Archive for March, 2009

The federal government wants you to stay out of caves to help save bats. They fear white-nose syndrome, which has kill up to a million bats in the northeast is spreading. States as far away as Georgia are thinking about closing down caves, Mark Davis reports in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Now big caves around the country are debating the proposition of closing to save their big attraction.

A fungus is believed to be behind the mysterious illness that leaves bats starving at the end of hibernation. Scientists know that the sick bats wake up a lot more during hibernation, but are not sure if that’s a cause or effect. Either way, they don’t want anybody barging in on their caves and waking them up. Of course, that won’t be much of an issue over the summer.

There are a ton of great places to see bats around the country. People have finally caught on to the allure of seeing thousands of bats stream out of a dark hole at dusk. And we’ve finally realized that they aren’t going to deliberately fly into our hair or suck our blood. It would be a shame to lose all of our goodwill toward bats.

The Wildlife Service seems to be talking about cavers, that is people who actually go in the caves, not hang out outside waiting for the fly-out. They say caves visited by cavers have seen more of the disease and fear it might be spread on equipment. So it’s unclear if we’ll still be able to enjoy a bat fly-out from a distance. A lot of big bat caves are closed to the public anyway–like former mine shafts that have bars in front so kids don’t climb in.

Get well bats, hope to see you soon.

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This poor killer whale (replica). First he was damaged during a redecorating at the New York Aquarium. They didn’t want him because his tail was slightly broken. A worker there rescued him. But after two months living in a garage delighting children, he’s being thrown out again, this time by the worker’s mother who thought better of the whole arrangement. And needs the room in her garage.
“Why she would rather have a mini-van than a whale i don’t know, but she’s put her foot down. I need to get rid of the whale ASAP and will part with it for free as long as it goes to a good home,” Caroline Hertz posts on Craigslist. Surely in this recession this would be a good catch for someone.

UPDATE: Looking around I found a similar ad on Craigslist in many cites. The only variation was the story of how the seller strangely acquired the whale. So, sorry, no whale for sale. 

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Arizona Game and Fish had to euthanize a jaguar they caught and collared just a couple weeks ago. We’ve known jaguars were back in the U.S. since the mid-1990s from pictures on motion-detector cameras. But this was the first time North America’s only roaring big cat had been caught in the U.S. And it was by accident–they laid out leg snares for bears and mountain lions. So they’d seen this guy, known as Macho B, for a long time. In fact, he was the oldest jaguar in the wild.

The department made a big show of not telling where this cat was caught. But, given that it took them 13 years to capture this one, I don’t really imagine anyone trying to do it in a day on a lark. Since they describe the area as southwest of Tuscon and fitted the collar with a device to go off over the border, I would assume the area was right around Nogales–where the department shows a bear population on their map.

The biologists noticed the jaguar not moving, so they recaptured him and noticed that he’d lost a lot of weight. Tests showed severe kidney failure, something they think takes weeks not just days. But the first blood samples they took from Macho B were only for DNA use, they say, so they won’t be able to tell how sick he was when they caught him the first time.

I would think that it would be an incredible coincidence if this wise old cat’s death and its collaring happened within two weeks of each other. I don’t think there’s anything the biologists could have done that would have caused kidney failure. (Though catching an animal in a leg snare wouldn’t help.) I think it’s more likely that the cat was weakened and that’s why he somehow missed one of these traps that he’d been avoiding for all these years.

Macho B was one of only two individuals they knew about in Arizona. The population in northern Mexico is still illegally hunt and caught and is cut off from the rest of the jaguar population. The border fence threatens to divide the territory further–maybe leaving no jaguars on our side. So it would be an incredible feat to get them re-established.

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