Monday, July 11, 2011

Animal news briefs

The United Nations announced last month that a second disease has been vanquished world-wide. The first was smallpox, declared eradicated in 1980. Rinderpest is the second disease to be wiped off the face of the earth. The added good news about it: rinderpest is an “epizootic” – an animal disease.

The NYTimes reported on the “long but little known campaign to conquer rinderpest,” citing the “skill and bravery of ‘big animal’ veterinarians, who fought it in remote and sometimes war-torn areas.”

The paper explained that “Any society dependent on cattle – or relatives like African zebu, Asian water buffaloes or Himalayan yaks [all cloven-hoofed animals] – was vulnerable” because “when herds die, their owners starve.”

In 1990, when the northern spotted owl was listed as a threatened species, it became “the cause celebre of the environmental movement” – a symbol of the battle over whether to save or saw down Pacific Northwest forests.

Since then, threats to the owl have increased in number to include climate change and the growing presence of the barred owl, reportedly a “bigger, more adaptable bird” and one that sometimes kills spotted owl males and mates with the females.

The federal government’s final plan to prevent the spotted owl from going extinct was released last month, but whether it’s enough or in time remains to be seen.

Feral hogs, wild pigs, whatever you may call them – their population’s growing in the American Southeast and Southwest – any state where “it’s warm and wet,” according to a news story last week. Not native to this continent, the animals reportedly damage ecosystems and threaten other animal species meant to be protected in wildlife refuges.

The solution being proposed: lift current restrictions to make it easier to hunt the feral hogs. In Texas, land of the great excesses, Gov. Rick Perry “has signed legislation that . . . will allow any licensed hunter to shoot feral hogs from helicopters.” Real Texas (and Alaska)-style sportsmanship.

Another news story dealt with invasive fish and how learning to eat them may be the best way to deal with the problems they create.

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