Archive for July, 2014

Last weekend, I set up the game camera, and I dumped out a few cans of sardines and spread the oil out in front of it.

This is what I got when I collected the SD card this evening.

WV coyote 1

An eastern coyote!

If you zoom in you can see it has a wolfy head, and it’s pretty robust. It’s been living high on the hog on dimwitted cottontails this summer.

wv coyote 2

wv coyote 3

close up of wv coyote

Look at how wolfy that head is!

Eastern coyotes have come into this part of the East from Canada, where they have received a bit of Canis lupus lycaon genes, and they are a bit more likely to pack up and hunt deer than their Western counterparts.

If you are wondering how big it is, I do have a photo of Miley in about the same place, which was also taken from the game cam. Miley is bigger than it is.

But it’s not a small coyote.

WV coyote golden retriever comparison

I think the coyote is in about the same spot as Miley, but it could be a bit closer to the camera than she is. Miley is 23 inches at the shoulder and 75ish pounds. Domestic dogs are usually much more heavily built than coyotes are–even those that have a bit of wolf in them.

I was trying to get more photos of raccoons, but I think I’ll settle for a coyote.





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Phil is eclipse plumage.  All mallard ducks undergo a molting period in the summer in which they cannot fly. During this time, male wild mallards lose most of their ostentatious green feathers and look positively homely. Phil is a khaki Campbell cross with wild mallard, and when he goes into eclipse, he turns back to khaki.

It looks bizarrely moth-eaten for what was once fairly dapper duck with a green black head.

Like this:


His concubines don’t seem to care that much:


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Phil is a dinosaur– a type of modern theropod.

NB: Phil does not look like this now,

NB: Phil does not look like this now. He is in eclipse plumage and looks positively manky.

You know what wasn’t a dinosaur?

A plesiosaur:

heinrich harder plesiosaur

Plesiosaurs were more closely related to modern lizards and snakes than to dinosaurs, but we popularly think of them as marine dinosaurs.

Phil is actually a small aquatic dinosaur,who can fly (short distances and not when he’s molting).

Ivan actually fits the bill a bit better:


Somewhere a long the line people never learned that birds are living dinosaurs, and that all these bizarre expeditions to find living dinosaurs in remote parts of the world have been an utter waste of time.

Dinosaurs are all around us.

They crap on our cars.

They appear in our fast food.

And their songs wake us up in the morning.

If you have a dog that is used to hunt birds, you have a dinosaur hound.

And whether those bearded fellows from Louisiana want to admit it or not, they’ve spent their lives trying to understand how to attract and conserve several species of duck-billed dinosaur.

I don’t know why not knowing that birds are actually dinosaurs doesn’t just blow people away.






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Basically fledgling juveniles now:


Blue wing feathers are coming in:









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This documentary is about coyotes that have red wolf features and possible ancestry in East Texas. He could have gone with that angle and made me giddy.

Instead, well, you’ll see:


So red wolves speak of the creator?

But wait a minute…

There is a huge debate about what a red wolf is. The best genetic study I’ve seen on them suggests they are recent hybrids between a relict population of Southeastern wolves Canis lupus wolves) and coyotes. What made the red wolf was not God Almighty but the extinction of the subtropical American wolf, which was almost always black in color.

Everything about Canis speaks of evolution. Not only do we have the hybrid red wolf, but we have hybrids between golden jackals and African wolves (Canis lupus lupaster) in sub-Saharan Africa. Eastern coyotes also have a lot of wolf and dog ancestry.

Hybrid zones and muddled areas between species are exactly what we expect if there were common descent among similar species.

They are distinct species but they simply haven’t diverged enough from each other to lose chemical interfertility.

The whole red wolf debate is actually about evolution from this perspective.

I lean toward it not being a distinct species at all but a really recent hybrid. I don’t think proponents of its unique species status have produced enough evidence to suggest that is not a hybrid. Hybridization is extremely common in Canis species, and this seems much more parsimonious than the claim that it’s an ancient North American wolf– a living fossil or whatever else.

Plus, the DNA says it’s not. And by that I mean large samples of DNA, not microsatellites or just mtDNA evidence, which is actually all they have.

But the hybridization of Canis in the East is producing a new form of coyote. This is a canid that comes in many more colors, thanks to the sprinkling dog in its ancestry and much more able to hunt large quarry thanks to the bit of wolf blood coursing through its veins.

These are the questions that make wolves and their kin interesting.

But unfortunately, we didn’t get that here.

Plus, everyone knows that the Bible hates wolves. It was written by ancient herdsmen, whose livestock suffered under wolf depredations. It’s not an ecology book in the least.

European settlers killed wolves on this continent under the auspices of ridding it of a Satanic force. Wolves did prey upon man in feudal Europe, and our ancestors came here with a strong fear of the lupine.

Chester Moore and I grew up in very similar environments, but I’m glad my parents and grandparents were interested in Darwin. My dad got me watching Sir David Attenborough documentaries.

I am glad that I am comfortable with nature as it is.

Every time I look at a dog’s eyes, I see evolution.

Every time I look at a flying bird, I see a dinosaur.

I see every reason to accept the modern Neo-Darwininian synthesis. It’s all around me.

I don’t see any reason why I should accept the Bible– or any holy book– as true.

But that’s just me.










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