Archive for March, 2008

Historic Alaska Sled Dog Race Revived! MUSH!

March 25, 2008

A century after the birth of long-distance sled dog racing, 16 mushers are set to retrace a historic run in western Alaska and compete for a $100,000 winner-take-all purse.

The All Alaska Sweepstakes begins Wednesday, launching a 408-mile round trip from Nome, an old gold rush town best known as the finish line of the 1,100-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race held earlier this month.

In a departure from that famous race, however, the lucrative sweepstakes is allowing the participation of an Iditarod musher serving a two-year suspension for abusing his dogs. It also carries some rules left over from the past, including a ban on dropping tired or injured dogs along a route that crosses mountainous terrain marked by punishing wind and subzero temperatures.

“This is about who has the best team, not who is the best musher,” said race director Phil Schobert. “There’s intentionally a lot of challenge in it so the mushers have to take a lot of care for their dogs. This race is 100 percent about the dogs.”

Click here for the full article.

I’m always disappointed that Nome isn’t spelled Gnome.  Gnomes like animals.  Just ask David, the Gnome!  He’ll tell you how much he LOOOOVES his fox, Swift.  Besides, he was also a veterinarian!

Sorry.  I had to do that.  David the Gnome was one of my favorite shows as a kid.

Like pets but not the commitment? Foster program may be the cat’s meow

March 25, 2008


For people who really like cats — just not all the time — here’s an opportunity: There’s a big demand this time of year for part-time cat lovers willing to do foster care for litters of kittens, and sometimes their mamas, until adoptive homes can be found or other arrangements can be made through volunteer shelter organizations that can take them in.

Cherie Cahill, vice president of Oregon Fostering and Adoption Network, one of a growing pro-cat network of organizations throughout Lane County, practices what she preaches.

“Right now, I have 14 cats in my home — seven of my own and seven fosters,” Cahill said. “We try to have plenty of foster homes this time of year, because we know the kittens are coming. I’ve already gotten a call from a thrift store and went over and picked up two kittens that had been left there.”

Click here for the full article.

There are tons of animal shelters out there that would LOVE for you to provide an animal with foster care.  Most shelters pay for food and medical expenses until the animal is adopted.  You provide an animal with a temporary home, you are probably keeping it from being put down for crowding reasons.

Being a foster parent for a pet is an especially good option for college students, or anyone else who may have to move around a lot.  You wouldn’t have to worry about whether or not your next apartment will allow you have a pet, or whether your schedule will change in a month or two and you will not have enough time for it. As long as you find a home for the animal before you have to move, you’ll be guilt-free and unburdened.

One of my friends regularly fosters cats and loves it.  Like the article says, its companionship without commitment.  And it offers an animal a good, loving home until someone comes along who can keep it forever.

When Animals Die: A Grim Job Pays Off In Knowledge Gained

March 25, 2008

Working with dead animals isn’t as emotionally draining as trying to save them, Melissa Mitchell said one recent afternoon on her way to pick up the remains of a sick goat that had been euthanized at a northeastern Connecticut farm.

Mitchell pulled the state truck she was driving to the side of the road so she could call the goat’s owner, Kathleen Johnson, and say she was heading to Johnson’s farm in Thompson. Mitchell could tell from the quavery voice on the cellphone that Johnson was distraught.

Mitchell, 25, is a veterinary technician with the courier service begun last year by the Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory. She picks up dead pets, livestock, poultry and wildlife throughout the state and takes the carcasses to the lab for a necropsy — an animal autopsy.

Pathologists at the lab, on the University of Connecticut campus in Storrs, look for a cause of death and check to see if there is an outbreak of some communicable disease.

Click here for the full article.

Drive-thru animal safari!

March 24, 2008

An elk, an emu and an alligator — no, this isn’t the start to some lame joke — those are just three of the animals you might spy at Cherokee Trace Drive-thru animal safari.

The park features a 300-acre preserve of 400 animals — 25 different species — of free-range animals that hail from far-off places including Africa, India, China, the Scottish Highlands, British Columbia, the Mediterranean islands, the Middle East and even some from the U.S.

“We try to get the most exotic animals we can,” park Operations Manager Staci Doty said. “We like to see the faces of the kids when they see a Canadian Wood Bison or a zebra up close and personal.”

Because the animals are free to roam the safari park, preserve officials don’t allow predators in.

“We don’t want to pen anything in, so you won’t see lions or tigers or anything like that,” Doty said.

Click here for the full article. 

Taxpayers buy birth control for stray cats

March 23, 2008

A small town in Iowa recently triggered an international controversy by putting a bounty on the heads of feral cats. And in Wisconsin a couple of years ago voters backed allowing stray cats to be hunted.
But one Midtown Tucson neighborhood, armed with $5,000 in taxpayer seed money, has taken a completely different approach to alley-cat overpopulation.
For the past year the Oak Flower Neighborhood has started trapping the cats, spaying or neutering them, giving them their shots and sending them back to the neighborhood to live out the rest of their sexless lives.
Over that same time, the Pima Animal Care Center has euthanized nearly 6,000 adoptable cats and kittens because there weren’t enough people willing to pay the up to $95 fee for shots and neutering there.
Click here for the rest of the article and a lot of hogwash about how cats kill too many birds and small animals.  If this is true (which I and my veterinarian consultant doubt), then 1. take preemptive actions now and spay/neuter the cats instead of killing or permanently incarcerating them, and 2. support conservation programs that prevent populations of bird and small animals from being reduced to such a small number that a few hunting cats can push them over the edge to extinction.

Fur flying over wolf control tactics

March 23, 2008


In case you missed it, some university biologists are doing a study around Rocky Mountain House that involves reducing wolf packs from around 19 animals to two or three.

This is to be done by sterilizing the alpha wolf couple and killing pups and other wolves in the pack.

This has the blessing and support of the department of Alberta Sustainable Resource Development (headed by super-hunting fan Ted Morton) and is being partially funded by various hunting groups.

These facts, combined with some remarkably bad public relations, led the public to believe little wolf babies are going to get killed so that plaid-clad guys with rifles can have less competition on their weekend elk-killing sprees.

In fact, improving hunting is only a minor byproduct of keeping wolf numbers down.

Sure, some hunters will have more elk to shoot, but this is only of benefit to a small number of people and, as such, was only a minor objective of this study.

A grander goal – often overlooked – is to find a kinder way of keeping the wolves in this province from driving woodland caribou to extinction.

Click here for the full article.

Thai pair caught selling endangered animals

March 23, 2008


Thai wildlife police have arrested two vendors and seized more than 200 rare animals including endangered tortoises during a raid at Bangkok’s popular weekend market.

Police say the sting operation turned up more than $70,000 worth of rare birds and animals.

One woman and one man have been arrested and charged with smuggling endangered species.

The World Conservation Union says illegal trade at the market is just one part of a larger international operation.

It says Thailand has become a transportation centre for the illicit animal trade in south-east Asia.

Click here for article source.

Happy Easter from Kitty Mowmow’s Animal Expo!

March 23, 2008


Washington State University creates School for Global Animal Health

March 22, 2008


The Washington State Board of Regents on Friday approved creation of a new school that will focus on research and treatment of diseases passed from animals to humans.

Just how the new School for Global Animal Health will be paid for is not known, but the university is expected to announce Monday a record $25 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for the school, The Spokesman-Review reported Friday.

WSU President Elson Floyd told the regents Friday at their meeting in Richland that the school will be administered by the College of Veterinary Medicine. WSU hopes to house the school in an $83.5 million building. Its request for money was not included in the state’s latest budget.

About 70 percent of the diseases that affect humans have their origins in animals, Floyd said. Those “zoonotic” diseases, such as rabies and tuberculosis, are caused by infectious agents that can be transmitted between, or shared by, animals and humans.

Floyd said the school will bring together scientists who are experts in human and animal disease. The school will coordinate the university’s efforts in infectious disease research and diagnostics, with a particular focus on the intersection of human and animal disease, he said.

Click here for the full article.

I like kitties! Kitty said WHAT?

March 22, 2008

What is Animal Music?

March 22, 2008
Video of a bird singing the blues!

In the world of music science, there is a lot of interest in “animal music”, or, perhaps more precisely, in those animal sounds that are plausibly analogous in some way to human music.

The Origins of Music (MIT Press 2000), edited by Wallin, Merker and Brown, contains a section “Vocal Communication in Animals” with eight articles about different animal calls and their possible relationship to human music. Groups of animals considered to be of interest include primates, birds and whales.

The very existence of terms like “birdsong” gives testament to our tendency to perceive the sounds that other animals make as forms of music. There is also an apparent level of creativity in some forms of animal song; in particular whales and some birds are found to invent new “songs”.

Click here for the full article.

Berlin Zoo director accused of selling animals for Chinese medicine

March 22, 2008

The director of the world famous Berlin Zoo has been accused of overbreeding animals and selling the “spares” to be slaughtered and used in Chinese medicines.

Bernhard Blaszkiewitz is under pressure to quit following the criminal complaint by a leading Green politician that he allegedly illegally sold the animals for slaughter for profit.

He strenuously denies the allegations but they are now being considered by the Berlin public prosecutor who will decide on whether charges will follow.

A pygmy hippopotamus and a family of bears are cited among the animals that were allegedly traded to be killed. It was claimed they ended up at a Belgian slaughterhouse.

The allegations are a public relations disaster for the zoo following a huge rise in its profile over the past year with the celebrity of the polar bear Knut, the cub abandoned by its mother to be raised by human hand. Knut has turned the zoo into Berlin’s biggest tourist attraction and earned it £6 million.

Click here for the full article.

The Magnificent, Ultraviolent, Far-Seeing Shrimp From Mars

March 21, 2008

Four hundred million years after bushwhacking its own evolutionary path out of the Cambrian, the mantis shrimp is one of the world’s freakiest animals.

How freaky? Well, it sees something called circular polarized light  — a form of light that no other creature on Earth can perceive.

This newly discovered ability was described in a study published yesterday in Current Biology, and if you’re interested in the mechanics of mantis shrimp eyes and the properties of circular polarized light, then head on over to my news article.

I note in the article that understanding the shrimps’ ability to see CPL could help engineers refine high-tech communications systems that make use of the light’s loss-free spin.

But let’s be real — this discovery wasn’t cool because it’ll someday help people download Rihanna songs on their cell phones or watch Your Mama Don’t Dance in extra-high definition. It was cool because no other animal sees circular polarized light. The mantis shrimp single-clawedly expands the realm of possible visual perception by thirty-three percent. 

Click here for the full article.

Mummified dinosaur unearthed in North Dakota

March 20, 2008


Using tiny brushes and chisels, workers picking at a big greenish-black rock in the basement of North Dakota’s state museum are meticulously uncovering something amazing: a nearly complete dinosaur, skin and all.

Unlike almost every other dinosaur fossil ever found, the Edmontosaurus named Dakota, a duckbilled dinosaur unearthed in southwestern North Dakota in 2004, is covered by fossilized skin that is hard as iron. It’s among just a few mummified dinosaurs in the world, say the researchers who are slowly freeing it from a 65-million-year-old rock tomb.

“This is the closest many people will ever get to seeing what large parts of a dinosaur actually looked like, in the flesh,” said Phillip Manning, a paleontologist at Manchester University in England, a member of the international team researching Dakota.

Click here for the full article.

Animal-esque Artist “The Black Crowes” Gear Up for a New Kind of Revolution

March 20, 2008

After two decades, 10 albums, more than a dozen members and a much-needed hiatus, The Black Crowes are on the cusp of releasing their first new record in seven years. Warpaint is a rallying cry—the sound of a band that has rediscovered its musical vitality and continues to forge its own unapologetic path…

Click here for the full article.

Wolves — the Jimmy Carter of the animal world?

March 20, 2008

You have to hand it to the wolf. As far as turning around a bad PR image goes, they’ve done an astounding job — they’re like the Jimmy Carter of the wildlife world. Once detested as the red-eyed, bloody-fanged creatures of Grimm fairy tales and generations of children’s nightmares, wolves are the cause célèbre in Alberta, ever since the University of Alberta announced it was planning to sterilizing wolves and shooting pups to test the effects on ungulate populations.

Click here for the full article.

Animal-esque Beatles may go Guitar Hero as well

March 20, 2008

Prepare yourselves. Guitar Hero may be getting even more, well, heroic.

To which particular heroes do we refer? The Beatles, of course. They’re heroic in the world of music if anyone ever was. To that end, rumors have been circulating that a Beatles-themed version of Guitar Hero may be in the works. Sony/ATV Music Publishing, which has the rights to a good chunk of the Beatles’ musical output, seems to be interested in striking up a deal with Activision, GH‘s creator, reports. This comes in the wake of last month’s announcement that an Aerosmith-branded version of the game would soon hit stores.

Click here for the full article.

Phenomenal Animal Migration in Sudan Stuns Experts

March 20, 2008

Over the past year, researchers in South Sudan have noticed an extraordinary and unexpected phenomenon — thousands and thousands of animals thriving in what was a war-torn land just a few years ago.   Ravaged by civil war for 22 years, the small village of Boma is the last place wildlife conservationists expected to find large numbers of animals, but that is exactly what they’ve found: quite possibly the world’s largest animal migration, rivaling that of the Serengeti.

“Who would have thought a million animals could have survived and keep going [sic],” said Paul Elkan of the Wildlife Conservation Society. Elkan is the lead researcher in the area and has spent months observing and tracking the herds of animals from his small plane, dubbed “The Annie.”

Click here for the full article.

Woman killed as stingray leaps into boat

March 20, 2008

A woman sunbathing on a boat has died after a stingray leaped from the water, hitting her in the face and knocking her to the deck.

The incident, which happened in the Florida Keys, involved a 75lb spotted eagle ray and was described by wildlife experts as a freak accident.

Judy Zagorski, 57, of Pigeon, Michigan, was relaxing in the bow of a small fishing pleasure boat going 25 nautical mph when the ray leaped out of the water.

The impact is likely to have killed the woman but it was not immediately clear whether she was also stung by the venomous barb on the ray’s tail, said officials.

The boat was being driven by the victim’s father on the Atlantic Ocean side of Vaca Key when the creature, which had a wingspan of five to six feet, came out of the sea..

“He had absolutely no warning. It just happened instantaneously,” said Jorge Pino of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The woman was taken to the Mariner Hospital in Tavernier, where she was pronounced dead. An autopsy will determine an official cause of death.

Click here for the full article.

Rethinking evolution: Sex and complexity came a lot sooner than we thought

March 20, 2008

Two paleontologists studying ancient fossils they excavated in the South Australian outback argue that Earth’s ecosystem has been complex for hundreds of millions of years — at least since around 565 million years ago, which is included in a period in Earth’s history called the Neoproterozoic era.

Until now, the dominant paradigm in the field of paleobiology has been that the earliest multicellular animals were simple, and that strategies organisms use today to survive, reproduce and grow in numbers have arisen over time due to several factors. These factors include evolutionary and ecological pressures that both predators and competition for food and other resources have imposed on the ecosystem.

But in describing the ecology and reproductive strategies of Funisia dorothea, a tubular organism preserved as a fossil, the researchers found that the organism had multiple means of growing and propagating — similar to strategies used by most invertebrate organisms for propagation today.

Click here for the full article.