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Tag: foxes

Government cyanide bomb kills family dog

canyonmansfield

It looks like a harmless sprinkler head, but it’s a bomb, filled with poison — and your own federal government planted it.

They are called predator control devices, or M-44s, and they are placed — generally in remote areas in the West — by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to control fox and coyote populations.

Last week, one of them killed another dog, a three-year-old lab named Casey.

The devices release a burst of cyanide when activated.

Cynanide_BombAPHIS agency records show that more than 3,400 animals were mistakenly killed by M-44s between 2006 and 2012, including black bears, bobcats, raccoons, opossums, ravens, foxes and dogs.

The Bannock County Sheriff’s Office says the cyanide bomb, or cyanide trap, as they are most commonly called, detonated Thursday, killing the family dog.

The incident occurred on a ridge line located above a residence on Buckskin Road in Pocatello.

Fourteen-year-old Canyon Mansfield was walking his dog on land neighboring his property when he saw what he thought was a sprinkler head protruding from the ground.

He bent down and touched the pipe. There was an explosion and a hissing sound. The boy noticed his clothing and face were covered with an orange, powdery substance. He washed his face off with snow, then called his dog.

Spotting his dog on the ground, the boy ran to him and “saw this red froth coming from his mouth and his eyes turning glassy and he was having a seizure.” The dog died within minutes, he said.

Canyon, the son of a doctor, was checked out and released, but advised to report back for monitoring of his cyanide levels, according to the Idaho State Journal,.

The devices consist of spring-loaded metal cylinders that are baited with scent that shoot sodium cyanide powder into the mouth or face of whatever or whoever touches them.

There have been calls to ban them, but APHIS says they have been deemed by the EPA to be necessary tool to reduce losses livestock owners face due to predators.

caseyIn a statement release Friday APHIS confirmed the “take” of the dog.

“Wildlife Services has removed M-44s in that immediate area. Wildlife Services is completing a thorough review of the circumstances of this incident, and will work to review our operating procedures to determine whether improvements can be made to reduce the likelihood of similar occurrences happening in the future,” the statement said.

A spokesman for APHIS said that the “unintentional lethal take of a dog” is a rare occurrence.

The statement also said that M-44 devices are only set with permission from property owners or managers, and that this is the first unintentional take of an animal with an M-44 device in Idaho since 2014.

“The USDA’s statement regarding the horrific incident that happened to my family yesterday is both disrespectful and inaccurate,” Canyon’s sister, Madison, said. “The USDA intentionally refers to the brutal killing of our dog as a ‘take’ to render his death trivial and insignificant.”

According to Predator Defense, one of the organizations working to halt the use of the devices, two dogs were killed earlier this year near Casper, Wyoming, while on a family hiking trip.

(Photos: At top; Canyon Mansfield holds up Casey’s collar, by Jordon Beesley / State Journal; at center, the cyanide bomb that went off, provided by the Mansfield family; at bottom, Casey in a family photo)

Animal magnetism: There’s more than meets the eye in the eyes of dogs

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If, like me, you tend to mindlessly credit the canine nose when you hear about a dog miraculously finding his way hundreds of miles back home, you might be interested in this other possible explanation.

Researchers have shown for the first time that the eyes of dogs have a version of the molecule cryptochrome 1 — the same molecule that gives bats, birds and certain other mammals the ability to perceive Earth’s magnetic fields.

It’s not clear yet that dogs possess magnoreception — that GPS-like ability that allows birds to return to the same spot every year — but researchers at the Max Planck Institute in Germany have shown that a version of the molecule that gives birds that ability is present in the retinas of dogs, wolves, bears, and more.

Magnoreception could help explain the mystery of why dogs tend to line up parallel to the north-south axis when they poop.

And many, more important, things, as well.

Presence of the light-sensing molecule gives some plants and animals almost a sixth sense, allowing them to regulate their circadian rhythms and find places they have left far behind.

But not humans. We’ve lost whatever cryptochrome 1 we might have had long ago — probably about the same time we started asking for directions.

According to the study, simply having cryptochrome 1 doesn’t necessarily mean that animals can perceive magnetic fields, but the presence could be a sign of that.

It has been found in the cone photoreceptors of some mammals — the same place it is located in birds.

Out of 90 species of mammals examined, researchers found only a few contained cryptochrome 1.

It was found in the eyes of dogs, wolves and foxes; five members of the weasel family, including ferrets and sea otters; orangutans and two types of macaques; brown bears and polar bears.

With further studies, scientists could find out if and how those animals are using it.

“…It is possible that these animals also have a magnetic sense that is linked to their visual system,” the researchers concluded.

It could explain why some animals approach certain prey from a certain direction, why dogs like to line up north to south to do their business and how so many a lost dog — in real life and movies — manages to find his or her way back home.

Oddball: How a dog saved the little penguins

Take a vulnerable colony of tiny penguins, throw in some villainous foxes intent on killing them all, and top it off with a heroic dog who comes to the rescue, and you’ve got a plot line that might make Walt Disney himself jump out of his grave (or freezer if you believe that tall tale).

This tale is based on a true one, though — how the little penguins of Middle Island, off the coast of Australia, saw their population drop from more than 800 to less than five before a local farmer suggested a dog on the island could keep the foxes away.

It may be a feelgood movie now — and how could it not be given it features penguins (everybody’s favorite animal) and dogs (everybody’s favorite animal) — but the story, when first widely publicized, was a nightmarish one.

Little-PenguinIn October of 2004, 180 penguins were found dead on the island, just off the coast of Victoria.

The penguins had already all but disappeared from Australia’s mainland by then. Once common along Australia’s southern coast, the flightless birds began diminishing in number after red foxes were imported for sport hunting in the 19th century.

Before long, the only surviving little penguins– once known as fairly penguins — were to be found on islands.

In the late 1990’s, tidal patterns and increasing sedimentation began to make small and uninhabited Middle Island accessible from the shore, and the foxes took advantage of the island’s easy prey — even when those seeking to preserve the penguins experimented with various solutions, including building shelters for the birds on the island.

The 2004 incident, labeled a “massacre” by the local press, led to some serious consideration of a solution that had been proposed by a local chicken farmer.

The farmer, who goes by the name Swampy Marsh, had offered to send one of his Maremma dogs to the island to protect the birds.

Named for the region northwest of Rome where they originated, the dogs were bred to live among livestock. While vigilant and territorial, they are generally amiable toward people they know and the animals they are trained to protect.

In 2006, the first Maremma, named Oddball, was sent to the island. Since then Middle Island’s penguin population has rebounded to 150, and not one has been lost to a fox, according to a New York Times article last month.

Oddball is retired now, and six other dogs have taken over patrolling the island, including the most recent two, Eudy and Tula.

The dogs operate in the penguin’s breeding season, usually from October to March, during which they spend five or six days a week on the island.

Even when the dogs are not there, their lingering scent of them is enough to keep the foxes away — even though the penguins have quite a scent of their own.

“Penguins don’t smell particularly nice,” Peter Abbott, manager of tourism services for the Warrnambool City Council, told the Times. “They look cute and cuddly, but they smell like dead fish.” The dogs are taught to defend the penguins as they commonly do with other kind of livestock.

abbotteudyandtula

Local groups managing the project recently raised more than $18,000 online to buy and train two new Maremma pups, and the new movie has given their efforts a boost.

The movie focuses on Oddball, portraying her as a mischievous sort who spent most of her time trying to stay one step ahead of the local dogcatcher. Then she is given a mission — protecting the penguins — redeeming herself and saving the colony.

The real Oddball is 14 now, and spends most of her time under Marsh’s house — not to avoid celebrity seekers, but because she likes it there.

“She comes out when she wants to,” Marsh said.

(Photos: Penguin photo from animalspot.net; Photo of Peter Abbott with Eudy and Tula on Middle Island by Rob Gunstone / Queensland Country Life)

Does a bear sulk in the woods?

bearDo animals, grieve? Love? Hate? Do they feel fear, rage, pride, remorse, happiness, shame, envy, jealousy, sadness and all those other emotions that add texture and confusion to our lives.

You betcha, Marc Bekoff says in his Psychology Today blog, Animal Emotions.

“There is no doubt that many animals experience rich and deep emotions. It’s not a matter of if emotions have evolved in animals but why they have evolved as they have,” he writes. “We must never forget that our emotions are the gifts of our ancestors, our animal kin. We have feelings and so do other animals.”

The piece goes on to present some compelling examples.

Sea lion mothers, watching their babies being eaten by killer whales, wail pitifully. Dolphins have been seen struggling to save a dead infant and mourn afterward. What appears to be grief has been observed in elephants when a member of the family, a non-relative, or even a member of another species succumbs.

 Bekoff cites the case of  Gana, a captive gorilla, clearly grieved the loss of her infant in the famous image of her carrying her dead baby. Jane Goodall observed Flint, a young chimpanzee, withdraw from his group, stop eating, and die of a broken heart after the death of his mother, Flo.

Gorillas are known to hold wakes for dead friends, Bekoff adds, recapping the story of a female gorilla, Babs, who died of cancer Boston’s Franklin Park Zoo ten years ago. Babs’ mate was observed howling and banging his chest, according to a zoo staff member, then picking up a piece of her favorite food — celery — putting it in her hand and trying to get her to wake up.

“Why do animals grieve and why do we see grief in different species of animals?” writes Bekoff , the author of “The Emotional Lives of Animals” and Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado. “… Some theorize that perhaps mourning strengthens social bonds among the survivors who band together to pay their last respects. This may enhance group cohesion at a time when it’s likely to be weakened.

“Grief itself is something of a mystery, for there doesn’t seem to be any obvious adaptive value to it in an evolutionary sense. It does not appear to increase an individual’s reproductive success. Whatever its value is, grief is the price of commitment, that wellspring of both happiness and sorrow.”