What do you do with a ratty-looking invasive species that’s eating its way through thousands of acres of coastal wetlands?
In Louisiana, entrepreneurs have made hats and purses out of them, and, for several years, state wildlife officials have offered $5 bounties to hunters and trappers in an attempt to curtail their numbers.
Now, a local company is turning nutria into dog treats:
“Marsh Dog uses an innovative market-based approach to solve the problem — wild Nutria dog biscuits … Owners can treat their dogs to an all-natural, artisanal treat that tastes good and does good while helping to support the fight to conserve the fastest disappearing land in the world—coastal wetlands.”
The Marsh Dog website says the locally made treats are being sold in numerous pet care outlets in Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
And, the website makes clear, nutria are not rats. Despite public perceptions, despite a similarly slinky appearance, and despite sharing the same taxonomic order (as do squirrels, beaver, and guinea pigs) nutria are actually more closely related to porcupines or capybaras.
And they taste much better, the website says.
The Marsh Dog idea was born last year when owners Veni Harlan, a graphic designer, and her brother, Hansel Harlan, an attorney, were awarded a $7,022 grant by the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program, which helps fund attempts to curb the nutria population in Louisiana’s wetlands.
“We both cook for our dogs,” Veni Harlan explained to The Advocate. ”We’ve both been involved with dogs all our life.”
The Harlans make the biscuits – each batch takes about four days — in their new commercial-grade kitchen in the backyard, and they say demand keeps increasing.
“People like that it’s all-natural and has no preservatives, and, of course, that it’s made locally,” said J.T. Hackett, a manager at Petz Plaza, a Baton Rouge pet shop.
Nutria are an invasive species native to South America. They gnaw at the roots of marsh vegetation, causing the plants to die, which contributes to coastal erosion.
The state’s Coastwide Nutria Control Program pays trappers $5 per nutria for each tail they bring out of the marsh. The program is federally funded and managed by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. Trappers also have the option of selling the animals to companies like Marsh Dog, or Righteous Fur, a New Orleans-based company that makes hats, messenger bags and more out of nutria.
The state’s goal is to shrink the nutria population in south Louisiana by 400,000 animals a year.
Nutria make up about 20 percent of each dog treat. The treats also include brown rice and black strap molasses. An 8-ounce bag of the treats retails for about $8.50.
“We honestly didn’t know how well they would be received,” Veni Harlan said. “And we’ve just been blown away. The people have really responded. They get it. They understand what this is about — that it’s about Louisiana.”
Posted by jwoestendiek July 17th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, biscuits, bounties, coastal, curtailing, dog, dog biscuits, dog food, dog treats, dogs, erosion, hunters, invasive, louisiana, marsh, marsh dog, molasses, new orleans, nutria, nutria dog treats, pet food, pet treats, pets, population, rice, species, trappers, treats, wetlands
If so, it represents some of the oldest known evidence of dog domestication, according to a recent study in the online journal PloS One.
The Siberian skull, along with equally ancient dog remains found in a cave in Belgium, indicate domestic dogs may have come from more than one ancestor, more than one area, and more than one era — contrary to popular scientific belief.
Researchers say the skull’s shortened snout — not as long and narrow as that of a wolf — is evidence the creature it came from was domesticated.
“Essentially, wolves have long thin snouts and their teeth are not crowded, and domestication results in this shortening of the snout and widening of the jaws and crowding of the teeth,” said Greg Hodgins, a researcher at the University of Arizona’s Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Laboratory and co-author of the study. “What’s interesting is that it doesn’t appear to be an ancestor of modern dogs.”
Hodgins suspects even pre-ice age dogs were pets and helpers, as opposed to food sources.
“The dogs are not necessarily providing products or meat. They are probably providing protection, companionship and perhaps helping on the hunt. And it’s really interesting that this appears to have happened first out of all human relationships with animals.”
(Photos by Nikolai D. Ovodov)
Posted by jwoestendiek January 26th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: altai mountains, animals, belgium, cave, discovery, dogs, domestic, domestication, found, helpers, humans, hunters, ice age, origin, pets, relationships, science, siberia, skull, species, study, wolf
In an effort to keep putting greens pristine, and keep golfers from getting all poopy-shoed, some golf courses, like Rebsamen in Little Rock, have turned to dogs.
That’s where a 12-year-old border collie named Fern has patroled the grounds for 10 years – up until talk began about retiring her in the last month or so, and another golf course requested her services.
“She’s gotten a lot of attention the last couple of weeks because of what’s going on,” said assistant city manager Bryan Day. “I’ve gotten e-mails from people wanting us to loan her to North Little Rock,” Day told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (Registration is required to read the story.)
About 200 geese are living at Burns Park in North Little Rock, feasting on the greens and using the grounds as their bathroom. It has gotten so bad that city officials decided to let hunters come in and take care of the problem.
Opposition from animal lovers has led North Little Rock to rethink the plan, and at least consider the far easier and less messy route of getting a dog like Fern.
Border collies are used across the country to keep geese away from airports, neighborhood ponds, golf courses and parks. Generally, all it takes is a prolonged stare from them to send geese on their way.
Little Rock bought Fern for $3,000 in 2001 from a North Carolina breeder. Costly as that sounds, it was far cheaper than the $20,000 in labor the city had spent on repairing goose-related damage.
Her presence alone keeps the geese away — and she’s earned some attention along the way. She was on the cover of Turfnet.com’s 2008 “Superintendent’s Best Friend” Calendar, which features working dogs on golf courses across the country.
Now, at 12, Fern spends her time mostly kicking back in the club house, or going for rides in golf carts. Because there are no more geese, she has it pretty easy. But because her presence ensures the geese won’t return, officials have decided not to retire her, and not to rent her out.
“She’s got 300 acres out here,” Jay Carnes, the golf course superintendent said. “She needs to stay here and be buried here.”
(Photo: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)
Posted by jwoestendiek December 28th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, arkansas, border collie, burns park, calendar, control, damage, deterrent, dogs, fern, geese, golf, golf course dogs, golf courses, hunters, little rock, pets, poop, rebsamen, superintendents best friend
I’m over-stating, and over-generalizing, but it’s interesting to me — and indicative of our collective schizophrenia when it comes to dogs — to compare what’s going on in the two cities when it comes to strays.
Fayetteville is making plans to round them up. The city council is considering contracting with a private outfit out of Texas that will send four “hunters” to track them down, shoot them with tranquilizer darts and turn them over to the county animal control office, where, most likely, they will be euthanized.
St. Louis is having an art exhibit.
Stray Rescue of St. Louis, an organization that rescues and adopts out dogs that have been abandoned, abused or found wandering the streets (all, amazingly, without the aid of tranquilizer guns), is holding it’s second installment of “Urban Wanderers,” a fundraising exhibition in which area artists paint, photograph and sculpt images of dogs in its care.
In conjunction with the Saint Louis University Museum of Art, the exhibit opened July 15 and runs through August 28.
The focus of this year’s exhibit is the bully breeds, and the misconceptions surrounding them.
“Urban Wanderers will showcase pit bulls’ many positive characteristics, such as gentleness, loyalty, attentiveness, and athleticism, and attempt to dispel the false perception that the pit bull is born aggressive and dangerous. The pit bull is proof that dogs thrust into dog fighting and other deplorable conditions are victims of human callousness and cruelty.”
The artworks include the painting above, by Michelle Streiff, of Pietra, a dog who was found abandoned in the backyard of a vacant house at the age of six months.
Despite being on her own, living as a stray, in the wild, she’s “outgoing, playful, friendly, loving and just an all around wonderful girl,” according to the staff of Stray Rescue’s shelter, where she’s available for adoption.
(You can find and bid on all the featured artwork — including some by the dogs themselves — via this page.)
The art displayed in the exhibition, at Saint Louis University Museum of Art, can be bid on until August 28. All proceeds will benefit Stray Rescue of St. Louis, funding its efforts to pull dogs off the streets, socialize them and find them new homes.
Stray Rescue of St. Louis was founded by Randy Grim, a former flight attendant-turned groomer-turned full time dog rescuer. He has written two books, Miracle Dog and “Don’t dump the Dog,” and is the subject of another, “The Man Who Talks to Dogs.”
“Feral dogs are the untouchables; they are the ones who ”belong” to no one,” he writes. “They are the hold-outs, the animals under-funded pounds can’t catch and overburdened humane shelters can’t deal with. They colonize whatever neighborhoods afford them the best shelter, the most food and the least amount of contact with human beings. They exist, like genetic castaways, in the evolutionary no-man’s-land between domesticity and wildness. They are completely, utterly, alone.”
For more of his take on feral dogs — the extent of the problem, how to capture them, and rehabilitate them, and how to address the problem without nooses, guns, violence and euthanasia — you can look at this web page he put together.
Posted by jwoestendiek July 25th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abandoned, adoption, animal control, animals, art, art exhibit, bully breeds, darts, dogs, euthanasia, fayetteville north carolina, feral, guns, hunters, pets, pit bulls, randy grim, rescue, shelter, shooting, st. louis, stray, stray rescue of st louis, tranquilizer, urban wanderers, wild
Professional dog hunters from Texas (where else?) may be called in to help “solve” Fayetteville, N.C.’s stray dog problem.
A Fort Worth, Texas-based outfit called the “Dangerous Animal Task Force,” or DATF, for short, offered its services to the city in a letter last week to Mayor Tony Chavonne, the Fayetteville Observer reported.
The Observer reported earlier this month that up to 150 “wild dogs” are roaming city neighborhoods, ”killing pets and threatening residents,” and that the county’s Animal Services Department had limited resources to capture the feral canines.
(There is no city animal control office, which may help explain why there’s a problem in the first place.)
DATF (no, that’s not them in the photo — just a generic posse) has proposed sending four representatives to the city who would spend two weeks hunting the dogs with tranquilizer darts.
The darts would include GPS chips that — assuming the darts stay intact — would allow the hunters to find animals who kept running after being shot. The animals would then be taken to the county animal shelter.
I’m sure you can guess what would happen there — although that part of it isn’t being talked about much.
City Manager Dale Iman briefed the City Council this week about the “task force,” saying, ”I think we have a good chance of making an impact.” The two-week “deployment” — to use DATF’s terminology — would cost $29,000, with the city and county splitting the cost.
According to the group’s letter, its mission is to assist law enforcement and other local authorities in emergency situations, natural disasters and other events in which dangerous animals are involved.
The company’s website — it does not appear to be a non-profit organization, though it does seek donations – is a pretty bare bones affair, peppered with photos of violent animals and Homeland Security and FEMA logos. It offers no information in the way of actual cases it has handled.
Nobody asked me, but my advice to Fayetteville would be to think hard about calling in hired guns. Their shoot- first-ask-questions-later approach could easily lead to some pets being bagged along with the so-called feral dogs — and while the professional hunters will only be tranquilizing them, some missing and wandering pets could be swept up, and subjected to step two.
Rather than a gun-toting dog posse, wouldn’t it make more sense to seek help from a group like Best Friends Animal Society or the Humane Society of the United States, who could evaluate the animals as individuals, rather than as trophies?
There was a time in America when bounties were placed on dogs. Calling in gunmen is a little too reminiscent of that for me.
I’m not disputing that many or even most of the dogs to be hunted are dangerous — but does a generation or two living back in the wild make them hopeless cases?
If Michael Vick’s dogs, after what they went through, could be rehabilitated and become family pets, don’t these deserve a chance? And why isn’t anyone speaking up for them?
Posted by jwoestendiek July 22nd, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animal control, animals, bounty hunters, city council, dangerous animals, dangerous animals task force, darts, datf, dogs, euthanasia, euthanized, exterminating, fayetteville, feral, help, hunters, hunting dogs, north carolina, pets, posse, problem, professional, shooting, shooting dogs, shooting strays, strays, texas, tranquilizer darts, wild
So far, we have veered wildly off the path John Steinbeck took 50 years ago — the one that led to his book, “Travels with Charley,” and the one we intend to loosely follow in the months ahead.
For while Steinbeck was out to reconnect with, and take the pulse of, the country, we’re more in search of people and places that have a special connection with dogs. Though it’s one of my favorite books, by one of my favorite authors – and one I would never be so bold as to take shots at — there was never enough Charley in “Travels with Charley,” for my tastes.
Bringing the dog along was, in fact, an afterthought — a concession, in part, to his wife, who had concerns about Steinbeck’s health and safety alone on the road.
After a few weeks, as he ventured into Maine’s more northern reaches, it was Steinbeck who had concerns about Charley’s safety — mainly that his poodle might fall victim to hunters.
Steinbeck wasn’t real big on hunting, describing some sportsmen as “overweight gentlemen, primed with whiskey and armed with high powered rifles. They shoot at anything that moves or looks as though it might …”
Worried that Charley might be mistaken for a deer, Steinbeck wrapped a red kleenex around his dog’s tail, fastening it with rubber bands: “Every morning I renewed his flag, and he wore it all the way west while bullets whined and whistled around us.”
As we got back on Steinbeck’s trail, heading to the northeastern-most reaches of Maine, I borrowed his idea — not tying anything to Ace’s curly tail, but, not long after we passed Maine’s highest mountain, Mount Katahdin, replacing his brown bandana with a bright red one.
I-95, north of Bangor is a glorious stretch of road (for an Interstate) — especially at the peak of fall. It’s billboard free, and designed in such a way that you rarely see the lanes of traffic bound the other way. We followed it to Houlton, then headed north up Highway 1, through Presque Isle, Caribou and Van Buren.
Then we followed along the Canadian border, enjoying the sight of the leaves turning in two countries, and stopping for the night in Madawaska, Maine’s most northeastern town, where we checked into Martin’s Motel.
The accomodations were perfectly fine, but Ace seemed jumpy — like he is when we camp.
Something was bothering him, and I’m not sure what. Maybe he’s road-weary. Perhaps it was an upset stomach; he was flatulent during the whole drive — making it a heat-on, windows-open kind of day. He’s scratching a lot, and may need a bath and a flea treatment. Maybe he was picking up a hunting season vibe — sesning that it’s that time of year, in these parts, when testosterone rises like maple tree sap and men venture into the woods to kill animals.
The lead story in last week’s St. John Valley Times — “Teen bags moose in first 20 minutes” — recounted how Corey Daigle bagged his first moose in Madawaska. It was 1,050 pounds, with a 55 1/2-inch rack. In the photo accompanying the article, Corey is straddling the dead moose, with one hand on each antler.
Last week was first week of moose hunting for eight of Maine’s Wildlife Managment Districts, or, as they’re called in the abbreviated form, WMD’s.
All other news took a back seat to that, including the other story on the front page, about a woman in Fort Kent who hand knits mittens, hats and other winter gear receiving a small business grant from the state.
The newspaper’s police blotter, meanwhile, carried crime reports from previous weekend:
Friday, 9:04 a.m: Female called to question leash laws in town. She claims a woman walks her dog without a leash and the dog does its “business” on the lawns of everyone and owner does not pick it up… 4:51 p.m.: Female called to question: Is there a street dance. Advise didn’t know…
Saturday, 7:21 a.m:. Individual called to find out what time is parade … 8:11 a.m.: Female called regarding a missing dog … 12:56 p.m.: Individual called to report found a dog on a local road…
Sunday, 9:43 a.m.: Female called to report a lost poodle….10:43 a.m.: Vandalism to mailboxes, relay to officer … 9:01 p.m.: Male called to report a skunk with a bottle on its head…
A good half of the items on the blotter were animal related – lost dogs, mostly — and it got me to thinking about how man can pamper and pine over the loss of one animal, then go out and shoot another. There are the species we love — dog, cat, horse – and the species we love to hunt, kill, eat, and have mounted as trophies.
“Somehow, the hunting process has to do with masculinity, but I don’t quite know how,” Steinbeck wrote.
I don’t, either. But I know this much: Until hunting season is over, my dog isn’t leaving my side.
(Dead moose photo: St. John Valley Times)
(Other photos by John Woestendiek)
Posted by jwoestendiek October 7th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, animals, autumn, bandana, border, canada, canadian, charley, colors, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, fall, hunters, hunting, john steinbeck, kleenex, madawaska, maine, moose, moose crossing, moose hunting, mount katahdin, northeastern, northern, pets, road trip, season, st. john valley, steinbeck, travel, traveling with dogs, travels with ace, travels with charley
A band of wild beagles is scaring residents on part of Long Island, WABC-TV reports — even though it’s nothing new.
Dot Faszczewski, of Orient Point, was walking her dog, Trapper, when she encountered two or three of them.
“I could hear them coming towards me, it was a ferocious kind of barking,” she said. “I quickly grabbed my dog and came running into the house, just as we got in the dogs jumped at the door. I thought it was just some wolves coming at me.”
The report noted the beagles have been a problem for many years — the result of dogs being abandoned by hunters for failing to meet “rabbit-catching quotas.”
Area shelters have been trying to round up the beagles, socialize and rehabilitate them and find them adoptive homes. Reports of the beagles being aggressive don’t surprise shelter officials.
“Certainly if they’re out in a pack and their starving and their freezing they’re going to become aggressive,” said Pam Green of the Kent Animal Shelter in Calverton. She said her shelter takes in about 40 beagles a year.
Posted by jwoestendiek February 3rd, 2010 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: abandoned, adopt, animals, beagles, calverton, dogs, feral, hunters, kent animal shelter, long island, orient point, packs, pets, rehabilitate, rescue, shelter, socialize, wild
For some reason, even though I’m in Baltimore, I’m feeling a bit of unease about Ridgefield, Connecticut’s plan to allow deer hunting on the Ridgefield Golf Course.
True, nobody’s playing golf there in the winter — so, thankfully, we don’t have to worry about hunters getting hit with golf balls.
But given the course is a popular place for sledders, snow-shoers and cross-country skiers in the winter, the plan to allow bow-hunting seems a little ill-advised.
The managed deer hunt – designed to reduce the herd — extends only into the wooded areas, and it’s only on weekdays, and only for three weeks, and there will be signs posted at all the course’s entry points warning the public about the hunt, according to the News-Times in Danbury.
“The hunt will take place in the woods, in swampland,” said Tony Steger, the course’s superintendent. “The people who come to the course in winter are out in the middle of the fairways.”
Surely there will be no risk for those enjoying snow sports — given arrows, like golf balls, always go where they are intended.
And, if not, well … FORE!
Posted by jwoestendiek January 9th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: arrows, bow and arrow, bow hunting, connecticut, deer, fore, golf, golf course, herd, hunt, hunters, hunting, managed, population, recreation, restricted, ridgefield, ridgefield golf course, snow, sports, winter