Category Archives: Wildlife

Heiko Bleher Candidly On South American Amazon Watershed Disaster

Heiko Bleher Candidly On South American Amazon Watershed Disaster

I had the opportunity to meet with Heiko Bleher in Illinois as a guest of Greg Wittstock at Aquascape. We met after the day was done and Mr. Bleher spent a great deal of time with a small group of three people illuminating the crisis in the Amazon.

There’s a LOT we don’t get told here in the United States and one of those things is the evaporation of a LOT of lakes and rivers on the planet. A function of Global Warming or the end of an Ice Age or both. But there are lakes in Europe that once held considerable biodiversity in aquarium fish that are now nearly extinct.

He saw a LOT of South America and the Amazon Basin when it was pristine in the 70’s. And now he goes back, and most of those areas are populated as cities and the rest is being mined, clear cut or polluted vastly.

In South America the situation is DIRE because a lack of proper waste treatment and a burgeoning population is putting STRATOSPHERIC amounts of garbage and raw sewage into the Amazon. And decimating populations of fish. He shows pictures of a sea of plastic packaging, containers, refuse and opaque water rushing to the ocean.

I am very glad he shows video and pictures of what’s happening.

Rainforest clear-cutting is silting the Amazon and extincting species as fast as they’re discovered.

The freshwater dolphin is threatened.

Heiko was a pioneer for the aquarium fish trade in the seventies and eighties. He saw a LOT of South America and the Amazon Basin when it was pristine. And now he goes back, and most of those areas are populated as cities and the rest is being mined, clear cut or polluted vastly. Most of the species he catalogued are extinct. He told me about a red tail gouramy that was stunning in multiple colors, before he could get back to collect some, the region was clearcut and the species was “done”. He showed me a picture. It would have been called Osphrenemus rainbowii. If you named it by looks. The “white” areas you see on some Red Tail Giants was absolutely pearlescent in those Goramy.

So I said all that to say THIS:   I was delighted when I got on Youtube and found his video that delves into this, WITH PICTURES. If you didn’t see it, you would NOT believe it.

Heiko Bleher Candidly On South American Watershed Disaster

The sound volume is low, but the words are as important as they are quiet. 

Copperheads as a liability to pets in residential areas

Residential Copperheads

Copperheads live around people, with no problem because we attract the rodents that they love to eat so much. Their favorite is a mouse, perhaps a second favorite would be a chipmunk, and then a rat.

Since copperheads can live where it is dry or wet, even living in the water on a rare occasion, it stands to reason that where they live has everything to do with what they eat. If a copperhead has grown up eating frogs, it is going to end up living closer to the water, whereas most copperheads live near the house where mice and rats may drink.

If I needed to find a copperhead on your property, I would go where water seems to be dripping slowly over time, for example near the air conditioning condenser outside by the house. When a mouse comes to drink, the copperhead gets his dinner.

If I had to trap a copperhead, I would lay a piece of plywood on the ground in moist leaf litter somewhere within 50 yards of standing water, especially a creek. I would come back several months later and expect to find a copperhead curled up underneath that piece of plywood.

Herpetologists use big sheets of roofing tin in suitable environments to catch the various snakes that they are wanting to study.

To recap let me mention that copperheads go where the food is. And they tend to like it moist and humid. While it is true that they do not much like the water, and would avoid swimming if possible, they like the various food that lives near the water and depends on it, so the further you get away from water, the less likely it is that you will see a copperhead.

Their biology specifies that they should like to be very warm at all times, so you may find them laying on the road at the end of the day enjoying the heat and to the converse, one of the reasons that so many copperhead bites occur in the spring and the fall is because the copperheads may be lethargic in temperatures closer to 50 and 60 in which case they do not effectively evade their so-called predator, your dog If they’re not hidden by the time it cools off.

Invariably, a copperhead would rather stay out of the way and be undetected, then stand and fight.

I am including a picture of a copperhead so that you can recognize it.

Features that identify a copperhead include hourglass shaped markings on the back, a pleasing pink and orange color, usually, a broadhead that does not taper into the body, slit like pupils, and Copperheads will often have a yellow tail. The snake is usually very thick in the middle, if it is an adult.

What about copperheads living in the water? I have seen it asserted that copperheads are not water snakes but that is not universally true and it nearly got me bitten one time. It is true that 98% of the “copperheads” that you see living in the water are actually banded watersnake’s, also called northern watersnake’s. These may be quite orange in color and resemble a copperhead considerably, except their heads are typically narrow and their pupils are big and round.

One time, I was reaching for a so-called watersnake except I noticed it’s markings were distinctly hourglass shaped and the snake was far more coral colored and what I have been catching earlier. Before I put my hand on it I realized I was looking at a coil of an actual copperhead who I guess, was down at my creek catching a frog for breakfast.

Northern Banded Water Snake note the narrow head and by the way Copperheads hate swimming.

The copperhead does have a few natural predators*, perhaps the largest of which is the king snake. That’s a large black snake with thin yellow bands, it really loves eating copperheads and can survive the bite of a copperhead with no problem somehow. It is not at all uncommon to find one snake completely engulfing another snake. And it is always the big black snake that is swallowing the orange and coral colored copperhead. Pretty cool, and a good argument to let those king snakes live around your house.

The eastern king snake is a Hunter of copperheads.

The eastern king snake is a Hunter of copperheads.

*besides us

Besides laying a piece of plywood in a strategic location in order to gather up the specimens in your area, it is possible to trap copperheads, ( and every other kind of snake ) by making a 12 inch tall fence at the edge of your woods with bird netting. The snakes will try to push their way through a 1 inch mesh and when it hits the mid body it will trap them, and they will not be able to back out because their scales fold back in one direction. Sadly this will catch and kill most snakes.

Perhaps as a parent you will have to make a decision regarding this if you have three and six-year-olds wandering the yard who may be vulnerable to a snakebite. I would never set a fence trap like this at the expense of beneficial snakes because I personally do not still have small children without the sense to avoid them.

Reprehensible because it kills good snakes as well as bad.
Reprehensible because it kills good snakes as well as bad.

To close my discussion of copperheads in residential environments and as a liability to your pet, let me advise you that if you carry your dog or cat to the vet with a copperhead bite, please inquire as to the application of something called DMSO, which is a topical liniment that I have found very valuable and limiting the damage to the tissue as done by a copperhead bite. I, professionally, would never treat a copperhead bite without it. I am also a big fan of steroids in large doses to minimize the lytic damage to the tissues near the bite.

Secondary infections in the area of the bite are also common, especially bites to the face, bacteria seem to enjoy the necrosing tissue in the vicinity of the strike and so I believe that antibiotics are indicated in the case of most bites.

Heron and Deer Scare That Works Every Time

You can make a Heron and Deer Scare That Works Every Time for about $70 with materials you get on amazon.com

 It’s pretty simple to make and it relies on LIGHT and A LOT OF NOISE to scare off a critter. You need the following:

  • $15 – 5 Gallon Bucket with lid (Green’s nice CLICK)
  • $25  – Black and Decker Jigsaw WITHOUT BLADE and handle taped ON (Click)
  • $15 – Motion Detector Floodlight that takes Standard Spots.  (Click)
  • $8 – A Light Socket to Outlet Adapter (Polarized!) (Click)
  • A drill to put some holes in the bucket
  • $15 – Stainless Steel nuts and bolts. (Click)
Deer and Heron Scare You Can Make for $70 Works Every Time
Click for giant printable version

 

Cat Colonies and What You Should Know.

So there was a question on NextDoor about someone who wanted to cultivate a ‘cat colony’ of ferals to control rodent populations. The idea was that ferals and other cats that wouldn’t ‘fit’ in residential homes could at LEAST subsist with basic shots and veterinary care as outdoor cats feeding on rodents, and then whatever the colony volunteers would put out.

Concerns about coyotes and other predators, as well as the difficulties in managing disease and injuries came up in the conversation. Cats running around leaving foot prints on everything and sacking trash cans and groceries in garages as well as predation on bird feeding stations all started fires on the board.

Then the following comprehensive response from a reader which was so good I asked if I could put it up on the website.

So here it is: About Cat Colonies For Rodent Control.

https://wildlife.org/rats-feral-cats-fail-at-urban-rodent-control/

https://www.mnn.com/family/pets/stories/are-feral-cats-answer-rat-infestations

When I lived in Atlanta, years ago, I assisted a group that maintained a naturally occurring feral cat colony. It was A LOT of work and expense.

Feral cats live an average of 8 years in an urban/suburban environment. To keep the colony healthy, the cats had to be captured humanely each year, vaccinated/vetted and returned to their colony. They also have to be fed, and suitable shelter must be provided during adverse weather or they will take up residence under the first available safe, heated structure.

These are not pets. They are coyote food, and will attract predators that feed on them and other targets.

They do not want to be petted or handled.

Food is expensive but without it, there is no means of keeping them healthy as cat does not live by mouse alone and without feeding, they begin to seek other food sources such as trash cans and other opportunities.

I strongly urge you to interview some “colony keepers”  before launching this idea.

Are you really willing to invest so much time and money into maintaining a colony for it’s lifetime? 8 – 12 years is a huge commitment.

Believe me, you don’t want to go out in freezing weather to feed this dependent every day. Who cares them when you decide to move, or have other life circumstances that take you away from the area?

You will have, early on, lots of volunteers but that will fade over time. Then what?

Like too many intentionally placed colonies, the volunteers stop with the time and money, and then you have a colony of sick and malnourished cats that are YOUR RESPONSIBILITY.  A lower grade cat food such as Cat Chow is $20 for a 15lb bag that will last about a week for 5 cats.

A mousetrap is $1.95

 

 

 

 

Downloads:

Are feral cats the answer to rat infestations

rats_feral_cats_fail_at_urban_rodent_control

A Fox With Scabies Won’t Stop Itching.

“That is a fox with sarcoptic mange. You can tell it’s a fox by the white tip on its tail, and the mange is what causes the hair loss and scabbing. We had a very similar looking one that hung out in/around our backyard for two weeks in late June/early July, and it looked a lot like this one does in the photo (it’s tail hair was completely gone, face was scabby, but the sides had a bit more hair. It was too busy itching to hunt for itself, though). If it is the same one we had, it looks a bit stouter than the last time I saw it, and if it’s hunting again instead of just itching constantly that’s a great sign ?? ”

Tom: Can the Department of Natural Resources not capture and render aid to this sick creature that does man no harm?

Me: Tom T. it would be worth a call, but (and others will share this experience) the DNR turfs these “hot potatoes” off to Cobb County’s Animal Control, for logistical and expense reasons. Then you call Cobb County’s Animal Control and they, too, for logistical and expense reasons, send you back to the DNR. But it may still be worth a phone call, and they might know a rehabilitator. I’ll be honest though, if this Fox gets on too many radars, the responsible authorities with oversight on the case and a desire not to appear ‘asleep at the wheel’ are likely to trap and euthanize it. Which again, may be best for the critter. Maybe not.

Wildlife Resources Division

2070 U S Highway 278, SE
Social Circle, GA 30025-4711
(706) 557-3333

Me: Again, this is a great group of people for caring so much. Totally concur, fox (probably grey, not red, but damn can you really tell?) with mange (most likely) or extensive ringworm (much less likely). And yes, I think obtaining Ivermectin is a decent thing to do… I don’t know about the legality of it, but come on.

Me: What’s linked below is a 1% solution which would (hypothetically) be used at 0.40ml per day x 21 days. There are many other potential treatments but in my humble opinion, this dose is safe, for the fox and for other animals that might pick up the morsel*, and is cost effective and easy.

Me: Giving the morsel (or even meal) on the daily x 21 days will (hypothetically) build condition and may even save kits if there are any.) Again though, I don’t know how DNR looks at you guys feeding (let alone scabicides) in wild carnivores. Imma leave that up to you to figure out, (or ignore).

I cannot lawfully diagnose, lay hands on, nor treat wild carnivores. But Ivermectin is available on Amazon as below, and doses on stuff are common Interweb fodder.

As a side note: No matter how “tame” or grateful that thing seems (or becomes), do not make the mistake of befriending, approaching or handling it. You’ll (ultimately) be sorry. So will the Fox.
https://amzn.to/315GzKh

*Morsel: A person (hypothetically) wanting to get Ivermectin into a ~20lb wild animal like that would, hypothetically speaking, inject 0.4 ml 1% Ivermectin into a chunk of raw Salmon, or raw chicken dark meat and leave it under partial cover (adjacent to safety and a hiding spot for the wild animal) and hopefully out of the purview of domestic animals. And would hypothetically do that on-the-daily x 21 days. There are some risks to the animal but hypothetically speaking, that pet would be better off dead than struggling like that, and it has a halfway decent chance of ‘normal’ with what you’d be doing, hypothetically.

Are Eastern Box Turtles Protected From Being Pets in Georgia?

Eastern Box Turtles caught in Georgia are not “okay” to keep as pets in Georgia.

Basics of their needs and sexual dimorphism:  Needs to be within a couple thousand yards of drinking water and humidity. Male has red eyes, female, has orange or brown.

box turtles as pets
Illegal as pet if caught locally. But feel free to ship as many as you want out of state to sell out of state. They won’t even go GET them if they’re sitting at a wholesale out of state.

Legal (however) to harvest by the thousands and sell out of state and overseas:
http://market.kingsnake.com/index.php?cat=129
If you find one that’s been damaged on the road: I can treat and release at no cost.
Roaming ‘home’ after capture is a popular misbelief. It’s true that (especially) male box turtles have a “territory” and they will patrol their enclosure for a while after capture to “see” about an escape route –  but they will not cross the country to get back to their birthplace.

They make marvelous pets, eat very well on common low protein dog food (low protein is the key or feed Mazuri Box Turtle Food (hello Amazon!)
I would feel guilty keeping a *country* wild-caught Box Turtle as a pet because in the middle of nowhere and away from mowers, those have half a chance.
The majority of ‘yard box turtles’ however; end up dog-gnawed, mowed in the lawn, starved for lack of slugs worms berries and mushrooms, or hit in the road.

Turtles have been my ‘jam’ since I was 7 years old, which was a very long time ago. We had more Box Turtles in Marietta in 1975 – they would have 5 crawling around on Old Canton road after any rain. I know enough about turtles to have captive bred a threatened species. Geochelone denticulata

Babybirds

Baby Birds Baby Bird

There was an excellent dialogue on Nextdoor. Contributors made excellent points and I put several of those answers together into this document which separates certain facts from older myths.

What To Do With an Injured or Orphaned Bird _ Audubon New York

This baby bird is in trouble. Note eyes closed and lateral position.

Carli:  A healthy baby chick has bright clear open eyes, is able to stand on its own and will try to fly or hop away when approached. If it’s on the ground and healthy the mother will be screaming an alarm to stay away as she keeps an eye on it. Some birds like Robins learn to fly from the ground, not from the nest. Even so… they are always targets for predation from multiple sources from cats, dogs, opossums, raccoons, snakes, rats, ANTS and even children. Not to mention other larger birds like crows who will snatch it up for a meal! Last Spring a baby robin hopping on the ground, exercising its wings trying to fly was snatched up by one such Crow. It carried it up to the banister of our deck – another crow flew up opposite as they each grabbed a leg and began tearing it apart, eating it alive before I could get down there. Horrifying but that’s what happens in nature.
You cannot leave this little bird lying on its side with its eyes closed unattended (it’s not a healthy, aware chick) and must keep a watchful eye on it until its mother comes to guard it but only if it’s healthy and a bird who originates is flight from the ground. Anyone who says leave it alone-mother will take care of it- is uninformed without more information . She will be unable to care for a bird that has fallen from a nest that still needs to be there and originates its flight from that platform. Simple sense.
Birds easily go into shock and most often when they do they don’t survive as their systems are so delicate.

http://ny.audubon.org/birds-0birdsways-help/what-do-injured-or-orphaned-bird

▪The Audubon link above gives precise directions and accurate information on what to do. (Thank you for sharing!)

? Thank you for having a heart to rescue!

Another Post: “I found a bird outside on the ground last year. She was so tiny and didn’t have feathers. I was her dad for three months. I fed her dry dog food that you let sit in water. When it’s mushy feed him three times a day a tiny bit…one day she started flying but stayed close. Then one day she flew away and didn’t come back. It was awesome…”

“Chattahoochee Nature Center said they don’t handle small birds cases. They gave a phone number for another person who could help…”

Another Post: “For future reference: I don’t know if this is true, but I have always heard that humans should not touch baby birds or other young wild animals because their mothers will smell the human scent* and then reject them.”

Another Post: “Chattahoochee nature center for sure and they told me it’s not true about humans touching them and the mother won’t have anything to do with him.”

Fact: If the parent bird senses that the baby is ‘broken’ -OR- They feel unsafe landing nearby, they will abandon it. You can handle the bird at least enough to give water or shade or move it 10-15 feet (tops) to more secluded or secure area.

How to give water to a baby bird:
From a syringe. Try not to hold the water source (syringe or dropper) ABOVE the bill or you risk overflow, and putting water in the lungs. Even if the bird is actively taking water, do it in drops, not a stream. Aspiration of water or food into the lungs is very common. Take it slow.

Another Post:  “Chattahoochee Nature Center said they don’t handle small birds cases. They gave a phone number for another person who could help, but her voice message says she is too busy and she will call me back when she gets a chance! Thanks everyone for the help :)”

Another Post: “404-488-7037 she is awesome took in a bird we found and got back to health.”

See also: For Pets Sake – An avian practice in Decatur which has an outreach.