Isle Royale’s wolves will have to be managed artificially

isle royale wolf

This year, several wolves were relocated from Minnesota and Ontario’s Michipicoten Island to Isle Royale.  These wolves were brought to the island to restore a moribund wolf population that had dwindled down to two individuals in the autumn 2018. These wolves had been suffering from a severe inbreeding depression, and because ice bridges almost never form in Lake Superior to connect the island to mainland Minnesota, it has become virtually impossible for wolves to walk to the island and add new genes to the population.

Climate change is, of course, to blame for this problem, but it also means that the island’s wolf and moose population dynamics that have been studied for decades are now going to be managed through occasional introductions of wolves that are not related to those living on the island.

Over the next few years, as many as 30 wolves will be released upon the island. This will create diverse founding population from which several packs can form.

But it now means that the biology of Isle Royale’s wolves will be managed by people.  People will be bringing new wolves to the island, not the ice bridges.

And we will be doing it for the rest of time.

This situation leads to certain questions about Isle Royale as a truly natural system. It is not. It is sort of a wildlife reservation in which two relatively rare species in the Upper Midwest are given a sort of illusory freedom to live in a way in which humans will mostly leave them alone.

But it’s not at all a Pre-Columbian ecosystem. Indeed, the main species that inhabited Isle Royale were Canada lynx and woodland caribou, both of which aren’t found there at all.  A population of coyotes also lived there, but the wolves made short work of them when they came over in the middle part of the twentieth century.

I do support the restoration of wolves to Isle Royale, but it is like everything else to do with wolves in this era. Some wolves in Alaska, far northern Canada, and Russia might still have lives that are true wilderness areas. Many of those wolves may never see a person in their entire lives.

But the wolves that live Western and Eastern Europe and Southern Canada and the Lower 48 live is worlds that are still dominated in by humans. Even if humans do leave behind some wild areas, the human footprint upon their lives is not inconsequential.

Humans have changed the climate, which has made ice bridges far less common in the Great Lakes.

Humans have also destroyed woodland caribou populations. Only a single herd of woodland caribou can be found in the Lower 48, and it dwindled down to a single individual, which was captured this winter.

Humans have pushed the Canada lynx into a range that essentially is just Canada and the Northern Rocky Mountain states.

Humans have made it so that wolves do very well in three Great Lakes states, but they don’t really exist anywhere else in the Midwest. They are absent from New England and Appalachians.

But they have Isle Royale and lots of moose to hunt.

We will give them that. It is the least we can do. And we will continue to learn from them in the deepest hopes that we can save some of them and the habitat they need to thrive. And if we can save a bit for them, maybe we can save ourselves, as the planet warms and politicians either do little to nothing or deny the looming threat as a hoax from some malevolent body.

So we will manage the wolf population now. This management will come from addition, while in the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Northwest, the management will come from subtraction. In a few years, the rest of the wolves in Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin will be managed with the minus sign.

And it will have to do. Because that’s what our civilization will tolerate.

 

Natural History

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The head of a massive 40,000-year-old wolf discovered in the Yakutian permafrost

yakutian megafaunal wolf

The Siberian Times reports that the head of a massive wolf was discovered in the permafrost in Yakutia (Sakha Republic of Russia).  The head includes much of the soft tissue, as well as its golden-colored fur. The head is 40 cm (15. 7 inches long), which is pretty large when compared to modern wolf specimens.

Researchers in Russia and Japan will be examining the DNA from the soft tissue to see where it fits in modern wolf and dog phylogeny of which there are still many questions.

This wolf is a good example of what have been termed “megafaunal wolves,” very large gray wolves that lived during the Pleistocene. Robert Wayne of UCLA, a leading canid molecular geneticists, thinks that some form of Pleistocene megafaunal wolf is the progenitor of the domestic dog.  These wolves would have been expert hunters of large bison, reindeer, and horses, and they may have been semi-nomadic, following large herds of ungulates across the steppes and taiga. These semi-nomadic wolves would have been quite easily attached to humans, who were hunting and traveling in much the same way.

Also of note, this wolf has golden colored fur.  In 2015, I postulated a speculative hypothesis that the original Pleistocene wolves were more often golden in color, rather than gray.  When humans started hunting wolves extensively during the Neolithic and into modern times, wolves that were gray were selected for because they could more easily hide from human hunters. Gray color in the dead of winter in many European and Western Asian forests would have been great camouflage against the winter tree trunks and undergrowth of the forest.

Some wolves, especially tundra wolves from northern Russia and Finland, are still often golden in color, as are those in Central Asia.

Golden sable color is quite widespread in domestic dogs, but it is far less common in wolves. So it is quite possible that this coloration is so dominant in domestic dogs because the wolves that gave rise to them were this color.

This massive wolf with golden fur certainly adds some credence to my speculations, but only time will tell what this ancient, massive wolf’s head has in store for us.

But is an amazing find. No doubt about it!

Update: Researchers in Sweden, not Japan or Russia, will be examining its DNA. 

 

Natural History

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I will never learn to live in God

no god

I don’t believe in the supernatural.  The natural is fantastical enough without needing some anthropomorphic figure that controls all forces of nature and also justice.  The more I see of humanity and nature, the less I believe that such a figure is likely, and such a figure could not be contained in the ancient edicts of scripture and clergy. It is not that I am rebellious or angry. It’s that I can no longer be illusioned.

To not believe and live in Norway is a lot different than to be in the same theological position and happen to live in West Virginia.  I no longer do, of course, but when I did live there, I felt that I always had to keep my mouth shut.

I no longer feel so constrained. I am an atheist. I don’t believe in God or the Devil.  I came to this conclusion in my 20s, though by the time I was 16, my own version of Christianity had a deist divinity and the Christ figure was but a metaphor.

I never was “born again,” but when I was younger I pretended that I was. Maybe, it was all like make-believe in the literal sense of the two words. Maybe if I just made myself believe it would all work out.

I knew things were going to be strange when I was the only student in my tenth grade biology class who believed that humans resulted from evolution. Most of my classmates either believed in creationism, but the more enlightened ones had some belief that all other organisms evolved. Humans did not. Humans were still a special creation of God.

Christianity and I were never good fits. I remember getting in trouble for praising God for my new pet duck when the pastor asked for praises at the beginning of worship service. I was told that this was not something one praised, but when you’re in the first grade and crazy about animals, there couldn’t be anything to be happier about, right?

My parents were uncomfortable with me leaving my dinosaur figurines behind the rear glass of their car.  They were okay with evolution. We even went to a church that was okay with evolution in terms of doctrine, but lots of people who went to that church were not okay with it.  Some of them may have doubted whether dinosaurs existed at all  and would think that my parents were doing me a great disservice.

I tried really hard to be a Christian and remain curious and skeptical about the world. I found that I could not reconcile the things I found out about nature with the cosmos as described in the Bible.

Further, I came to resent Christians’ hateful obsession with homosexuality. Though I am hetero and cis, I realize that both these things are not of my own choosing. I don’t remember when I chose to be into girls or why I am okay with being stinky old man. I had an epiphany in the eight grade that whatever God I worshiped could not damn people for their sexuality. That would be like damning someone for the color of their skin.

I spent my adolescence trying to reconcile my values and knowledge with Christianity. I wound up discarding lots of Christian doctrine. And then I realized that I should discard the whole thing.

Finding values based in secular morality has not been tough for me. However, realizing that others could not see that their own morality was ultimately secular– they wouldn’t kill  or rape someone because God told them to– was one of the hardest things to deal with.

At one point in my life I was active in the Democratic Party. As an undergraduate I campaigned hard for John Kerry. I had been told that West Virginia was in play, and that I should be doing all I could to get people to vote Democrat.

It turned out that West Virginia had undergone a political sea change in the years in which I was maturing into a young activist. For most of my childhood, no one would admit to being a Republican for fear that you’d be cast in league with Herbert Hoover, the great villain of the 1930s.  But in those years in which I was becoming an adult, the state shifted hard to the right. Fundamentalist Christianity and a dying coal industry were working hard among the rural populace.

I attended college with many kids who were first generation college students. I was aghast at the Iraq War, and many of them were too.

However, when I asked them to vote Democrat, they would say something like “Bush is a Christian.”  I got that answer so often that I wondered if there would ever be any hope for humanity if people could use that religious identification as a justification for political choices.

I was growing more and more skeptical about the world.  And I realized at one point that I needed to let it go.

And I was a quiet atheist for several years, but one day, while perusing the new Youtube on my laptop, I came across Kent Hovind’s lecture “Dinosaurs and the Bible.” The man was an obvious huckster, a true flimflam man from the days patent medicine, who also sold his own patent medicine in the form of laetrile, a supposed cancer cure that is actually the cyanide in the seeds of fruit-bearing plants.

When I finished watching that monstrosity, I was certain that I could never be brought into believing again. I would have to hide my atheism, but at some point, I did become more public with it.

I am not ashamed that I don’t believe in God and that I never will again. As time marches on, my nation is becoming more and more secular, just like the other formerly majority protestant countries in Europe.  It has just taken the US a lot longer.

The fact that so much of Christianity is now tied up in the worship of Trump pretty much means the eventual downfall of the institution in the United States. His are the politics of the old and angry, stilling holding onto a world that will never exist again.

I will never learn to live in God. I will instead learn to live with the reality that my time is finite. In that finite existence, I must be who I want to be and nothing else. If this is offensive, then you stand to be offended. But I will not hide what I am and what I seek to be.

Someday, I will cease to exist. The same goes for the oak tree that grows tall on a distant ridge. Its acorns feed the deer, the squirrels, the turkeys, and bears. It will live through many generations of its beneficiaries then on some windy day in March, the great wooden edifice will come crashing down. It will decompose into the leaf litter, restoring its elements to the soil from whence it came.

I am no more significant in the grand scheme than an oak or the squirrels that bury its acorns. We are all biotic beings, produced through the great story of evolution.

Who could need anything else? Why invoke some supernatural thing, when the natural explanation is so wondrous and so complete?

And that’s where I fall on that great question. I wager this, because I cannot live in the unlikely wager that the Bible is correct, when it is wrong about so many fundamental things. Not just wrong about biology or cosmology but wrong about moral questions too. Slavery is not condemned in the Bible nor is genocide. Indeed, both are commanded at  various books.

So this is where I stand. A heathen but an intellectually honest one.

 

 

 

Natural History

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10 Simple Summertime Recipes

10 Simple Summertime Recipes

Technically we have three weeks until summer starts, but since Memorial Day is considered the unofficial start, and the pool is now open here and the kids are out of school and the sun has been (sort of sometimes) shining in Chicagoland, I’m going to just go with it and say summer has arrived.

This is my favorite time of year for many reasons, but summertime food is a big part of it. Today I thought I’d put together a roundup of a few of the recipes I’ve shared here in the past that are, at least in my mind, perfect for the summer months. Just click on the images or links below them to check them out.

Summertime Watermelon and Feta Guacamole Dip
Jasmine Rice, Lentil, and Red Quinoa Tacos
Sweet Corn and Black Bean Quinoa Salad
Red, White, and Blue Sweet Salsa + Chips
Cheddar + Swiss, Fuji Apple, and Avocado Sandwich
Guacamole and Black Bean Pizza (via Bubby and Bean)

What is your favorite summertime food?

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Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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Magicicada in Ohio

The 17-year-cicadas (Magicicada) are coming out this year in this part of Ohio, as well as the Northern Panhandle of WV and parts of Western PA.  They emerged last night on our lawn and began their adult form on our silver maples.

(All photos by Jenna Coleman).

magicicada 2019

The discarded exoskeleton of the Magicicada nymph:

magicicade nymph husk

An adult one is bursting through its nymph exoskeleton.

bursting throuhg the exoskeleton

The adult exoskeleton is pasty and takes a few hours to harden into black.

pasty exoskeleton magicicada

hardened into black

Our maples are covered with discarded nymph exoskeletons, drying adults, and adults that are almost ready to start whirring in the trees.

maples coavered

The adult form is so oddly ugly that it is beautiful.

magiicada

magicada 2

magicciada 3

These cicadas have a life-cycle based upon brood. They spend 17 years underground. When that time comes in late May, they climb up out of the ground and begin mating and laying eggs. Their will be whirring loudly from the trees in a couple of days, and by the end of June, you won’t see a single one. This reproductive strategy is meant to overwhelm their many predators with so many easy targets that more than a few will manage to reproduce.

This blog covered another Magicicada outbreak in 2017, but that was a different brood. This one is Brood VII. That one was Brood V. 

So we are ready for the weird noise of these cicadas as they complete their final life stage.

And we will soon be tired of it.

 

 

 

 

Natural History

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Happy fox

Clive enjoyed his morning run today. He’s very happy.

happy fox

Natural History

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New Friends

I met a mini horse (Dakota) and Golden twins (Jersey and Abby) at the vet today! Until next time, Good day, and good dog!


Doggies.com Dog Blog

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Review: Pug Life All-In-One™ No Pull Dog Harness

We love nothing better than to take Barli and Tiki with us on errands and day trips–and the number one rule on any trip is that the dogs need to stay safely with us. I love the assurance of a…



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DogTipper

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Why didn’t the Native Americans tame bison and ride them?

This question has been posited to me several times on Quora, and I’ve tried to answer it several times.  But I do think it’s best that I just post it here with simple video.

There was movie called Buffalo Rider in 1978 that had the main character as a sort folk hero who rode a bison around taking down evil doers all over the West. It is not the best -acted or best written movie (to say the least), and one thing you very quickly realize is how hard it would be to ride a bison.

I have a sense of humor, so I will post a Jomo and the Possum Posse video that makes fun of this film. You can see how hard it is to ride a tame bison!

So when I see this on Quora again. I’m just going to link to this.

And I should point out that when you go to tame wild bovines, you’re kind of putting your life in your own hands. Even domestic cattle are pretty dangerous animals, and I cannot imagine how brave one would have to have been to domesticate aurochs, which were larger and far more recalcitrant.

If you can live where you can just hunt them, you’re a lot better off.  You are not forced to live with them in intimate contact every single day.

So there was never good reason to tame bison in America until Europeans arrived, and there were plenty of good reasons to leave them as a natural resource that one could harvest in much the same way we harvest white-tailed deer.

Natural History

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12 Adorable Kids Swimsuits Under $18

1. Gold Ruffled Bikini ($ 17.99)   |   2. Yellow Flounce Bikini ($ 17.99)   |   3. Rainbow Bikini ($ 12.99)   |   4. Coral Striped Swimsuit ($ 5.99)    |   5. Striped Ruffled Swimsuit ($ 12.99)   |   6. Heart One-Piece Swimsuit ($ 5.99)   |   7. Shark Swim Trunks ($ 12.99)   |   8. Turquoise Palm Swim Trunks   |   9. Red Floral Swim Trunks ($ 12.99)   |   10. Navy Dinosaur Swim Trunks ($ 5.99)   |   11. Striped Swim Trunks ($ 5.99)   |   12.  Navy Palm Swim Trunks ($ 12.99)

It doesn’t quite feel like it yet, but pool and beach season is (almost) here. We are really fortunate to have an incredible pool and water park across the street from our neighborhood, and it opens next week. The kids are stoked! I realized that their current suits no longer fit them though, and am currently on the hunt for new ones for this year. I came across these styles you see above in my search, and wanted to share because they’re not only adorable, they’re also all under $ 18. Which one is your favorite?

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Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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