Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Cat Rescues/Adoptions -- Little Way to Win

(Picture Left: "Sasha." Beautiful, affectionate and healthy kitten. But, can she find an adoptive home or have to remain with her rescuer? -- A rescuer who already has too many saved strays who have yet to find adoptive homes.)

I haven't been writing a whole lot lately about new animal rescues. That's because with only one adoption during the month of June, we haven't been able to do a whole lot of new rescues. We are totally full both in boarding and in foster.

Nevertheless, a good friend and long time volunteer called last week asking for help with two new cat rescues.

"I just found this cat outside a laundromat!" Kathy told me. "He's very friendly, but people tell me he's a stray. What should I do?"

"I don't know, Kathy," I replied. "If you need help with the vetting, I can pay for the shots, testing and neutering, but I have no place to put another cat. Do you want me to call in an appointment for you with Dr. G? If you take him to Animal Control, he's a dead cat."

"Oh, I have so many cats already," Kathy lamented. "Let me see if my friend, Don can hold on to him for a little while. I'll get back to you on the vet stuff."

A short time later, Kathy called back to request the veterinary appointment. Her friend was willing to foster the friendly tabby cat. (Thank God for that!)

But, then, two days later, Kathy called about finding a kitten in front of her building!

"I can't just leave her here, Patty! She's a friendly kitten and there are some rough kids in the neighborhood and a lot of Pitbulls. (Kathy lives in a dicey area in the Bronx.) If I bring her to the shelter, would they kill a kitten, too?"

"There are tons of kittens going down at Animal Control these days, Kathy. Its the time of the year, you know. Again, I can pay to get the kitten vetted if you can hold on to her for a while. We can advertise her on Adoption sites and hope that we can find someone for her."

Following a trip to our vet, Kathy stopped over by my home in order for me to photograph the kitten she had just named, "Sasha."

Sasha is a real sweetie. About 8 to 10-weeks-old, healthy and pretty. Sasha likes being picked up and is, according to Kathy, great around her other pets.

But, we really need to find a home for Sasha, because Kathy is already up to her eyeballs in rescued cats and two rescued dogs. Unfortunately too, she lives in an area where people routinely throw cats and kittens out all the time.

"What's going on with that tabby cat your found the other day?" I asked.

"I'm hoping Don will keep him," Kathy replied wistfully. "So far, its going really well. Did you know the cat was already neutered?!"

"Really?" I said, genuinely surprised. "That means he was probably adopted from a rescue or shelter. Its terrible that the owners would throw the cat out, rather than contacting the place or people they got him from. There's no accounting for the lack of responsibiility."

Later that evening, I wrote Sasha up and posted her pictures on Petfinders and several other adoption sites.

Although I think the photos are pretty good and the write-up, descriptive and detailed, we have yet to get even one inquiry on her.

I'm not sure what one has to do these days to find a responsible, loving home for a cat -- or kitten.

As said so many times, there is no public sense of urgency anymore. (The public and media has been told that we "are on the road to no-kill" and that we are no longer killing pets for "population control." If I didn't know better, I would swear those words were coming straight from BP and not our city animal shelters.)

Too often, what rescuers rescue, we end up having to keep, thereby either putting us out of rescue eventually or turning us into "hoarders."

There is little or no way to win -- that is, unless one has a lot of friends willing to take rescued cats and kittens in. Then again, you would soon run out of friends -- or, they will simply stop taking your calls.

No real way to win. -- PCA


Sunday, June 27, 2010

Encounters with Nature and a Small Boy

(Pictures: Clementine and her seven babies, one of whom swimming beside her. "Brad and Angelina" the matriarch and patriarch of the Meer. Feisty Matilda and her two surviving ducklings. New Mom, "Gracie" and four of her seven newborns.)
Last night, I went with my dogs to Harlem Meer to check out how Joey was doing, as well as Clementine and her growing family of 7 ducklings. (Originally, Clementine had more than ten ducklings, but as noted, nature and spring can be cruel.).

To my horror, when first arriving at the Meer, I saw the Mama duck with only two ducklings!

Oh my God! What happened to the other five?! Could they all have died within just a couple of days?

But, as I hung out longer, I began to wonder if this Mama and ducklings were in fact, Clementine and her family?

For one matter, the family was at the east side of the lake, an area that I don't normally see Clementine. For another, the family was swimming around a number of other ducks. (Clementine usually keeps herself and babies more isolated from the other water fowl of the Meer.)

But, perhaps the big tip-off that this was not Clementine and her brood was that the Mama duck in this case, was much more nervous and combative, particularly with other female ducks than Clementine. So much so, that she would sometimes leave her two ducklings to harass and chase off another duck! I named this Mama duck, "Matilda" and ultimately decided that under the circumstances, she could not be Clementine. The behavior was just too bizarre and different although her ducklings appeared to be the same size and age as Clementine's.

Perhaps poor Matilda has had a much rougher time than Clementine? After all, she only has two remaining ducklings.

As Tina, Chance and I traveled around the lake, I found Joey (the surviving white Peking duck) resting in the grassy (protected) area near the Dana Discovery Center. He was with a group of mallards and a couple of Canadian Geese. I tossed some bread and seed to him which he and the other birds happily ate. There was no fighting among them.

I also noted two other ducks with whom I have become very familiar over the past year or so. "Brad and Angelina" are a very interesting pair of mallards. For one matter, they are of different coloring than the other ducks at the lake. Brad has very bright markings with large patches of white. Angelina is a very light colored brown duck. --More beige and cream shadings than the usual, darker brown of the female mallards. Brad and Angelina (like the white ducks) are ALWAYS together. Part of me believes they have produced and parented many of the young adult ducks at the lake as it is easy to see some of the unusual coloring repeating in the offspring. I believe Brad and Angelina are older ducks than the others, based upon their sizes, routine and ease at the lake. Nothing seems to bother or make this comfortable pair nervous, including the fishing lines and heavy human activity at the Meer.

Brad and Angelina too, were resting together in the grassy patch, near Joey.

Eventually leaving the grassy patch, satisfied that at least Joey, Brad and Angelina were OK, I finally found Clementine and her seven surviving babies in one of their usual places --a grassy marsh near the north side of the lake.

A very young boy was waving a wand-like stick at the family from behind the small wire fence that separates the marshes from the public park area.

"Please don't do that," I calmly said to the boy. "You will scare them away."

"Oh, I was just trying to get their attention," he answered.

"Trust me, they know you are there. But, its better to be quiet around them."

I removed some bread and bird seed from a bag and tossed it to Clementine and her ducklings (who are now rapidly growing.)

"See, they like that," I said to the boy who was about ten-years-old.

"Should I put some bread in this and throw it to them?" he asked, showing me a small, plastic red ball.

"No, no. The plastic would not be good for them. Here, toss some of this," I said, giving him some small bits of bread.

"I would like to take one of the babies home with me," the small boy said.

"No, honey, you can't do that. This is their home and that is their Mommy. They cannot survive without her. You wouldn't want someone to take you away from your Mommy, would you?"

"No," he smiled sheepishly.

I then took out my camera and began to take pictures, while dropping the leashes on my dogs.

The young boy grabbed Chance's leash and began to skip around.

I was lucky that Chance (my Pomeraian) didn't try to bite him!

"Oh, honey, please be careful with him! " I said, gently taking the leash away. "He's a little nervous with people he doesn't know. Would you like to see the pictures I just took?

I showed the boy the pictures in my digital camera and a smile came across his face.

"Those are nice!" he said.

A couple of minutes later, the boy ran back to his parents who were lying out on the grass.

He returned with his Mom's cell phone.

And without saying anything to me, the boy began to suddenly take pictures of Clementine and her ducklings with the cell phone!

And amazingly, the pictures were great!

"Wow, those are better than the ones I took! Your Mom is going to be so proud of you!"

The boy smiled a big "thank you" to me and turned to take more pictures. Its amazing how tech savvy these young kids are these days.

Feeling very good about the day, I walked to the west side of the lake with my dogs in preparation to leave Harlem Meer and return home through the park.

And to my surprise, there was yet another Mama duck with 7 newborn ducklings!

This mama too, was swimming with other adult ducks, but she did not appear so nervous and feisty as Matilda. The other ducks did not bother her and she did not bother them. I named this new Mama, "Gracie" (as she seemed calm and peaceful). Her seven tiny ducklings seemed a bit independent for their young age, seemingly swimming all over the place. Perhaps the other ducks in the area served as added protection?

All in all, it was a very pleasant trip to the Meer last night. There were fewer people out fishing and the birds all seemed much more relaxed (well, with the exception of Matilda).

But, perhaps the most fulfilling part of the evening to me was the brief encounter with the young, 10-year-old boy.

From waving a stick at Clementine and her family of ducklings, to joyfully taking pictures of them with a cell phone.

Yes, it had been a very good -- and I believe, productive evening.

Anytime we can hopefully reach and touch a member of the future generation with a positive, humane message, its a good day. ;) -- PCA


Saturday, June 26, 2010

Summer Daze

(Pictures: The three white ducks in better days. Clementine and her baby ducklings at Harlem Meer. Papa goose keeping vigilance while his mate and growing babies eat.)

It is a wondrous adventure watching the goslings grow.

While difficult now to distinguish the fast-growing and changing, 7-week-old goslings from their Mama when looking at the goose family at Turtle Pond from a distance, the experience is still a thrill. The gander (Papa goose) still, however, towers over the rest of the family and is extremely protective over them. While Mama and babies eat, Daddy keeps constant vigilance.

One hears interesting stories from some of the other bird watchers in the park.

There are at least several other (very nice) people who have been observing the birds longer than I have.

An elderly gentleman knows many of the ducks well and even has names for a few. A pair of mallards regularly wait for the man and take peanuts from his hand.

A 50-something-year-old woman seems to know the entire history of the goose family.

She tells me that once, when a large snapping Turtle threatened the family, Papa jumped on the Turtle and pushed it under the water. Another time, the babies huddled tightly together and "froze" when there was threat from another snapping Turtle.

Pretty amazing stuff. And it probably explains why Canada Geese are such resilient birds with high survival and reproductive rates. The tight family unit and devotion of the parents would put many humans to shame.

Papa goose walks with a pronounced limp. I wonder if that's from some encounter with a snapping Turtle or other predator, while trying to protect his family?

According to what the woman tells me, there were originally 7 babies, but one died very shortly after hatching from the egg.

I am still amazed that all six remaining goslings have survived so well with all the human and dog activity around Turtle Pond. It seems many people are looking out for them and yes, offering treats. This family of geese eat very well.

Fortunately fishing is not allowed at the pond and we (I and the other bird fanciers) are immensely grateful for that.

So-called, "catch and release" fishing is, unfortunately allowed at Harlem Meer. I personally believe this is one of the biggest reasons for the death and disappearances of several well known and cherished birds (cherished, not just by me, but many of the area residents), including the mated pair of swans, and two of the three white ducks.

Birds and Turtles can get caught in fishing lines or get injured via fishing hooks. Bird lovers at Prospect Park have reported freeing at least nine Canadian Geese from entanglement in fishing lines.

So far, "Clementine," the Mother duck at Harlem Meer is surviving. But, she has lost a number of the tiny ducklings who were first hatched. As of two nights ago, eight of the vulnerable little ducklings still remain.

But, Clementine has to be on constant alert.

The pretty brown mallard smartly seems to be aware of the dangers posed by fishing lines and quickly steers her babies away from them.

Clementine also seems to be aware of the dangers posed by Turtles and she can often be observed frantically wizzing her family quickly around the lake. They have to move fast to avoid the various threats.

So far, Clementine seems to be doing an incredible job of keeping her family intact. Ducks, like Canada Geese are tremendously resilient and "street/nature savvy."

Joey, the one remaining white duck (of the former three) seems now to be swimming with a small group of mostly female mallards.

I also notice that he seems a lot more cautious of humans and fishermen preferring to swim most of the time in the middle of the lake.

That is a good thing. It gives me some hope for his survival.

Its ironic and sad to be so worried about the survival of the birds over the beautiful seasons of spring, summer and fall as opposed to the "cruel winter."

But, winter was never so cruel to the fish, waterfowl and wildlife as the spring has been.

The raccoons are pretty much gone from the park now having been trapped and presumably killed by the Parks Department in collision with the Department of Health during the early spring. The coyotes are also gone, as are the swans and two of the three white (Peking) ducks.

Granted, the white ducks are not indigenous to Central Park. Either someone abandoned grown up Easter presents last August. Or, the ducks more likely were "rescued" from a live poultry market in the area and released to Harlem Meer. For almost a year, the rescue was successful in terms of the birds surviving all kinds of weather. But, once fishing season and spring started, the two female ducks were seemingly doomed and have now vanished.

So many of the beautiful animals have been replaced instead by the ugliness of long fishing polls, lines and hooks.

I fail to see how fishing is a "sport."

Even in "catch and release" are not the tiny fishes mouths injured?

One can be 90-years-old, barely walking, but still fish. One can be an overweight slob, unable to jog around the block, but still fish. One can be a 12-year-old brat who can't swim a stroke, but still fish.

It requires no skill, no smarts and no athletic prowess of any kind to sit or stand at the edge of a park lake and harass all the animals, whether they be the tiny fishes of the water, the birds of the sky or the creatures of the land.

I can't wait for the cold days of December to return. The animals have it so much easier then. -- PCA


Thursday, June 24, 2010

"Balanced Budget" -- But, Of What Real Cost?

(Picture Left: "Peggy" -- Wonderful and loving dog rescued two months ago from shelter Euth list. Peggy was doomed to go down for Kennel Cough. Sadly, lovable and now healthy Peggy still waits for adoptive home in boarding.)

Yesterday, I and a number of other rescuers, Animal Care &Control volunteers and concerned citizens attended the public Board Meeting of the AC&C.

A new Director has once again been appointed and taken over the helm at the beleaguered city animal control shelter system.

Julie Banks formerly worked at the ASPCA and two other shelters and represents the eighth interim or official director at the AC&C in as many years.

An abysmal record of "leadership" and consistency in our shelter system for sure.

Frequent turnovers in management and directorships are a red flag that something is seriously wrong.

Ms. Banks introduced herself and ran through a litany of perfunctory and usual goals. -- Certainly, nothing we haven't heard before numerous times.

She and two other (financial) speakers appeared to boast about the AC&C's "balanced budget."

But, that "balanced budget" (to one of the most under-funded shelters in terms of animal and human population in the country) comes at the cost of actual veterinary and other care to the animals in AC&C shelters, as well as rapidly declining services to the public.

For example, a call to the shelter system's general number (212) 788-4000 leaves one on "hold" for usually more than an hour. Who has time to wait that long especially if calling about an injured or sick stray animal potentially dying on city streets?

The "balanced budget" is mostly due to significant turnovers and/or cutting in staff -- something that does not spell "care" to the city's lost, stray or abandoned animals or efficiency of the shelters themselves.

Although audience members were not permitted to ask questions, there was time left towards the end of the meeting for public comment.

Esther Koslow of the Shelter Reform Action Committee presented a highly accurate and thoroughly researched history of the AC&C, including its questionable Board memberships, its deceptive public image campaigns, lack of transparency, lack of proper care to the animals and lack of necessary shelters in the five boroughs.

In citing some of the AC&C's statistics, Ms. Koslow challenged:

"If you're fond of statistics, how about this one? 100% of animals who enter any AC&C shelter will be exposed to highly contagious disease. If they arrive healthy, they will get sick."

For a full account of the Board Meeting, as well as Ms. Koslow's excellent and insightful comment, please go to: Shelter Reform HOME

Other commenters included at least two volunteers at AC&C who decried the lack of volunteerism and proper staffing at the shelter.

"Dogs are sitting in cages, not being walked and developing stress behaviors as result. Kittens and cats are left unattended in cages, often sitting in their own filth and not being properly cared for," complained another.

I too, offered comment that it is disgraceful and dishonest for the AC&C to promise the people of New York City that we will be "no kill" by 2015 when in fact, we are currently destroying many dozens of kittens, cats and dogs everyday in city shelters with no logical end in sight.

"You can't use the fact animals get sick in these facilities as advantage to claim we are no longer killing for population control. When it comes to cats, kittens and Pitbulls we are absolutely killing for population control. And yet, there is no sense of or appeal to public urgency!"

I added that people are upset about the oil spill in the Gulf. "But, they are angry with BP's evasiveness and dishonesty."

It is never a good thing to fool with mother nature or the public's ability to trust.

One can be quite sure that AC&C board members were looking at their watches in great anticipation of the public commentary session to quickly end.

I don't expect anything meaningful or positive to come out of this or any AC&C Board Meeting.

At best, AC&C Board Meetings are opportunity for some of us to vent our frustrations with how abysmally our shelter system is actually operating.

At worst, they are merely wastes of our time.

That only media would pick up on and report some of what is actually going on. -- PCA


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Better Late Than Never -- Telethon to Help the Gulf

(Picture Left: An Egret at Turtle Pond in Central Park.)

A few weeks ago, this journal raised the question of why celebrities and others in media were not immediately organizing telethons to raise money for clean-up and rescue efforts in the Gulf?

Wasn't, after all, the devastation in the Gulf even more destructive over the long haul than that which occurred during the earthquake in Haiti or the Gulf states after Hurricane Katrina?

Tragically, it seems that not only did our administration make the assumption and mistake of believing that BP would "take care of everything," but apparently everyone else did, as well.

We were all sleeping at the wheel, in a sense.

It is of course to the President's credit that he was finally able to finagle a 20 billion dollar commitment from BP to compensate those people adversely affected by the oil spill.

But, it will take time for the money to funnel through bureaucracy and record-checking. Moreover, my understanding of the 20 billion dollar pay out is that it is mostly to compensate lost businesses and livelihoods. By the time BP (though our government) sends out checks to compensate people suffering from the oil spill, it is highly questionable how much of the money will remain for clean-up and restoration in the Gulf, as well as animal rescue.

Animal rescue is always the lowest priority in any environmental or human-related disaster.

As of this writing, sharks, dolphins, fish and other marine life of all kinds are swimming closer to shores in order to try and escape the deeper, (now) oxygen deprived waters where the oil and dispersants are creating a toxic, suffocating and unlivable environment for virtually all aquatic life.

This news is extremely foreboding in terms of the long term prognosis for the Gulf even if the hole gets plugged in a matter of weeks. Lack of oxygen can spell an entire dead zone for most of the Gulf.

I still don't see the sense of urgency either from our administration, (certainly) BP or even most in the media and celebrity worlds to immediately address this catastrophe with the kind of war-like and fundraising efforts it actually requires.

But, at least a few in the celebrity world have finally responded.

Last night, Larry King and CNN put on a two-hour telethon with numerous celebrity participants in order to raise immediate monies to help both people and animals in the Gulf.

The telethon raised about two million dollars.

This is of course, mere drop in the ocean compared to the devastation it is trying to address. But due credit must be given to Mr. King and all the celebrities who turned out and supported this important event.

It was wonderful to see people putting action where their mouths are and keeping politics out of it.

Moreover, the money can immediately be channeled to where it is most needed without going through the usual bureaucracy.

Contributors were able to choose for their donations to go to either one of three organizations directly involved in the Gulf (National Wildlife Federation, Nature Conservancy and,,,,whoops, I forget the one designated to aid affected fishermen and other people in the Gulf.).

I obviously chose my donations to go to the two organizations charged with helping the animals or restoring environment as I feel most of the 20 billion from BP will compensate the people. (Perhaps since I don't eat fish, I am not all that sympathetic to those whining about the loss of their commercial and recreational fishing. As said a few weeks ago, I believe we are over-fishing the waters anyway. A number of endangered turtles recently rescued from the Gulf were found with fish hooks tearing up their insides. I further believe that fish hooks and lines are causing damage and possible death to beloved waterfowl at Harlem Meer. As previously mentioined, these birds survived a harsh winter when there was no fishing at the Meer. Why are so many dying or disappearing now?)

As reported by some of the celebrities taking phone calls, most of the people calling in to donate were directing the monies to go to rescue animals and restore the marshes and wetlands.

It was wonderful to realize there are many others like myself torn up over the wildlife images we have seen, but otherwise are so powerless to do anything about.

I still can't stop crying over certain pictures: Dead birds so covered in oil they are unrecognizable. Live birds, similarly drenched and unrecognizable, but with a look of sheer terror in their eyes. I don't know which photos or videos are worst.

But, we must keep in mind that the pictures we have been allowed to see represent the literal drop in the ocean.

While it was wonderful to see the release of 28 rehabilitated Brown Pelicans in Texas yesterday and realize such heroic efforts signify some reason for hope, reality is that these were only 28 birds out of thousands affected by the spill. The vast majority are not so lucky.

Hopefully, the telethon yesterday guarantees some monies to immediately help save, rehabilitate and release many other animals who otherwise would perish.

Special appreciation goes out to Larry King and the many celebrities (Robert Redford, Phillippe Cousteau, Sting, Ryan Seacrest, Randy Jackson, Ted Danson, Ian Somerholder, Jennny McCarthy, Alisa Milano, Victoria Principal to name a few) who took the time and donated money to give the rest of us a reason for hope.

I hope others can follow in their lead because it is ultimately going to require many, many billions of dollars and millions in manpower and other resources to try and turn this cataclysmic disaster around.

Better late, than never. -- PCA


Monday, June 21, 2010

The Mean Season, continued.......

(Pictures Left: "And then there was one." The beautiful white ducks of Harlem Meer. They survived storms that felled trees. They survived the snow, the ice and the bitter temperatures of the winter. But, come the spring and what they cannot survive is the barbarity of humans.)

Spring (now going into the equally cruel summer) continues to be a horrific season in terms of the number of cats, kittens and dogs dying in our city shelters.

The Euth lists are so long these days, they are positively dizzying to look at.

Then again, I am sadly not surprised.

Virtually, all my recent calls are to give up animals (especially cats) or, seeking help with found strays.

Matters have become so depressing, I try not to think too much about them, much less write about them.

So little has actually changed since I began writing this journal several years ago. To keep writing about the endless carnage in our shelters and the difficulty in finding responsible homes for animals (especially in the spring and summer) is merely to repeat stuff I have written hundreds of times before.

One reason I write more about birds these days.

But, even that has become depressing since the spring began.

It started with the death of the female swan at Harlem Meer in early May. Her devoted and seemingly berefit mate vanished from the Meer within a couple weeks following her loss.

But, if that wasn't distressing enough, two of the three white (Peking) ducks at Harlem Meer have also mysteriously and suddenly disappeared over the past two weeks. (The two female ducks.)

Considering that the ("food") ducks were strong and healthy and that they cannot fly, the suspicion from even a park ranger is that the white ducks fell victim to human cruelty. (Personally, I suspect the same for the female swan who died last month.)

It is hard to go to Harlem Meer now. What once was so uplifting and joyous has instead, become a battle to fight back tears.

My heart sinks at the sight of the lone male white duck (whom I call, "Joey") on the lake now. He appears so lost without his two female siblings. (The three ducks had always been inseparable.)

The other day I noted Joey following one of the female mallards in his seeming desperation for companionship.

But, the brown duck quickly scooted away from him as if to say, "What are you, crazy? I am not your type!"

Like the male swan who lost his mate, I don't feel great optimism now that Joey will survive -- that is, unless he can find another open member of the waterfowl at Harlem Meer to be his constant companion.

But, if the spring has been extremely cruel in terms of the lives it has and is taking, there is also the joy of new life:

The Mama duck whom I call, "Clementine" and her beautiful family of three-week-old ducklings.

True, the cruelties of nature (most likely snapping turtles) have already taken out a few of her babies, but to this point, most of them (8) are still hanging in there. I imagine Clementine shall be lucky if even 3 or 4 of the tiny ducklings ultimately survive. Ducks, unlike Canadian Geese and Swans don't have daddy around to help protect the babies against predators.

Speaking of Canadian Geese, the family of geese at Turtle Pond continue, so far, to mostly thrive.

The six goslings have grown amazingly big and are developing their adult colors. I am a little concerned that one of the babies' wings look as though they have sustained some injury (perhaps from the turtles?), but its too soon to know if that injury will be permanent or later affect flying ability. Papa goose appears too, that he's had some battles in life. He walks with a pronounced limp.

I think Canadian Geese are among the most amazing animals on the planet.

Their strength, their beauty, intelligence, navigation skills, communication abilities and strong family devotion.

But, even these magnificent and gentle creatures come into "conflict" with humans.

We complain that when in flight for migrations, Canadian Geese represent "threat" to our planes.

Birds have been migrating for millions of years -- long before humans or planes were even on the planet.

Who should have real right to the skies?

But, if Canadian Geese should settle down and raise young in our public parks or golf courses, we then complain that they are too "dirty!" (So stay the hell out of their breeding turf!)

This weekend, there is a horrible and despicable article (which I will post ahead of this) from a Trenton, New Jersey newspaper announcing plans (a' la Michael Bloomberg) to round up hundreds of Canadian Geese and gas them.

Anyone who sees the magnificent film, "Winged Migration" can only feel awe at the sheer wonder of migratory birds.

They have survived millions of years, can fly over thousands of miles, endure all extremes in seasons, weather and nature.

The one thing migratory birds can't seem to escape is the barbarity of humans and the machines or destruction we create, whether planes, guns, bows and arrows, gassing devices or oil spills.

The mean season continues unabated. -- PCA


County Canadian Geese to be Captured and Slaughtered (News)

(Picture Left: Papa goose with one of goslings at Turtle Pond.)

County Canada Geese to be captured & slaughtered


The TrentonianMercer County is about to go to war against Canada — Canada Geese that is.Some of the familiar, once-migratory birds have decided to make New Jerseytheir permanent home, but, too often, they’ve become resident nuisances,with each goose capable of producing up to a pound of poop per day.

A study conducted over a number of years by the U.S. Fish and WildlifeService found that New Jersey’s Canada Goose population was more than double its ideal size, according to Carol Bannerman, spokesperson for theU.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services. New Jersey has both the highest human population density of any state andone of the highest resident Canada Goose populations in the country.

Inthese conditions, conflict between goose and human populations is likely.Unfortunately, humans enjoy many of the same aspects of public spaces thatattract geese, namely open, grassy athletic fields, and bodies of watersurrounded by comfortably sloping beaches.

In the coming weeks, USDA Wildlife Services personnel will engage in theirannual capture and removal of Canada Geese throughout the state.Mercer County has contracted with the USDA for its goose managementservices since last year, said Kevin Bannon, executive director of theMercer County Park Commission.

In capture and removal, geese are rounded up and euthanized at the requestof municipalities and businesses to whom the goose population is a nuisance.Once geese have been corralled, they are placed in crates similar to thoseused for chickens and brought to a facility where they are euthanized withcarbon dioxide in accordance with procedures approved by the AmericanVeterinary Medical Association.

In New Jersey, the bodies of dead geese are “disposed of,” while in someother states the geese are used in foods like goose burgers.In Maryland the meat is donated to the state food bank, said Bannerman.Last year, 1,900 Canada Geese from 100 properties in 10 New Jersey countieswere killed.

From the perspective of the USDA, limiting the Canada Goose population isthe best way to curb problems in a state densely populated by humans andhome to a high number of resident geese.To this end, they also engage in nest and egg treatment, or interferingwith goose eggs in a way that prevents them from hatching.Simply breaking or removing eggs is not a viable option because geesecontinue to lay eggs until they are satisfied with the number ofhealthy-looking eggs in the nest. Instead, eggs can be “addled” by anynumber of techniques.Eggs can be shaken, coated in 100% corn oil, or punctured so that the yolkis broken but the shell remains intact.

Each of these techniques disruptsembryonic development and prevents eggs from hatching but is imperceptibleto geese.In Mercer County, the USDA treated 31 nests and 159 eggs with corn oil lastyear. A total of 2,700 eggs were treated by the USDA throughout the state.

For Edita Birnkrant, New York director of Friends of Animals, the groupthat led a protest of Canada Goose killings in New York City last June, the“endless cycle of killing and killing” geese is itself a problem, ratherthan a solution.Birnkrant called the killings “knee-jerk reactions” to goose-humanconflict, and feels that they take place only in the context of hysteriasurrounding problems with geese manufactured by wildlife managementagencies.

“We need more tolerance,” she said, “The problem is not with geese — it’swith us.”But Bannerman maintained that killing the geese is a necessary evil,stating that the overpopulation of the birds has created problems thatjustify their removal and killing.Geese eat farmers’ crops, create problems with overgrazing, pose a threatto planes and behave aggressively, especially in areas where they have beenfed in the past.Perhaps most noticeably, geese leave feces in areas they inhabit. Eachgoose leaves one-half to a full pound of feces per day. The fecal mattercontributes to water quality problems, like excess algae growth, can be acarrier of E. coli and is unpleasant to be around.

Finding “balance between the positive aspects of having Canada Geese in thewild and in the community, and the negative aspects” is the goal, Bannermansaid.Removing and killing geese, and disturbing their eggs, are only part of thelarger “integrated approach” of the USDA for combatting Canada Gooseproblems, according to Bannerman.

The integrated approach begins with a no-feeding policy meant to discouragebirds from staying in areas important to humans.Harassment, a process that aims to chase geese away from particular areasonce they have been settled, is carried out by teams armed with bordercollies or pyrotechnics.

Prior to contracting with the USDA, Mercer County hired local companies toharass resident Canada Geese with trained dogs.These harassment techniques are generally used once geese have arrived inan area and must be removed. To prevent geese from settling in an area,habitat management is crucial. Habitat management makes an areaecologically unsuitable to Canada Geese and greatly limits the likelihoodthey will choose to live there.

Mercer County has introduced habitat manipulation techniques throughout thefacilities it manages. A successful instance of habitat manipulation hasbeen on the 17th hole at Mercer Oaks West’s golf course, Bannon said.The hole, bordered by a lake, sustained a “tremendous amount of turfdamage” in the past because of the high Canada Goose population, he said.Now, thanks to a small fence and lakeside vegetation, golfers can enjoy thespace sans geese.

Bannon touted the USDA programs as “highly effective,”and he has received “a lot of positive comments from residents.”Birnkrant’s organization actually supports a handful of the strategiesinherent in the “integrated approach” espoused by the USDA.“People need to be educated not to feed them,” Birnkrant said.

The core of the Friends of Animals strategy for managing conflict betweengoose and human interests is habitat modification, similar to programsalready implemented in Mercer County and throughout the state.

Where the groups differ is on the more aggressive and violent tactics.Policies of capture and removal and nest and egg treatment areunacceptable, according to Birnkrant. Border collie removal, whilepreferable to lethal methods, is seen by her organization as unnecessaryuse of violent force that does not address the root of the problem.

Regardless of the justification, Friends of Animals finds the killing ofgeese unjustified and inhumane, instead stressing that developing humantolerance and respect for geese and creating habitats less ecologicallyfriendly to geese are the only long term solutions.


Friday, June 18, 2010

Political Circuses While the Gulf Burns

The Congressional hearing and questioning of BP CEO, Tony Hayward yesterday was combination joke and disgrace.

As predicted, a very lawyered up, Hayward mostly took the Fifth Amendment, though not in so many words.

Instead of "I refuse to answer that question because it might incriminate me," Hayward deftly answered, "I wasn't part of those decisions." "I don't know who made them." "I don't recall." "I can't judge until investigations are completed." "No one's been fired, so far."

In other words, the CEO (smartly) didn't say much of anything at all, despite the so-called hearing going well into the afternoon.

That was the joke part of yesterday. If anyone expected useful information to come out of this "investigation," there is a bridge in Brooklyn that can be sold to that person.
(Serious investigations after all, usually start from the bottom and go up. They don't go from the top down.)

But, the disgraceful part of yesterday had more to do with the interviewers than the interviewee.

That some Congresspeople (both, Republican and Democrat) decided to use this important hearing as a platform to score political points or push November election agendas was utterly disgraceful and underscores why so little is actually accomplished in Washington and why so many voters (including myself) are "fed up" with both parties.

I refer of course to the political shenanigans of Texas Republican, Joe Barton (apologizing to BP and then later having to retract that apology) and the Democrats immediately jumping on that to focus and score political points.

This political circus, thus took up most of the media coverage of the event, diverting attention away from the oil still spewing out in the Gulf and the slow destruction of our marshes, wetlands, sea and wildlife.

This is particularly inexcusable in light of the fact, there were a few Congressmen who actually took this hearing seriously and asked very timely and pertinent questions.

Most noteworthy was Louisiana (Republican) Congressman, Steve Scalise, who, holding up a picture of an oil-drenched Brown Pelican poignantly asked who was actually in charge of the clean-up in the Gulf? BP or the Government?

Hayward's evasive answer (if we can believe it) was that Admiral Thad Allen and the various governmental agencies were mostly in charge of clean-up, though most reports indicate that BP and the government are working in collusion together (or more accurately, working in "cahos" together).

Yesterday's hearing, in fact, raised far more questions than it answered.

But, if the Congress and our President thought it was Hayward and BP that were going to be the only "whipping boys" here, they need to think again.

That this company was given governmental permit to drill in the Gulf when BP already had a long history of serial violations of safety protocols, as well as numerous accidents behind them is something that should raise not only question, but alarm.

Fact is, that the disaster in the Gulf should not only have been predicted by BP, but more importantly, our government, based upon past history and behavior of the errant and rogue corporation.

Where are the "criminal charges" against the Minerals Management Services and/or whoever else is in charge of issuing the governmental permits to drill?

Reality is, that the Deep Water Horizon gulf disaster once again becomes a tragic situation of "Everyone is to Blame and No One (specifically) is to Blame."

Meanwhile, a dead sperm whale (an endangered species) just washed up along the Gulf shores today and the tiny Island where Brown Pelicans breed is now saturated with oil.

Politicians play, while the Gulf (quite literally) burns. -- PCA


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Growing Up, Loosy, Goosy

The six goslings at Turtle Pond are growing up fast, as their parents carefully and devotedly supervise.

The babies' tail and wing feathers are starting to grow in, as well as their colors are slowly beginning to show the shadings that will soon bring adulthood and define them as Canadian Geese.

Last week, I noted the entire family casually walking down one of the pedestrian paths -- just like a human family!

But, as it was evening and the birds were in open space and quite far from the water, the parent geese (especially, Papa!) were much more wary of my dogs. They, in fact, approached Tina and Chance in very formidable manner and I quickly had to back off with my dogs.

During the daytime and particularly when protected behind wire fencing in the park, the parent geese are much more relaxed and trusting. They will take treats from my hand, as even a couple of the babies do now.

But, it is most fun to watch the family on the water!

The babies stretch and flap their (still small) wings in preparation and training for flight.

Mommy and Daddy geese meanwhile (seemingly missing the freedom to fly) also stretch and flap their wings as if getting ready to take off somewhere.

Time in the water is also "playtime" for the birds, including the parents.

It's not unusual to see Mommy or Daddy joyfully doing flips, somersaults and dives in the water.

Perhaps they are vicariously re-living their gosling days with their fast-growing kids? -- PCA


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The ("Unsinkable") Titanic of the Gulf

(Picture Left: Mama goose and baby at Turtle Pond.)

Tonight, millions of Americans, including myself with be listening and watching carefully to President Obama's address from the Oval office.

What we don't need to see is political "theatre." What we don't need to hear is "feel good" Disneyland fluff such as "This will all be better in a year or two."

Recovery from the Gulf oil catastrophe is not going to occur in a "year or two" and that would be true even were we utilizing all available resources and throwing everything we have at it.

Reality is, however, that to this point, we have not been confronting this disaster with any kind of competence, as well as available and necessary resources.

As of yesterday, Parish President in Louisiana, Billy Nungesser, was organizing efforts to buy a bunch of "Wet Vacs" to vacuum up some of the oil spillage near the marshes. (Apparently, the comparatively cheap machines do a good job in sucking up the slime.)

The question is, why hasn't our government and the oil companies developed and provided more sophisticated vacuuming equipment to do the job?

Right now, BP is being made to look like the "bad cop" here (which it certainly is.)

But, it isn't just BP. -- It is ALL the oil companies.

Moreover, it is our government and the people who create the demand for oil drilling and essentially hired BP not just to drill at "Deep Water Horizon" but all over the Gulf.

One has to ask why this particular job was so "rushed" and pressured that many of the necessary safeguards were either overlooked or totally circumvented? Apparently, BP was "behind schedule" in drilling at Deep Water Horizon. They had other scheduled jobs after this one.

Was that due to company greed or pressure from our government?

There are many things we don't know here.

What is known is that numerous laws were either ignored or violated, particularly those regarding endangered species.

The oil companies apparently believe that Walruses and Sea Lions still live in the Gulf when reality is these species haven't existed in the region for 300 million years. One would think that even most fifth graders would know this.

Meanwhile, numerous endangered species survive or spawn in the Gulf, including brown Pelicans, Blue Fin Tuna, sea turtles, several species of endangered whales and migratory birds and even the American Crocodile.

Following a long-term disaster like this that results in so much destruction of habitat, many of these endangered species (and others) will be pushed to the brink of extinction, thereby affecting the delicate web of life and all-important food chain of which humans are a part.

Once oil gets into marshes and wetlands, it is impossible to clean up (unlike picking up tar balls from a beach.)

We were already losing hundreds of miles of wetlands every year before the Deep Water Horizon oil catastrophe.

As noted last week, wetlands are not just important for protecting endangered species or providing food or breeding sources for animals most humans eat (shrimp, oysters, etc.), but they are critical in protecting the mainland from the devastating affects of storms and hurricanes.

Efforts need to be immediately undertaken not just to try and protect wetlands and marshes from the current oil disaster, but to actually RESTORE them.

Queen Bess Island (main breeding ground for Brown Pelicans) was successfully restored when it became clear the state bird of Louisiana was about to go extinct during the late 60's. Similar efforts need to be undertaken NOW for the rest of the wetlands, marshes and barrier islands.

If the government and BP has been slow to react in terms of people losing livlihoods due to the oil spill or decimated tourist businesses, they have been disgraceful in terms of wildlife recovery and rehabilitation.

Dead birds, sea turtles and marine mammals being picked up far outnumber live ones by at least 5 to 1.

Moreover, recovery efforts are mired in bureaucracy.

Boats going out to look for wildlife, require one person from the Department of Fish and Wildlife, one person from BP and then one or two hired workers (usually fishermen).

What is NOT required (or even being utilized) are actual experts in bird rescue!

There are perhaps hundreds of bird organizations and sanctuaries around the United States whose members or actual employees are experts in bird rescue and rehabilitation from the Audubon Society to many others.

In some cases, representatives of these organizations have gone to the Gulf to help, but are being turned away!

As result, the so-called "rescue boats" are primarily picking up either dead birds or birds so drenched in oil that they cannot fly (in other words, the birds with a lesser chance of long term survival.)

Those people with expertise in bird rescue would be better capable of capturing those birds with small amounts of oil and still capable of flight. Moreover, bird experts would do so with less stress to the birds. (Rescuing for example, in the very early hours of the morning, such as 5AM when there is less heat and activity to stress out the birds.)

While bird rescue efforts may be starting later in the days than what is ideal or recommended, that is not to say that all BP workers are sleeping late.

According to several reports, (mostly from Turtle watchers, but at least one marine toxicologist), hired workers from BP are canvassing some beaches at night with flashlights to pick up the animal bodies of the dead. (Obfuscating, destroying or hiding evidence.) In some cases, heads have been removed from dead birds, thereby making cause of death very difficult or impossible to determine.

President Obama and some leaders in government are calling for BP to put 20 billion dollars in "escrow" to pay compensation to lost businesses and displaced workers.

Good luck in getting that.

BP can be expected to heavily "lawyer up" and use every means possible to get out from under this rock if it means spending the next two decades in court.

BP officials can take the Fifth Amendment during Congressional hearings. Indeed, they have entire playbooks to deal with media, public relations and presumably government officials and even the court system.

What neither the oil companies nor our government had (or has) is a playbook to deal with disastrous oil spills.

Like the "unsinkable" Titanic, Deep Water Horizon was too big to fail. -- PCA


Saturday, June 12, 2010

We Need (to Remember) True Heros

(Picture Left: Mama duck and babies at Harlem Meer in New York. Grim reminder that the disaster in the Gulf is happening at a time when hundreds of species of animals are spawning and reproducing. Reported on CNN today: A baby dolphin washed up dead on a Gulf coast beach. The dolphin was quickly scooped up and hauled away [presumably by BP workers]before any cameras could photograph.)

The other day, I was critical of political leaders and questioned why it is we just don't seem to nominate or elect the best people for the jobs?

Certainly, the best example of that was George W. Bush.

True, Bush didn't actually "win" the election of 2000. Gore won the popular vote by almost half a million. But, a glitch in election law and a controversial decision by the Supreme Court handed the Presidency to a man who truly was not at all competent for the job.

Ten years later, our country is still paying dearly for that mistake, although the people did vote to keep Bush in office in 2004. -- Something that is very difficult to understand.

It seems, more often than not, we elect people not based upon their experience, qualifications, character and competence for the job, but rather inconsequentials such as appearance, "hair style," personality, (i,e, "He's the one I'd like to have a beer with!"), charisma or most of all, slick or negative (to the opponent) campaign ads.

That is truly disastrous, as during any time of crisis (such as we have now in the Gulf oil seepage), we need leaders who can take charge, inspire trust and show us a way out of the abyss.

So far, that is not President Obama or more than 95% of the Congress.

But, it is not true of all political leaders.

Throughout this catastrophe, there have actually been a couple of politicians who have stepped up to the plate and demonstrated true leadership during a crisis.

One of these is Congressman, Ed Markey (Democrat from Massachusetts) and Bobby Jindal (Republican Governor of Louisiana).

Both of these men have courageously stepped out to the front lines of this disaster and responded as we need our leaders to respond.

Markey fought hard and is mostly responsible for forcing BP to release the video showing the continuing oil spill to the media. This was a very important achievement in terms of ever getting any kind of handle on exactly how much oil is spewing out all over the Gulf. -- It goes directly to the issues of accountability, disclosure and transparency.

Markey has continued to be an outspoken advocate for honesty and transparency, as well as a strong critic of how the disaster is being handled.

Both, Markey and Jindal have, from day one, sounded the alarm bells on the long-term effects this enviornmental disaster would ultimately wrought on the entire Gulf coast.

Jindal has been begging for resources to be sent into his state and when that didn't work, the man has personally been out on boats sucking up some of the oil with rudimentary suction devices and trying to create barriers.

Jindal has invited media to film some of the devastation to the marshes, wildlife and wetlands, most likely to the disdane of BP and the administration, who, so far have continually low-balled and obfuscated the oil spilling out in the Gulf and the ultimate damage.

It is important during a crisis of this magnitude to keep a careful eye on our elected officials and other politicians to see who is actually stepping up to the plate and showing true leadership and who are dropping the ball and/or distorting/hiding the truth (unfortunately, true of most of the pols, including the representatives from New York.).

When primary and election time rolls around, instead of paying attention to (insult our intelligence) commercials or even debates, its most important to go back to our memories.

Who stepped up to the plate? Who dropped the ball during a crisis?

Those are the only questions we need to really ask.

The catastrophe in the Gulf is giving us clear answers to those two questions and will tragically continue to do so for a long, long time. -- PCA


Thursday, June 10, 2010

How Did We Get Into This Mess (In More Ways Than One)?

(Photo Left: A Heron photographed yesterday at Harlem Meer in New York)

According to wildlife expert, Jeff Corbin of NBC, the oil crises in the Gulf represents an "unprecedented ecological catastrophe."

Nothing else compares to it.

As of this moment, we don't know how much oil continues to pour into the Gulf of Mexico. Nor, do we don't know the effects of using chemical dispersants in the unprecedented amounts we are using them now to try and break up the oil.

Indeed, we don't even know exactly what is in those dispersants.

Most of the news reports these days are centering around loss of livelihoods to people, claims against BP and lawsuits.

While one can deeply sympathize with those people losing their jobs or businesses through no fault of their own, the bigger issue seems to be the toxic destruction of the waters, the coastline, marshes, marine and wildlife and wetlands.

Can we really afford for the entire Gulf of Mexico to turn into a toxic dead zone for virtually all sea life?

Can we afford for the precious wetlands, so important for protecting inner lands and cities from destruction during storms and hurricanes to virtually disappear?

Although I did not vote for President Obama because I felt he was too inexperienced for the job of President (I was a strong Hillary Clinton supporter), I was generally approving of him throughout the first year or so of his Presidency -- at least until this disaster.

Now, I don't know who he is or where he's coming from.

For a man who fired up millions to passionately and generously campaign and vote for him, Obama can't seem now to muster a phone call to CEO of BP, Tony Hayward.

The nonsense yesterday on the Today Show of "whose ass to kick" seems contrived, pointless and out of character for Obama -- especially when one doesn't even pick up phone to actually "kick ass."

Perhaps our President is afraid that if calling the head honcho at BP, Tony Haward won't take the call?

Therein seems to be the real problem.

Its not our President or the government that's seemingly in charge and control -- Its BP.

Indeed, everything goes through BP.

BP determines what is reported to the press and when. BP decides what efforts are made (or, more notably, not made) to clean up the mess or try to prevent oil from reaching the shores. BP is in charge of the dispersants and how they are discharged. (So far, BP isn't telling anyone what's actually in them.) BP is in charge of all rescue efforts for wildlife and is now barring members of the press from certain sensitive areas or from photographing some of the captured animals. Those charged with the task of rescuing distressed wildife are apparently not supposed to talk to the press. (This according to Anderson Cooper of CNN).

Question: Why is so much power being ceded to BP -- the ones who actually committed the crimes? Why is so much trust and faith being ceded to those who have continually lied and taken all those actions necessary to keep their liabilities down?

Last week, President Obama criticized BP for its 50 million dollar advertising campaign.

But, the TV and newspaper ads still continued unabated.

How much does BP listen to our President?

As much as most teenagers listen to their parents.

The so-called "booms" being placed by BP in the Gulf are the equivalent to filling up a bathtub with water, dumping a few gallons of oil in it and then using a cotton ball to try and soak up the mess.

Mind you, a water-filled bathtub is not our sensitive ecological system.

Large tankers (from other oil companies or even foreign nations) should have been brought in with means to "vacuum" and suck up some of the oil.

Rescue efforts need to be greatly expanded (without interference from BP) in order to try and save some of the animals, especially endangered wild and sea life.

As of yesterday, 68 dead mammals were found (presumably, mostly dolphins). Only 2 were found still alive. More than 700 dead birds have been found so far. (Mind you, those are just the ones actually seen and found above the water. What does that say for the ocean floor?) But, even for the birds found still alive and treated, the long term prognosis for their ultimate survival is extremely grim.

Stats like these are unacceptable and spell doom for most or even all of the ecosystem surrounding and in the Gulf.

I don't know when our government, political leaders and President are going to get it together and start acting like leaders, instead of wooden puppets.

But, judging from some of the statements of the past couple of days, I don't have much hope.

For our President to say the other day (on the Today Show) "Most of the sealife should recover in a season or two" sounds like it was straight out of a BP ad or commercial.

And for a newly victorious candidate for the US Senate (Carly Fiorina) to negatively comment on her opponent's hair style while all this tragedy is going down, shows that the new leaders "coming up" are potentially even worse than the ones currently in office.

How did we get into this mess -- in more ways than one?

More importantly, how do we get out of it? -- PCA


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Meanwhile, Back to the Normal World.....

(Picture Left: Me, the day we rescued Simba [to my left] from Animal Control a few weeks ago. The black Chow mix is Morris rescued and adopted several months ago. Photo credit: Francis Golassi -- also the adopter of both dogs.)

If some are wondering why I haven't been writing lately about rescue or adoptions, its because June is generally the slowest time of the year for animal adoptions. Its the time when most people are planning summer vacations or at minimum, July 4th getaways.

We were lucky to get a few adoptions in May (including one dog, Fawn who had been in boarding at least six months). But, new dogs were rescued to take the place of those adopted either from foster or boarding.

So, we are once again at capacity.

So far, June has been a total bust with the exception of a lovely Chow rescued (Simba) who was later adopted by her foster people.

In fact, I wouldn't know the phone was working except for the daily calls to either give up animals or place strays.

One of these calls a couple of days ago was from a woman who adopted a Chow mix named, "Chloe" from us five years ago.

"Jennifer" now claims to be "moving in a week" and needs to return the dog. Chloe is now almost ten years old.

"You just decided today that you are moving in a week?" I asked, obviously upset with the call.

"I couldn't find your number," was the reply.

But, Jennifer miraculously finds my number a week before she moves to a "no pet" situation?

It is amazing the way people think we have homes lined up for ten-year-old, mixed breed dogs.

But, that has a lot to do with the public messages that have been going out via the media and newsletters from the larger organizations cheerfully claiming we are going to be "no kill" in five years. Of course that message has recently been modified: "We are not going to be killing animals for population control!"

What, one wonders, does that mean?

If a dog like Chloe goes to Animal Control and ends up being destroyed, that is not for "population control." Its because the adoptive homes are almost impossible to find for medium sized, senior animals.

But, this is a common reason for killings in our shelters. In addition to the the fact that most cats and dogs get sick in our municipal pounds and the "illnesses" then provide the justification for killing. (This, despite the fact most of the "illnesses" are treatable Upper Respiratory Infections --i.e. colds).

I asked Jennifer to immediately email me some pictures of Chloe so I could put out emergency quests for placement on the Internet.

"I am calling you from the street and don't have paper to write down your email address," Jennifer told me.

"Well, then can you call me later and I will give it to you?" I asked.


That phone call was two days ago and I have yet to hear back from Jennifer.

I tried calling her and leaving a message.

"Please send me the pictures as time is quickly running out."

I will most likely hear back from Jennifer the actual day she moves.

So no, I haven't been writing a whole lot lately about either the situation in our shelters (grim) or the equally grim circumstances for most rescues.

Later in the day, I will take my dogs to Central Park to check up on the goose family or the Mama duck in Harlem Meer with her ten newborn ducklings.

Its highly unlikely Mama duck still has ten.

Life and nature can be cruel -- and that's without oil spills. --PCA


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

"Little Things," Little People and Little Lives

(Picture Left: In Memorium -- A family of raccoons at Turtle Pond two years ago. Despite delighting so many people, it only took one loonie to spell their demise.)

Its funny, how when distraught over a major event, one can go totally off the edge over something small and comparatively insignificant.

That's where I am right now.

As has been obvious in recent blog entries, the recent oil disaster in the Gulf and the devastating impact it will have on all kinds of marine, human and wildlife has brought with it, a sense of despair and hopelessness in terms of the outer world and current events.

But, it is "little things" over the past couple of days that are truly infuriating and sending emotions over the edge.

Most of it has to do with, of all things, raccoons.

As previously mentioned, raccoon numbers have been decimated in Central Park over the past few months.

That is because the city has been trapping and rounding up raccoons.

There is more than one explanation for this, but most of it (really) has to do with public hysteria.

It only takes one or two loonies to complain about animals and actions will immediately be taken to either ban, banish, or round up the animals and kill.

A couple of years ago, there was a family of very friendly, healthy and human-trusting raccoons at Central Park's Turtle Pond who delighted almost everyone who saw them (much like the goose family is doing now). People fed treats and the raccoons would sit up and beg for them (much like dogs do). Other people took pictures and brought their kids to revel in the raccoon family.

But, apparently one day, one of the junior raccoons got too friendly and jumped in a baby stroller. The raccoon didn't do anything but steal a piece of fruit. But, the woman freaked out and immediately called the cops.

Within a few days, all of the raccoons were trapped and removed, never to be seen again.

Over this past winter, I saw many raccoons in various areas of the park. Usually they were more visible at night, but occasionally one would see a raccoon in the day time scurrying up a tree or scouting for food in the grass.

I began to worry that the raccoons were becoming too visible and plentiful and that the city and Parks Department might soon take action -- particularly with spring quickly approaching when more people would be attending the park and breeding season would occur.

I like to think when I have such thoughts and worries, they are simply my "paranoia," but that wasn't the case.

Sure enough, notices soon went out to the media that some "rabid" raccoons were found in the park and the city would soon begin an effort to "trap, vaccinate and release" healthy raccoons.

How does one "test" an animal to determine if it has rabies? You have to cut off its head -- i.e. kill them.

The alternative is to isolate the animal in quarantine for six months to see if s/he develops any symptons -- something not practical for wild animals.

Rabid animals are of course, very dangerous. But, one has to wonder how an otherwise healthy population of raccoons in a city park could come down with rabies in the first place? There are no rabid foxes or bats in Central Park. And almost all dogs are now vaccinated for rabies.

Moreover, there were no reports of either people or dogs having been attacked or bitten by a "rabid raccoon" -- or any raccoon for that matter.

But, certainly many people are fearful of raccoons.

One night, when walking my dogs near the Reservoir, a jogger stopped to warn me about a raccoon near one of the Central Park bridges. I thanked him, but shrugged off the warning.

A few weeks ago, I attended a "raccoon sighting" tour conducted by the Park Rangers.

Although walking for almost two hours in normally raccoon frequented areas, we only saw one raccoon high in a tree near the Conservatory.

The park ranger told the other visitor and me that attempts were being made to try and bottle-feed and save a baby raccoon that had recently been found without any siblings or parents. I wanted to say that's because the city probably trapped and killed the parent raccoons.

In any event, the decimation of raccoons in the park is a very sore point with me and apparently some other nature lovers in the park who I've met recently. (That's how I learned the story of what happened to the raccoon family that had been at Turtle Pond two years ago.)

I could therefore not let casually slide a remark put on Facebook a couple of days ago by a relative of friends of mine. Basically, it intimated that all raccoons have RABIES (rabies was capitalized in the post) -- especially any seen in the day time. Another comment later posted by this same person said that all raccoons should be "banished from the cities."

It is regrettable to insult a relative of people I truly appreciate as friends. But, people like this are the real reason why hundreds of raccoons in the park have been trapped, rounded up and almost assuredly killed.

Last night, I walked my dogs around the bridal path that surrounds the Reservoir running path.

I stopped at one point near the North water building to approach the Reservoir itself to briefly look over the waters.

My dogs quietly sat on the ledge while I gazed upon the water in amazement.

There, far off in the distance walking along the sand bar in the actual water, was a raccoon!

(I guess its hard to set traps on the water itself or on the sand bars? The actual water must be the raccoon's last refuge.)

A jogger stopped to talk to me and compliment my dogs.

"Are those Pomeranians?" he cheerfully asked.

"One of them is, but don't pet him," I cautioned. "He's very protective, but you can pet my other dog, Tina."

I pointed out the raccoon in the distance (on the water) and the runner too, was amazed.

"I saw some officials trapping a raccoon last week on the other side of the park," he lamented.
I wondered if that same raccoon had babies somewhere dying now without their Mom -- like the orphaned baby the park trooper told us about?

After a few minutes, the jogger and I bade a friendly goodnight and I began to disembark from near the water building back to the Bridal Path.

But, before I could get there, some 50-something year-old woman walking along the path with a shopping bag, admonished, "DOGS ARE NOT ALLOWED ON THE RESERVOIR!"

To which I hurled back a long stream of loud obscenities.

I was so red-hot angry that had this witch from hell been anywhere near me, I would have literally rung her neck. I absolutely LOATH people like this!

Although my intention was to continue the walk on the Bridal Path, a few minutes later (out of spite and anger) I returned to the running path. Yes, I know dogs aren't allowed.

But, my dogs are trained to walk along the ledge in front of the iron fencing. Technically, they are not even "on" the actual running path.

Not one runner complained about my dogs.

Its never the serious runners who do.

Rather, its always the little people with little lives who "complain" about things like well behaved dogs near the running path at night -- or raccoons in any place.

Please Lord, spare me -- and the animals from them. -- PCA


Monday, June 7, 2010

En-Gulfed in Oil and Peril (Reply)

(Picture Left: A Mommy duck and family of newborn baby ducklings at Harlem Meer in Central Park. That the disaster in the Gulf occurred during the height of breeding season for most animals spells peril and doom for generations to come.)

Shellie Writes: Anyone who does not believe this is truly a tragedy is certainly misguided and seemingly wearing blinders. Do you like seafood? It may not be available in the future. How many species will ultimately face extinction? Even aquatic life that is "saved" may be unable to reproduce due to the petroleum. And if they are able to lay their eggs, the eggs quite possibly may not hatch due to shell defects from the oil. Not only birds, but sea mammals and reptiles will be affected. The ocean is not a contained system, like a swimming pool. Eventually the oil will be carried worldwide by ocean currents. Some oil will probably attach to water droplets that evaporate into the atmosphere, contaminating rainfall, which will in turn contaminate the soil, which in turn will contaminate the ground-water supply. Humans who consume oil-contaminated water face the possibility of liver failure, as the body can not process petroleum and eliminate it. The process is endless, and the repercussions of this will be felt by most, if not all species, worldwide for generations to come. This is truly a disaster of global proportions.

Reply: Thank you for sharing this vital information with us.

There is some evidence to suggest we are already over-fishing the waters and some species of fish (such as Blue Tuna) are in danger of extinction even without the oil spill. Moreover, much of the fish that is eaten is contaminated with mercury (also a result of oil drilling). And while consumption of products with mercury will not immediately kill a human, the cumulative health effects over time are extremely negative.

It is still unclear how BP was able to sidestep critical laws and allowed to drill in this environmentally sensitive area.

The area is home to a number of animals on the Endangered Species List, including several species of whales and turtles. As noted previously, the Brown Pelican was only removed from the Endangered Species List six months ago. That the disaster occurred during the breeding season when new chicks are born, means that the chances for this species of bird to "recover" from the oil spill are just about zero.

Moreover, thousands of migratory birds fly over the area, among them Terns and Frigates (also called, "Masters of the Skies."). But, because many of these birds dive down to fish in the waters, these birds are now also EN-GULFED in oil and peril. In some cases, unidentified and migratory birds have either been found dead on the beaches or required rescue.

One member of Congress (Vitter) has just called for a vamping up of animal rescue efforts on the Gulf. Again, this seems too little, too late. While we can only give praise to those workers (mostly hired by BP) who are tirelessly canvassing some of the waters and beaches to rescue oil-drenched birds and turtles, as well as those working to clean up and save those animals they can, the reality is they are way over their heads. One wonders why the major animal rescue and environmental organizations have so far, not been heard from on this critical situation? Is that due to the organizations themselves or laxity on the part of the administration to request or accept their help?

Personally, I feel the administration has been tragically slow and anemic in its response to this, as you rightly call it, "disaster of global proportions." Too much of the control and direction for "clean-up" and rescue has been left in the hands of BP -- the very ones responsible for the disaster in the first place.

There is no way to accurately predict the total devastation to the Gulf Coast and the planet from this catastrophe.

When one considers that most of the oil is flowing far beneath the surface of the waters, the ultimate and most significant damage is that we do not see. -- PCA


Sunday, June 6, 2010

Canadian Goose Family -- A Now Favorite Attraction of Central Park!

The tragedy in the Gulf gives one a sense of greater appreciation for the animals one has, as well as the beauty of a still-healthy nature around us.

After seeing the truly revolting pictures of oil-drenched Pelicans and other birds dying on Louisiana (and now, Florida) beaches, it lifts the heart to temporarily escape and enjoy the fantastically entertaining family of geese in Central Park's Turtle Pond.

The six babies (or, technically, "goslings") are quickly growing. They are learning all the skills from their parents that they will later need as adult birds. Mostly, the Canadian Geese seem to have some fascinating and silent means of communication that immediately draws the whole family in line. They can be all scattered around an area one minute and the next, suddenly jumping into the water with the babies rapidly getting into a straight line between their parents.

Its pretty amazing to see and might make some human parents envious of not having such "fall in line" obedience from their kids.

I am a little concerned that the parent geese have seemingly become very tame over time and openly trust humans. The whole family as a matter of fact, freely congregates around people and will even walk directly up to some folks and take food from the hand.

That was a habit seemingly developed long before I began seeing and offering treats to the goose family a few weeks ago.

One observer of the birds told me the geese parents have in fact, been living in the area for a number of years. According to this woman, park workers destroyed the eggs of the breeding pair of Canadian Geese in previous years and that is why we are only seeing offspring now. The woman seemed surprised that the eggs were allowed to hatch this year.

Whatever the real story and history of these geese, they are currently providing lots of entertainment and joy to visitors of the park -- especially families with well behaved children and young couples.

They are a favorite subject for many people's photographs -- particularly mine. ;) --PCA


Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Endangered Species List -- It's Not Just About Wildlife

Although its been several days since posting an entry here, I've actually written two, but decided at the last minute, to submit them as possible "Op Eds" to the New York Times.

The Times won't accept anything for publication that is already out in public venue.

While it is extremely unlikely that the Times will publish my personal submissions, (in which case, I will post here later in the week) I am hopeful that the paper will publish something that deals with the main subject matter of these entries:

That is, the very real threat that the current oil disaster in the Gulf can (and most likely will) result in extinction for Brown Pelicans, the state bird of Louisiana.

Brown Pelicans almost went extinct in the late 60's. This was mainly due to hunting, destruction of habitat and the harmful effects of DDT. But, then efforts were made to bring the birds back. DDT was banned, Brown Pelicans were added to the Endangered Species List and a protective rock barrier was created around Queen Bess Island (along the Louisiana coast) the favorite breeding ground for Brown Pelicans.

The efforts were successful and six months ago, the Brown Pelican was removed from the Endangered Species List.

My Op-Eds to the Times call for Brown Pelicans to be re-listed to the Endangered Species List as their recovery and survival chances after this catastrophic oil spill in the waters they feed from and the areas they breed, are in grave doubt.

Reality is, that even if rescued, cleaned up and released to other areas, such as Florida, the Pelicans are almost guaranteed to return to their homing (and now toxic) breeding grounds.

The outlook is extremely bleak for these magnificent birds (who are a vital part of the food chain and who mate for life) unless immediate and decisive steps are taken to help insure their protection and priority!

So far, 567 birds have been found dead in the Louisiana Gulf coast (with numbers growing alarmingly everyday.) Most have been identified as Brown Pelicans, but some are so oil-drenched they are beyond recognition.

86 Brown Pelicans (still breathing) have been picked up, but it is uncertain how many of those birds will ultimately live. There is a planned release tomorrow for some of the birds who have been successfully cleaned up, but as noted, Pelicans' normal "homing" instincts leave their long term survival in doubt.

It is important to not only write letters on this issue to the media, but also to contact our Senators, Representatives and the President to demand that Brown Pelicans be immediately re-added to the Endangered Species List.

BP can't list animals to the Endangered Species List (and truly should NOT be charge of their rescues or the Gulf clean-up!). Only our federal political leaders can.

Please contact the President and your elected national leaders first thing on Monday (you can get their names and contact information from the League of Women Voters) and demand, not only for Brown Pelicans to be re-added to the Endangered Species List, but ALSO that the Endangered Species Act, the Marine Mammals Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Act Treaty be ENFORCED.

Reality is, that had these laws been followed in the first place, we would not be facing the horrible tragedy we are now in the Gulf.

Sperm whales are on the Endangered Species List. BP was required by law to get permits before drilling in areas where there are protected species. Since Sperm Whales swim in Gulf waters, the likelihood is that BP would never have been granted federal permit to drill as it would have violated this important law of protection and put Sperm Whales under threat!

So, if anyone thinks this is just about birds, whales or other endangered wildlife, think again.

The oil spill that should have never occurred in the first place (had laws been followed) now threatens the entire Gulf coast and the health and livelihoods of its human as well as animal inhabitants. --PCA


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Fiddling (and Singing) While the Gulf Burns

It is very difficult not to feel shocked, confused and despaired right now with our country's lackadaisical and anemic response to the oil crisis in the Gulf. -- A crisis that could ultimately result in the entire region becoming a "Dead Zone" for all wild and marine life.

There seems a deafening silence from the Animal Protection Community, the Environmental Community, the "bleeding heart" Hollywood sect, most of our nation's politicians and sadly, most of the public.

Indeed, the main people seemingly (and only?) upset about this national catastrophe are the shrimpers and fishermen in Louisiana who are worried over losing their livelihoods. -- Oh, and those involved in tourist industries who worry over the loss of business should the beaches all along the Gulf Coast degenerate into toxic, oil-leaden wastelands.

Well, "oil-leaden and toxic wasteland" is what the entire Gulf is likely to become unless a massive mobilization is immediately undertaken to try and clean up the mess and prevent the oil from reaching sensitive marshes, wetlands and beaches from Louisiana to Mississippi to Florida. Already oil is approaching Mississippi and Florida. It is now speculated that oil could continue spewing out millions of gallons of toxic brew through December. The "powers that be" are apparently powerless to actually plug the hole anytime soon.

What would a "massive mobilization" entail?

Well, something similar to what was organized to go into New Orleans after Katrina and Haiti after the earthquake. Money could be raised to pay for the relief efforts just as it was for the natural disasters: Telethons, concerts, public appeals, emails and texts.

The apparent "strategy" of simply waiting and wishing for BP to "plug up the hole" is no strategy at all.

Nor, is sending a few hundred workers with Bounty towels to wipe oil off grass any kind of "strategy."

It is so obvious that BP is NOT going to clean up the mess. They can't even plug the hole!

So where does that leave our nation's leaders in all this?

Well, today Obama made a commencement speech in Pennsylvania. Tonight, Paul McCartney is scheduled to "entertain" the President and his wife at the White House and receive some special award.

We are, (as a nation) essentially, singing and fiddling while the Gulf burns. -- PCA