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Tag: nature

A stunning moment in nature goes viral, but it may not have been that natural

Video of a sled dog and a polar bear becoming buddies in northern Manitoba last weekend has gone viral, but it may not have been the stunning, pure and heartwarming moment in nature it was — and still is being — described as.

CBC reported yesterday that just days before the video, in a moment not captured on camera, a polar bear killed one of the rare sled dogs being raised on the same property.

And some officials are questioning whether the property owner, who runs a sled dog sanctuary on the land, might be illegally feeding the bears to lure them onto his property, which in turn draws tourists, which in turn supplement his income.

Initially, the videotaped moment was described as a warm and tender meeting between two species.

The video was shot and posted to YouTube by David De Meulles, a heavy-duty mechanic in Churchill, who moonlights as a tour guide for a friend, Brian Ladoon.

Ladoon operates the Mile 5 Dog Sanctuary in Churchill, where he cares for a rare breed of sled dog and supplements his income by allowing tours of the property, mostly by tourists interested in spotting polar bears.

On Saturday, De Meulles drove two clients out to Ladoon’s property in hopes of seeing some polar bears, and they watched as the polar bear approached the dog.

“I had no idea what was going to happen, and then sure enough he (the polar bear) started petting that dog, acted like he was a friend,” David De Meulles said. “I just so happened to catch a video of a lifetime.”

“I’ve known the bears to have somewhat friendly behavior with the dogs, but for a bear to pet like a human would pet a dog is just mind-blowing,” De Meulles initially told CBC.

“It was a beautiful sight to see, and I just can’t believe an animal that big would show that kind of heart toward another animal.”

But a few days later, CBC reported that a Manitoba Sustainable Development spokesperson confirmed that three polar bears had to be removed from Ladoon’s property the previous week after one of them killed a sled dog.

“Conservation officers had to immobilize a bear in that area last week and move it to the holding facility because it killed one of his dogs,” the spokesperson told CBC. “A mother and cub were also removed because there were allegations the bears were being fed and the females’ behavior was becoming a concern.”

Under Manitoba’s Endangered Species and Ecosystem Act, “No person shall kill, injure, possess, disturb or interfere with an endangered species, a threatened species, or an extirpated species that has been reintroduced.”

“The protection of polar bears is of utmost importance and interfering with their natural behavior will not be tolerated,” the spokesman added.

Other critics of Ladoon’s operation expressed concern about the dog in the video being chained — making it bait for a polar bear.

“The dog was chained up and they’re totally vulnerable,” said Ian Stirling, an adjunct professor at the University of Alberta. “Inuit (hunters) over the years in the high Arctic have told me that if you want a dog to act as a guard dog, you have to leave it off a chain. Because if it’s on a chain it knows it’s vulnerable and it won’t bark.”

The practice of feeding the bears also places the bears in danger, he added.

“Any situation that brings bears in to feed in an unnatural situation in association with human beings, I think, should not take place at all,” he said. It could lead the bears to equate the presence of humans and dogs with the availability of food and lead them to enter more populated areas.

“It’s basically a death sentence for the bears,” he said.

Ladoon, meanwhile, admits to caring for both the dogs and the bears, and indicated that whatever happens on his land is “nature’s will.”

Technology run amok … Yuk!

roombapoop

Nature tends to run its own course, just as technology that attempts to control nature tends to run its.

The results, when unforeseen possibilities are thrown into the mix, aren’t always pretty.

The depiction above is by one Jesse Newton, showing what happened on a recent night when nature ran its course, via his dog Evie, and then his trusty Roomba, programmed to clean up all the hair Evie sheds, ran its.

That zig-zagging, curly-cued brown trail recreates the stained path the Roomba left in the Newton’s living room in Arkansas after rolling through a pile of Evie’s poop.

evieEvie is house-broken — programmed, if you will, to take care of those things when the Newton family lets her out each night before bed.

But on this night, somebody forgot to do that.

As everyone slept — Jesse, wife Kelly and son Evan — the robot vacuum did what it is programmed to do every night between midnight and 1:30 a.m.: Roll all across every inch of the living room floor sucking up any debris in its path.

The results were disastrous, Jesse noted in a now-viral Facebook post that warns other Roomba/dog owners of a possibility they might not have envisioned:

“… Poop over every conceivable surface within its reach, resulting in a home that closely resembles a Jackson Pollock poop painting. It will be on your floorboards. It will be on your furniture legs. It will be on your carpets. It will be on your rugs. It will be on your kids’ toy boxes. If it’s near the floor, it will have poop on it. Those awesome wheels, which have a checkered surface for better traction, left 25-foot poop trails all over the house.”

What had happened during the night came to his attention when his young son traipsed through the living room and crawled into bed with him the next morning.

newtonsJesse — and he deserves husband of the year honors for this — let his wife continue sleeping.

He gave his son a bath and put him back to bed, then he spent the next three hours cleaning, including shampooing the carpet.

Kelly Newton says she awoke to the smell of “every cleaning product we own” and knew “something epic had taken place.”

Later, Jesse disassembled the Roomba, cleaning its parts and reassembling it, only to find it didn’t work anymore.

Jesse said he called the store where he had purchased the $400 robot, Hammacher Schlemmer, and it promised to replace it.

I’ve railed before about rushing into new technologies that promise to give us control over nature, wrote a whole book on it, in fact. Those pushing such innovations and rushing them onto the market — most often for the profit they might lead to — often don’t take the time to envision all the little things, and big things, that could go wrong.

That haste can lead to far worse things than a stinky mess and a three-hour clean-up.

We can laugh at this one, as Jesse Newton has admirably managed to do.

But, beneath all the mess, there’s a moral to the story — one that, as we turn to robots for more than vacuuming our floors, we might want to slow down and figure out.

(Photos: Jesse Newton / Facebook)

Police turn to eagles to bring down drones

I’m not sure if it’s the technophobe in me or the nature-lover in me, but something about this video makes me smile inside.

Police in the Netherlands, concerned about the security threat posed by unmanned aerial drones, have enlisted eagles to bring them down.

The Dutch National Police Force announced that they’ve partnered with Danish company, Guard from Above, to train the birds, according to Global News.

Just as with police dogs, there’s a potential that law enforcement might misuse its new-found ally. There are probably questions that could be raised from an animal rights perspective, as well. On top of that, I’d hate to think that eagles were somehow being used to abridge free speech.

But police officials emphasized the eagles won’t be going after law-abiding drones, just those that are posing a security threat.

“There are situations in which drones are not allowed to fly. This has almost always to do with security,” Mark Wiebe, innovation manager of the National Police, said in a press release. (No need to click that link unless you speak Dutch.)

The video above is from a demonstration National Police put on last Friday, during which one of the trained birds successfully tracked and brought down a standard commercial drone in mid-air.

It’s almost as if the regal birds are taking back the sky, which, in our view, was their’s to begin with.

Yes, I’m definitely seeing too much symbolism in it, but watching still makes me say, “Go Eagles!”

Reflections on the dog paddle

dogpaddle

Throw a dog who has never gone swimming into a pool and, pretty much instantly, he’ll start moving his four legs in a series of motions we’ve come to call the dog paddle.

Throw a human who has never gone swimming into a pool and — though the possibilities are much higher for helpless flailing about, cussing, drowning, or becoming traumatized for life — he may eventually come to his senses enough to try and work his way back to the side of the pool. He’ll do so not using a butterfly stroke, breast stroke or Australian crawl, but by doing what dogs do.

The dog paddle: It’s seemingly instinctual. It’s primitive. And though we humans mostly outgrow it, it remains sort of the default mode of propelling ourselves through water.

Just how primitive it may be is under investigation by Dr. Frank Fish, a professor of biology at West Chester University who — maybe because of his name, maybe not — has spent most of his career studying how marine mammals swim.

Most recently, he has been studying the swimming motions of dogs, and he has concluded that they are very similar to the motions dogs use in trotting. That explains the  ease with which most dogs can make the transition from land to water — requiring no lessons, and (generally) little coaxing: They basically propel themselves the same way in water as they do on land.

That their stride and strokes are nearly identical is interesting in itself, but Fish thinks it could also help explain how whales and dolphins ended up in the ocean.

Fish subscribes to the theory that marine mammals were intitially four-legged land dwellers who ventured into the water one day (likely dog paddling at first), decided they liked it better there, then evolved into such super swimmers that they no longer needed legs, or, for that matter, land.

underwater dogsFor his research, Fish set up some underwater video cameras and enlisted eight volunteer dogs (including his own) of six different breeds, ranging from Yorkshire terrier to Newfoundland.

He borrowed a swimming pool used to rehabilitate horses at the University of Pennsylvania.

Analyzing the video, Fish and fellow researchers saw that dogs swim much like they run — with diagonal pairs of legs churning in unison, according to Science Daily. Fish presented his findings at the 2014 Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB) meeting in Austin.

While there’s plenty of dog research we’d categorize as a silly waste of time, we find all this pretty intriguing.

First, it reminds us that practice makes perfect — to think that long, long ago there might have been a couple of four-legged dolphins who didn’t know how to swim, hesitating at the edge of the water: “I dunno, it looks dangerous … should we go in?”

Second, in an era when we’re increasingly relying on computers to do our thinking for us, it serves as a warning that those muscles we don’t use can disappear. It raises a host of interesting questions about our future, and our past.

Why is it we humans tend to dog paddle in our first encounters with water? Is that some sort of instinctual nod to a past when we got about on four legs, instead of two?

If cavemen had spent more time at the swimming hole, might we homo sapiens have evolved into something more amphibious?

Given that, might mermaids really exist?

It’s kind of inspiring to think there might have been a day when dolphins, the planet’s most graceful swimmers, were total klutzes in the water — that they started off splashing about with some awkward looking dog paddling and progressed to the point where they could actually leap out of the water.

It reminds us that, maybe, anything is possible with enough hard work — even when it comes to behaviors we might think are genetic and therefore unchangeable. Do we sometimes wear our genes too tightly, and allow them to restrict us from leaping into new things, and getting over old ones?

We wish Fish luck in unraveling how four-legged terrestrial forms evolved into no-legged, finned ones. And as long as the dogs involved in his research are having a good time —  given Fish is letting his own dog be used in the study, we assume they are — we have no problem with them helping the professor prove his point.

In other words: Go Fish!

(Top Photo, Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology; bottom photo, from the book Underwater Dogs)

Would you eat your dog to stay alive?

Marco Lavoie.jpg A hiker who was stranded in the Canadian wilderness for nearly three months after a bear destroyed his supplies had to eat his beloved dog to survive.  When Marco Lavoie was found by rescuers on Wednesday he was just days from death and had to be carried to a waiting helicopter.  The 44-year-old had been trapped with little food and survival equipment since July after a bear ransacked his campsite near the start of a planned three-month solo hike.Three days after his dog saved him from a bear in the Canadian wilderness, a stranded hiker ate his German shepherd to save himself from starvation.

Unable to find any food, Marco Lavoie, 44, killed his dog with a rock and ate him, according to the Canadian news agency QMI.

According to news reports, the first words the hiker uttered, after being found close to death by rescuers last week, were: “I want to get a new dog.”

Lavoie — after a bear destroyed his canoe and food supply — was stranded for three months in the wilderness about 500 miles outside Montreal. After the bear attack, he sprained his ankle and was unable to hunt or find any other source of food, according to reports.

Lavoie, an experienced hiker who often spent weeks in the wilderness by himself, was rescued by helicopter on Wednesday. He’d lost 90 pounds and was suffering from hypothermia. He was listed in critical condition in a hospital in Northern Quebec.

Survival expert Andre Francois Bourbeau told the Toronto Sun that Lavoie’s decision to eat his dog was a good one.

“He survived because he made good decisions. Eating his dog was one of them,” said Borbeau, the author of a survival guide. “You have to be desperate, but there’s no shame in (eating the dog),” said Bourbeau. “Hunger squeezes you so much that you would accept food that’s not normally possible,” said Bourbeau. “You can crave slugs and bugs.”

I’m sure there are many others who hold that view, and who’d point out that man — by virtue of that “dominion” he has over other animals, by virtue of being the superior, more developed being, by virtue of his position atop civilized society — has every right to chow down on his dog when trapped in the wilderness with no other options available.

But we don’t find much virtue at all in his actions.

We see more humanity in the dog, who loyally went along on his master’s silly wilderness trip, scared off a bear to protect him, and — despite any hunger pangs he might have been experiencing, despite his master’s hobbled condition — didn’t make a meal of Lavoie.

Something to quack about

A new generation of Woestenducks entered the world Saturday, when the eggs laid by the duck named after my mother cracked open and at least eight — maybe more — ducklings emerged.

I was visiting Arbor Acres, the duck-crazy retirement community where my mother lives, and by the time I left that evening, eight of the eggs had hatched, and four more were about to, according to Bo Bowers, a resident who monitored the nest all day long from a nearby folding chair.

It was Bo who, when the Arbor Acres flock was dwindling last year, ordered 16 ducklings of various breeds, raised them in cages at his home until they were old enough to survive on their own, then released the newcomers — each named after a resident of the community — into the Arbor Acres pond.

The duck named after my mother was the first one to become pregnant. She built herself a nest of pine needles in which to lay her eggs under an azalea bush just outside the window of my mother’s room.

Bo counted 13 eggs in her nest last week, but when he later found one had been stolen and destroyed, apparently by a crow, he saw a need for increased vigilance.

He put a little fence around the nest, then watched and waited all Saturday — getting up from time to time to chase off the geese and other ducks who approached.

Once all the ducklings emerged, Bo gently gathered them, placed them in a box and took them home, ensuring that, for the next six weeks, they won’t become the victims of predators. Those include coyote, fox, crows, herons and at least one good-sized turtle who lives in the pond and, attacking from below, is believed to have pulled a few baby ducklings, bobbing along behind their mothers, into its depths.

On Saturday, I stepped outside my mother’s room and asked Bo how many eggs he was sitting on, and whether he’d like to borrow my tent for the night. Despite my teasing, he let me get close enough to take a picture.

Mother duck sat firmly on her nest, protecting the unhatched eggs, and making sure none of the ducklings ventured off. I was able to see one who poked its head out (that’s it under the hosta leaf, in the bottom right corner of the picture atop this post).

As news of the births spread, the crowd grew outside the window of my mother’s room. Other residents, staff and even a security official showed up to take a look.

Bo was still sitting sentry when I left. One could argue that he’s interfering with that whole “survival of the fittest” thing. But (being not particularly fit) I’ve never been a big fan of that. Besides, Bo, having brought the ducks to Arbor Acres, feels more than a little responsibility for them, and the second generation they are producing. He sees nothing wrong with giving them a headstart — at least until they’re big enough to avoid the snapping jaws of the turtle that lurks beneath.

I agree. Long live the Woestenducks.

Highway Haiku: The bounce of Spring

 

“Some Guy Named Bud?”

Who named the seasons?

Kudos for Spring … We wake up …

And, KABOING,  it’s here

 

(Highway Haikus — poetry composed behind the steering wheel — are a semi-regular feature of Travels With Ace. To read them all, click here.)