brutal childhood to peace with horses–interview

Listen to touching interviews.  Click here.

Monty Roberts is a horse trainer who has a remarkable relationship with horses. He has developed a radical way of communicating with them that has earned him many fans, including Queen Elizabeth.

Enos Mafokate is South Africa’s first black showjumper. His exceptional talent and passion for horses helped break down the racial barriers that governed all life in the apartheid era.

 

Illinois Bobcats

 

Bobcat conservation group continues fight after first Illinois hunt    source

While the Illinois Department of Natural Resources declared it first bobcat hunting season a success after 141 animals were taken from the lower third of the state last fall, groups that oppose the hunt plan to keep the pressure on.

These are the same groups that tried to get non-hunters to enter the hunting lottery for permits so they could reduce the number of hunters in the field, but the IDNR noted that the vast majority of those that applied had already been a previous user of IDNR licenses.

“Ninety-eight percent of them were current IDNR customers, and only two percent got permits in the lottery,” said Rockford resident Jennifer Kuroda, 45, who helped form the Illinois Bobcat Foundation, which now has a Facebook page for more than 300 followers.

The state had more than 6,400 people join the lottery, and 500 hunting and trapping permits were awarded, according to the IDNR. Approximately 98 percent of the 6,416 applications and 96 percent of the 500 permits issued were from existing DNR customers, according to the IDNR..

But Kuroda added that she feels “when all the news articles started coming out, it brought a lot more awareness to the issue. There are some people who didn’t even know we had bobcats.”

According to Kuroda, the foundation has networked with the Illinois Ornithology Society, Illinois Environmental Council, Sierra Club and the Humane Society. She is part of her local Audubon group and a volunteer at the Sand Bluff Bird Observatory near Rockford.

This battle against state-sanctioned bobcat hunts actually began about three years ago when the legislation was introduced, but it was eventually vetoed by Gov. Pat Quinn. But Gov. Bruce Rauner came into office and put the hunt back on for last fall.

“I have a cousin who is a deer hunter, and he put six trail cameras out, and he has never seen one in our area,” Kuroda said, adding that she meet another hunter who never saw one until he was ice fishing.

“A bobcat could be two feet away and you might not know it is there as you go down the path,” she said. “I wish more hunters would speak out. I’ve talked to some deer hunters who said they’d never go after a bobcat. It’s more of a trophy hunt.”

Kuroda said she was surprised to learn an estate sale had a mounted bobcat priced at $1,850. She added that the foundation asked if the owners would donate it, but they declined and sold it.

“I understand it would cost about $600 to mount, and the $5 bobcat permit means there is a pretty good profit, so it’s kind of disheartening,” she said. “I was surprised more were hunted than were trapped. I thought it would be easier to trap them because of the bait.”

According to the IDNR, 69 bobcats were taken by hunting, 49 by trapping, 12 by archery, and 11 from salvaging on roads. Bobcats were harvested in 44 counties in the open zone, which included the western and southern parts of the state. Top counties were Pike (11), Jackson (10), Jefferson (7), Carroll (6) and Randolph (6). The hunting area is described as the area of Illinois that is east of Interstate 39 and north of U.S. Route 36.

“We are very pleased with the response to Illinois’ new hunting and trapping season for bobcats,” IDNR Director Wayne Rosenthal said in a statement at the close of the season.

“The recovery of the bobcat is a conservation success story in Illinois,” Rosenthal added. “We were pleased with the response of hunters and trappers that applied for permits, and we will continue to evaluate the program.”

Prairie State cats

According to the Illinois Natural History Survey, bobcats were nearly wiped out from the state in the mid 1900s, and they were protected as a threatened species in Illinois from 1977-1999. They can be found throughout Illinois, but are more common in the southern third of the state, according to the survey.

The survey added that bobcats were thriving in Southern Illinois, and a study by Southern Illinois University pegged the population at about 2,200 south of Interstate 64 in 2000. That grew to about 3,200 bobcats in 2009, and they continue to grow in the state, especially along major rivers, according to the survey.

Another SIU study noted that the solitary bobcat needs a large range. Males need just over seven to 20 square miles, and females need more than three to six square miles.

Adult males can weigh up to 40 pounds, but the average is 22 pounds, while the females are smaller and weigh less. Males and females breed during the spring, and they may vocalize using squalls, howls, meows and yowls, according to the survey.

They prefer forest with a thick understory for cover and denning sites, and then they use the forest edges and fields for hunting. The cats eat rabbits, mice, voles and squirrels, but will also eat larger animals like muskrat and opossum. Bobcats will also dine on birds, frogs, insects, fish and snakes, according to the survey.

The survey noted that bobcats will also kill fawns or injured or sick deer, and they are capable of killing an adult deer when it’s bedded down or during periods of deep snow.

Kuroda said the foundation is presently pushing legislation in Springfield, specifically Senate Bill 1981, which passed through the Commerce and Economic Development Committee on March 17. The bill will amend the Illinois Wildlife Code to prohibit the sale of bobcat pelts and make it unlawful for any person to trap bobcat at any time.

Kuroda added the foundation would still like to see a moratorium on bobcat hunting, but the proposed legislation would be a step in the right direction. She sees the foundation providing education about bobcats and funding research. It is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization, so contributions are tax deductible.

“Our goal is a moratorium on hunting until there is sufficient evidence to support hunting,” she said, “The IDNR said they had four nuisance reports (on bobcats) since 2015, so they really aren’t a nuisance at this point.’

Lake Forest resident

Steve Ballen, 66, of Lake Bluff, can’t get enough of his encounters with a bobcat named Boris in Lake Forest at the Wildlife Discovery Center. Besides the center, there is a Lake Forest Open Lands section of woods in Lake Forest and the Middlefork Savanna Forest Preserve just off Route 43 south of Route 176. This is also the site of the city’s Elawa Farm, which offers a farmer’s market, meeting rooms, programming and events.

Almost two hours a day, seven days a week, Ballen goes into Boris’ enclosure around 1 p.m. to feed him and play with him, and people are encouraged to watch. Ballen has been the bobcat’s caretaker for close to five years, and the bobcat has called Lake Forest home for eight years.

“People joke that I am a zookeeper and I moonlight as a CPA,” he said as he showed a visitor a pair of long, thick welder’s gloves, “I go through about five pairs a year. Sometimes Boris just gets into the seam and tears it.”

Boris was being raised by a couple who had dogs that were part of a circus routine and they purchased the kitten. After just a year, they decided they couldn’t keep the animal, and the Wildlife Discovery Center became his new home. Boris is 40 pounds, much bigger than his wild brethren, but then again he doesn’t miss any meals.

“When I first started, he was quite food aggressive, trying to take it away from me, and that was kind of dangerous,” Ballen said, adding that eventually they bonded. But he said you can see the wildness in Boris’ gaze and some of his actions.

“The bobcat loves to hunt. It’s in their DNA,” he said. “They will hunt even if they are not hungry.

“But I’ll ask people, ‘Why does the bobcat hunt?’ and people say ‘hungry’ or ‘instinct.’ The reason bobcats hunt is because they love to hunt — it’s something inside them, like I like to fish.”

According to Ballen, Boris is no exception to that rule.

“Bobcats have an essential investment in hunting to eventually pass on their DNA,” Ballen said. “He takes pride in hunting. He’ll stalk me, and I’ll play that game, and he can be real quick.

“When he surprises me with a false attack, you can see it in his eyes. He’s almost smiling, saying, ‘Point, Boris.’ He won the game. But I surprise him, he doesn’t get the joke and doesn’t like it.”

Ballen, who is also a member of the Illinois Bobcat Foundation, also voiced criticism of the state’s bobcat hunt.

“I don’t have a problem hunting deer or pheasants. I have a problem with hunting predators,” Ballen said. “I have a strong attachment to these animals because I have a relationship with one. They are so extraordinarily beautiful.

“I’d like to see a native population that’s indigenous again in Lake County and the rest of the state.”

Kuroda agrees, and she is sure it could happen if bobcats are given a chance to keep spreading north. The forest preserves offer some habitat, but there’s only been an occasional sighting, probably of a Southern Wisconsin bobcat, and there were reports of one near Wauconda a few years ago and a more recent one in Lincolnshire that Kuroda is investigating.

“Wouldn’t it be nice to see a bobcat in the wild?” she said.

Biggest Dinosaur Footprints Found

March 27     source
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Where can you see dinosaur tracks in the U.S. ?
http://dinosaurstop.com/listings-by-state/
Search on DINOSAUR TRACKS yields information for various sites around the country.
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More than 100 million years ago, on a muddy stretch of land that is now Australia, nearly two-dozen species of dinosaur once roamed.

There were duck-billed ornithopods, which left long, three-toed tracks in their wake. Heavy armored dinosaurs pressed large, tulip-shaped prints into the soil. Predators scratched the ground with their talons. And the feet of gigantic, long-necked sauropods created bathtub-sized depressions in the dirt.

Asteroids struck, continents moved, sea levels rose and fell. What was once a damp, forested environment surrounded by shallow seas became the hot, rugged coastline of northwestern Australia.

But the dinosaurs’ tracks remained. The footprint assemblage, which contains evidence of 21 species, is the most diverse in the world, researchers reported Friday in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

One of those tracks is the largest dinosaur print ever recorded: a 5-foot-9-inch print from a sauropod, or long-necked dinosaur. The tracks also provide the first evidence that spiky tailed stegosaurs lived in the land down under.

“The tracks provide a snapshot, a census if you will, of an extremely diverse dinosaur fauna,” lead author Steve Salisbury, a paleontologist at the University of Queensland, told Gizmodo. “Twenty-one different types of dinosaurs all living together at the same time in the same area. We have never seen this level of diversity before, anywhere in the world. It’s the Cretaceous equivalent of the Serengeti. And it’s written in stone.”

There are thousands of marks along the 15-mile stretch of coastline, called Walmadany by the indigenous Goolarabooloo people and labeled James Price Point on most maps. Salisbury likened the region to “Australia’s own ‘Jurassic Park.’ ”

The Goolarabooloo have known about the fossil trackways for millennia. The massive markings, which are visible only at low tide, are featured in Goolarabooloo oral histories, or “song cycles,” Salisbury told the BBC.

“They relate to a creation mythology, and specifically the tracks show the journey of a creation being called Marala — the emu man. Wherever he went he left behind three-toed tracks that now we recognize as the tracks of meat-eating dinosaurs,” he said.

In 2008, Walmadany was selected as the preferred site for a natural gas plant. Worried that the sacred and scientifically significant site would be lost, the Goolarabooloo reached out to paleontologists and asked them to look into the tracks.

“We needed the world to see what was at stake,” Goolarabooloo leader Phillip Roe said in a statement.

The area was listed as a natural heritage site in 2011, and plans for the natural gas plant fell apart two years later.

Working alongside the Goolarabooloo, who are considered the region’s “traditional custodians,” Salisbury and his colleagues spent 400 hours investigating the markings. Each one was measured with three-dimensional photogrammetry, a technique used to build a 3-D reconstruction of an object by taking photographs from a variety of angles. For some tracks, the scientists also made casts out of flexible silicon, which can later be used to produce museum replicas of the prints.

According to Salisbury, most other Australian dinosaur fossils come from the continent’s eastern side and date back to the mid-Cretaceous, about 90 to 115 million years ago. These tracks, which are between 127 and 144 million years old, represent the only fossil evidence from the early Cretaceous and are some of the oldest dinosaur remains in Australia, he said.

 

Tigers Kill Drone–video

 

WATCH: In The War Between Tigers And Drone, Chalk One Up For Tigers

 VIDEO:  Click on full-screen box, lower right.
YouTube

Never underestimate a tiger, no matter how fat.

It’s an enduring truth we’d all do well to remember — and one that attendants at a tiger enclosure at the Siberian Tiger Park in China’s Heilongjiang province have learned all over again.

They scrambled a flying drone to catch the attention of some of the, let’s say, bigger big cats and get them some exercise. Trouble is, the tigers managed to track down the drone and bat it out of the air.

Then, naturally, the Siberian tigers tried to eat it.

Happily, all of it was caught on film, which you can watch above, courtesy of China Central Television. From the dramatic chase to the quadcopter’s grim end … to the quadcopter’s revenge from beyond the grave, when it startled the tigers as it started smoking. Eventually, the staff retrieved it from the tigers’ big mitts.

As NPR’s Bill Chappell reported last year, this isn’t the only small victory tigers have recently racked up. In 2016, the World Wildlife Fund announced that for the first time in a century the population of tigers in the wild rose, getting a 20 percent boost in numbers since 2010.

That said, National Geographic notes that Siberian tigers remain endangered, threatened by poaching and loss of habitat.

Pronghorn Encounter

 

I enjoy seeing pronghorns, maybe because they’re pretty with interesting marking like their incomplete neck bands, because they’re small, 32 -41 inches, and because they’re innocent, vegetarians–unlike some animals we admire.

On one  trip, we had gotten into Utah, west of the Rockies, without seeing even one pronghorn, and I was disappointed. Until I saw a group of animals lying on the ground ahead of us, just beyond a fence.

Could be, yes!  Alice, STOP.

Momentum took our car beyond the dozen  pronghorns, so I started walking back, watching the one standing, probably a guard?  Then another stood up, Some others raised their heads.  One by one they all stood . . . and then they were gone, tight group of white butts growing smaller quickly at 55 miles an hour.

Maybe a half mile away, they stopped and stood.  Looking back at me, the great threat?  I don’t remember.

Why are pronghorns often seen close to a fence?  I think because they can’t jump it.  They are classified closer to giraffes and goats than to the beautiful jumpers, the antelopes.  

VIDEO

STILL PHOTOS

MORE INFO

RJN

 

 

Fastest Animal? Answer

Beyond doubt, the fastest animal in the world is the human, who can sail at 500 MPH, 4 miles above the Earth, and enjoy free peanuts and bottled water and a nap on the way.

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Susan is right of course in that the cheetah is the fastest land animal.    But there are birds up there and fish down there.  This list considers everybody.

For the greatest momentary speed, not considering distance, endurance, survival, we have ( source)

10 Fastest Animals On Earth

 How fast can you run? Research suggests that human beings could run as fast as 40 miles an hour—in theory—but sprint speeds average to closer to 12-15 mph.

You may be thinking, “that’s not too shabby,” but as you will see, a 15 mph sprint would not be enough to win a race with any of the fastest animals on earth. Many animals can go much faster than we can—some of them predatory. What is the fastest animal on earth? Let’s find out.

1. Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon (Wikimedia)

Peregrine Falcon (Wikimedia)

Birds have something of an advantage when it comes to speed, for obvious reasons. The peregrine falcon is particularly swift, capable of reaching speeds of up to 200 mph while at a dive, making it a fearsome hunter. ( diving on lunch is called “stooping” RJN))  The rest of the time it does not fly this fast, but that hardly matters to its prey. It is the fastest animal on the planet when in a dive.

2. Frigate Bird

Frigate Bird (Wikimedia)

Frigate Bird (Wikimedia)

This spectacular avian makes the peregrine falcon look slow by comparison. It can reach speeds of up to 95 miles per hour—much faster than you drive on the highway. It has the largest wingspan to body weight ratio and can stay in the air for intensely long periods. Sometimes these birds do not touch down for over week at a time. How’s that for speed and endurance?

3. Sail Fish

Sail Fish (Wikimedia)

Sail Fish (Wikimedia)

What is the fastest sea animal? That honor goes to the sail fish, which can read speeds up to 68 miles per hour—again possibly faster than you are used to driving on the highway. Can you imagine a fish racing alongside your vehicle and keeping up with you? That’s one fast sea animal. The characteristic sail is used when the fish is frightened in order to intimidate threatening animals. The rest of the time, it is kept folded up.

4. Cheetah

Cheetah (Wikimedia)

Cheetah (Wikimedia)

The fastest animal in the world is of course the cheetah. This animal is actually only slightly faster than the pronghorn antelope, and can reach speeds of up to 61 miles per hour. This record was set by an 11 year old cheetah in 2012 named Sarah. Unlike most of the other animals on this list, the cheetah is a predator. It represents a serious threat to animals on this list that inhabit the same geographic areas (not just grasslands, but forest environments as well).

The cheetah is a sprinter, not a long distance runner, but pairs agility with speed for deadly attack runs. Cheetahs are also very fast accelerators, and can ramp up their speed four times faster than human beings can. They can also pull to a stop extremely fast. It is also interesting to note that the speed and agility of the cheetah is not matched by strength. The cheetah is fairly fragile and will lose in most fights with other predators. As a result, they will quickly surrender prey to competitors. An injured cheetah may not be able to run quickly, which can put its life in danger.  (The cheetah will stalk their prey to within 100–300 m (330–980 ft); it will try to approach it as closely as possible while concealing itself in cover, sometimes even up to 60 m (200 ft) of the prey. The cheetah will crouch and move slowly while stalking, occasionally becoming motionless.[14] The chase usually lasts less than a minute; if the cheetah fails to make a kill quickly, it will give up. Cheetahs have an average hunting success rate of 40 to 50%. Wikipedia)

5. Pronghorn Antelope

Pronghorn Antelope (Wikimedia)

Pronghorn Antelope (Wikimedia)

This antelope (not an antelope though lots of Americans call it that.  RJN) takes second place among land animals for speed. It can easily out-sprint most predators at speeds as high as 60 miles per hour. Interestingly enough, a pronghorn antelope is not actually an old world antelope, and is native to North America. Actual antelopes are quite fast as well, but not as fast as the pronghorn. Also curious is the fact that the pronghorn is far faster than the predators which inhabit North America. This seems to indicate that it evolved its great speed at some point in the past under the threat of a now-extinct predator, perhaps the American cheetah.

The pronghorn has a number of special adaptations that allow it to function at high speeds, including cushioned, pointed toes to absorb shock, and extra large organs that assist with air intake.

6. Blue Wildebeest

Blue Wildebeest (Wikimedia)

Blue Wildebeest (Wikimedia)

Another swift land animal which also inhabits the plains is the blue wildebeest. They are not quite as fast as the pronghorn, but are still pretty impressive at around 50 miles per hour.

7. Lion

Lion (Wikimedia)

Lion (Wikimedia)

Unfortunately for the blue wildebeest, the lion’s fastest speed almost exactly matches. Lions can chase down their prey at around 50 miles per hour, making them extremely deadly predators on the plains.

8. Thomson’s Gazelle

Thomson’s Gazelle (Wikimedia)

Thomson’s Gazelle (Wikimedia)

This is another creature in the same category as wildebeests and lions, also capable of running at around 50 miles per hour. Chases between lions and cheetahs and gazelles can be quite intense as a result of the close speed matching. Unfortunately for Thomson’s gazelles, they are the preferred prey of cheetahs, the fastest animal on our list.

9. Brown Hare

Brown Hare (Wikimedia)

Brown Hare (Wikimedia)

One of the smallest animals on our list is the brown hare. This little creature can run extremely fast, reaching speeds of up to 47 miles per hour. The story of the tortoise and the hare is famous for a reason. Hares really are incredibly fast creatures, and they are capable of outrunning the majority of other animals.

10. Elk

Elk (Wikimedia)

Elk (Wikimedia)

There are a number of animals which run faster than the elk, but the elk deserves a mention because it is a good deal larger and less “swift” looking than a gazelle or antelope. Elks can be quite large, but their size and build should not deceive you. The elk is capable of running at speeds as high as 45 miles per hour. Do not make an elk angry. If it charges you, it is going to win.

As you can see, there are some impressively fast animals on the land, as well as in the sea and air. These remarkable animals showcase the many different ways that creatures can adapt to fulfill the role of either predator or herbivore. While we may be at the top of the food chain thanks to our tools and inventions, we are easily outclassed when it comes to speed. Many of these creatures are as fast as the cars we have constructed to get from place to place at a reasonable pace. If that isn’t a humbling thought, what is?

VIDEO

Here’s another way of looking at the whole question.

 

 

 

Homes for Retired Animals ?


After show, housing animals is circus

Finding sites hard with U.S. awash in ex-performers

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey’s elephants are already retired, living on the company’s conservation center in Florida. (Orlando Sentinel)

By Karin Brulliard  The Washington Post (Chicago Tribune 1.27.17

When Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey folds its circus tents in May, about 400 people will be out of a job.

So will dozens of animals.

The show’s famous elephants are already retired, now living out their days on the company’s conservation center in Florida.

Some acts, like the dogs and the lions, are owned by their handlers and will remain with them.

But the kangaroos, horses, camels, tigers and others belong to Feld Entertainment, the producer of Ringling, which has said it will find them suitable homes.

Stephen Payne, a spokesman, said those locations have not yet been chosen, but that wherever the creatures land will “have to meet our high animal care standards.”

Their options include zoos and private owners, but former circus animals often end up at the animal sanctuaries that dot the nation, which vary widely in quality. Those might not have much trouble taking in horses or kangaroos, but tigers, bears and other large carnivores are another matter.

Failed roadside zoos and refuges, abandoned exotic pets and crackdowns on circuses have created a swelling menagerie of wild animals that need homes with lots of land, lots of food and proper enclosures.

Payne said Feld owns about 18 tigers, which will likely join a steady stream of big cats in search of shelter.

“We will do anything we can do to help them place their tigers, I’ll say that right now,” said Ed Stewart, the president of the California-based Performing Animal Welfare Society, or PAWS, a longtime Ringling adversary that this month took in eight tigers from a failed sanctuary in Colorado.

“But it’s not going to be easy, because all legitimate sanctuaries are full of tigers right now.”

The demand for wild animal accommodation is rising out of trends that animal welfare activists and sanctuary owners welcome, such as an increasing public distaste for entertainment and research involving animals and bans against circuses in U.S. cities and several Latin American countries.

But they say it is also a sign of the shocking ease with which Americans can acquire exotic animals, as well as the big money involved in breeding bear cubs and other creatures that sell for thousands of dollars.

Tigers are the emblems of this crisis of homeless wild animals, though bears are also “ridiculously hard to place,” said Kellie Heckman, executive director of the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, which has accredited 132 U.S. sanctuaries, only 11 of which accommodate big cats.

Ordinary people adopt cubs as pets, and some zoos and refuges let visitors take photos with them, a practice animal welfare advocates condemn.

But cute cubs grow into aggressive adolescents within a matter of months, and those used for entertainment often don’t perform for many years.

U.S. officials and conservation groups estimate 5,000 to 10,000 tigers live in the United States, far more than in the wild. Until recently, dozens of them resided at Serenity Springs, an unaccredited Colorado sanctuary that bred big cats, offered photos with cubs and had been cited by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for animal welfare violations.

Last fall, it was sold to a respected sanctuary in Arkansas, which has since been finding new homes for 110 animals, mostly cats.

“The sanctuary community cannot continue to be the dumping ground for all of those that make a profit off animals — whether that is using them for cub photos, circus acts or any commercial purpose. There just isn’t enough capacity,” Heckman said. “Building more sanctuary enclosures is not the answer. We need to regulate who can have exotic animals and for what purposes.”

Laws vary by animal and by state.

Some states have bans or require permits, while five do not restrict keeping dangerous wild animals. Last year, the federal government finalized two regulations aimed at increasing oversight of the American tiger population.

Advocates say they are hopeful the Ringling closure might generate momentum for two federal bills, which the company opposed, to ban private ownership and breeding of big cats as well as the use of wild animals in circuses and traveling shows.

Representatives of accredited sanctuaries say they’re eager to help find homes for the Ringling animals. Susan Bass, the spokeswoman for Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, said its founder had offered assistance in an email to chief executive Kenneth Feld. The sanctuary would be able to add some of the tigers to its population of 80 cats big and small, Bass said.

Among the Big Cat Rescue animals are five tigers from Serenity Springs, as well as Hoover, a recently arrived tiger that had spent his life traveling Peru in a circus wagon. That country banned performing exotic animals in 2011.

Feeding and caring for each tiger costs the sanctuary about $10,000 a year, Bass said.

“As far as we know, (Hoover had) never been able to roll around on the grass or have access to a body of water to play in,” Bass said. The tiger, who today lives on an acre of land with lakefront access, seemed startled when he first dipped his paw in the lake, but “he swims day and night now.”

Such initial bewilderment is common to circus animals, many of which have never had room to roam, said Pat Craig, executive director of the Wild Animal Sanctuary, a 720-acre Colorado spread that is home to 450 large carnivores. It recently took in two tigers from Mexico, part of an influx created after exotic animals in circuses were outlawed there. After Bolivia passed a similar ban, the sanctuary had received 25 lions.

One of the Mexico tigers, Craig said, is nearly paralyzed, probably because of an injury. For years it had been housed in a crate.

“It’s a huge load for our medical team to work on her, to get her back into shape,” he said.

But that tiger is lucky: Although the sanctuary takes in more than 100 animals each year, resource limitations force him to turn down 50 percent of the animals he’s asked to take.

Still, Craig emphasized that he could find space for Ringling animals.

Stewart, the California sanctuary director, echoed that. His main 2,300-acre facility houses a former Ringling elephant, one of three retired circus elephants on the property. Another used to ride a tricycle during the Hawthorn Corp.’s circuses.

Other animals under PAWS care, which include lynxes and monkeys, have complicated back stories, having been passed from owner to owner, he said.

“There’s no line between, ‘This is a pet animal, a roadside zoo animal, a circus animal,’ ” Stewart said. “They could be any one of those categories in their lifetime. They’re just a commodity.”

 

MICHAEL and the BEES

Alice’s son, Michael Foote,  his wife, Rachel Brodie, and their little son, River, live on their mountain-side farm in northern Vermont.  The upper part of their land is level with a vegetable garden, berry patch, and pasture for visiting horses. The property is wooded below that, falling to a stream that supported a beaver family until a neighbor shot them. Last Christmas, they gave jars of honey to friends and family with this letter.  RJN

___________________________________

Christmas, 2017

Dear Family and Friends,

Here is a jar of pure, unfiltered, naturally crystallized honey from my bees on Swamp Road to you.

Rachel thinks the rest of this letter makes me sound like an old Vermonter.  I take that as a compliment, so here we go!

Then: my brother Jesse and I received a grant while undergrads to buy bees, and we started the hives at Dartmouth College. The next summer, we drove them to Scout camp to offer the bee-keeping merit badge as well as to continue our study.

Now: It’s been a fun little adventure to get to this point–from buying a box of bees to where I actually have honey in containers.  This is my fourth year keeping bees.  The first year was a disaster.  I tried to be a little too creative, testing an alternative hive method before I knew enough to be doing that.

Displaying Top bar hive.jpgTop bar hive: My first hive, an alternative method, didn’t last the winter.

My first hive did not survive the winter, succumbing to an overwintering mouse.  If a mouse gets into a hive in winter, it can exhaust the honey reserve.  The mouse was cute, but seeing the pile of dead bees in spring was heartbreaking.

I started with the basics the second year, using a tried-and-true structure for raising bees.   I purchased mail-order bees (Italian and Carniolan bees) and dumped them into a couple of hives I had built from kits.  I was always worried about them.  When it was cold out, I assumed they were cold.  I wrapped them in insulation and anxiously pressed my ears up to the hives to hear the telltale buzz of life.  When it rained for several days, I assumed they would be in need of food, so I fed them sugar water and a pollen substitute.  I didn’t let them just be bees.  Still, whether my parenting style had anything to do with it, my bees did thrive that year.

In my third year, I purchased a Vermont mongrel hive that had been bred to thrive in northern climates.  I liked the Italian bees, but the Carniolan bees have been grumpy, so I was looking for a more docile, better adapted bee.  I relaxed a bit, and still the hives did very well, each producing about 200 pounds of honey.

Displaying Apiary.JPGApiary: A photo of three of my hives in the bee yard.

Going into my fourth, most recent yearI attempted to split some of my hives in two and start the summer with 8.  All but one split thrived and I took about 150 pounds of honey in all.  Not much, but a newly split hive must build its comb as well as store honey.

Displaying Splitting.JPG  Splitting: I made two hives from one, simply be splitting it in two. The queenless hive made a new queen to become “queen right.”

Swarming is the process by which a new honey bee colony is formed when the queen bee leaves the colony with a large group of worker bees. In the prime swarm, about 60% of the worker bees leave the original hive location with the old queen.

Displaying New home.JPG·        Swarm: One of my hives sent out a swarm, which I then caught and put in a new hive. Unfortunately it didn’t stay.

Displaying Swarm.JPG

I tried to capture a couple of swarms this year.  A swarm of bees lingers near its original hive for only a short period before moving to its new home.  I was late.

 

Displaying Very active.JPG  Very active: A warm summer day, lots of food to collect.

Luckily, in this neck of the woods, I don’t have the problem of the well-publicized colony collapse disorder where hives oddly become active in the middle of winter, leave, and die.  From my reading, I understand that saturation of the environment with pesticides and other chemicals, including neo-nicotinoids, is to blame.  Neo-nicotinoids are a major factor in the decimation of pollinators everywhere and in the build-up of chemicals in our own bodies.  Our nearby town of Richmond is aware of these chemicals and fairly progressive, to the benefit of my bees. Their honey is probably safer for us to eat than some produced elsewhere.

Future: I hope to try my hand at queen-rearing this coming spring to boost my hive numbers.  (You grow a queen, give the queen a couple frames of bees, and your hive takes off.)  I’m also hoping to plant a half-acre of Anise Hyssop for the bees to give their honey a hint of anise flavor.

I plan to pursue organic certification eventually, but, for the time being, I’m doing as much as I can to be environment- and health-conscious, as in buying hive wood from a responsible lumber yard down the road and using organic sugar feed when possible.

I should be clear–there’s no money in this business, but I love it.  I love to work outside, and I find the bees fascinating:  their complex social structure, their numbers (more than 50,000 in a hive), their communication systems (dancing, wiggling, pheromones, electric fields), and their ability to make wax, propolis, royal jelly and … honey!  I could watch my bees all day long as they go back and forth with little baskets on their legs filled with pollen.  I can’t wait until River is old enough to join me.

I rarely get stung, mostly because the bees are gentle. Still, when I’m opening their hives, I make sure to put on protective gear and use a smoker.  Smoke makes the bees think a fire is coming and they move into the hive to eat honey in case they need to leave,  After eating, the bees are pretty lazy and have a hard time bending their bodies to sting.  I still run away when they get angry and have no shame doing the bee dance, an awkward combination of flailing, running, and yelling when a bee gets under my mask.  When I do get stung I just bear it and feel tough.

Rachel supports my bee work and hasn’t complained about the cost of building an apiary.  She grows a little tired of finding everything sticky in the kitchen. I try to protect life at home and at work from losing to the bees.  I sneak out during River’s naps and get up early to do hive maintenance during the months March through October.  In winter I can enjoy dreaming about what I will do with the bees the next year.

I aspire to sell honey on the roadside this spring and to guests in our rental unit to earn enough money to build a little bee shed so that I don’t have to do all my honey extraction in the house.

Let me know when you need more honey!  Happy holidays.  Bee well.

More info

Note:  My honey, like all honey, naturally crystalizes, preserving flavor and quality (considered premium quality because it is not blended with other substances), yielding richer taste in cooking, and spreading well enough  Because I don’t filter or heat the honey, crystalization is quicker. Filtering honey removes a lot of the pollens and propolis that add to he nutritional value, and heating denatures the proteins,

Michael

To liquify honey, it is heated in a jar in a pot of hot water and stirred frequently until it is liquid.   For storage, honey is best kept at 50 degrees prevent fermentation, though the very old alcoholic drink made with honey, mead, seems to gaining popularity.

Emphasis added, RJN

 

 

 

 

 

City Stable Closing

Image result for horse carriage chicago photo
As Old Town stable faces demolition, carriage owners see tenuous future
Elyssa CherneyContact Reporter  Chicago Tribune  12.9.16

The sprawling, two-story stable that sits in the middle of a residential block in Old Town has overcome its share of hurdles.

Since debuting as a riding school in 1871, the red-brick building has survived multiple bankrupted owners, a business license debacle, a horse heist by a former employee and two fires — the most recent was ruled arson.

But the Noble Horse Theatre, regarded as Chicago’s last original stable, may finally meet its end when a developer seeks approval Thursday to erect a seven-story apartment building in its place.

The likely demolition of Noble Horse represents the latest blow to an already beleaguered industry, business owners said. In addition to rising property prices, the horse carriage companies grapple with a number of challenges in Chicago, they said, including restrictions on carriage stand locations and a rush-hour ban.

“It’s hard to see that the city, and society in general, no longer values the entertainment, the contribution and the amazingness of horses,” said Wendy Burtt, Antique Coach & Carriage, one of two companies that housed animals and equipment at Noble Horse until this past spring. “It’s the history of the building that’s so amazing.”

Across from the Brown Line “L” tracks, trash, leaves and stale horse pellets littered the stable grounds Thursday. A gap in the metal fence around the property allowed access to the multibuilding campus, where insulation hung from the ceilings and the walls peeled. Neon spray-painted graffiti was scribbled in a dark hallway that led to a riding arena.

LG Development Group is seeking a zoning change to construct a 252-unit complex at the intersections of North Orleans, West Schiller and North Sedgewick streets and is scheduled to appear before the Chicago Plan Commission next week. LG Development did not respond to a request for comment.

Now Antique Coach and the second business that used the space, Great Lakes Horse & Carriage, have been forced to find lodging elsewhere. Burtt relocated to a warehouse in Lincoln Park, converting it to a stable. Jim Rogers, owner of Great Lakes, said he trucks his horses in from northwest Indiana.

“We are victims of gentrification just like every other small business,” said Burtt, spokeswoman and driver for Antique Coach. “We’re a dying industry. At some point, real estate will be out of our financial reach.”

The 1-acre lot that Noble Horse occupies was worth $500,000 in 1991, according to the Cook County recorder of deeds. In April, when it was sold for development purposes, the land went for at least $7.8 million, records show.

For some Old Town residents, Noble Horse Theatre is a relic of how the neighborhood was in the 1990s before — as one woman walking her dog put it — “it was all fancy with condos.”

Maurice Simpson, 53, who has lived nearby since the 1960s, said he never went inside the stable but is sad to see it go. One of his friends rented a carriage for his wedding eight years ago, Simpson said.

“I’m against any sort of demolition in the old neighborhood,” he said. “But we are undergoing massive changes. Some people don’t see the [stable] as necessary.”

Some younger residents who were newer to the area weren’t familiar with the property and wondered about its purpose. After learning about Noble Horse from a Chicago Tribune reporter, Allison Hammer, a 31-year-old nurse, said she would have been curious to know more.

“Historical landmarks are an important part of preserving the city,” said Hammer, who’s lived in Old Town for three years.

The carriage operators have mixed reactions about the fate of Noble Horse. Burtt will mourn the loss of a city gem. Rogers, however, is more concerned with practicalities.

Rogers said he got six months’ notice to vacate but has struggled finding another affordable space to rent where landlords don’t mind livestock. In his 20 years of running the company, Rogers said, he’s relocated at least eight times. He operates three horse-drawn carriages in the city.

“It was extremely inconvenient, but it’s just like another change of address,” he said. “It’s a great place, and it’s too bad.”

Burtt and Ortega, who run 10 carriages each, said their operations are too large to transport by truck. They need to house the horses close to downtown so the animals can walk to Michigan Avenue, where throngs of eager tourists make up the heart of their profits.

Ortega, whose stable is in an industrial area at North Kingsbury and West Willow streets, was among the first to rent stable space at Noble Horse in 1981. That was when the property straddled the troubled Cabrini-Green housing project and gunshots frequently rang out, recalled Ortega.

“When I started there, it was dirt poor,” he said. “There were shootings there in the middle of the street, and the neighbors were happy we moved onto the street because we brought some civility and they felt they could come out at night.”

Dan Sampson, who used to run the city’s largest carriage company, operated the Noble Horse then. He took it over in 1984 and revived the stable over 25 years, offering riding lessons, the carriage service and eventually a dinner-show production. He also pushed a $2.5 million renovation, adding 300 seats to the arena in 2003.

But Sampson also faced adversity. The stable was nearly bankrupt in 1991, a real estate company threatened to bulldoze it in 1997 and a fire ravaged the interior in the same year.

As Sampson built the business, the neighborhood changed. Cabrini Green shuttered for good in 2011. Gentrification continued as swanky restaurants popped up, and The Second City comedy club attracted an artsy crowd to settle nearby, though the 2008 economic crisis stalled some of the development.

At its height in the ’80s and ’90s, there were 60 horse-drawn carriages clopping the streets of downtown — compared with the 23 in use now. Though the current companies have converted some spaces to serve as stables, they say the Noble Horse building is the last standing stable originally built for that purpose.

By 2009, Sampson could not sustain his carriage and dinner-show business, blaming the city’s regulations for a hand in its demise. Afterward, Burtt and Rogers rented space from the property owner, real-estate developer Sheldon Baskin.

The most recent blaze in February, which damaged 13 horse-drawn carriages, appears to have been set by animal rights extremists, according to the FBI. Graffiti typically associated with that movement — spray-painted messages of “Save the horses” and “freedom” — was discovered in the barn, said the FBI, which is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.

Burtt said the industry can’t afford to fight the Noble Horse closure and said she had to emotionally detach from the property. She filmed as the last horse rode out of the barn for the final time April 1, chronicling what she calls the end of an era.

“There are kids in the city who will never have contact with horses like ours if we’re gone,” Burtt said. “Tourism in Chicago is a No. 1 industry, and we bring a very important aspect to the tourism industry, but they are forgetting about us … We’re not big business companies, we’re not corporate finance. We’re just small people trying to do our thing.”