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Archive for October, 2006

Falling Backward

Did you turn your clocks back an hour Sunday morning?

In case you haven’t already figured it out, dogs, cats and other pets don’t use clocks. Because of that, they tend to get confused when our human "spring forward" and "fall back" time changes disrupt their feeding schedules, or the times when you used to take them for their daily walks.

Bear with them. It may take your pets a week or so, but they’ll eventually get used to your new schedule until we spring forward again next year.

By the way, are there any interesting or humorous pet problems out there that were caused by the time change? My two manic felines, Tut and Newman, are still griping about getting fed an hour late on Sunday.

Posted on Tuesday, October 31st, 2006
Under: Pets, Time changes | No Comments »

700-mile border fence between U.S. and Mexico will block more wild animals than people

The proposed 700-mile fence between the U.S. and Mexico can fowl up the ecosystem along our southern border.

Some species of wild animals, especially the large predators, need to move back and forth between open space areas to survive. Wild animals don’t understand fences, or the human concept of blocking ancient wildlife migration trails. That’s why U.S. plans to fence another third of our 2,100-mile southern border have the potential to become a wildlife disaster if they are put in effect. Even small creatures like rabbits, foxes, bobcats, badgers, tortoises and lizards could be affected if the fence keeps them out of their normal territories and habitat.

Who knows what the long term consequences of that mess could be?

** News Bulletin: According to Associated Press Writer Deb Riechmann, "President Bush signed a bill Thursday (that’s today, I just read it) authorizing 700 miles of new fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border, hoping to give Republican candidates a pre-election platform for asserting they’re tough on illegal immigration."

I understand they’re especially tough on fringe-footed sand lizards.

Posted on Thursday, October 26th, 2006
Under: border fence, Wildlife | 13 Comments »

Halloween Top 10 Safety Tips for Pets by ASPCA

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has a handy list of Top 10 Halloween Safety Tips for pet parents. You can check them out at:

Posted on Wednesday, October 25th, 2006
Under: Halloween, Pets | No Comments »

Recipe for a Wild Turkey?

I just finished browsing through my November 2006 copy of "the Quail," the monthly newsletter from Mount Diablo Audubon Society. On the bottom of page 6 was a recipe for "Orange-Glazed Roast Turkey, adapted from Sunset Magazine." The recipe is illustrated with a big photo of a Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo).

That’s definitely a new approach to bird watching.

(Just kidding. MDIA is one of my favorite local organizations. The next general meeting is 7 p.m. Nov. 2, in the Camellia Room of The Gardens at Heather Farm, 1540 Marchbanks Drive, Walnut Creek. Stop by and meet at bunch of neat birders. Speaker is photographer Stephen Joseph who will share his photos and adventures putting together a soon-to-be-published book of artistically composed prints of the flora collected by John Muir.)

Posted on Tuesday, October 24th, 2006
Under: Recipe, wild turkeys | No Comments »

No pollinators, no crops

According to a story on Wednesday by AP Science Writer Randolph E. Schmid, the National Academy of Sciences has just released a report on the "Status of Pollinators in North America." The report takes a look at the decline of pollinators (honey bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, bats, etc.), and the causes and consequences of this decrease.

Parasites and loss of habitat seem to be the main problems facing insect, bird and mammal pollinators.

The outlook, needless to say, is not good. According to the report, 75 percent of the world’s flowering plants (flowers, vegetables, fruit, etc.) rely on pollinators to reproduce.

In other words, no pollinators means no pretty flowers to look at and no food to eat.

There definitely needs to be more research on this problem to find out what can be done about it. The report also makes some suggestions and recommendations.

You can browse through a summary of the report on the Xerces Society Web site (click on the line below). The Xerces Society is about invertebrates essential to biological diversity.

Posted on Friday, October 20th, 2006
Under: Bee decline, Pollinators | No Comments »

“Leading opponent of animal welfare” in Congress

I normally don’t let myself get dragged into political debates, but with voting day coming up in a couple of weeks, there is one U.S. Representative who really scares the heck out of me.

According to the Humane Society Legislative Fund, Richard Pombo is the "leading opponent of animal welfare" in Congress.

The Fund reports that Pombo has consistently voted to protect dogfighters and cockfighters, to advocate the slaughter of horses (the meat is exported to Europe for restaurants), to allow trophy hunters to kill wildlife on public lands, and is the only member of Congress who has advocated for the resumption of commercial whaling by Japan and Norway.

"Representative Pombo couldn’t have a more terrible record on animal protection issues," said Sara Amundson, executive director of the Humane Society Legislative Fund. " … Voters in the 11th District who care about animal welfare should support Jerry McNerney."

I agree.

There’s lots more at

Posted on Wednesday, October 18th, 2006
Under: Animal welfare, Pombo | No Comments »

Cats in mourning

For the last five or so years I’ve had a large patch of catnip growing in a corner of one of the large garden boxes in my backyard. This turned out to be a perfect way of dealing with the steady stream of neighborhood cats that used to hop over the fence and make big piles of you-know-what in my garden. Since the coming of the catnip, instead of using my yard for a litter box the cats would wander over to the catnip, take BIG sniffs of the intoxicating vapors, which made them forget why they came over to my yard in the first place, and then stagger back home just in time to poop in their own backyard.

My wife and I did a little survey a couple of years ago and found the catnip had cut down "deposits" in our garden by about 75 percent or more. That definitely works for me. The catnip is also a nice looking plant for the garden.

Earlier this week we started remodeling our backyard to get rid of the lawn and build more garden boxes (anybody want to buy a lawnmower, cheap?) This involves stripping the whole yard — plants and everything — and rebuilding everything from the ground up to make the yard more wildlife friendly. Right now my backyard looks like a desert wasteland. All dirt and nothing more.

And that’s what I saw this morning when I looked out the back window. Nothing but dirt … and a little circle of five cats sitting on the dirt where the catnip plants used to grow. They were either just looking at the ground, or their heads were bowed in mourning. I couldn’t tell.

My parsimonious Abyssinian cat, Tut, jumped up on the window sill beside me. He looked out at the tiny oasis of cats in the distance and started laughing so hard he fell off the window sill. (Have you ever seen a cat laugh before? It’s not a pretty sight.)

I think I better get a new catnip patch planted ASAP before I completely disrupt the feline power structure in my neighborhood.

Posted on Monday, October 16th, 2006
Under: Catnip, Cats | 5 Comments »

Surprise! Not even a cat would pay $50,000 for a copy cat

It should come as no surprise to anyone, especially cats, that very few people are actually willing to plunk down $50,000 for a cloned copy of a dead cat. That’s why Genetic Savings & Clone, a biotechnology firm in Sausalito that sold cloned pets … make that "tried" to sell cloned pets … is going belly up. Since they opened to a lot of fanfare (mostly protests from yowling cats) in 2000, the firm has only sold two cloned cats to a couple of crazy mixed-up cat lovers.

According to a story in today’s Times by Associated Press Biotechnology Writer Paul Elias, the company sent out letters last month telling customers of plans to close the end of this year because of a lack of demand for their artificial kitties. Duh!

"It’s no surprise the demand for cloned pets is basically nonexistent, and we are very pleased that Genetic Savings & Clone’s attempt to run a cloning pet store was a spectacular flop," said Wayne Pacelle, head of the Humane Society of the United States, in the AP story. "It’s not just a bad business venture, but also an operation grounded on the misuse of animals."

My cats, Tut and Newman, and I couldn’t agree more.

Posted on Thursday, October 12th, 2006
Under: Cloned Cats | 5 Comments »

Did your state Reps vote to protect animals and the environment?

PawPAC, California’s political action committee for animals (since 1980), has just released its 2006 Voting Record for the State Legislature, along with its endorsement recommendations for the November election.

Find out how your state representatives did on legislation to protect animals and the environment. You might be surprised.

For a copy of the chart, please contact PawPAC, P.O. Box 475012, San Francisco, CA 94147-5012, or call 415-646-0622. Or you can read everything on their Web site at

Posted on Wednesday, October 11th, 2006
Under: Animal protection legislation | No Comments »

West Nile mosquito spraying kills other insects

The following brief from the Associated Press appeared in today’s Contra Costa Times "Around The State" section:

"Sacramento — Mosquito spray deployed this summer in the Central Valley exterminated more than the targeted insect, killing ants, beetles, midges and other tiny creatures, according to field samplings by UC Davis.

"The Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District hired pilots to spray the skies above Davis and Woodland for two nights in August. The EverGreen Crop Protection EC 60-6, a short-lived pesticide, was aimed at killing enough mosquitoes to break a cycle of West Nile virus infection that can move from bird to bug to human.

"The spraying spared larger insects such as dragonflies and butterflies. But Walter Boyce, co-director of the UC Davis Wildlife Health Center, said researchers should study the effects of the insecticide on threatened or endangered bugs."

I couldn’t agree more with Walter’s statement. It’s very important to do what we can to stop the spread of the West Nile virus in California and other states, and one immediate action that can be taken is to kill the mosquitoes that carry the virus. People are dying from this deadly disease.

But right now there’s a LOT of insecticide spraying going on throughout the state of California and it offers researchers a unique opportunity to study the secondary effects of this spraying on other non-target species of insects.(This is all the more important since I recall that there was some talk early on by a few mosquito and vector control districts that this spraying would only kill mosquitoes.)

Walter suggests they focus on threatened and endangered insects, but I think we should take a look at the effects on ALL species of insects.

Threatened and endangered bugs are important because their populations are already dangerously low. But common insects are also important because they are food sources for many species of birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles. And maybe somewhere down the line, they also feed other threatened of endangered creatures.

These studies might also uncover a method of controlling the West Nile virus that doesn’t affect non-target species. That would be nice.

Posted on Monday, October 9th, 2006
Under: Mosquitoes, Pesticide, West Nile virus | 4 Comments »