Archive for April, 2013

death of a wisent

This comes from Brehm’s Tierlauben (Life of Animals) (1893).

It shows a pack of European wolves killing a wisent, also known as a European bison.

The wisent was already extinct in Germany by mid-eighteenth century, but wolves held on in Germany until the beginning of the twentieth century.

Brehm would have known about wolves hunting wisent from accounts from Eastern Europe.

However, wolves have been steadily recolonizing Germany from the east, but wisent have been gone a long time.

But they were recently reintroduced to a forest in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

The wolves are largely concentrated to the eastern part of the country, so scenes like this one aren’t going be seen any time soon.

But the potential is there.

Some day.

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The feline fox

A West Virginia gray fox in a tree. Source for photo.

A West Virginia gray fox in a tree. Source for photo.  

For those of you who have never seen one of these animals, a gray fox is a pretty bizarre species.

It superficially looks like a fox, but it behaves unlike any other.

Its ancestors also split off from the rest of the dog family 9 to 10 million years ago, which means that it is as distantly related to a domestic dog that an animal can be and still be part of the dog family.

And yes, they do climb trees, and when they move, they move like cats.

I think a lot of cougar sightings in the Eastern US are actually just misidentified gray foxes.

But although this animal is clearly a dog, it’s a sort of dog that has evolved to be somewhat like a cat.

It’s not actually clear if its cat-like morphology is a primitive canid feature that this species retains or if it’s something the animal has evolved in parallel with certain small cat species.

And this has led more than one or two people to speculate about gray foxes actually being some sort of bizarre species of cat.

In her extensive interviews with New Jersey foxchasers, Mary Hufford found two who claimed that “the red fox is in the dog family, and the gray fox is in the cat family.”

fox chasers feline fox 1


Of course, this folk taxonomy is crap, but New Jersey isn’t the only place where gray foxes have been called cats.

In southern Mexico, it is called gato de monte:  “mountain cat,” a name that is also used for the bobcat. In Honduras, it is called gato cervan, which I’m translating as “deer-like cat.”

It’s certainly true that the gray fox is not closely related to the red fox– or the other foxes of North America, the swift, the kit, and the arctic fox. The swift, the kit, and arctic fox are all closely related to each other. Swifts and kits produce fertile offspring when crossed, and it’s likely they do the same with arctic foxes.  Red foxes produce sterile hybrids with arctic foxes.

But no one has ever crossed a red fox with a gray.

And that’s not because the gray fox isn’t a canid.

It’s because the two aren’t closely related to each other– the exact same reason why there are no dog and red fox hybrids. (No matter how many times people claim they exist.)

I think the term gray fox is too banal for this animal.

I have thought about the necessity of renaming it to fit its uniqueness as a distinct American animal. Not only is it not closely related to other foxes in the northern hemisphere, it’s not closely related to all those endemic South American wild dogs, which are actually more closely related to wolves and dogs than they are to the true foxes.

I have perused the historical literature on this species, and I am making several proposals.

For right now, I suggest that we just call it the feline fox– the real cat dog.






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President’s tattoo policy

tattoo policy

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Wildfowling is English for duck hunting.


He may be “wildfowling,” but he’s hunting with an American dog that was once called the “Chesapeake Bay duck dog.”

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The finest you can buy:

labrador beef

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Samson fox

Samson fox

The animal above was Samson fox that was photographed in a field in North Carolina.

National Geographic and the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission incorrectly identified it as a red fox.

They also call it a “Sampson fox,” but Sampson is a last name.

The Samson fox is named after that particular character in the bible who loses all his power when he loses his hair.

This form of gray fox has been reported many times. It is almost certainly a genetic disorder that keeps the fox from growing its guard hairs, which would be a definite problem if it lived in a colder climate.

Supposed Samson red foxes have been claimed, but it seems to me that most of these are simple mange cases. Mange is very common in red foxes but is virtually unknown in grays.

If a gray fox looks like a bizarre greyhound, it’s a genetic disorder.

And in most of its range in the United States, it’s a fatal one.

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