Showing posts with label wolves. Show all posts
Showing posts with label wolves. Show all posts

September 17, 2018

Quick Review: "Alpha," Where Boy Meets Wolf (Dog).

Kodi Smit-McPhee as Keda with a Czechoslovakian wolfdog that plays Alpha
(who has a surprise for the humans)
Just to save you the trouble, I will list some things that anyone familiar with hunting large animals will object to in the movie Alpha.

And then I will tell you that this story of a boy and his wolf is worthwhile anyway.

First of all, if the village hunters were going after Pleistocene bison, they would not walk miles and miles, leaving their families behind. Everyone would go. Non-hunters could still help drive the buffalo over the cliff by flapping skins and making a commotion. Throwing spears to create a "fence" is not going to stop charging bison.

When it is time to process the meat, you need everyone. And a lot will still be wasted, as archaeologists can tell you. Or visit the most famous and weirdly named such site in North America! (The movie too was filmed in Alberta, except for the CGI parts.)

Second, according to my archaeologist friend, 20,000 years BP is too early for bows and arrows, according to current information. I would give the movie-makers a pass on that one.

Third, when winter comes, why do people keep living in a windswept snowfield in what looks like northern Labrador instead of moving to a more sheltered place that might offer some fuel?

Fourth — and this is more of a continuity lapse — during his time along, Keda (Kodi Smit-McPhee) starts to grow some teenage whiskers, yet in the final scene, they are gone. But going by his father's beard,  this is not a culture where men shave.

And a goof, which someone at Internet Movie Database also noted, "In the first cave scene, Kedi [sic] is kneeling to approach the wolf, and the bottom of his boot clearly shows a rubber lugged sole." Yeah, it did.


Now for the positives

First,  Alpha is a beautiful movie to watch. Some of that is Alberta and a lot of it is CGI, I will grant. But wow, Shining Times. If you were an old man by forty, you still would have lived a life filled with wonder.

Second, it's a "dog story" with a happy ending, a bit like the lines from Kipling's Jungle Book:

When the Man waked up he said,
'What is Wild Dog doing here?'
And the Woman said,
'His name is not Wild Dog any more,
but the First Friend,
because he will be our friend
for always and always and always.'


Its images and story will stay with you.

September 29, 2017

A Venue of Vultures & Other Links

Crappy phone photo from across a pasture.
It has been raining, and when it's not raining, drizzling. Matt Sellers, Beulah's own weatherman, called in "Seattle Week" on his "Wet Mountain Weather" Facebook page.

Driving through eastern Custer County yesterday, I saw big dark birds in a tree holding their wings spread like capes. Through the binocular, they were turkey vultures exhibiting (I just learnt this word) the "horaltic pose." Drying their wings? But it was drizzling. Thermo-regulating? With the temperature about 48° F., there was no need to cool down. Maybe they just do it to look menacing.

What surprised me, though, was that I saw vultures at all. I thought they all had migrated south by now. Time to talk to the raptor experts.

Yes, according to that supposed lingo of animal gatherings, e.g. "parliament of owls," vultures form "venues." I suspect that the whole business was made up by some 19th-century English sporting vicar sitting in his study.

And there is more . . . 

• Five weeks missing!  All of Alma, Colo., celebrated after this lost dog was found on Mount Bross

How to tell a bird's age by its molt pattern 


• Another lucky dog! A Minnesota wire-haired pointer dodges wolves. "' The dog jumped in the window of the truck, and the wolf did a quick lap around the truck,' Bailey said." I bet his owner will start carrying something on his hip for when a 20-gauge and #6 shot are not enough.

July 15, 2017

Lost Dog Survives Wolves & Winter — And She's a Chessie

So out of loyalty to this fine breed, I give you this story of a long-lost elderly dog who survived:

"The last [the dog's owners" had heard, a hunter in Jerusalem Valley had seen a brown dog in the forest, running from wolves.

Read more here: http://www.idahostatesman.com/news/local/article160290474.html#storylink=cpy"

"The past year’s hard winter would’ve been tough to survive in the wild, even for an animal in its prime, Glankler said. The dog she had rescued, though a hardy Chessie (a dog known for its wooly, oily coat that was bred for the extreme cold of retrieving in the Atlantic), was completely deaf and clearly pretty old. Glankler couldn’t be completely sure this dog was Mo."

Read the whole thing.

This post approved by Fisher,
who is not lost.

Read more here: http://www.idahostatesman.com/news/local/article160290474.html#storylink=cpy"

February 26, 2017

A Kid, a Dog (?), and the World's Greatest Cave Art

What he or she saw: lions and prey at Chauvet
Sometime, say 26,000 years ago or more, a kid and a canid (wolf? dog? wolf-dog?) went exploring  underground.
The human prints are of a barefooted child aged eight to ten years old and standing about 4.5 feet (1.4 meters) tall. The child was walking, not running, although at one point it appears that he or she slipped a little in the soft clay. Researchers know that the child carried a torch because there is evidence of him/her stopping at one point to clean the torch, leaving behind a stain of charcoal.

It is amazing to think of a Paleolithic kid exploring this ancient cave, examining the paintings and bear skulls that were placed reverently at the back of the cave. Even more amazing is that accompanying (not stalking) the child’s footprints are the paw prints of a wolf (or possibly a large dog). This timeless image of a child and dog shatters the notion that dogs were only domesticated 15,000 years ago. More importantly, the new time period radically alters the answer to how dogs became man’s best friend.
OTHER NEWS: 

There are more prairie dog towns in Colorado than we thought. But I am still sorry that my sister did not ever follow up on her plan to clandestinely reintroduce them in South Park, from where, she said, they had all been poisoned in the mid-20th century.

• Hunting writer Dave Petersen of Durango interviewed in High Country News.
When I interviewed Western writer David Petersen for a magazine article several years ago, I really only had one question to ask him: Could hunting be morally defended in the 21st century?

At a time when few people seem concerned about that question — either they’re already convinced that hunting is barbaric, or just the opposite, that it’s a right that ought to be exercised with as few restrictions and as easily as possible — Petersen has spent much of his life examining what it means to kill in order to eat.
More about his hunting-ethics documentary here.

New study revises tree-ring dating of archaeological sites.
Currently, archaeologists have to rely on relatively sparse evidence for dating the history of Western civilisation before 763 BCE, with Chinese history also only widely agreed from 841 BCE. For example, they depend on ancient records of rare astronomical phenomena, such as the solar eclipse during the ninth year of Ashur Dan III of Assyria, to determine the age of historical events. In the absence of such records, standard radiocarbon measurements provide the best estimates, but these are still often only accurate to within 200 to 300 calendar years. If the radiocarbon spikes in the tree-ring data were also found in archaeological items attributable to specific historical periods, the information could be used to anchor exactly when events occurred, says the paper.

June 17, 2016

The Mushroom Hunter, Her Dog, the Wolf, and the Bears

This is a "lost mushroom hunter" story with a twist. Joanne Barnaby, a resident of Canada's Northwest Territories tells the Washington Post how she and her dog were stalked by a wolf who tried for hours to separate them.
[She[ had been picking mushrooms in the remote Canadian wilderness [on June 10th ] when she had heard a growl behind her. She turned around and saw Joey, her faithful mutt, locked in a snarling standoff with a skinny black wolf.
Then a chance encounter with another top predator led a plan to extricate herself and Joey from what felt like a losing game.

Some people accuse her of being a nature-faker, claiming "wolves don't do that." (They're just furry angels who want bring us spiritual blessings.) She says otherwise, vehemently.

June 23, 2015

February 08, 2015

How Not To Become Prey

Bears biting backpackers. Mountain lions munching mountain bikers.

Every time that some carnivorous critter bites or kills a human, there will be voices proclaiming, "They were here first. We live on their territory."

That is true in a long historical view —  and it is also true that human populations have lived alongside big carnivores throughout history — but Wyoming writer Cat Urbigkit's new book, When Man Becomes Prey: Fatal Encounters with America's Most Feared Predators, adds some nuance and some new information.

Her book is divided into species-specific chapters
  • Black bears
  • Coyotes
  • Gray wolves
  • Mountain lions
  • Grizzly nightmares
  • Greater Yellowstone grizzlies
plus two more, "Habituation and Alaska Attacks" and "Learning to Coexist with Predators."

Each chapter begins with some narratives, the kind that you want to read in the daytime with a clear view of your surroundings. They then cover relevant scientific research and practical ways to avoid conflict with bears, mountain lions, or whatever. "For some hikers [in coyote habitat] rocks-in-pockets becomes a routine at the start of every hike."

For instance, I was raised to believe that while they were a threat to dogs and cats, coyotes left adult-size humans alone. Urbigkit leads with the 2009 killing of Taylor Mitchell in Cape Breton Highlands National Park by a small pack of three coyotes — all healthy. "Wildlife officials suspected that these coyotes had become habituated to humans during the tourist season, and this may have involved the animals receiving food rewards from humans." (There have been other attacks on children and adults , but she was the only recorded adult human fatality.)

Attacks on pets, even leashed dogs with people, are also increasing. Geographically, coyote attacks seem most common in parks, where no hunting is allowed, and into urban areas, again without hunting and with a variety of food resources.

A certain degree of hunting, she suggests, does encourage predators to stay away from people. Yet with mountain lions, for instance, "wildlife managers believe that when heavy localized hunting results in the harvest of older mature males, more young mountain lions are likely to disperse into those areas, creating an increase in [lion-human] conflicts."

Some other take-aways:

• While people think that black bear sows with cubs are the most dangerous, "the majority of the fatal attacks on humans involved male bears, and most attacks took place during the daylight hours." While most black bears are shy, some do prey on humans deliberately. Also, "no one killed in a black bear attack carried bear spray."

• Urbigkit, who lives on a sheep ranch south of Grand Teton National Park, believes in bear spray: "You don't have to be an excellent shot to be effective with a can of bear spray — a cloud of spray between you and a charging bear should be enough for your immediate retreat from the area."

She also offers a case where bear spray stopped an attacking mountain lion. I myself have used it only on aggressive dogs, where it worked well, so I suspect that it would work just as well on a wolf or coyote.

• There are no documented cases of black bears attacking humans in defense of a carcass, but as Northern Rockies hunters are learning, grizzlies, where present have done that a number of times.

• The old idea, from books like Jim Corbett's Man-Eaters of Kumaon (1944), is that the predators who attack humans are usually elderly, crippled, or wounded. With grizzly bears, that is sometimes true, Urbigkit writes. But there also more North American predators than there used to be, thanks to recovery programs and more-regulated hunting. In addition, we have created such predator-friendly places as parks and food-rich subdivisions.

Consequently, they become habituated to us — and we become habituated to them, sometimes forgetting that they "are not loveable toys to be enjoyed when convenient [Yellowstone wolf tours?] and then discarded or destroyed when they reveal their true natures.

"Predators should be treated with a realistic acknowledgment that they are animals that kill prey to survive, and should be respected for the wild creatures that they are."

Any backcountry hiker or hunter, anyone who visits parks like Yellowstone or Great Smokies, and anyone who sees bears, coyotes, or deer in their neighborhoods — where there are deer, there are lions — ought to read When Man Becomes Prey.

It is available from the publisher, Lyons Press, or from the usual online source.

April 09, 2014

Wolves on the Colorado Ballot?

Gray wolf (Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks photo).
Colorado is known for its frequent citizen initiatives to change its constitution, which is why the state constitution is now almost as long as the Boulder telephone book.

In a discussion of the ecological phenomenon of the "trophic cascade" at Colorado College last night, noted conservation biologist Michael Soulé mentioned that plans are afoot to try to pass a new constitutional modification requiring the re-introduction of wolves.

It would certainly pass on the urban Front Range, he predicted sensibly, although on the Western Slope (he lives in Paonia himself), its chances would not be so good.

Evidently there is some serious foundation money lining up behind this initiative. So stock up on popcorn now, because this could be interesting.

Where would these furry ecological saints be re-introduced? He did not say, although I got the impression that Rocky Mountain National Park would be one obvious candidate.

October 27, 2013

Hunting Season? Your Dog Needs "Isa-tai"

Does your dog go into the woods during hunting season? Does he dart off the trail, refuse to come to the whistle, and then you find him gulping fat and guts where someone field-dressed a deer or elk — no doubt thinking that bears or coyotes would clean up the pile?

Does he then get diarrhea or, twenty-four hours later, throw up a mass of fat the size of both your fists together and stand over it growling because he thinks that he is going to re-eat it?

Most of the time, your dog eats food out of a sack, supplemented by whatever he can steal off the kitchen counters. He lacks the right blend of beneficial intestinal bacteria for digesting elk guts, hair, hide, etc.

He needs Isa-tai!*

Here at Hunt-Pro Labs, we start with the fresh feces of wild Wyoming wolves. We culture the bacteria and package it in clean, odorless capsules. A short course of Isa-tai and your dog will be able to digest everything that he finds in the woods, short of Amanita muscaria.**

He'll be a happier dog, and you won't have to clean up messes!

Isa-tai, for dogs who run a little wild!


* Isa-tai was a Comanche warrior active in the 1870s on the Southern Plains. His name translates to Wolf Shit, although an alternative translation is wolf's (or coyote's) vagina. Anyway, the name is a tribute.

** For that you want milk thistle.

October 05, 2013

Bison, Bears, and Wolves . . . in Europe

That buffalo (bison) in the photo banner up top is part of a private herd at the Wolf Springs Ranch in Huerfano County, Colorado. Where he is grazing is historic habitat, but the herd was re-introduced and built up by a wealthy rancher, Tom Redmond.

His distant relatives in eastern Europe, once almost extinct, are making a managed comeback in Poland and Belarus. So are some other species that seemed likely to be preserved only in museums and heraldry, says The Telegraph:
The European bison, which was extinct in the wild in Europe at the start of the 20th century, has increased by more than 3,000 per cent after a large-scale breeding and reintroduction programme. It now has particular strongholds in Belarus and Poland.
Brown bear numbers have doubled and the grey wolf population of Europe quadrupled between 1970 and 2005.
There were also sharp rises in numbers of several species of bird, including the Svalbard breeding population of the barnacle goose, the white-tailed eagle and the Spanish imperial eagle.
But tell me, did someone at The Telegraph use a stock photo of North American bison? Compare to these.For a moment I wondered if someone was cross-breeding our bison, but I don't think so. The website of the European Bison Conservation Center says, "The [captive breeding] program should ensure separation of the pure Lowland and the Lowland-Caucasian lines and avoid hybridization with any other related species."


July 08, 2013

Colorado and Utah Fought Wolf Protection Plan


(I missed this item last month, but got the link from Cat Urbigkit's Wolf Watch.)

Documents obtained show that Colorado and Utah state wildlife officials strongly opposed federal plans to declare gray wolves "endangered" (hence protected) in those states if and when the wolves showed up.
The documents suggest the animal's fate was decided through political bargaining between state and federal officials, said Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

The nonprofit group obtained the records through a freedom of information lawsuit and provided them to The Associated Press.

"In simplest terms, these documents detail how the gray wolf lost a popularity contest among wildlife managers," Ruch said. . . . .
The administration's plan unveiled earlier this month [June 2013] would declare gray wolves are only endangered in a relatively small part of the Southwest inhabited by a few dozen Mexican wolves — a subspecies of the gray wolf.
To quote again from the US Fish and Wildlife service's news release, "The Service is also proposing to maintain protection and expand recovery efforts for the Mexican wolf (Canis lupus baileyi) in the Southwest, where it remains endangered"

And that was the area under contention, apparently.

Colorado does not have any wolves, officially, although isolated individuals have wandered down from Wyoming. (Pet wolves or wolf-dog hybrids have also been released, another issue.) I have heard tales of wild wolves roaming on the Western Slope as far back as the 1980s, before they were reintroduced in Yellowstone National Park, but those tales remain just that. 

Why resist federal protection? The usual reasons: fear of reduced deer and elk herds, hence hunting-license revenue loss; fear of attacks on livestock, be that at traditional cattle ranches or New West-ish alpaca operations; fear of attacks on people.

July 06, 2013

Mange, Distemper Hit Yellowstone Wolves

An online Scientific American article says that both canine distemper and sarcoptic mange are affecting wolf populations in Yellowstone National Park and surrounding areas.

I could not help but think of the unlucky coyote pup we transported last Wednesday. It seems likely that the distemper caused him to fall behind, be abandoned, and be discovered by a person who wanted to help him.

May 31, 2013

Heroes Are Made, Not Born

I am not sure where the division of society into "sheep," "sheepdogs," and "wolves" began, but the author of this three-part series, "Are You a Sheep or a Sheepdog" attributes it to the author Dave Grossman.

Part 1: Are You a Sheep or a Sheepdog?

Part 2: 8 Reason's You're Hardwired for Sheepness

Part 3: Your Roadmap to Becoming a Sheepdog.

Whatever the source, it's a useful classification system. And as the author notes, we are mostly born "sheep."
Grossman isn’t using the term pejoratively, he’s simply referring to the fact that most human beings are kind, gentle, and peaceful. The conflicts and ethical dilemmas they’re regularly faced with rarely rise to the level of life and death, good versus evil. For the most part people deal with challenges that are more annoyances than true crises. And when faced with conflict, they generally try to do the right thing, avoid making waves, and demonstrate pro-social behavior.
We are followers. We don't trust our intuition. We think, "It can't happen here." We suffer from "normalcy bias" and the "bystander effect."
33-year firefighting veteran Jack Rowley saw normalcy bias play out on a regular basis at bars in Columbus, Ohio. Fires were surprisingly common at bars on Saturday nights and whenever Rrowley showed up, he’d see smoke quickly filling up the establishment. But instead of mayhem, he’d find folks just sitting at the bar “nursing their beers.” He’d ask them to evacuate and the customers would say, “No, we’ll be just fine.”
Speaking of the real sheepdogs, Wyoming sheep rancher and writer Cat Urbigkit is in the middle of lambing season, and her livestock guardian dogs are earning their keep. (That is one of her book covers up above.)

May 06, 2012

A Documentary of the Dreamtime

I own the book. I have now watched the film. I realize that I am unlikely to ever see the cave.

(Maybe the last is all right, because it spares me the experience that you, too, may have had of finally visiting some famous site and reacting, "I thought it would be bigger!")

Detail from the panel of horses at Chauvet Cave.
How could some Aurignacian-period hunter, shouldering his haunch of horse meat, imagine that future people would look back on his era while thinking, "That was the real time."

I look at those pictures with a quasi-religious awe. Some scholars apparently think that one artist did the best stuff, such as the panel of horses, but even the lesser work shows a sure hand. It is not scribbled or cartoonish.

The question remains  —  how did Old Master-quality drawing skills seemingly just pop up c. 30,000 years ago?

And biologically accurate too. 

Where is the student work? Drawn on rock surfaces outdoors, where it long since washed away?

(Rethinking that statement a day later — perhaps the filmmakers and still photographers give us a false idea by focusing on the best work. Consider this from an article in Natural History: " In some cases, we see a sophisticated, realistic painting next to a rather crude sketch, perhaps a copy of the original by an apprentice.")

The easy walk-in entrance to the cave was erased by a rockslide about 20,000 years ago, and then the cave sat sealed, dark, and damp, growing its formations, until three French cavers found it in 1994 So it was visited sporadically for ten thousand years, the carbon-dating suggests.

Ten thousand years. Ten thousand years when the world was, in a sense, intact. Ten thousand years outside of history—shared with large animals. 

Even if it was a world where you had to watch for cave bears, wolves. and lions and where if you made it to forty, people probably called you “Old-Timer,” it was a world that made sense to its inhabitants.

As director Werner Herzog muses, we are locked into history, but they were not. Hence my borrowing of the term "Dreamtime" for when they lived.

January 12, 2011

Compound 1080 Killed Colorado Wolf

A Montana wolf found dead in northeast Colorado in 2009, which I had thought had been hit by a car (based on  earlier reports) was poisoned by Compound 1080.

Compound 1080 is a poison used on bait carcasses and in various "coyote-getter" devices, and it indiscriminately kills dogs, raptors, and whatever else ingests it.
Compound 1080, or sodium fluoroacetate, was commonly used to control coyotes, foxes and rodents until the U.S. banned it in 1972, but the rule has been modified. Today its only legal use is in collars used to protect sheep and goats from coyotes, and only in certain states. Colorado is not one of them. 
Which is not to say that there are not containers of it still sitting on the shelf in various Colorado barns and equipment sheds in livestock country, of course.

My other question is why it took more than a year for this information to be made public. Some behind-the-scenes investigation going on? Don't count on the Denver Post to let you know.

January 11, 2011

A Mongol Ecological Theodicy of Wolves

The old Mongol speaks to the Chinese student/sheepherder:
"Wolves are intelligent, they're looked after by the gods, and they get help from all sorts of demons. That makes them a formidable enemy."
But also,
"Don't forget what I told you, that wolves are sent by Tengger [Heaven/sky god] to safeguard the grassland. Without them, the grassland would vanish. And without wolves, we Mongols will never be able to enter heaven. [At the time, these Mongols practiced a form of "sky burial" using wolves rather than vultures.]

"If there are too many of them, they lose their divine power and turn evil. It's all right for people to kill evil creatures. If they killed all the cows and sheep, we could not go on living, and the grassland would be lost. We Mongols were also sent by Tengger to protect the grassland. Without it, there'd be no Mongols, and without Mongols, there'd be no grassland.

"Are you saying that wolves and the Mongols protect the grassland together?" Chen asked, moved by what the old man said.

A guarded look came into the old man's eyes. "That's right," he said, "but I'm afraid it's something you ... you Chinese cannot understand."

"Papa, you know I'm opposed to Han chauvinism and that I oppose the policy of sending people here to open up farmland."

The old man's furrowed brow smoothed out and, as he rubbed the wolf trap with horse's mane, he said, "Protecting the grassland is hard on us. If we don't kill wolves, there'll be fewer of us. But if we kill too many of them, there'll be even fewer."
The time is the 1960s Chinese Cultural Revolution. Chen, a young man of less-than-impeccable proletarian credentials, has been jerked away from his studies in Beijing in 1969 and sent to the boondocks to "learn from the people."

In this case, "the people" are pastoralist Mongols in Inner Mongolia, part of the People's Republic of China, following a more or less traditional lifestyle but now collectivized and organized into "work brigades."

The book, Wolf Totem by Jiang Rong, translated by Howard Goldblatt (Penguin, 2008), has been "a runaway bestseller" in China, even though it is full of Mongols telling Chen that the Han Chinese are "sheep" and "herbivores" who always lose wars to Mongols. They even suggest that Mongol women are better in bed—as well as willing to go hand-to-fang with wolves in defense of their flocks.

Largely autobiographical, Wolf Totem was written in the late 1980s. To quote the translator's note, it "ushered in heated debates on the Chinese 'character.' It is a work that compellingly blends the passion of a novelist who lived the story he tells and the intelligent ethnological observations of a sympathetic outsider."

I am not quite a third of the way through and enjoying it immensely.

Cryptoforests, Wolves, and Feral Landscapes

At Bldgblog, a discussion with links on "cryptoforests" in urban landscapes.
Cryptoforesty, as Wilfried describes it in that post, emphasizes "the psychological effects of a forest" rather than the forest's pure ecological function; indeed, he writes, "The point is not that wolfs and bears are needed to fulfill ecological functions that are now null and void, the point is that a forest with such animals fuels the imagination and adds zest to life, even to those who would never visit such a 'full' forest." And, thus, he quips, "If the forest is empty," devoid of its animal sentience, "so is the mind."
And an interesting map of the distribution of European wolves, who are coming back.