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Archive for December, 2006

The HSUS vs. the sale of meat and milk from cloned animals

In a press release I received on Dec. 28, The Humane Society of the United States criticized the Food and Drug Administration for "moving closer towards approving the sale of meat and milk from cloned animals and their offspring."

"American consumers are increasingly concerned about the treatment of animals raised and slaughtered for food," said Wayne Pacelle, HSUS president and CEO. "Although numerous studies have shown that animals in cloning research can and do suffer, no mention was made by FDA that the welfare of these animals or their surrogate mothers was given any consideration during the agency’s deliberations."

According to The HSUS press release, the animals involved in cloning research suffer from myriad problems. The society is urging a moratorium on the issue until mandatory rules can be established for food safety, and ethical issues on cloning can be examined.

I couldn’t agree more.

For more details about what happens to the animals used in cloning research, how the public feels about cloning, and other related issues, see

You can also find more interesting information about The HSUS’s important work to end cockfighting, helping live wild animals keep their own fur coats, and lots more at

Posted on Friday, December 29th, 2006
Under: Cloned animals, The HSUS | No Comments »

Student interview about nature

Dear Gary:
My name is Shane Mann and I’m a 4th grade student at Ayers Elementary in Concord. I am a big fan of nature, and I enjoy your columns about wild animals. We are writing a newspaper at my school and I’d like to interview you for an article. Here are the questions:

1. When did you start to enjoy the gift of nature?

2. What made you decide to write articles for a newspaper?

3. What is it like to work for the Contra Costa Times?

4. What is your favorite type of animal to write about?

Thank you and have a Happy New Year.

Sincerely, Shane Mann, Concord

Dear Shane:
Can you please send me a copy of your newspaper when it gets printed? I’d be interested in looking at it.

Here are my answers to your questions:

1. I think I first enjoyed the gift of nature when I was about 3 or 4 years old and found a roly-poly bug crawling in my backyard. I let it crawl around in my hand for a while and then release it back in the grass where I found it. That’s the first thing I can remember. Ever since, I’ve been fascinated with everything that has to do with nature. And that, of course, means EVERYTHING … from living creatures, to plants, to everything that makes up this earth.

2. I was working as Curator (the person who cares for all the wild animals) for the Lindsay Wildlife Museum in Walnut Creek back in 1970. I decided I wanted to try and write a column about wild animals for the Contra Costa Times so I could get some publicity for the museum. The newspaper started me off writing a column once-a-week. Soon I was writing two columns a week, then three, and finally five columns like I do today. I also started writing about pets and the environment because readers sent me letters and e-mails asking questions about those things.

3. It is a lot of fun to work here. At least I think it is. I get to write about the things I love and I have a lot of friends who also work here. They are neat people who write about lots of other things. Putting out a newspaper every day of the week can be very exciting. There is always somebody here doing something, day and night.

4. All the animals are my favorites. I like to write about everything. Well, OK, I guess I do like to write about mountain lions more than other animals. That’s because I raised 4-5 mountain lions when I was working at the Lindsay Wildlife Museum, and I loved them a lot. But that’s another story, isn’t it?

Good luck with your story and Happy New Year to you! /Gary

Posted on Wednesday, December 27th, 2006
Under: Nature | No Comments »

Free endangered wildlife ringtones

Calling all cell phone users: Now you can personalize your ringtones with the mesmerizing, heartfelt, and — dare we say? — operatic calls of the blue-throated macaw, beluga whale, boreal owl, mountain yellow-legged frog, Yosemite toad, or any one of 40 other endangered wildlife species. And it’s absolutely free.

The first thing I do every morning when I get to work is check out the e-mailed press releases that came in during the night. Animal columnists get some pretty weird stuff. In fact, sometimes the press releases are SOOOO weird, I just have to share them with somebody. Looks like you’re it!

Like the one below that just came in from the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity, a national science-based nonprofit organization that works to protect endangered species and wild places throughout the world.

Check it out:

"The endangered species advocates at the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity are offering ringtones of the croaks, chirps and songs of dozens of rare and endangered animals from around the world. Featured are the authentic sounds of some of the world’s most threatened owls, tropical birds, frogs, toads and marine mammals. The free ringtones are easily downloaded from the Center’s Web site at

"The Center’s free ringtones allow cell phones to come alive with the haunting hoots of rare owls from around the world, the sensational songs of tropical birds, the crazy croaks of more than a dozen imperiled amphibians, or the underwater orchestras of orcas and beluga whales. The free Web site allows users to listen to the wildlife ringtones, send ringtones directly to their phones with one easy click after entering an e-mail address, and download photos and fact sheets for each of the featured wildlife species. Users who download any one of the fact sheets can take action — with just one click — to save endangered species worldwide.

"Among more than two dozen species of owls featured on the site, are the critically endangered Blakiston’s fish owl, of which only a few hundred owls remain in Russia, China and Japan, and the California spotted owl, which is rapidly vanishing from the forests of the Sierra Nevada and Southern California. The owl ringtones are made available in concert with the nonprofit Global Owl Project, a worldwide project to identify and conserve the planet’s owls.

"Also available are more than a dozen ringtones of endangered and threatened North American frogs and toads, such as the mountain yellow-legged frog, denizen of high elevation lakes in the Sierra Nevada and Southern California, and the Houston toad, found only at a few locations in Texas. The Center plans to add ringtones for scores of additional imperiled species such as several endangered whales, dozens more tropical birds and North American songbirds, many more North American amphibians, and charismatic predators such as the polar bear, gray wolf and JAGUAR."

Oh Boy, I want a JAGUAR ringtone! That’ll clear the room before the end of the first ROAR!

Then I can have a nice, private conversation with the person who’s calling me.

Posted on Friday, December 22nd, 2006
Under: Ringtones, Wildlife | 3 Comments »

ASPCA’s top 10 cold weather tips for your pets

It’s been pretty cold lately. If you’re concerned about your pets, check this out:

Posted on Thursday, December 21st, 2006
Under: Cold weather, Pets | No Comments »

Like to volunteer with animals?

Lost and Found Volunteer Orientation at Contra Costa Animal Services: 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday (Dec. 23), 4800 Imhoff Place, Martinez.

You can help make a difference. Volunteer with Animal Services! Become a Lost and Found Volunteer and help find homes for displaced pets in Contra Costa County.

If you are interested, visit the shelter before the orientation meeting to fill out a Volunteer Application. Call Cindy Smith, 925-335-8335 for details.

Posted on Tuesday, December 19th, 2006
Under: Volunteering | No Comments »

The final word on poinsettias

I just received this American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Holiday Safety Alert:

"Attention, poinsettia-loving pet owners! You need not fear this festive holiday plant — rumors of its toxic potential are greatly exaggerated, say ASPCA experts.

"As our toxicologists at the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) explain, poinsettias were first brought to the United States in the 1820s by J. Robert Poinsett, the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico at the time. The myth of the plant’s toxicity began when the two-year-old child of a U.S. Army officer allegedly died from eating a poinsettia leaf.

"Says the APCC’s Dana B. Farbman, CVT, ‘In reality, ingestions typically produce only mild to moderate gastrointestinal tract irritation in pets, which may include drooling, vomiting and diarrhea.’ So while it’s still a good idea to keep this plant out of your pets’ reach to avoid stomach upset, you need not banish it from your homes."

For additional holiday safety tips, there’s lots of good information at

You can also check the ASPCA Poison Control Center at

See you in a week (on Dec. 18):
I’m taking my annual Christmas Present Shopping Break (aka vacation) next week so I can go Christmas shopping with my wife. We also hold hands and go for lots of long walks together (my present). I’ll meet you back here for our usual morning cup of coffee on Dec. 18. See ya. /Gary

Posted on Friday, December 8th, 2006
Under: Pets, Poisonous plants | No Comments »

Controversial Animal Liberation Movement Film

I thought you might be interested in seeing this press release I just received:

Oakland — "Behind the Mask," a new documentary focused on individuals who take direct action to protect animals, will premiere in the San Francisco Bay Area on December 16. The film exposes never-before-seen footage that reveals the extent to which these individuals will go to save the lives of animals. Director Shannon Keith will be on-site to present the director’s cut of the documentary.

What: Film Screening of "Behind the Mask"

Date: Saturday, December 16

Time: 6-9 p.m.

Place: Humanist Hall, 390 27th Street, Oakland

Admission: $10

"Behind the Mask" explores the history of the animal liberation movement, from its inception to present day. This controversial documentary weaves together the lives of people who face jail, devastation, and even death for their ideals.

All proceeds from the film screening will support the work of Animal Rescue, Media & Education and East Bay Animal Advocates

For more information:

Contact: Christine Morrissey, East Bay Animal Advocates, P.O. Box 1406, Martinez, CA 94553 925-487-4419;

Posted on Tuesday, December 5th, 2006
Under: Animal Liberation Movement | No Comments »

It’s not nice to fool with Mother Nature

We humans really know how to muck things up.

** Endangered California condors are dying from lead poisoning because the state Fish and Game Commission won’t ban lead bullets used by hunters. Every year some of the giant birds die after eating animals killed by lead bullets, as we were reminded by a story in Today’s Contra Costa Times by staff writer Denis Cuff. A lawsuit has been filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Physicians for Social responsibility and the Wishtoyo Foundation telling them to "get the lead out."

** In an Associated Press story, Oregon, Washington and Idaho asked the feds for permission to kill sea lions that are eating salmon and steelhead in the Columbia River. AP reported The Humane Society of the United States is against the idea, saying it won’t do any good and draws attention away from the real problem which is hydroelectric dams that kill LOTS more salmon every year than the sea lions ever could. And of course let’s not forget all the complaints from fishermen who feel humans should be the ones catching the salmon, not those silly wild creatures that just need them for food.

** Like the sea lions, hungry Caspian terns are also gobbling up endangered salmon and steelhead in Oregon’s Columbia River, according to a front page story in the Times on Nov. 29 by staff writer Denis Cuff. The Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plan to try and relocate the hungry birds to sandy shoreline areas in Richmond, Hayward and Fremont "in one the largest programs in the nation to disperse wild birds."

So what happens if their Rube Goldberg plan to relocate the terns doesn’t work? Will they shoot the terns instead of dealing with the real problem (see "hyrdoelectric dams" and "fishermen" above)?

Posted on Friday, December 1st, 2006
Under: Man vs. wildlife | No Comments »