When dog owners yank on their dog’s collar, they might be doing more damage than they could ever imagine; every time your dog yanks on its leash, it may be causing long-lasting negative health effects. Just imagine wearing a leash yourself, and now imagine having someone pull on it. When people think of it in this way, they often start to realize that collars might not be the best option for their pets.
How Can A Collar Hurt Your Dog?
Dog breeds that pull on their leashes a lot tend to have a lot of thyroid issues. Many veterinarians speculate that thyroid problems happen when a leash pushes on your dog’s thyroid regularly; this consistent trauma can eventually lead to inflammation and bruising.
When your dog’s thyroid gets inflamed, its immune system sends white blood cells to the area to remove the inflammation. The white blood cells do get rid of the inflammation, but they eventually start to wear down the thyroid. Over a long period of time, this leads to a lot of thyroid issues.
Ear And Eye Damage
When a dog pulls on its leash, it restricts blood flow to its eyes and ears. When blood flow is cut off on a regular basis, it causes swelling, and constant swelling damages your dogs organs and appendages.
Dog collars can damage the nerves in your dog’s front legs. When your dog’s nerves are hurt, it causes a tingly feeling in their front paws, and most dogs will lick their paws to try to make them feel better. If your dog has a problem with paw licking, you might want to consider using a harness instead of a collar.
Yanking on a leash can give your dog whiplash; it’s never a good idea to jerk any type of animal’s neck quickly. Oftentimes, dogs don’t understand why their leash jerks their neck, so they become frustrated, depressed or aggressive.
The best way to prevent neck, nerve and thyroid damage is to get your dog a harness. When your dog pulls on a harness, it doesn’t hurt its body as much as a collar does. A properly fitted harness keeps your dog comfortable, and it helps you control your dog without a risk of injury.
They sound so good but is that a valid rescue group? How to evaluate animal rescues credibility and worthiness.
Please read to make sure donations are not going to a scam
We are approaching the dawn of a new era. For the first time in history, there are over 70 open admissions No Kill shelters spanning more than 200 cities, towns and communities. New communities are appearing almost monthly. An emphasis by the public on saving pets from kill shelters is more popular than ever.
In tandem with this effort to save pets from kill-shelters has grown the number of rescues necessary to save their lives. There are an estimated 20000 rescues across the country according to the ASPCA and Petfinder lists at least 13000 shelters and rescues online.
Most rescues are motivated by their love of animals and truly are the backbone of all lifesaving from kill shelters in the country today. If not for their dedication, time, perseverance and altruism the numbers killed would increase by millions per year. When done often and right it is exhausting but exhilarating with some heartache thrown in for good measure. And it’s expensive. It costs a great deal to pull these animals and to care for their myriad of issues medically as well as to provide daily food, care, and shelter until adopted. Most rescues are never short on compassion but most are operating on a shoestring budget and continually must receive funding in order to survive.
However, the public loves companion animals and are willing to dig deep to see them saved, especially if they are not in a position to foster or adopt more themselves. The internet facilitates the impulse and mechanism of donating with ease. Unfortunately for these same reasons, some “rescues” have arisen that are not completely ethical and whose main goal is to make money for themselves. These less than savory rescues have honed social media heartwrenching down to an economic science.
One fantastic tool for all rescues is Facebook. A network of followers can be built and expanded. Links can be included to accept donations and to the rescue’s website if they have one. The popularity of the rescue on Facebook, however, does not always correlate with its integrity. A long time ago, when the Internet first became commercially feasible there was a cartoon in the New Yorker. It was a dog typing on a keyboard in front of the computer and the caption read “No one knows I am a dog on the Internet”. That still holds true today. Because on the Internet a glib, maudlin, catchy story or appealing presence may not reveal the reality of those we deal with.
Many rescues appear worthy and most of us have a limited amount of disposable income to part with. So the question becomes how can you tell is the rescue asking for funds on the Internet is credible.
The main goal of a real and worthy rescue (other than those that state they are a sanctuary) is to take in and then adopt out companion animals. This is the type of rescue we are examining in this article. They want to do this as often as possible because they are in the business of saving lives and it’s a number game. The more they pull – the more they adopt out – the more they save. In order to do this successfully, the real rescues need to employ a series of lifesaving mechanisms. If they are not performing any or few of these strategies they are most likely not saving very many lives.
The worthiness of the rescue often does not correlate with the amount in funding it receives. Often those factors have an inverse relationship because small hardworking rescues don’t have time to do the marketing that makes others so popular, real rescues are too busy saving animals lives. Also, worthy rescues would never engage in the type of unethical sales strategies that sometimes result in the most donations.
Here are some GUIDELINES and factors to help determine if you should donate to the rescue or not:
1. Donate locally.
Do you personally know these people?
Can you visit their facility if they have one?
Can you visit their foster homes or adoption events?
2. If you choose to donate to people with rescues you have only seen online and on Facebook proceed with great caution.
An overriding rule of thumb is to follow the money trail. Ascertain how much they are receiving in cash or goods and exactly how it is all being used. Is it documented? If not – stay clear.
Many will hide behind their cover of a 501 c 3 Federal IRS tax-exempt status. The IRS liberally grants the 501 c 3 designations to animal welfare organizations. Just because they bamboozled the IRS into receiving that designation does not mean they are credible. The questions the IRS asks to receive this ability to collect tax-free money is not necessarily an indicator nor deterrent to those that plan to misuse this status to fraudulently steal your cash. In fact, these unsavory rescues are literally banking on that status to gain your instant trust and as a lure since donations are tax-deductible to the contributor.
3. Avoid rescues that do the following:
Sound like a country western song with their constant tales of woe – if they are using a constant string of personal tragedies to lure you in then whether they are for real or not, they are not in a great position to care for animals when they cannot even take care of themselves adequately
Avoid those that use manipulation to tug on your heart and wallet strings
Beg for money because they are themselves near starvation and can barely pay their bills
Discuss their personal tragedies and how it is affecting their ability to care for animals; for example, if they state they had a break in and are asking for a large sum of money to allegedly replace what was stolen because without it they and the animals are going to starve or be severely harmed – you must question this. How do you know that actually happened? Ask for facts – who what where how and double check. For example was a police report filed? Were people really arrested as alleged? Etc. Don’t hesitate to call the police to check. You need to be able to ascertain that their sob story facts did in fact occur. If not do NOT give them a penny. This type of story is a RED FLAG and most credible rescues wouldn’t capitalize on it even if true.
4. Avoid those that refuse to be transparent and answer questions about anything regarding their rescue
Note if on Facebook or on websites or blogs if they have specific questions and answers regarding facts about their rescue, if not beware
Do they answer rescue related or specific animals in their care questions posed by others? If no then stay clear.
Ask for copies of their 990 (IRS tax return) and application to obtain the 501c3 status. If they refuse to give it to you – report them to their state Attorney General’s Office and the IRS.
5. Avoid those that do not clearly report and identify how many they rescue and adopt out
6. Stay clear of rescues that on their Internet presence post few pics of those they claim to have up for adoption or is in foster.
Avoid them if there are very few if any local people commenting on the pets in their care they have seen, adopted, or fostered.
7. Steer clear of those that do have an internet presence but mainly post pics of themselves with the pets
Real rescues usually have pics only of the pets in their care and the only humans in their pics are usually happy adopters.
A real rescue does not have time to for cutesy or heart-wrenching blogs with many details that are irrelevant to specific pets they are trying to get adopted out. Avoid.
8. Steer clear of rescues that have blogs that focus on a myriad of tragedies specifically geared to get you to DONATE NOW, but not to necessarily get the pet in the story adopted. No pet in the story? Then doubly avoid.
9. Avoid them if they don’t have a clear focus on adopting their pets out. Everything they write and every action they take should have rehoming the pets in their care as a priority (unless they are clearly a stated sanctuary) Always keep in mind the lifesaving worthiness of a rescue is may be evaluated by how many and how often they take in and then adopt out, as this continual, difficult and expensive process is the ONLY way more can be saved.
Avoid the rescue if they have many posts about non-pet related subjects such as smiley face or arts.
Avoid them if even in jest they discuss doing anything illegal including drugs use.
If the rescue in question saves a few but doesn’t clearly focus their efforts on rehoming the pets so that they can continue to pull and save more, and instead only keeps asking the public to DONATE NOW, avoid at all costs.
10. Avoid the rescue if they or associated businesses have fake reviews per Yelp, Google or other review sites
Avoid the rescue if they fundraise in the memory of pets that are actually still alive or conversely fundraise for pets that are non-existent or already dead. note: the following example was not part of this original article by the author, Alison Hector and only added as an example by the blogger reposting the article [example; the group, Rescue Dogs Rock has been observed on multiple occasions seeking out tragic situations so they can insert themselves into the rescue and then use the story to raise money. RDR raised thousands of dollars by selling T-shirts using the memory and tragic story of Caleb the little puppy that died a horrible death; then when a legitimate group was working to find Caleb’s killer by hiring a private detective and working with the DA they reached out to Rescue Dogs Rock to join forces but Rescue Dogs Rock refused to help and even bad-mouthed the group trying to find the killer—Perfect example of a fraudulent rescue group only in it for the money]
11. Avoid with all cost if the rescue sues anyone for changing their mind about donating!
REDFLAG Especially avoid rescues that slander those that question their transparency or because they have asked valid questions, as a smokescreen to divert attention away from their lack of being forthright. This is especially true when the defamation in turn actually may have the effect of then harming more pets because those being slandered are also in animal welfare or rescue. If unsure of motives always ask who has the most to gain financially in the situation?
Just because a rescue has many followers or “likes” on Facebook does not mean they are on the up and up. It may be that they lucked into a gimmick or became associated with a popular Facebook page. It may just mean they understand human psychology, how to play people like a timeworn violin, and are fantastic at marketing aimed at kind people’s vulnerable soft spots for animals.
Many times these organizations are so bold they are clearly not what they purport to be if looked at with a knowledgeable eye and/or are receiving more in funds than they should be, given their actual rate of lifesaving but the public is unaware of how to evaluate a credible rescue. Even on the face of their own stories, their rescue doesn’t justify the amounts collected, but people are sucked in by their clever stories and don’t know what the hallmarks are of a good rescue that deserves funding really looks like.
Even when the less than honorable rescue has posts regarding a pet in their care, they insert themselves often into the story and do not focus on information relevant to getting the pet adopted. They discuss and use emotions designed to get the public to donate. They also often focus on the “irresponsible public” and use fictionalized details of sometimes even exaggerated abuse that they could not possibly know. Here is an example of a story from a rescue that employs this emotional manipulation to receive donations but does not focus on getting this pet adopted and one should be cautious about donating to :
“I received a desperate call. The woman was crying so hysterically I barely could understand what was being said. I told her not to worry I am there for her, please calm down. Her neighbor was frequently starving and beating a dog that was tied to a tree. The neighbor moved away and left her there. She described the many scars and how deep they were. I also started crying as I always do whenever I hear cases of such abuse. She left many messages, at many rescues but they never called her back or just told her to call me since everyone knows I am the only one to always lend a helping hand. I was very busy with my many dogs and myself crying hysterically over having to put one down but of course, I made time to call her back right away! Plus I freakin love unadoptable dogs! I heard the desperation in her voice as she cried “ Please please help me – you are the only one that might and animal control wants to kill him right away” So, I took a deep breath, and said yes I am the angel you were searching for but I have to be honest with you. ( Side note – these phony rescues use the words “being honest” quite frequently in their writings)I said as much as I want to help this poor dog, I’m beyond over-loaded with rescue dogs right now, so I’m not really sure that I can help. But I promise I’m willing to do everything I can to try and find someone else who can.
Then… I heard hysterical crying on the other end of the line.
She screamed out “Ellen, please! I am begging you! I’ve already tried everyone else. Anyone who was willing to talk to me… was only willing to help… by giving me your number. If you can’t help this dog… you and I both know… no one will… and she will die!” I knew she was right. So, I promised to contact her back after back and hung up. I reviewed our limited funds to see if I could help or not. Even though we couldn’t really afford it I called her back because I didn’t want the dog to die. I wasn’t sure of what I was even going to say I was so upset for that poor innocent baby. Then I just blurted out “when can you be here” The next morning, the lady and her family drove more than 6 hours to deliver my new baby to All Dog Rescue. When they arrived, it was love at first sight. I named her Peace because I had to pick up the pieces of her broken soul.
And in return, Peace’s smile reminded me… of what I do… and why I do it. It’s never about me. It’s always about them. (NOTE – this type of story IS about the rescuer as much or more than the pet) And when they really need you… you always find a way… *Peace has a long expensive road of recovery ahead. In addition to her many injuries inflicted by careless mean owners & massive additional issues, she is also heartworm positive, which requires even more extensive, costly treatment. If you’d like to contribute to Peace’s care and her future, please Donate NOW.”
* Pics are included of the rescuer with the dog – hugging and kissing her*
So here at Pet Advocates Network we will give you GUIDELINES on how to evaluate dollar worthy rescues so funding can go where it does the most good:
A Good and Worthy Rescue:
1. Has a mission statement. It is usually to save as many shelter pets as possible by pulling them from shelters and then adopting them out. That is usually their number one goal – to get them into forever homes. Or they also more rarely accept owner-relinquished pets directly or are a sanctuary that does not adopt out. In any event, their goals should be clearly stated and then clearly followed.
If you want to donate only to rescue that claims it is “no kill” you must examine that claim.
2. The worthy rescue is transparent and hows no problem listing and answering the following questions:
If possible use one year as the uniform specified period of time with most recent stats possible
How many pets do you save/take in over a specified period of time?
How many do you adopt out over a specified period of time?
How many do you euthanize over a specified period of time?
Under what conditions do you euthanize?
Do you kill for space?
How many are currently in your care?
What are your hours I can visit?
What is your address and phone number?
Do you rescue pets from your local shelter?
Where do the pets come from?
Who is your vet?
How much did you receive in contributions for a said specified period of time?
Exactly how were the goods and money used?
Where may I get a copy of your 990? * see note on 501c3
If not a 501c3 why not?
How many employees do you have? Volunteers? Fosters?
How do your market your pets?
Do you have adoption events?
Do you have a website?
Are there current pics of the pets?
Do you have an up to date Rescue Groups, Petfinder or AdoptaPet account and listings?
Do you have applications to volunteer, foster and adopt?
3. If they have an Internet presence they liberally use photos of the pets in their care. Photos are the number one way to get a pet adopted as well as receive donations for that particular pet in need:
They post photos of all those in their care. That includes those they take into their facility or foster homes
They post photos of all those adopted
They post photos of adoption events.
They DON’T post endless photos of themselves with the pets.
Sometimes a less than honorable rescue will save a few animals and post a few pics of the small amount they are actually taking care of or have in vet care. They use this lure to get the good-hearted public to donate more to them with claims of their saving many more than are shown or identified.
If they refuse to show photos of all those they say they have saved or have continual excuses for not putting them up. DON’T give them a penny. (The photos of those still in the shelter that the rescue claims they will be pulling don’t count) The photos should be at their location and that should be made obvious. Photos should be recent and kept updated.
4. A worthy rescue has a description of each pet in their care they are trying to rehome and any background of the pet that is known. Also the needs of the pet and what type of home he or she would be well suited for.
REDFLAG Avoid those that insert their own emotion into the description geared to manipulate for more donations. For example, discussing how they cried hysterically or every other tear-jerking ploy or phrase that is not relevant to getting the pet adopted.
EXAMPLE OF A LISTING FROM A CREDIBLE RESCUE:
Hi, my name is Spot and I am a working guard dog. I need an experienced, working dog owner. I came to All Dogs Rescue when another rescue refused to take me because I bit during my transport. The transporter was told to take me back to the shelter where I came from and have me put down. The transporter could not do this so she called us and asked if they could help train me. I was not neutered, had a nasty and painful ear infection and was skinny and starving. ADR is collecting proceeds to assist with this. When the trainer at ADR tried to give me food, I jumped at her and tried to bite the can. She says I was allowed to have these bad manners with other people, but she would not tolerate me acting that way, so straightened me up. My foster mom told me it was a matter of life or death, but I didn’t understand what that meant, I just know she was serious about getting me trained. Now she says I am ready for a home with an experienced owner.
What a perfect home would have A home with an experienced working dog owner. A person who understands how to be the top dog or leader and the need for exercise. NO Children, small dogs or cats.
Several appealing photos of the dog from various angles are included in the post.
5. A worthy rescue’s entire Internet presence is geared toward getting its pets adopted and the following applies to those that are on the Internet.
6. A credible rescue focuses ONLY on marketing their pets, medical care, adoption events, securing volunteers and fosters. In addition to what should constitute a majority of their posts is featuring the pets they have in their care, these are the only other elements they concentrate on. They individual rescuers DON’T focus on themselves, they don’t have cutesy irrelevant stories or post long tear stricken stories about the ones they had to euthanize.
7. A worthy rescue frequently discusses and actively, overtly uses methods for getting pets adopted and that encompasses up to date listings and having a Petfinder account and/or an Adopt a pet account since these are the two most frequently visited websites used by the public to search for a rescue pet.
8. A worthy rescue lists and shows on their website all the ways it is marketing pets to get them adopted. It shows how the public can get involved with specific events or endeavors that result in adoptions. That is usually the main focus of the website.
9. A valid rescue has up to date working links to their applications for fosters, volunteers, and adopters. This is a must for credible rescues that exist to save animals by getting them rehomed. RED FLAG. If a rescue does not have any type of these applications easily available or the link continually says “page not available” then avoid.
10. A valid rescue is known and respected by its LOCAL community. They often support local businesses in a symbiotic relationship. Don’t hesitate to inquire around. In addition, they do not trash other local rescues so as to make sure only they are donated to instead. (Inquiring into a rescues claims or transparency is NOT trashing them. Making up slanderous lies is)
11. A worthy rescue with many resources and plentiful of funding does not send stray dogs on their property to a high kill shelter
On a personal note, I believe a rescue that supports and defends kill shelters and does not advocate for shelter reform should be avoided as well as those that purport to be no-kill simply to gain more donations but are not.
In sum, it is easy to fall for the heart-wrenching Madison Ave infomercial appeal of some less than honorable rescues because of their manipulation and fairytale quality. Just because they are popular on Facebook or have used that to leverage media does not mean they are worthy of your donation.
In a final analysis, the most worthy rescues are putting all their efforts into continual life saving and not busy with writing fairy tales to win a popularity contest and for max donations.
Some less than honorable rescues won’t focus on adopting out their pets or bringing more in even though they ironically have the most resources, because that takes time, money and work. Some will also kill the animals in their care calling it “the last act of kindness” instead of spending their time and money donated to rehome them for the same reasons. What they care most about is taking your money.
Then ask yourself should you give another penny to, vote for, or support a rescue that already for example has well over $100000 or a significant amount in donations for the year, is not transparent, and has just a few animals total with few ever adopted out despite a wealth of resources to do so but instead writes good heart-wrenching stories OR should you donate to a rescue with no personal or engaging hard-luck tales, but is busy trying to save from death row and is verifiably adopting out as many as possible with little support or funding and badly needs your donation?
If you really want to help save lives, before you give another penny determine if the rescue meets or defeats the guidelines and criteria listed above.
Ever wonder why it is so hard to give up cheese? Cheese is addictive; because an ingredient called casein, a protein found in all milk products. During digestion, casein releases opiates called casomorphins. Casomorphins trigger dopamine receptors which activate the addiction.
The opiates from mother’s milk produce a calming effect on the infant and, and is responsible for much of the mother-infant bond. Mother’s milk has a drug-like effect on the baby’s brain that ensures that the baby will bond with Mom and continue to nurse and get the nutrients all babies need.
Cows milk is meant for baby cows, not baby humans. The composition of milk varies widely from animal to animal, providing the perfect first food for the young of that species. A seal’s milk is extraordinarily fatty (50 percent fat) so that seal pups can grow very quickly, depositing a thick layer of blubber that will protect them from the cold and sustain them as they learn to hunt for themselves. Just as we are different from seals, we are not exactly the same as cows either! It won’t surprise you, then, that cows’ milk is very different from human milk – which is why we mustn’t give ordinary cows’ milk, condensed milk, dried or evaporated milk to a child under the age of one. If a human baby is given cows’ milk, it has to be changed into a formula that attempts to replicate human milk. Do you think that cows milk is ideal for humans? Cows’ milk is meant to help a calf grow very rapidly indeed, reaching 47-63 stone (300-400kg) within a year. We, on the other hand, take about 18 years to reach adult weight (a woman of 5’4” has an average weight of about 10 stone 3lbs (65 kg); a 6’ man has an average weight of 13 stone (83 kg)). So, we have very different rates of growth and while cow’s milk and human milk contain a similar percentage of water, the relative amounts of fat, carbohydrate, protein, vitamins and minerals vary widely. So let’s look at four of these main nutrients (for more information see the White Lies report, www. whitelies.org.uk/materials) You’ll soon discover why cows’ milk is ideal for baby cows, but not for humans.
COW’S MILK IS FOR CALVES
Cow’s Milk is the “Perfect Food” for Baby Calves
But Many Doctors Agree It is Not Healthy for Humans
by Michael Dye
People who have been taught that cow’s milk is the “perfect food” may be shocked to hear many prominent medical doctors are now saying dairy consumption is a contributing factor in nearly two dozen diseases of children and adults.
Doctors say cow’s milk can lead to iron deficiency anemia, allergies, diarrhea, heart disease, colic, cramps, gastrointestinal bleeding, sinusitis, skin rashes, acne, increased frequency of colds and flus, arthritis, diabetes, ear infections, osteoporosis, asthma, autoimmune diseases, and more, possibly even lung cancer, multiple sclerosis and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
In American society, one of the most sacred of all sacred cows is the milk of the cow itself. Cow’s milk is more American than apple pie, but that’s because apple pie doesn’t have Congressional lobbyists and a multi-million dollar advertising budget. Most parents wouldn’t think of raising their children without the benefit of cow’s milk to help their little bones to grow big and strong. Its silky, white texture is the very epitome of our concept of wholesome purity.
Our “nutritional education” in school (funded in part by the dairy industry) taught us that dairy products are one of the four basic food groups we all need for proper nutrition. And with more than 60 of the most powerful Congressional leaders in Washington receiving campaign contributions from the National Dairy Council, we can be assured that dairy products are well-entrenched as a major staple of our government-sponsored school lunch programs.
Cow’s milk is promoted as the “perfect food” for humans, and especially for our children. This advertising has put such a strong emphasis on the health of our children that some people view milk commercials as more of a public service announcement than an attempt to sell a product. These ads have told us “Milk is a Natural,” “Everybody Needs Milk,” “Milk is the Perfect Food,” etc. This advertising has served its purpose well because the average American consumes 375 pounds of dairy products a year. One out of every seven dollars spent on groceries in the U.S. goes to buy dairy products.
But to gauge the full impact of this promotion, we must consider more than just the dollar amount spent on dairy products. We must also consider the impact this massive advertising, promotion, lobbying, “nutritional education” and public relations effort has had by creating a widely-held perception of cow’s milk as a very wholesome and healthy product. This promotion has been so effective that it is common for even people who give up meat to still feel that they should continue consuming dairy products to ensure they receive sufficient protein or calcium. People buy cow’s milk for their families based on the premise that this product provides essential nutrition, helps to build a healthy body, and that indeed, their precious health may be in jeopardy if they do not drink milk.
If this is the premise on which Americans spend an incredible chunk of their grocery bill to provide for the health and nutrition of their loved ones, we need to further examine this premise.
Despite what the dairy industry has led us to believe, many medical doctors and nutritionists are now saying that cow’s milk is not healthy for human consumption, and that it can lead to many serious diseases. When you look at the credentials of the doctors making these statements, it would be hard for the dairy industry to accuse these physicians of being on the lunatic fringe of the medical world.
Frank Oski, M.D., author of Don’t Drink Your Milk! is the Director of the Department of Pediatrics of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Physician-in-Chief of the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center. He is the author, co-author, editor or co-editor of 19 medical textbooks and has written 290 medical manuscripts.
In the first chapter of his book, Dr. Oski states, “The fact is: the drinking of cow milk has been linked to iron-deficiency anemia in infants and children; it has been named as the cause of cramps and diarrhea in much of the world’s population, and the cause of multiple forms of allergy as well; and the possibility has been raised that it may play a central role in the origins of atherosclerosis and heart attacks.”
Dr. Oski comments, “Being against cow milk is equated with being un-American,” but still he notes, “Among physicians, so much concern has been voiced about the potential hazards of cow milk that the Committee on Nutrition of the prestigious American Academy of Pediatrics, the institutional voice of practicing pediatricians, released a report entitled, ‘Should Milk Drinking by Children Be Discouraged?’ Although the Academy’s answer to this question has (as of this writing) been a qualified ‘maybe,’ the fact that the question was raised at all is testimony to the growing concern about this product, which for so long was viewed as sacred as the proverbial goodness of mother and apple pie.”
Another outspoken critic of cow’s milk is Dr. William Ellis, a retired osteopathic physician and surgeon in Arlington, Texas, who has researched the effects of dairy products for 42 years. Dr. Ellis is listed in Marquis’ Who’s Who in the East, Leaders of American Science, the Dictionary of International Biography and Two Thousand Men of Achievement. Dr. Ellis says dairy products are “simply no good for humans… There is overwhelming evidence that milk and milk products are harmful to many people, both adults and infants. Milk is a contributing factor in constipation, chronic fatigue, arthritis, headaches, muscle cramps, obesity, allergies and heart problems.”
When Washington D.C.-based pediatrician Dr. Russell Bunai was asked what single change in the American diet would produce the greatest health benefit, his answer was, “Eliminating dairy products.”
Dr. Christine Northrup, a gynecologist in Yarmouth, Maine, states, “Dairy is a tremendous mucus producer and a burden on the respiratory, digestive and immune systems.” Dr. Northrup says when patients “eliminate dairy products for an extended period and eat a balanced diet, they suffer less from colds and sinus infections.”
Dr. Oski’s book includes a letter written by Dr. J. Dan Baggett, a pediatrician in Alabama who describes his experience after six years of recommending that all his patients eliminate cow’s milk from their diets. He writes, “In general, they cooperate much better than I had earlier anticipated except for the pre-teenagers and teenagers.” Dr. Baggett’s letter, states in part:
“During the years 1963 through 1967, I referred an average of four appendectomy cases per year. During the past five and a half years, I have referred only two patients for an appendectomy, the last one being three years ago. Both of these children were professed milk guzzlers.
“I do not have a single patient with active asthma. In fact, I have nearly forgotten how to prescribe for them.
“Perhaps the most significant thing I have learned is that Group A beta-hemolytic streptococcus germ will not, under ordinary circumstances, establish an infection in a child kept on an absolutely no-milk-protein dietary regimen. I have been aware of this for the past two and a half years and, so far, there have been no exceptions. Any time a patient of mine is found to have streptococcal pharyngitis or pyoderma, we can establish by history that he has ingested milk protein within five days prior to onset of symptoms or signs bringing him to the office.
“I now admit an average of 12-14 patients per year to the hospital. Their average hospital stay is three days. Between 1963 and 1967, I admitted an average of 100+ patients to the hospital per year. Their average stay was five days.”
So how can all these medical statements be explained in light of what we have been taught all of our life about milk? Remember “Milk is the Perfect Food”… “Milk is a Natural”… “Everybody Needs Milk.” Are we talking about the same food here?
Perhaps we are not. It would appear that promoters of cow’s milk are creating advertising statements that are meant to appeal on a subconscious level to our positive feelings and experiences with human breast milk. All mammals, including humans, are intended to be nourished during infancy by milk from their mother. Part of the very definition of a mammal is that the female of the species has milk-producing glands in her breasts which provide nourishment for her young. Each species of mammal produces its unique type of milk designed specifically to strengthen the immune system and provide nourishment for their babies, which are weaned after their birth weight has approximately tripled.
So, absolutely yes, “milk is a natural”… in the proper context. It is perfectly natural for infant mammals, including humans, to be nourished exclusively by milk from their mother’s breasts. So if we are talking about human breast milk for babies, yes, “milk is the perfect food.” And yes, during infancy when we have no teeth for eating solid food, and as we need to strengthen our immune system, “everybody needs milk.”
I have just quoted three of the most popular advertising slogans of the dairy industry and they are indisputably as true as any words that could be spoken on the subject of nutrition… if they are applied to a baby’s need for human breast milk. In fact, not one of the doctors I have quoted in describing the terrible problems caused by cow’s milk would disagree that milk is a natural, milk is the perfect food or that everybody needs milk, in this context.
The dairy industry has begun with these three statements that we all know are true about a baby’s need for human breast milk and twisted them out of context to apply them to a completely different product they are selling. And the sad result is that most Americans still think these noble statements about our babies needing to suckle their mother’s breast milk are true when applied to the advertising claim that humans of all ages need to buy and drink cow’s milk.
So, in an effort to undo the damage caused by this manipulation, let us consider the differences in human breast milk versus cow’s milk, and further examine the physical problems caused by humans trying to subsist on the milk of another species well past the age when any mammal should be drinking any milk.
A good place to start in analyzing the distinction between the milk of different species is to begin to understand how nature works. As Dr. Oski explains in Don’t Drink Your Milk!, “The milk of each species appears to have been specifically designed to protect the young of that species. Cross-feeding does not work. Heating, sterilization, or modification of the milk in any way destroys the protection.”
So, how much of a difference is there between a human baby drinking the milk of its mother versus drinking the milk of a cow? Dr. Oski cites a “study of over twenty thousand infants conducted in Chicago as far back as the 1930s… The overall death rate for the babies raised on human milk was 1.5 deaths per 1,000 infants while the death rate in the babies fed cow milk was 84.7 per 1,000 during the first nine months of life. The death rate from gastrointestinal infections was forty times higher in the non-breast-fed infants, while the death rate from respiratory infections was 120 times higher. An earlier analysis involving infants in eight American cities showed similar results. Infants fed on cow milk had a twenty times greater chance of dying during the first six months of life.”
Dr. Michael Taylor, a Chiropractic Physician, doctoral candidate to become a Doctor of Nutrition and fellow of the American Academy of Orthomolecular Medicine, agrees, stating, “It is a dietary error to cross species to get milk from another animal.” He notes there is a tremendous difference between human babies and baby calves, and a corresponding difference between the milk that is intended to nourish human babies and baby calves. In an interview on “Let’s Eat,” a Seventh-day Adventist television program, Dr. Taylor notes that human infants take about 180 days to double their birth weight, and that human milk is 5 to 7 percent protein. Calves require only 45 days to double their birth weight and cow’s milk is 15 percent protein.
In addition to the difference in the amount of protein in these two different types of milk, there are also major differences in the composition of this protein. The primary type of protein in cow’s milk is casein. Cow’s milk has 20 times as much casein as human milk, which makes the protein from cow’s milk difficult or impossible for humans to assimilate, according to Dr. John R. Christopher, N.D., M.H.
Protein composes 15 percent of the human body and when this protein cannot be properly broken down, it weakens the immune system, causing allergies and many other problems. Allergies caused by cow’s milk are extremely common. In fact, Dr. Taylor states that when a single food can be isolated as the cause of an allergy, 60 percent of the time, that food is cow’s milk. Dr. Ellis notes that symptoms of this allergic reaction to cow’s milk in infants can include asthma, nasal congestion, skin rash, chest infections, irritability and fatigue.
Dr. Oski’s book cites evidence from Dr. Joyce Gryboski, director of the Pediatric Gastrointestinal Clinic at Yale University School of Medicine, who states “they see at least one child a week who is referred for evaluation of chronic diarrhea and proves to have nothing more than an allergy to cow milk.”
Another reason many people suffer various symptoms of disease from drinking milk is that, according to Dr. Oski, the majority of the world’s adult population is “lactose intolerant,” meaning they cannot digest lactose, the sugar in milk (cow’s milk and human milk). An enzyme known as lactase is required to digest lactose, and Dr. Oski states that “between the age of one and a half and four years most individuals gradually lose the lactase activity in their small intestine. This appears to be a normal process that accompanies maturation…. Most people do it. All animals do it. It reflects the fact that nature never intended lactose-containing foods, such as milk, to be consumed after the normal weaning period.”
In fact, so many people have bad reactions to drinking cow’s milk that in 1974 the Federal Trade Commission felt compelled to take legal action against advertising claims made by the California Milk Producers. The ads claimed “Everybody Needs Milk.” The FTC prosecuted the milk producers for “false, misleading and deceptive” advertising. The FTC complaint cited the high incidence of lactose intolerance, allergies caused by cow’s milk and the increased risk of heart disease. The FTC won and the milk producers had to come up with a new slogan for their ads: “Milk Has Something for Everybody.”
One medical researcher, Dr. Kevin McGrady, commented, “Milk has something for everybody all right — higher blood cholesterol, and increased risk of heart disease and stroke.”
Three reasons cited by medical researchers that dairy products contribute to heart disease are their high content of cholesterol and fat, along with an enzyme in cow’s milk called xanthine oxidase (XO). This enzyme, which creates problems only when milk is homogenized, causes heart disease by damaging arteries. Explaining the significance of XO, Dr. Ellis cites research by Dr. Kurt Oster, Chief of Cardiology at Park City Hospital in Bridgeport, Connecticut:
“From 1971 to 1974, we studied 75 patients with angina pectoris (chest pain due to heart disease) and arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). All the patients were taken off milk and given folic acid (a B-vitamin) and ascorbic acid (vitamin C), both of which combat the action of XO. The results were dramatic. Chest pains decreased, symptoms lessened, and each of those patients is doing great today.”
Dr. Oster’s article states that Dr. Kurt Esselbacher, Chairman of the Department of the Harvard Medical School, was in full agreement. Dr. Esselbacher writes: “Homogenized milk, because of its XO content, is one of the major causes of heart disease in the U.S.”
Dr. Oski warns, “The consumption of cow milk from an early age may have life-long consequences… One pathologist has reviewed the heart vessels of over 1,500 children and adolescents who had died as a result of accidents…. These children and adolescents had not died as a result of disease, yet many of them showed signs of diseased arteries in the heart…. The majority of children with normal blood vessels had been breast-fed; the majority of children with diseased vessels had been fed cow milk or cow milk based formulas. It is therefore reasonable to conclude that the differences between human milk and cow milk were responsible for the early changes in the coronary arteries.”
But don’t we need to drink milk to get calcium? No. The best way to add calcium to your diet is to eat more fresh green vegetables. Cow’s milk is high in calcium, but Dr. Ellis explains, the problem is that it is in a form that cannot be assimilated very well by humans. Dr. Ellis states, “Thousands and thousands of blood tests I’ve conducted show that people who drink 3 or 4 glasses of milk a day invariably had the lowest levels of blood calcium.”
Dr. Ellis adds, “Low levels of blood calcium correspond with irritability and headaches. In addition, the low calcium level in milk-drinkers also explains why milk-drinkers are prone to have muscle spasms and cramps. Since calcium is necessary for muscles to relax, a lack of calcium causes muscle cramps, etc.”
One of the most serious problems caused by a calcium deficiency is osteoporosis, a condition characterized by the loss of 50 to 75 percent of the person’s original bone material. In the U.S., 25 percent of 65-year-old women suffer from osteoporosis. Their bones become brittle and easily broken. They can crack a rib from something as minor as a sneeze.
Our pervasive dairy advertising has led to one of the most commonly held, and solidly disproved, fallacies about bones, which is that the best way to build strong bones is to increase calcium consumption by drinking plenty of milk. Actually, the consensus among leading medical researchers is that the best way for most people to increase their calcium level and strengthen their bones is to reduce their protein intake, and specifically to reduce consumption of animal products. Research has conclusively shown we can do more to increase the calcium level in our bones by reducing protein intake than by increasing calcium intake. The reason is that animal products and other sources of high protein are very acidic, and the blood stream must balance this acidic condition by absorbing alkaline minerals such as calcium from the bone structure. Thus, numerous studies, including those published in the Aug. 22, 1984 Medical Tribune and the March 1983 Journal of Clinical Nutrition, have found that vegetarians have much stronger bones than meat-eaters. Indeed, the Journal of Clinical Nutrition article found that by age 65, meat-eaters had five to six times as much measurable bone loss as vegetarians.
Speaking of minerals, another serious problem caused by consumption of cow’s milk is iron-deficiency anemia. Dr. Oski notes that 15 to 20 percent of children under age 2 in the U.S. suffer from iron-deficiency anemia. Cow’s milk contributes to this condition in two ways.
First, he notes that cow’s milk is extremely low in iron, containing less than 1 milligram of iron per quart. Because of this, he writes that it is estimated that a 1-year-old would need to drink 24 quarts of cow’s milk a day to meet his iron requirements, which would be impossible. He states many infants may drink from one to two quarts of cow’s milk a day, which satisfies their hunger to the point that they do no have the appetite to consume enough of other foods that do have a high iron content.
The second way that cow’s milk leads to iron-deficiency anemia in many infants is a form of gastrointestinal bleeding caused by increased mucus and diarrhea associated with dairy consumption. “It is estimated that half the iron-deficiency in infants in the United States is primarily the result of this form of cow milk induced gastrointestinal bleeding,” Dr. Oski writes. “Mucus is frequent and some stools contain obvious traces of bright red blood… The diarrhea impairs the infant’s ability to retain nutrients from his feedings. In addition, the changes produced in the gastrointestinal tract by the allergic reaction result in seepage of the child’s own blood into the gut. This loss of plasma and red cells leads to a lowering of the infant’s blood protein level and to the development of anemia.”
The mucus created by dairy products causes other problems as well. It is well-known that dairy products cause excessive mucus in the lungs, sinuses and intestines. Dr. Ellis notes this excess mucus in the breathing passages contributes to many respiratory problems and that mucus hardens to form a coating on the inner wall of the intestines that leads to poor absorption of nutrients, which can cause chronic fatigue. This mucus also causes constipation, which can lead to many other problems.
Two very common problems with infants are colic and ear infections, both of which can be caused by cow’s milk. Medical studies have found cow’s milk can contribute to these problems either directly, when the infant drinks cow’s milk, or indirectly, when the infant breast feeds from a mother who has been consuming dairy products.
Colic, suffered by one out of every five infants in the U.S., is characterized by severe stomach cramps. The July/August 1994 issue of Natural Health reports, “When a mother eats dairy products, milk proteins pass into her breast milk and end up in the baby’s blood; some studies have found that cow’s milk proteins (from milk drunk by the mother) might trigger colic-like symptoms in infants fed only human milk and no cow’s milk.”
Concerning ear infections, Dr. Northrup states, “You just don’t see this painful condition among infants and children who aren’t getting cow’s milk into their systems.”
The Natural Health article also notes, “Removing dairy from the diet has been shown to shrink enlarged tonsils and adenoids, indicating relief for the immune system. Similarly, doctors experimenting with dairy-free diets often report a marked reduction in colds, flus, sinusitis and ear infections.”
Another common problem for children is the bellyache. Dr. Oski states in his book that up to 10 percent of all children in this country suffer from a syndrome known as “recurrent abdominal pain of childhood.” He says studies performed in Boston and San Francisco each concluded “that about one-third of such children had their symptoms on the basis of lactose intolerance. The simple solution was to remove all milk and milk-containing foods from the diet and watch for signs of improvement.”
The Natural Health article also notes that antigens in cow’s milk may contribute to arthritis and osteoarthritis. “When antibody-antigen complexes (resulting from an immune response) are deposited in the joints, pain, swelling, redness and stiffness result; these complexes increase in arthritic people who eat dairy products, and the pain fades rapidly after patients eliminate dairy products from their diets. In a study published in Scandinavian Journal of Rheumatology, when people with rheumatoid arthritis fasted on water, fruit and vegetable juices, and tea for seven to ten days, their joint pain and stiffness were greatly reduced. When they ate a lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet (including only milk and eggs as animal foods), the symptoms became aggravated and they remained ill.”
A 1992 report in The New England Journal of Medicine also notes that cow’s milk can contribute to juvenile diabetes and autoimmune diseases by impairing the ability of the pancreas to produce insulin.
The Natural Health article also states a 1989 study published in Nutrition and Cancer found a link between consumption of cow’s milk and butter with the risk of developing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the immune system. The article adds, “High levels of the cow’s milk protein beta-lactoglobulin have also been found in the blood of lung cancer patients, suggesting a link with this cancer as well.”
Dr. Oski’s book also cites studies by two scientists from the University of Michigan who have conducted extensive research on factors associated with multiple sclerosis. There is an unusual geographic distribution of MS victims in the U.S. and throughout the world, which has baffled medical researchers for decades. This distribution of MS victims has no correlation to wealth, education or quality of medical care. Dr. Oski notes the Michigan scientists found in this pattern in the U.S. and 21 other countries, “the only significant link was between multiple sclerosis and average milk consumption.”
Dr. Oski’s book even cites a possible link between excessive consumption of cow’s milk and juvenile delinquency, based on a study conducted in Tacoma, Wash. Dr. Oski writes, “When the diets of young criminals were contrasted with those of adolescents from a similar background, it was found that the juvenile delinquents consumed almost ten times the amount of milk that was drunk by the control group. The juvenile offenders ate less fruit, nuts and vegetables.”
When a reasonable person considers all this evidence, it would be difficult to still believe cow’s milk is healthy for human consumption. So, what do we drink instead? Dr. Oski partly answers this question by writing, “For the newborn infant, there are two obvious alternatives — the right and left breast of the healthy mother.”
After a child is weaned, there is no reason to drink any milk. We shouldn’t drink any liquid with our meals because this dilutes our digestive fluids. When we are thirsty, we should drink distilled water. Or, if you want to drink something nutritional between meals, the best choice is freshly-extracted vegetable juice.
So-called purebred dogs riddled with genetic disease but dog breeds aren’t even a real thing we made them up. We talk about dog breeds as though nature created them that way and as though every mutt were just a mix of different pure breeds but in fact, mutts are dogs in their natural healthy states and pure breeding is a form of genetic manipulation humans made up.
Outside of a few traditional working dogs, 90% of all dog breeds were created in just the last 100 years. In the 19th century, Victorian England eugenics was all the rage and competitive dog breeding became a fad among the wealthy. “Purebred” dog is it’s totally arbitrary; people think we have a pure breed that means a good healthy dog nope when you hear purebred you should think INBRED. The American Kennel Clubs prohibit purebred dogs from ever mating outside their breed and often mate them with their own parents and siblings. One study found that 10,000 pugs have the same genetic diversity as 50 individuals making this little guy as inbred as King Charles II of Spain.
All of this inbreeding means that the average purebred dog is very sick. Sixty percent of golden retrievers die of cancer, a third of King Charles Spaniels have skulls that are too small for their brains, Great Danes are so huge that their hearts can’t support their bodies. The bulldog is a total genetic failure! A hundred years ago the Bulldog was a proud breed but a century of inbreeding has ruined them, their noses are so squashed they can barely breathe their heads are so big they can only give birth by caesarean section their tails can become ingrown they basically all have hip dysplasia and their average life expectancy is six years let’s face it these dogs shouldn’t even be alive but the sad part is Kennel Club’s could cure all the Bulldogs problems if they just allowed them to crossbreed but they won’t because then they might not look like the cute little Bulldogs everyone loves but our insistence that these dogs live up to our arbitrary standards is causing them to get sick and die. As much as you love the Bulldog the fact that exists that this is all borderline animal abuse.
One easy solution is to go to your local shelter to get your next dog; he or she will be happy, healthy and a 100% all-natural dog.
There is a disgusting and cruel practice called “Fish Pedicures” where patrons are told any number of lies that lead them to believe that having tiny starving fish eat the dead skin off of your feet will add some benefit to the beauty of your feet. The fish used in this unethical practice is the Garra Rufa and they come from warm rivers and feed on algae in the wild originates in the river basins of the Northern and Central Middle East, mainly in Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran.
What they fail to tell you is that the fish are severely starved to the point of eating anything just to survive. The greedy salon owners who offer “fish pedicures” claim that feeding on the dead skin is natural for Garra Rufa [type of fish used] and that the fish enjoy doing it. However, in tests that have been done; where Garra Rufa have been fed their natural diet of algae 3 times a day and when one of the meals is replaced with dead skin from people the fish will not eat the skin. Human arrogance once again rears its ugly head.
In addition to the practice being cruel and unethical, it also has the potential to cause an infection as the basins containing the fish where the patrons put their feet can’t be sufficiently sanitized between customers, and there is no way to disinfect the fish themselves. If a user is infected with a blood-borne virus like HIV or hepatitis and bleeds in the water, there is a risk the diseases could be passed on. Fish pedicure basins provide a fertile breeding ground for bacteria, and even tiny cuts or sores can become infected when immersed in them. The Garra Rufa fish themselves have been found to carry strains of several infection-causing bacteria, including Streptococcus agalactiae, which can also cause pneumonia, and others that are resistant to antibiotics.
Fish are conscious animals, not mindless (and inefficient) loofahs. Get a safe, healthy, cruelty-free pedicure from a willing and compassionate human technician
Bees collect and use nectar to make honey, which provides them with vital nourishment. A single worker bee may visit up to 10,000 flowers in one day and, over a lifetime, produce only a teaspoonful of honey
These tiny animals are factory-farmed, much like chickens, pigs, and cows are. Bees reared for honey are fed just enough sugar water to ensure that their honey production continues—only to have their life’s work and food supply stolen.
To make honey, plant nectar is “sucked up” through a bee’s tongue and stored in an extra stomach, where it mixes with enzymes. After arriving back at the hive, the bee pukes the liquid into another bee’s mouth. This continues from bee to bee until the nectar is finally deposited into a honeycomb.
Like the prow of a ship, the Granite Mountains rise sharply from the creamy-white playa of the Black Rock Desert in Nevada.
Here, in rugged terrain owned by the American public, a little-known federal agency called Wildlife Services has waged an eight-year war against predators to try to help an iconic Western big-game species: mule deer.
With rifles, snares and aerial gunning, employees have killed 967 coyotes and 45 mountain lions at a cost of about $550,000. But like a mirage, the dream of protecting deer by killing predators has not materialized.
“It didn’t make a difference,” said Kelley Stewart, a large-mammal ecologist at the University of Nevada, Reno.
For decades, Wildlife Services, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has specialized in trapping, poisoning and shooting predators in large numbers, largely to protect livestock and, more recently, big game.
Now such killing is coming under fire from scientists, former employees and others who say it often doesn’t work and can set off a chain reaction of unintended, often negative consequences.
In biological shorthand: Kill too many coyotes and you open a Pandora’s box of disease-carrying rodents, meadow-munching rabbits, bird-eating feral cats, and, over time, smarter, more abundant coyotes. You also can sentence the deer you are trying to help to slow death by starvation.
“There is a widespread perception that predators are the root of all evil and I’m tired of it,” said Stewart. “More often than not, if you have predation on a mule deer population, you’re going to have a healthier population.”
Agency officials say controlling predators is a must, especially in the West where livestock graze large tracts of unfenced land. “The intent is not to prevent predation,” said William Clay, deputy administrator of Wildlife Services. “All we’re trying to do is remove the problem animals.”
Killing predators is part of Wildlife Services’ DNA, a mission it pursues – along with a wide range of other animal control work – largely outside public view.
Some details, though, can be gleaned from the agency’s Web page, where it posts a sea of data showing – species by species – the millions of birds and mammals its employees kill each year. Sift through the numbers and you find that about 560,000 predators were killed across America from 2006 to 2011, an average of 256 a day.
The body count includes more than 25,000 red and gray foxes, 10,700 bobcats, 2,800 black bears, 2,300 timber wolves and 2,100 mountain lions. But the vast majority – about 512,500 – were coyotes.
“When they see a coyote, all they got is one thing in mind: killing it,” said Gary Strader, a former Wildlife Services hunter in Nevada. “They don’t know if it was a coyote that killed a sheep. It’s just a coyote, and it’s got to be killed.”
While fewer bobcats are killed today, the numbers of three other major predators shot, trapped and snared by the agency have risen. In 1970, agency employees killed 73,100 coyotes, 400 black bears, 120 mountain lions. By 2011, the tally had climbed to 83,200 coyotes (up 14 percent), 565 black bears (up 41 percent) and 400 mountain lions (up 230 percent).
“If you look at their mandate, we could not have written it better for them,” said Suzanne Stone, Northern Rockies representative for Defenders of Wildlife, who has worked with Wildlife Services employees to promote nonlethal control. “It’s all about supporting wildlife conservation and promoting humane tools.
“That’s not what is happening on the ground,” Stone said. “Unfortunately, in parts of the western United States it just seems like they are still in the Dark Ages. They go at this as a kill mission. They are at war with wildlife.”
Most surprising may be the fate of the agency’s longtime adversary, the coyote, an animal that Mark Twain once called “a living, breathing allegory of Want.”
After several decades of intense federal hunting, there are more coyotes in more places than ever.
“I call it the boomerang effect,” said Wendy Keefover, a carnivore specialist with WildEarth Guardians. “The more you kill, the more you get.”
In California, researchers have found that having coyotes in the neighborhood can be good for quail, towhees and other birds. The reason? They eat skunks, house cats and raccoons that feast on birds.
“The indirect effects (of predators) are often more important than the direct effects,” said Reg Barrett, professor of wildlife ecology and management at the University of California, Berkeley. “We just don’t know enough about what’s going on.”
The most dramatic example of how predators shape the land is playing out in Yellowstone National Park where wolves, after a 70-year absence, were returned in 1995 and began preying on one of the densest populations of elk in North America.
Before long, aspen, willows and cottonwoods that had been overgrazed by elk began to thrive again, attracting beavers, migratory songbirds and other wildlife.
Ravens, magpies, eagles and grizzly bears benefited, too, from a smorgasbord of elk carcasses.
But tracking the ecological effects of predators is a fine art not widely practiced. “We could sure use more research,” said Barrett.
Last year, something curious caught Stewart’s attention in Nevada: an email informing her that a mule deer had tested positive for the plague – a disease sparked by rodent outbreaks and potentially deadly to humans – in an area where Wildlife Services was killing predators.
“It makes you wonder,” said Stewart. “In this area where we’ve been doing rampant predator control, we’re seeing a disease show up. Frankly, I’d rather see a deer get eaten by a coyote than show up symptomatic for a disease like plague.”
A few years back, Nevada rancher Marti Hoots noticed that jack rabbits were out of control. Then, while rounding up cattle on horseback, she spotted a Wildlife Services plane over her pasture. A man leaned out and began shooting coyotes.
“I was irate,” said Hoots. “It was the dead of winter, and I found no reason for them to be shooting because the coyotes weren’t bothering anything.
“The jack rabbits were everywhere,” Hoots said. “So the coyotes were doing some good, and they were shooting them.”
From the air
Aerial gunning is the agency’s most popular predator-killing tool. Since 2001, more than 340,000 coyotes have been gunned down from planes and helicopters across 16 Western states, including California – an average of 600 a week, agency records show.
“When they take that plane up, they kill every single coyote they can,” said Strader, the former Wildlife Services hunter who worked with aerial gunning crews in Nevada. “If they come back and say, ‘We only killed three coyotes,’ they are not very happy. If they come back and say, ‘Oh, we killed a hundred coyotes,’ they’re very happy.
“Some of the gunners are real good and kill coyotes every time. And other ones wound more than they kill,” Strader said. “Who wants to see an animal get crippled and run around with its leg blown off? I saw that a lot.”
The agency does not disclose the specific locations where aerial gunning takes place, but records show coyotes are killed on public land in Nevada, including the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. In California, coyotes are hunted from the air in Calaveras, Glenn, Kern, Lassen, Madera, Merced, Modoc, San Joaquin, San Luis Obispo, Shasta, Siskyou and Stanislaus counties.
Clay, the agency’s deputy administrator, defended the practice, calling it is a valuable preventive strategy to clear swaths of land of predators in the winter before livestock arrive to graze in the spring.
“If you can remove the predators, you can reduce the losses,” Clay said.
But Carter Niemeyer, a former Wildlife Services district manager who scheduled coyote-killing flights in Montana, said the cost exceeds the value of livestock protected.
“It absolutely calls for a cost-benefit study,” said Niemeyer. “Aerial gunning is very, very expensive. You are talking $700 to $1,000 an hour to be hunting these coyotes.
“If private landowners want every coyote on their property shot, you got no bone to pick with me. But go hire your own helicopter at 700 bucks an hour and do it yourself.”
The practice remains popular, he said, because it keeps hunters busy during the slow winter months. “These guys don’t have a heck of a lot to do in the winter, so to stay employed, they need to go fly around in a helicopter and shoot coyotes that might kill a sheep next spring,” Niemeyer said.
“There is not enough money on earth to kill all the coyotes that might kill a sheep out there.”
There is something else about the effort that made Niemeyer skeptical: the coyote itself. No matter how many were killed, there were always more of them.
The problem, not the cure
Coyotes are known for their cunning. But their response to hunting takes craftiness to a new level: They are expanding their numbers and colonizing new territories.
“The more you shoot, the more you need to shoot,” said Steve Searles, wildlife management officer in Mammoth Lakes. “We go easy on the gun because if you start shooting up the population, you’re not part of the cure. You’re part of the problem.”
In Nevada, scientists found that when Wildlife Services began killing coyotes to protect deer south of Ely in 2004, the average coyote litter size jumped from one pup to 3.5. In 2007, one coyote killed by a Wildlife Services hunter in Nevada had 13 fetuses in its uterus.
Just how coyotes prosper amid persecution remains a mystery. But many believe they benefit from better dining opportunities that emerge over time as coyotes are killed and rabbits and mice begin to multiply.
“A lot of it comes down to nutrition and competition. When you have fewer animals (coyotes) on the landscape, you have more food available per individual. There is a ton of food on the landscape. Why not have a bigger litter?” said Stewart, the Nevada ecologist.
Many also believe killing coyotes en masse only makes them smarter, through natural selection. “I’m sure of it,” said Barrett, the UC Berkeley professor. “How can an animal like that be so successful if there wasn’t strong selection for individuals that take care of themselves under intense pressure? You’ve got to hand it to them. It’s pretty amazing.”
“We’ve raised a super race of coyotes,” said Bill Jensen, a sheep rancher in Marin County. “There is nothing more cunning than these things now.”
At what cost
Wildlife Services spends about $30 million a year to protect livestock from predators – mostly coyotes. On its Web page, it says losses to predators top more than $127 million a year.
But Niemeyer said those losses, which are based on unverified reports from ranchers, are exaggerated. “To paint this picture that the whole livestock industry is under siege by predators is grossly misrepresented,” he said. “There are individuals who sustain losses, but not everyone.”
Sheep and lambs are most at risk. “They are easy to kill, and lots of animals key on them,” Niemeyer said.
But cattle are less in danger.
“Calves, when they’re small, are vulnerable,” said Niemeyer. “But it doesn’t take very many weeks before they outgrow coyotes. In my 33-year tenure, I have less than 20 calves that I would attribute to being killed by coyotes.”
Like a crime scene investigator, Niemeyer journeyed into the field to inspect sheep and cattle that ranchers said had been killed by predators. Often, his verdict was not guilty.
“You start looking and you realize nothing killed this,” said Niemeyer. “They died from a multitude of things: birthing problems, old age, bad hooves, cut by barbed wire. There were an awful lot of things attributed to predation that really were not.”
Niemeyer is not the only former Wildlife Services employee to raise questions about agency practices. In California, biologist Mike Jaeger did, too, with studies in Mendocino County that showed most coyotes don’t prey on sheep at all and those that do are the hardest to kill with nonselective traps and poison.
“The research showed quite clearly that nonselective control doesn’t work,” said Jaeger, who has since retired. “You can remove a lot of coyotes and have no effect at all. Absolutely none.”
But his calls for more selective control often went unheeded, he said, because of a disconnect between the agency’s scientific and field personnel – and its close ties to the livestock industry, which helps fund predator control.
“I think there is a lot of political pressure,” Jaeger said. “They have to make the landowners happy. And many of them perceive the solution of the problem as population reduction.”
Federal officials decline to disclose the ranches on which Wildlife Services employees work. Such information “would cause a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy,” wrote Tonya Woods, director of the Freedom of Information & Privacy Act office for the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. “Also, disclosing this information will not shed any light on (federal) duties and responsibilities.”
But a document obtained by The Bee provides a look at one Wildlife Services job in Nevada where predators were targeted indiscriminately, and innocent animals died.
The email by a Nevada Department of Wildlife biologist details work on the 3,200-acre Rafter 7 Ranch on the East Walker River in Nevada. “With no evidence of any kind that any predation had occurred Wildlife Services set snares around the area to kill any predators that may wander through,” the biologist, Russell Woolstenhulme, wrote.
Officials concluded the snares killed at random, taking the lives of four bears and four mountain lions that had not harmed sheep.
The state is now demanding that Wildlife Services target predators more selectively. “We realize some of this stuff is not publicly acceptable,” said Rob Buonamici, chief game warden for the Nevada Department of Wildlife.
Mule deer fallacies
But Wildlife Services continues to kill nonselectively in many places, including the Granite Mountains north of Reno where the goal is protecting a big-game species – mule deer – and is funded by a predator control fee assessed on hunters.
Stark, majestic and isolated, the Granites loom like an island over the desert terrain. But that beauty is deceiving because the range is a place of rough justice for predators, internal Wildlife Services records show.
After slicing open a mountain lion killed in a federal neck snare in 2008, one agency hunter filled out a handwritten report: “Stomach contained deer hair and bone fragments,” he noted. Eleven days later, he cut open another lion with different results: “He had nothing in his stomach.”
In some cases, animals had rotted away by the time the agency hunter found them. “Only the skull was saved due to decay. Pelt not saved due to decay/slippage. Decomposition did not allow for accurate weight estimate,” he wrote in a series of reports about mountain lions.
In 2009, the hunter found two lions dead in snares close to each other, “most likely” a mother and daughter, he wrote. Coyotes were targeted routinely, including four pups killed in their den in May 2011.
Has the killing been worth it? That is what scientists have asked as they’ve flown over the Granites, comparing the size and growth of deer herds where predators were killed with places where they were not.
The scientists have packaged their data and findings into reports and presentations filled with biological jargon and complex statistical analysis. But in plain English, it hasn’t worked.
“There was no discernible difference,” said Tony Wasley, a mule-deer biologist with the Nevada Department of Wildlife. “There were several different (population) variables we tested, and none were significantly different than adjacent areas with no predator control.”
Two other factors generally have bigger impacts: harsh weather and poor forage conditions. When there is not enough to eat, saving a deer from predation may only delay death by starvation later.
“The simplicity of predator control has broad appeal,” Wasley said. “The complexity of the problem is far greater.”
A recent study in “Wildlife Monographs,” a scientific journal published by the Wildlife Society, reported that most years, coyotes don’t prey on deer at all. They’re busy eating mice and rabbits. And even when a coyote does kill a mule deer, it generally doesn’t have an impact.
“There is a contingent of mule deer that are going to die every year anyway. Often those are the first ones coyotes prey on,” said Mark Hurley, a mule-deer biologist with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and author of the study.
“The silver bullet isn’t to run out there and kill all the coyotes or all the lions and boom – you get all the deer back,” said Ken Mayer, director of the Nevada Department of Wildlife. “It’s way, way more complicated than that.”
On occasion, Wasley has presented his findings to Wildlife Services managers in Reno. “I’ve been told my analysis is a morale breaker, that they don’t like me because I’m doing objective analysis,” he said.
“The director told me he’s got a tough time keeping his guys’ spirits up when they read what they’re doing has yet to demonstrate any measurable benefit,” Wasley said.
[piece regarding how prairie dogs are necessary for the environment]
Prairie Dogs and Soil Impacts
Much of the degradation of soils in the urban environments that have prairie dog colonies is the result of considerable human disturbance over long periods of time.
The soil erosion we tend to see is often due to overgrazing by cattle, which has been well demonstrated by numerous studies (Schlesinger et al. 1990, Van Auken 2000, Reynolds et al. 2007). It is important to keep in mind that black-tailed prairie dogs prefer open patches of grassland, and will move into heavily grazed patches of grassland. This tends to cause the observer to blame the prairie dogs for the degraded state, when in fact the conditions were present prior to the presence of prairie dogs.
Prairie dogs and bison co-existed for thousands of years throughout the central grasslands of North America (Forrest 2005, Miller et al. 2007).
Current research at Janos, Mexico by researchers at the University of New Mexico and University of Mexico (Davidson et al., unpublished data) involves an exclosure experiment where they are comparing grassland in areas where prairie dogs are present to where they have been removed. The effects of prairie dogs on soil stability (a measure of soil erosion) are measured for this study, which shows absolutely no difference (statistically or even qualitatively) in soil stability where prairie dogs are absent versus where they are present over the 2 years (4 seasons) of the study.
Prairie dog burrows act as aquifers that prevent water from eroding land while helping to cool it.
Recent studies have shown that ‘managed’ grasses and forbs atop a prairie dog town are higher in protein and nitrogen and are favored for grazing by bison, elk, and pronghorn.
a [Prairie dog] burrowing can be beneficial to the soil because mixing soil types and incorporating organic matter enhances soil formation. It also helps to increase soil aeration and decrease compaction.
In short-grass prairies, the number of plant species, particularly forbs, increases because of the digging and scratching activities of prairie dogs that disturb the soil. These patches of bare soil provide excellent sites for annual forbs to become established. . . . Long-term use of an area by prairie dogs appears to promote buffalograss and grama grasses (Foster & Hygnstrom).
Prairie dogs do more than just serve as prey, they also perform a valuable service for the prairie – they disturb it. In addition to digging up the soil, prairie dogs clip the vegetation around their burrows, enhancing nitrogen uptake by these plants. Natural disturbances are an important part of maintaining the prairie ecosystem (Kotliar, 2001).
Prairie Dogs, Cattle and Soil Impacts:
The overgrazed conditions that we see when both prairie dogs and cattle co-occur are largely due to cattle being confined to a fenced landscape that no longer reflects the large roaming herds that historically grazed the grasslands.
Large ungulates are known to preferentially graze on prairie dog colonies because of the more nutritious forage (Whicker and Detling 1988, Miller et al. 2007). This is a counterintuitive phenomenon made logical by the prairie dog’s penchant for clearing shrubs that cattle shun, while stimulating weeds they savor (Stolzenburg, 2004).
Widespread soil erosion is largely caused by overgrazing by cattle, and prairie dogs are known to move into the overgrazed grassland patches.
Prairie dogs from urban populations provide a key source of prairie dogs for grassland conservation and restoration.
Like giant earthworms, their excavations were loosening and turning, fertilizing and aerating nearly six tons of hard-baked desert soils per acre, more than eight times the combined output of all kangaroo rats, badgers and other burrowing mammals of the grasslands (Stolzenburg, 2004).
Efforts to simply eradicate prairie dogs from urban areas are short-sighted and do not contribute to the conservation of our native grassland ecosystems.
Extermination efforts require 72 hours of poisoning to kill the animals. It is an extremely long, inhumane death, and is not something that should be condoned in a civil society. Additionally, extermination efforts indiscriminately kill not only prairie dogs but also other native wildlife.
A model way to think about prairie restoration would be to utilize displaced urban prairie dog populations as a source to repopulate grassland areas being restored for prairie wildlife. In these restoration areas, animals can be released so they can repopulate areas where they were historically abundant, prior to mass extermination efforts and play their keystone role in grassland ecosystems, which is critical to maintaining grassland biodiversity.
Aschwanden,C. 2001. Learning to Live with Prairie Dogs. National Wildlife. p. 26
Forrest, S. 2005. Getting the story right: a response to Vermeire and Colleagues. Bioscience 55:526-530.
Foster, N.S., S. E. Hygnstrom . 1990. Prairie Dogs and Their Ecosystem, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Wildlife pp. 2-6
Schlesinger, W. H., J. F. Reynolds, G. L. Cunningham, L. F. Huenneke, W. M. Jarrell, R. A. Virginia, and W. G. Whitford. 1990. Biological feedbacks in global desertification. Science 247:1043-1048.
Stolzenburg, W. 2004. Nature Conservancy, Understanding the Underdog.pp 28-31.
Whicker, A. D., and J. K. Detling. 1988. Ecological consequences of prairie dog disturbances: prairie dogs alter grassland patch structure, nutrient cycling, and feeding-site selection by other herbivores. Bioscience 38:778-785.
Van Auken, O. W. 2000. Shrub invasions of North American semiarid grasslands. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 31:197-215.
Young, M.T. 2006. A Prairie Dog Ecosystem. Colorado Division of Wildlife: p.1
PRAIRIE DOGS ARE A KEYSTONE SPECIES OF THE GREAT PLAINS
By Nicole Rosmarino/Southern Plains Land Trust
Editor’s note: (The following studies show unequivocally that prairie dogs are a keystone species of the Great Plains, that is, their presence –including their colonies, burrows structure and grazing habits– is central to the survival of a multitude of other wildlife)
Prairie Dogs as Prairie Restorationists:
Although there is tremendous documentation of the benefits that prairie dogs provide to wildlife species, both as a prey base and for creating extensive habitat for prairie creatures, it is also important to recognize that prairie dogs may help to redress the damage to the land caused by reckless humanity.
First, prairie dogs act as water conservationists. While humans have devastated the water features of the Great Plains –by damming up rivers and streams for crop and livestock agriculture, and by overgrazing of riparian areas by livestock– prairie dogs increase the ability of an arid region to conserve what little water falls from the sky. One author (Outwater 1996) has remarked on the extensive megapore system prairie dogs can provide for channeling precipitation into the water table. Imagine 100-700 million acres of these megapores diligently directing the scant Great Plains rainfall to underground storage. Imagine also what the reduction of those millions of acres to less than 700,000 acres might mean in terms of increased flooding (where there isn’t meant to be flooding) and increased runoff in general.
In addition, prairie dog clipping and digging activities lead to decreases in transpiring leaf area, conservation of soil moisture, changes in soil physical properties, and the promotion of water infiltration to deeper soil depths. All of these factors probably account for the improved soil moisture availability and plant water status on prairie dog colonies (Day and Detling 1994). This improved water status and the higher ratio of green forage on colonies later in the season may explain preferential grazing by bison and antelope (Day and Detling 1994), and, of course, by domestic cattle. In other words, prairie dogs increase the ability of the soil and vegetation in the arid Great Plains to conserve the region’s scant precipitation.
Prairie dogs might also redress some of the problems with overgrazing. For instance, prairie dogs can control noxious weeds and native invaders which proliferate on overgrazed rangeland. An example is prairie dog control of mesquite (Miller et al. 1996; Miller and Ceballos 1994). They remove pods and seeds and nip and strip bark from young seedlings, which contributes to seedling mortality. The extermination of the prairie dog may therefore explain the proliferation of honey mesquite from the late 19th century (“Suffering From a Prairie-Dog Shortage,” 1991). Where mesquite proliferates, prairie dogs could serve to control it.
Finally, prairie dogs may also reverse processes such as soil compaction caused by cattle grazing. For example, Ellison and Aldous (1952) provide an early report of the soil aeration effected by burrowing rodents. These rodents produce soil which is substantially softer and looser than soil in uncolonized areas. Such rodents consequently represent a range improvement, which can undo some negative effects on rangeland (e.g. soil compaction) that are caused by domestic cattle.
In the debate over whether or not prairie dogs are a keystone species of the Great Plains, there is no mention of the fact that all studies reviewed took place after prairie dogs had been reduced by 98% (by 1960). How can we assume wildlife has not made significant adjustments in the face of prairie dog scarcity? Our science may very well have totally missed important, close relationships between prairie dogs and a given bird, mammal, or what have you, only because that bird, mammal, or what have you flew or skittered off to greener pastures in the wake of guns and poisons.)
Many of the earlier studies (e.g. Reading/Miller/Whicker/Detling) have been very clear that the biodiversity contributions of prairie dog colonies should be perceived in terms of a grassland mosaic – e.g. a mix of colonized and uncolonized areas, colonized for different lengths of time. If one looks at biodiversity that way, it makes good sense to observe species near or flying over a prairie dog colony, as well as those species on a colony. Prairie dog colonies don’t operate in isolation from uncolonized areas, so why should their value to biodiversity levels/associated wildlife be judged in isolation? Landscape-level dynamics should be judged at the landscape-level, not acre by acre.
PRAIRIE DOG ASSOCIATES/DOCUMENTED RELATIONSHIPS
1. Black-footed ferret. This species is an obligate associate of the prairie dogs (Russell et al. 1994). Black-footed ferrets depend on prairie dogs as a primary food source and upon their burrows for shelter from weather and predation. The ferret is completely dependent upon prairie dogs for survival (Henderson et al. 1969). Prairie dogs constitute about 90% of the ferret’s diet.
2. Swift Fox. A major portion of the swift fox diet is prairie dogs (Uresk and Sharps 1986). Also of importance is the ability of prairie dogs to provide cover for swift fox. Swift foxes den on or within .8km of prairie dog colonies (Hillman and Sharps 1978).
3. Ferruginous Hawk. That the ferruginous hawk is closely associated with prairie dogs is apparent from research which suggests that ground squirrels and prairie dogs are the top food source for the ferruginous hawk (Olendorff 1993). In addition, researchers have reported the ferruginous hawk’s relative abundance in areas with prairie dog acreage (Knowles and Knowles 1994; Cully 1991), and Canada has emphasized the importance of prairie dogs and burrowing mammals associated with prairie dog colonies in the recovery of ferruginous hawk populations (Canadian Ferruginous Hawk Recovery Plan 1994).
4. Mountain Plover. The mountain plover may be a prairie dog obligate (Knowles and Knowles 1994), and is, at minimum, highly dependent on prairie dogs for survival. Knowles and Knowles (1998) report that mountain plovers select prairie dog colonies for nesting, breeding and feeding. Other reports concur, showing, for example, that mountain plovers use prairie dog towns as nest sites (BLM 1979, cited in Clark et al. 1982), and they strongly prefer the short-cropped vegetation on prairie dog towns (Knowles et al. 1982), which facilitates their insectivorous feeding (Olson 1985).
5. Burrowing Owl. Prairie dog colonies provide the burrowing owl with both shelter and increased prey abundance (Agnew et al. 1987). Consequently, the decline in prairie dog habitat causes declines in burrowing owl numbers (Knowles and Knowles 1994).
6. Golden Eagle. The golden eagle has long been described as an important prairie dog predator, with current predation probably “second only to badger predation” (Campbell and Clark 1981, 273). More recent reports echo the importance of the golden eagle as a prairie dog predator (Hanson 1993), with some researchers declaring that, in the Northern Great Plains, “wherever prairie dogs are found, golden eagles can also be found” (Knowles and Knowles 1994, 35). When golden eagles nest near prairie dog towns, prairie dogs comprise 50-62% of their diet (Tyus and Lockhart 1979).
7. Badger. Badgers are commonly associated with prairie dog colonies. Knowles and Knowles (1994) write “Generally, the more abundant prairie dogs are in an area, the greater the chances of encountering badgers.” According to Campbell and Clark (1981), badgers are possibly the most significant predator of prairie dogs. Lindzey (1982) concurs. 8. Coyote. Coyotes have been named as important predators of prairie dogs by some researchers (Tyler 1968; Koford 1958; Longhurst 1944; Sperry 1941).
9. Prairie Falcons. One researcher reported the majority of predation on prairie dogs was done by prairie falcons (Knowles 1982). Knowles and Knowles (1994) expect that, should good nesting habitat exist for prairie falcons near prairie dog towns, a significant portion of the falcons diets would be prairie dog.
10. Bison. The preference of bison (buffalo) for grazing, breeding, and resting in prairie dog towns has been demonstrated by other researchers (Whicker and Detling 1993; Coppock et al. 1983b). Even more interesting, Krueger (1986) found that bison and prairie dogs have a mutually positive relationship, as the foraging efficiency of prairie dogs increases in the presence of bison, and bison, in turn, prefer the vegetative conditions caused by prairie dogs.
11. Pronghorn. This ungulates preferentially grazes on prairie dog colonies, on account of the abundance of forbs that typify colonized areas (Whicker and Detling 1993; Krueger 1986; Wydeven and Dahlgren 1985). 12. Elk. This ungulate preferentially grazes on prairie dog colonies in the summer months (Wydeven and Dahlgren 1985).
13. Mule deer. This ungulate also preferentially grazes on prairie dog colonies (Foster and Hyngstrom, n.d.).
14. Horned Lark. This bird has been reported to be found in higher abundance on prairie dog colonies than in surrounding mixed-grass prairie (Agnew et al. 1986).
15. Mourning Dove. This bird has been reported to be found in higher abundance on prairie dog colonies than in surrounding mixed-grass prairie (Agnew et al. 1986; Clark et al. 1982).
16. Killdeer. This bird has been reported to be found in higher abundance on prairie dog colonies than in surrounding mixed-grass prairie (Agnew et al. 1986; Clark et al. 1982).
17. Barn Swallow. This bird has been reported to be found in higher abundance on prairie dog colonies than in surrounding mixed-grass prairie (Agnew et al. 1986).
18. Long-billed Curlew. Prairie dog colonies are reported to benefit this bird (Clark et al. 1982; BLM 1979).
19. Eastern Kingbird. Prairie dog colonies are reported to benefit this bird (Clark et al. 1982; BLM 1979).
20. Upland Sandpiper. Prairie dog colonies are reported to benefit this bird (Clark et al. 1982; BLM 1979).
21. McCowns Longspur. Prairie dog colonies are reported to provide nest sites for this bird (Clark et al. 1982; BLM 1979).
22. Snowy Owl. This bird has been documented utilizing prairie dog colonies in the winter months (Sharps and Uresk 1990).
23. Bald Eagle. This bird has been documented utilizing prairie dog colonies in the winter months (Sharps and Uresk 1990), as prairie dogs can provide a portion of this birds diet (City of Boulder, CO, Open Space Dept. 1996).
24. Red-tailed Hawk. This bird has been documented utilizing prairie dog colonies in the spring, summer and fall months (Clark et al. 1982), as prairie dogs can provide a portion of this birds diet (City of Boulder, CO, Open Space Dept. 1996)
25. Kestrel. This bird has been documented utilizing prairie dog colonies in the spring, summer and fall months (Clark et al. 1982).
26. Rough-legged Hawk. This bird has been documented utilizing prairie dog colonies in the spring, summer and fall months (Clark et al. 1982).
27. Harrier. This bird has been documented utilizing prairie dog colonies in the spring, summer and fall months (Clark et al. 1982), as prairie dogs can provide a portion of this bird’s diet (City of Boulder, CO, Open Space Dept. 1996).
28. Short-eared Owl. This bird has been documented utilizing prairie dog colonies in the spring, summer and fall months (Clark et al. 1982). 29. Deer Mouse. This small mammal has been reported to be found in higher abundance on prairie dog colonies than in surrounding mixed-grass prairie (Agnew et al. 1986).
30. Northern Grasshopper Mouse. This small mammal has been reported to be found in higher abundance on prairie dog colonies than in surrounding mixed-grass prairie (Agnew et al. 1986).
31. Desert Cottontail. Prairie dogs enhance habitat for desert cottontails. In one study, no cottontails could be found prior to the
establishment of a prairie dog town, but after the dogtowns were established, cottontails were present in densities of .81-1.33/ha on
colony, in contrast with .03-.05/ha off-colony. (Hansen and Gold 1977).
32. Prairie rattlesnake. The greater abundance of small mammals in prairie dog colonies (Agnew et al. 1986), and the availability of prairie dog burrows for shelter, have been cited as factors for rattlesnakes to utilize prairie dog towns (Knowles and Knowles 1994).
33. Great Plains Toad. The greater availability and abundance of insects on prairie dog towns, and the availability of prairie dog burrows for shelter, have been cited as factors for this toad to utilize prairie dog towns (Knowles and Knowles 1994).
IMPORTANCE OF BEAVERS IN AN ECOSYSTEM
By Lauren Corona
Weighing up to 60 pounds on average, beavers are the largest rodent found in North America. Well-known for building dams, these creatures make more of a difference to their ecosystem than many people realize. In fact, they’re commonly referred to as ecosystem engineers, because of all they do for their surrounding environment.
When beavers make a dam, they slow the flow of water in the stream and, subsequently, a pond or area of wetland is formed. Roughly 85 percent off all native North American fauna rely on wetlands, so they’re extremely important to the ecosystem. These wetlands also slow the runoff of rains, thereby storing water that would otherwise be lost.
When beavers fell trees to make dams and lodges, they have a positive effect on their ecosystem. After felling aspens — beavers’ tree of choice — the stumps grow new shoots, which are unappetizing to beavers but are the ideal food for moose and elk populations. When they cut down trees, they also bring more light to the forest floor, which allows trees that need a lot of light to grow — such as hazels and alders — an opportunity to thrive. This encourages diversity of plant life.
Sediment and Water Filtration
When a dam slows the water and creates a pond or wetland, it also slows the movement of the sediment in the stream and causes it to build up in the pond. This nutrient-rich sediment either provides food for those creatures who live at the bottom of the pond or slowly seeps into the surrounding soil. Once the beavers move on and their dam breaks down, the water will drain, leaving behind an extremely lush meadow full of rich soil. Dams also filter the water that runs through, improving its quality.
The ecosystem engineering that beavers carry out in their habitat has a positive influence on local flora and fauna and greatly increases biodiversity. Studies have shown there is likely to be a greater abundance of birds, reptiles and plant life in areas modified by beavers. Beavers tend to make their ecosystems more complex, and therefore a number of species may rely on them and the way they engineer the environment.
The next time you see an opossum playing dead on the road, try your best to avoid hitting it, or if you are a hunter or trapper please don’t kill them. Because it turns out that opossums are allies in the fight against Lyme disease. Possums, like many other small and medium-sized mammals, are hosts for ticks looking for a blood meal. But opossums are remarkably efficient at eliminating foraging ticks. “In a way, opossums are the unsung heroes in the Lyme Disease epidemic.” Rick Ostfeld, author of a book on Lyme disease ecology and a senior scientist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, explains…
“Because many ticks try to feed on opossums and few of them survive the experience. Opossums are extraordinarily good groomers it turns out – we never would have thought that ahead of time – but they kill the vast majority – more than 95% percent of the ticks that try to feed on them. So these opossums are walking around the forest floor, hoovering up ticks right and left, killing over 90% of these things, and so they are really protecting our health.”
So it’s in our best interest to have opossum neighbors. This means keeping their habitat intact with thoughtful land use planning, tolerating them in our yards, and, whenever possible, avoiding opossum collisions.
They are beneficial to gardens. By eating snails, slugs, insects, and small rodents, they destroy the true culprits that feed on your beautiful vegetable plants.
They clean up spilled garbage. Therefore, if you are too lazy to take your trash to where it belongs and you sit it out on your porch, and then awake to find it gone? Perhaps you should write the opossum a thank you note.
They eat spoiled and rotten fruit that has fallen from trees. This will keep other pests, flies, beetles, and creepy crawlers from invading your orchard or lawn.
TICKS! It’s true! They hoover up ticks like they are candy while they obsessively clean their coats. According to an intense study at the Cray Institute of Ecosystem Studies, “one opossum can kill about 5,000 ticks in one season.”
Oh and opossums are very clean, they actually groom themselves meticulously and precisely, much like cats.
Opossums are very necessary to the environment and beneficial to our health.
Bobcats, scientific name Lynx rufus, are the most widespread predator in North America, ranging from Mexico to Canada. Some researchers have suggested that the bobcat is a “keystone species.” A keystone species is one that has a disproportionate effect on the ecosystem that it lives in, relative to its biomass. Predators are commonly named as keystone species because their populations are relatively sparse, yet they exert considerable influence on lower levels of the food chain.
The bobcat is a generalist predator — this means that it has the ability to prey on a diverse range of prey species. This is due, in part, to its versatile size. The bobcat, roughly the same size as a coyote, is big enough to take down small deer and pronghorn antelope, but small and agile enough to capture small prey. A study carried out by Idaho Fish and Game staff, published in a 1988 issue of “Northwest Science,” found that bobcats ate a total of 42 different species within a year in Oregon’s Cascade Ranges. Hares, black-tailed deer and beavers made up the bulk of the annual diet, but bobcats also ate a range of small mammals, birds, reptiles and even insects.
Top-down Ecosystem Control
As a top predator the bobcat is at, or near, the top of the food chain. This position is a critical one, because the bobcat exerts what is known as “top-down control” of ecosystems. Bobcats and other predators help to keep ecosystems balanced. In ecosystems that are short on predators, consumers lower in the food chain rapidly increase in population size. This over-taxes food resources, leading to poorer condition of individuals and higher rates of starvation. Eventually, low birth rate and high mortality will cause consumer populations to crash, but in the meantime, the effects have filtered down to plant communities. Over-grazing by herbivores can result in very low biomass of some plant species. This in turn affects invertebrate communities, and can inhibit nutrient cycling.