Friday, August 5, 2011

Times Are Strange: TOTRTG 2011 Wildlife Report

Bob Dylan’s words,  “People are crazy and times are strange …” are even more true in 2011 than they were in 2010.  I’ll leave politics aside and stick to nature where there is also plenty to talk about.

Last year I reported on beach closings in Cape Cod due to sightings of great white sharks  cruising just offshore. The sharks have once again returned to the waters of Chatham, MA where the protected seals continue to multiply. The local economy has reaped an unexpected boom:  tourism is down 4% in other parts of the Cape, but it is up 15% in Chatham, due apparently, at least in part, to the droves of vacationers who visit the town in hopes of seeing a great white with their own eyes. In early July, operators of Beachcomber Boat Tours were reporting a 20% increase in revenues, and that was before Discovery Channel’s Shark Week which featured Jaws Comes Home, filmed in Chatham by a crew that included Celine Cousteau, granddaughter of the late oceanographer Jacques Cousteau.

The water was perfect, but no one was going in.

Beachgoers on the Connecticut shoreline are currently running the risk of jellyfish stings when they take a dip. The lion’s mane jellyfish have made an early return to the warm waters of Long Island Sound. The stings are painful but not life-threatening: lifeguards keep a bottle of vinegar solution on-hand as a remedy. None of them has duplicated the unfortunate error made just over a year ago by a Rye, NH lifeguard, who removed a lion’s mane weighing nearly 50 pounds from the water using a pitchfork. He did not realize the dead jellyfish’s disintegrated tentacles were still active. About 100 bathers had to be treated for jellyfish stings after the parts dispersed into the water.

Coyotes are still very much in the news in New Haven. In June the Independent wrote about a young one being enticed out of harm’s way by a police lieutenant wielding a turkey sandwich. 

Black bear sightings are becoming more commonplace throughout the state of Connecticut

But nothing can beat the dramatic tale of the mountain lion who ventured all the way from the Black Hills of South Dakota only to be struck and killed by a car on the Wilbur Cross Parkway on June 11 in Milford, some 10 miles from here.Tests performed on tissue from the deceased animal confirmed a match in genetic structure to that of the  mountain lion population in North Dakota. When the dead lion’s DNA was compared to DNA* retrieved from the scat [poop], blood, and hair of an animal traveling through Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan last year, it was found to be an exact genetic match. The two animals were one in the same.

Young male mountain lions do travel in search of a mate, but rarely more than a distance of 100 miles. Why did this one roam so far? Where was it going? 

DEEP Commissioner Daniel C. Esty stated, “The journey of this mountain lion is a testament to the wonders of nature and the tenacity and adaptability of this species.  This mountain lion traveled a distance of more than 1,500 miles from its original home in South Dakota – representing one of the longest movements ever recorded for a land mammal and nearly double the distance ever recorded for a dispersing mountain lion.”

Henry David Thoreau wrote, “We need the tonic of wildness…We can never have enough of nature.” I would argue that wild and wonderful nature is all around us, with tonic aplenty if we just take a moment to notice and look upon it with awe. 

Please visit again for future reports on my own backyard sighting, an alert about some unwelcome invaders lurking on Connecticut’s borders, and a special update on good things which have been happening in New Haven…

*To get a better understanding of DNA (and how it can be analyzed), check out the site of personal genome service 23andMe23andMe's “mission is to be the world's trusted source of personal genetic information,” while also providing tools and information to understand your DNA. The short clips found in the Genetics 101 section of their site provide an entertaining yet thorough summary of the basics of genetics.  Even though the clips are largely referencing people, not animals, you will get the idea. 23andMe hopes, I’m sure, that you will be so intrigued that you will want to trust them to break your own unique code. Go on, take the plunge, you know you want to.

1 comment:

  1. I love the way your blog keeps me posted on all kinds of happenings in our area! Thank you.