Category: On animals


Images of wildlife and road ecology

By Midge Raymond,

As many of us know, living among wildlife can be as dangerous as it is wonderful, due to the fact that, at some point, animals need to cross our roads. Fortunately, people like Marcel Huijser are working toward making our roads safer for all of us, with a special eye for helping out the animals.

A quick glance at Huijser’s website might seem, at first, a bit distressing — you’ll see gorgeous images of live animals, as well as those who have been killed by cars — but you’ll also see photos of mitigation measures designed to reduce the number of wildlife-vehicle collisions…and this (along with the abundance of phenomenal wildlife images), make this site and blog well worth a visit.

Huijser is both a photographer and a road ecologist; he works toward finding safe passages for wildlife among the highways and bridges among which animals live (learn more in this profile published last year in High Country News). On Huijser’s website, you’ll find a fascinating collection of photos of road ecology at work —  wildlife overpasses, wildlife fencing and “jump-outs”  to allow animals to escape from fenced areas, high-tech animal detection systems that detect large animals on the road and provide alerts, and more.

Visit Marcel Huijser’s website to learn more — perhaps you’ll find an idea perfect for your own community. We’d certainly love to see some animal detection systems to help protect the beautiful deer in Ashland.

 

 

The Resplendent Quetzal: A guest post by Jean Ryan

By Midge Raymond,

Today’s post is courtesy of Survival Skills author Jean Ryan, whose blog you can find on her website. Enjoy!

The Resplendent Quetzal

There are six kinds of quetzals in the cloud forests of Central America, and while they are all attractive birds, just one species is known as “resplendent.” Imagine being such a stunning specimen that you are classified in terms of your matchless beauty.

Definitions of resplendent include: “shining brilliantly,” “richly colorful,” “dazzling in appearance.” So why aren’t peacocks deemed resplendent, or butterflies, or poison dart frogs? What makes the quetzal so special?

This bird sports sumptuous colors, to be sure. Scarlet body, golden beak, emerald head and back, streaks of azure running down the tail feathers. The male has a wondrously long tail that floats behind him as he flies through the rain forest canopy. His head is crested and his eyes are large and glistening.

To see this legendary bird in flight must be transformative. You might think you imagined the vision, and you might be right: The quetzal is endangered, as are many exquisite things on this planet, our admiration for them causing more harm than good.

In Guatemala, the quetzal is the national symbol; even the currency is called the quetzal. The word is taken from the Aztec word ‘quetzalli,’ meaning precious or beautiful. Mayans worshipped the creature and used its tail feathers in their headdresses. While killing a quetzal was punishable by death, one could trap it, pluck its feathers and let it go. Over time the feathers grow back, but meanwhile, how does the damaged male charm a female? How does it soar through the jungle with only the memory of its glorious tail? The Mayans can be credited with many things—humanity is not one of them.

Quetzals mate for life. Solitary and quiet most of the year, they come together only in the springtime. Their nests are confined to dead or dying trees, where they use a hole made by a previous tenant or peck out one themselves. For eighteen days the parents take turns sitting on the two blue eggs, and though both care for the chicks afterward, the female departs early. In just three weeks, the young can fly. They eat a range of food, from insects to small frogs to certain fruits, particularly miniature avocadoes, which they swallow whole, spitting out the seeds.

Deforestation is limiting the quetzals’ nesting options; this and poaching are the biggest reasons for the decline of the species. Poaching is illegal, but the laws are ignored or unenforced. The birds are captured for their feathers or for display in private museums.

As these birds do not mate in captivity—most die after being caught—protecting their forests is the only means of saving them, and there are two areas in Guatemala where efforts are underway. We have put ourselves in a terrifying position, having created a world in which wild things must depend on us for their survival.

The resplendent quetzal cautions us with its name. There is no replacement, nothing quite so wonderful. Saving this bird is our only hope.

Screen Shot 2015-07-28 at 1.51.09 PM

  Category: On animals, On nature
  Comments: Comments Off on The Resplendent Quetzal: A guest post by Jean Ryan

Submissions for Among Animals will close December 15

By John Yunker,

I’m pleased to say that we’re on the home stretch toward choosing stories for the next edition of Among Animals.

To give you a preview of what’s to come, we’ve got stories that feature cats and dogs and chickens and fish. And a mule. A kangaroo. A sea bear. A polar bear.

And, of course, humans.

We’re still looking for a few more great stories and are setting a deadline of December 15th. So if you’ve got something you think might fit, please send it today! And please feel free to check out our first edition, which will tell you what the anthology is all about.

And thanks to everyone who shared their work with us. We appreciate the opportunity to read your submissions.

amonganimals_250

Gone: A guest post by author Jean Ryan

By Midge Raymond,

Today’s post is courtesy of Survival Skills author Jean Ryan, whose blog you can find on her website. Enjoy!

Gone

Today I came across a photo of a thylacine, commonly known as a Tasmanian Tiger, owing to the stripes on its back and rump. Native to Australia, Tasmania and New Guinea, and largest of the carnivorous marsupials, thylacines were considered a threat to farmers and were hunted to extinction. The last one, a lone female, died of neglect in the Hobart zoo in 1936. Unlike the Dodo, we have plenty of photographs and footage of Tasmanian Tigers, which makes their disappearance even more harrowing.

When a species slips into oblivion, I think there must be an earthly acknowledgment, a sort of hush or shudder that travels over the planet and outward into the universe. Each time I read of a creature we have lost, I am more frightened than sad. I do not want to be left alone on this planet, cannot imagine my life without the succor of animals. There is a terror in the loss of a species through human folly, a wrong for which there is no right. In allowing the attrition of wild things, we steal from ourselves. Confident that we can afford the consequences, we borrow funds we can’t pay back and ignore the growing list of damage.

How many more animals will we permit ourselves to squander and which do we imagine we can do without?

The thylacine was an impressive-looking creature. It resembled a large short-haired dog but was related to kangaroos and Tasmanian devils. Up to six feet in length, with a stiff two-foot tail, the animal could stand on its hind legs for brief periods. Tasmanian Tigers was not particularly fast or agile, but they were formidable hunters with no predators of their own. Nocturnal creatures, they traveled and hunted in groups and were believed to ambush their prey. The female birthed up to four pups at a time, which stayed in her pouch for three months. Thylacines had yellowish brown coats with dark stripes that faded somewhat with age.

Attempts have been made to clone a thylacine, but these experiments have not been successful, and scientists admit we’re a long way from resurrecting the dead. For now we must wait for another sort of miracle. There have been reports in recent years of thylacine sightings, one from a reputable game warden, and while these accounts are beguiling, so far there are no corroborating photos or video. Generous rewards have been posted and the search continues.

If given a second chance to behold a living thylacine, I hope we will save it from ourselves, that we will spare it our tests and our studies and our cages. I hope we will pause in admiration and quietly move on.

survivalskills

Father Time: A guest post by Jacki Skole

By Midge Raymond,

Today’s post and photos are courtesy of Dogland author Jacki Skole, whose blog you can find on her website. Enjoy!

Father Time

He looks old.

That was my first thought—and my second. It was as though I’d been hit in the gut. Not that I’d expected anything, really; I hadn’t thought about what he’d look like. I’d just wanted to see him again, and now, incredibly, I was.

I met Maurice in 2000 at my friend Daphne’s Atlanta home. He was about three months old and ridiculously cute—a pint-sized golden boy with a charcoal snout and ears that pointed skyward. He made me want a pup of my own—not an unusual reaction to playing with a puppy. What was unusual was what happened next.

I adopted one.

Gryffin pup-web

 

Gryffin was Maurice’s brother and he, with the rest of their litter, was at the DeKalb County Humane Society outside Atlanta. I could have chosen any one of the puppies, but something about Gryffin spoke to me. Like Maurice, Gryffin was golden with charcoal accents he’d later outgrow, but whereas Maurice’s ears stood tall, Gryffin’s flopped forward.

For two Southern boys, the dogs lived very little of their lives in the South. Gryffin came with me to Philadelphia, then to suburban New Jersey. Maurice went with Daphne to Israel. Now, thirteen years after meeting Maurice, I was seeing him again—this time, in Tel Aviv; this time, with Kevin and our daughters. We scoured Maurice’s face for some resemblance to Gryffin, whom we’d had to put down three years earlier. A tumor we hadn’t known about was tucked behind his ribcage burst and filled his belly with blood—one day he was playing ball in the backyard, the next he was gone. So we stared at Maurice, and we saw Gryffin in his snout and in his eyes, though still not in his ears.

Kevin said he felt a sense of closure, that seeing Maurice in life somehow allowed him to let go of Gryffin in a way that had before been elusive. My feelings were messy. Maurice moved slowly. Stairs were a struggle. He looked weary. Part of me found comfort in knowing that Gryffin never slowed, never struggled with steps, never faced the frailties that accompany old age. But, I wondered—have been wondering—did I feel that comfort for him or for me? Seeing the toll that Father Time was taking on Maurice hit me unexpectedly, sending me on an emotional rollercoaster I wasn’t prepared for.

It’s been several months since I saw Maurice, and I’m still struggling to come to terms with my feelings—about what they mean and about what they might say about me and my ability to face old age—be it in a dog, a family member, or myself.

 

Gryffin-web