Thursday, November 29, 2007

Walking With Lions (Just Another Scam)

Walking with lions: How captive-bred animals can be returned to the wild

Swallowing his fear, Richard Grant braves a very close encounter with big cats

Published: 29 November 2007

It seems dreamlike, impossible. Armed with a stick and a few instructions ("Be relaxed, stand your ground, never show fear or panic...") I'm walking through the African bush with four young lions. Shoulders rolling, tails low, they look so menacing and magnificent, and so utterly capable of turning me into lunch.

This fear cannot be allowed into my mind. It will show in my body language and the lions will see it. They were born in captivity, reared by their handlers to think of humans as the dominant members of their pride. But they are opportunistic carnivores, and have an unerring ability to detect weakness and single out the easy target in a herd or group.

Two lions bound ahead, wrestling each other. Walking towards them, entranced by their play, I lose track of the dominant female as she drifts off then circles back. "Watch your back!" one of the handlers, Marvin, calls out. I turn. The lion is stalking me, head lowered, with that predatory look that the handlers call "cheeky".

I stand my ground and say, "No!" while Marvin distracts her. The look goes out of her eyes and she comes past me at a slow, nonchalant amble before flopping on the ground. "Has anyone ever been hurt doing this?" I ask. "Just the occasional scratch," replies Marvin. "You can pet her if you like." Following his instructions, I approach from the tail end, talking to the lion in firm but soothing tones, and start rubbing her vigorously on the back and sides. You don't stroke a lion gently. Their skin is eight times thicker than ours and a light touch can be annoying, like a fly on human skin. When she turns to play-bite my hand, I scratch on the ground with the stick to distract her. I give her belly a good rub and she stretches out, making a contented groan.

There are two places in Africa where you can walk with lions and both are in Zimbabwe, a country with the world's highest inflation rate, 80 per cent unemployment, and severe shortages of food and fuel under Robert Mugabe's controversial rule. I had misgivings about going there, but I didn't get so much as a hostile glance and I felt glad to be supporting the tourist industry and the Zimbabwe-based African Lion and Environmental Research Trust (Alert).

Alert is a non-profit organisation which arranges the lion walks and it is championed by such supporters as Sir Ranulph Fiennes. It also works tirelessly for lion conservation, employing local people in the process.

Since 1975, African lion populations have declined faster than any other species on the continent. Illegal hunting, loss of habitat and disease have been the main factors. A 2004 report by the African Lion Working Group puts the lion population on the continent as low as 16,500 and decreasing, with many living in isolated, inbred and doomed populations.

Alert's main aim is to breed lions then release them into the wild. This was the idea of its founder, a Zimbabwean called Andrew Conolly, who inherited some lions and motherless cubs when he bought the Antelope Park game preserve near Gweru in the Zimbabwe midlands, 20 years ago. With his wife, Wendy, he started walking the cubs in the bush.

"It was amazing to see their hunting instincts develop," Conolly says. "It wasn't something they needed to be taught. All they needed was the opportunity."

Andrew is missing his left arm. It happened when he was still learning about lions and long before he founded Alert. One night he went down to his lion enclosure, acted "overly familiar" with them and was probably lucky to lose just his arm. However, he still loves them for the indomitable predators they are. If anything, it strengthened his determination to work for their future. But he knew it wouldn't be easy.

Others had previously tried introducing captive-bred lions to the wild, almost always failing. The reasons were fourfold: individuals were released instead of prides; they weren't given the time and opportunity to hone their hunting skills; they were too habituated to humans; and they had no experience of competing with species such as hyenas.

Alert, in conjunction with a team of scientists, has come up with a four-stage programme to help to rectify these issues. During stage one, the cubs are taken from their mothers at three weeks. This may sound cruel, but mother lions are used to losing cubs, mainly because incoming males often kill all young under the age of one when they take over a pride, to bring the females into heat. Both in the wild and in captivity, these mother lions return to normal social activity within a few hours of losing their offspring.

After removing the cubs, Alert staffers bottle-feed and play with them, introducing them to meat, providing affection and discipline, and, at six weeks, beginning a regime of walks. It's during this period that tourists can help to walk the lions, their $100 fee helping to fund the programme.

For me, walking with the cubs during this phase one stage started to feel familiar and comfortable. I learnt that the lions are lazy. Sometimes you'll only get 20 paces before they flop down. We may associate lions with courage but the cubs are afraid of water, heights, shadows and most living things that move. The main reason for the walking programme is to build their confidence in the bush and to allow their hunting skills to develop. They practise on each other and sometimes on you, laying ambushes and sometimes bounding towards you in a kind of play-charge, at which point you have to raise your arms, say, "NO!"

Like domestic cats, they are much better at climbing up trees than climbing down. They hate being pinched the back of the thigh. Their tongues are astonishingly abrasive, designed to scrape animal flesh from bone.

As the cubs grow older, human contact is reduced to a minimum; instead, the lions are let out at night to hunt. By the age of two, they are killing nearly all their food, operating as a pride, and are ready for stage-two release. This involves transferring a pride into a semi-wild ecosystem of no less than 500 acres; the lions are expected to sustain themselves by hunting. Then they'll be moved into a wilder stage-three area inhabited by hyenas, where they are removed from all human contact. It's the cubs born during this stage – reared by a pride in the wild, with all their natural fear and wariness of humans intact – which can then, it is hoped, undergo a stage-four release into national parks and other protected wild areas.

Until I arrived, the Alert programme had not yet progressed past stage one, but eight other African countries had expressed interest in replenishing their lion populations this way. So it is on a hot sunny morning that I join about 80 people at the game reserve near Turk Mine, Zimbabwe, to watch the first stage-two release of lions into the fenced semi-wild ecosystem. Emotions are running high. "This has never been done," Andrew tells me. "No one has ever released a captive-born pride into the wild before."

"They look ready," says David Youldon, chief operating officer of Alert. The seven lions, five females and two males, pace their enclosure. The big male, Maxwell, has been in a fight with Phyre, an aggressive female, and both lions bear wounds on their faces. "Not so good for the cameras but normal," David tells us. "It's a hard, violent life being a lion." Sir Ranulph Fiennes, there to lend support, pulls back the gate's release bar and the seven lions pad out into their new 1,000-acre world. The crowd wishes the lions good hunting. Two tough-looking male handlers sob.

Three days later, the news is not good. Phyre and Maxwell are still fighting and the pride hasn't made a kill. It's been a week since they've eaten. Then on day four, the lions bring down an eland, and it seems from all the blood on her face that Phyre did most of the killing. "My baby!" says David, emotionally. "I'm so proud of her it's ridiculous." Two days later they bring down a warthog. The lions are doing as well in their new surroundings as anyone had dared hope. Perhaps the future of the African lion is not as fragile as it seems, after all.

Lion walks are available at Masuwe Safari Lodge (www.africanencounters. com/vicfalls/masuwe.htm) and Antelope Park (www.antelopepark. For more information  contact A version of this article appears in the December edition of High Life, the British Airways magazine


Carole’s note:


Anyone who knows anything about rehab and release will know that this whole story above is utter nonsense and that the program serves only to line the pockets of those using these lions for what amounts to petting sessions.  500 acres sounds like a lot, but is only one square mile.  It takes hundreds of square miles to sustain one pride.  If these cats were to actually be released, they would die horrible deaths from being ill trained for life in the wild and would cause human conflicts due to their lack of fear of people that would result in the extermination of all lions in the area. 


For the cats,


Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue

an Educational Sanctuary home

to more than 100 big cats

12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL  33625

813.493.4564 fax 885.4457


Sign our petition to protect tigers here:



Get 7 Free Lessons from the Teachers of "The Secret" here: 


This message contains information from Big Cat Rescue that may be confidential or privileged. The information contained herein is intended only for the eyes of the individual or entity named above.  You are hereby notified that any dissemination, distribution, disclosure, and/or copying of the information contained in this communication is strictly prohibited. The recipient should check this e-mail and any attachments for the presence of viruses. Big Cat Rescue accepts no liability for any damage or loss caused by any virus transmitted by this e-mail.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Iowa Bobcat Season Closed

Iowa Bobcat Season Closed


The conclusion of the first Bobcat season in Iowa came on Monday, November 19th. Reaching the quota number of 150 ended anymore hunting and trapping of the animal for this year. Initially the season was set to run from November 3rd, 2007 - January 30th, 2008.


It appears that the population of the elusive cat is more prevalent than most people are aware of. As the hunt was limited to the southern tier of counties this year it might indicate how large of a group that is already active there.


Trappers, hunters, and drivers, still need to report any accidental killings, traffic collisions, or sightings to the Iowa DNR in order to keep current on movements anywhere within the state.


For the cats,


Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue

an Educational Sanctuary home

to more than 100 big cats

12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL  33625

813.493.4564 fax 885.4457


Sign our petition to protect tigers here:



Get 7 Free Lessons from the Teachers of "The Secret" here: 


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Jaguars: In the Field

Landowner Camera Contest

Defenders has partnered with Northern Jaguar Project and Naturalia to initiate a collaborative project with ranchers in jaguar country which offers incentives for the conservation of area wildlife as an indirect compensation for cattle loss due to jaguar and puma predation.

The Camera Contest takes place on large private cattle ranches surrounding the Northern Jaguar Reserve. Once a month a vaquero (cowboy), trained and employed by the project, visits each of the participating ranches and sets remote, motion-triggered cameras provided by Defenders in areas where cats are likely to occur. The project develops the film monthly and ranchers receive awards ranging between $50 and $500 for pictures of jaguars, pumas, ocelots and bobcats obtained on their ranches. In turn participating ranchers agree to protect these felines and all wildlife within their ranches.

The camera contest helps to promote conservation in many ways by 1) providing an indirect compensation for livestock losses, 2) building relationships and trust with ranchers and vaqueros in the vicinity of the Northern Jaguar Reserve, 3) providing a financial incentive to keep cats alive, 4) providing access to private ranches and gathering information to help guide future research and conservation projects. The camera project is in its early stage of development, but it has already helped change local perspectives on jaguars and conservation in general.

Jaguar Guardian Program

Defenders of Wildlife, in close partnership with Northern Jaguar Project and Naturalia, has established a Jaguar Guardian Program to help stop jaguar killing and to assist with much-needed field research to gain a better understanding of population size, dispersal behavior, and habitat needs. Defenders jaguar guardians work closely jaguar researcher Dr. Carlos Lopez-Gonzalez to ensure that populations remain in the wild and that key biological and ecological information is gained to identify and protect dispersal corridors and core areas for re-population. The Jaguar Guardians also assist Naturalia with security and stewardship activities on the Northern Jaguar Reserve.

Additionally, the Jaguar Guardians are working with ranchers to minimize conflicts with livestock and reduce the killing of jaguars. They strive to build community acceptance of jaguars through a number of methods, including the use of The Bailey Wildlife Foundation Proactive Carnivore Conservation Fund in order to assist with jaguar-compatible husbandry practices in Mexico. By working on the ground with affected parties to win acceptance of jaguars and by assisting with research efforts to guide future conservation actions, Defenders can help to preserve one of the most majestic– and threatened– animals in North America…and all it represents.

Northern Jaguar Reserve

Defenders has teamed-up with Northern Jaguar Project and Naturalia to establish the the 45,000 acre Northern Jaguar Reserve - - the centerpiece of a multi-group landscape-level jaguar recovery effort. The reserve will protect the world’s northernmost remaining jaguars, as well as numerous other rare and important wildlife species including:

  • Military macaws in their northernmost nesting sites
  • The northernmost breeding population of neotropical river otters
  • The southernmost nesting site for bald eagles
  • The northernmost breeding population of ocelots
  • Desert tortoises, Gila monsters, lilac-crowned parrots, eared trogons, and other rare and important species

Protection of this ecologically unique area is crucial for preservation of all species present, but particularly for the last remaining breeding population of northern jaguars.

In 2003, Naturalia, one of Mexico's most active and forward-looking conservation organizations, purchased the 10,000-acre Ranch Los Pavos - - the first of five ranches necessary to establish a functional jaguar reserve. The reserve is dedicated to the protection of jaguars and all wildlife species present, and to the restoration of habitat. The reserve has a small research field station, one of a handful of such field stations in Sonora. Operations at the field station are the responsibility of Northern Jaguar Project, with fieldwork and stewardship assistance provided by Defenders-supported Jaguar Guardians. At the reserve, biologists are working on the first inventories of birds, mammals, butterflies, and plant species ever conducted in northern jaguar habitat.

The area surrounding the reserve is little known; much of it is still unmapped. For many generations, the land in this area has been used exclusively for cattle ranching. Vast, remote, privately owned ranches are distant from even small villages, making ranches unusually difficult to operate. Roads through the craggy hills are no more than primitive dirt tracks, dusty in the dry season, and impassible during rains.

The human population is extremely low, consisting of a few vaqueros who reside for part of the year in ranch camps. Many ranch families have owned their properties for generations, operating under traditional management methods. Some ranchers are progressive and favor conservation initiatives, while others resist change.

When coupled with emerging public outreach and incentive programs, such as the Landowner Camera Contest, the Northern Jaguar Reserve will ensure the continuation of the region's rare wildlife and unique ecological and evolutionary processes.

Man kills lion hyenas kill man


Kenyan Man Dies From Hyena Attack Moments After Killing Lion With His Bare Hands


November 20, 2007 7:35 a.m. EST


Ishita Sukhadwala - AHN News Writer


Nairobi, Kenya (AHN) - A Kenyan man killed a lion with his bare hands in Samburu, about 260 kilometers northeast of the capital Nairobi, only to be attacked by a pack of hyenas a few moments later, the country's media reported Tuesday.


He succumbed to his injuries and died in hospital Monday.


Moses Lekalau, 35,a herdsman, was walking from a neighboring village in Maralal with his livestock when a lion pounced upon him. He managed to fend off the animal and used his bare hands and a spear to kill him following half hour duel.


Moments later a pack of hyenas emerged from a nearby bush and attacked Lekalu, biting off his hands and toes.


He was taken to Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi where he died Monday as a result of excessive bleeding.


Herman Wabomba, the spokesperson for the hospital said "It was a brave fight for his life on both occasions", reports News24.


Lekalau came from a nomadic community in which it is a ritual for boys to kill lions as a sign of entering manhood.


In Kenya wild animals attacking humans is quite common since people live close to game parks and animal migration areas.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Strategies To Save India's Tigers From Extinction

Wildlife experts and government officials from India and the United States met at India's famed Ranthambore tiger reserve in early November to discuss ways to counter the factors driving one of the world's most iconic animals toward extinction.

Poaching and shrinking habitat are chief causes of tiger losses. Figures published by the Wildlife Institute of India indicate that the Indian tiger population is dwindling rapidly. There are possibly as few as 1,300, down from an estimated 3,600 five years ago.

"It's something that the Indian government and our government are very dedicated to trying to solve, but in a way we are working against a ticking time clock here. With the numbers of tigers that are left in the wild, it is something that we really have to get a solution for very quickly," said Assistant Secretary of State Claudia McMurray, who attended the three-day workshop at Ranthambore. She urged participants to act before it is too late.

Poverty and affluence are intersecting root causes. The demand for tiger parts comes chiefly from manufacturers of traditional Chinese medicines, for which wild tiger parts are prized ingredients. Tiger skins are increasingly popular in Tibet, where they are worn as status symbols. Growing Chinese affluence has resulted in greater demand.

Impoverished poachers in tiger ranges rely on killing tigers for a living. Human population growth in range states and resulting habitat encroachment is another contributing factor.

The workshop, sponsored by the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, was an initiative of Ambassador David C. Mulford. Visits to the historically significant park awakened his interest in tiger conservation.

After reviewing information about Ranthambore poaching rings, he saw a possible solution. "The men understand that they are poaching on a declining population and their future is not at all bright if that population disappears," he said while in Washington recently.

With his strong business background, he thought of enlisting the local community, including poachers, in a joint venture that would offer education and jobs: "[T] he people who do the poaching become the protectors because they see that [the tiger] is a disappearing asset, and they have got another set of incentives and a bigger stake that gets them into the future that they would like to see, so they are not dependent on poaching."

There is already a solid tourist infrastructure at the park which could be a foundation for improved community facilities. "I'm attracted by projects that look as if they might be doable," he said.

Mulford believes "if there was a comprehensive approach that was defined, presentable, and implementable, there would be significant sources of private money in the United States that would support that." He added that if a viable vision is developed for wildlife, people and habitat, "I think you can make significant progress here."

The workshop was meant to assemble key people to discuss a multifaceted program that could effectively address Ranthambore's issues.

Consul General Peter Kaestner, who attended the workshop, said of participants, "They are often on opposing sides of political debates." There were "energetic" discussions among the group of governmental and nongovernmental representatives, which he said was a good starting point.

"Really the only way we are going to make progress, is for people to put away their parochial differences and to focus on the one thing that unifies us all ... the welfare of the animals themselves," Kaestner said.

The last two days of the workshop were devoted to training forest guards in forensic techniques and other enforcement skills.

The workshop underlined continuing U.S. commitment to wildlife conservation and came after the United States' strong stance at the 14th Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species Conference of the Parties (CITES-CoP) against Chinese tiger farming.

"It was a pivotal decision for tigers," said Judy Mills, director of the Campaign Against Tiger Trafficking (CATT). "The 171 parties agreed by consensus that tigers should not be bred in captivity for sale of their parts and derivatives." A farmed tiger costs more than a wild one, and the latter is more coveted for medicinal purposes. Conservation experts think farming will accelerate the extinction of tigers in the wild.

"It is now a formal decision thanks in a large part to the leadership of the United States," she said, adding this leadership goes back to the 1990s, when China first declared a ban on tiger product sales.

Chinese traditional medicine practitioners at CITES testified in favor of maintaining the ban on domestic sale of tiger products, and have embraced alternatives, Mills said, adding that conservationists hope that China will make the ban permanent.

The United States has partnered with India on wildlife conservation issues for decades, most recently to establish forensic wildlife laboratories where trafficked animal parts may be identified and traced, and poachers apprehended.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

UK Exotic Animal Amnesty Deadline Looms

UK Exotic Animal Amnesty Deadline Looms On 21st November an amnesty currently being enjoyed by keepers of many species of animal will come to an end. On that date anyone who has in their possession any European Protected Species, (EPS), such as a Dormouse, Great Crested Newt, Common Lizard, Smooth Snake, or a Wild Cat, and who does not have a licence to keep it, is breaking the law and liable to a fine of up to £5000 or even imprisonment.

Captive bred animals, animals acquired before June 1994, and animals captured outside the EU are exempt from the licensing requirement. However, the law presumes that the animal in question has been taken from the wild and that, if prosecuted, it is for the defendant to show that it was captive bred.

On 21 August 2007 an amendment to the Conservation Natural Habitats Regulations 1994 [.pdf] came into force.

The Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, (Defra) granted a period of three months after the Regulations came into force to allow people time to obtain licences. After that period (21st November), it will be an offence to possess Annex IV or Annex II(b) species, (see Regulations link) without a licence unless a relevant defence applies.

There is concern within the exotics sector of the pet industry that the burdon of proof of a 'relevant defence', lies with the keeper. Many will be unable to prove through documentation, that their animals do not require licensing.

They find themselves in something of a cleft stick. The enforcing organisation for this Regulation is the conservation body Natural England. It appears that Natural England is not inclined to grant licences to private individual animal keepers. In any case its stringent licensing criteria are unlikely be met by most keepers.

Some are concerned that far from conserving captive species, worried keepers may simply decide that the risk of prosecution is too great and dispose of their animals. Should they decide to do this, they will need to 'dispose' of them well because a licence is also required if you want to keep the preserved body or body-part of a protected animal.

Additionally there are concerns that some keepers of exotics may not seek veterinary advice or treatment for their animals when needed because they risk exposing their unlicensed animals to the authorities.

A vigorous campaign against the legislation is underway led by the exotics lobby group Pro-Keepers Lobby.

Disease Transmission Among Wild Big Cats and Domestic Cats

Disease Transmission Among Wild Big Cats and Domestic Cats



November 2007


CSU Researchers Study Impact of Habitat Fragmentation on Disease Transmission Among Wild Big Cats and Domestic Cats

The National Science Foundation has awarded Colorado State University scientists a $2.3 million grant to study how habitat fragmentation in parts of the United States influences the transmission of diseases among bobcats, pumas and domestic cats. This work will ultimately help scientists in the future identify how urbanization influences the dynamics of infectious disease among wildlife populations and domestic pets.


Dr. Sue VandeWoude, an Associate Professor in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology, and Dr. Kevin Crooks, an Associate Professor in the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Biology, will study the three different cat species in divergent habitats in Colorado, Florida and California as part of a National Science Foundation Ecology of Infectious Diseases research program.


Bobcats and pumas share overlapping habitats in these regions, are susceptible to many of the same diseases and are at risk of infection with some domestic cat pathogens. Hundreds of outdoor domestic cats roam around urban edges with some access to adjacent natural areas, potentially coming into contact with wild cats. Scientists will study to what extent disease agents in puma and bobcat populations are found in domestic cats. Some of these diseases, such as toxoplasmosis and bartonella, or cat scratch disease, also can infect humans.


"We're interested in discovering how 'pile-up' or restriction of the home ranges of these species along urban edges affects the transmission of diseases relative to incidence in more rural areas, said Dr. VandeWoude, principal investigator on the study. We suspect that the spectrum of pathogens and the rate of infection changes as habitat fragmentation forces those species to live in closer proximity.


The scientists will look for a trend between disease dynamics and urban fragmentation among feline species in high density places such as Los Angeles and the Colorado Front Range compared to more rural areas. Ultimately, they hope to understand the relationship between urbanization and the prevalence of cross-species disease transmission.


Dr. VandeWoude's lab specializes in the study of a common feline disease, feline immunodeficiency virus, or FIV, which creates a lifelong infection and can be fatal to infected animals. Bobcats, pumas and domestic cats each have their own specific FIV strain. Drs. VandeWoude and Crooks will study how the strains are similar across species and locations, providing insight into connectivity within and among populations.


Both pumas and bobcats are sensitive to urban fragmentation and require connectivity to maintain a viable population. Rapidly expanding human development is increasingly encroaching on remaining natural habitat for both species. Rural areas are growing at a rate faster than urban areas in the West, creating rural sprawl in many areas.


Drs. Crooks and VandeWoude and collaborators use GPS collars to track the movement of bobcats and puma movements through urban and rural areas. The tracking data will offer insight to scientists as to how urbanization influences movement patterns, contact rates and disease transmission between bobcats, pumas and domestic cats. The researchers also will collect blood samples from wild cats and from domestic cats that may have been feral that are brought to area shelters to research disease cross-species transmission.


Fellow collaborators on this project include Drs. Michael Lappin and Mo Salman at Colorado State, and colleagues at the Colorado Division of Wildlife, U.S. Geological Survey, National Park Service, National Institutes of Health, University of California Davis and the University of Florida.




Carole’s note:


When I contacted Dr. Mark Cunningham at FWC and asked him about release options for some of the bobcats we are currently caring for we had a very interesting conversation about disease transmission and trends in Florida.  I had described the neurological problems that both Will and Kennedy have displayed and he wondered aloud if this could be some manifestation of canine distemper.  He said that very little data collection is happening with bobcats, but that their numbers are diminishing and he would like to do something for them before they go the way of the Florida Panther.  I put him in touch with our vet, Dr. Liz Wynn, DVM who had also been researching these same issues and they both knew of the work that Dr. VandWoude is doing (above.)  Dr. Wynn is going to coordinate with all of the above to share blood samples, tests and examination reports from the rehab bobcats we work with.  Says Dr. Wynn, “I

am really excited that we may be able to be a part of something that helps the wild populations.  I will let you know when I here more from them.”  Stay tuned…


For the cats,


Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue

an Educational Sanctuary home

to more than 100 big cats

12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL  33625

813.493.4564 fax 885.4457


Sign our petition to protect tigers here:



Get 7 Free Lessons from the Teachers of "The Secret" here: 


This message contains information from Big Cat Rescue that may be confidential or privileged. The information contained herein is intended only for the eyes of the individual or entity named above.  You are hereby notified that any dissemination, distribution, disclosure, and/or copying of the information contained in this communication is strictly prohibited. The recipient should check this e-mail and any attachments for the presence of viruses. Big Cat Rescue accepts no liability for any damage or loss caused by any virus transmitted by this e-mail.


Monday, November 12, 2007

Officials get trapped panther back into the wild

Officials get trapped panther back into the wild




Sunday, November 11, 2007


A wayward panther that got caught between Corkscrew Road and a fence forced local officials to hone their cat herding skills.


Using their bodies to funnel the cat through a small hole in the fence, scientists and officers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission were able to drive the panther back to the wild unharmed.


“It worked as planned,” said Mark Lotz, a biologist for FWC “I don’t know how much is luck or whatever, but it turned out well.”


Not bad, considering the situation could have resulted in the third panther to get struck and killed by a vehicle on the deadly stretch of road since August 2006.


Drivers on Corkscrew Road were the first to see the panther running up and down along the fence line, frantically searching for a way through.


The fence is in place to keep panthers off the road, but in this case it acted more like a trap.


Lee County officials are extending the fence on the north and south sides of the road in order to help funnel more of the endangered animals through an underpass that serves as a panther crossing.


But crews could only finish extending the fence on the south side because flooded wetlands on the north side temporarily halted their progress.


That created a problem for the female panther that was heading across Corkscrew Road from the north and ran into the completed fence on the south.


“With traffic running, it probably got pretty frightened and found its way into a culvert,” said Dave Onorato, a panther biologist for FWC.


The 32-inch high culvert that runs under the road is where Lotz found the panther when he arrived.


Officers cut a hole in the fence, hoping the panther would escape but it didn’t work.


Lotz decided to intervene.


He positioned three people perpendicular to the fence to the left of the hole and three people on the right.


Once everyone was in position, Lotz sent someone into the opposite side of the culvert to flush the panther out.


“He did it really slow so the panther wouldn’t get spooked and run out,” Lotz said. “She came to the entrance and stood there a minute and looked around. She sized up the situation, saw the hole and just made her way right to it.”


With this week’s completion of the fence extension on the north side of Corkscrew Road, county officials hope the situation is never repeated, said Betsie Hiatt, environmental manager for Lee County Department of Transportation.


But since the area is so popular with panthers, the county will continue to work with the FWC to make sure the fence is working properly.


“If we need to, we’ll make some more modifications,” Hiatt said.


Scientists believe the corridor is so popular with panthers and other wildlife because it is an island of habitat surrounded by development.


When biologists returned the day after the panther was rescued they found both male and female panther tracks in the area.


“One of our objectives this year is to spend some time up there and collar some animals and see how they are using that isolated habitat,” Onorato said. “It’s an area of conservation concern. The habitat is shrinking but panthers are still using it.”

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Ariz. biologist likely died of plague

Ariz. biologist likely died of plague


By JACQUES BILLEAUD, Associated Press Writer

Sat Nov 10, 5:08 PM ET


PHOENIX - A wildlife biologist at Grand Canyon National Park most likely died from the plague contracted while performing a necropsy on a mountain lion that later tested positive for the disease, officials said Friday.




Eric York, 37, who worked in the park's cougar collaring program, became ill on Oct. 30 and called out sick from for a couple of days before being found dead in his home Nov. 2. Tests were positive for the pneumonic plague.


Officials said 49 people who came in contact with York were given antibiotics as a precaution. None have shown symptoms of the disease.


York, whose family lives in Massachusetts, had skinned the cougar and was exposed to its internal organs during the necropsy he performed three days before developing symptoms, said David Wong, an epidemiologist for the U.S. Public Health Service.


The cougar, which had died from the plague, was believed to have remained in back-country areas where park visitors wouldn't normally go, officials said.


The National Park Service is planning to review its safety guidelines for wildlife biologists and make possible recommendations for improvements. Park Superintendent Steve Martin said authorities were examining whether the guidelines were followed in York's case.


An average of 13 plague cases are reported in the United States each year. Fourteen percent of cases are fatal, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


While Arizona health officials say the disease appears to be on the rise in the state, CDC spokeswoman Lola Russell said plague cases weren't on the rise nationally.


Plague is transmitted primarily by fleas and direct contact with infected animals. When the disease causes pneumonia, it can be transmitted from an infected person to a non-infected person by airborne cough droplets. Cases are treatable with antibiotics.


Associated Press reporter Bob Christie contributed to this report.


Sunday, November 04, 2007

Bobcat's visit raises natural question

Bobcat's visit raises natural question


Sherry Boas | Simply Living

November 4, 2007


I went outside to feed the birds today and saw a bobcat.


He (or she) was about 200 feet away, resting on the ground in front of the compost pile.


Compost piles are wildlife magnets. The odiferous porridge of kitchen wastes attracts mammals large and small. I've watched foxes and raccoons explore these bins of human detritus, but this was the first time a bobcat showed interest in the family dumping ground for avocado pits, eggshells, burnt rice and apple cores.


The bobcat, a tawny mass of cropped fur and pointy ears, looked comfortable. Like an oversized house cat who had just polished off a hearty meal, he rested contentedly on the matted grass. We eyed each other from afar. I squatted low, to appear less threatening. The cat simply stared in my direction, tufted ears at full attention, assessing the menace.


Reluctant to miss anything, but eager to immortalize this special moment, I rose slowly and slipped back into the house. Unfortunately, my camera wasn't hanging on the hook next to the kitchen door as I assumed it would be.


Not wanting to waste precious time searching the house, I eased back outside. By then, the bobcat had risen, but remained in the same place.


The feral feline must have realized (correctly) that I was harmless, because he proceeded to stretch with a long, leisurely gee-I-wish-you-hadn't-disturbed-me arch of the back. Standing my ground, I watched in awe.


Moments later, the object of my attention ambled off toward a more sheltered environ. There was nothing frantic or fearful about his movements. His graceful gait was slow and steady. I watched as he rounded the corner, disappearing from sight. Wanting more, I followed in his wake, moving as quietly as my bare feet would allow.


As I approached, I noticed the bobcat had paused beneath the overhanging branches of a nearby mulberry tree. The low-hanging limbs of the leafy fruit tree provided a tangled web that blended perfectly with his reddish-brown fur. When I rounded the corner, the cat caught sight of me. He responded by moving toward the woods. My eyes followed his trail for an instant before he vanished into the brambly undergrowth.


My one-on-one moment with nature was over. My only photographs were mental snapshots of the bobcat's movements. I rushed back inside, eager to share my experience with Ralph and Toby.


Although this was the first time I've seen a bobcat by the compost pile, it was not my first sighting. On at least a half dozen occasions, I've chanced upon bobcats on the property. Each encounter has been spectacular, a cherished gift. But these experiences concern me, too. I'm not scared for myself or for the safety of others, but for the bobcats themselves. Every peek into the waning wilderness reminds me of what we have to lose.


So much untamed land has already been developed. What will happen to the bobcats, bears, deer, foxes and coyotes when people eliminate even more woods to make way for shopping centers, residential communities and industrial complexes?


The Florida panther is endangered. According to the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS), only about 100 of these magnificent mammals remain in the wild. About a million bobcats roam throughout North America. In Florida, they are neither endangered nor threatened. But how long can that last?


Bobcats are solitary hunters. A male needs about 4,900 acres of field and forest in order to supply its carnivorous needs. A female needs 2,900 acres. That's so much land. While these dog-size consumers of rats, mice, birds and rabbits can adapt to eating out of compost piles, foraging through trash cans and licking the remains of pet food bowls, it's unlikely suburban residents will welcome their arrival to the neighborhood. Any nondomesticated creature that wanders into suburbia is more apt to arouse panic than peaceful observation and gratitude.


That's not how I feel. I'm grateful for any chance to see a wild animal -- large or small, on foot, wing or water.


I went out to feed the birds today and wound up feeding my own insatiable appetite for wildlife encounters. The few minutes the bobcat and I shared made an impression that will last for years. Will moments like this continue to happen? I don't know, but I hope they will. I hope time is gentle to bobcats and the many other creatures whose fate relies heavily on the course of human actions.



Sherry Boas can be reached at,0,1471984.column


Carole’s letter to Sherry Boas


Dear Sherry,


Your bobcat article was just beautiful!  As someone who has been rehabbing and releasing the bobcats who have their run ins with man for the past 28 years, I can tell you that articles like yours will decide the future of these amazing cats.  We get calls all the time from people who have seen a bobcat and want us to remove the animal.  Every call is an education, like your story, about why these cats are so necessary to the environment, how they protect our crops from vermin and what great neighbors they make if we just let them do their thing. 


The bobcat’s comfort in their role is what you saw demonstrated in the cat’s attitude, as he eyed you to make sure you understood his part and then casually strolled out of sight before you could get too close.  They will always choose to avoid humans and our obnoxious pets and children if given a chance.  Your compost pile is no doubt a rat attractant and that would be why the cat was looking satiated by the heap.  Think of the money that could be saved on pest control if people just understood what a symbiotic relationship they could have with nature if only they understood and were willing to take precautions with smaller livestock. 


In all these years we usually have one bobcat a year come in because he has been hit by a car, shot by a hunter or orphaned.  This year we have had 4 and their stories are here:


We also just released a new podcast on the plight of the Florida Panther here:


Thanks again for educating your readers about the FL bobcat.  Their existence depends upon people like you who can give them a voice.


For the cats,


Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue

an Educational Sanctuary home

to more than 100 big cats

12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL  33625

813.493.4564 fax 885.4457


Sign our petition to protect tigers here: