Monday, September 21, 2009

Pre-Workweek Pep Rally

Very touching, very hilarious.

From the blog, Biologically Curious.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Some Thoughts

I had an interesting day yesterday:

+ Drove around swabbing leopard frogs fro chytrid fungus testing
+ Snipped toes from leopard frogs for DNA testing
+ Found a dead Clark's Nutcracker in a spring.  I have never seen this bird before, and it is too bad that the last one I will probably ever see was expired.

All in all, it was a bit morbid, but I had fun.

Today Brandon and I finished our killer report to the BLM state office on our study.  It looks good! 

Brandon leaves on Thursday for grad school.  He is going to become an expert on Pacific giant salamanders and road-crossing ecology.  He will be missed.  We had an excellent summer.

Here in Rawtown the deer are all about.  This weekend on a final jaunt to the hot springs of Saratoga we saw a whole gang of bucks wandering through town together.  Can't catch a break from these guys!  I think they are "hiding" in town to avoid being killed by all the hunters in the hills.  Good for them!

And finally, in other news, I have decided to start a new blog, Idiotscape, in which I will complain about the current state of affairs as I see fit.  I realize that I have been griping far too much on Bachelor Diner.  I do feel like there is a whole world of stuff to gripe about, but that this is a place for my exploits of various types.  Now you will have an option to read about what bothers me.  I'm sure most of you are here for the fish stick sandwiches, anyway.  Too many links?  I guess I should probably start a new blog full of links since I love them so much.  Just kidding.  But I'm not kidding about this blog I found.  Check out this guy, he's nuts!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Good News?

Big news! Apparently a researcher at James Madison University has isolated a bacteria that may combat and inoculate against the chytrid fungus. This fungus is contributing greatly to the decline of amphibians worldwide, and it is also the reason why I need to swab the toads when I catch them. Combating the fungus has hitherto been considered unlikely. Good luck to him! Here is a link if you are interested in reading more.

Also, today I accidentally kicked a duck in the head. I was looking for frogs in some marshy grass and as I was walking I hit something small and alive with my boot. It was a duck that was hiding. I stared at it for a while and it pretend not to exist. Seeing how frightened and helpless it was, I really ALMOST reached down to pick it up. I wanted to take it home. I rationalized this by telling myself that my boot-strike had permanently damaged its brain. I decided against capturing it when I came around to the fact that it would never treat me with respect. When I stepped back a little, it ran away and flapped its wings frantically, expressing its desire to not be my pet/food.

Later on, as I was walking to a pond I stepped over a clump of grass and heard the telltale rattle of a pit viper (Crotalus viridis viridis (the prairie rattlesnake)). Hearing this, I leaped a few feet away and spun around to see if it was going to strike me, but it was just a dead flower that had some rattly seeds in it.


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

More Bad News in a Sea of Bad News

Can nothing go right in this country? Today I read that Idaho has officially announced a wolf-hunting season. There are thought to be 850 wolves in the gigantic state, and there will be tags for taking about a quarter of them. Wolves are less than six months off the endangered species list, and in my opinion, the population is not yet, nor will become, as out of control as the article suggests. There is in my mind no sound argument for taking so many wolves so soon.

Here in the west, the topic of the long-finished wolf reintroduction (and the endangered species act in general) is a very popular one. The western predator-management ethic is incredibly old-fashioned and not at all based on modern science. Rather it is based on irrational fear and an archaic man vs. wilderness paradigm that fell out of fashion starting with Aldo Leopold's "Land Ethic", which I beseech all of you to at least read about. Here in Wyoming, for example, there are species classified as "varmints" that may be legally shot on sight without a hunting permit. These popularly include coyotes (I have seen several dead in Rawlins itself) and prairie dogs (the destruction of entire towns is a popular pastime for people with automatic weapons) and the list goes on.

To many subscribers to this belief system, wolves fall squarely in the varmint category. The primary talking point for anti-wolf westerners is that the predators take a disproportionately large share of valuable game species. Those who are anti-wolf would like to believe that if wolves did not exist, elk and deer would be so abundant that hunters could take as many as they pleased. This understanding of ecology lies dead at the feet of one hundred years of well-documented scientific experience proving exactly the opposite.

Varmint killing was long ago a government policy, and wolf hides demanded a bounty. They were enthusiastically killed until they were effectively extirpated from the lower 48. In the early 20th century, Aldo Leopold himself killed wolves for the Forest Service in Arizona, until he saw how ecologically detrimental removing top predators from an ecosystem is. What he saw, and what was soon to become the inspiration for modern ecological thought, was that when top predators were removed, deer soon became so abundant that their herbivory quickly limited food availability in the ecosystem. This caused massive outbreaks of deer starvation and disease which would amount to die-offs and a loss of hunting revenue for state game agencies as well as many tears for those deprived hunters. In some cases, an absence of wolves works, as in Massachusetts, but only because of rampant suburban development limiting habitat, and with the case of the Quabbin Reservoir, a highly organized culling. In the boundless-by-comparison open space of the west, this does not work. Hence the reason why wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone, where the elk population had skyrocketed to the point of near-collapse.

I would say that I am less mad about the wildlife management decision-making in Idaho as I am about the ignorance of people like Edmund Zeigler which drives this decision-making. This quote from the article is probably one of most paleolithic understandings of nature I have ever heard:
"They'll kill them and let 'em lay," Ziegler says. "They're a pack of dogs and they'll chase stuff down for the fun of it. They might only take a couple of chunks out of it and let it go for a while because they're already so full from all the other animals they've been eating."
I do not think that wolves hunt for fun. The same understanding of "savagery" and joyful slaying of innocents was a popular impetus for the genocide of Native Americans. It is sad to see this example idiotry persist into our time. Appropriately, it takes its rightful seat next to the fallacious and insane reasoning that has been undermining so much progress in our country recently. I can hardly take any more.

However, chances are good that few wolves will be killed by hunters this upcoming season. I do not think they are as stupid as elk and mule deer. Needless to say, there are plenty of stupid people who are bizarrely good at killing things, so who knows.