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Rare Mexican Gray Wolf Pup

Arizona (Associated Press) PHOENIX (18 July 1998 ) - Biologists who spied a pair of Mexican gray wolves wandering a remote Arizona national forest got a pleasant surprise when they took a closer look. ‘They saw two wolves emerge from some trees with a puffball following them, ’ said Wendy Brown, a wolf recovery biologist for the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Albuquerque, N. M. The puffball was a pup, apparently the first born to gray wolves in the wild to survive for any real length of time in nearly 50 years. ‘The parents crossed a creek, but the pup stopped and whined, ’ Brown said Friday. ‘Then the parents coaxed it across. ‘The pup, which was spotted Wednesday in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, is believed to be nine weeks to 11 weeks old and about 20 pounds. The news came only two days after backers of the wolf reintroduction effort said they had given up hope that any of the pups born this spring had survived. The last Mexican gray wolf seen in the wild was shot to death near Alpine, Texas, in 1970. They had been all but gone from the area since about 1950, many of them killed by ranchers who saw them as a threat to livestock. A U. S. -Mexican captive breeding program has brought their numbers to about 175. Eleven adults were released in Arizona March 29. The federal agency heralded the pup sighting as evidence that its controversial reintroduction program is working. The 6 -month-old program has been rocked by several setbacks. The first batch of offspring all died, and some of the adults have bounced between the wild and captivity. Another was killed by a camper. ‘Having a pup survive to this point in the first year of the reintroduction effort is great news, ’ said Nancy Kaufman, Southwest regional director for the service. By PATRICK GRAHAM, Associated Press Writer


Another one of the 11 rare Mexican gray wolves released into the wilds of Arizona has died, leaving just four of the predators roaming the Apache National Forest officials said. A pup born in the wild also is presumed dead. Biologists say some deaths were expected.

Thousands of homing pigeons lost in flight

Oct 7, 1998 PHILADELPHIA (AP): Some 2,200 homing pigeons competing in two races along the East Coast never made it home, leaving their handlers wondering if somehow, some way, the birds' legendary instincts went south.

‘I've never seen anything like this, ’ Earl Hottle, who has been racing pigeons for 37 years, told the Allentown Morning Call. ‘Nobody can explain it. ‘

About 1, 6 00 pigeons vanished out of 1, 800 competing in a 200-mile race from northern Virginia to Allentown on Monday. And 6 00 out of 700 birds were missing after a 150-mile race on the same day from western Pennsylvania to Philadelphia.

Ordinarily, the swift birds should have been back in their lofts in a matter of hours.

The mystery continued on Wednesday: Did the birds fall prey to a flock of hungry hawks? Did some strong wind sweep them away?

‘Apparently somewhere they got sidetracked, ’ said Ron Lizcz, who lost 14 birds.

These aren't the plump, city birds that most people think of when pigeons come to mind. Their coats are silkier, and their bodies bigger and sleeker, since they are trained for long-distance flight.

Each weekend in the spring and fall, thousands are trucked up to 6 00 miles away and released. Relying on their homing instinct and incredible stamina, the pigeons fly directly to their lofts. The ones with the fastest times are the winners.

A devoted group of 15,000 breeders across the country has kept alive a hobby that has been around for centuries. Some racing pigeons can cost up to $250,000.

In any race, less than 5 percent of the birds do not return home — but a90 percent loss rate is unusual, said Gary Moore, a competition organiser.

‘Is it unusual? Yes. Is it unprecedented? No, ’ said Rick Phalen, executive director of the American Racing Pigeon Union in Oklahoma City. ‘But I don't have a recent recollection of this big a loss in the country. ‘

The National Weather Service all but ruled out weather. It said there was a drastic change in wind direction Monday at 3,000 feet, but racing pigeons usually don’t climb higher than 250 feet, and fly low on windy days.

Birds of prey? ‘The chances that 2,000 hawks would get 2,000 pigeons are pretty unlikely, ’ racer Dennis Gaugler told the newspaper. ‘The birds would scatter when attacked. ‘

‘The truth is that nobody knows what happened, ’ racer Robert Costagliola told the Morning Call, ’and probably never will. ‘


SAINT-AMAND-LES-EAUX, France (July 20, 1998 )

Firemen captured a baby seal on Monday in a river 100 miles from the North Sea near Valentines in northeastern France. ‘It had succeeded in swimming up various waterways, but getting past sluices back to the sea was impossible, ’ said Jean-Michel Charpentier of the animal protection league. He said it was rare to see seals that far up a river. The healthy seal will be released back into the sea.


Aug 3, 1998 . USA TODAY Illinois Springfield: A new infestation of the Asian long-horned beetle has been found in DuPage County,20 miles from the site in Chicago where it was found last moth. The beetle, a native of China, kills trees by boring holes deep into trunks and limbs and allowing sap to ran out. It's capable of devouring entire forests. officials say. They hope to complete a survey of the area by early next week.

Aug 4, 1998 - USA TODAY New Mexico Las Cruces - The aggressive imported red fire ant, a bane of agriculture, has been spotted in Dona Ana County. An infestation could cause the state Department of Agriculture to impose n emergency quarantine to stop the spread to other areas said agriculture secretary Frank DuBois.

USA TODAY - Friday, Sept 11 Kentucky Friday, Sept 11 Russelville — Microscopic worms called nematodes have been found in the city’s water supply, triggering a boil-water alert for the 7, 500 residents and forcing all restaurants to close. The worms are not usually harmful to humans. - - - - - - -


Thousands of freed minks cause havoc in Finland

Sept 9, 1998

HELSINKI, Finland (AP) - Thousands of minks caused havoc on roads in southern Finland Wednesday after they were released from a fur-farm in the early hours of the morning, police said.

No one immediately claimed responsibility, but police believe that animal rights activists were behind the action. ‘Many of the freed minks were run over by cars or killed each other because they are predatory animals even though they have lived in captivity, ’ said Police Chief Inspector Rune Swahn. ‘Many will also disturb the wildlife in the forests and many won`t survive because they are used to being fed. ‘

No other damage was reported at the farm in Kirkkonummi, 30 kilometers (20 miles) west of Helsinki. Officials feared in the near future. ‘Fur farmers have had several letters recently in which (animal rights) activists have warned that they will disrupt fur farming, ’said Kai Lindh from the Finnish Fur Breeders Association.

Some 2,000 people live off fur farming in Finland, which is the world’s largest producer of fox furs. This season, the farmers sold 2. 5 million fox pelts and 4 million mink furs.

In Britain last month, activists of the Animal Liberation Front, an extremist group linked to past acts of violence, smashed cages and cut wire at a fur farm southwest of London. The released minks killed three rare owls at a near by bird sanctuary.

ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH - Sept 19, 1998 ENGLAND Minks are still on loose after farm is vandalised. Trappers scurried to round up hundreds of minks still loose Friday after animal-rights protesters freed thousands of the animals from a breeding farm. About 7,000 minks were released Thursday, but fewer than 1,000 escaped from the farm compound. Many were later found run over or shot. ‘It is still horrendous out there, it looks like a battlefield, ’ said Len Kelsall, who owns the farm in Onneley, Staffordshire, 250 miles northwest of London. ‘It is just starting to hit me now how bad this is. ‘ The Animal Liberation Front, a shadowy extremist group linked to similar actions, has claimed responsibility for the raid. Minks, which are bred for their fur and are known as vicious predators, are said to pose a threat to wildlife and domesticated animals. Police have warned local residents to keep doors and windows closed to safeguard their pets. The raid marked the second time British activists have struck the fur industry this year. In August, supporters of the Animal Liberation Front smashed cages and cut wire at a fur farm near Ringwood,100 miles southwest of London, freeing 2,000 minks -some of which are still running wild.

) AUGUSTA CHRONICLE (Georgia) 14 Sept 98 Rare sea turtles hatch in S. Carolina Isle of Palms, S. C. (AP): Island Turtle Team member Mary Ellen Rogers gently brushed the lump of sand in her hands and four flippers suddenly shot out and flapped the air. ‘We have a baby, ’ she said. But it was not just another Loggerhead Sea Turtle, the kind Rogers and her team members deal with almost every day this time of year. The newborn was a rare Green Sea Turtle from what experts say is only the third nest to hatch in South Carolina. The federal government lists Green Turtles as endangered species in southern Florida and the Pacific coast of Mexico, which is where they breed. In South Carolina, the turtle is an occasional visitor. They can grow to about 5 feet long. Expert Sally Murphy saw the state's first known green turtle nest two years ago at Litchfield Beach. The second batch hatched later that summer at the Tom Yawkey Center in George Town County, said Murphy, a Natural Resources Department biologist. The Isle of Palms' nest of 16 2 eggs released 113 hatchlings last week, Rogers said.

Later this month, more green hatchlings should bubble up from the sand on Folly Beach, perhaps laid by the same female that produced the Isle of Palms clutch. In July , a 26 5-pound female Green washed ashore in Myrtle Beach. She died within hours and had signs of head trauma, said Murphy. An examination revealed 121 shelled eggs, which biologists rescued and buried at Folly Beach. The eggs looked a bit larger than the usual Loggerhead eggs, and the team had never seen a loggerhead lay so many. But they never suspected Green Turtles until they emerged last week. Greens turtles lay nests every two weeks, Murphy said. Another nest contains 27 eggs, laid near Garden City less than a month ago. Fall weather could delay hatching until November. A volunteer is tending the eggs, which are tucked in a Styrofoam container in a sun room, Murphy said.

The population is growing with the protection of nesting beaches in South Florida. About 5,000 have nested in each of the last six years, Murphy said. that could mean a spillover into South Carolina and near by states, she said. Greens, named for the color of their fat and not the grayish shells of older turtles, may not mature or to touch land until they reach ages 18 to 25. Females then return to the beach and lay eggs. When the first 15 hatchlings shivered up through the sand last week, turtle workers knew they had a prize. The turtles were larger than loggerheads with unusually long flippers, each bearing a tiny claw. A thin white stripe outlined the edge of the flippers and shell, which is a rich black colour when wet.

The turtles also did not act like Loggerheads. ‘They crawl to get to the water then breaststroke, ’ said Rogers. ‘They swim like little Trojans. The waves don't batter them around the way they do loggerheads. ‘At the edge of the firm, wet sand, the babies were released to walk to the sea. Experts say that helps the turtles imprint the beach so they can find it again two decades later. Three scurried straight to the ocean. The fourth scrambled parallel to the water. Millman stepped in, forming her feet into a wall that turned the hatchling toward the sea. Finally, on the fourth gentle wave, the turtle vanished. ‘Oh, that was wonderful, ’ she said.


JULY 21, 1998 USA TODAY Florida - The pink hibiscus mealybug is heading to Florida after causing millions of dollars in damage in the Caribbean to hibiscus, citrus trees, corn, sugarcane, beans and ornamental shrubs, biologists said.


A new executive order is being prepared that would create a national council to coordinate control of invasive, non-indigenous (‘exotic’) species. There’s no date on when the order might be signed. Currently, regulation and control of exotics is fractured among federal and state agencies that are slow to respond, some critics say. An article in the August Bio Science suggests that exotics are behind the disappearance of nearly half of the imperilled species in the U. S. Consider reporting on new exotics in your area or revisiting those that have been wreaking havoc for years (such as fire ants and purple loosestrife). Contact managers of local natural areas and local agricultural officials. Are ‘problem’ plants being sold in local stores? Talk to nursery owners or associations.

USA TODAY - Wednesday, Sept 23 Virginia Gloucester Point - Marine scientists have concluded that a type of predator sea snail that was accidentally dumped into the Chesapeake Bay is breeding and is more widespread than expected. The veined rapa whelk, native to the Sea of Japan, is considered a threat to native shellfish. It has been found at 19 locations.

USA TODAY - Wednesday, Sept 23 Wisconsin Madison — Peter Young, 21, of Mercer Island, Wash. , and Justin Samuel, 19, of Snohomish, Wash. , are accused of releasing 3, 6 00 mink from farms in Independence, Medford and Tomahawk. The indictment contends that the two set out in Oct '97 on a cross-country journey to attack fur farms with the intent of causing significant economic damage. Steve Newman, ’Earthweek: A Diary of the Planet, ’ Victoria (BC)Times-Colonist, 19 July 1998 .

Desert Fish Mystery

Chinese scientists are baffled by the discovery of a fish swimming happily in a remote pit located where aquatic life was believed not to be able to survive. The official Xinhua News Agency reported that Chen Yiyu, vice-president of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, discovered the fish in a water pit near the Number 4 Tazhong Oilfield in the remote Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

Workers had carved out the pit with bulldozers during a highway construction project, and ground water eventually filled the hole. The black, fresh-water fish has adapted to the slightly saline water in the pit. Chen has ruled out the possibility that the fish was brought to the desert by people working there. It is being taken to Beijing for further examination.

(from The Townsville Bulletin p10, 29. 7. 98)


One of Tasmania's main ports, Bell Bay, was quarantined yesterday after a giant African snail was found on a container being unloaded from the Bunga Teretai Satu.

Unlike the stowaway fox that 's eluded the state's authorities for two months, the snail has been captured.

Primary Industries Minister Bill Bonder said it was the first time a live one had been found in Tasmania, although they had been discovered at other Australian ports.

He said the Achatina fulica was considered the most damaging land snail in the world.

It was hermaphroditic and after a single mating could produce batches of fertile eggs over the period of months.


USA TODAY Aug 4, 1998: California officials stepped up efforts to contain a threat to fruit and vegetable crops after six Mediterranean fruit flies were caught over the weekend near San Diego. Medflies we among the most destructive agricultural pests, attacking more than 250 varieties of fruits, nuts and vegetables. Officials said they will increase trapping and fruit sampling to determine whether other medflies are present, treat near by plants with a pesticide and bait mixture and release 5 million sterile medflies per week over a 10-square-mile area where the medflies were found.

Chipmunks Loose at Hong Kong Airport

HONG KONG (AP) - Just when it looked like many of the glitches that plagued the opening of Hong Kong's new $20 billion airport had been eliminated, passengers found themselves confronting a new obstacle: chipmunks.

One of four chipmunks that apparently had been smuggled onto a British Airways flight from Hong Kong to London broke free and roamed through the crowded economy-class cabin just before the 14-hour flight landed, the South China Morning Post reported. The paper said one woman was scratched.

The rodents posed a danger to passenger safety: They could have chewed through aircraft wiring or carried rabies, the paper said, quoting veterinarians and officials at Chek Lak Kok airport.

Two Frenchmen who allegedly smuggled the animals on board were questioned in London, then allowed to continue on to Paris. The chipmunks were being held in quarantine, the report said.

Esther Wong, a spokeswoman for Hong Kong's Airport Authority, said the chipmunks were probably stowed in the passengers' pockets or hand luggage prior to the Wednesday flight, but the X-ray security system does not detect live animals.

‘The system only screens guns or weapons. This is a piece of flesh, ’ Wong said.

British Airways officials in Hong Kong could not be reached .

The Post claimed in a recent story that its reporters strolled freely in a restricted area of the Hong Kong airport's cargo terminal, even though they didn't have the required permits.

Just last week, for the first time since it opened in early July , Chek Lap Kok airport was handling a full range of air cargo. Serious computer and mechanical lapses had crippled those services, forcing the cargo handler to move part of the operation back to the old Kai Tak airport.

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