On the Saturday just past I found myself once again with one of my favorite situations; no place to go, and all day to get there. Now mind you, I can’t abide Bay Area politics, but I am frequently in the position where I’m paid to go where the work is, not where the fun is. So I make the most of it, and there are always some decent outdoor adventures not too far from anyplace I find myself. Saturday it was the Almaden Quicksilver County Park, where I spent a nice sunny Saturday hiking in the hills. Photos follow.
On this weekend past, my first in the Bay Area (this trip) I got up Saturday morning to do some exploring.
Fortunately the lodgings here are on the south end of the metro area, right near the on-ramp to CA Highway 17, which goes south to the oceanside town of Santa Cruz. I drove down there, then caught Highway 1 north up the coast.
It was a beautiful, bright sunny day, temps in the high 50s, perfect for bumming around outdoors. My favorite kind of day; I had no place to go and all day to get there. Photos and a video (unfortunately not hi-def) follow. Click for more!
Mrs. Animal and yr. obdt. spent the last three days wandering around The Great Land. Our purpose was mostly just enjoying ourselves but also doing some shopping around of neighborhoods for an eventual semi-retirement.
Alaska is a wonderful place if you like to hunt, fish, camp, or engage in almost any other outdoor activity. It’s also a great place to go if you want to live a quiet life and be left the hell alone, which has long been one of my fondest wishes. It’s also the only place I’ve ever been where I never felt hemmed in.
We love Alaska. It’s one of the best places left anywhere. Photos from this trip follow.
Our annual elk hunt, abbreviated as it was by some sudden travel plans, ended with an empty sack. Note that I do not say “ended sadly,” as any time spent in the great Western outdoors is never cause for anything but happiness.
We had one good shot at filling one of our cow elk tags. Near the spot shown above, loyal sidekick Rat heard an elk mew softly in the timber. We split up and stalked into the pines in a pincer movement towards the patch of pines where the sound came from.
As we moved in, through the heavy dark timber I saw a pair of elk legs moving slowly upslope. I moved up to a large pine, found an opening in the trees, and braced against the tree to place Thunder Speaker’s scope on the opening. I saw an orange elk butt moving towards the opening from the left at a range of about fifty yards; then I saw in the scope a bit of elk neck, then an ear, then the head…
…then an antler. It was a young raghorn bull, and we had cow tags. Oh well.
Anyway, it was a highly enjoyable week. Photos follow.
This weekend just past was my last in New England for this gig. Saturday I was the proverbial barracks rat, as the weather was awful; cold, windy, rainy. I ventured out to eat and otherwise hung around the hotel.
Sunday was a different story. The day dawned bright and clear, still windy but sunny and pleasant. So, with nowhere to go and all day to get there, I piloted my rental car down into Connecticut. I went far a long tramp in that state’s Bigelow Hollow State Park, then wandered back roads back up to Massachusetts and (eventually) my temporary digs in Braintree. Nice day. Photos follow.
I can’t abide the political scene here in Massachusetts, but that doesn’t stop me from seeing what sights are available to be seen. Yesterday (Saturday) I took the great Uber service into Boston, where I spent the day mooching around the Boston Common, where there was a Gary Johnson rally going on(!) Following that, I hit the original Cheers and hoisted a few with some locals. I walked around Beacon Hill for a while, visited a couple of other Beacon Hill local watering holes before concluding the evening back at Cheers and then another Uber ride to my Braintree hotel. Today (Sunday) I drove down to Cape Cod and spent an enjoyable hour on a tramp through some pine and oak woods. Photos follow.
The nation’s own insane asylum, California, has something new to add to its lengthy list of problems: Rattlesnakes. Excerpt:
Southern California is known for its sun, sand, and of course, it’s snakes.
And thanks to our ongoing drought, rattlesnakes are making their way out of the hills and into our yards in record numbers.
“They’re out in full force right now,” said Bo Slyapich, who is known as the “rattlesnake wrangler.”
He specializes in snake removal, relocation, and prevention.
Slyapich has been working with snakes for more than 50 years and says homeowners are giving the rattlers exactly what they are looking for.
“If you build it. they will come,” he said. “Just because you build them a cave, leave the door open, garage door open, put a cement pond in the backyard, make it green all around, maybe throw some mice and rats around. They love us humans.”
He suggests building a box around your property, installing one-quarter-inch fencing around the entire perimeter, and reducing landscaping.
Pretty good advice, actually, speaking as one who came from the rattlesnake-friendly hills of Allamakee County, Iowa, where the Old Man’s woods and hills were populated by Timber Rattlesnakes (Crotalus horridus). Smaller (just) than Californey’s Western Diamondbacks, (Crotalus atrox) the big timber snakes were not terribly aggressive, in spite of their Latin name. You had to work at it to get bitten.
We still killed them whenever we found them around the house. Up in the hills they were fine; we always allowed them to proceed with their business unmolested. But not around the house, not when the folks had legions of grandkids playing outside all summer. The biggest rattler we killed was pushing six feet long, and a serious bite by a snake like that can kill an adult, much less a child.
We never took too many chances with venomous snakes. Californians hopefully will do likewise.
Q: Is hunting dangerous?
A: No, in fact hunting is one of the safest of all outdoor activities. The National Shooting Sports Foundation gathers and reports data on causes of accidental death and injury in hunting. Their 2010 data shows a 0.05% rate of injury among participants hunting with firearms. You have a greater chance of being injured on a golf course or tennis court than in the hunting fields.
Q: Was hunting responsible for the loss of the Passenger Pigeon, and the near-extinction of bison, along with many other endangered and threatened species?
A: No species has ever been endangered by modern, scientifically regulated hunting. It’s sadly true that in the last two centuries, over-consumptive practices including unregulated market gunning resulted in the extinction or endangerment of several species. Habitat loss added to the poor management practices of the 19th and early 20th centuries. However, modern scientific management has resulted in the dramatic recovery of white-tailed and mule deer, elk, bison, pronghorn antelope, wood ducks, prairie grouse, and many other birds and animals.
Q: Will game populations stabilize eventually without human hunting?
A: Yes, they certainly will. They will stabilize through the mechanisms of starvation, disease, vehicle accident, parasite infestation, and a host of other unpleasant means. Wild animals rarely if ever die peacefully of old age.
Q: Can we use chemical contraception?
A: Chemical contraception has proven practical, in deer, in controlled areas, with limited populations, where most of the animals were individually known to the control officers. On a large scale, it’s impossible.
Q: Does hunting desensitize people, especially young people, to the sanctity of life?
A: Just the opposite has been shown to be the case. A Texas Department of Justice study examined several demographic groups of ‘at-risk’ youths. They surveyed three groups; youths who did not own or have access to guns, youths who owned illegal guns, and youths who owned and used guns legally. The latter group, which included many hunters as well as recreational shooters, had the lowest delinquency rates of any; lower in fact than teens who did not own or have access to any guns at all. The study concluded that this group, who received most of their socialization in home and family, was more law-abiding than the other two groups. If hunting ‘cheapened’ the value of life, these youths would have been at a high risk for delinquency – the opposite of what was observed.
A: Success rates tell the tale. Success rates on big game average anywhere from 10-40% in most areas. That rate is calculated on the basis of animals taken / licenses issued; if you figure, roughly, three attempted stalks/shots for each animals, that is a per-attempt success rate of 3.3-12%. Odds are stacked against the human hunter, indeed; game animals have far more acute senses, they’re stronger, they can run faster, they have natural cunning and an intimate knowledge of their environment. One needs look no farther than popular hunting literature to see many stories of a hunter outfoxed by a wily deer, elk or bear.
A: No, very few. The main reason is obvious; not many endangered animal are available to be accidental targets. That’s why they’re endangered. It’s important to note that the largest cause of extinction or endangerment is habitat loss – and hunters are the uncontested champions of habitat preservation.
Q: What’s the difference between a hunter and a poacher?
A: A poacher is one who hunts illegally, with callous disregard for the law and for the scientific process of wildlife management. The ethical hunter scrupulously obeys the game laws of his/her area, and hunts with mindfulness of the surroundings, the game, and the importance of a clean, human kill. The poacher does none of these things. In short, the ethical hunter is a sportsman; the poacher is a criminal.
A: Not even close. Women are the fastest growing demographic group in hunter’s ranks, according to recent license sales figures; this reflect a trend towards the view of hunting as a family activity, rather than a guy’s getaway.
Q: Are hunters vicious and cruel people?
A: Not even close. Noted German psychiatrist Erich Fromm, in his book The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness, notes that the impulses for destructive aggression are very different from those involved in predation (hunting) and notes that hunters tend to be very peaceful people.
 Erich Fromm. 1973. The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness. Holt,Rinehart and Winston, New York. ISBN 0-03-007596-3
Ganked from blogger pal The Daley Gator’s Monday Pics post. Look at those talons! It’s no wonder the Golden Eagle is known to kill animals as large as lambs. Holy crap!
Let’s clone a cave lion! Excerpt:
Scientists are attempting to clone extinct Ice Age lion cubs by finding DNA in the remains of the creatures.
Two cubs were found in Russia’s Sakha Republic last August in a near-perfect state thanks to the deep-freeze conditions where they lay.
Researchers hope to find living tissues containing DNA in the remains, which will allow them to recreate the now extinct Ice Age cave lion.
The project is a joint venture by Russian and South Korean scientists at the Joint Foundation of Molecular Paleontology at North East Russia University in the city of Yakutsk.
Semyon Grigoriev, who is involved in the lion cub project, is also working on cloning a mammoth using the same process.
Let’s be real about this; these aren’t Jurassic Park shenanigans to bring about genetically-engineered five-ton carnosaurs able to break through 20-foot high concrete barriers. This project, if successful, will bring about a few – and only a few – big cats very similar to big cats that people routinely keep in captivity all over the world, and have done so since Classical times. Even if the mammoth cloning project succeeds, we’ll still have animals very similar to elephants which have also been successfully kept in captivity (and even domesticated) since Classical times.
I say do it. I don’t buy the arguments about these animals being “extinct for a reason.” They are extinct because the last major glaciation ended (oh, damn that global warming!) and the megafauna they relied on as prey largely disappeared along with the unique habitat created by the glaciers. But we aren’t talking about producing a population of these critters and releasing them into the wild; we are talking about producing a very few animals for study. They will be pampered, coddled, and contained.
This is what science is supposed to be – a journey of discovery.