Sunday, February 27, 2011

Something is killing baby dolphins

Photo courtesy of

A tide of dead infant dolphins has washed ashore along a 100-mile stretch of the Alabama and Mississippi coastlines in the past two weeks. Marine mammal experts believe the Gulf oil spill may be to blame and fear it will only get worse.

Moby Solangi, Director of the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport, and his team say there's a chance this could be an anomaly. "But in my 30 years of studying dolphins I have never seen anything like this. This is highly unusual."

Solangi called the high number of deaths significant, especially in light of the BP oil spill throughout the spring and summer last year when millions of barrels of crude oil containing toxins and carcinogens spewed into the Gulf of Mexico. Oil worked its way into the Mississippi and Chandeleur sounds and other bays and shallow waters where dolphins breed and give birth.

Dolphins breed in the spring and carry their young for 11 to 12 months. When a dolphin is born, its mother has the job of making sure it gets to the surface for its first breath of air. If the baby is dead, the mother still tries. Over and over, sometimes for hours. She stays with the baby, not realizing fully that it is dead. She will hit it with her tail, grasp it, pull it and nudge it gently, hoping to get it to breathe.

"The more desperate the animal gets when the calf is not breathing, the more intense her behavior becomes," Solangi said. "I've watched it."

"She goes into a frenzy trying to get the baby to respond and then stays with her dead infant, sometimes for hours before she lets it go. That's why some of the dead dolphin infants identified in the last two weeks have trauma to their bodies. They didn't die by being hit," he said.

Watch the NBC News story

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Year of the Turtle

Wood turtle photo courtesy of

Though turtles have been on the planet for about 220 million years, scientists now report that almost half of all turtle species is threatened. Turtle scientists are working to understand how global warming may affect turtle reproduction. To bring attention to this and other issues affecting turtles, researchers and other supporters have designated 2011 as the Year of the Turtle.

Turtles (which include tortoises) are central to the food web. Sea turtles graze on the sea grass found on the ocean floor, helping to keep it short and healthy. Healthy sea grass in turn is an important breeding ground for many species of fish, shellfish, and crustaceans. The same processes hold for freshwater and land turtles. For example, turtles contribute to the health of marshes and wetlands, being important prey for a suite of predators.

A few quick facts about turtles:

-About 50 percent of freshwater turtle species are threatened worldwide, more than any other animal group.

-About 20 percent of all turtle species worldwide are found in North America.

-Primary threats to turtles are habitat loss and exploitation.

-Climate change patterns, altered temperatures, affected wetlands and stream flow all are key factors that affect turtle habitats.

-Urban and suburban development causes turtles to be victims to fast-moving cars, farm machinery; turtles can also be unintentionally caught in fishing nets.

Click here to learn more.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

As above, so below

Wild turkeys in their treetop roost
A hen in flight A pregnant vixen rests

while her mate goes off to hunt

This has been one of the most severe winters on record. Even so, the flock of wild turkeys is managing well, and this red fox pair are finding squirrels and mice to eat.

I am constantly astonished by the beauty of red foxes. Though I haven't been able to capture a photo of this mated pair together for fear of disturbing them, I have observed them side by side, and it's clear that they are devoted to one another. Adult red foxes usually live alone except during the mating season in January and February and when raising young. They usually mate for life.

As I've observed the foxes hunting for squirrels, I can almost hear them thinking ― that's how intelligent they are. They have only a passing interest in the turkeys, probably because this particular flock is very healthy and always alert. There seems to be some understanding between the two species.

So, if they can live together, why can't we?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Animals are not disposable

Photo by Darryl Dyck for The Canadian Press

The “execution-style” mass cull of 100 sled dogs owned by Whistler-based Outdoor Adventures has sparked outrage far and wide.

The dogs were perfectly healthy and a veterinarian refused to put them down, so an employee from Whistler-based Howling Dog Tours shot them one at a time, execution style, while the other dogs watched in horrified panic.

According to the Vancouver Sun, the unnamed employee who killed the dogs came forward to report the April 2010 massacre after suffering from panic attacks and nightmares, hallmarks of post-traumatic stress disorder. He says he was ordered to kill the animals, part of his job description, because dog sled rides were no longer in high demand following the end of last year’s Winter Olympic Games. The employee says the grisly task was extremely difficult; he had developed strong bonds of trust and affection with the animals and had even named many of them himself. During the actual killings, many of the dogs panicked and attacked him. He ended up covered in blood as he buried the 100 slaughtered animals in a mass grave. But he couldn’t bury the memory of what he'd done.

Marcie Moriarty, who heads the British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (BC SPCA) cruelty investigations division, says she feels little or no sympathy for the shooter, as emotionally unraveled as he may be. “I’ve no doubt he has suffered post traumatic stress but there’s a thing called choice,” she told the Sun. “I absolutely would not have done this and he could have said no. This is a Criminal Code offense … I don’t feel sorry for this guy for one minute.”

Moriarty also said the horrific slaughter will shine a light on the darker side of the dog sledding industry. “There is a problem with the sled dog industry in general. People see these 20 sled dogs, an idyllic setting with snow in the background and think how great. But what they don’t see is the 200 dogs tethered and sleeping out back, chained to a barrel.”
Click here to read the whole story.

And then, repeat after me:

Animals are not disposable.
Animals are not disposable.
Animals are not disposable!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

A World Away ― Koi Pond

Watching these Koi fish happily swimming in their greenhouse pond helps transport me A World Away from winter and the miseries it has brought, e.g., ice dams (I have two leaking water into my house), roof collapses, and other snow-related miseries. And, let's not forget the impact that seven major storms are having on wildlife. My series of posts about leaving winter behind (begun on January 28th) concludes with these fish, also known as "living jewels" or "swimming flowers." Yes, to both.

In Japan, Koi are symbols of perseverance in adversity and are associated with strength of purpose. These qualities will help us get through the rest of winter. And remember ― it can always be worse.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A World Away – Silly Marguerite

Snowy out there, nice and sunny in here.

What? Another storm is coming this weekend?

OK, I’m composed again. About that storm…Bring it on.

A World Away, (see first posting on January 28th), continues with more of Marguerite. She always cheers me up.

All this snow and ice is getting to everyone, including Marguerite, or maybe she was just in a silly mood when I snapped these photos.

Either way, the camera loves her – and so do I!

Click on the photos for close up views.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A World Away ― Let it snow

Let it snow, it’s nice and warm inside the greenhouse

As another monster storm clobbers us for the second consecutive day, I'm wishing I could be A World Away more than ever, hence my name for this series, which I began on January 28th. But spending time with Marguerite always lifts my spirits. Although she is reserved with those she doesn't know, this girl is loaded with personality. Once she feels comfortable, her happy-go-lucky, spunky side emerges.

Over the years, I have taken a zillion photos of Marguerite ― she loves to pose! She is an elegant cat, but during this session she really hammed it up.

In the next post Marguerite gets silly.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A World Away ― Marguerite

A World Away is a series of posts (beginning on January 28th) about my visits to an Eden-like greenhouse to find a bit of relief in this very harsh winter. This post features Miss Marguerite, the cat in residence.

Marguerite was a stray when she wandered into the greenhouse more than 10 years ago and immediately made herself at home. She continues to thrive, and one of her favorite places to hang out is beside the stairs where the sun streams through in mid-morning.