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Tag: predators

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)

It’s getting harder to fetch this stick

quicksand

(Today’s post has nothing to do with dogs. This happens on rare occasion when I become so steamed about some non-dog issue that I must vent — today in the form of a fable.)

You are hiking down a remote jungle trail in some country where there is quicksand — that legendary kind of quicksand from which there is no escape — when you come across a woman who is hip deep and sinking slowly.

“Oh thank God,” she says when she sees you.

She looks familiar. You smile and ask her name.

“Heather Bresch,” she says.

It takes a moment to register. “Heather Bresch? The CEO of Mylan, the pharmaceutical company that makes the EpiPen?”

“Yes,” she says as she struggles against the quicksand and sinks a little deeper. “I’m vacationing in this country, and I left my luxury villa to take a little walk and this happened. I need help.”

“Clearly you do,” you say. “I’m happy to provide assistance.”

“If you could get that fallen tree limb over there and pass it to me, I think I could pull myself out,” she says, sinking up to the waist as she points.

You walk over and pick up one end of it. “This one?” you say.

“Yes,” she says. “Hurry please.”

You begin sliding the tree limb in her direction.

“This one is $10 million,” you say.

She laughs uncomfortably. “Please, hurry,” she says.

“I’m serious,” you say.

“That’s ridiculous,” she says. “It’s just a tree limb.”

epi“And the EpiPen is just a stick with, or so I’ve read, $1 worth of medicine in it — yet your company has raised the price of it to $300.”

“The EpiPen save lives,” she says.

“So might this stick, if used as directed,” you respond.

Up to her chest in quicksand, she promises to give you the money when she gets out, but you tell her you need it up front.

She struggles to dig into her pockets, causing her to sink up to her neck. As she pulls cash out of her pockets and flings it in your direction, she explains that the six-fold increase in the price of EpiPens was necessary.

“Mylan has spent millions on research and development of the product,” she says. “You can’t expect us to pay for all that ourselves.”

“Oh, so you invented Epinephrine?”

“Well, no, but we’ve spent a lot of money perfecting our sophisticated self-delivery system — in which you plunge a needle in your own leg and push down on the stopper, administering a pre-measured, life-saving dosage.”

“And if people just measured their own, and used an old fashioned syringe, what would be the actual cost?” you ask.

“Oh, maybe about $2.29, but that’s not the point. The point is much effort and significant expense went into creating that delivery system — things like shipping and handling and lobbying and designer white lab coats, all part of our noble effort to keep people from dying from allergic reactions to bee stings and such.”

She throws a final fistful of cash out of the quicksand. “There,” she says, “that’s $10 million. Now please slide that stick to me.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” you say. “The $10 million price was five minutes ago. It has gone up since then – to $20 million.”

“That’s more than I make in a year,” she protests.

bresch“Well, only 1 million more,” you point out. “The only thing that has climbed more quickly than the cost of EpiPens is your salary.”

“We are not talking about my salary,” she says. “Now, please, the stick. Anyone can hand someone a stick. It costs nothing.”

“Bear in mind,” you say, as the quicksand rises to her mouth, “you are not so much paying for the stick as you are paying for the delivery system. Just look at me as a monopoly providing a needed service. And the cool part is I just stumbled upon my monopoly. I didn’t need help from my senator-father, or to spend millions lobbying for it.”

You watch as the quicksand covers her nose, and then her eyes.

As the top of her head disappears, you plunge the stick into the muck. She grabs on and hauls herself out. Though coughing and exhausted, she manages a laugh, and you are pretty sure you hear her call you a “sucker.”

She crawls about picking up her money as you walk away — but not before noticing an anaconda is slithering up to her from behind, and an alligator is creeping towards her from the river, and a swarm of Zika-carrying mosquitoes is headed her way.

You are not worried about her. She is where she belongs:

With all the other predators.

Does your dog need protective body armor?

coyotevest

It may make your dog look like he’s a mix of punk rocker and porcupine, but otherwise we won’t poke too much fun at this protective vest, aimed at keeping dogs — especially smaller ones — safe from coyotes and other predators.

It was designed and is being marketed by a San Diego couple that lost their dog to a coyote. They started the business last year.

“Our goal is to help prevent others from experiencing the heartbreak we suffered when our beloved Buffy was killed,” Paul and Pam Mott say on the website for the Coyote Vest.

The basic vest goes for $70. It is made of Kevlar and has a spiked collar area.

coyotewhiskersFor another $20, you can get additional hard plastic spikes running down the sides of the vest. For another $20 you can get the attachable nylon, quill-like “whiskers,” designed to poke the face and eyes of any attacking predator.

And for $60 more, you can add on the “CoyoteZapper,” allowing you to use a remote device to send an electrical jolt to any creature that might be trying to run off with your small dog in its mouth.

“​The CoyoteZapper utilizes a dog training collar capable of delivering a painful shock. But instead of shocking your dog in the neck, it shocks the coyote in the mouth,” the website says.

While marketed as coyote protection, the website points out that the vest, and zapper strips, can also protect your dog from dog park bullies — or even another larger dog at home that may not be treating the smaller one with proper respect.

“…Zapper Strips are attached to either side of the CoyoteVest in such a way that it is practically impossible for a larger dog to pick up your small dog without his mouth touching both of them at the same time. If you push the button on the remote to activate the shock module the voltage will be directed though the Zapper Strips directly into the mouth of the attacker. The shock is harmless, but painful enough to make the attacker let go.”

We’ve never been fans of zapping dogs with electricity, for whatever purpose, and using them as conductors thereof is a little problematic, too — though we’ll admit to briefly wondering whether similar protective wear might be effective in keeping school bullies at bay. (In reality, the outfit would likely only lead to more teasing.)

Effective as the Coyote Vest might be in saving a small dog from a coyote or hawk, we’re not sure — for similar reasons — whether the protective vest, or at least its attachments, belong in a dog park. It could end up drawing attention from curious dogs, including a few who might mistake your little one for a chew toy.

The Motts say the fully equipped vests do draw attention, at least from humans.

When they took their dogs Cody, Scooter and Sparky (yes, Sparky!) to the 2015 Carmel Poodle Day Parade dressed in their vests “everybody thought they were the most adorable ‘punk rock’ costumes created just for fun. They really are a lot cooler looking than we expected.”

(Photos: Coyotevest.com)

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)

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.

Guard dogs protect sheep, save cheetah

Guard dogs that protect sheep and goats on African farms from attacks by cheetahs and leopards are also helping out the cheetahs and leopards.

With their livestock safe from attack, farmers no longer feel the need to hunt or poison cheetahs and leopards, according to a BBC report.

Anatolian Kangal dogs are used in the program, started in Namibia and recently launched in Kenya.

“We have had amazing results,” Laurie Marker of the Cheetah Conservation Fund said.  “Since the dogs were imported, the cheetah population had increased by a third.” 

Anatolian Kangal dogs are extremely loyal and are ready to fight to the death. The puppies are given to farmers when they are just eight weeks old and grow up with the flocks of goats and sheep they are to guard in order to bond with them.

If a predator approaches, the dogs bark loudly and the flock gathers round them. For most predators, the barking alone is enough to keep them from approaching.

The Conservation Trust began importing the Kangal from Turkey in 1994 and since then has provided around 300 dogs to farmers.

Dogs protect penguins on Australian island

Sheepdogs have proved such perfect guardians for a colony of penguins on a small island off the south coast of Australia that conservationists are suggesting canines can be recruited to safeguard other endangered animals

The project uses Maremmas, a breed of sheepdog from Italy that bond with flocks and protects them from predators, The Earth Times reports.

“We are now starting to see some great results,” said Middle Island Maremma Project manager Ian Fitzgibbons. “We have had our best penguin count since we began in 2006 with over 80 birds counted in one night and I think we have about 26 chicks on the island too.”

The numbers of penguins had fallen from 5,000 to just 100 before the Maremmas were recruited.

Fitzgibbon said the project had sparked interest around the globe.

The Maremma idea was suggested by a concerned community member, Alan ‘Swampy’ Marsh, a local free range chicken farmer who has successfully used the Maremma breed to protect his chickens from fox predation.

(Photo courtesy of Victoria Department of Sustainability and Environment)