Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘wolves’

Photo: Natural Habitat
Wolves could be the solution to culling deer, moose, and elk that have a brain-wasting ailment. The fear is that the disease could jump to humans because cooking doesn’t kill it.

As the story goes, a wolf protected and raised the human twins Romulus and Remus, which somehow led to the founding of Rome. The notion that a wolf could suckle a human baby has a universal appeal, if not much biological support. It certainly has spawned a lot of art.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Lupa Capitolina: she-wolf with Romulus and Remus. Bronze, 13th century AD (the twins are a 15th-century addition).

What are the chances wolves could protect us now?

Scientists concerned that a deadly cervid disease similar to ‘mad cow’ could jump to humans are asking if wolves might detect and destroy weakened animals before people can.

Jim Robbins writes at the New York Times, “Are the wolves of Yellowstone National Park the first line of defense against a terrible disease that preys on herds of wildlife?

“That’s the question for a research project underway in the park, and preliminary results suggest that the answer is yes. Researchers are studying what is known as the predator cleansing effect, which occurs when a predator sustains the health of a prey population by killing the sickest animals. If the idea holds, it could mean that wolves have a role to play in limiting the spread of chronic wasting disease, which is infecting deer and similar animals across the country and around the world. Experts fear that it could one day jump to humans. …

“Chronic wasting disease, a contagious neurological disease, is so unusual that some experts call it a ‘disease from outer space.’ First discovered among wild deer in 1981, it leads to deterioration of brain tissue in cervids, mostly deer but also elk, moose and caribou. …

“It is caused by an abnormal version of a cell protein called a prion, which functions very differently than bacteria or viruses. … The disease is part of a group called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, the most famous of which is bovine spongiform encephalopathy, also known as mad cow disease. Mad cow in humans causes a variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, and there was an outbreak among people in the 1990s in Britain from eating tainted meat.

“Cooking does not kill the prions, and experts fear that chronic wasting disease could spread to humans who hunt and consume deer or other animals that are infected with it.

“The disease has infected many deer herds in Wyoming, and it spread to Montana in 2017. Both states are adjacent to Yellowstone, so experts are concerned that the deadly disease could soon make its way into the park’s vast herds of elk and deer.

“Unless, perhaps, the park’s 10 packs of wolves, which altogether contain about 100 individuals, preyed on and consumed diseased animals that were easier to pick off because of their illness (the disease does not appear to infect wolves). …

“ ‘Wolves have really been touted as the best type of animal to remove infected deer, because they are cursorial — they chase their prey and they look for the weak ones,’ said [Ellen Brandell, a doctoral student in wildlife ecology at Penn State University who is leading the project]. By this logic, diseased deer and other animals would be the most likely to be eliminated by wolves. …

“[Ken McDonald, chief of the wildlife division of Montana’s Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department,] said that maintaining a large enough wolf population outside of Yellowstone to control chronic wasting disease would require so many wolves that it would be socially unacceptable, especially to ranchers and hunters.

“The state’s approach to controlling the disease, he said, is to increase the number of deer that can be killed in places where the disease is growing.

“Ms. Brandell, however, said that wolves may detect the disease long before it becomes apparent to people, through smell or a slight change in the movement of prey, which could be beneficial.

“ ‘Wolves wouldn’t be a magic cure everywhere,’ [Ms. Brandell] said. ‘But in places where it was just starting and you have an active predator guild, they could keep it at bay and it might never get a foothold.’ ”

More here.

Read Full Post »

Do you know about the “Great Animal Orchestra“? Rachel Donadio at the NY Times has the story.

“The bioacoustician and musician Bernie Krause has been recording soundscapes of the natural world since 1968, from coral reefs to elephant stamping grounds to the Amazonian rain forest.

“Now, Mr. Krause’s recordings have become part of an immersive new exhibition at the Cartier Foundation here called ‘The Great Animal Orchestra.’ Named after Mr. Krause’s 2012 book of the same title, the show opens on Saturday and runs through Jan. 8, [2017].

“At its heart is a work by the London-based collective United Visual Artists, who have transformed Mr. Krause’s recordings of the natural world into 3-D renderings. Imagine stepping into a soundproofed black-box theater whose walls spring to life with what look like overlapping electrocardiograms, representing different species’ sounds. …

“The installation includes recordings Mr. Krause made in Algonquin Park in Ontario, where he found himself caught between two packs of wolves; in the Yukon Delta, a subarctic area in Alaska, where birds from different continents converge; and in the Central African Republic, where he heard monkeys. He also captured the cacophony of the Amazon, and whales off Alaska and Hawaii. …

“Mr. Krause is a polymathic musician who performed with the folk group the Weavers and helped introduce the Moog synthesizer to pop music — including songs by the Doors and Van Morrison — and film scores. He hears natural sounds with a studio producer’s ear.”

Read more here about Krause and his efforts to get the word out on the disappearing habitats of his featured animals.

This article inspires me to pay better attention to the music of the natural world on my morning walks. So much beauty goes right over my head.

Photo: Tim Chapman
Bernie Krause on St. Vincent Island, Fla., in 2001.
 

Read Full Post »

In this story from radio show Studio 360, we learn that music is intriguing to animals, at the very least arousing their curiosity and perhaps stimulating and soothing them.

“Laurel Braitman is a historian of science and the author of ‘Animal Madness: How Anxious Dogs, Compulsive Parrots, and Elephants in Recovery Help Us Understand Ourselves.’ She’s particularly interested in the mental health of animals in captivity.

“ ‘If their minds aren’t stimulated, they can end up with all sorts of disturbing behaviors,’ she says. Braitman wondered if music — so often soothing to people, but usually foisted on animals without their permission — could help counter their symptoms of anxiety and depression.

“That led Braitman to arrange a series of concerts for all-animal audiences: gorillas in a Boston zoo and a small herd of bison in Golden Gate Park. Recently, the bluegrass band Black Prairie played for the residents of Wolf Haven wolf sanctuary in Tenino, Washington. …

“Can we say that they liked it?

“Researchers are trying to answer this question in controlled experiments where they observe whether animals move toward or away from speakers, depending on the music.

“Dr. Charles Snowdon of the University of Wisconsin collaborates with a composer, David Teie, who writes music tailored for certain species. They base their compositions on sonic frequencies the animals use in nature. Their music for domestic cats features tempos of purring or suckling kittens; small monkeys called cotton-top tamarins, on the other hand, got music that sounds remarkably like nails on a blackboard. ‘It is pretty godawful if you ask me,’ Snowdon says. ‘But the tamarins dig it.’ ”

More here.

Music for Wolves: Black Prairie from Aubree Bernier-Clarke on Vimeo.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: