the two species were able to form very close relationships.

Maybe something similar could happen with fennecs.

It’s certainly true that most fennecs in captivity today are derived from ancestors that were dug out of dens.

In North Africa, people have kept pet fennecs for centuries, but it’s been only in the past few decades that anyone thought of keeping them in the West.

They are still wild animals. Not all individuals have docile temperaments, even when bottle-raised.

But it seems to me that as these animals become a bit more established in the pet trade, there will be attempts to breed them with more docile temperaments.

Although we have domesticated populations of red and arctic fox, these animals are not widely available on the pet market (for the reasons I mentioned earlier).

But fennecs could become the second canid species to become established as a domestic animals.

All it will take is a large enough gene pool of captive individuals and a concerted effort to selectively breed them to be suitable pets.

This may sound a bit far-fetched, but when I was a child, it was impossible to buy golden hamsters– even those with fancy colorations and coat lengths– that were naturally disposed to be tame.

All of the hamsters I owned bit me at least once, and most bit at least once a month.

Today, you can go to a pet store and buy hamsters that have been selected for “low reactivity.”

Hamsters have been bred away from the grumpy little things that they are in the wild.

And what’s more, pet golden hamsters derive from only a single litter that was captured near Aleppo, Syria, in 1930.

They are perhaps the most inbred of all domestic animals, but even though they are inbred, they have been able to produce just enough genetic variation to produce unique coat lengths and colors and just enough variation in temperament to produce very gentle strains.

Captive fennec foxes have a broader genetic base than golden hamsters, so it may be possible to begin another canid domestication process.

We’ve done it before.

We can do it again.







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After this election…

The Tea Party will be doing shows at Branson. Literally:



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Here’s the Rise Against Rattlesnake Roundups group on Facebook.

The rattlesnake is one of our national symbols.

Ever see this?


This is the Gadsden flag. It was designed by the South Carolina revolutionary Christopher Gadsden.

Timber and Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes were very common in the Thirteen Colonies, and they came to symbolize the colonist’s grievances.

The truth is rattlesnakes don’t attack people.

But if you tread on them and try to kill them, they will fight back.

Everyone living in the Thirteen Colonies would have recognized this.

They were not seeking a war with the mother country. Rather, the mother country had come to oppress them and take away rights that had long be established for British subjects.

So like a rattlesnake they struck back in defense of themselves.

But now, we’ve got all this messed up.  People think rattlesnakes attack.

Now, most rattlesnake species are not endangered, but the US Fish and Wildlife Service has suggested that the Eastern diamondback be put on the Endangered Species List. It is believed that its numbers have dropped dramatically in recent years, and if the snakes are protected, they won’t be subject to roundups or wanton killing.

Timber rattlesnakes now exist as a vestige of what they once were in the Northeast. Most states protect them, but of course, the one state that gives them no protection at all is also the one that made the species the official state reptile. Yes, West Virginia has no protections for this snake, even though the state legislature made the timber rattler an official symbol.

Primate evolution and natural history has left us with a strong natural aversion to snakes.

This aversion sometimes borders upon pathological hatred, and unfortunately, that’s what’s been fed into with these rattlesnake roundups.

These roundups could be wonderful educational opportunities.

But all you’re going to learn from seeing an animal with its mouth sewn shut is that cruelty is okay.

We have to have another message for the twenty-first century.

It’s certainly true that horses, cattle, and dogs get killed by snakebite.

And it’s true that people also fall victim to snakes.

But humans kill far more snakes than snakes kill us.

I have no problem with people wanting to control snakes on their properties.

But if people kill them, it must be done humanely.

We should not torture animals just because we don’t like them.

There are shocking parallels between what people do to rattlesnakes and what we once did to wolves.

It was not unusual for wolf trappers to bind the wolves’ jaws shut and then throw them to the dogs.

Or if they were particularly cruel, let them run off to die of dehydration or hyperthermia. (Remember that dogs and wolves must open their mouths to cool themselves.)

In both cases, people have allowed their irrational hatred to provide license for totally reprehensible behavior.

That’s not a good conservation ethic.

At all.

That’s an ethic that leads to destruction.

And one that we should not support.

Rattlesnake roundups must change.

They must be regulated to ensure a sustainable harvest.

And obviously cruel practices should be made illegal.

I guess it’s because we’re talking about snakes that it’s hard to get people concerned about these issues.

It’s hard to get people to be concerned with an animal that doesn’t really have  social life.

They aren’t wolves or mountain gorillas.

But if we lost them, we’d lose one of our national symbols.

Bald eagles represent liberty.

But ratttlesnakes represent our ability to defend our liberty.

It’s a symbol that has been embraced by the Tea Party Movement, which I know is not particularly fond of things like the ESA.

But if we’re not careful, someday we’ll be talking about the rattlesnake on the Gadsden Flag, and it will make no more sense than the dragon that St. George supposedly killed.

Let’s try to understand rattlesnakes as they are.

Let’s treat them with respect.

Don’t tread them.


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Photo by Dave Parsons 

Photo by Dave Parsons.

Photo by Dave Parsons. 

Photo by Dave Parsons.  

He seems to be enjoying his life in the Great North Woods.

He looks so at home!




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Dave says that Pavel flushed his first pheasant today:

Photo by Dave Parsons.

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