Category Archives: animals

Bears 1, People 0

Holy crap! Did you read about that bear attack in New Jersey!?

Yes, earlier this week a 300 pound black bear killed Darsh Patel who was hiking with friends in the Garden State’s Apshawa Preserve. Reports say that Patel and his four friends split off in different directions when the bear appeared to be stalking them — and when they found the victim, “Officials said it appeared that the bear was guarding the body and may have considered Patel a food source.”

As the old saying goes, sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes the bear eats you.

It’s rare for bears to attack humans, but when they do, Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection (on their very terrible website) advises “If a black bear does attack, fight back!”

OK, bear, put up your dukes. But maybe you can head off an attack as follows:

Avoid direct eye contact, which may be perceived by a bear as a challenge. Never run from a bear. Instead, slowly back away.

Hopefully, bears are not aroused by the odor of human urine or feces, because there’s a very good chance it will be coming from you.

Anyway, it will be interesting to see if this bear incident triggers some sort of irrational response from us humans. And you know what will inevitably follow: Bear Week on Discovery.

Road Kill

Have you ever run over a deer with your car? Well, let me tell you, it sucks.

High up in the Albany County Hilltowns over the weekend, a fawn dashed out from the woods and into the road. There was no way to avoid it; I tried to stop but it was too late.

It was a tiny thing, probably no more than a couple of months old, and as I walked back from my car, I was wishing for two things: either it would miraculously get up and run off into the woods or that it would be dead. But no, what I found was a gravely injured animal.

It was breathing and drifting in and out of consciousness — but as far as I could tell not suffering. This only made me feel slightly better. No, it was not my fault, but who could help feeling some of the collective guilt of all mankind. Cars are just a speck on the timeline of history, and it’s only relatively recently that deer/car collisions became a thing.

There was no damage to the car, but what about the deer? If it were dead, I would had dragged it from the road and been on my way, but this was more complicated. I called 911 and waited patiently with the deer. A couple of cars went by and I waved them away from the injured animal. My wife yelled to me from the car, “Watch out for bears!”

Bears? Yes, she figured that bears would emerge from the woods next, summoned like sharks by the scent of blood and prospect of an easy meal. Fortunately, two sheriff’s deputies arrived before the bears. They took down my information and sent me on my way, saying they’d put the animal down after we left.

I wonder sometimes if natural selection will someday bring us deer that are wise to cars, animals smart enough to stop and wait at the edge of the road and look both ways before crossing. Then we can blame them for being hit, and not ourselves.

Note: I have a picture of the deer here if you’re curious; it’s not gory, just sad.

The Horses Are on the Track

Nothing quite compares to the mediagasm surrounding Saratoga every summer — and it’s not unjustified. The racing season is the only world class sporting event we have around here and the whole culture surrounding it is a big deal.

Who could blame TV stations for committing huge resources to live broadcasts or newspapers for literally wrapping every edition in Saratoga coverage?

But over the weekend we saw something unusual: a piece from Times Union columnist Chris Churchill calling out the racing industry on animal abuse and doping. He says that all it would take is a documentary like Blackfish to blow some of the shine off of Saratoga. This was one of the few times a local media outlet has done anything less than a glowing story about the track and racing.

Nobody wants to spoil the party, do they — but If you’d like to see what damaging reporting about racing looks like, see the devastating series Breakdown in the New York Times.

Being imperfect, I still enjoy going to the track and spending money. For the record, I also continue to love the NFL, even though I know the truth about how it sometimes wrecks the players. I just can’t help it.

So, don’t expect to see a lot of negative stories about racing around here. Not as long as it’s front page news and there’s money to be made.

Deer in the Headlights

At about 1 a.m. Sunday, on my way to an ambulance call, I slowed down to let a deer cross Delaware Avenue in Delmar. It stepped up onto the sidewalk and paused in front of Bethlehem Town Hall, where it calmly watched me drive past.

This struck me as funny, having just read about Bethlehem’s new task force that will study the town’s deer problem and suggest some possible solutions.

What deer problem? Well, there are the obvious things, like the number of deer/car collisions and the damage deer do to property — but also they’re looking at the relationship between deer and Lyme disease.

I don’t know much about deer — certainly not as much as the big brains they’ve assembled for the task force — but something tells me this is like trying to change the direction the wind is blowing. If you read the committee’s web page and the meeting notes you’ll find oblique talk of hunting the deer with crossbows and deer sterilization.

Short of putting up a fence around town, will anything really be effective? Won’t new deer move in if you get rid of the ones already there?

So, here’s an idea: I have read that coyote urine keeps deer away. Maybe we need to import some coyotes — or, because that might not be popular, we could spray coyote urine. It could probably be spayed from a plane, but you’d obviously need a lot of coyote urine.

So, if you think the stench of coyote urine is not as bad as having all those deer running around, there you go. If there’s room on the task force, I’m available for the next meeting.

Bad News Bear

I’ve only seen a bear in the wild once. It dashed across the road and dove into the woods right in front of me on Starr Road in the hills outside of Ravena. At first it looked like a dog, but it was dark and husky and had a distinctive loping gait that caused me to eloquently remark, “Holy sh*t! That was a fu*king bear!”

Glad I didn’t run it over!

The bear escaped his close call with my car, and I sincerely hope he went on to live a long and peaceful life in the woods — unlike the rogue bear that wandered into Albany this week, sparking the sort of media circus you see in towns with too many reporters and not enough stories to cover.

Things did not end well for the bear, which is regrettable, but not unexpected.

DEC’s bear timeline is a sad read and makes it clear that the bear was headed for trouble from the start. Could anything have been done differently? Maybe not — except for the DEC officers who tried to put down the bear might have been better shots. The injured bear got far up a tree, and like a small, sad King Kong he held on for as long as he could.

Things like this probably can’t be avoided, but look: if you live on the fringes of the wild, don’t freak out if you see a bear. Yes, if it’s causing trouble, that’s different — but just be patient and it will move along, hopefully back to the woods and not to the city. That’s no place for a bear.

Two stray observations:

  1. Yes, black bears can climb trees, so do not climb a tree to get away from one.
  2. Even good writers need editors. For example, an editor could have prevented the phrase “ursine interloper” from appearing in a local newspaper story about the bear. Sheesh…

Foto Friday

Pigs – Rupert, VT

So, You Want to Rent a Cat?

Here’s something that turned up in my inbox:

I saw your post online about renting one of your cats?  Is this actually a reality.  My roommates and I would love to rent a cat for the spring.  If the offer is no longer on the table do you have any idea where we could get a cat for 2 months but then give it back.

It’s been four years since I wrote a tongue-in-cheek post about renting my cats out as rodent control contractors, yet I still get occasional comments and emails from people who are interested in the make-believe service.

It’s hard to tell if people are just pulling my leg. Seriously, I don’t know how much stupider I could have made the blog post. For example: “Maeve can be baited to make her more attractive to mice by rubbing cheese or peanut butter on her head. Rodents find these scents irresistible and will walk right into her clutches.”

I find that people sometimes don’t know when I’m kidding. Do you ever get that dead eyed stare at a meeting when you say something you think is funny and it doesn’t seem to register? It could just be people don’t have a sense of humor. Or they think you’re an idiot. Or maybe a little of both.

It’s hard not to think that there may have been something to the cat rental concept. Maybe if I were just a bit more ambitious I could have been the cat rental king, providing a service the public needs, making a nice living and putting some cats to work doing something useful.

Ireland

One of my favorite memories of visiting Ireland was visiting the ruins of Rahinnane Castle in Ventry, up in the hills outside Dingle.

To access the castle, you pay 5 Euros to park at a nearby farm and walk out across a field dotted with sheep. A boy from the farm came with us and brought along a few border collie pups — who in short order started herding the sheep — herding them directly at us!

I managed to retain my composure — even while a herd of sheep raced directly at me — and shoot this video:

It was one of the highlights of a trip filled with strange, poignant and unforgettable experiences. Yes, that’s my wife in the background saying, “Oh, sh*t… watch out!”

Learned Behavior

THUMP-THUMP-THUMP-THUMP-THUMP-THUMP…

That’s the sound of a ball bouncing down the basement steps, which I’ve now heard three times this morning.

Our dog Scarlett has learned that if she drops a ball down the steps I will often retrieve it and toss it back to her. Then she drops it down the steps again.

It occurs to me now that this is a bizarre turnaround in the training routine; she is giving a cue that makes me spring into action. I have been conditioned to react in a certain way, and she knows — to the extent that dogs know anything — what I’ll do.

Predictable behavior on command. That sounds a lot like training to me.

But she’s just a dog and she can never get me trained properly. I’m quite sure that no matter what she does, I’ll continue to eat food off the counter, lay on the couch, and poop in the house. So there.