January 12, 2011

Don't Mess with Mama

Apparently the conservation group Great Old Broads for Wilderness strikes fear in the hearts of illegal ATV riders.

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.

January 10, 2011

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers Gets Some Ink

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers is a conservation group for those of us who sometimes feel too "green" among the hook-and-bullet crowd, yet simultaneously are too "blaze orange" for some enviros.

Though not yet large in numbers, BHA has been in the news quite a bit lately. Some samples:
To learn more about the group, you may download the Fall 2010 Backcountry Hunters & Anglers newsletter too (PDF, 3.4 megabytes).

January 09, 2011

Snow Pack Map for January 2011

Here is the Natural Resources Conservation Service's snow pack map for January. If you visit their site, you can see a larger image plus those of past years.

I really need to get out my "vintage" Fischers and go cross-country skiing, but it is hard to be motivated when you don't see any snow out the window. (I live in one of the the tan-colored areas.)

January 08, 2011

Snow on Your Roof: Weight versus Density

A Swedish archaeologist ponders the issue of snow on his nearly flat roof.

My question is how anyone got away with building those houses in Sweden, even in the 1970s!

January 05, 2011

It's a Bird ... It's a Plane ... It's a Zionist Plot!

Israeli university researchers band a vulture and attach a GPS transmitter to it to see where vultures go.

Ignorant of national boundaries, the bird flies into Saudi Arabia — where it is arrested as a spy.

Sharks can be spies too, say the Saudis. Spies! Spies!

January 04, 2011

Turkeys for Science

If these turkeys are going to walk right under the bird feeder, then I am counting them for Project Feeder Watch!

January 03, 2011

A Scout Camera Reveals that my Brain is Gone

In late June 2010 I placed a scout camera on a faint game trail just into the national forest from my home and got these bear pictures.

Then—stay with me here—I placed the camera there again. Only I did not.

I went back a month later and could not find it. M. and I were both perplexed. She walks on that part of the forest more than anyone does, and she said that no one ever visited that spot on two feet.

But maybe some persistent hunter scouting for archery season had indeed gone there.

The camera was gone. No strap. No miscellaneous pieces. It was not like the time earlier in the summer when a black bear sow left a scout camera in pieces.

It had to be a person who took it. That meant I had lost two cameras in three months.

Then today M. comes in from a walk and says, "I had to detour to avoid your scout camera."

"What scout camera?" I asked.

"The one between our house and R.'s house."

"Does it have a camouflage pattern on it?" I asked.

She said that it did. I began to feel the sands of my self-hood shifting under my feet.

I walked up that way. I could not find it. There was a camo-painted bird house up that way. Had she glanced at it and thought that its round entrance hole was a lens? (The birds, however, have ignored it. As usual.)

She came back from walking Shelby the collie. "Are you sure you saw a camera?" I asked.

"Follow me."

We walked out the back door, up the hill, through the brush (not to the bird house), and there it was. The missing camera. The one that I had gone back twice looking for any trace of, even once bringing her along to help.

It was not over there on the national forest, it was here, on R.'s property technically, but he would not care.

I had completely forgotten it. Instead, I had constructed a whole mental narrative of placing this particular camera at the trail crossing where I had photographed the bears. Then I went back and found it "gone." Because it was never there.

Maybe I need a rocking chair and a nice nurse to bring me a cup of soup.

The camera, meanwhile, had been in place for seven months, but its rechargeable batteries had died after three weeks. It had 29 images, nothing special.

Since there were no good images on my camera, you may visit the Boulder, Colo., Daily Camera newspaper web site and see some taken by a Colorado State University grad student.

The Denver Post picked up the story, eliciting this comment: "Why not set the cameras up in Boulder Canyon on the cement game trail to study the Lycralopes and Spandeer?"

Spandeer—We don't have as many of those right here, but you see them out by Pueblo Reservoir.

Die Volkswagen ist die Jägerwagen

When Dad got a Volkswagen Type I in 1956, he treated it like an off-road vehicle. Maybe he had seen the Kübelwagen when he was in Germany at the close of World War II. (You can sitll buy a replica Kübelwagen in New Mexico.)

Here it is on a South Dakota antelope hunt with his friend Harry Linde, a Black Hills sawmill operator and frequent hunting partner, sitting on the front bumper.

January 02, 2011

Eating Invasive Species

In some quarters (such as certain large, metropolitan newspapers), the whole "locavore" concept has cast hunting in a new, more favorable light. Not just for knuckle-draggers anymore, in other words.

Combine that with a concern about ecosystems and invasive species, and you have "eating invasive species."

Now if only some high-profile chef would laud the culinary wonderfulness of grilling with tamarisk, like the "mesquite-grilled" craze of a few years back.

Uncaffeinated and Unprovoked

With the new year, Patrick Burns has announced that he is hanging up his shovel at Terrierman, the blog about working terriers, marketing scams practiced by veterinarians, the evils of the dog-show world, and other items often written at dawn under the heading "Coffee and Provocation."

He says that he "may be back a year from now," but I don't know if that means in dog years or people years. I'll miss Terrierman.

January 01, 2011

Hardly Auspicious

Denver Post photo of AdAmAn Club members starting up Barr Trail.
I was at a New Year's Eve party last night where when one person mentioned going out at midnight to watch the fireworks shot from the top of Pike's Peak, someone else already knew that the traditional display had been canceled this year due to weather.

Members of the AdAmAn Club (because they "add a man" annually) "had to turn back just a mile from the summit."
Pikes Peak Ranger Jay Vickerman told The Gazette that temperatures were 25 below zero [F.] and winds hit 70 mph.

It wasn't immediately clear whether the Pikes Peak fireworks had ever been canceled before.
In my memory, they were always fired, even if into heavy clouds.  The pyrotechnics themselves are hauled to the summit by truck in advance of the event, while club members just carry their own personal gear up on the Barr Trail.

Funny how the cancellation of an event like that makes you feel like something has gone subtly wrong with the cosmos.

You Think It's Cold

Ben Franklin published the following in one of his Poor Richard's almanacs in 1748:

We complain sometimes of hard Winters in this Country; but our Winters will appear as Summers, when compar'd with those that some of our Countrymen undergo in the most Northern British Colony on this Continent, which is that upon Churchill River, in Hudson's Bay, Lat. 58d. 56m. Long. from London 94d. 50m. West. Captain Middleton, a Member of the Royal Society, who had made many Voyages thither, and winter'd there 1741–2, when he was in Search of the North-West Passage to the South-Sea, gives an Account of it to that Society, from which I have extracted these Particulars, viz.

The Hares, Rabbits, Foxes, and Partridges, in September and the Beginning of October, change their Colour to a snowy White, and continue white till the following Spring.

The Lakes and standing Waters, which are not above 10 or 12 Feet deep, are frozen to the Ground in Winter, and the Fishes therein all perish. Yet in Rivers near the Sea, and Lakes of a greater Depth than 10 or 12 Feet, Fishes are caught all the Winter, by cutting Holes thro' the Ice, and therein putting Lines and Hooks. As soon as the Fish are brought into the open Air, they instantly freeze stiff.

Beef, Pork, Mutton, and Venison, kill'd in the Beginning of the Winter, are preserved by the Frost for 6 or 7 Months, entirely free from Putrefaction. Likewise Geese, Partridges, and other Fowls, kill'd at the same Time, and kept with their Feathers on and Guts in, are preserv'd by the Frost, and prove good Eating. All Kinds of Fish are preserv'd in the same Manner.

In large Lakes and Rivers, the Ice is sometimes broken by imprison'd Vapours; and the Rocks, Trees, Joists, and Rafters of our Buildings, are burst with a Noise not less terrible than the firing of many Guns together. The Rocks which are split by the Frost, are heaved up in great Heaps, leaving large Cavities behind. If Beer or Water be left even in Copper Pots by the Bed-side, the Pots will be split before Morning. Bottles of strong Beer, Brandy, strong Brine, Spirits of Wine, set out in the open Air for 3 or 4 Hours, freeze to solid Ice. The Frost is never out of the Ground, how deep is not certain; but on digging 10 or 12 Feet down in the two Summer Months, it has been found hard frozen.

All the Water they use for Cooking, Brewing, &c.. is melted Snow and Ice; no Spring is yet found free from freezing, tho' dug ever so deep down.—All Waters inland, are frozen fast by the Beginning of October, and continue so to the Middle of May.

The Walls of the Houses are of Stone, two Feet thick; the Windows very small, with thick wooden Shutters, which are close shut 18 Hours every Day in Winter. In the Cellars they put their Wines, Brandies, &c. Four large Fires are made every Day, in great Stoves to warm the Rooms: As soon as the Wood is burnt down to a Coal, the Tops of the Chimnies are close stopped, with an Iron Cover; this keeps the Heat in, but almost stifles the People. And notwithstanding this, in 4 or 5 Hours after the Fire is out, the Inside of the Walls and Bed-places will be 2 or 3 Inches thick with Ice, which is every Morning cut away with a Hatchet. Three or four Times a Day, Iron Shot, of 24 Pounds Weight, are made red hot, and hung up in the Windows of their Apartments, to moderate the Air that comes in at Crevices; yet this, with a Fire kept burning the greatest Part of 24 Hours, will not prevent Beer, Wine, Ink, &c. from freezing.

For their Winter Dress, a Man makes use of three Pair of Socks, of coarse Blanketting, or Duffeld, for the Feet, with a Pair of Deerskin Shoes over them; two Pair of thick English Stockings, and a Pair of Cloth Stockings upon them; Breeches lined with Flannel; two or three English Jackets, and a Fur, or Leather Gown over them; a large Beaver Cap, double, to come over the Face and Shoulders, and a Cloth of Blanketting under the Chin; with Yarn Gloves, and a large Pair of Beaver Mittins, hanging down from the Shoulders before, to put the Hands in, reaching up as high as the Elbows. Yet notwithstanding this warm Clothing, those that stir Abroad when any Wind blows from the Northward, are sometimes dreadfully frozen; some have their Hands, Arms, and Face blistered and froze in a terrible Manner, the Skin coming off soon after they enter a warm House, and some lose their Toes. And keeping House, or lying-in for the Cure of these Disorders, brings on the Scurvy, which many die of, and few are free from; nothing preventing it but Exercise and stirring Abroad. The Fogs and Mists, brought by northerly Winds in Winter, appear visible to the naked Eye to be Icicles innumerable, as small as fine Hairs, and pointed as sharp as Needles. These Icicles lodge in their Clothes, and if their Faces and Hands are uncover'd, presently raise Blisters as white as a Linnen Cloth, and as hard as Horn. Yet if they immediately turn their Back to the Weather, and can bear a Hand out of the Mitten, and with it rub the blister'd Part for a small Time, they sometimes bring the Skin to its former State; if not, they make the best of their Way to a Fire, bathe the Part in hot Water, and thereby dissipate the Humours raised by the frozen Air; otherwise the Skin wou'd be off in a short Time, with much hot, serous, watry Matter, coming from under along with the Skin; and this happens to some almost every Time they go Abroad, for 5 or 6 Months in the Winter, so extreme cold is the Air, when the Wind blows any Thing strong.—Thus far Captain Middleton. And now, my tender Reader, thou that shudderest when the Wind blows a little at N-West, and criest, 'Tis extrrrrrream cohohold! 'Tis terrrrrrible cohold! what dost thou think of removing to that delightful Country? Or dost thou not rather chuse to stay in Pennsylvania, thanking God that He has caused thy Lines to fall in pleasant Places.

Thy Friend to serve thee,

The part about "stopping the Chimnies" gives me the willies. It is amazing that they did not all die of carbon monoxide poisoning. Yet only six years before, Franklin himself had invented the Franklin Stove, still not terribly efficient, but a step in the right direction. He deliberately did not patent it, so that other inventors would improve upon it.