Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Trapping & Killing animals in NH

New Hampshire

 

  

Fur trapping 

As New Hampshire's fur trade fades, some trappers are making their careers into a hobby 

 

 

By DAVE ANDERSON

For the Monitor

 

 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

January 29. 2006 8:00AM

 

 

M

el Liston shuffles out of a barn where dozens of fox and coyote foothold traps hang suspended on nails outside. Inside, hundreds of weasel box traps are neatly stacked alongside the wire cage traps used for live-trapping skunks, raccoons, opossum, woodchucks and an occasional domestic rabbit or feral housecat.

 

Liston, 56, uses a half-dozen different types of traps for different species of furbearers. Some are designed for use on land, others for underwater. In addition to the canine traps, weasel boxes and wire cages, he uses other specialized traps in water to trap muskrats, mink, beavers and otters.

 

Liston, the president of the New Hampshire Trappers Association, is typically up at dawn each day and checking as many as 100 traps set near his home in Strafford. This year, he says, he's had to cut down.

 

"All traps must be checked every 24 hours. Maintaining a long trapline is time-consuming and expensive," Liston says. "With fur prices low, gas prices high and animals very scarce this winter, my time is better spent otherwise."

 

There are approximately 400 licensed fur-trappers in the state, Liston says. Of those, only a few trap for a living.

 

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"They are the last hardcore trappers who commune with nature in this fashion," he says. "They enjoy the lifestyle."

Because of the time commitment, expense and low fur prices, he says most trappers are now hobbyists.

 

By comparison, Vermont has 1,000 licensed trappers; Maine has 2,000.

 

What trappers are after is fur: They catch beaver, coyote, skunk, weasel, fisher, fox, mink, muskrat, otter, raccoon and opossum, and they sell the pelts. Different species - as well as the quality of the pelt - bring different dollar values. And dollar values have gone down: The worldwide demand for fur has diminished while the supply has remained relatively constant. And many furs now come from ranch-raised animals, rather than those caught in the wild.

 

"A fisher pelt worth approximately $200 in the '60s is worth about $25 today," Liston says. "Multiplied by the limit of 15 fisher allowed per season in southern New Hampshire, the potential profit in fisher pelts has fallen from $3,000 in the 1960s to $375 today."

 

Liston figures $200 in 1960 is more like $800 in today's dollars. "That's $12,000 in value for the same 15 fisher pelts now worth about $375."

 

Liston started trapping seriously six years ago. A former engineer, he was able to retire comfortably at a young age. He spent his time growing food for deer and hunting deer, and eventually that led him to coyote hunting and trapping.

 

He eventually became an instructor, teaching aspiring trappers what they need to know to get a state license. He also spends time advocating for trappers; in the face of increasing scrutiny, he says, the practice needs to be better understood by the general public.

 

An old tradition

 

In the 1600s, the pelts were the standard coin of colonial New England.

 

Today, a beaver pelt fetches around $10 to $20. And the market has moved elsewhere. Most trappers ship their furs to the large Canadian Fur Harvesters Auction or the North American Fur Auction in Toronto.

 

As once-strong European markets have flagged, the fur trade has become a cultural niche market. Russians favor raccoon; Greeks favor otter. The British royal family purchases white ermine fur for hats for palace guards. Asian markets for fur and many wild animal products remain strong.

 

The epicenter of the East Coast furrier trade is located in the famed garment district of New York City. Hasidic Jewish culture includes garments trimmed with fur. Recently, hip-hop fashion has embraced liberal use of furs.

 

This winter, Liston limited his trapping to square, spring-loaded "conibear" traps set underwater or ice for otter, mink, muskrat and beaver. A conibear trap "fires" when the animal swims through an opening and touches a trigger wire that releases two powerful spring-loaded arms.

 

Trapping seasons for these animals generally run from Nov. 1 to April 10. While there is a season limit of 10 otters, there is no limit on beavers - trappers can "expect to trap one every night," Liston says.

 

Liston favors "maintenance trapping" to keep local beaver populations in balance with food supplies. He traps adults and 2-year-olds who venture to the outer edge of their territory. He avoids trapping near a lodge, where the 1-year-olds and new kits spend their time. With regular maintenance trapping, he says, beaver populations remain stable, averting a situation where landowners are overrun or beavers starve.

 

Different views

 

Trappers "provide critical data needed to understand changes in wildlife populations locally,"says Eric Orff, a biologist with the state's Fish and Game Department.

 

Orff says the annual reports trappers submit gives the state a picture of food availability, rodent populations and disease prevalence.

 

"Since trappers trap the same areas year after year they know what is going on from one year to the next," he says. "Fur trappers are the state's eyes on the wild side."

 

But not everyone sees trapping as a positive. As more people move to once-rural areas, a longtime way of life comes into conflict with what some see as cruel or inhumane sport. The National Trappers Association recently released a video confronting opponents' ethical concerns. It emphasizes humane trapping techniques: foothold traps, which are designed to restrain an animal until the trapper arrives, and Conibear traps, which kill instantly.

 

Naturalist Meade Cadot, the executive director of the Harris Center for Conservation Education, takes issue with the practice for different reasons. He says the commercial aspect drives some trappers to take too many animals.

 

"Often, the number one driver in a species take, which creates a potential for over-harvest, is the price paid per pelt - or what a trapper believes he'll be paid based on past years," he says. Typically, it is fur buyers, not trappers, who make big bucks."

 

Cadot also cites lack of trap selectivity as a potential problem with trapping.

 

"Fishers . . . are easy to trap and hence are more susceptible to over harvest than, say fox or coyote," he says. "When we looked at fisher over-harvest in the late 1970s, we found that 30 percent of fishers taken were caught in traps set for fox. A fisher might be accidentally caught in a legal trap set for coyotes outside the December fisher trapping season."

 

But Liston says the state closely watches animal population levels, and it only allows a only a certain number of people to trap each year.

 

Those who are closely tied to the land understand and appreciate the trapper's role, he says.

 

"People with an agrarian background - farmers, landowners, people who understand our rural heritage - they need a local trapper's services," he says. "Why? Because cornfields are flooded and fruit trees are girdled by beavers, chickens are killed by weasels."

 

Trapping, he says, traditionally helped maintain more stable populations of fur-bearers, avoiding their natural tendency to boom and then bust.

 

With increasing human population, rural sprawl and associated habitat changes, trappers are increasingly relegated to a role of animal damage control, removing nuisance wildlife such as raccoons, skunks, squirrels and bats from attics, basements, garages and crawl spaces under porches.

 

"Crisis trapping," Liston calls it. He cites one example of a landowner who hesitated to give him required permission to trap beavers. Later, the landowner called back in crisis mode when they became a nuisance. "Regrettably, that landowner now views all the beavers as a nuisance."

 

"This is what it's down to: most trappers only bother trapping near roads where animals can become a nuisance to people." Liston says "Prices paid for fur are so low and the trappers are all getting so old that nobody bothers to run a trapline deep in the woods anymore."

 

Fur is a renewable resource, even if fur trappers are not. As Liston puts it, "Fur trappers connect modern society to what's out there. If we lose the trappers, we'll lose that connection."

 

(Naturalist, Dave Anderson is the Director of Education for the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. He can be reached via e-mail at danderson@forestsociety.org or through the Forest Society's website at forestsociety .org.)

 

------ End of article

 

By DAVE ANDERSON

 

http://www.concordmonitor.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060129/REPOSITORY/601290374/1003/BUSINESS

 

For the cats,

 

Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue

an Educational Sanctuary home

to more than 150 big cats

12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL  33625

813.920.4130 fax 885.4457 cell 493.4564

http://www.BigCatRescue.org MakeADifference@BigCatRescue.org

 

Meet our recent mountain lion cub rescues:

http://www.bigcatrescue.org/rescuenewscubs.htm

 

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Cougars in Carolinas too?

The elusive Carolina cougar

 

By TONY BARTELME

The Post and Courier

 

Got one. A man is on the phone, and he's excited. "We have our cougar," he says, and he has proof. A photo. Come out and look. And so you speed up Interstate 26 faster than you should, and 45 minutes later you're in Bill Cook's yard near Cross, holding the picture.

 

And there it is: A cougar slinking through the woods, about to pounce on a deer. Cook says he got the photo from a neighbor who got it from another neighbor who said the shot was taken behind his property. You think, maybe you're holding the first proof in a hundred years that cougars aren't extinct in South Carolina. Maybe.

 

But the Internet is a useful tool, and later, when you plug the words "cougar deer" into Google, up pops the same darn photo on half a dozen Web sites in Wyoming, Michigan and Kansas. It's clear that your cat was nowhere near South Carolina. So you regroup and make a mental note to find the guy who said he took the picture. Wonder why he did that? The score so far: Cougars 1. Newspaper 0.

 

And then you're in an orange kayak in the Wambaw Swamp, deep in the heart of the Francis Marion National Forest, paddling with Kathie Livingston. She runs a local canoe and kayak guiding company and says she's seen cougars, pumas, panthers - different names for the same animal - on five occasions. Sometimes she overhears people call her the Puma Lady, a nickname she doesn't really like. It makes it sound as if she's the only one who's seen them, and she knows that's not true.

 

It's a beautiful winter morning to set a trap. Torrential rains hit the area a few nights before, and the swamp has a bloated feel to it, with wisps of mist curling off the coffee-colored current. All around are cypresses and briars growing from the water. The splash of a kayak paddle

 

is the predominant noise. You're only 25 minutes from Mount Pleasant, but if you were a cougar, this would be the place to hide. Scanning the tangled trees, you listen for growls. Livingston points to an old cypress with a hole in its gray base. The puma tree, she calls it. "This is where the little girl said, 'Look mom, a kitty cat.' "

 

Livingston was leading a kayak tour that day six years ago. "As we went around the tree, there they were. A cub was tangled in a briar, and the mother had another cub in her mouth. The cat froze when she saw us. She dropped the cub from her mouth, went to the cub in the briar, and then they all shot like bullets into the forest." It was a moment she'll never forget. "When you see that face, with those big eyes, it takes over your spirit."

 

She paddles under several snags and points to a small piney island. "And here is where I heard them a few years ago. They had low growls, much lower than a bobcat." She points to another bank shaded by longleaf and slash pines, and that's where you head. On the bank, she spots a pile of wild boar feces. Fresh. You think like a cougar: Wild boar equals bacon, and you set up a motion-detecting camera on a spindly pine tree. The vastness of the forest suddenly sinks in, and as you stare at the needles on the ground, you think of haystacks.

 

But a week later, after a return paddle to retrieve the film, you're at the Eckerd photo lab, sifting through the camera's images, panning for gold. The pictures are grainy, but what you see is unmistakable: You and Livingston getting out of the kayaks and heading toward the camera. Not a cat in sight. Cougars 2. Newspaper 0.

 

There is history here. Cougars supposedly were hunted out of the Carolinas by the late 1800s, even though the newspaper carried reports of sightings through the 1930s and 1940s and later. In the mid-1960s, a News and Courier reporter was so sure that cougars still existed that he persuaded an editor to send him into the Francis Marion National Forest for a month to chase the story. Seeking leads, he tacked up posters. He acquired cougar urine from Colorado and spread it around as bait. The reporter never found his quarry, and some ink-stained old-timers remember the paper's artist sketching a funny cartoon about it all - a panther tacking up a poster asking about the reporter's whereabouts.

 

Still, the newspaper did report on some intriguing evidence back then.

 

In 1966, a government biologist and a clerk at the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge saw what they believed was a cougar and found some feces and tracks. They sent the droppings to a Canadian scientist, who said he found cougar hair - something you would expect because cougars, like other cats, groom themselves by licking their fur. It seemed like solid proof, but state and federal wildlife officials maintained then, as they do today, that cougars don't exist here, and that people are most likely confusing them with dogs, bears, bobcats and, more recently, coyotes.

 

Ghost cats

 

So you wonder, are people seeing phantoms? Or maybe something deeper is at work? Maybe it's the brain playing tricks, responding to a primal urge to connect with the wilderness. At least that's what Buddy Baker thinks is going on.

 

Baker is a biologist with the state Department of Natural Resources and South Carolina's point man on a federal committee to protect Florida panthers should they migrate into South Carolina.

 

"Look, I'm an outdoorsman," he says, "and to us the cougar represents something very wild, and we almost have a need to believe they exist, especially as we lose more land to development." He suspects that when people are out in the woods, especially late in the evening and early in the morning when the light is dim, this tug on the brain transforms the shadows and shapes in the forest into panthers.

 

That said, a few sightings have been traced to pet cougars that have escaped or been released, he says. But a wild population must have a number of male and female breeders to sustain itself over the long haul. Animals, like aristocrats, don't do well when gene pools dry up. And there's no evidence that a large breeding population exists, he says. "We never say never, but as far as there being a population of wild cougars, we're very confident they don't exist here and haven't for a hundred years."

 

OK, that settles it. It's all in our heads. It explains why people are still fascinated with things like the Loch Ness Monster, the Lizard Man and other animal ghosts. But then you start hearing those stories again.

 

You talk to John Soprano, who manages a plantation near Green Pond. "I've seen them run across the pasture a couple of times. About four or five years ago, probably in February or March, I saw one in a tree. At first I thought it was a bobcat, but then I saw the long, brownish tail. And then there was the size, and I thought, 'Hey, that's a cougar.' A month before I found a deer with its throat ripped out right in the middle of the road. We went to get a camera and when we got back, it was gone. We found the carcass 15 yards away and it had been quartered."

 

And you talk to Dick "Snakeman" Winters, who leads tours at Magnolia Plantation & Gardens on the Ashley River and does snake shows for school groups and other organizations. In his self-published book, "Seasoned with Wildlife," he calls himself "the brother to the moccasin, cousin to the copperhead and friend to the alligator." He tells you he and his wife saw one six years ago. "We thought it was a dog at first, and then it lays down, and you could see the underside was white, and the tail was longer than my arm. I could see the outline of the face and the black around the nose and the white inside the ears. It rolls its tail out and it stretches halfway across the path, which is about 8 feet wide, and the tip had some black in it." You wonder whether you can trust a guy who calls himself Snakeman.

 

Then you talk to Orlando Sutton.

 

Sutton is the district ranger for the Francis Marion National Forest, an avid hunter and the boss of another biologist who told you that cougars don't exist here.

 

"I saw one over by Honey Hill in 2003 or 2004," Sutton says. "At first I thought it was a bear, but it had a long cougar tail. I told Steve (the biologist) 'I know you say they aren't here, but I know what I saw.' "

 

'I shot one'

 

And pretty soon you start hearing cougar stories from every corner of the Charleston area. Amy Coker tells you she saw one off Guerins Bridge Road a couple of years ago, not far from the Francis Marion National Forest.

 

Two other residents in the neighborhood say they saw cougars too.

 

You walk into "The Country Store" in Lebanon, in the countryside between Moncks Corner and Ridgeville, and ask John Harkis, the owner, if it's OK to put up a poster asking about cougar sightings. Sure, he says, sitting in a rocking chair near an old wood stove. You ask whether he's seen one.

 

"No, but I shot one."

 

He begins his story with what sounds like song lyrics: "I'd been hunting on the back side of Tupelo Bay. I thought it was a dog, and then I saw the long curling tail." He says he fired a shot, and the cat vanished. He checked for blood but didn't find any. "So I don't think I really hit it." He rocks on his chair a few times. "He scared me more than I scared it."

 

You get an e-mail from Amanda Smith, a 25-year-old College of Charleston student who lives near Ladson. She says a few years ago she and her sister were feeding horses at a friend's farm near Four Holes Swamp at sunset when they heard something big move through the woods. "When I stopped, it stopped. When I moved, it moved."

 

When they got to the car, "we heard a sound I'll never ever forget. It sounded like a woman's blood-curdling scream, except there was a distinctive growl in it that made me immediately recognize it as an animal and not human." They jumped into the car and dashed home. They began searching the Internet for animal sounds. "Knowing that cougars have been extinct here for ages, I felt more than a little stupid clicking on the cougar sound file." She clicked the link "and immediately got goose bumps." It was the same noise they had heard in the woods.

 

Over time you compile more than 50 reports, including more than 40 from the past 10 years. You plot the sightings on a map, and several cougar clusters emerge. Three are in the Francis Marion National Forest, and a few on the Charleston metro area's fringes, places where people and the country intersect.

 

But the question hangs like morning mist on the Wambaw Swamp. If so many people have seen cougars, why aren't there any pictures? Why hasn't a car run over one, or a hunter shot one?

 

So when Bill Cook e-mails you a photo showing a fresh track on a sandy path behind his house, you put your faith in your Stealth Cam and head back to Cross.

 

When you get there he takes you to the path. Nearby are piles of corn husks he spread out to attract deer. You see at least four paw prints heading toward the corn. Each print is about 4 to 6 inches wide. You look for claw marks; cats normally walk with their claws retracted, so claw marks usually rule out cougars. But you can't say for sure whether that mark is from a claw or something else.

 

You set up the camera and then go talk to Cook's neighbor, Ervin Grooms, who tells you he saw a cougar run across his yard a few years ago.

 

It's Grooms who tells you the name of the man who passed out the fake photo from the Internet, the one showing the cougar about to pounce on the deer, and so you set out to hunt him down.

 

You go to his house but you don't ask him straight out why he fibbed. You circle your quarry: "So, do you have the negative for that picture?"

 

No, he says, he actually got it from another guy.

 

"He said he got it off a camera I had up over there behind the house. I never did see the negative."

 

You show him the pictures you got off the Internet, the proof that the picture wasn't taken in South Carolina.

 

But instead of being defensive, he seems genuinely disappointed. He said he's seen cougars while hunting in the Francis Marion National Forest and by Wassamassaw Swamp. "I'll swear on a stack of Bibles what I saw," he says, "I'm gonna have to go tell that boy he's a ... liar."

 

Scratching the surface

 

A few weeks later you return to Cook's property to check the camera. "Hey look at this," Cook says, pointing to a tree with scratch marks.

 

Cook's into this hunt now. He got a camera of his own for Christmas. He says his wife's a little nervous, though, and wants him to carry a pistol when he's walking back behind the house.

 

Later, back at the Eckerd again, you're looking at your new batch of photos: There's one of a couple of deer trotting down the path, and another of Cook's backside.

 

No cat.

 

So it's Cougars 3. Newspaper 0. It's a shutout so far. But then again, maybe the game is closer than the score shows.

 

Reach Tony Bartelme at 937-5554 or tbartelme@postandcourier.com.

 

http://www.charleston.net/stories/?newsID=67903&section=localnews

 

 

For the cats,

 

Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue

an Educational Sanctuary home

to more than 150 big cats

12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL  33625

813.920.4130 fax 885.4457 cell 493.4564

http://www.BigCatRescue.org MakeADifference@BigCatRescue.org

 

Meet our recent mountain lion cub rescues:

http://www.bigcatrescue.org/rescuenewscubs.htm

 

Mountain lions in MI ?

Mountain lions among us?

 

January 29. 2006 6:59AM

 

Many residents claim they've seen cougars

 

 

LOU MUMFORD

Tribune Staff Writer

 

No, there are no mountains in southwestern Michigan, or northern Indiana, for that matter.

 

But that doesn't necessarily mean there are no mountain lions.

 

Area residents who turned out last week for a meeting in Berrien Springs regarding the possibility of cougars, or mountain lions, in southwestern Michigan perhaps left with the impression there are more than just house cats in the area.

 

Even the skeptical Dave Bostick, a wildlife biologist for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, agreed at the meeting that Michigan has cougars.

 

 

But he qualified his statement, arguing there aren't many, and that the ones that are here may have been released by private owners instead of having been bred in the wild.

 

Bostick disagreed that the horse mauled in November in the Hagar Shores area, near Watervliet in northern Berrien County, was the victim of a cougar as the Michigan Wildlife Conservancy has claimed. The horse's injuries were so severe it had to be destroyed.

 

"My best guess is that was the result of one or more very large dogs,'' Bostick said.

 

But Berrien County Animal Control Manager Val Grimes and Baroda veterinarian Mark Johnson took a different view. Johnson, who examined the horse's corpse, said he had no doubt "a large cat'' was responsible, and Grimes said the horse's clawed-away face was proof to her that neither dogs nor coyotes were responsible.

 

Grimes also said a Bridgman couple who reported seeing a cougar last weekend near Warren Dunes State Park were very credible. The animal's tracks helped convince Grimes a cougar had left them, she said.

 

The tracks were perhaps made by the same animal Bridgman resident Alan Zilke said he had tracked about a month earlier. The 74-year-old Zilke said Friday he's familiar with cougar tracks, having observed them while hunting deer in Colorado.

 

He said the tracks he observed in Bridgman followed the same pattern.

 

"There's no doubt in my mind ... it's a big cat,'' he said.

 

Zilke said he and Rev. Russell Panico, a Three Oaks minister who claimed at last week's meeting to have observed a black panther on his property in April 2005, followed in the snow the tracks of the alleged Bridgman cat. He said the tracks wound through the Warren Dunes Estates Mobile Home Park on Red Arrow Highway.

 

"The tracks started near the Dumpster behind Classic Caterers. That's what he'd been interested in,'' Zilke said. "We tracked it a half mile, around the inside of the trailer park and out the front of it, to Red Arrow Highway.''

 

Zilke said the tracks were only a short distance from the pond where the Bridgman couple had reportedly observed a cougar taking a drink last weekend.

 

Such sightings are no surprise to Niles area resident Larry Bradley. The Tribune security guard said he was driving home on Redfield Road, between Gumwood and Ironwood, shortly before Christmas when a cougar "streaked in front of me.''

 

He said it wasn't just the cougar's appearance that startled him.

 

"He touched the road one time, in the middle. That's a 20-foot jump,'' he said.

 

Others like Frank Malewitz have argued cougars are not a new phenomenon in the area. The 77-year-old Malewitz, a resident of Traverse City, Mich., said he lived in South Bend in the early 1970s and was driving home with his wife about midnight on U.S. 12 near Edwardsburg when the couple encountered a family of cougars.

 

"It was a big cat, followed by two cubs. I had to brake for them,'' he said. "It wasn't a dog, it wasn't a deer ... Those were cats, there was no mistaking them.''

 

Told that the DNR has taken the position that Michigan has no breeding population of cougars, Malewitz had a one-word response.

 

"Baloney,'' he said.

 

Staff writer Lou Mumford:

lmumford@sbtinfo.com

(269) 687-7002

http://www.southbendtribune.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060129/News01/60129003/-1/NEWS01/CAT=News01

 

For the cats,

 

Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue

an Educational Sanctuary home

to more than 150 big cats

12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL  33625

813.920.4130 fax 885.4457 cell 493.4564

http://www.BigCatRescue.org MakeADifference@BigCatRescue.org

 

Meet our recent mountain lion cub rescues:

http://www.bigcatrescue.org/rescuenewscubs.htm

 

Counting the tiger in the heart of Naxalite country

Counting the tiger in the heart of Naxalite country

 

The Sunday Express follows the census team in the country’s largest tiger reserve to find what challenges officials face: from wearing civilian clothes to escape Naxalites to tracking the elusive pugmark

 

JAY MAZOOMDAAR         

 

Posted online: Sunday, January 29, 2006 at 0138 hours IST

 

 ACHAMPET/ATMAKUR (ANDHRA PRADESH), JANUARY 28: Across the country, in 28 national parks, tigers are being counted right now, the first census after last year’s dismal news of the missing big cat. But nowhere else is the challenge so unique as in the largest tiger reserve in the country, the Nagarjunasagar-Srisailam, in Andhra Pradesh, home to, as per last year’s official data, 70 tigers. Key reason: this is the heart of Naxalite country.

 

The solitary stone tiger at the entrance itself is a pointer. It had welcome arches and a watchpost, both were blasted by the People’s War Group two years ago—no one has dared to rebuild.  

 

And because policemen are the PWG’s prime target, the CRPF and the Greyhound commando—Andhra’s anti-Naxal force—wear “improvised” civilian clothes rather than uniform as they patrol the forests. Even the forest staff are in civvies lest the Naxals confuse them for the police.

 

Result: more confusion.

 

Take January 18, the first day of the census. A group of 30 CRPF personnel intercepted forest staff from going ahead with their census operations deep in the reserve. They had valid identity cards but because they were not in uniform, the CRPF dismissed these as “fake.” In the skirmish that followed, census equipment, including tracing frames to record tiger pugmarks, were destroyed.

 

There were even rumours that a tiger had been killed in the cross-fire, prompting Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) K Ashok Kumar to rush for a field inspection in the evening.

 

“Our men are risking their lives everyday. They are even camping in the interiors. It’s tough here to maintain focus,” says K N Banerjee, field director.

 

“Fortunately, they didn’t open fire on our men. >From Hyderabad, we informed all Collectors and SPs concerned about the census schedule. But it seems they can’t do much,” said Additional PCCF (Principal Chief Conservator of Forests) Hitesh Malhotra, who served as field director here during 1989-92, the early days of PWG insurgency.

 

But then you can’t blame the CRPF.

 

Last evening, Naxalites attacked an Andhra Tourism restaurant in Mannanore inside the reserve. And on the same day as the CRPF skirmish, a Naxalite encounter left two policemen injured in Atmakur.

 

Malhotra and Banerjee insist that despite this, their message to the four DFOs is clear: counting has to be “transparent,” don’t bother to “protect census figures of the past.”

 

Their caution has a reason: there are more than 46,000 people staying inside the reserve. Add to this the pressure of rampant grazing, restricted access due to insurgency, and heavy traffic on the road to Srisailam temples, and you have a disturbed habitat where a fragmented tiger population cannot hope for a better future.

 

As for the tiger population here, last year’s figure of 70 is being countered by sceptics’ estimates of 12-18. The real number would lie somewhere in between. Walking five trails in two days, The Sunday Express found definite signs of at least three different tigers.

 

That the official count is exaggerated—as is the sceptics’—is evident from the counting. Markapur division alone reported half of the reserve’s 70 tigers last year. This time, with just 14 pug marks in his collection and one day of carnivore survey to go, DFO S. Saravanam wanted to count each as a different tiger.

 

“I came here six months back. From what I have seen, the prey base and frequency of sightings don’t support the presence of 35 tigers in my area,” he admitted. But the final day, however, his division claimed to have counted another 16 tigers.

 

Similar is the case with Atmakur DFO Kumar. When he took charge in May last year, he was not convinced his division had all 17 reported tigers. Today, he argued why his division was a better tiger habitat than Markapur. He claimed that the 26 pug marks collected in his division belong to 26 tigers.

 

These numbers will be verified in the second stage of the census when data collected by the staff here is checked by experts at Project Tiger and Wildlife Institute of India.

 

What’s new about this year’s census

 

Since the inception of Project Tiger in 1972, individual states counted their tigers annually and often threw up inflated numbers to earn brownie points. Following reports of dwindling tiger population in many areas, the Centre last year decided to join the census. Project Tiger, Wildlife Institute of India and Indian Institute of Statistics jointly worked out a detailed method which it claims will set the record straight:

 

• A total scanning of the landscapes will be conducted for carnivore signs like pugs, scratch or scat

 

• Scanning will be done through line transact method where officials follow linear tracks; they also record the signs of herbivore presence and the range of vegetation

 

• Sample blocks from high, medium, low and no density areas to be scanned with technologies such as digital pugmark photography and DNA analysis

 

• Sample size to be determined such that the population variability remains limited to 10 per cent.

 

The first phase started on January 16 - on January 5 for Sunderbans due to topographical compulsions. So far, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Orissa have finished collecting their primary data. Other states are scheduled to complete the first phase by February. The final national report is not expected before September this year.

 

http://www.indianexpress.com/full_story.php?content_id=86857

 

For the cats,

 

Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue

an Educational Sanctuary home

to more than 150 big cats

12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL  33625

813.920.4130 fax 885.4457 cell 493.4564

http://www.BigCatRescue.org MakeADifference@BigCatRescue.org

 

Meet our recent mountain lion cub rescues:

http://www.bigcatrescue.org/rescuenewscubs.htm

 

Friday, January 27, 2006

Old snow leopard flounders into village

Old snow leopard flounders into village

 

CHITRAL, 27 Jan 06: Due to extreme cold in the high  Hindu Kush region of Chitral, a snow leopard has come down into the village from its natural habitat. It howls at nights on rocks, just above the houses, at the base of the Roshgol valley of Terich  ( Base village of the Terich Mir mountain). it was lately seen at night  crossing the village but it has so far done no harm to any human or animal.  

 

The long presence of the wild cat is ascribed to extreme cold this year but other sources say that it might be due to illness of the cat  or just old age that has compelled the big cat to come down in search of food but, so far, has not done any damage to either human or animal life. Children are scared and refuse to go out after evening for fear of the leopard. It is to be noted that the valley  road is already blocked due to snowfall and a very big landslide.  

 

The land slide was the cause of the last earthquake and was very dangerous in the previous months  but it slid down into the gorge a week ago and all traffic the area is blocked which needs immediate attention of the authorities. (report by Prof. R K Baig)

 

http://www.chitralnews.com/LN141.htm

 

For the cats,

 

Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue

an Educational Sanctuary home

to more than 150 big cats

12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL  33625

813.920.4130 fax 885.4457 cell 493.4564

http://www.BigCatRescue.org MakeADifference@BigCatRescue.org

 

Meet our recent mountain lion cub rescues:

http://www.bigcatrescue.org/rescuenewscubs.htm

 

Dr. Jim Sanderson in the News

Endangered Cat is Still On The Prowl

John Tidwell, Staff Writer

 

 

It was the kind of moment most scientists can only dream of: to come upon a creature of legend, undocumented for years, sitting only a few feet away. For Conservation International (CI) ecologist Jim Sanderson it was also a scientific triumph, proof at long last that the Endangered Andean mountain cat (Oreailurus jacobita) — one of the rarest and least studied felines in the Americas — still roamed the windswept peaks at the nexus of Chile, Bolivia, and Peru.

 

 

As sometimes happens in scientific discoveries, the first documented sighting of the Andean mountain cat in 30 years occurred through a process of luck and intuition. In 1997 Sanderson — one of the world’s foremost experts on small wild cats — was in Chile studying guignas (Oncifelis guigna ), a less-rare South American feline he documented in the wild using camera traps that are triggered automatically by a motion sensor.

 

 

The Andean mountain cat was a special challenge. Barely known to science, these cold-weather felines were reported at altitudes of more than 14,000 feet above sea level, as high as the famed snow leopards (Uncia uncial) of the Himalayas. But the cats have long been known to indigenous Andean peoples. One ancient petroglyph clearly depicts the region's three cat species: the puma (Puma concolor), the pampas cat (Oncifelis colocolo), and the Andean mountain cat.

 

 

When Sanderson headed back to the Andes in 1998, the only hard evidence anyone had of the elusive cat were two photographs. One taken near Chile's northern border with Peru showed a distinctive orange pole in the background. Because these animals are suspected to have small home ranges, Sanderson reasoned that if he could locate the same pole, it was likely he would also find his quarry.

 

 

At the rustic headquarters of Salar de Surire National Park, he settled into a spare trailer nicknamed "The Ice Box" perched on a windswept hillside and resumed the search. Looking out of the rear window, Sanderson knew he was in the right place: there was the orange pole from the photograph!

 

 

While the pole was an encouraging sign, finding the cat on these rocky slopes was a daunting challenge. The area lies at the southern tip of the arid, treeless Sechura Desert, where temperatures fall below freezing every night and snow is always a threat, even in summer. Worse, this swath of the Andes was becoming drier than usual due to shifts in the global climate.

 

 

For six long weeks, Sanderson took survey data and set camera traps, hoping to find some trace of the mysterious feline. Then one morning he walked out of his hut, and there, perched only a few hundred feet away on some rocks, was the Andean mountain cat, watching him with large yellowish eyes. For Sanderson it was a moment of supreme vindication, proving that this small grayish-brown animal wasn't extinct.

 

 

Sanderson took many photographs and tried unsuccessfully to catch the animal and fit a radio-collar. And for five long years, Sanderson continued searching. Then a colleague sent word that she had seen Andean mountain cats living high in the mountains of southern Bolivia, more than 15,000 feet up — one of the loftiest ranges of any cat. In April 2004 Sanderson, a multinational scientific team, and the Wildlife Conservation Network formed the Alianza Gato Andino, or Andean Cat Alliance (AGA), in Arica, Chile, drafting a conservation action strategy to protect the animal. A week later, Sanderson and two colleagues explored an escarpment near the Bolivian town of Khastor, where a local led them to a small grotto.

 

 

Peering over the stony ledge while a companion gripped his shirt, Sanderson had his second encounter with an Andean mountain cat, and this time he managed to capture it. Slipping a radio-collar on the 11-pound female, he noted how thin she was beneath a dense coat of fur despite a regular diet of small rodents — emblematic of how fragile this species is despite its formidable appearance.

 

 

As in Chile, rural Bolivians believe that if someone comes upon a mountain cat, they must kill it immediately for its spiritually powerful skin or bad luck will follow. This superstition is so pervasive in the Andes that even park guards in legally protected areas will try to kill mountain cats — something fairly easy to do because the animals show no fear of people.

 

 

While many native Andeans continue to adhere to these beliefs, those who worked with the cat alliance scientists came to cherish this beautiful, endemic predator. With help from Sanderson, these Chileans are now trying to learn where these cats are living, and how to protect them. The animals face a double threat: danger from encroaching humans and a shrinking habitat.

 

 

It's a plight shared by most of the 36 species of wild cats, many no bigger than housecats. From Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus) to the semi-aquatic flat-headed cat of Borneo (Prionailurus planiceps), these small but powerful top predators are crucial indicators of an ecosystem's health. Through CI's Center for Applied Biodiversity Science (CABS), Sanderson and partners including the World Conservation Union's Cat Specialist Group, created the Small Cat Conservation Alliance in 2002, building a global campaign to protect small cats through science, local alliances, and education.

 

 

"Any of these small cat species could go extinct under our very noses and we would never know it until much later," says Sanderson sadly. "There is so much we need to learn about their biology and behavior — data we can use to understand how to breed them. The question is: Can we do it before these cats are gone?"

 

http://www.conservation.org/xp/frontlines/species/11160503.xml

 

For the cats,

 

Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue

an Educational Sanctuary home

to more than 150 big cats

12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL  33625

813.920.4130 fax 885.4457 cell 493.4564

http://www.BigCatRescue.org MakeADifference@BigCatRescue.org

 

Meet our recent mountain lion cub rescues:

http://www.bigcatrescue.org/rescuenewscubs.htm