Archive for December, 2009


Romania has a lot of brown bears.

Yes, that is the same species (Ursus arctos) that we North Americans call a grizzly, an Alaskan or coastal brown, or a Kodiak bear.

The species has (or rather had) a Holarctic distribution.

The European subspecies is known as the European brown bear, the Eurasian brown bear, or the common brown bear. It once had a range that extended throughout Europe, including Britain, where they lived until the tenth century.

Most brown bears of this subspecies live in Russia. The Eastern European populations were decimated ages ago.

However, Romania has a healthy population of them.

As this film points out, the reason for the health of Romania’s bear population is that Nicolae Ceausescu, an autocrat who even the other communists thought was a bit eccentric, loved to go bear hunting. He thought of himself as the Romanian communist Davy Crockett, and his gamekeepers were charged with keeping large numbers of targets for his guns.

There were even attempts to farm bears for Ceausescu to hunt. From 1974-1981, the state paid for cubs captured by peasants. The cubs would then be raised at a facility at the Rausor National Park.  There, it would be placed in a huge pen full of other cubs, where it was fed porridge (can’t make that one up!), potatoes, bread, carrots, and anything else the keepers could find.

 When they were yearlings, two toes would be removed. Combination of toes removed would be used as a marking and numeration system. The removal of two certain toes would represent the number for the cub.  The toes were removed without anesthetic, and my guess is that only the bravest gamekeepers performed this task. After two days, the cubs would be taken by heliocopter, where they were released into the wild.

Now, pen-raised bear cubs don’t do well in the wild. They don’t learn from their mothers what to eat or where to go for winter hibernation. Further, because these cubs were fed by people, many of them became nuisances.

And that’s why there is no evidence that any cubs raised at Rausor and then released ever became adults.  Because their toes were amputated, it was very easy to keep track of them in the forest. Their tracks told keepers who they were. None became adults.

However, because the bears were so valued by the dictator, they thrived in Romania. Today, most European countries that are trying to reintroduce brown bears or reinvigorate their vestigial brown bear populations are importing Romanian brown bears.

If you’d like to read more about Romania’s brown bears, check out David Quammen’s Monster of God.

BTW: I am back. I didn’t know how long this funk would last.

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As per my ending the blog:

1. I may return to it off and on. I still moderate comments. As soon as wind in my sails again, I’ll start writing things again. It might take a month or so.

2. The reason why I am ending the blog for a while is that I am totally burned out. I’ve literally run out of dog related topics to write about. I am currently working on some things for The Bark, which will be out in either February or March.

3. As per my supposed remove to the former British North America, I am staying in the US of A (at least for the near future).

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End of the blog

This blog will no longer be regularly updated.

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End of the blog

I’m afraid that this will be the last post in the blog for the foreseeable future next month or so or until my writer’s block subsides.

I may return to it at a later date, but it is defunct for now. I will continue to approve comments and moderate them.

If you need to contact me about something use the given e-mail on this blog (retrieverman1@yahoo.com).

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Back to normal

We’ve had power since Monday evening.

But the wireless router was out.

New stuff coming tomorrow.

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I wonder how long this will last:


My prediction is that it will end up like this:


However, the first case could actually be worse because 1. there is no muzzle and 2. food is involved.

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This post is scrubbed.

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Side-striped jackals (Canis adustus):


I think that it is very likely that some of the reports of “dog/fox hybrids” in Britain from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries are actually these animals.

When the sun never set upon the British Empire, it was commonplace for creatures native to the far reaches of the realm to be imported as pets for menageries. If any of these animals escaped or were released into the countryside, it is very likely that they would be misidentified as dog/fox hybrids.

Side-striped jackals are in the genus Canis, which makes them close relatives of domestic dogs (although certainly not as closely related as dogs to wolves, coyotes, and golden jackals).

They have some fox-like features, especially that long tail, which is covered in thick fur and is tipped with white. They sometimes have a reddish tinge to their coat, which is somewhat reminiscent of that of a red fox.

Of course, red foxes (genus Vulpes) cannot hybridize with domestic dogs.  I’ve seen dogs that look like foxes, and one breed of toy spitz is actually called a Volpino because of its similarity to the fox.


I might be in the minority here, but I think we should move black-backed and side-striped jackals out of the genus Canis and back into Thous, the archaic genus for jackals and coyotes.

I say this because golden and Simien jackals (Ethiopian wolves) have both been found to be very close relatives of wolves and coyotes and are far more closely related to those animals than they are to black-backed and side-striped jackals.

I think it makes sense to put these two “Africa only” jackals into their own genus.

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Blog Updates will be delayed

Although many people in my area were without power during the big snow storm, we were spared.

Well, we were spared until it started snowing last night. That added another inch or so to our totals.

Unfortunately, that extra two inches were a little too much for a tree near the power lines that are in some way connected to our grid.

So we have been without power since around 11 last night.  The power company’s automated answering system says we’ll have power Tuesday afternoon.

I’ll believe it when I see it.

Well, at least I got the photos uploaded!

I’m going to be in the dark (quite literally) for a few days.

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Miley has snowballs in her feathering!

More white pines.

Miley is that little yellow dot running up the driveway.

A red cedar tree surrounded by white pines.

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