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Archive for October, 2015

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One dead moose sure can feed a lot of creatures!

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“Just sniffing the sardines you left out!”

These foxes have such fluid movement. Domestic dogs, in general, are such more clunky when they move when compared to the wild ones– especially a wild one that can climb trees.

They travel along this edge of the pastureland because rabbits frequent the access road.

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A doe and a fawn slide by

The Moultrie 1100i camera got these two sliding by this morning. Have a look:

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The deer appear at about 38 seconds.

I love the quality of this video.

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pig-footed bandicoot

I think it’s really hard for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere to understand what special place Australia is in terms of biodiversity.

It is largest area in the world that has been isolated from the rest of the continents long enough for evolution to take an entirely different course, but when Europeans came, so much of the biodiversity wound up disappearing. Unfortunately, this is still going on.

One animal I wish we’d been able to study more closely before it became extinct is the pig-footed bandicoot (Chaeropus ecaudatus). This animal was a bandicoot that had evolved something similar to cloven hooves on the front feet. Cloven hooves, are the trademark of the Artiodactyls, the very successful group of placental mammals that includes cows, sheep, goats, deer, and pigs. But here was a bandicoot that had them on its front feet. Its hind feet had a single “hoof,” with two vestigial toes higher up the leg, which were almost like the double dewclaws of a Great Pyrenees or Beauceron.

No other animal, placental or otherwise, has produced such an unusual toe arrangement.

We know very little about this animal. It was rare when Europeans arrived. It’s gone now. We don’t know what killed it off. Cats usually get the blame. The end of aboriginal burning also gets pointed out. Burning created areas where new shoots could pop up, and this omnivorous animal was able to us those areas as its main habitat.

The truth is there just so much we don’t know. There is even debate about how well this animal actually moved and why it would evolve such unusual toes.

We have eye witness accounts, and the animals were reported to be alive as late as the 1950s. But not enough zoologists were interested in them at the time, and they were exceedingly rare. So we’ve got horrible gaps in knowledge about them.

This actually isn’t that unusual. Look up the literature on marsupial moles, which are similarly quite rare and horribly under-studied.

Because the pig-footed bandicoot went extinct only in the 1950s, there is actually a bit better chance that there might be a few living out in some remote region than there is for extant thylacines. For some reason, this animal has never captured the imaginations of any naturalists in the same way the thylacine has.

But here we have a sort of marsupial “chevrotain,” which is every bit as interesting as a marsupial “wolf.”

Parallel evolution is always pretty cool.

It’s a shame that species go extinct before we can learn about them.

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Warning: Pretty graphic footage.

Source.

Klara, the Swedish elkhound/Jämthund, managed to survive the attack, but she was pretty severely injured.

The way moose (“elk” in every other part of the world but North America) are hunting parts of Scandinavia is that a barking elkhound encounters the quarry and then it spends as much time yapping at the moose to keep it from running off. This give hunters an opportunity to locate the moose and then kill it.

There are often brags about these dogs barking at moose for days on end, but with the growing population of wolves in Sweden, all this barking does arouse their territorial instincts. The fact that these barking elkhounds are often some distance from human hunters furthers the risk.

This is precisely the problem that bear hunters are encountering in the Great Lakes States, where there is long tradition of letting hounds run black blears. Baying hounds arouse territorial wolves and even the stoutest bear hounds have been massacred in these encounters.

So with wolves expanding their range, it’s very likely that conflicts with owners of hunting dogs are going to increase.

Which makes conservation issues that much more complicated.

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Frosty morning

There was a hard frost last night.

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The jaguar

jaguar

If you were ever to ask me what my favorite big is, I would not hesitate to tell you it’s the jaguar.

It actually still enthralls me that jaguars were once fairly numerous in the United States. How numerous is up to a bit of debate, but they were found throughout Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. They were also found in much of Louisiana, but there are accounts of them coming as far east as North Carolina and maybe as far north as Kentucky or Ohio.  These accounts have always been regarded as urban legends, but one must keep in mind that the jaguar actually evolved in the Old World before entering the New. There was actually a jaguar species or paleosubspecies found all over Europe up until 1.5 million years ago. In order for jaguars to get here, they had to go through the very cold land of the Bering Land Bridge, so our common notion that jaguars were always a tropical or semi-tropical species is a bit in error.

The jaguar is the only surviving Pantherine cat in the Americas. There was also a lion species or paleosubspecies that lived in both North and South America, but it is now long gone.

Humans have been hard on big cats. We’ve extirpated the lion from Europe and all of Asia but the Gir Forest. We made several populations of lion and leopard threatened with extinction, and we’ve waged such a successful war on the tiger that there is a very good chance that it won’t be known in the wild within just a few decades.

There is no breeding population of jaguars in the United States anymore. They were killed off for their pelts and because jaguars do kill horses and livestock.

But every few years, a jaguar is captured on trail camera or winds up being bayed up by cougar hounds. It’s said to be a wanderer and very little is done about it.

We used to be a big cat nation, but now we don’t even consider those that do wander up from Mexico to be native. The idea of a jaguar in this country is at once romantic but also repugnant. We might lose our minds as we debate wolf reintroduction, but no one talks about the “Texas leopard” anymore.

It’s much a phantom as the American lion, the European jaguar, and the Smilodon are.

I can remember the first time I laid eyes upon a jaguar. It was at the Cincinnati Zoo when I was about 5 years old. There were two jaguars in a large enclosure that was surrounded by thick glass. The spotted one was reclining in the background, but the black one was lying up against the glass. My dad had me sit next to the glass and pretend to pet the great beast, which paid me no mind at all as my dad recorded it on a VHS cassette.

Every time I see a photo or film of a black jaguar, I think of that one.

It never lived wild. it never killed a deer or a horse.

Yet it still had all the essence of a big cat.  Smooth and gliding, yet chiseled and sharp. Like cutlasses on springs.

We turned the wolf into a symbol of wilderness, and we managed to restore to it. And now we fight about the best way to manage them, but the idea of jaguars in the Southwest or Louisiana or Texas just sounds like a fools’ mission.

The wolf of the Northern Rockies and the Midwest’s North Country survived by romanticism, but el tigre never got the same treatment.

He will not wander the White Mountains of Arizona or the piney river bottoms of Louisiana. The US Fish and Wildlife Service has decided that this animal lived here only at the margins of its habitat. Never mind the extensive records of these animals in the United States.

The species just can’t be preserved here.

I suppose we have a bit of Trumpism in our ideas of what an American native species is. A wolf sounds like it belongs here.

A jaguar doesn’t.

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