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Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

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Monday, February 28, 2011

What a beautifully written column by Bruce Smithhammer..........Smacks of the type of humanity exhibited in my friend Marc Beckoff's writings............ Bruce portrays how the human being describes killing animals for food(harvesting)...............The way we describe open spaces as "units"................All of these bland descriptors somehow makes the "wild" appear to be souless and merely existing for our utilization.......With human language being so powerful in it's ability to motivate us to act and think in specific ways, it is imperative that we begin to utilize adjectives in our daily language that brings vibrancy to our Wild America.........This is the first step in getting the masses to feel connected to natures creation

What Is Lost When We Call What Lives and Breathes a 'Resource'?

Thoughts on the sterilizing effect language has on hunting and the bloody job of killing what we eat.

By Bruce Smithhammer
Detachment, packaged neatly and refrigerated.
Detachment, packaged neatly and refrigerated.
"Language shapes the way we think, and determines what we can think about."
–Benjamin Lee Whorf

We have come to refer to rivers and forests, trout and elk as "resources." They have become units that inhabit still other units. We now frequently hear the act of hunting referred to as "harvesting" or "collection," or other, similarly clinical terminology. We have abstracted and reduced one of the most real, visceral experiences we have left in this modern world to the language of the bureaucrat and the commercial extractor.
There has, of course, been necessity to this. In order to converse with the bureaucrat and the extractor, to be taken seriously and to have a seat at the table, it's become necessary to adopt their language, for this is the language that gets things done in our time. But in this linguistic shift, I believe something at the heart of this whole thing is lost, stripped of greater significance, reduced to the soulless level normally reserved for inanimate product or commodity.
Wildlife managers, and some in the conservation profession, maintain that this is the required approach for science-based conservation and, in a broad and regrettably bland and mechanical sense, they are absolutely correct. Management of wildlife, and wilderness, has largely become about numbers, stats, population counts, carrying capacities, "maximum sustainable yields" and the like. It is not my goal to naively criticize this work, for I fully recognize its importance, just as I do its limitations. As mentioned above, statistics and quantifiable figures are essential in our day and age, if only in order to demonstrate value to a wider audience who apparently can value nothing else as highly. I know that this work is both important and well-intentioned. I support it as much as I possibly can, and am eternally grateful that there are those willing to fight the good fight on these stark terms.
Yet we also see this shift in language occur in yielding, consciously or otherwise, to societal pressures; to distance the dialogue surrounding hunting from being about something as disagreeable as "killing," and even from it being something that involves living, breathing beings at all. I suspect that these modifications in terminology are not coincidentally linked with greater shifting views in our culture toward hunting. How much easier, and more palatable, and less disruptive to the casual atmosphere of the cocktail party it is to say, in the presence of a hunting critic, that you spent the day "harvesting a local resource," than it is to say that you killed several quail or a deer? Pass the smoked salmon, would you?
"Language is not an abstract construction of the learned, or of dictionary makers, but is something arising out of the work, needs, ties, joys, affections, tastes, of long generations of humanity, and has its bases broad and low, close to the ground."
-Noah Webster
Is the recently dead grouse, whose warmth I can still feel through the game bag in the back of my vest, merely a "resource?" Moments ago, it was an eruption of wing and feather and cackle and native life. It will also soon be cooked as part of a special meal, relished as it should be, with respect for the life it was. To consider a wild river, or an expanse of old, healthy forest, and the marvelous things that inhabit these places, as mere "resource," or "unit" would mean a fundamental part of me has withered and died. I know these places, and their inhabitants, too intimately to do them that disservice.
As a hunter and angler, deeply involved in this wet, dirty and sometimes bloody process, I have to draw a line and distance myself from this linguistic trend. This terminology can stay where it should – in offices and negotiation rooms and urban environs. Words reflect how we perceive things, and I can't let the sterility of agency-speak infiltrate my own word choices. I can't consider the process of hunting and killing an animal as "resource collection," and I'm at a loss for what to say to anyone who has come to view this sacred, ancient act as anything so sterile.
 I won't distance myself from what this really is. It is hunting, and a part of hunting, at least sometimes, is taking a life. While this is far from the sole reason I am out here, neither is it a thing I take casually. Nor am I willing to trivialize or sanitize this act out of consideration for those who have become so removed from the fundamentals of natural processes, and the manner in which food arrives on their plates, that they can't deal with it. That is their burden to philosophically dance around, not mine.
Do you prefer to detach yourself from the singular act of having to kill what you eat? Does the reality of it make you squeamish or offend you, yet you still crave your burger or breast or steak? Well then it's easy – all too easy, really, and it comes in a plastic wrapped, Styrofoam tray in the refrigerated section at your local grocery store. But don't try to drag me down that frigid, flourescent-lit aisle with you.
Bruce Smithhammer is a freelance writer and editor, a columnist for the Teton Valley News and a contributing editor for The Drake magazine. He is also among a group of hunting writers who contribute to the blog Mouthful of Feathers, where this essay originally appeared.

Young male songbirds improve their mating songs via social cues in the presence of adult females.......This new insight might help us better help young people who might be having an initiallly hard time speaking properly-----Another example of how keeping all the wild things healthy and in place can and will benefit mankind!

Tweeting Teenage Songbirds Reveal Impact of Social Cues on Learning

In a finding that once again displays the power of the female, UCSF neuroscientists have discovered that teenage male songbirds, still working to perfect their song, improve their performance in the presence of a females.
The finding sheds light on how social cues can impact the process of learning, the researchers said, and, specifically, could offer insights into the way humans learn speech and other motor skills. It also could inform strategies for rehabilitating people with motor disorders or brain injuries.
The study was reported in a recent early online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Like humans, songbirds learn to sing by first listening to adult birds and then mimicking those sounds through a process of trial-and-error. Their initial vocalizations are akin to the babbling of babies.
Until now, scientists and bird watchers alike have thought that young birds could only produce immature song. However, in a process that involved recording and studying male zebra finch song, the scientists discovered that, in the presence of a female, the birds sang much better than when they were practicing their song alone.
"We were very surprised by the finding," said senior author Allison Doupe, MD, PhD, a professor of psychiatry and physiology and a member of the Keck Center for Integrative Neuroscience at UCSF. "The birds picked the best version of the song that they could possibly perform and they sang it over and over again. They sounded almost like adults. It turns out that teenagers know more than they're telling us."
Normally, the young birds' song is quite poor because they are practicing their vocalization through the trial-and-error process, said the first author of the study, Satoshi Kojima, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in the Doupe lab. "Something must be happening in response to a reinforcing social cue that allows them to pick out and produce their best possible performance. This demonstrates the power of social cues to shape brain behavior."The finding could lead to a better understanding of the brain mechanisms supporting language acquisition as well as many other learned behaviors, said Doupe.
"We know that variation by trial and error is an important part of the learning process," said Doupe. "But discovering precisely how social cues influence motor production during song learning in birds could shed light on the brain mechanisms that underlie similar processes in humans learning how to speak, and potentially allow scientists and clinicians to harness these mechanisms when learning is not progressing properly."
Social cues are well known to powerfully influence the processing and production of human speech. A 2003 study by Michael Goldstein and colleagues showed that, in the presence of their mothers, babies' babbling improves. The current study underscores the usefulness of songbirds as a model for understanding the brain mechanisms underlying social modulation of language learning and other motor skills.
Like other songbirds, when they are fully adult, zebra finches sing two types of tunes: undirected, which they sing when alone, and directed, which is slightly more precise, and is favored by females. Adolescent male songbirds, which are just becoming sexually mature, usually sing undirected song, which at that stage is highly variable and immature and sounds like vocal practice.
In their study, the UCSF scientists coaxed the adolescent males to sing directed, courtship song towards females, and analyzed these songs using quantitative computer software. In the undirected context, the birds' song was variable, with low similarity to their final recorded adult song. In the directed context, the song was similar in syllable structure and sequence to that of the adult song.
The finding points to the importance of trial and error in motor learning as a means of perfecting vocalizations, said Doupe. "In the process of learning song, birds must develop their motor neurons to effectively mimic what they've heard. The variability that characterizes the imperfect youthful song of teenage birds is generated by basal ganglia circuits, and it's what allows birds to experiment to find what works best.
"Our finding suggests that, though teenage birds have the ability to produce more complex songs, they are only able to do so on a social cue. "It's possible that the social cue somehow turns off the variability that is responsible for improving vocal learning," she said.
The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

5 Prospecting Mountain Lions sighted in Missouri since November 2010.....As I always say......when will the first female Cat be bold enough to catch up to one of these eligible bachelors and start a "First Family" of Missouri?

New Mo. Mountain Lion Sighting Confirmed

Cat Photographed In Linn County In December

POSTED: 5:18 pm CST February 16, 2011
UPDATED: 5:25 pm CST February 16, 2011


Mo. Dept. of Conservation

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- The Missouri Department of Conservation has confirmed that a cat sighted in central Missouri in December is a mountain lion.

A landowner in southern Linn County contacted the MDC on Feb. 15 with two photos of the animal taken by a trail camera on Dec. 29. "The photo is clearly of a mountain lion and we have confirmed the location," said Jeff Beringer, resource scientist with the MDC's Mountain Lion Response Team. "It may be wearing a radio collar based on what appears to be an antenna extending from the cat's neck."

The Linn County location is about 25 miles from where a mountain was shot and killed in Macon County on Jan. 22. This latest confirmed sighting makes five confirmed reports of a mountain lion in Missouri since November and 15 confirmed reports over the past 16 years.

Beringer said the lions appear to be young males roaming from other states. "It is very difficult to determine exactly where these individual cats are coming from, but we do know that young male mountain lions go in search of new territories at about 18 months of age and during this time of year," he explained. "And it makes sense that these big cats could roam into Missouri from the west and use the Missouri river and other river corridors to move throughout the state without being easily detected."

He said mountain lion populations in Texas, Colorado, South Dakota and Nebraska are also increasing. Mountain lions are nocturnal, secretive and generally avoid contact with humans.

"We have no documented cases in Missouri of mountain lions attacking livestock, people or pets," he said. "There is a much greater risk of harm from automobiles, stray dogs and lightning strikes than from mountain lions."

Beringer explained that the MDC's Mountain Lion Response Team gets hundreds of calls and emails each year from people who believe they have seen mountain lions. When there is some type of physical evidence, the team investigates.

"More than 90 percent of these investigations turn out to be bobcats, house cats, or dogs," he said. "Our investigations involving claims of pets or livestock being attacked by mountain lions typically turn out to be the work of dogs. And most of the photos we get of mountain lions turn out to be doctored photographs circulating on the Internet."

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Kill Coyotes to control them...........Kill Cougars to control them.........Kill Bears to control them.........Should we also be killing other humans to reduce the 7 billion of us on this crowded Planet?

Hunters play role in trimming lion population

Kevin Woster Journal staff


 Roger Dubs shot this 111-pound male lion on Feb. 21, the last day of the 2011 season. 

For information on the season, including a list of the lions killed, go to

In killing 47 mountain lions during a season that ended last Monday, hunters again played a key role in the state Game, Fish & Parks Commission plan to trim the Black Hills mountain lion population.

For the second consecutive year, the appointed citizens' commission set a season with a kill quota higher than the one recommended by the Game, Fish & Parks Department's biological staff. The commission's intent was to cut a lion population estimated at about 250 down to about 175 over a period of three or four years.

And it appears hunters are doing just that."If we have roughly the same level of overall lion mortality this year that we had in 2010, we're decreasing the population," said GF&P regional game manager John Kanta of Rapid City. "And that's the management objective."

The total lion mortality in the state -- essentially the Black Hills region, which is the main lion range -- recorded by GF&P in 2010 was 94. That included 40 lions killed during the 2010 hunting season as well as troublesome lions that were killed outside the season by GF&P and a variety of accidents and natural deaths.

So far this year, there have been 50 recorded lion deaths, including the 47 from the season. Kanta said it appears likely that another 90 or so lion deaths will be confirmed this year.

Based on total mortality and other data in 2010, Kanta and other GF&P biologists estimate the lion population at about 225, down from the previous estimate of 250. If overall mortality this year continues as Kanta expects, that could bring the population estimate down to about 200 by late summer, when the GF&P Commission begins considering setting the 2012 lion season.

Kanta isn't ready to make that prediction or hazard a population estimate at this point. But the success of hunters in the 2011 lion season will be an important factor in that estimate.The season began Jan. 1 and ended Monday, Feb. 21, when hunters filled -- and overfilled -- the maximum kill quota of 45. The actual total was 47 because two more lions were killed that day before hunters got the word that the quota had been reached.

Forty-four lions had been killed as of Sunday. And hunters killed three more on Monday. GF&P officials said the last two lions were considered legal because hunters are only required to check the kill quota daily.

Roger Dubs of Rapid City shot one of those last three lions, his first in six seasons of hunting the big cats. Dubs, a 66-year-old helicopter pilot, said he had seen at least one lion every season but never had a good shot until this year.

The snow conditions on the last day of the season were good for tracking lions."It was ideal. The snow was fresh, and it was about knee deep. Everything worked out just perfect," he said. Dubs is among the group of hunters who believes that the GF&P mountain lion population estimate is low. He also believes that the big cats are key factors in declining deer and elk populations in the Hills and that the lion quota should be increased.

"I think it needs to be bumped up," he said.Some critics of the season argue that the Game, Fish & Parks Commission has expanded the season quota too fast in ways that threaten the well-being of the lions. Kanta said the GF&P staff and commission are working in between those two conflicting interest groups and believe the plan is working.That doesn't mean they know it all, he said.

"This has been a real learning experience since that first season in 2005," Kanta said. "We do know a lot about mountain lions here in South Dakota, but we're still learning new things every day."
This year, for the first time, the GF&P Commission allowed mountain lion hunting in Custer State Park. The park season also began Jan. 1 and remains open through March 31, unless the quota of five lions is reached there. So far, none have been turned in.

Research into the lion population continues, with GF&P cooperating with wildlife specialists from South Dakota State University in Brookings. That work includes tracking mountain lions fitted with radio and GPS collars.The results of the season also add to the lion data that GF&P uses to make population estimates and set seasons and adjust management plans.

"Everything went well this season," Kanta said. "I think we got a lot of good data to work with."
That data includes the weight and estimated age of each lion killed, as well as the general location and date. Of the 47 lions killed in the main season, 26 were female and 21 male.They ranged in age from 5 months to 7 years and in weight from 33 pounds to 177 pounds."It gives us a good snapshot of the population," Kanta said. "And assuming this is a random cross-section of the population, it looks like we've got good age and sex diversity."

Knee jerk reactions(even if not intended to be misleading to viewers and readers) to the presence of coyotes, bobcats, bears and wolves seems to always result in "BE AFRAID, BE VERY AFRAID" news stories that lean very heavily toward the viewpoint that predators must be killed so that their numbers will be reduced............The positive role of Carnivores as regulators of rodents, well as being key positive factors in providing for stable populations of songbirds and other animal species is barely if ever spoken about, let alone the ethical goal of peaceful co-existance with our meat eating animal cousins..........

Animal expert not surprised by coyote problem in Memphis

Posted: Feb 23, 2011 6:06 PM PST Updated: Feb 23, 2011 8:48 PM PST

Click image to enlarge

By Anna Marie Hartman

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Coyotes have been terrorizing Mid-South pets for months with few getting caught.

Chad Belding is an expert on the coyote, the planet's most adaptable predator.  He was not surprised to learn about a recurring coyote problem in Memphis.

Belding said Midtown resident should not let their guard down just because one coyote was captured last December.

"There's a lot of coyotes around from what we've been seeing," he said.

Belding has a show called "The Foul Life" on the Sportsman Channel.  He came to Memphis to film an episode of his newest TV hunting show.

On "Dead Dog Walkin'," which premieres next month, Belding and his crew lure coyotes out into the open and shoot to kill.

"We don't hunt coyotes because we're mad at them," said Belding.  "We don't hunt coyotes because we're trying to get rid of them, they do need to be controlled."

Belding said there was a good explanation for why the coyotes are present in Overton Park, a spot frequent for coyote sightings.

"In a park like this, I don't think it would be any problem at all for a coyote to survive," said Belding.  "You've got garbage cans around here.  Trash being dropped.  Squirrels everywhere, rabbits everywhere.  It's got everything a coyote needs to survive."

Belding said coyotes are intruding on populated areas because people have intruded on their land.

"We live in a country that used to be all animals," said Belding.  "They're not just going to quit living here because we built a mall here."

Belding promotes controlling the coyote population to protect other animals.  He said no other animals prey on the coyote.

"They're everywhere," he said.  "They need to be controlled."

Massachusetts Coyote Biologist Jon Way responding to Ms. Hartman's news story
Ms. Hartman:


 I must explain my frustration with your newscast on coyotes in Tennessee... A > person that kills animals for a living is certainly not an expert in coyotes > and the fact that he discusses the need to control coyotes for the betterment of > all really disturbs me.

 There should have been multiple viewpoints on the > program as there are many, many benefits of having these animals around and his > extreme attitude of needing to kill him to prevent problems is baseless.
There are many flaws with the story. First, attempting to coexist with wild > animals by changing the way that we interact with these animals is far more > important to long-term solutions than killing them. It is frustrating for me to > see this person speak his mind and not balance it with other viewpoints, > especially from a humane point of view.

There is no factual basis that killing > coyotes will prevent any future problem if we don't do things like leave cats > inside and not feed wild animals.Plus, having predators on the landscape is  healthy at many levels beyond human populations. Often, other wildlife (such as  songbirds) do better because of thepresence of predators like coyotes.

 There are many accurate ways to obtain information on coyotes including my
> website below, as well as, a nationwide group attempting to
> foster coexistence between people and wildlife/coyotes alike.> Thanks for your time,

> Jonathan Way

> Please visit my WEBPAGE ( where you can
> purchase my book Suburban Howls
> ( and help create a wildlife
> watching refuge in the town of Barnstable
> (

Jasper Park's(Canada) Bighorns remain a stable part of the circle of life which includes a very complete predator suite ..........No need for management with the key players self regulating each other

Standing their ground

Jasper's bighorn sheep face the danger of predators, highway traffic, invasive weeds and drought. But so far, they are free of the contagious lung diseases decimating wild sheep in the western U.S.

By Dick Dekker
A bighorn sheep near the road between Banff and Lake Louise on November 23, 2009.

A bighorn sheep near the road between Banff and Lake Louise on November 23, 2009.

Compared to the elusive grizzly or woodland caribou, bighorn sheep seldom seem newsworthy, although it is the most common and iconic mammal of our Rocky Mountain national parks.Familiar to every visitor, herds of sheep hang out beside the Yellowhead Highway. After years of protection from hunting in the park, therams and ewes have lost their fear of humans.

They may even make use of us as an involuntary shield against their many natural enemies. Predators such as wolves and cougars tend to shy away from roadsides where the bighorns concentrate.But just in case a four-legged foe might try something, the sharp-eyed sheep instinctively stay within a quick dash from steep escape terrain. Equipped by mother nature with hollow suction hoofs, a defenceless lamb can make a stand on a rocky pinnacle where a slavering wolf finds no footing.

Historically, Jasper's sheep population has gone through major fluctuations that are intertwined with the ups and downs of the region's elk.In 1907, when Jasper National Park was established, the majestic elk, like all other big-game animals, had been practically exterminated in western Alberta.Elk were reintroduced to the park in the 1920s with stock obtained from Yellowstone. By the mid-1940s, they had increased to about 3,000 and were competing for grass with the park's sheep on shared winter ranges. In order to reduce grazing pressure, park wardens culled elk herds by shooting several hundred cows each winter.

Nevertheless, forage conditions continued to deteriorate and, in the mid-1960s, provincial biologist John Stelfox predicted that a massive sheep die-off was imminent, triggered by malnutrition. In particular, he feared the outbreak of contagious disease.Fortunately, Stelfox's realistic scenario failed to unfold because nature interfered, coupled with a watershed change in public attitudes toward wolves.Paradoxically, both Stelfox and the park wardens had supported the old policy that predators were not welcome. Wolves were shot on sight, and poisoning campaigns were routine on Jasper's boundaries, sometimes even inside the park. By the mid-1960s, after the strychnine years finally ended, the wolves staged a big comeback.

They did so with a vengeance, so to speak, for their prey had reached unprecedented levels and the elk were weakened by a series of extremely cold winters.The killer year was 1974 when the Jasper weather station reported an accumulation of 90 centimetres of snow in late January, with over half a metre still on the ground at the end of March. Following the combined effect of heavy predation superimposed on starvation, elk numbers plunged to less than one third of former estimates. Sheep declined as well, but the threat of disease had lifted.

In combination with environmental factors, the return of the wolf had clearly been a pivotal event in bringing the park's elk and sheep back to more sustainable levels. Up to this day, Jasper's herbivores and carnivores have been allowed to find their own equilibrium in a dynamic balance between grass and meat.
The park's sheep population appears to have been quite stable from 1967 to 1987. An aerial survey flown by Stelfox along 20 mountain ranges in 1967 produced a total estimate of 2,011 sheep. Twenty years later, park wardens flew the same ranges and tallied 2,278.

Craving the freshest greens, the majority of bighorns spend the summer months on high alpine slopes. In these lofty solitudes, the ewes and their newborn spread themselves thinly over a huge range where predators are scarce; denning wolves tend to stay behind in the valleys. As winter approaches, the sheep descend to montane habitats, to traditional locations which have to meet their twin requirements of food and safety.

In the thickly forested Rocky Mountains, suitable winter range for sheep is spotty. They prefer open, grassy slopes, allowing a wide view so that wolves can be discovered in time for a safe retreat to a nearby cliff. Some of the best sites are near the main highway, at Disaster Point, at Sulphur Springs, and just east of the townsite across from the turnoff to Maligne Lake.

The sheep's habit of licking road salt on the busy Yellowhead, which carries about 4,000 vehicles per day, comes at the risk of vehicle collisions. On average, 100 hoofed animals die each year on the pavement, and an additional fifty are killed on the CN rails that transect the park's main valley. The month of January, 2011 was particularly bad for sheep: on the 17th, a mixed group of ewes and rams was hit at Disaster Point, probably by a transport truck that never bothered to stop. And on the 13th, a band of six mature rams was destroyed by a train.

Away from the park's dangerous traffic corridor, other traditional sheep wintering sites are on the opposite rim of the wide Athabasca valley near the confluence of the Snaring and Snake Indian Rivers. As a volunteer wildlife researcher, and in co-operation with the warden service, I have had the opportunity to survey two sites over a period of 30 winters. Site One was inhabited by a band of mature rams as well as varying numbers of ewes; Site Two was the exclusive winter home for ewes, yearlings, and lambs. Often accompanied by a fellow observer, I visited the study area on foot once or twice per month between October and March. Each morning and evening we spent about one hour on a lookout hill to scan the semi-open slopes through binoculars or a telescope, counting the sheep and all other large mammals seen.

In this relatively remote corner of the park, there has been little human disturbance; no tourist developments, no road building, no industrial forestry, and no oil exploration. Furthermore, during winter there is no access for unauthorized vehicles, ATV's or snowmobiles. These restrictions are to the credit of Parks Canada's policy of preserving the region's ecological integrity.

One would expect that long-term habitat protection of this sort should result in a stable population of its wildlife, including the sheep. But that did not prove to be the case. Surprisingly, we recorded major declines at both localities. On Site One, the ewes declined from year to year and became totally absent after 15 winters, while the ram band dropped from an average of 18 members in the first 20 years to eleven in the next five years. On Site Two, the ewe band, which varied from 36-46 members during the first 20 years, dropped to 14 in 2008-2010. What could have been the cause?

A keen reader will ask: What about predators? Didn't the area in question abound in wolves and other carnivores? Yes, it did indeed. And their role in the sheep decline was a major focus of our long-term census. The notion that predators regulate, depress, or even decimate prey species is not new, particularly when it concerns the wolf, the ancient nemesis of the herdsman and the competitor for hunters. Many field studies have been and are being conducted in Canada and the United States to find answers about the impact of wolf predation on the numbers and behaviour of herbivores.

Despite the fact that both wolves and bighorns are common in Jasper Park, their direct interaction has seldom been witnessed first-hand by park wardens and biologists. During the 30-year study, we only saw one attack in detail. A single wolf which had been eyeballing a band of 26 ewes standing in a tight group some 80 metres higher on an open slope, suddenly sprinted upward. The band split into two and one group ran down, bypassing the charging wolf, which turned in pursuit. Just before he could seize his prey, the sheep disappeared over the edge of a cliff below the hillside. After three similar attacks, all sheep managed to reach safety.

In another failed attack, photographed near Medicine Lake, a black wolf raced down a steep slope in pursuit of several fleeing ewes and lambs. They managed to escape by a hair's breath, while the wolf slipped and fell partway down the rocks. Wolves are by no means rare in the area we monitored. Most winters, the territorial wolf pack included seven or eight members, and we found fresh tracks on an almost daily basis. However, during our 30-year study only two mature rams were known to have been killed by wolves, which we saw feeding on the remains.

Apparently, these unlucky rams had been intercepted on their flight to the cliff. Additional evidence that sheep can cope quite well with wolves comes from several studies of wolf predation conducted in both Jasper and Banff. Of hundreds of wolf kills examined by researchers, less than 10 per cent were sheep, with  the vast majority of victims being deer, elk, and moose. The proportional difference is all the more revealing considering that the bighorn is the most common hoofed mammal in both national parks.

Yet, wolves do play a critical role in sheep population dynamics because the risk of predation forces the band to stay close to an escape cliff, and because of this restriction the safest terrain close to the cliff soon becomes overgrazed. In the absence of wolves, the sheep could have multiplied and spread out to forage over a wider range without the need for a rocky retreat.

Another, and perhaps more dangerous predator of sheep is the cougar, which is common but rarely seen in Jasper's main valley. In Alberta, quite a number of cougars have been captured, fitted with radio-telemetry collars and closely followed. Their main prey was found to be deer. However, as stated by zoologist Marco Festa-Bianchet, individual cougars that specialize in preying on sheep could potentially wipe out small local herds. In the Jasper study area, we occasionally spotted a cougar or found its tracks.

A sheep predator that is generally more common than either wolf or cougar is the coyote. Quick and agile, coyotes can grab a lamb before the band has spotted the danger. They have also been known to kill mature ewes. Coyote occurrence on the sheep hills of the Athabasca valley has apparently declined over our 30-year study. Coyote sightings dropped from one for every five days of observation to less than one for every 33 days. The main reason for their scarcity probably has to do with their bigger canid cousin. Wolves are known to keep coyote numbers down.

Despite the mortal danger posed by three species of predators, proof that the local ram band was quite capable of taking care of itself was illustrated by the fact that their number usually stayed the same from late January to the end of March. How then to explain the eventual decline on both sheep ranges?

The answer has to do with environmental deterioration. By 1993, we discovered that 20 to 40 per cent of Site One had become covered with an invasive weed. Originating from Central Europe, its scientific label is Salsola kali. The common name is Tumble Weed or Russian Thistle, well-known to westerners. On livestock ranges the plant is considered an indicator of overgrazing. When young, the seedlings are palatable, but over summer the small leaves become brittle and the plant turns into a dense ball of thorns that can be spread by the wind.

The thistle infestation began when Site One was frequented by up to 40 ewes. Interestingly, a decade after the departure of the ewes, grazing pressure became less and the thistles were gradually replaced by native grasses. By 2006, the range appeared to have recovered until a new and perhaps even more serious threat arrived: drought. Data from Environment Canada show that Jasper's annual precipitation for the years 2001-2004 averaged 430 millimetres, well below the 35-year mean of 569 mm. During these drought years, south-facing Site Two became denuded of vegetation and largely turned to dust. Scraping for plant roots, the ewes aggravated the problem and eventually they all but abandoned the eroding slopes.
It is not clear whether the drop in local sheep numbers is indicative of an overall decline in the total sheep population of Jasper National Park.

After departing their traditional range, the ewes might have gone elsewhere. Their possible return would depend on summer rains that are badly needed for a greening of the hills. At the end of our 30-year census the picture was bleaker than ever. In 2008 and 2009, annual precipitation was down to 306 and 194 mm, the lowest values recorded since 1971. What the future will bring is an fascinating question for continued observation.

The good news is that Jasper's bighorns have thus far been free from contagious lung diseases, which have been a serious concern for provincial sheep biologists in southwestern Alberta. Based on information provided by William Wishart, Dr. Marco Festa-Bianchet, and University of Calgary professor Kathreen Ruckstuhl, major outbreaks occurred in 1978, 1985, and 2000 due to pneumonia.

In 1983 almost half the sheep population succumbed in the Waterton-Crowsnest Pass region. The exact source of the bacterial infection is unknown but was thought to be domestic cattle intruding on sheep range.
However, the mode of transmission remains a potential problem in discussions between wildlife managers and ranchers.

The issue of disease in mountain sheep came to the fore again in December 2010, when the U.S. Forest Service announced that eleven bighorn herds in Montana, Nevada, Washington, Wyoming, and Utah were coughing and sneezing. More than one thousand sheep died or had to be culled. The carrier of the lethal pathogen known to cause pneumonia was domestic sheep that had mingled with their wild cousins on public lands. The recent mortalities have added a wave of concern over the future of the West's bighorns.

Recent measures by the U.S. government to phase out or reduce livestock grazing allotments on wildlands were countered by appeals from a coalition of American sheep ranchers, who argued that transmission is not well enough understood to warrant drastic restrictions that may sink their operation.The fortunate fact that livestock related problems have been avoided in the population fluctuations of Jasper's bighorn sheep can in part be credited to their remote location, away from domestic grazing leases, as well as to the presence of predators, such as wolves, which tend to weed out unfit and vulnerable prey.

With an intact large mammal system, Jasper Park is an ecological treasure and a Canadian national heritage site of increasing value as the last remaining wild places of the world are being destroyed at an unprecedented rate.

Dick Dekker, PhD, is an independent wildlife researcher who lives in Edmonton.
He has published several books and research papers on wolves and other wildlife in Jasper National Park based on 45 years of first-hand field observation.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Govenor Don Juan de Onate's diary account of his travels into North Eastern New Mexico and the Texas Panhandle in 1601.....a brutal trek it was with destruction of native peoples along the way................and a vivid first hand account of the multitudes of Bison and Elk the Expedtion encountered

Faithful and true account of the events which took place in the expedition made by  Governor Don Juande Onate, in the name of his Majesty, from these first settlements of New Mexico, toward the north, in the year of 1601

"They were so tame that nearly always, unless they were chased or frightenedthey remained quiet and did not flee. (CATTLE BEING THE WILD BISON)"

 Oñate was born in the New Spain city of Zacatecas to Spanish-Basque colonists and silver mine owners.  In 1595 he was ordered by King Philip II to colonize the northern frontier of New Spain. His stated objective was to spread Roman Catholicism and establish new missions. He began the expedition in 1598, fording the Rio Grande (Río del Norte) at the present-day Ciudad Juárez–El Paso crossing in late April. On April 30, 1598, he claimed all of New Mexico beyond the river for Spain.

That summer his party continued up the Rio Grande to present-day northern New Mexico, where he encamped among the Pueblo Indians. He founded the province of Santa Fé de Nuevo México and became the province's first governor.

Oñate soon gained a reputation as a stern ruler of both the Spanish colonists and the indigenous people. In October of 1598, a skirmish erupted when Oñate's occupying Spanish military demanded supplies from the Acoma tribe—demanding things essential to the Acoma surviving the winter. The Acoma resisted and 13 Spaniards were killed, amongst them Don Juan Oñate’s nephew. In 1599, Oñate retaliated; his soldiers killed 800 villagers. They enslaved the remaining 500 women and children, and by Don Juan’s decree, they amputated the left foot of every Acoma man over the age of twenty-five. Eighty men had their left foot amputated.

Proceeding on the day of the Glorious Levite and Martyr,San Lorenzo, God was pleased that we should begin to see those most monstrous cattle called cibola. Although they were very fleet of foot, on this day four or five of the bulls were killed, which caused great rejoicing. On the following day,continuing our journey, we now saw great droves of bulls and cows, and from there on the multitude which we saw was so great that it might be considered a falsehood by one who had not seen them, for, according to the judgment of all of us who were in any army, nearly every day and wher-
ever we went as many cattle came out as are to be found in the largest ranches of New Spain."

Onate found an encampment of people Oñate called Escanjaques. He estimated the population at more than 5,000 living in 600 hundred houses.The Escanjaques lived in round houses as large as ninety feet in diameter and covered with tanned buffalo hides. They were hunters, according to Onate, depending upon the buffalo for their subsistence and planting no crops.
In 1601, Oñate, undertook a large expedition to the Great Plains. There were 130 Spanish soldiers and 12 Franciscan priests. Just like the expedition conquest to South America conquering the Aztecs], a retinue of 130 Indian soldiers and servants, and 350 horses and mules Oñate journeyed across the plains eastward from New Mexico in a renewed search for Quivira. As had Coronado, he encountered Apaches in what is now the Texas Panhandle. He proceeded eastward following the Canadian River into Oklahoma. Leaving the river behind in a sandy area where his ox carts could not pass, he went cross country, and the land became greener, with more water and groves of walnut and oak trees.
"The flesh of these cat-tle is very good, and very much better than that of our cows.In general they are very fat, especially the cows, and almostall have a great deal of tallow. By experience we noted that they do not become angry like our cattle, and are never dangerous."

 " All these cattle are of one color, namely brown, and itwas a great marvel to see a white bull in such a multitude.Their form is so frightful that one can only infer that theyare, a mixture of different animals. The bulls and the cows alike are humped, the curvature extending the whole length of the back and even over the shoulders. And although the entire body is covered with wool, on the hump, from the middle of the body to the head, the breast, and the forelegs,
to just above the knee, the wool is much thicker, and so fine and soft that it could be spun and woven like that of the Castilian sheep."
"It is a very savage animal, and is in-comparably larger than our cattle, although it looks small
because of its short legs. Its hide is of the thickness of that of our cattle, and the native Indians are so expert in dressing the hides that they convert them into clothing."--INTERESTING
"This riveris thickly covered on all sides with these cattle and with an-other not less wonderful, consisting of deer which are as large as large horses. They travel in droves of two and three
hundred and their deformity causes one to wonder whether they are deer or some other animal."

  "  Having travelled to reach this place one hundred andeleven leagues, it became necessary to leave the river, asthere appeared ahead some sand dunes ; and turning from the east to the north, we travelled up a small stream until we discovered the great plains covered with innumerable
cattle. We found constantly better roads and better land."

   The viceroy rather contemptuously remarks that besides buffalo he saw ""naught else but some birds and animals,  particularly some deer out of all proportion in size""(ELK).

Another good ecological overview of our Wolverine and it's tenuous hold to life in the Inter-Mountain West..............low birth rates(can be as low as 1 cub born to a female every 4 years)..........snowmobile trail expansion.... heli-skiing in high mountain terrain(causes wolverines to avoid this encroached space)..... and the quickly melting(even if snowfalls are deep in winter) snowpack vital to female denning with young are all significant threats to taking our USA Wolverine population far lower than the estimated 300 to 500 individuals still remaining in the Lower 48


Why Isn't the Wolverine Better Protected in the Northern Rockies?

Are policymakers asleep at the wheel when it comes to protecting the few hundred remaining wolverines in the northwest U.S.?

By Dennis Higman,
Photo by Flickr user <a target=
Photo by Flickr user fiskfisk.
Late last spring I had the rare privilege of seeing a wolverine in the wild while out riding on our ranch in the high mountain desert of southwest Idaho. It was one of an estimated 250-300 that still survive in the lower 48 states according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, mostly in the North Cascades of Washington State and Northern Rockies.  Of course, I didn't know any of this at the time.  In fact, the only wolverine I'd ever heard of was the mascot for the University of Michigan.
What I did know was that my steady old Paint, Keith Richards, got very tense when he saw a large, brown furry animal cross our path about 25 yards away at the edge of a steep avalanche chute.  It was like nothing I'd ever seen in 15 years up here at 7,200 feet. It was about the size of a small bear (or a big cub) but it didn't move like a bear—more like a raccoon or badger but a lot faster.  And move it did, with all deliberate speed, so I only got one quick look at its long bushy tail, short legs, narrow face and funny little ears before it disappeared.
I didn't have a camera, but the image stayed with me until I got back to the house and looked it up.  He wasn't hard to find or identify. "Gulo gulo luscus", the North American wolverine, largest member of the weasel family. I had no idea these magnificent creatures lived in Idaho but I'm no native son, so I asked a couple of friends and neighbors who are.
Jimmy Brown built a cabin on the North Fork of the Big Lost River in the late '50s and has hunted and fished here all his life.  "I've never seen one alive, but they were definitely here, at least at one time," he told me.  "I came across a dead one maybe 30 years ago that had been hit by a car just down the road from my place."
His cowboy friend, Justin Howard, agreed.  He'd spotted a wolverine north of our ranch several years ago when he was a rider for the local cattlemen's association.  "It was in up in the snow. He had a collar on, so I called Fish and Game.  I heard they tracked him down to Boise."
That's a long way from where we live, probably close to 300 miles as the crow flies.  While my friends are entertaining storytellers, I've found their tall tales tend to be true. (Jimmy claims he once killed a cougar with a bow and arrow when the animal was attacking his dog and he has a picture to prove it.) So I decided to find out more about this intriguing animal I had just seen.
The first thing I stumbled across on the web was a 2009 Research Summary of the Greater Yellowstone Wolverine Program which contained the account of a young male wolverine (designated M56) that had traveled336 miles from northwestern Wyoming to Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.
According to this well-documented report, M-56 crossed the Great Divide Basin, somehow got across nine major highways, including Interstate 80 on Memorial Day weekend, passed through six national forests, three Bureau of Land Management Districts and one national park while dodging numerous subdivisions and, in doing so, became the first verified occurrence of a wolverine in Colorado since 1919, nearly a century ago.
So what I had stumbled across was not only an endangered species on the brink of extinction, but a heroic, unbelievably tough, resourceful animal that clearly, despite all obstacles, was not ready to go quietly into the night without a fight.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has published a trove of information for those of us who know next to nothing about wolverines or the threats to their survival in the lower 48.  Adult males can weigh up to 46 pounds. Females are smaller, 17 to 26 pounds, and they look, as I had observed, like a small bear.  And wolverines move around with territories ranging from 50 to 500 square miles. Primarily carnivorous scavengers of the carcasses of large animals like elk, deer and moose, they also prey on picas, marmots, grounds squirrels, porcupines and snowshoe hare.  With 38 strong teeth and leveraged jaws, they can crush the strongest of bones.
There are still a lot of wolverines in Canada (15,000-20,000) living in a variety of northern landscapes.  And sketchy historical records suggest they once lived in the Great Lakes region, but were "extirpated"— an obscure term favored by scientists meaning completely destroyed or eradicated. So the University of Michigan Wolverines would appear to be the only survivors there. --New England, all of the Great Lake States and New York State also were home to the wolvering at the time of European contact, circal 1600-blogger RickIn Washington, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, where the last of the wolverines in the lower 48 states survive in remote, high mountains so they can find deep snow in late winter and spring for their dens, females reproduce only every other year on average, giving them one of the lowest known reproductive rates for mammals. The 2009 Greater Yellowstone Wolverine Program, which followed following M56 across the west, also radio monitored 20 adult females and found a reproductive rate of approximately one cub every four years.
In addition to this low birth rate, Fish and Wildlife says the greatest potential threat to the North American wolverine is loss of habitat due to increased summer temperatures and reduced snowpack caused by global warming. This would cause even further loss of "connectivity" between the remote high mountain areas where this wide ranging animal lives, breeds, and gives birth in deep snow dens which, in turn, could threaten their genetic diversity.
Another potential threat to the elusive, seldom seen wolverine, is the recent dramatic increase in winter recreation in remote mountain areas, the use of powerful new snowmobiles and more back country skiing.
Given the disastrously low population level of wolverines in the contiguous United States (less than 500 is the most optimistic estimate I could find anywhere) it would seem to be a prime candidate for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) but, surprisingly, this is not the case.
After evaluating all available information, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced last December that while wolverines in the West warranted ESA protection, listing them would, at this time, be "precluded by the need to address other listings of higher priority." It said, however, that wolverines would be "added to the list under the ESA and will be proposed for listing when funding and workload for other listing actions allow."
Among other legalistic roadblocks, the Service noted that "while recreation has the potential to affect the wolverine, it does not currently seem to be suppressing populations…and the threat of climate change has not so far resulted in any detectable population-level effects to the species." --beuracratic B.S.--blogger Rick
This ruling leaves management of the wolverine in state hands where they are either classified as a state endangered species or protected from hunting and trapping as a non-game animal in every western state but Montana, which allows a very limited take. (This winter, state wildlife officials allow a total quota of five per year).
While the December ruling disappoints Jonathan Oppenheimer, Senior Conservation Associate at the Idaho Conservation League that was a party to the action, he points out that the ruling does at least reverse a 2008 determination under the Bush Administration that said wolverines did not warrant protection in the continental U.S. at all because of the large population in Canada.
Noah Greenwald of the Center for Biological Diversity, also a party to the legal settlement, is not so sanguine.  At the time of the ruling he was quoted as saying the Obama administration is just "shuffling papers" while wolverines are in desperate need of ESA protection. I couldn't agree more. There may be more deserving candidates in the current backlog of other species awaiting protection, but to me, a layperson not schooled in government or science, making our wolverine an endangered species without further delay seems like a no-brainer. How much data do we need to ensure that this shy, elusive, mid-level predator survives another day among us?  Unlike the wolf, the wolverine doesn't endanger domestic livestock or stand accused of decimating game animals. At worst, protecting it would only inconvenience a few snowmobilers and backcountry skiers, and the wolverine harvest in Montana, which doesn't amount to much, anyway, would be closed.
Regulations and rules and bureaucracy and further studies aside, we really have no excuse not to protect this unique, magnificent animal in our so-called civilized society to the full extent of the law. If we can't summon up the common decency to do this without further delay, I fear that we will be visiting the last of our native wolverines in zoos, along with the Bengal Tiger.

Dennis Higman is a freelance journalist and writer. He and his artist wife, Lee, own a small horse ranch in the mountains near Mackay, Idaho.

Urge Your Senator to Support the Wildlife Disease Emergency Act that among other good endeavors, would help fund further research into eliminating the White Nose fungus that our Bats are being decimated by

From: Bat Conservation International <>
To: Meril, Rick
Sent: Fri Feb 25 17:02:41 2011
Subject: Urge Your Senator to Support the Wildlife Disease Emergency Act

Dear BCI Member:
Speak out for wildlife! Urge your Senator to support the Wildlife Disease Emergency Act of 2011 (S.357). This bill would expedite the federal response to wildlife disease crises such as chronic wasting disease in deer, elk and moose, the chytrid fungus in frogs and, of course, White-nose Syndrome, which has been decimating North American bat colonies for five years.

The proposed legislation would authorize the Secretary of Interior to declare wildlife disease emergencies, provide immediate funds to help understand and address specific emergencies, and coordinate responses across state and federal agencies.

Please urge your Senators to support the Wildlife Disease Emergency Act. Writing your Senator is easy. Click here for a sample letter and your Senator's contact information. Please feel free to change the letter to suit your concerns and style.

With this disease-response structure in place, scientists and wildlife managers will be able to react much more quickly and efficiently as soon as new wildlife diseases appear. Your voice is important. You can help save wildlife species from future destruction by supporting this bill.
Best regards,

Nina Fascione
Executive Director
P.S. Spread the word! Forward this to your friends.
If you do not wish to receive emails from BCI click here

Friday, February 25, 2011

Our good friend Sadie of the CANADIAN WOLF COALITION correctly urging all of us to do our part in stopping the sterilization of British Columbia wolves by Canadian Vets.............The destruction of the gene pool in our Northern wolf population is at stake.................The real culprit responsible for reduced caribou numbers is timber companies cutting down forests that separate the wolves from the caribou.............snowmobiling trails that let wolves into habitat that was previously difficult for wolves to navigate( horizontal and brushy woodlands).......Unethical and improper use of our Vets in this sterilization campaign...........Must be halted!

From: sadie parr <>
To: <>
Sent: Fri Feb 25 14:56:17 2011
Subject: Stop the sterilization of BC wolves!

Action Alert
Sterilization of BC wolves by BC vets – It has to Stop!!
Problem: BC vets are sterilizing BC's wild wolves

Why?:  Because BC's Ministry of Environment believes this will build up Mountain Caribou herds. They claim it is non-lethal control but the vets are killing a gene pool with each wolf they sterilize.

Will it work?  No! Scientific study after study have repeatedly shown that these wolf control programs inevitably fail to build up ungulate herds.

Issues:  What right do vets have to sterilize a wild wolf or any wild animal?

              Sterilization of wolves is against the vets Canadian Oath & Code of Ethics Bylaws for BC

Action:  1. Talk to your vet & ask them why BC vets are performing this immoral, unethical & perverse act.

               2. Contact the College of Vet (BC) by email: 
               3. Demand that they stop their members from sterilizing wolves.
See Gary Allan's attached letter of March 22, 2010 asking the College to send out a directive to their vets asking them to refrain from engaging in this practice.  This letter has not been acknowledged nor answered.
Please cc: on all emails.
PLEASE urge vets to not help the scapegoating contuinue.  It will only take a moment of your time.
Thank you from the wolves of British Columbia, for speaking the words they cannot--------------------------------------------------------------

The " Gasland" documentary film that could win an Oscar next Sunday night almost got disqualified by Industry lobbyists seeking to hide the harsh truths of what hydro fracturing mining does to groundwater, lakes, streams and the land that harbors the drill pads............Thank you Academy of Arts and Sciences for standing up to Industry bullies!!!

Industry tried to get doc disqualified from Oscars

Josh Fox AP – FILE - In this Nov. 3, 2010 file photo, filmmaker Josh Fox, who made 'Gasland' an Oscar-nominated documentary …

ALLENTOWN, Pa. – The natural gas industry has spent months attacking the documentary "Gasland" as a deeply flawed piece of propaganda. After it was nominated for an Oscar, an industry-sponsored PR group asked the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to reconsider the film's eligibility.

The reply: Let Oscar voters have their say.

"We do not have the resources to vet each claim or implication in the many (documentary) films that compete for our awards each year, and even if we did there would be no shortage of people disputing our conclusions," Bruce Davis, the academy's executive director, wrote in a reply obtained by The Associated Press.

"Gasland" is up for best documentary at Sunday's Academy Awards ceremony. Director Josh Fox's dark portrayal of greedy energy companies, sickened homeowners and oblivious regulators has stirred heated debate among the various stakeholders in a natural gas boom that is sweeping parts of the U.S. The film has galvanized anti-drilling activists while drawing complaints about its accuracy and objectivity.

In a letter to the academy, Lee Fuller, the executive director of an industry-sponsored group named Energy In Depth, called "Gasland" an "expression of stylized fiction" with "errors, inconsistencies and outright falsehoods."He asked the academy to consider "remedial actions" against the film. Davis, the executive director, wrote to Fuller that if the academy were to act on every complaint made about a nominated film, "it would not be possible even to have a documentary category." He said the academy must "trust the intelligence of our members" to sort out fact from fiction."If facts have been suppressed or distorted, if truth has been twisted, we depend on them to sniff that out and vote accordingly," he wrote.
The letter was given to the AP by Energy in Depth, whose spokesman, Chris Tucker, said the group had no expectation that "Gasland" would actually be disqualified from Oscar consideration. The point, he said, was to educate academy voters. "I think it's a fairly good bet that a large majority of the folks who are going to be voting on this film don't have a background in petroleum engineering," quipped Tucker, who put together a 4,000-word rebuttal of "Gasland" last summer.

Fox said the industry's campaign against "Gasland" has backfired."What they're doing is calling more attention to the film, so I think it works against them," the director said from Los Angeles. "But I think it shows how aggressive they are, how bullying they are, and how willing they are to lie to promote the falsehood that it's OK to live in a gas drilling area."

The documentary category is no stranger to controversy. Michael Moore films like "Bowling for Columbine" and "Sicko," as well as Al Gore's 2006 global-warming tale, "An Inconvenient Truth," have likewise been attacked as biased and inaccurate.

Like Moore, Fox defends his film as accurate. But he rejects comparisons to the bombastic, ideological director. "What they're trying to do is make ('Gasland') look like a liberal, elite, Michael Moore thing, which of course it isn't. It's bipartisan," he said.

Fox, a 38-year-old New York City theater director, took an interest in drilling after a gas company approached him in 2008 about leasing his family's wooded 20-acre spread in Milanville, near the Delaware River in northeastern Pennsylvania, where he has lived off-and-on since childhood. Camera in hand, he went on a cross-country tour of places where large-scale drilling is already under way, interviewing residents who say they were sickened by nearby drilling operations and aiming his lens at diseased livestock and flammable tap water that he also blames on gas industry malfeasance.
Though it had a tiny theatrical run, Fox has taken "Gasland" on the road for screenings in more than 100 towns and cities throughout the U.S., England and Australia. It has also aired on HBO. "The point was to get the film to the people who needed it most, who were in the middle of making these decisions" on whether to lease their land for drilling, Fox said.

Fox isn't the only Oscar nominee critical of natural gas drilling. Mark Ruffalo, who was nominated for the supporting actor award for "The Kids Are All Right," lives in upstate New York, where there's a fierce debate over gas extraction, and has emerged as a high-profile anti-drilling activist.

Energy In Depth's Tucker said he plans to watch Sunday's Academy Awards telecast, but doesn't think the award ceremony will be the end of the discussion. "If it wins the Oscar, the conversation continues on," Tucker said. "If it doesn't win the Oscar, the conversation continues on."

Our friend Elise Able elaborating further on what Dr Frair actually voiced about her ongoing NY State Coyote Study--far different from the biased reporting of the local newspaper reporter who covered the event...............Elise, thanks for your " fair and balanced" evaluation of Dr. Frair's work and we look forward to her full report soon

I did attend Dr. Frairs NY Coyotes talk in Hamburg, NY.  I was nervous, as the Erie County Sportsmans Federation had arranged the talk, and they are pushing for a year round season on coyotes. I figured what she had to say must in some way support their request.
However,  She told the truth- the coyotes were mainly scavenging deer, but they found three deer the coyotes killed. Those three deer were "walking dead" though, suffering from gunshot wounds and / or broken legs.  She also said numerous cameras were set up at den sites- as per the reports by coyote haters  that she could count the number of fawns brought back to the dens that way.  The cameras did not record a single fawn brought back to any of the dens- dispelling that myth. They also analyzed much coyote scat,  found mostly deer, then rodents. Only one scat had evidence of a cat in it. They also found scat with livestock in it, but were able to confirm the livestock was scavenged , not killed.
  One guy asked her if a year round season on coyotes would reduce their numbers, she said, not likely as they rebound.  The DEC agreed with this.
  Someone else asked about rabies, she said it was not an issue--note coyotes can contract rabies but are not the mass carriers that skunks, racoons and even foxes can be of this disease--blogger Rick
 All in all, I think a lot of hunters were very disappointed that she did not report what they are all hoping she would- that they were killing all the deer, fawns, cats and dogs and children would be next. Unfortunately, most of these guys are not educate-able and will probably disregard her study and continue forming their own opinions that suit their desires. 

 Elise Able
East Concord, NY

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Ontario, Canada Wildlife Officials talking common sense regarding human coexistance with Coyotes--Our friend Marc Beckoff is quoted in this article as well................Once again noted how coyotes bounce back from human culling only to have bigger litters..................They are like us people............resilient under let us figure out a way to coexist..................

People need to educate themselves about coyotes


By Laurel A. Beechey

Coyotes are in the news and depending on whether you are a farmer or an animal lover the news of the bounty on coyote pelts is either good or bad. But what most people have in common is their lack of knowledge about the coyote and the plight it is now in.
Coyotes in the past were in Western United States however the encroachment of humans has pushed the species across North America.
Coyotes are often mistaken for wolves when in actuality they are slimmer and smaller. In most cases they have a tawny gray fur, often with yellowish legs, paws, muzzle and back of their ears. The tail is usually a light fawn colour on the underside, darker on top and has a black tip.  [Coyotes in high altitudes have different markings]  As with most species in the animal kingdom they will go through cycles and obviously right now the coyote is at its peak. Because humans choose to continually remove wildlife habitat, coyotes like raccoons, skunks and opossums have learned to live in urban settings.
In the wild these adaptable animals will eat almost anything. They hunt rabbits, rodents, rats, mice fish, frogs, and even deer. They also happily chow down on insects, snakes, fruit, grass, and carrion.  Coyotes have keen vision and a strong sense of smell. They can run up to 40 miles (64 kilometers) an hour. In the fall and winter, they can form packs for more effective hunting although the standard is usually that they travel in twos.Coyotes form strong family groups. In spring, females den and give birth to litters of three to twelve pups. Both parents feed and protect their young and their territory. The pups are able to hunt on their own by the following fall.
The first to notice the increase numbers is usually the farmer who can lose livestock, such as lambs, calves and occasionally if in large packs cows. Understandably the farmers regard them as destructive pests. Marc Bekoff, who has done intense studies on coyotes states that scientific research has shows over and over that coyotes actually do very little damage to livestock, claiming disease and unsanitary conditions cause more livestock death than all predators put together.
As the coyotes have been forced into an urban setting they have changed their menus to include cats, small dogs and other small pets, understandably urbanites get upset too, although to some the 'natural' way to decrease the feral cat, rat and mouse populations is acceptable. Cities like Chicago have a large coyote population
Despite billions of dollars in predator control, over 60 years in the US, it has been found that the coyote populations have not decreased. It seems like a few other species that the more you kill or remove coyotes from their habitat the quicker they re-produce and have an increase in litter sizes. So culling only depreciates the numbers for a small window of time then you have increased numbers. Coyotes are also classified as an apex predator, [when larger wolves are not present] which means they are at the top of their food chain and therefore have a crucial role in maintaining the numbers of species below them. Take a look at the menu list above that they control for us.
Some have used the fatal attack on Taylor Mitchell, 'supposed' by coyotes to create fear and legitimatize the pelt bounty cull on coyotes. Taylor is the second fatal coyote attack ever recorded! In a 45 year period there were 142 attacks [not kills] on humans in the US by coyotes. Compare that to 1000 attacks by dogs, every day and in 2010, 34 fatal dog attacks.
Most animals don't attack unless they are threatened or starving. Humans are invading more and more wilderness every year, hiking and skiing. What do you expect these animals to do?
I have just been to a wildlife conference, here in Ontario and after attending the 'Scoptic Mange epidemic in Coyotes and Fox' I would say you can follow the MNR's usual advice to 'let nature take its course' because the mange will do the killing for them.What we need is for the MNR to come up with ways to teach humans to co-exist with and manage wildlife without wholesale slaughter.

SUNY (State U. Of NY) Professor of Ecology Jacqueline Frair's ongoing NY State Coyote Study revealing Coyotes scavenging more deer than ever................So far, her trail camera traps not recording coyote "deer kills" that often................More research to come with results revealed in a couple of Months..............We do know from other studies(Adirondacks, Maine, Canada, etc) that Coyotes can and do kill deer................always the question is are these deer kills additive(deer would not have been killed by another source) or compensatory(deer would have died from some other cause anyway).....................Hunters hear first hand how coyotes bounce back from culling........................a "fair and balanced" presentation from our friend Dr. Frair

Last week, area outdoorsmen joined Erie County Federation of Sportsmen Chairman Dan Tone for a coyote seminar with feature speaker Dr. Jacqueline Frair, professor of wildlife ecology at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. The Armor Fire Hall, with standing room only - including hallways -  was packed with more than 450 people.Frair provided the audience with a high-energy speaker experience that was entertaining and fun. With common, uncomplicated language, she explained her early experience with coyotes in Saskatchewan, Canada, and in other areas out west. Her slide presentation started with an explanation of our NYS coyote genus that peaked outdoorsmen interest and logic.Coyotes were never native to New York! Eastern wolf and northern gray wolf (Canadian) were present, while coyotes were only exclusive to the Midwest and far west. As soon as the wolf and cougar populations were exterminated by farmers and landowners trying to maintain livestock and land, and the larger predator animals were out, coyote's expanded their range to the east and New York.By 1925, two waves of coyote were identified in NYS. One through Canada, where coyotes picked up some wolf DNA, and a later wave under the Great Lakes, where they did not interbreed with wolves. As a result, much confusion arose with huge, apparent coyotes that really were half wolf. As coyotes got larger, a couple of distinctive features remained. Frairr said, "Their vocalizations are quite distinct: coyotes are yippier!"With new field data in, Frair's students are calculating final results to be ready in about two months. Preliminary conclusion is that scat studies followed by DNA analysis show the trend in the diet of coyotes has changed from about 80 percent small animals with 20 percent deer in the 1950s, 60s, 70s, to a much higher percentage of deer and a much smaller percentage of other small animals in the 90s and recent years.

In the 1950s, there were so few deer that no doe permits were ever issued to hunters; today, hunters complain when they get fewer than two or three. To hear farmers talk, we have lots more deer today, nearly to nuisance levels. Maybe the NYS deer management program has been so effective that we have so many more deer now than before; the changing coyote diet is simply a matter of convenience for the coyote. My observation is that the deer harvest rate of the coyote seems to reflect the same increased harvest rate of deer by hunters, due to more deer everywhere.

Frair said, "The important part about looking at diet DNA is that we learn how important deer are to coyotes. But DNA does not tell us how coyote got those deer. If the coyote are simply scavenging, consuming deer that would have died anyway, wounded hunter deer, they will not have an impact on the deer population. So we need evidence of whether, and to what degree, coyotes might be killing deer that are not just wounded, walking dead. "Coming by that evidence is hard and speculation runs rampant," she added. "When we investigate the field, we see many common sights of a carcass clearly cleaned out by coyotes. There are tracks everywhere and people tend to speculate immediately, that was a coyote kill. However, the only honest thing one can actually say is that there isn't enough evidence to say what killed this animal, although it clearly has been fed upon by coyotes."Frair added that, in order for us to understand how important coyotes may be to the deer population, we need two pieces of information: "How many coyotes are out there and how many deer does the average coyote kill." She added, "Basically assessing the per capita effect of a given coyote and multiplying that by the total population size. Both are incredibly difficult pieces of data to gain with any precision!" This is a rough conclusion from my perspective: the NYS coyote population is estimated at 20,000 and NYS is about 55,000 square miles. That's fewer than one coyote per every two square miles. While coyotes are socially oriented, trail cams at dens show a typical normal diet - no gross fawn numbers or adult deer. Friar said black bears will typically cause more damage to deer fawn populations than coyotes, though coyotes cannot be disregarded in some areas.A question was raised on how coyotes might be competing with native predators like red and grey fox, bobcats and bear. With so many species, efficient sampling is even more necessary - and this work is hard work. According to Frair, there is simply no way to eliminate coyotes altogether, even with an all-year open hunting season. DEC said an all-year season cannot happen here because coyotes are not listed as a varmint, but as a game animal - and that requires a season. I'm not sure how NYS corrects potential errors from the early centuries, as this question also relates the NYS lack of a dove season, while most other states have one.Coyotes adjust population numbers based on what the land will allow. Hunters don't usually see coyotes because they are fully nocturnal, but we can hear them at night. Coyotes have been known to pair up to carry newborn calves from a barn to the woods, so while they are not usually an unending menace, they can be cunning when food supplies force adaptation. Out west in the last few years, people have been attacked and some have been injured and killed by coyotes on the prowl, with DNA proof to substantiate the attacks. Coyote attacks on humans are considered rare, while, on the other hand, records show that about 300,000 people are bitten by dogs each year.Frair's presentation was followed by questions and answers with DEC Conservation Officer Lieutenant Tom Scott, and he was followed by a very interesting 15 minute presentation from Gary Huber with Deer Search, who showed slides of coyote predation of wounded deer during the overnight of a 24 hour period.

We do have coyotes here in Western, NY; they seem to be able to detect wounded deer and quickly eliminate them. But after that, we need to wait for Frair's data for the rest of the real story. See for the ongoing results.

some further comments from our friend Elise Able who was in the audience at Jaquie Frair's talk.................
I did attend Dr. Frairs NY Coyotes talk in Hamburg, NY.  I was nervous, as the Erie County Sportsmans Federation had arranged the talk, and they are pushing for a year round season on coyotes. I figured what she had to say must in some way support their request.

However,  She told the truth- the coyotes were mainly scavenging deer, but they found three deer the coyotes killed. Those three deer were "walking dead" though, suffering from gunshot wounds and / or broken legs.  She also said numerous cameras were set up at den sites- as per the reports by coyote haters  that she could count the number of fawns brought back to the dens that way.  The cameras did not record a single fawn brought back to any of the dens- dispelling that myth. They also analyzed much coyote scat,  found mostly deer, then rodents. Only one scat had evidence of a cat in it. They also found scat with livestock in it, but were able to confirm the livestock was scavenged , not killed.
  One guy asked her if a year round season on coyotes would reduce their numbers, she said, not likely as they rebound.  The DEC agreed with this.  Someone else asked about rabies, she said it was not an issue. 
All in all, I think a lot of hunters were very disappointed that she did not report what they are all hoping she would- that they were killing all the deer, fawns, cats and dogs and children would be next. Unfortunately, most of these guys are not educate-able and will probably disregard her study and continue forming their own opinions that suit their desires.--Let us hope that the discussion at least caused some to at least pause and consider that coyotes might not be quite the devil thought to be previously--blogger Rick 

Elise Able
East Concord, NY

Our friend Marc Beckoff sharing more of his revelations about the feelings and emotions that animals exhibit..........There should be a "shot" that we all take as kids that instills in us the humility required to recognize that all of us animals have an inherent right to walk the earth.................Marc captures this thought as well as anyone on the Planet today

The Emotional Lives of Animals

Grief, friendship, gratitude, wonder, and other things we animals experience.
by Marc Bekoff

Horses and couple spread
Photos courtesy of iStock,

Scientific research shows that many animals are very intelligent and have sensory and motor abilities that dwarf ours. Dogs are able to detect diseases such as cancer and diabetes and warn humans of impending heart attacks and strokes. Elephants, whales, hippopotamuses, giraffes, and alligators use low-frequency sounds to communicate over long distances, often miles; and bats, dolphins, whales, frogs, and various rodents use high-frequency sounds to find food, communicate with others, and navigate.
Many animals also display wide-ranging emotions, including joy, happiness, empathy, compassion, grief, and even resentment and embarrassment. It's not surprising that animals—especially, but not only, mammals—share many emotions with us because we also share brain structures—located in the limbic system—that are the seat of our emotions. In many ways, human emotions are the gifts of our animal ancestors.

Grief in magpies and red foxes: Saying goodbye to a friend

Many animals display profound grief at the loss or absence of a relative or companion. Sea lion mothers wail when watching their babies being eaten by killer whales. People have reported dolphins struggling to save a dead calf by pushing its body to the surface of the water. Chimpanzees and elephants grieve the loss of family and friends, and gorillas hold wakes for the dead. Donna Fernandes, president of the Buffalo Zoo, witnessed a wake for a female gorilla, Babs, who had died of cancer at Boston's Franklin Park Zoo. She says the gorilla's longtime mate howled and banged his chest; picked up a piece of celery, Babs' favorite food; put it in her hand; and tried to get her to wake up.
I once happened upon what seemed to be a magpie funeral service. A magpie had been hit by a car. Four of his flock mates stood around him silently and pecked gently at his body. One, then another, flew off and brought back pine needles and twigs and laid them by his body. They all stood vigil for a time, nodded their heads, and flew off.
Foxes photo by Paul Huber
Photo by Paul Huber
I also watched a red fox bury her mate after a cougar had killed him. She gently laid dirt and twigs over his body, stopped, looked to make sure he was all covered, patted down the dirt and twigs with her forepaws, stood silently for a moment, then trotted off, tail down and ears laid back against her head. After publishing my stories I got emails from people all over the world who had seen similar behavior in various birds and mammals.

Empathy Among Elephants

A few years ago while I was watching elephants in the Samburu National Reserve in Northern Kenya with elephant researcher Iain Douglas-Hamilton, I noticed a teenaged female, Babyl, who walked very slowly and had difficulty taking each step. I learned she'd been crippled for years, but the other members of her herd never left her behind. They'd walk a while, then stop and look around to see where she was. If Babyl lagged, some would wait for her. If she'd been left alone, she would have fallen prey to a lion or other predator. Sometimes the matriarch would even feed Babyl. Babyl's friends had nothing to gain by helping her, as she could do nothing for them. Nonetheless, they adjusted their behavior to allow Babyl to remain with the group.

Waterfall Dances: Do animals have spiritual experiences?

Do animals marvel at their surroundings, have a sense of awe when they see a rainbow, or wonder where lightning comes from? Sometimes a chimpanzee, usually an adult male, will dance at a waterfall with total abandon. Jane Goodall describes a chimpanzee approaching a waterfall with slightly bristled hair, a sign of heightened arousal. "As he gets closer, and the roar of the falling water gets louder, his pace quickens, his hair becomes fully erect, and upon reaching the stream he may perform a magnificent display close to the foot of the falls. Standing upright, he sways rhythmically from foot to foot, stamping in the shallow, rushing water, picking up and hurling great rocks. Sometimes he climbs up the slender vines that hang down from the trees high above and swings out into the spray of the falling water. This 'waterfall dance' may last 10 or 15 minutes." After a waterfall display the performer may sit on a rock, his eyes following the falling water. Chimpanzees also dance at the onset of heavy rains and during violent gusts of wind.
In June 2006, Jane and I visited a chimpanzee sanctuary near Girona, Spain. We were told that Marco, one of the rescued chimpanzees, does a dance during thunderstorms during which he looks like he's in a trance.

Shirley and Jenny: Remembering Friends

Elephants photo by Evan Long
Photo by Evan Long
Elephants have strong feelings. They also have great memory. They live in matriarchal societies in which strong social bonds among individuals endure for decades. Shirley and Jenny, two female elephants, were reunited after living apart for 22 years. They were brought separately to the Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tenn., to live out their lives in peace, absent the abuse they had suffered in the entertainment industry. When Shirley was introduced to Jenny, there was an urgency in Jenny's behavior. She wanted to get into the same stall with Shirley. They roared at each other, the traditional elephant greeting among friends when they reunite. Rather than being cautious and uncertain about one another, they touched through the bars separating them and remained in close contact. Their keepers were intrigued by how outgoing the elephants were. A search of records showed that Shirley and Jenny had lived together in a circus 22 years before, when Jenny was a calf and Shirley was in her 20s. They still remembered one another when they were inadvertently reunited.

A Grateful Whale

In December 2005 a 50-foot, 50-ton, female humpback whale got tangled in crab lines and was in danger of drowning. After a team of divers freed her, she nuzzled each of her rescuers in turn and flapped around in what one whale expert said was "a rare and remarkable encounter." James Moskito, one of the rescuers, recalled that, "It felt to me like it was thanking us, knowing it was free and that we had helped it." He said the whale "stopped about a foot away from me, pushed me around a little bit and had some fun." Mike Menigoz, another of the divers, was also deeply touched by the encounter: "The whale was doing little dives, and the guys were rubbing shoulders with it … . I don't know for sure what it was thinking, but it's something I will always remember."
Busy Bees As Mathematicians
We now know that bees are able to solve complex mathematical problems more rapidly than computers—specifically, what's called "the traveling salesman problem"—despite having a brain about the size of a grass seed. They save time and energy by finding the most efficient route between flowers. They do this daily, while it can take a computer days to solve the same problem.

Dogs Sniffing Out Disease

As we know, dogs have a keen sense of smell. They sniff here and there trying to figure who's been around and also are notorious for sticking their noses in places they shouldn't. Compared to humans, dogs have about 25 times the area of nasal olfactory epithelium (which carries receptor cells) and many thousands more cells in the olfactory region of their brain. Dogs can differentiate dilutions of 1 part per billion, follow faint odor trails, and are 10,000 times more sensitive than humans to certain odors.
Dogs appear to be able to detect different cancers—ovarian, lung, bladder, prostate, and breast—and diabetes, perhaps by assessing a person's breath. Consider a collie named Tinker and his human companion, Paul Jackson, who has Type 2 diabetes. Paul's family noticed that whenever he was about to have an attack, Tinker would get agitated. Paul says, "He would lick my face, or cry gently, or bark even. And then we noticed that this behavior was happening while I was having a hypoglycemic attack so we just put two and two together." More research is needed, but initial studies by the Pine Street Foundation and others on using dogs for diagnosis are promising.

It's Okay To Be A Birdbrain

Crow photo by Chris Gladis
Photo by Chris Gladis
Crows from the remote Pacific island of New Caledonia show incredibly high-level skills when they make and use tools. They get much of their food using tools, and they do this better than chimpanzees. With no prior training they can make hooks from straight pieces of wire to obtain out-of-reach food. They can add features to improve a tool, a skill supposedly unique to humans. For example, they make three different types of tools from the long, barbed leaves of the screw pine tree. They also modify tools for the situation at hand, a type of invention not seen in other animals. These birds can learn to pull a string to retrieve a short stick, use the stick to pull out a longer one, then use the long stick to draw out a piece of meat. One crow, named Sam, spent less than two minutes inspecting the task and solved it without error.
Caledonian crows live in small family groups and youngsters learn to fashion and use tools by watching adults. Researchers from the University of Auckland discovered that parents actually take their young to specific sites called "tool schools" where they can practice these skills.

Love Dogs

As we all know, dogs are "man's best friend." They can also be best friends to one another. Tika and her longtime mate, Kobuk, had raised eight litters of puppies together and were enjoying their retirement years in the home of my friend, Anne. Even as longtime mates, Kobuk often bossed Tika around, taking her favorite sleeping spot or toy.
Late in life, Tika developed a malignant tumor and had to have her leg amputated. She had trouble getting around and, as she was recovering from the surgery, Kobuk wouldn't leave Tika's side. Kobuk stopped shoving her aside or minding if she was allowed to get on the bed without him. About two weeks after Tika's surgery, Kobuk woke Anne in the middle of the night. He ran over to Tika. Anne got Tika up and took both dogs outside, but they just lay down on the grass. Tika was whining softly, and Anne saw that Tika's belly was badly swollen. Anne rushed her to the emergency animal clinic in Boulder, where she had life-saving surgery.
If Kobuk hadn't fetched Anne, Tika almost certainly would have died. Tika recovered, and as her health improved after the amputation and operation, Kobuk became the bossy dog he'd always been, even as Tika walked around on three legs. But Anne had witnessed their true relationship. Kobuk and Tika, like a true old married couple, would always be there for each other, even if their personalities would never change.

Jethro and the Bunny

Jethro the dog.
After I picked Jethro from the Boulder Humane Society and brought him to my mountain home, I knew he was a very special dog. He never chased the rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, or deer who regularly visited. He often tried to approach them as if they were friends.
One day Jethro came to my front door, stared into my eyes, belched, and dropped a small, furry, saliva-covered ball out of his mouth. I wondered what in the world he'd brought back and discovered the wet ball of fur was a very young bunny.
Jethro continued to make direct eye contact with me as if he were saying, "Do something." I picked up the bunny, placed her in a box, gave her water and celery, and figured she wouldn't survive the night, despite our efforts to keep her alive.
I was wrong. Jethro remained by her side and refused walks and meals until I pulled him away so he could heed nature's call. When I eventually released the bunny, Jethro followed her trail and continued to do so for months.
Over the years Jethro approached rabbits as if they should be his friends, but they usually fled. He also rescued birds who flew into our windows and, on one occasion, a bird who'd been caught and dropped in front of my office by a local red fox.
Laughing man and owl spread
Photos courtesy of iStock

Dog and Fish: Improbable Friends

Fish are often difficult to identify with or feel for. They don't have expressive faces and don't seem to tell us much behaviorally. Nonetheless, Chino, a golden retriever who lived with Mary and Dan Heath in Medford, Oregon, and Falstaff, a 15-inch koi, had regular meetings for six years at the edge of the pond where Falstaff lived. Each day when Chino arrived, Falstaff swam to the surface, greeted him, and nibbled on Chino's paws. Falstaff did this repeatedly as Chino stared down with a curious and puzzled look on her face. Their close friendship was extraordinary and charming. When the Heaths moved, they went as far as to build a new fishpond so that Falstaff could join them.

An Embarrassed Chimpanzee: I didn't do that!

Chimpanzee photo by Ginger Me
Photo by Ginger Me
Embarrassment is difficult to observe. By definition, it's a feeling that one tries to hide. But world famous primatologist Jane Goodall believes she has observed what could be called embarrassment in chimpanzees.
Fifi was a female chimpanzee whom Jane knew for more than 40 years. When Fifi's oldest child, Freud, was five and a half years old, his uncle, Fifi's brother Figan, was the alpha male of their chimpanzee community. Freud always followed Figan as if he worshiped the big male.
Once, as Fifi groomed Figan, Freud climbed up the thin stem of a wild plantain. When he reached the leafy crown, he began swaying wildly back and forth. Had he been a human child, we would have said he was showing off. Suddenly the stem broke and Freud tumbled into the long grass. He was not hurt. He landed close to Jane, and as his head emerged from the grass she saw him look over at Figan. Had he noticed? If he had, he paid no attention but went on being groomed. Freud very quietly climbed another tree and began to feed.
Harvard University psychologist Marc Hauser observed what could be called embarrassment in a male rhesus monkey. After mating with a female, the male strutted away and accidentally fell into a ditch. He stood up and quickly looked around. After sensing that no other monkeys saw him tumble, he marched off, back high, head and tail up, as if nothing had happened.

Animal Rescues: Feeling Compassion for Those in Need

Stories about animals rescuing members of their own and other species, including humans, abound. They show how individuals of different species display compassion and empathy for those in need.
In Torquay, Australia, after a mother kangaroo was struck by a car, a dog discovered a baby joey in her pouch and took it to his owner who cared for the youngster. The 10-year-old dog and 4-month-old joey eventually became best friends.
Sperm Whale photo by Flickker Photos
On a beach in New Zealand, a dolphin came to the rescue of two pygmy sperm whales stranded behind a sand bar. After people tried in vain to get the whales into deeper water, the dolphin appeared and the two whales followed it back into the ocean.
Dogs are also known for helping those in need. A lost pit bull mutt broke up an attempted mugging of a woman leaving a playground with her son in Port Charlotte, Florida. An animal control officer said it was clear the dog was trying to defend the woman, whom he didn't know. And outside of Buenos Aires, Argentina, a dog rescued an abandoned baby by placing him safely among her own newborn puppies. Amazingly, the dog carried the baby about 150 feet to where her puppies lay after discovering the baby covered by a rag in a field.

Raven Justice?

In his book, Mind of the Raven, biologist and raven expert Bernd Heinrich observed that ravens remember an individual who consistently raids their caches if they catch him in the act. Sometimes a raven will join in an attack on an intruder even if he didn't see the cache being raided.
Is this moral? Heinrich seems to think it is. He says of this behavior, "It was a moral raven seeking the human equivalent of justice, because it defended the group's interest at a potential cost to itself."
In subsequent experiments, Heinrich confirmed that group interests could drive what an individual raven decides to do. Ravens and many other animals live by social norms that favor fairness and justice.

Marc Bekoff mugMarc Bekoff wrote this article for Can Animals Save Us?, the Spring 2011 issue of YES! Magazine. Marc has written many books and essays about the emotional and moral lives of animals, including The Smile of a Dolphin, The Emotional Lives of Animals, Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animals (with Jessica Pierce), and The Animal Manifesto: Six Reasons for Expanding Our Compassion Footprint. Marc's homepage is and, with Jane Goodall,