Archive for the ‘weird’ Category

You’ll see at least one white squirrel: non-releasable Elliott  

Olney, IL, watch your back! Brevard, NC–a longtime rival  White Squirrel Capital of the World–may be snatching the title for good. About 20,000 – 25,000 people are expected this weekend at Brevard’s 7th annual White Squirrel Festival to go on a white squirrel safari, compete with white squirrel photography, feeder-making and the “squirrel box derby.” (Well, okay, some actually come for the music.)

Normally there’s just one guy in a  squirrel suit called Woody the White Squirrel, but this year’s extravaganza will feature 250 people in white squirrel costumes dancing to BrotherBrother for five minutes Saturday afternoon to set a world record. (Coincidentally, robots in Austin will be dancing for their own record nearly simultaneously.)

“We’re really having fun with the theme,” says the guy who dreamed the whole thing up, Phil Davis. “We’re willing to be a little weird.” Brevard is joining the ranks of towns that have parties to celebrate something no one can imitate: local wildlife. So along with 32 Bald Eagle Watches, Moose Festivals and events to watch hummingbirds and bats, it’s only natural that a town with 1,000 white squirrels would flaunt it.

Many small towns–especially Olney–brag about their white squirrels. Cryptomundo lists 10 white and black squirrel cities and some try to tour them all. White squirrels, which are far more rare and exotic–breed competition that is suitably fierce and fun.

“There’s a bunch of wannabe cities,” Davis dismisses the competition. “They paint their squirrels is the rumor. We’re not in support of towns that bleach their squirrels.”

Typical pattern of Brevard, NC, white squirrel

Davis, a branding expert, said the town had an anemic monarch festival before he hit on the idea of trying a squirrel festival to coincide with more proven entertainment, a Memorial Day concert. Something about the name caught on. Now some attendees are astonished to find that white squirrels really live there. “You mean they actually exist?” they’ll ask.

“It’s primarily a music festival. They just love the fact it’s wrapped in white squirrels,” he says. “They love the magicalness of it.”

Elaborate and very cool map showing percent of white squirrels around town

But there’s plenty for people who actually want to see and celebrate the white squirrels. There are free  squirrel safaris that center around the likely ground of Brevard College. And they’re guaranteed to see at least one: Elliott, a genial white squirrel who couldn’t make it in the wild. Elliott was attacked by an adult when he was young, lost an eye and has complicated tooth problems, says wildlife rehabilitator Jennifer Burgin. Now five, Burgin feeds him a special diet by hand twice a day.

Burgin, who has been rehabbing squirrels for 20 years, likes how the town appreciates their squirrels. “They’re very serious about their white squirrels,” she says. “Everybody is very proud of them.” In 1986 Brevard banned killing, catching or hurting its squirrels. People take extra care to avoid hitting them,  says Davis, who himself rescued one from the road. “I don’t want people of gray persuasion to get angry, but white squirrels do enjoy some special protection.”

Another thing Brevard has up on Olney is a population of about 1,000 squirrels and the White Squirrel Research Institute. Founded by a former professor at the college, Bob Glesner, the institute gathers and processes an impressive set of data on white squirrel population. Local residents volunteer for an annual survey to count both the number and percentage of white squirrels.

Glesner is watching whether the population becomes fragmented, but generally thinks they’re doing okay. About 37% percent of the town’s squirrels are white overall. But around the college, where the tours go, it’s 46%. The highest is the performing arts center, where almost 9 in 10 squirrels are white.

The town is quick to point out that their white squirrels are not albinos. They have black eyes and their fur is just a color phase–a hair color, like a chocolate or yellow lab. Brevard’s squirrels have a distinct look: a darker stripe down their spine and dark frosting on the top of their head.

Davis thinks the white squirrels are just what Brevard, which sits near the border with Georgia and South Carolina, needs. “Don’t laugh,” he says. “There was another rodent that saved another city. I don’t think anybody’s laughing about Disney and Orlando.”

Where to Go See Unusual Squirrels
More Interesting Animals You Can See Down South
Adopt a Brevard White Squirrel
Attend the World’s Biggest White Squirrel Festival in Brevard, NC

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What do you get for a fellow despot of an impoverished country? How about a menagerie? Conservation groups are pissed that Zimbabwe is sending North Korea a mini-menagerie–two of every species from Hwange National Park.

Somalia gave Kim Il Sung an Ass photo by (stephan)

You can only imagine how a nation that can’t provide food and electricity for its own people will treat elephants and lions from Africa. Actually, you don’t have to imagine. Some news reports make it seem ambiguous where they might go. But there’s only one zoo in North Korea and it’s totally sad, crappy, creepy and unaccredited.

Asia Times reports that a bunch of animal fighting films have come out of North Korea and pits animals against each other to fight to the death–just the kind of flick our Supreme Court endorsed.

“In all probability, North Korean leader Kim Jong-il sanctioned the filming of Fighting Animals, or at least gave it his curious approval – though there is no evidence he was directly involved despite his well-documented interest in filmmaking,” the Asia Times says. “The film’s producers would have needed access to rare and valuable animals and the only place in the country that holds them is the Central Zoo in Pyongyang.”

The Pyongyang Central Zoo was hit by bird flu

Aside from the animal fighting scandal, Lonely Planet says all the animals at the Korea Central Zoo, also known as the Pyongyang Central Zoo, “look pretty forlorn Worst off are the big cats…kept in woefully inadequate compounds.” Visitors also describe and photograph lots of cats and dogs at the zoo. Of course, North Korea has a different way to describe it: “Working people and school youth and children have a pleasant time, seeing animals associated with meaningful stories.” They also report renovations.

Zimbabwe defended the deal as just a business transaction, not political. Is that better? They’re selling two elephants too young to be separated from their mother for $10,000 each, $900 each giraffe, $600 per zebra and then, the AP reports, some cheap birds: $10 each for blue crane, saddle-billed stork and white pelican. The blue crane seems like a real bargain: they’re listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, with only 26,000 left and falling and range maps don’t even show them in Zimbabwe.

Some animals do get out of North Korea. In 1995 a Siberian tiger named Rail went to the south. In 2005 Seoul got a bear and lynx–but sent in a hippo and llama.  

The only good thing that can be said of the deal is that wild animals are pretty much doomed under Mugabe anyway. Zimbabwe’s Conservation Task Force explains that Mugabe didn’t just take land from white farmers, he took it from parks and wildlife, too.

Where to Go See Big Cats

조선 중앙 동물원

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Cat gives blue jay the bird

The eggs have hatched in the fire escape nest built by blue jays on Fifth Street in Manhattan, but that hasn’t stopped the blue jay father from obsessing over a cat that lives down the block.

This video compared to the last one shows why you should use a tripod.

The tabby is no threat to him or his brood. But the blue jay is out there every afternoon that I’ve checked and some mornings, too.
I’ve also seen the cat hanging out by the window, waiting for his entertainer to show up.

I don’t really understand the feeding procedure. The mother blue jay sometimes gapes for her mate. And she also picks up something from the nest and eats it herself.

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A rescued fox cub and a dog bred to kill foxes are becoming friends at a hotel/wildlife sanctuary in Cornwall. The Gwel an Mor had already turned wildlife rescue into an eco-attraction at its lodge. Then animal wrangler Gary Zammit heard a fox cub crying in the field. He worried his own dog would attack the cub, but instead they’ve become wrestling buddies (and UK media celebrities).
The fox, now called Copper, and dog  Jack now play constantly, when they’re not being featured on the BBC or the Telegraph or other outlets. Actually, it’s their pictures of rassling that have become so popular. “They just play fight there’s never any malice in it,” says Zammit. Jack is a lurcher–a kind of greyhoundish mixed breed popular in the British Isles, but obscure in the U.S.–a dog traditionally used to hunt rabbit and fox.

The story is like a real life Fox and the Hound, in which a fox cub is raised by a hunter and befriends his hound. I forget the rest of the story, but I remember crying over the book as a kid. Copper isn’t going to end up hunted; he’ll get to live at Gwel an mor, where guests are lead on wildlife walks to try to spot wild foxes and badgers.

Zammit makes a point of telling the press that the fox cub was crying there for two days. That means he didn’t just rush in and scoop it up while its mother was off hunting. He knew to wait to be sure she wasn’t coming back.

Gwel an Mor itself is interesting: they’re a luxury spa/lodge that also rescues wildlife. They have a fancy restaurant and rooms start around  $1,100 a week in the summer. It seems like it would be like going to the Cornish equivalent of a jungle lodge, with nightly safaris to see the local wildlife. “We will look for badgers, owls, deer and foxes close by to the holiday lodges. If the wild foxes don’t show up, don’t worry as you will be sure to meet our own rescued foxes, Todd and Sonny,” their website says. “We have all sorts of other rescued wildlife coming in all the time so who knows what other wonderful creatures you might meet on the wildlife experience.” 

Where to Go to See Wolves (and some other wild canids)
Where to Go See Wild Animals in Europe

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