Horse Racing

The horse racing industry began in North America, in the 17th century. It spread across the US as a highly popular sport, although organized racing didn’t exist until after the Civil War in 1868, when the American Stud Book was founded. By the turn of the century, more than 300 racetracks existed in the United States.

Racehorses are now commonly treated as disposable commodities rather than elite athletes, and drugs and injuries are a major part of the harsh sport. As young horses, they are unceremoniously flung into a world of high stakes and physical and psychological stress, and if they are unable to achieve the expectations of owners and trainers, they are then cruelly discarded. Racehorses across the country who no longer produce satisfactory results are sent away to slaughterhouses to be killed. The Thoroughbred-racing industry sends about 10,000 horses to slaughter annually. Horses who have stopped winning races or are too injured to go on running are often sold at auction, crammed into vehicles designed for transporting cattle, and then starved for more than 24 hours till they have reached the slaughterhouse.

 

Image result for racehorses in slaughterhouses

Horses often begin training, or are already racing, before their skeletal systems are fully developed. This results in frequent injuries. They are often woefully unprepared to handle the pressure of racing on hard tracks at speeds of more than 30 miles per hour, while being constantly whipped by the people who they carry on their backs. Many horses are raced so often that their joints, bones, and soft tissues suffer irreparable damage.
Trainers and veterinarians usually keep damaged horses racing instead of letting them recover from their injuries, by pumping them full of legal and illegal drugs to hide pain and control inflammation. This leads to an incredible amount of breakdowns, because without the drugs the pain of their injuries would have prevented the horses from trying to run. These people are doing everything they can to make their horses faster. One trainer was suspended for using a drug similar to Ecstasy on five racehorses, and another was kicked off the racetracks for using clenbuterol and having the leg of an euthanized horse cut off for ‘research’ purposes. A New York veterinarian and a trainer faced felony charges when the body of a missing racehorse wound up at a farm, and authorities established that her death had been caused by the injection of a performance-enhancing drug.

Racehorses suffer intense stress from the time that they are weaned. From their being separated from their mothers at six months of age, their being broken in at 18 months, and their enduring the loud noises, the bright lights, and the daily running on the track by the time they’ve reached two years of age, the amount that they suffer isn’t just physical.

Related image

 

Drugging horses to enhance their performance is a common practice in the horse racing industry. Horses are often made dependent on the drugs that their veterinarians and trainers provide. Racehorse trainers sometimes give the animals drugs for hypothyroidism, to speed up their metabolisms, or furosemide (Lasix), a diuretic that stops bleeding in the horses’s lungs during intense exercise, thus allowing them to push through exhausting training sessions and races. But, while the drugs may relieve such symptoms of exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage (EIPH, a serious and life-threatening illness found frequently in young horses), there are problems that they fail to treat.

Lasix and other legal drugs also work to mask other drugs, perhaps illegal, that might be in the horse’s system, so that it appears that they haven’t been fed anything that would make the race ‘unfair’. It also dehydrates the horses, forcing them to lose weight, and thus to run faster. Lameness is often treated with painkillers, and horses are forced to continue running with their injuries temporarily numbed, causing further damage to their legs.

 

Image result for horse racing cruelty

Most racehorses bear their stories of cruelty on their bodies, such as the scars that are often found on their legs, results of being administered liquid nitrogen, to increase blood flow in sore muscles. This process, ‘freeze firing’, is meant to soothe aching muscles, but often results in deep surface wounds. Other injuries that are common among racehorses include exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage; i.e., blood in the horse’s lungs, causing them to literally drown in their own blood. Lameness, which includes sprains, abscesses, strains, etc., and other injuries such as bowed tendons, shin splints, and fractures.

 

When horses ‘aren’t of any use’ any longer, they seldom retire to pastures. Horses who are being transported to slaughter are sometimes placed in double-decker trucks that are too low for them to stand up fully straight in. They often end up in slaughterhouses in Mexico, Canada, or Japan, where they are turned into glue and dog food. Their flesh is also exported to countries such as France and Japan, where it is considered a delicacy. Most horses who are sent to such facilities endure days of transport in the small, cramped spaces of the trucks, where they are deprived of access to food and water.

 

Image result for racehorses in slaughterhouses


Owners do not want to spend money on painkillers, so an animal with a broken leg or other injuries will have to suffer the entire trip without any relief.  Injuries are a common sight during transport, not only because of formally attained wounds, but because horses (whose bodies aren’t designed for stability) often lose their balance while standing in the trucks. Since horses must be alive when they arrive at the slaughterhouse, in order to be used for human consumption, even animals in excruciating pain will not be euthanized.
When unloaded from the trucks, it is not uncommon to see injuries occur, such as broken legs, when the horses attempt to descend the steep ramps that are not meant for that particular kind of animal. 
Horses are subject to the same slaughter method as cows, but since horses are generally unaccustomed to being herded, as cows are, they tend to thrash around in order to avoid being shot by the captive-bolt gun, which is a device that is supposed to stun the animals before their throats are cut. Their slaughter, which includes the killing of foals despite the fact that it is illegal, is largely unregulated.

 

Recent reports of deaths among active thoroughbred horses have sparked serious concern for their welfare. Twelve died in New York in July alone, with 11 deaths occurring between July 8th and 18th. More than fifty racehorses have died or been euthanized throughout New York’s 11 racetracks since the beginning of 2019, according to data compiled by the state. After the reporting of 30 horse deaths at Santa Anita Park between December and June, Los Angeles is considering becoming the first major city to ban, not just gambling on horses, but the entire sport altogether.

 


Overall, horse racing tends to be a cruel, violent, and inhumane sport, as are many other sports involving animals. I urge you not to attend horse races, and perhaps try to educate more people on the cruelty that these animals endure.
Note: None of these photos belong to me. And if you see any errors in the text, please inform me. Thanks for reading!

Animal Experimentation

Laboratories are no place for any animal. They are typically sterile, indoor environments, in which the animals are forced to live in barren cages and are denied complete freedom of movement, as well as control over their lives. Enduring pain and frustration and loneliness, they are forced to sit and wait in fear for the next horrific procedure to be performed upon them. Some animals in laboratories are confined without the companionship of others. Sometimes they suffer together.

Issues-Cruelty-and-Waste-of-Vivisection

Animals used in experiments are usually bred for this purpose by the laboratory, or in breeding facilities—-it’s a cruel, multi-million dollar industry. But all these animals, whatever the situations, are equal. A dog bred for research is still a dog who could otherwise live a happy life in a loving home.
Some monkeys are still being trapped in the wild in Africa, Asia and South America, to be used in experiments or imprisoned in breeding facilities. Their children are exported to laboratories around the world. The use of wild-caught monkeys in experiments is generally banned in Europe, but is allowed elsewhere. Horses and other animals, such as cows and sheep and pigs, are often supplied by dealers, and may originate from racing stables or farms, for use in animal experimentation. The rules preventing the use of stray companion animals, like dogs and cats, vary from country to country.

Right now, millions of animals are locked in these cages in laboratories across the country. Millions of animals, cats and dogs, rabbits and rats, mice and primates, pigs, horses, birds, reptiles, amphibians, guinea pigs, are sacrificed as a result of animal experimentation. They are used in basic and applied research for the safety testing of products, to be bred or harvested from the wild, to be killed and cut up for dissection, and, as living factories of byproducts, to be used as ingredients in drugs or laboratory experiments. The complete lack of environmental enrichment—-the stimulation of the brain by its physical and social surroundings—-as well as the stress of their living situations, causes some animals to develop neurotic types of behavior such as incessantly spinning in circles, rocking back and forth, biting themselves, and pulling out their own fur. And after enduring this life of horrors, almost all of them are killed.

Image result for animal experimentation

Some of the experiments conducted on animals today are required by law, but most of it isn’t. A number of countries have implemented bans on the testing of certain types of consumer goods on animals, such as the cosmetics-testing bans in the European Union, India, Israel, New Zealand, Norway, and elsewhere.

More than 100 million animals suffer and are killed in the U.S. every year in cruel chemical, drug, food, and cosmetics tests as well as in medical-training exercises and curiosity-driven medical experiments at universities.  Animals still suffer and die to test shampoo, mascara and other cosmetic products. Even if a product harms animals, it can still be marketed to consumers. They also suffer and die in classroom biology experiments and dissection, even though modern non-animal tests have repeatedly been shown to have more educational value. Mice, rats, birds, and fish, which comprises around 95% of animals used in experiments, are not covered by even the minimal protections of the Animal Welfare Act, and therefore go unaccounted.

Examples of animal experiments include potentially harmful substances that are injected into animals or forced down their throats before they are killed. It includes surgically removing animals’ organs or tissues to deliberately cause damage, and subjecting animals to frightening situations to create anxiety and depression. They force mice and rats to inhale toxic fumes, force-feed dogs pesticides, and drip corrosive chemicals into the sensitive eyes of rabbits.

The word ‘vivisection’, or animal experimentation, does not even begin to describe how hundreds of millions of animals are used in science every year, let alone capture the physical pain, deprivation and emotional distress experienced by animals who are cut up, poisoned, burned, exposed to radiation, gassed, shocked, dismembered or genetically designed to suffer. Nor does it reflect the tragedy of each individual life, however short and however brutal, caged in an artificial environment which deprives them of experiencing life as nature intended.

A large proportion of animal experiments in the European Union are reported to cause ‘moderate’ or ‘severe suffering’ to the animals, according to the researchers who carry out the tests. In the UK in 2018, 31% of animal experiments involved moderate or severe suffering. Some experiments require the animal to die as part of the test. Example: the strength of botox is measured in mouse LD50 units. This cruel test involves injecting it directly into the abdomens of hundreds of mice, and then counting the number of mice who die from poisoning over the next three days. Tens of thousands of mice suffer in this way in the UK and Ireland every year.

Animals are also used in toxicity tests conducted as part of massive regulatory-testing programs that are often funded by the money of U.S. taxpayers. The Environmental Protection Agency, the Food and Drug Administration, the National Toxicology Program, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are just a few of the government agencies that subject animals to crude and painful tests. The federal government and many health charities waste precious dollars from taxpayers and well-meaning donors on animal experiments at universities and private laboratories, instead of supporting promising clinical, in vitro, epidemiological, and other non-animal, studies which could benefit humans.

Image result for animal experimentation

Animal testing has contributed to many life-saving cures and treatments, but it is also cruel and inhumane. Alternative testing methods now exist that can replace the need for animals. Not only are these non-animal tests more humane, they also have the potential to be cheaper, quicker, and more relevant to humans. Most experiments involving animals are flawed, wasting the lives of the animal subjects. You see, animal experimentation is an outdated and inadequate methodology that can produce invalid, often misleading results. It wastes money and resources, and sidetracks meaningful scientific progress. Animals do not have rights, and therefore it is acceptable (of course, lots of us don’t think it should be acceptable) to experiment on them. If we granted animals rights, all humans would have to become vegetarians, and hunting would need to be outlawed.

Animal experimentation has been debated for centuries, pitting compassion for animals against the pursuit of knowledge and human health. Society has allowed this practice because people have been firm in their belief that it was a ‘necessary evil’, that it was the only way to find cures for human diseases and to make cosmetics, drugs, and other products safe. Security and secrecy have ensured that people are safely unaware of what is happening behind the laboratory doors, or that they trust that the laws intended to forbid animal cruelty include protection for the animals used in research.

Image result for animal experimentation

Defenders of animal experimentation argue that nonhuman animals are enough like humans to make them scientifically sufficient models of human diseases, or to test treatments or the safety of products.  They also assert that other species are different enough from people to make it morally acceptable to use them in experiments. Others argue that it is, in fact, the way that humans and nonhuman animals are similar that provides the very basis for the ethical objection to animal experimentation. Perhaps the English philosopher Jeremy Bentham said it best when he asked, “The question is not, can they reason? Nor, can they talk?  But can they suffer?”

There is very little doubt that some breakthroughs in the past were made as a result of animal experimentation; but society has grown in its respect and appreciation for other sentient creatures, due in large part to studies of their behavior and intelligence. Sophisticated technologies, available today or under development, pave new and better paths for investigation. Many of these approaches offer human relevance and insight in ways that animal models have not, and cannot, supply.

What do you think?

Note: If you find any errors, whether mistakes in wording or any scientific or historical inaccuracies, please alert me to them. And share your thoughts about animal experimentation! Thanks :).

Hunting is Wrong—-Why Animals Have as Much Right to Live as Human Beings

Although hunting was a crucial part of human survival in prehistoric times, it is now mostly a violent form of recreation that the vast majority of hunters do not need for subsistence.
Less than 5% of the U.S. population hunts, yet hunting is allowed in many wildlife refuges, national forests, and state parks and on other public lands. Almost 40% of hunters maim and slaughter millions of animals on public land every year, and by some estimates, poachers kill just as many animals illegally.

Hunting causes a whole lot of unnecessary suffering and death. It has contributed to the extinction of animal species all over the world, including the great auk and the Tasmanian tiger.

Image result for tasmanian tiger

Animals shouldn’t have to die just because some humans consider it fun. Animals have as much the right to live as we do. Hunting tears animal families apart, and for animals such as wolves, who mate for life and live in close-knit family units, hunting can devastate entire communities. It also disrupts hibernation and migration patterns; the stress that hunted animals undergo, caused by fear and the loud and unavoidable commotion that hunters make, also severely compromises their normal eating habits, making it hard for them to store the fat and energy that they need in order to survive the winter.

Hunting accidents destroy property all the time and will injure/kill cows, horses, cats, dogs, hikers, and other hunters. In 2006, the then-Vice President Dick Cheney famously shot a friend while hunting quail on a canned hunting preserve. According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, thousands of injuries every year are attributed to hunting in the U.S.—-and that number only includes incidents involving humans.

Image result for hunting animals

The bears, deer, cougars, foxes, and other animals who are chased, trapped, and killed by dogs during (sometimes illegal) hunts aren’t the only ones who suffer from ‘sport’. Dogs that are used for hunting are often kept chained, or penned, and are denied routine veterinary care such as vaccines and heart-worm medication. Some of them are lost during hunts and never found, whereas others are released at the end of hunting season to fend for themselves in the wild and die of starvation or get hit by vehicles.

Also, animals don’t always die right after they’re shot. Many animals endure prolonged, painful deaths when hunters injure but fail to kill them right away. 11% of deer killed by hunters die only after they’ve been shot two or three times. Others that are hurt but not killed suffer for fifteen or more minutes before they eventually die.
A study of 80 radio-collared white-tailed deer came up with these results: of the 22 deer who had been shot with ‘traditional archery equipment,’ 11 were wounded but not recovered by hunters.
20% of foxes who have been wounded by hunters are shot again. Just 10% manage to escape, but starvation is a likely fate for them, according to one veterinarian. A biologist of the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks estimates that more than 3 million wounded ducks every year go ‘unretrieved’. Are these not all horribly brutal ways to die?

Sport hunting is unnecessary, cruel, and socially unjustifiable. Thousands of animals every year die as a victim to this ‘sport’. Hunting involves the causing of pain towards animals, and ignores the fact that animals, ourselves included, are living beings that feel emotions, that suffer and enjoy. We all have our own value, regardless of how useful we are to others.

There are various different types of hunting. Small-game hunting, characterized by the size of the prey involved. The victims of this type of hunt tend to be small animals such as partridges, rabbits, turtle doves, various equatic birds, migratory bird species, etc. And there is also big-game hunting, which is characterized by the larger size of the animals victimized by the hunt. In England this mostly involves hunting red deer, but other species of deer are also targeted.

Often, in hunting, they talk about two different kinds of hunters. The ‘good hunter’, who knows and cares for his dogs, who respects nature and never kills weak, ill, or rare animals. And then the ‘bad hunter’, who kills indiscriminately, has no respect for nature, and gets rid of his dogs once they aren’t of any use to him anymore. However, the activity is the same in both cases—-shooting animals for fun. Both cases are equally unjustifiable, regardless of the argument they make.

Image result for hunting animals

There are many arguments in the defense of hunting:

Hunting is fun. Our entertainment does not justify the death and suffering of others. Of course, an activity like hunting can be considered enjoyable for those who practice it, but not in any way can taking someone’s life for fun be justified. Just like in the case of zoos, rodeos, circuses, etc.

Hunting respects nature. Does it? Stating that ‘hunting respects nature’ tends to imply that the animals who are being hunted have no value, and that their pain and suffering isn’t important because they don’t belong to an endangered species. Judging it by this argument, animals would only have value according to the purpose they serve.

Animals hunt each other. Other animals may show certain behavior in nature, but this doesn’t justify us doing the same. Does the fact that some animals eat each other justify cannibalism? Those of us who can reflect upon the consequences of our actions are inevitably responsible for them, and should bear in mind the interests of other individuals in a fair and impartial way. As such, hunting should be abolished.

They will die anyway. All of us will die anyway, someday. But that doesn’t give anybody the right to take our life away. The fact that someone will eventually die, often from ‘natural’ causes, isn’t a justification for killing them. Hunting causes thousands of deaths every year. There are many ways that we can enjoy nature without harming others. Do not allow suffering and death for your own entertainment.

Image result for hunting foxes

Everybody should respect wild animals. They are living, breathing, sentient beings, and they should be allowed to live their natural lives without human intervention. Hunting for sport is a brutal method of showing dominance over wildlife. Mounting their heads and bodies does not show the respect we should have for the animals in our environment. We would learn to co-exist with wildlife and exotic animals, if only we acknowledged that they, too, have a right to live.

Hunting is a murderous business that causes needless suffering. It is often called a ‘sport’, to disguise a cruel and unnecessary killing spree as a socially acceptable activity.
Despite hunters’ common claim of believing in and following the practice of a ‘fair chase’ code, there is no such thing. With an arsenal of rifles, bows and arrows, and shotguns, among many other weapons, hunters kill more than 200 million animals yearly—-and likely crippling, orphaning, and harassing millions more. The annual death toll in the U.S. includes 42 million mourning doves, 30 million squirrels, 28 million quail, 25 million rabbits, 20 million pheasants, 14 million ducks, 6 million deer, and thousands of geese, bears, moose, swans, turkeys, wolves, foxes, coyotes, bobcats, boars, etc. Hunters also frequently use food and electronic callers to lure unsuspecting animals in front of their weapons. The truth is, the animal, no matter how well-adapted to escaping natural predators she or he may be, has virtually no way to evade death once he or she is in the cross hairs of a scope mounted on a rifle or a crossbow.

Image result for hunting animals

Hunting is not conservation. Wildlife management, population control and wildlife conservation are euphemisms for killing—-hunting, trapping and fishing for fun. Natural carnivores are the real ecosystem managers, if allowed to survive naturally. For instance, the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park caused ripple effects throughout the ecosystem, with an increase in biodiversity, including a higher occurrence of beavers, several bird and plant species, and the recovery of natural habitat.
Wild animals are not crops. Hunters and wildlife managers, however, treat animals as if they are. A percentage can be ‘harvested’ annually—-to them, wild animals are no different from a field of wheat. This selective mis-management, with its exclusive focus on numbers to be killed, ignores the science that shows that non-humans, just like humans, have similar capabilities of experiencing emotions, and they have families and other social associations built on multi-leveled relationships.

In other words, hunting for sport is wrong and animals have as much right to live as human beings.
Thanks for reading! Also, if you spot any mistakes, please tell me :). No blog is perfect. Comment your views about hunting!
(Also, don’t get me wrong, hunting for necessary purposes isn’t bad, but please don’t treat animals with this level of cruelty.)
Note: None of these images belong to me.

Grey Fox

Description:
Grey foxes are small and secretive canines, and the only member of the family that can climb trees. They are sometimes mistaken for red foxes. However, grey foxes are slightly smaller, with shorter legs, and have coarse, salt-and-pepper grey hair. They have black markings on the head, nose, and muzzle, and a medial black stripe down the top surface of the tail (which has a black tip, instead of a white tip like red foxes). Grey foxes display white on the ears, chest, throat, belly, and hind legs. They lack ‘black stockings’, which differentiates them from red foxes. Grey foxes have strong necks and oval pupils instead of slit-like pupils, in contrast to all Vulpes and related. The females are slightly smaller than the males.

Image result for grey fox pictures

Weight:
Around 6 – 15 pounds. Males are slightly heavier than females.

Height:
About 14″ at the shoulder. Overall body length is up to 47 inches.

Geographic range:
Southern Canada to northern Venezuela (South America), excluding the northwestern United States. They are the only canids whose natural range spans both North and South America.

Status:
Grey foxes are fairly common in the southeastern counties of MN.

Habitat:
The species occurs throughout rocky, woody, brushy regions; in some areas, high population densities exist near brush-covered bluffs. They live in woodlands and forests (they are most likely to be found in deciduous forest areas), abandoned hay fields, pastures, and thick shrubs (they are often found in areas with thick brush). They also inhabit swamp areas and thickets.

Image result for grey fox pictures

Behavior:
Among canids, the grey fox’s ability to climb trees is shared only with the Asian raccoon dog. Because of this, they are sometimes called ‘tree foxes’, or ‘cat foxes’. Their strong, hooked claws allow them to scramble up trees, whether to escape predators such as the domestic dog and the coyote, or to reach tree-bound food sources, or simply to rest. They can climb branchless, vertical trunks up to heights of eighteen meters and jump from branch to branch. To climb trees, they rotate their forearms, enabling them to hug the tree, while pushing forward with their hind legs. Going down is a little trickier than going up. It’s either a slow and careful tail-first descent (like a bear or a cat) or, if the angle isn’t too steep, a speedy headfirst downward run. A low center of gravity and four well-clawed feet make the latter option less scary than it sounds. 🙂 Grey foxes are primarily nocturnal or crepuscular (but may forage during the day), and they make their dens in hollow trees, stumps, or appropriated burrows during daytime. Such tree dens may be located 30 feet above the ground. Prior to European colonization of North America, red foxes were found primarily in boreal forest and grey foxes in deciduous forest, but now red foxes are dominant in most of the eastern United States, since they are the more adaptable species to development and urbanization. In areas where both red and grey foxes exist, grey foxes are dominant.

Related image

Reproduction:
Grey foxes are assumed monogamous. The peak breeding period for grey foxes is in early March, but the breeding season lasts from January through May. Litter size ranges from 1 to 7 pups, with 3 or 4 pups being most common. The pups are dark brown and born blind. The gestation period ranges anywhere from 51-63 days, and the young are born in April or May. The pups will live with their parents in above-ground dens, which could be a hole in a tree, rock formations, brush that has been clustered together, or even sometimes underneath man-made buildings such as barns or garages. The pups do not come out of the den until they are about 5 weeks old. At 3 months of age, the pups will begin learning how to hunt and catch their own food, and by the fall the pups have set out on their own in preparation to breed and raise their own litters by the next breeding season.

Similar species:
Red Fox, Swift Fox, Kit Fox

Typical Diet:
The diet varies slightly depending on the region, but the grey fox is considered an omnivore (they are also solitary hunters). Grey foxes eat virtually every kind of meat, fruit, vegetable or insect. Small mammals, especially cotton-tail rabbits, are favorites. They are opportunistic foragers, and they use hunting techniques that vary from stalking to dash-and-grab. Their best known technique is the ‘mouse pounce’ (videos of foxes plummeting head-first into snow), which is done by leaping up above the ground and diving, front paws first, onto the prey. The impact stuns the prey, or flushes it, allowing the fox to catch it.

Parasites:
The parasites of grey foxes include the trematode Metorchis conjunctus.

Notes:
Female grey foxes may den in a hollow trees, or dig a den themselves. The den may be as long as 75 feet and can have 10 or more exits.
Vocalizations include yapping, howling, barks, whimpers and screams.

Threats to their safety and well-being:
Grey foxes have several predators, most notably coyotes, followed by bobcats; however, great horned owls, golden eagles, and cougars also prey upon them. They are territorial among themselves, but they may ‘timeshare’ habitat with red foxes, enabling both species to make use of mutually desirable habitat with little conflict.
Grey foxes are not currently threatened as a species, but habitat loss requires them to adapt to living closer to human activity than they normally would (as many animals are being forced to do). As individual animals, grey foxes are also at risk from trapping, hunting, and vehicle deaths. Most appalling, however, is the practice of fox penning, an indefensible and barbaric blood sport which The Humane Society of the United States is working to end. Fortunately, grey foxes living on the Caplan Wildlife Sanctuary in Mississippi, and on other HSWLT sanctuaries, will forever live on land where all commercial and recreational hunting and trapping is forbidden.

Image result for grey fox pictures

None of these images belong to me.
If you spot any mistakes, please tell me.
Also, happy Father’s Day to all fathers out there!

Tree Swallow

Description & Info:
Tree swallows are migratory birds first described in 1807 by a French ornithologist named Louis Vieillot. These acrobatic birds have glossy blue-green upperparts, with the exception of the blackish wings and tail, and pure white underparts with a black bill, pale brown legs, and dark brown eyes. They are a familiar sight in summer fields and wetlands across northern North America. As with many birds, the female is generally duller than the male.
The tree swallow nests either in isolated pairs or loose groups, in both natural and artificial cavities.
It has been recommended that the tree swallow be considered a model organism, which is a non-human species that is extensively studied to understand particular biological phenomena.

Habitat & Distribution:
They typically live in open country near water, in meadows, marshes, and lakes. In winter, they dwell near bayberry thickets along the coast.
They breed in North America, and their range extends to Alaska and Canada. They are found as far south as Tennessee (in the eastern part of their range), California and New Mexico (in the western part of their range), and Kansas (in the center).

Image result for pictures of tree swallows

 

Nesting, Eggs & Young:
Breeding can start as soon as early May, although this date is occurring earlier due to climate change, and it can end as late as July. Tree swallows are generally socially monogamous, with high levels of extra-pair paternity. Both the male and the female feed the nestlings, who usually leave the nest about 18-22 days after hatching. The incubation is by the female only, and it lasts usually around 14-15 days. The clutches consist of 2 to 8 eggs, 4 to 7 on average. The eggs, though very pale pink at first, fade to pure white.
The chicks hatch slightly asynchronously, allowing the female to prioritize which chicks to feed in times of food shortage.
Courtship involves the male showing the female potential nesting sites. Their natural nesting sites vary from holes in trees, buildings, and the ground, to old cliff-swallow nests or, frequently, nest boxes. The nest, built mostly by the female, is a cup of plant materials such as grass, weeds, rootlets, moss, and pine needles. They are usually lined with many feathers from other kinds of birds, which are mostly added after the first eggs are laid.
Diet & Feeding Behavior:
An aerial insectivore, the tree swallow forages both alone and in groups, consuming mainly insects and some berries. They mostly forage in flight, often low over water or fields. Tree swallows may sometimes pick items from the surface of water while flying, and they occasionally feed on the ground—-especially in cold weather. However, their diet consists of mostly insects, especially during the summer. They feed on many flies, beetles, winged ants, and others. They also eat spiders and will eat sand fleas, which are crustaceans. Unlike other swallows, tree swallows eat a lot of vegetable material—-up to 20% of their annual diet, mostly eaten in winter. Bayberries are the main plant food, as well as other berries and seeds.

Related image

Parasites:
These swallows are also vulnerable to parasites. Blood parasites and different kinds of fleas, feather mites, and probably lice. Nestlings also suffer from parasites, such as blow-flies, which result in loss of blood. These parasites, however, do not seem to do significant damage to nestlings. They are also found in a great majority of nests. The effect of a disease can become stronger as a tree swallow gets older, as some parts of the immune system decline with age.

Status:
The tree swallow is considered to be least concern by the IUCN, due to the bird’s large range and stable population. Tree swallows are negatively affected by the clearing of forests, and there is a documented impact of the depletion of marshes, which reduces the habitat available for wintering. The tree swallow also has to compete for nest sites with the common starling and house sparrow, both introduced to North America. Acidification of lakes can force tree swallows to go relatively long distances to find calcium-rich items, and can result in chicks eating plastic. Chemicals such as pesticides and other pollutants can become highly concentrated in eggs, and PCBs are often associated with the abandonment of a pair’s clutch.

Related image
(None of these images are mine)

What we are doing to our planet…

I haven’t blogged in a while, and just recently I had a sudden urge to express my feelings more clearly on the topic of what humans are doing to the Earth.
First off, as we all know, humans are cutting down forests to make way for cities and towns and roads. Every inch of forest, every tree that we destroy, lessens the number of plants that provide the oxygen we breathe as well as the clean water we drink. Not only that, but there are billions of animals living from the highest branch to the lowest root of those forests whose lives depend on the trees staying put.

Image result for cutting down trees

About 900 million trees are cut down annually.

We all harm the world. We all pollute. But some are way worse than others.
We are rapidly changing the environment by adding too much waste to it, such as the carbon dioxide that generators and cars release into the air. Although releasing waste is a natural and necessary process–after all, plants need carbon dioxide to live, and one of their waste products is oxygen, which we need to live–we are releasing too much carbon dioxide into the air for the plants to absorb all of it. There are fewer and fewer plants to use it when we are cutting down more of them, and the extra carbon dioxide collecting in our atmosphere is a major cause of global warming.
It’s easy for us to say ‘stop cutting down the forests and putting so much carbon dioxide in the air!’ But no, it’s much, much harder than that. It would mean we would have to stop driving cars and using electricity generated by fuel. We would have to find new ways to grow crops and house ourselves. It would be a very difficult thing to do as a society–maybe even impossible. Other forms of energy, such as wind energy, can generate electricity without emitting carbon dioxide.
However, wind turbines are a potential threat to some wildlife, and the deforestation caused by setting up a wind farm creates an environmental impact. That, among other things, makes wind energy not the best choice.

Related image

Wind energy generates electricity without emitting carbon dioxide.

Some people are trying to build cars that run on hydrogen and release water instead of carbon dioxide. Some are also trying to generate electricity by using the sun, wind, or ocean tides so that there are no carbon dioxide emissions at all.
We can each moderate our carbon dioxide emissions by walking or riding bikes instead of driving…and turning off lights and machines when we aren’t actually using them. But overall, we have a long, long way to go.
In the oceans, the motors of ships are drowning out the noises of sea life. This is a very big impact on the natural world underwater; marine life live in a world dominated by sound. However, human activities using loud devices such as motors are beginning to drown out the natural sound of the oceans. For marine life, this has resulted in deafness, stress, avoidance behaviors that diminish feeding possibilities, and even death. Relatively simple solutions exist to help stop this, but what is needed is political will.

Image result for how ocean sounds affect the planet

Whales are being killed by noise pollution.

Meanwhile, three major causes.
Sonar, the submarine detection system used by navies all over the world. To detect targets, naval warships generate extremely loud waves of sound that sweep the ocean. Military sonar is an enormous predator. When exposed, whales go silent, stop foraging, and abandon their habitat. Repeated exposure can harm entire populations of animals, and has led to mass whale strandings all over the place.
Shipping. 
At any given time, there are up to sixty thousand commercial ships traveling our seas…worldwide. Cavitation from propellers and the rumbling of engines reverberate through every corner of the sea. The incessant and increasing mixture of sounds will mask whales’ ability to hear and be heard, which is a punch to their hope of survival. Whales are using higher and higher pitched notes to locate each other above the din.
And then seismic. Here we go: t
o detect oil and gas deposits beneath the ocean floor, seismic airguns–the modern form of exploratory dynamite–is what the petrochemical industry uses. Ships tow arrays of these guns and discharge super-intense pulses of sound toward the sea floor. During seismic surveys, acoustic explosions continue for days or weeks on end. The blasts disrupt critical behavior and communication among whales and can have massive impacts on fish populations.
    Oceans are among the earth’s most valuable natural resources, covering 70% of the planet. They govern the weather, clean the air, provide food for the world, and is home to millions. They are home to most of the life on earth, and yet we are bombarding it with pollution. However far from the coasts we may be, the ocean is the end point for most of the pollution we produce on land–all streams leading to rivers, all rivers to the sea. Carbon emissions, plastic, leaking oil, constant sonic noises…It’s estimated that by the end of this century, if we keep pace with our current emissions, the surface waters of the ocean could be nearly 150 percent more acidic than they are now. Trash, offshore drilling…whatever it is, our impact on the ocean is huge. Oil is killing off animals, we are hunting them, they are being tangled in nets and poisoned and the polluted waters from garbage are filtering into their gills.

Image result for ocean pollution

The dirty facts of ocean pollution.

Many times, people hunt to survive. But perhaps even more times, as of these days, it is for fun and sport.

Related image

Prey live cruel lives.

I don’t want to fit everything into one post, because it took a lot of work just to put down what you’ve read so far, but here are some additional bits of information:

We’re losing soil.

We are driving dangerously. Too many cars, too many gases being emitted from them. And the roadkill…

Hyperconsumerism: the consumption of goods for non-functional purposes. Mobile phones have an average lifespan of one year. Cars and computers, a few years more. And then they are thrown away. The average US supermarket offers 50,000 products. In the UK we throw away millions of tonnes of food a year. Hyperconsumerism leads directly to pollution, deforestation, over-extraction of minerals, and the waste of natural resources.

Our population level is rising drastically. I’m not sure of any completely accurate rates, but it seems that we are currently in the 7-billions.

Image result for overpopulationImage result for hyperconsumerism

    So…here are some things you can do to reduce and prevent the rising levels of pollution: walking or riding more, driving less. Saving energy by turning off what you aren’t using; don’t-leave-the-TV-on and flick-the-switch-when-you-leave-the-room. Never pour chemicals or fertilizers down the drain, because they get washed into stormwater drains and into rivers and the ocean. Reuse items, recycle plastic…think about its uses before getting rid of it, and consider making something new out of something old.

Just as long as you’re trying to help. Thanks.

Giant Golden-Crowned Flying Fox

I was trying to decide what kind of animal to write about next (cats, otters, another ‘animal hero in wartime’…?) when I thought about bats. I have always had a fascination with bats. It was probably because I read the Silverwing series by Kenneth Oppel a long time ago (some of the coolest children’s books, really). The Giant Golden-Crowned Flying Fox was a species of bat I had researched many times long ago, and chosen never to write about, even though I have blogged about bats before. I don’t think it was ever about an individual species, just a general outlook on this tiny part of the class Mammalia.
So…yeah.

Image result for golden crowned flying fox

Giant Golden-Crowned Flying Fox

Also known as the golden-capped fruit bat, the giant golden-crowned flying fox is a rare and endangered kind of megabat, and also one of the largest in the world. They are native to forests in the Philippines. They can weigh up to 2.6 pounds, and their wingspan can stretch up to 6 or 7 feet, according to several different sources. This species thrives mostly on raw fruit and is non-aggressive toward humans. But despite their benevolence, handling the bat without proper training and vaccination is dangerous, because some of the bats could carry diseases.
They have black bodies that contrast well with the golden fur around their heads, from which they get their species name. Like all other fruit bats, they have no tail (unlike megabats, this trait only occurs in certain species of microbats). The only other bats with similar dimensions are a few species of Pteropus.

Related imageRelated image

Recent surveys have discovered that the range of the golden-crowned flying fox extends to the islands of Bohol, Boracay, Cebu, Leyte, Luzon, Mindanao, Mindoro, Negros, and Polillo. They are primarily nocturnal, and they can travel at least 25 miles in one night, searching for food. They are pollinators and seed dispersers for many trees in the Philippines, maintaining and increasing plant diversity. They also use water for grooming, often taking their time to do so. They frequently wash in the water, using their wings to scoop it up and pour it over their bodies.
Their primary diet is composed of figs and leaves from the lowland forests of the Philippine Islands. When fruit bats were abundant in the Philippines, the giant golden-crowned flying fox and the large flying fox made colonies. It was this roosting behavior that kept them warm and safe from natural predators, but also made them more easy to hunt. The colonies reportedly numbered over 150,000 individuals.

Related image

Golden-Crowned bat flying

While their roosting-sites can be far from human presence, the roosting-sites of golden-crowned colonies can also be found near roads and adjacent to sub-suburban locations.
While foraging for food, the bats could easily spread diseases to livestock via saliva contamination, potentially spreading a harmful virus family called Filoviridae.
They live in deep caves as well as the rainforests. They typically follow the routes of the river, and experts believe that it is because they can easily find food sources in those areas. Golden-crowned flying foxes are known for having features similar to that of a fox, and many other canines. They also have ears that are pointed, unlike the usually rounded ears of most bats.
One of the biggest contributors to the endangerment of the golden-crowned flying fox is due to hunting–as you may have expected. In addition to the demand for their meat and pelts, they are also hunted because they are considered pests for their destruction of fruit crops. They are apparently hunted especially in Southeast Asia, where half of the world’s flying fox species are located. Southeast Asia ultimately faces a widespread trend in fruit bat hunting, the world’s highest amount of natural habitat loss along with other factors that endanger the lives of giant golden-crowned flying foxes (my fingers have grown tired of typing that unnecessarily long name. Unfortunately, there is yet to come).

Related image

Roosting bats

The giant golden-crowned flying fox is threatened by deforestation, and they have completely disappeared from many islands in the Philippines, such as Panay and most of Cebu. The extinct Panay populations were once considered a different species, the Panay giant fruit bat, but is now included under Acerodon jubatus. Unfortunately, the species is not only hunted for their size but because of the availability of licenses; despite the fact that this species is endangered, they are still able to be hunted for sport and consumption when they are spotted outside of their roosts.
In 2013, Bat Conservation International listed this species as one of the 35 species of its worldwide priority list of conservation. The local government of Maitum, Sarangani in the Philippines has organized a campaign to save the species from extinction. The Subic Bay region of the Philippines plays host to a lot of the research on this species. Subic Bay is a 14,000-acre protection area that is managed by people who want to preserve the species. Captive breeding is one of the more realistic and reasonable ways to conserve the species.

Related image

Size in comparison to human

Serological tests on flying-foxes found that reston ebolavirus (which can cause serious infections in macaque monkeys, but not humans) is widespread in Philippine bats. The fieldwork was conducted on the Philippine island Luzon in two different locations. The first location was the Bulacan Province and the second location Subic Bay Freeport Zone.
This finding in the bat brings forth potential risks. While searching for food, virus-carrying Golden-crowned flying foxes can increase viral load under the feed trees, which lengthens the risk.
These discoveries suggest that reston ebolavirus is circulating through specific bat populations. Efforts to identify further evidence for viruses-infested bats in the Philippines are still underway.

Another thing: nobody is born with a fear of bats. That comes later on. Me, though…HOW CAN YOU NOT LIKE BATS?
Here’s a little poem I decided to write for this post:

Wings spread leathery in dusk-thick air,
Winds billowing, feathery, in the ghost sky’s lair,
Racing its reflection across the tabletop pond,
The bat’s tall, seeding trees bear memories both sad and fond,
Watching soaring shapes above, as a lowly grounded frond.
Let’s keep the memory, of creatures good and fair,
While they beat the sands of time…
High up in the wing-churned air.

Related image

Giant golden-crowned flying fox roosting, (Walt Disney World?)