Monthly Archives: June 2014

Crime and squirrels

A mummified squirrel body was discovered nailed to a tree in Ottawa, Canada.

and a police officer was called to assist with a “trapped squirrel.” It’s not clear from the report where exactly this squirrel was stuck. But I love small town police logs! Teens sneaking out of the house! Stolen chainsaws! Men fighting over tin cans! Suspicious persons!

More dried up squirrels

taxied

 

Someone paid $70K for a pair of taxidermied, boxing squirrels. That’s what I’d call disposable income.

 

 

 

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Better than a disco ball

discoclamFor your next party, consider a "disco clam"? These clams have flashy lips that they move frequently to create a "disco ball" effect. Scientists at UC Berkeley (hey! I know Lindsay!) recently determined that this is not bioluminescence (as found in some animals such as jellyfish) but because the lip has highly reflective cells on one side. They still don't know why the disco clam has flashy lips, but mate attraction is always a good guess. Read more and see a video here (in an article by another UCB scientist, and my friend Jane Hu)!

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An unusual fashion style

Assassin bugs, as you might guess from their name, kill other bugs. But some species take it to the next level, sucking the corpses of their victims dry, and wearing them - often MANY of them! These corpses function as both visual and olfactory camouflage, and may offer some physical protection as well. Fascinating! Read more here.

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Humans are on an endless quest for a fountain of youth – keys to longevity and health – and we’d like to know what might help our pets live longer too. Scientists in the UK recently published a study, “Longevity and mortality of cats attending primary care veterinary practices in England” in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, examining factors that were correlated with increased lifespan and risk of death in domestic cats.

Cats are considered seniors by the age of 10 or so. Photo by Edward Townend, https://www.flickr.com/photos/townendphotography/
Cats are considered seniors by the age of 10 or so.
Photo by Edward Townend, https://www.flickr.com/photos/townendphotography/

There have been surprisingly few studies on the lifespan of pet cats. Cats are considered seniors by age 10 and cats typically stop producing offspring by the time they are 11 or 12. Sources report the average lifespan of cats to be from 10 to 14 years, but little is known about what might cause some cats to live longer lives than others.

The current study utilized veterinary records from September 2009 until December of 2012. To be included in the study, cats had to be noted as deceased in the veterinary records. Other factors that were noted were: sex of the cat (including neuter status), age at time of death, body weight, insurance status, breed and disease status were also included as variables when known. From over 12,000 records of deceased cats, around 4000 were randomly selected for the final dataset.

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Raccoons - cute, scary, kind of awesome

I've had plenty of urban encounters with raccoons and they kind of scare the crap out of me. Like many urban "pest" species, they are amazingly understudied given their obvious problem solving behaviors and survival skills. Jason Goldman tells us more about the behavior and lifestyle of this fascinating animal.

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Squirrels and crime

A man was arrested for heroin possession after he was reported chasing squirrels with a stick in Boise, Idaho.

Police were called when a grey squirrel refused to get out of a woman's handbag in England. The police officer then committed a crime himself, when he released the invasive squirrel back into the wild (law requires that they should instead be "humanely dispatched").

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And in the pet squirrels are a bad idea column...a woman in Texas (oh Texas) was bitten by her neighbor's squirrel, B.B., needing stitches and antibiotics after the attack. Keeping a squirrel as a pet is actually not legal in Texas (at least not without some paperwork). The good news: squirrels don't typically carry rabies.

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Science discovers the point of the "dishrag pose"

Koala bears have to stay cool, and it turns out one way to do so is to flop on a tree branch. It's not only cute, but the branch is cooler than the koala, bringing their body temp down in high heat. This explains a lot about my squirrel subjects on hot days. Read about it!

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Gratuitous squirrel flopping photo.

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No, but we've got lots of other things to talk about!

What factors lead some cats to develop behavior problems? And what effect does early experience have on kitten behavioral development? There are still many elusive and unanswered questions, but a new study brings us a little closer to understanding some of the relationships between age of spay/neuter (s/n), household variables (such as number of other pets, use of punishment), kitten personality factors (such as fearfulness) and report of behavior problems by owners.

Development of behavior in adopted shelter kittens following gonadectomy performed at an early age or at a traditional age” (well that’s a mouthful) by Porters et al. (in press at the Journal of Veterinary Behavior, 2014) examined the relationship between time of s/n (either at 2-3 months or 6-8 months) and report of both short-term and long-term behavior issues. Previous studies have suggested no problems, increased shyness in early-neutered kittens, or increased aggression and less affection in late-neutered cats.  Hmm, well that’s a whole lot of mixed messages. The goal of the current study was to address some of the weaknesses of previous studies, which suffered from small sample sizes, lack of long term follow up, lack of random assignment to groups, and reliance on owner recall rather than frequent surveys of current kitten behavior.

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