Archive for January, 2015

Today I got a good look a trail of red fox tracks.



Where a back foot stepped in the same place as the front foot.


This is likely the same fox I’m getting on trail cam, and because these tracks were just yards away from one of my camera, I made sure I put out some more red fox urine near the camera.

I’m running low on red fox urine, so I’m going to have to buy some more. Red foxes will be in throes of their mating season in just a few weeks, so fox urine will get the attention of any breeding dog fox in the area.

Red foxes are the low dogs on the totem pole. Coyotes kill them, and gray foxes drive them out their territories. So red fox urine can attract those two species as well.

The first time Miley got a good smell of red fox urine, she rolled in it!

So it’s obviously attractive to canids.

I hope to get some decent photos of some red foxes now, but there are no guarantees.

For all I know, I’ll probably get a bear!





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neapolitann monster

There might be a few things wrong this dog.

This dog is gonna take on the gladiators and all the Germanic tribes at once!



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Fat winter deer

PRMS0003This winter hasn’t been terrible for the deer.

They spent the entire autumn fattening up on a massive white oak acorn mast, and even now, there are still tons of acorns on the ground for wildlife to eat.

My guess is that this year, there will be more than a few does giving birth to triplets.



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Sun dog

DSC02923Gold dog. January sun.  Snow-covered field.



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On a snowy trail

snowy trail

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sierra nevada red fox .

The above photo was captured by trail camera Yosemite National Park. It is of a Sierra Nevada red fox (Vulpes vulpes necator). It is an endangered subspecies of red fox that is found in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California as well as the Cascades of Oregon. This is the first that has been sighted in Yosemite in nearly a century.

Red foxes are a complicated species. They are the most widespread wild carnivoran in the world right now. Some populations of red fox have been introduced. Obviously, they were introduced to Australia, and until very recently, it was assumed that red foxes in the Eastern and Southern US were introduced as well.  It turns out that they are native, and their lineage split from the Old World population 400,000 years ago.

Now, this is where the status of red foxes in California gets tricky.

For a long time, it was assumed that all red foxes but the Sierra Nevada subspecies were derived from Eastern red foxes, which, as mentioned earlier, were assumed to be derived from English foxes. Red foxes outside of the Sierra Nevada mountains were said to be an invasive species, and the policy of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife has been to target them as a species that needs culling. They do cause problems with ground-nesting birds, and they even cause problems with the San Joaquin kit fox (Vulpes macrotis mutica), an endangered subspecies of kit fox.

But things get complicated. A recent study of California red fox mitochondrial DNA and microsatellite clustering revealed that the Sierra Nevada red fox is not the only indigenous subspecies in the state. It turns out that the Sacramento Valley population of red foxes are actually quite closely related to the Sierra Nevada subspecies. (The paper called the Sierra subspecies the “montane” red fox).

It is possible that the Sacremanto Valley subspecies, tentatively called Vulpes vulpes patwin, could start to lose its genetic distinctiveness if it starts mating with Eastern red foxes that are currently found in the Monterey and San Francisco bay marshes.

These animals are all the same species, and it takes an expert to tell them apart solely by appearance.

So sorting these animals out between native and introduced is going to be quite tricky.

Red foxes as a species are doing very well. They are part of the mesopredator release swarm that wildlife managers are trying to deal with.

But there are unique forms of red fox that aren’t just the average Charlie or Reynard.  Sometimes, the subspecies actually does matter.


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Retromops on the left. Conventional pug on the right. (Source)

Retromops on the left. Conventional pug on the right. (Source).

Pugs have a lot of problems associated with their bizarre phenotype. This is a breed that is well known for its scrunched-up muzzle and head, which cause problems with oxygenation and with cooling. We’ve been through this enough times on this blog that I’m going to leave them alone on this post.

However, the question becomes how could we fix the problems that pugs have.

One answer to this question comes from Germany, where pugs have been crossed with “Parson Jack Russells” (long-legged JRTs) and then bred back into pugs. Longer-muzzled dogs were then selected from the back-breedings.

This is definitely a way of fixing the pug issues related to phenotype, but it does involve cross-breeding. And it also involves ignoring both the breed standard and what is actually winning in a particular breed.

Which are not easy to do.

This new type of pug is called “Retromops.”  It is “retro” in that it resembles an older form of pug that had a longer muzzle, and the word “mops” is what pugs are are called in other Germanic languages besides English.

The dogs are pretty retro. This is a painting by the English artist Henry Bernard Chalon of a pug in 1802.

pug 1802

With the exception of the cropped ears, this dog strongly resembles the Retromops.

Of course, this dog lived before there was anything known as a kennel club, and the concept of a “purebred dog” was actually quite a bit up to interpretation. George Washington was breeding foxhounds and water spaniels just few decades earlier, and all he did was just make sure that dogs that looked  and acted like foxhounds were bred to foxhounds and the dogs that looked and acted like water spaniels were bred to water spaniels.

But that’s very different from created a closed registry breed.

There were also no breed standards. That concept doesn’t come to the fore until many decades later.

And yes, it’s very likely that English pug breeders crossed their dogs with terriers.  There couldn’t possibly be a vast supply of pugs in Europe during their first few centuries of being exported, so it would make sense that someone crossed a pug with a terrier every once in a while.

And perhaps more often than that.

Modern breeding systems and conformation showing created the conventional pug.

The conventional pug has lots of health issues, but even if it can be shown that Retromops have a much better quality of life, I doubt that there will ever be a demand for them.

People want pugs to look like the conventional pug. They don’t want something looks like a sort of border terrier/bulldog/spitz.

Even if the Retromops looks like the pug that was introduced in Europe originally, people are so attached to the current standard pug that I doubt they would accept the longer-muzzled type.

This breed has been branded to look a certain way, and because it has no function other than to be a companion, looks are a huge part of what makes a pug “fit for purpose.”

It’s a sad situation, but there is at least one way to make a better pug.

Unfortunately, it’s never going to be accepted or widespread.

But I certainly wish that it could succeed.

With pug popularity on the rise, it’s very unlikely that this model could ever take off.

Of course, someone will mention the puggle, but the puggle concept was always about creating a designer crossbreed. It was never about making a better pug.

So until there is a sea change with the public and within the established pug fancy, we’re pretty much stuck with the conventional pug.

But we should be going retro.


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