Archive for April, 2013

Warning:  Violent hunting scene. Viewer discretion advised:


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Not the best house pets, but up close, they are so beautiful!


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I captured these at the same pond where the otter was spotted today:





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Look what popped up at the pond near my uncle’s condo at Myrtle Beach!

Photo by Jeanne or Catie Westfall.

Photo by Jeanne or Catie Westfall. Click to zoom in, 

We have otters in West Virginia, too, but they aren’t nearly this tame!


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michigan foxhound 1908

From Hunter-Trader-Trapper in 1908.  The fox was run for three hours.

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Treed squirrel


She wouldn’t be such a bad squirrel dog. If the squirrel jumps to another tree, she will follow it.

She just doesn’t bark.

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It’s finally spring







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death of a wisent

This comes from Brehm’s Tierlauben (Life of Animals) (1893).

It shows a pack of European wolves killing a wisent, also known as a European bison.

The wisent was already extinct in Germany by mid-eighteenth century, but wolves held on in Germany until the beginning of the twentieth century.

Brehm would have known about wolves hunting wisent from accounts from Eastern Europe.

However, wolves have been steadily recolonizing Germany from the east, but wisent have been gone a long time.

But they were recently reintroduced to a forest in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

The wolves are largely concentrated to the eastern part of the country, so scenes like this one aren’t going be seen any time soon.

But the potential is there.

Some day.

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The feline fox

A West Virginia gray fox in a tree. Source for photo.

A West Virginia gray fox in a tree. Source for photo.  

For those of you who have never seen one of these animals, a gray fox is a pretty bizarre species.

It superficially looks like a fox, but it behaves unlike any other.

Its ancestors also split off from the rest of the dog family 9 to 10 million years ago, which means that it is as distantly related to a domestic dog that an animal can be and still be part of the dog family.

And yes, they do climb trees, and when they move, they move like cats.

I think a lot of cougar sightings in the Eastern US are actually just misidentified gray foxes.

But although this animal is clearly a dog, it’s a sort of dog that has evolved to be somewhat like a cat.

It’s not actually clear if its cat-like morphology is a primitive canid feature that this species retains or if it’s something the animal has evolved in parallel with certain small cat species.

And this has led more than one or two people to speculate about gray foxes actually being some sort of bizarre species of cat.

In her extensive interviews with New Jersey foxchasers, Mary Hufford found two who claimed that “the red fox is in the dog family, and the gray fox is in the cat family.”

fox chasers feline fox 1


Of course, this folk taxonomy is crap, but New Jersey isn’t the only place where gray foxes have been called cats.

In southern Mexico, it is called gato de monte:  “mountain cat,” a name that is also used for the bobcat. In Honduras, it is called gato cervan, which I’m translating as “deer-like cat.”

It’s certainly true that the gray fox is not closely related to the red fox– or the other foxes of North America, the swift, the kit, and the arctic fox. The swift, the kit, and arctic fox are all closely related to each other. Swifts and kits produce fertile offspring when crossed, and it’s likely they do the same with arctic foxes.  Red foxes produce sterile hybrids with arctic foxes.

But no one has ever crossed a red fox with a gray.

And that’s not because the gray fox isn’t a canid.

It’s because the two aren’t closely related to each other– the exact same reason why there are no dog and red fox hybrids. (No matter how many times people claim they exist.)

I think the term gray fox is too banal for this animal.

I have thought about the necessity of renaming it to fit its uniqueness as a distinct American animal. Not only is it not closely related to other foxes in the northern hemisphere, it’s not closely related to all those endemic South American wild dogs, which are actually more closely related to wolves and dogs than they are to the true foxes.

I have perused the historical literature on this species, and I am making several proposals.

For right now, I suggest that we just call it the feline fox– the real cat dog.






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