News from the Wider Wild World

I’m working on the remaining posts about my experiences in Oregon, but a time crunch and the unexpected arrival of a wolverine kit in my life have meant that I’ve had less time than usual to write for this blog.

Okay. He’s not really a wolverine kit, he’s my roommate’s 20 month old son. But if ever a human child embodied the wolverine’s ability to wreak havoc in enclosed spaces, this kid is it. Much like Jasper and Banff in the PBS documentary, this child climbs people and furniture, plays with power cords in potentially life-threatening ways, and destroys everything left in his path. He does better when he’s taken outside and exercised, which is how I’ve been spending the time I would normally spend writing. This is fine, for a limited time, and I really like this child, but it has certainly validated my decision not to have kids. So for now, I’m going to be lame and simply post links to a couple of interesting but random wildlife stories that have appeared recently.

First, another piece about snow leopards, and the work of Rodney Jackson to preserve these beautiful animals in mountain ranges from Mongolia to the Himalayas. Snow leopards and wolverines probably share habitat in Mongolia, and learning more about their interactions will be interesting as my work in Mongolia goes forward. Jackson employs a number of techniques that I admire, including working closely with communities and adopting a humble rather than a “foreign expert” role in those communities.

For subscribers to High Country News, a new article highlights the effects of climate change on snowshoe hares in the Rockies. The piece focuses on the work of Scott Mills of the University of Montana, as he tracks 30 collared hares through Montana’s Seeley-Swan Valley. He and his team are trying to figure out how camouflage and color shifts work in hares, and what diminishing snow cover has in store for the species. If color shifts are triggered by changes in day length, then there will be a lot of white hares on bare ground in the fall and spring as snow comes later and leaves earlier. If color shifts are triggered by weather and temperature, on the other hand, then the hares might possess a range of adaptive options and might face less threat as climate change accelerates. Some of Mills’ data suggest that the latter scenario might be the case. I’m amazed and kind of delighted to learn that we still don’t know how color changes work in any of the numerous species that use this strategy. Once in a while, I enjoy a nice, positivist puzzle, and this one could turn out to be particularly interesting.

E.O. Wilson, in book chapter entitled “Two Magnificent Animals,” wrote that he particularly admired wolverines. I’ve written about this, but I never specified that the second magnificent animal of the chapter title is the pitchfork ant, one of the world’s rarest ant species. The blog’s focus on wolverines leaves little room to consider other species, but I agree with Wilson’s opening words on the pitchfork ant:”This is how I see living species: masterpieces, legends.” So I was pleased to learn a little about Oregon’s lesser-known threatened and endangered species, species that share ranks with the wolverine but aren’t (yet) fortunate enough to have a broad-based constituency.

About 25,000 years ago, people in what is now the Czech Republic buried several dogs, apparently wedging a mammoth bone into the mouth of one of them so that the dog would have something to play with in the afterlife. In the beginning of the 21st century – which will be remembered as the era in which it became acceptable to carry tea-cup sized canids to the grocery store in a purse, and in which the quality-of-life of  American dogs surpassed the quality-of-life of humans in many other parts of the world – the discovery of these burials is big news. I like dogs, so I was interested in reading the article on its own terms, but I was especially interested to note that wolverine bones were also found at the site. Further information about the wolverine bones isn’t easily available, but I may go looking through the archaeological literature in hopes of finding out more.




National Geographic article


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