Monday, April 23, 2018

Signs of Fox, Not Wolves

I pulled this calf leg and joint out of the entrance to this fox den yesterday. The mole was at the entrance to another hole nearby. No, the fox did not kill a calf! This was most likely a still born calf that was dumped by the farmer (most farms have a location they dump the downers and the entrails).

This hole is at the bottom of a 15-foot gully drop, with a connecting hole at top. The den was dug by groundhogs, and I have taken a few from this location over the last decade or so.  Not a great location for a dog unless is is small and can go all the way through.  This day, of course, the sette was left alone.

The Red Fox Is Very Cat-like

You can see that a fox and a cat are about the same size. They are also built very much the same, as fox bones are much lighter than their normal canid counterparts.

Unlike most dogs, which hunt in packs, fox are solitary hunters, like cats, and like cats they mostly eat mice and other "meals for one".

The two fox you see here are not hunting, but scavenging. I think this is a vixen and her female semi-adult kit from earlier in the year; what I call a "satellite vixen" as she may stay around when the older female pairs up, while the dog fox in the same litter will be driven out to find their own territory. Fox are so dense on the ground around here, however, that territories seem to overlap -- we have some tension between Vulpes in the front yard at times!

Spring has Sprung

The Bluebells were out all along the creek bottom yesterday, and the Redbud was in bloom. Spring is here even if the trees have not yet leafed out.

Dinner In a Box

Dinner was delivered from a local Chinese place last night. The folded, waxed, cardboard Chinese take-out box was invented in Chicago in 1894, and was originally designed to carry oysters. Now you know.

Catching a Tiger By Hand

I hand caught a Six-spotted Tiger Beetle yesterday in the leaf litter along a stream path. They are FAST. I knew it was a Tiger Beetle, but I had to look up the species. My beetle collecting was all done on another continent.  Amazing bright green metallic color.

Night Fox

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Day Time Fox

An Essential for Your Vet Kit

A repost from this blog, circa 2007.

Dog men, construction workers, and midwives know that common off-the-shelf Super Glue works well to close most small flesh wounds.

Super glue was first used by battle-field trauma surgeons in Vietnam to glue the edges of lacerated livers together (ever try to SEW a liver together?), and to stop bleeding in chest wounds that other wise could not be staunched.

Since then, it's been used in hospitals, dental offices and veterinary clinics around the world, and is now so common as to be unremarkable, though most just-plain-folks don't know about it.

Hospitals tend to use a butyl- or methyl-based version of super glue which is FDA-approved, rather than old-fashioned ethyl-based super glue, but I assure you there is no real difference between the stuff.

The only reason that regular old-fashioned super glue is not FDA-approved is that the chemistry for super glue is now off-patent, and so there is no money to made in going through the very expensive FDA-approval process. For a single dollar, you can get 5 decent tubes of super glue at the Dollar Store (more than enough for a year's worth of rips if you dig on your dogs twice a week all year long), while VetBond (on patent and therefore very expensive) will cost you $15 for a tiny blue squeeze bottle that will fix perhaps two small cuts. Go with the super glue -- it's fine, I assure you.

To glue a wound shut, it's not necessary that it be dry. In fact, super glue works a bit better if the edges are wet, as the goal here is to weld living tissue together so that it will mend. For that, you want clean fresh (i.e. wet and bleeding) edges.

To begin with, flush all dirt and grime out of the wound with fresh water in a squeeze bottle. Once the wound is clean and moist, pull or push the wound closed while you "spot weld" the edges together with super glue. You do not want to put the glue inside the wound -- you are closing up the top, not putting in deep sutures. Repeat your application of glue between the spot welds until the entire thing is closed up.

For deeper or longer gashes, you will will have to reapply the glue in about four days. After that, however, the wound should be sufficiently knitted together to stay closed on its own. Common "flap gashes" knit up very fast with super glue, and I have repaired a dog with 50 cents of super glue which a veterinarian otherwise wanted $1,000 to sew up. Obviously, very deep traumatic injuries to tendons, eyes, etc. cannot be fixed with glue, but if it's a simple flesh wound, and is not too deep, it probably can.

Super glue has some anti-microbial properties, and the scarring (if any) will be less than if it were sewn together. The bonding strength of super glue glue is equal to a 5-0 mono filament suture.

Remember When First Families Had Dogs?

The Weather Will Be STORMY

I Was So Much Older Then

This was my first house and my 1957 Chevy Belair.

The wife and I bought this house in 1984 for $115,000, and the car I traded for a Honda 350 that was a used bike when I got it. The car had a cherry interior and a solid straight 6 engine.

That house is listed on Zillow at $973,000.  I wish I still had the car too!

The two dogs, below, were from the same period: Haddie the Border Terrier, and Barney the stray I picked up cold and sick on the streets of Oberlin, Ohio. Barney died of old age at 15. Haddie had heart failure at age 10.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Back When Cameras Had Film

This is my wife in the Renault 4 that we took through Morocco back in 1985. We drove that car south from Marrakech up over Tiznit pass. I remember there was a cliff face on the right, a life-ending plunge to the left, and big African phosphate trucks and herds of goats squeezing us between one or the other.

As it started to snow, the fuse in the dash shorted out and, without stopping, I popped out the dead fuse, wrapped it in chewing gum foil, and popped it back it, and the windshield wipers started to work again. My wife was so tense she burst into tears and I had to turn around.

My wife says, just now “anyone with SENSE would have burst into tears”

A few roadside camels.

A juju (magic shop) in Marrakech. Those are skins of various wild animals hung at top. Marrakech is on the northern end of the Sahara, where black Africa bumps up against the Arab world. The farther south you go, the more juju.

In the dye market in Marrakech about 33 years ago. We had emulsion film back then, dust on the needle, and no cell phones. If you got lost, you were LOST.  When I visited again with my son, things were much the same, but now with digital phones.

The Last of Her Kind

Elizabeth and Susan

The last corgi bred by Queen Elizabeth has died. Willow was almost 15 years old, suffering from cancer, and was put to sleep. The dog belonged to the 14th generation of pups descended from Susan, a corgi that was gifted to the queen in 1944, on her 18th birthday.

Stop Insulting Lap Dogs

The New York Times editorial board opened up a can of kick ass on the sodden head of Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency:

Despite stiff competition, Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, is by common consensus the worst of the ideologues and mediocrities President Trump chose to populate his cabinet. Policies aside — and they’re terrible, from an environmental perspective — Mr. Pruitt’s self-aggrandizing and borderline thuggish behavior has disgraced his office and demoralized his employees. We opposed his nomination because he had spent his career as attorney general of Oklahoma suing the federal department he was being asked to lead on behalf of industries he was being asked to regulate. As it turns out, Mr. Pruitt is not just an industry lap dog but also an arrogant and vengeful bully and small-time grifter, bent on chiseling the taxpayer to suit his lifestyle and warm his ego.

Any other president would have fired him. Mr. Trump praises him.

Read the whole thing.

Scott Pruitt is like a Superfund site:  a toxic poison that contaminates a lot of land, threatens our children, and will take a long time and a lot of money to clean up.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

No More Wok the Dog?

You can’t eat them.
You can’t have sex with them.

What is the world of pets coming to?

Damn lib-rals standing in the way of a 1,000 years of tradition. 

From Reuters come this story about the continuing crisis:

House Panel Considers Ban on Killing Dogs and Cats for Meals

Making a meal out of a dog or a cat may soon land you in jail.

An amendment added Wednesday to a farm bill that was approved by the House Agriculture Committee would bar people from "knowingly slaughtering a dog or cat for human consumption," as well as transporting or participating in other commercial activity related to eating pet meat.

Dog and cat slaughter is extremely rare in the U.S. and already prohibited in commercial slaughterhouses. But consumption of animals commonly considered as pets and companions in American culture still takes place among some immigrant groups. Only a handful of states, including New York, New Jersey and California, ban such small-scale butchering.

Violators would be subject to up to a year of imprisonment, a fine, or both. The proposal would be part of a reauthorization of Agriculture Department programs.

The Black Beast of Inkeberrow?

Back in 2015, a black five-year-old retired female greyhound named Rennie went missing from Crowborough, East Sussex, England.

A few weeks later, a spate of "big cat sightings" from nearby Ashdown Forest began.

Stories of feral "beasts" lurking in the darkness of the English countryside have been around for hundred of years, and were already old when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle used such a tale as the basis of The Hound of the Baskervilles.

The stories persist, of course.

Here are a few contemporary descriptions of various U.K. beasties:

  • Beast of Muchty: "I was travelling to my work at 04:30 when a cat the size of a Lurcher, jet black, small head, very slim with a long tail ran in front of my car (about fifty yards). The whole incident was over in 2 seconds ... "
  • Beast of Bont: "The main evidence for the existence of these sharp-clawed, but mysterious stalkers has been the death toll among vulnerable herds of sheep."
  • Beast of Barford: "It is twice the size of a dog print and clearly shows three huge claws and a large pad at the back. Wildlife experts believe the print is the most conclusive evidence yet that big cats are roaming Warwickshire."
  • The Beast of Gloucester and The Black Beast of Inkeberrow: "A 'huge black beast' ran in front of Ray Lock's car on the other side of the river near Lydney... one evening near Monmouth where it was described as 'jet black and about the size of a large dog.'"
  • Beast of Burford: "A £5,000 reward has been offered for the capture of a 'big cat' which has been terrorising a farming community ..... Pc Ray Hamilton, wildlife crime officer at Thames Valley Police, admitted there had been several sightings - but said this was not unusual. 'We've had sightings of everything you could imagine - pink flamingos, lions, dingos, wolves and even a giant ant-eater in Pangbourne.'"

The human desire to create imaginary "beasts" seems to have some correlation to the loss of large predators and true wilderness.

With the extinction of the bear and the wolf, the U.K. has lost all large predators and now has to suffice with two rather unimpressive meso-predators, the fox (average weight 15 pounds and living almost entirely off of mice), and the badger (average weight around 25 to 30 pounds and living almost entirely off of worms, beetle grubs, and small bulbs).

So what are these large feral "beasts" seen in the English countryside, and why is it that they are never actually found?

The short answer is that these "beasts" are nothing more than large escaped lurchers (coursing dog crosses) that have taken to livestock-worrying. As an article on the Beast of Osset notes:

"On a parkland estate in rural Yorkshire a poacher's lurcher (a fast greyhound-like hunting dog) was at large for six months but was sighted only once during that period. The gamekeepers knew it was there because they found the roe deer that it had killed, but it took a concerted effort with volunteers to flush it out of the wood."

In fact, sheep worrying is a serious problem in the U.K., and while any dog can end up attacking sheep, it is the larger dogs such as Lurchers and Bandogs (mastiff crosses) that do the damage that lead some to think a large cat or lion is loose in the English countryside.

Sheep worrying by lurcher.

In fact, a lurcher really does look like a large cat if seen in the dark or fog, and especially if it is seen only briefly from a moving car, as most "big cat" sightings are.

A Bandog (what the Hound of the Baskervilles was) really does look like a lion if seen under the same circumstances.

What is amazing about the "big cat" stories in the U.K., however, is how easy they are disprove, and yet how utterly resistant people are to having their bubbles burst.

Take the issue of "big cat footprints".

Most of these footprints are clearly large dog prints.

How can we be sure? Simple -- all the footprints show claw marks. All the large cats, except the cheetah, however, walk with retracted claws, otherwise they would quickly dull.

This foot print of the "Beast of Barford"
is held up by a young hopeful.

The other issue has to do with hounds -- the U.K. is crawling with fox packs, and yet none has ever chased and cornered a large cat other than the now very rare native Scottish Wildcat, which is not much larger than a tabby.

You can be sure that if the big cats were out there, British fox hounds would have found them by now! In the U.S., small teams of less experienced hounds manage to track down marauding farm-country cougars in only a few hours time.

Finally, we come to the issue of rub strips -- bits of carpet and tacks impregnated with a mixture of catnip and beaver castoreum -- that have failed to turn up any positive large cat hits in the U.K.

Wherever these rub strips are used -- whether in North America, South American, Europe, Africa, or Asia -- they are quickly found and rubbed against by large cats and other predators.

A DNA analysis of fur caught on the hooks of the carpet tacks can not only identify what species of animal has left it behind, it can identify what specific animal has come by in the night.

Rub strips are so accurate they are now routinely used to survey population densities of such elusive large cats as leopard, lynx, cougar, and jaguar, as well as badger, wolverine, bear, wolf, coyote and bobcat.

Of course, "Beast Of" stories are not unique to the U.K.

Here in the United States we have Sasquatch and some local tales of little green men, swamp creatures, and even a werewolf or two (all delivered with a wink to small children).

In truth, however, we have far fewer fantasy "Beast" stories than the U.K. for a simple reason: we have more real top end predators.

In states like Minnesota, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana and North Carolina we really do have wolves prowling the remote sections.

In Florida, Louisiana and South Carolina we really do have 12 foot lizards slithering out of drainage ditches and quite capable of eating an old lady alive.

Mountain lions really do prowl the remote sections of Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, New Mexico, Colorado and even Texas, and are now being found as far east as Iowa.

Black bears number well over 400,000 in the lower 48 states, and there are over 100,000 more in Alaska, to say nothing of a growing population of grizzlies.

Bobcats are everywhere, as are coyotes -- the later so common that there are local bounties on them, including in my home state of Virginia.

No one living in a large America city today lives more than two hours away from a major top-end predator of some kind.

This is a glorious thing, and something we should count among our greatest national treasures.

But a "Beast of Bondwynn?" No, we don't have that.

In a world in which top-end predators are still common, there is no reason to invent ghost stories.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The San Francisco Apocalypse Dogs and the Plague

Today marks the 112th anniversary
of the devastating 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

In honor of that date, I point readers to two old posts about The Apocalypse Dogs of San Francisco and how the earthquake helped bring the Bubonic Plague to the prairie dog towns of the American West

Unnatural Selection by Katrina van Grouw

Princeton University Press
is putting out a new book by Katrina van Grouw that looks very promising. If they want to send me a copy, I would be more than happy to review it! This is one of those rare occasions when I am quite certain I will have something good to say (not many have written more on this topic than I have), but the price tag is a bit rich for my blood considering how many other books I now have on my nightstand begging for attention.  From the publisher:

Unnatural Selection is a stunningly illustrated book about selective breeding--the ongoing transformation of animals at the hand of man. More important, it's a book about selective breeding on a far, far grander scale—a scale that encompasses all life on Earth. We'd call it evolution.

A unique fusion of art, science, and history, this book celebrates the 150th anniversary of Charles Darwin's monumental work The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication, and is intended as a tribute to what Darwin might have achieved had he possessed that elusive missing piece to the evolutionary puzzle—the knowledge of how individual traits are passed from one generation to the next. With the benefit of a century and a half of hindsight, Katrina van Grouw explains evolution by building on the analogy that Darwin himself used—comparing the selective breeding process with natural selection in the wild, and, like Darwin, featuring a multitude of fascinating examples.

This is more than just a book about pets and livestock, however. The revelation of Unnatural Selection is that identical traits can occur in all animals, wild and domesticated, and both are governed by the same evolutionary principles. As van Grouw shows, animals are plastic things, constantly changing. In wild animals the changes are usually too slow to see -- species appear to stay the same. When it comes to domesticated animals, however, change happens fast, making them the perfect model of evolution in action.

Suitable for the lay reader and student, as well as the more seasoned biologist, and featuring more than four hundred breathtaking illustrations of living animals, skeletons, and historical specimens, Unnatural Selection will be enjoyed by anyone with an interest in natural history and the history of evolutionary thinking.

Katrina van Grouw, author of The Unfeathered Bird (Princeton), inhabits that no-man's-land midway between art and science. She holds degrees in fine art and natural history illustration and is a former curator of ornithological collections at a major national museum. She's a self-taught scientist with a passion for evolutionary biology and its history.

Ms. van Grouw sounds like someone to meet, and the book one to read.

Dog Dealers Hate German Engineering

American and British dog dealers love to toss around the word "span" when it comes to working terrier chest size.

It's a term lifted from the world of horses, and refers to placing your hands around a dog's chest at its widest part, with thumbs touching and middle fingers at least touching. 

The problem is that "span" is so vague that it covers far too much sin when it comes to terrier size. Whose span?  A small woman's?  Wilt Chamberlin's?

When a dog cannot be spanned, the dog dealers always mumble that they have small hands!

The good news is that the Germans are not vague.  Known for precise engineering and quality construction, they define the proper chest size of their native working dog, the Teckel or working Dachshund, with considerable precision.

The term "Dachshund" means "badger dog" but despite that moniker, the Germans are very precise about chest measurements because they understand that for a dog to be a "gebrauchshund" (i.e. a "useful" hunting dog), it cannot be too big to fit into a tight den, nor can it be nose-dead and unable to find in the field.

What is most remarkable about the FCI working Teckel standard is how very precise it is about chest size -- perhaps a reaction to what happened in England and in the U.S., where Dachshund chest size was allowed to balloon up to the point that show dogs now have chests as deep as the keel of a boat.

As the FCI standard for Teckels makes clear, the ideal chest size of a standard working Dachshund in Germany is just under 14 inches in circumference (35 cm. or 13.78 inches).  The chest size of a miniature Dachshund (often used to work fox) is set at 30-35 cm (11.81 inches to 13.78 inches).  A third working Dachshund, for rabbiting, is even smaller in circumference.

This 35 cm chest size of a full-sized working Dachshund was not invented whole-cloth; it is about the size of the average red fox chest found the world over and it is the same 14-inch chest measurement defined as ideal for working terriers by Barry Jones in the UK and by Ken James in the U.S.

Does that mean European Badgers cannot come a great deal larger than 14" in the chest?  They can! 

The picture below is of five well-trained German Teckels doing a down-stay next to two just-dug European badgers. Quite a shot!

But badgers are built like groundhogs -- as squishy as a bag of water, and in the real world underground, that wide roll of fat and skin can squeeze through some very tight passages -- hence the 14" chest size of a working "badger dog".

Coffee and Provocation

A love story.

A Nightmare Hybrid Agricultural Pest?
The cotton bollworm (Helicoverpa armigera), which is widespread in Africa, Asia and Europe and causes damage to over 100 kinds of crops, has hybridized with the corn earworm (Helicoverpa zea), which is commonly found in the Americas. The new hybrid bug could be a serious crop pest of global significance.

Are Forests Coming to Iceland?
Iceland is growing new forests for the first time in 1,000 years. When the Vikings fist arrived, 25 to 40 percent of Iceland was forest. Within a few centuries, almost all of the island’s trees had been burned for fuel and to clear land for farming. The resulting deforestation resulted in massive soil erosion.

Measles No More?
After 50 years of vaccination, measles has been eliminated from the Americas. In 1968, measles killed 10,000 children a year in Mexico alone.

An Ebola Vaccine?
It look like a new vaccine provides long-term protection from ebola.

Drugs from Bugs?
Bio-prospecting insects may be the next leap forward for pharma.

The Bleeding Edge of What They Call Progress
White Castle has become the first fast food chain to serve a plant-based "Impossible Burger" that bleeds.

Mostly Water and Barely Human
More than half of our body is not human, say scientists. Human cells make up only 43% of the body's total cell count. The rest are microscopic colonists. Up to 90% of our body weight is water.

The Tequila Supply is Safe
A nectar-feeding bat critical to pollination of the cactus that makes tequila has recovered, and is being taken off the endangered species list.

"The Log" Over Nearly a Year

A log over a creek in north-central Pennsylvania had a camera trap on it for a year. This is "the director's cut" posted by Robert Bush.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Two Fox From a Shallow Dig

Both fox bolted; the dig was to winkle out a stuck dog. Needless to say it wasn't one of my wee tykes!

Obama Says: Stay Woke, Bitches

The Geometry Of Terrier Work

Gideon in a typical shallow pipe.

Dog weights go up a lot with a very little increase in size, due to some very basic geometry.

First, let's consider the geometry of a Red Fox.  

The late Barry Jones,
 professional terrierman to the Cotswold Foxhounds in Andovers Ford, and a former Chairman and President of the Fell and Moorland Working Terrier Club, and the founding Chairman of the National Working Terrier Federation, spanned an average of 300 foxes a year and said "I have not encountered a fox which could not be spanned at 14 inches circumference."

A dog with a chest span of 14 inches, the same as that of a fox, has a chest that takes up 15.59 square inches of space.

A dog with a chest of 16 inches, however, is a dog that is taking up 20.37 square inches of space.

A dog with an 18 inch chest circumference is a dog that is taking up 25.78 square inches of space in the pipe.

And what about an AKC or JRTCA go-to-ground tunnel?  Those have an interiour space of 81 square inches!

This is just square area. Cubic area gives you even more impressive numbers.

For example, something that is one yard on each side (height, length, depth) is one cubic yard, but something that is 3 yards on each side is 27 cubic yards (3 by 3 by 3). The same thing happens with dogs; as height increases, so too does length and width, and these dimensions compound each other.

In the end, it is not weight or height that determines a terrier's ability to work so much as chest size -- and of course a strong dose of desire, a big dose of nose, and a willingness to use its voice.

No matter how much desire a dog has, however, it cannot overcome too large a chest size. Flexability has nothing to do with it except at the margins. Nothing is more plastic than water, and yet you still cannot put a half gallon of water in a pint bottle.

A den pipe is anywhere from 10 to 40 feet long -- far too long for a dog to excavate except, perhaps, at a few tight spots. A dog that is digging a lot to get to the quarry is bottling itself up by pushing dirt behind it, and is likely to reach his or her destination exhausted and oxygen depleted, without the room to properly maneuver to avoid the slashing teeth of the quarry. It is a disaster waiting to happen.

The bottom line:  Few dogs are too little or too smart to work, but many are too large and too dumb.

Sailor, an 11-pound dog, exits a very tight pipe.

I Blame the Women

Dust Bowl on the Hill

On April 19, 1935, the Senate saw the Dust Bowl problem up close and personal

Four days earlier, on April 14, 1935, the biggest dust storm in U.S. history hit the prairie states, pushing a tower of dirt more than two miles into the air, and moving 300,000 tons of topsoil towards the east coast.

This was "Black Sunday" -- the day the wind moved more dirt in a single afternoon than was dug by an army of machines toiling for over seven years to build the Panama Canal.

On April 19, 1935, five days after Black Sunday, Hugh Bennett, the head of the Soil Conservation Service, was in Room 333 of the Russell Senate Office Building pushing for land conservation.

As Timothy Egan notes in The Worst Hard Time:

He began with the charts, the maps, the stories of what soil conservation could do, and a report on Black Sunday. The senators listened, expressions of boredom on the faces of some. An aide whispered into Big Hugh's ear. "It's coming."

Bennett told how he learned about terracing at an early age, about how the old ground on his daddy's place in North Carolina was held in place by a simple method that most country farmers learned when they were young. And did he mention—yes, again—that an inch of topsoil can blow away in an hour, but it takes a thousand years to restore it? Think about that equation. A senator who had been gazing out the window interrupted Bennett. "It's getting dark outside."

The senators went to the window. Early afternoon in mid-April, and it was getting dark. The sun over the Senate Office Building vanished. The air took on a copper hue as light filtered through the flurry of dust. For the second time in two years, soil from the southern plains fell on the capital. This time it seemed to take its cue from Hugh Bennett. The weather bureau said it had originated in No Man's Land. "This, gentlemen, is what I'm talking about," said Bennett. "There goes Oklahoma." Within a day, Bennett had his money and a permanent agency to restore and sustain the health of the soil. When Congress passed the Soil Conservation Act, it marked the first time any nation had created such a unit.

To force prices up enough for farmers to make a living, Roosevelt had the government buy surplus corn, beans, and flour, and distribute it to the needy.

Over six million pigs were slaughtered, and the meat given to relief organizations.

Crops were plowed into the ground — like slitting your wrist, to some farmers. In the South, when horses were first directed to the fields to rip out cotton, they balked. Next year, the government would ask cattlemen and wheat growers to reduce supply in return for cash. Hoover had been leery of meddling with the mechanics of the free market. Under Roosevelt, the government was the market. The Agricultural Adjustment Act created the framework, and the Civilian Conservation Corps drummed up the foot soldiers. They would try to stitch the land back together. Build dams, bridges. Restore forests. Keep water from running away. Build trails in the mountains, roads on the prairie, lakes and ponds.

In May, Roosevelt signed a bill giving two hundred million dollars to help farmers facing foreclosure. Now, before some nester's land could be taken to satisfy a bank loan, there was a place of last resort.

That summer, FDR launched the Second Hundred Days, signing into law the Social Security Act so that the crushing cycle of old age poverty that had bedeviled mankind since the beginning, might end.

Next up was the Works Progress Administration to fund the building of roads, schools, bridges and parks, and the National Labor Relations Act, which enshrined union rights in the workplace even as it outlawed wildcat strikes that could cripple the

And what was the result?

Things turned around. Farm economies began to improve with incomes 50 percent higher, and crop prices up 66 percent since Herbert Hoover's last day in office.

Money flowed back into the banks. People slowly returned to work.

Roosevelt took credit, and the American people gave him credit, but the Supreme Court disagreed, stepping in to say that government control of the American farm economy was unconstitutional. The government could not be the market.

Sound familiar?

Of course, today we do have price supports and market-making for all kinds of agricultural products.

The Conservation Reserve Program pays farmers every year to leave over 30 million acres fallow -- land that supports fox, deer, quail, pheasant, sage grouse, and turkey, as well as scores of millions of song birds.

Social Security is the primary source of income for most Americans in retirement. If you are lucky enough to have gone to college, it's probably because your parents had a little money set aside now that they no longer had to provide economic sustenance to their parents (your grandparents) in old age.

The over one million acres of Dust Bowl land that the government bought from broken farmers in 1935 for $2.75 an acre, is now almost four million acres located in 20 publicly-owned National Grassland parks administered by the U.S. Forest Service.

And in the end, even the Republicans admitted it was all due to the good sense and steady hand of FDR.

When Kansas Governor Alf Landon, who had run against Roosevelt in 1936 saying he had no idea how to fix the Great Plains, was asked about the New Deal and its lasting effect on the country, he said it "saved our society."

And, of course he was right and the American people knew it. Alf Landon lost every state in 1936 except Maine and Vermont,losing the Electoral College by the largest margin ever, 523 to 8,

As for Hugh Bennett, the Big Man that Saved the Plains, he died in 1960 at the age of seventy-nine, and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery just two miles from my house. On Saturday I may bike over to lay a flower on his grave; a great American not enough of us have ever been told about.

The Red White and Blue of American Debt

Monday, April 16, 2018

A Few Notes on a Modest Predator

I have dug on fox, measured them, released them, and photographed them.  These two pictures are from my yard. Here's the short story as far as size and food: this is a very small predator.

Fox mostly eat mice, but really will kill your free-range chickens and ducks if you leave them out at night or fail to maintain a fox-wire surrounded coop (not chicken wire, fox wire!).

Fox will generally ignore a cat, cannot kill a sheep, and outside of mice, they mostly live on scavenged berries, bird seed, roadkill, frogs, snakes, and the occasional bird (they are called a cat-like canid for a reason).

Fox have a chest size of about 14 inches or less, and larger weight fox tend to be longer, but not much bigger in the chest.

A dog that has a 14 inch chest will be about two inches shorter in stature than a fox, which is mostly leg, with a bone structure closer to that of a bird than that of a dog.  Look for a small-chested 12 inch tall terrier (or less) and you will never regret it.

The far-and-away biggest killer of fox is disease (distemper, mange), parasites (roundworm, hookworm, heartworm), exposure, flood, and respiratory illness (as kits), starvation; and happenstance (ripped by barbed wire, caught in brambles, accidental poisoning from antifreeze or rat bait). Encounters with farm dogs prune off some sick fox, and vehicle impact kills many others. Trappers and hunters have almost no impact on fox numbers at the national level.

These Designer Breeds Are Going Too Far

Judas Snakes May Be Key to Python Eradication

In just three days, a male python named Argo, who had a surgically implanted tracking device inside him, lead researchers to the largest trove of pythons found yet in Collier County, Florida.

The eight snakes, called a breeding aggregation, were the most found in one place in Southwest Florida and the western Everglades, where the pythons have been steadily spreading for years. It matches the largest aggregation found in the known hotbeds of the central and eastern Everglades, where the invasive and elusive predator has decimated entire populations of small mammals.... “You look at some 250 pounds of python and you just think, what did it take to make that?” Bartoszek said. “How much native wildlife did it take to produce those?”

Part of what makes pythons so hard to track is they leave virtually no trace of their prey. The animals are swallowed whole, leaving no carcass to find, and excrete very little. The only way to know what they're eating is to catch and dissect them, and to watch what species are disappearing from the wild.... The Conservancy estimates that 61 percent of the diet of pythons found in Collier County are small mammals such as rabbits, opossums and raccoons. Another 29 percent are rodents and birds.

“But if you go to the east coast, you’ll see those percentages flipped,” Bartoszek said. “There they’re eating almost all birds and rodents, because the rest are gone. You’d be very hard pressed to find a rabbit now in the east.”

Judas goats and Judas pigs are routinely used to find and locate feral goats and pigs for eradication, especially on mountainous islands. A goat or pig is captured, radio collared, and then released to rejoin whatever herd of pigs and goats it can find. Radio locators are used to pinpoint the movement of the animals, which are all shot except for the Judas which is released to join up with whatever remains.  The program is repeated until all the feral goat and pigs are gone.