My hobbies are backpacking, hunting, angling and mountain-biking. I am passionate about sustainability, evidence-based conservation and living a simple, local lifestyle.

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Canned Hunting: a more humane alternative to factory-farming?

screenshotboarhunt

A still image from the YouTube clip mentioned below.

Recently, on Truth About Pet Food, Susan Thixton launched an investigation into the sources behind Orijen and Acana brands. One of the suppliers of Champion Petfoods happened to be Hog Wild Specialties of Mayerthorpe, Alberta in Canada. It was noticed on the website the company offers a hunting package.

Much of the controversy is over the concept of “hunting preserve”, “fenced hunting” or “canned hunting” which is a heavily-debated topic in the American hunting community and most of it is centered around the ethic of privatization of native wildlife, size of enclosure and topic of baiting with feeders.[1] The debate can become so heated, some hunting clubs already took on a strong stance. Even then, there is lots of grey area behind this and sometimes hunting preserve can make sense.[2] So, the issue is not as cut and dry as it may seems.

In addition to the prejudice against trophy-hunting and canned-hunts (or “canned-shooting”), many of these operations are now under attack for introducing invasive species to the surrounding area. Now joining Manitoba and Saskatchewan in the war against boar, Alberta is following suit with British Columbia in tow.[3][4] There is a severe and inevitable ecological consequence for keeping common non-native game-species which has potential to be naturalized.

Champion Petfoods has long been celebrated for being local, natural, humane and ethical kibble-brand. Regional Red dog-food and Wild Boar dog-treats contain wild-boar, and are often seen as a healthier, more ethical alternative to factory-farmed pork and beef. Now, in most parts of Canada, it is illegal to sell wild-meat.  So, commercially-sold elk, venison, bison, pheasant and boar on the plate are all sourced from game-farms. It does not involve a mental acrobat to figure out some of these game-farms also sell their products to the highest bidders who pay for the privilege to shoot an animal with guaranteed success. After all, hunting preserve is built on the already existing commercial infrastructure livestock-farming is based on.

Most of the objections surrounding the use of wild-boar in dog-food is the ethical treatment of the animals. However, the ethic of “humane kill” and ethic of “fair chase” are not one and the same. It would be a mistake to conflate the two. Oftentimes they are in conflict with each others.

In context of this controversy of using farm-raised boar, let us take a look at the principles of animal-welfare. One common indicator is the Five Freedoms developed in 1979 by the UK Government’s Animal Welfare Council: freedom from hunger and thirst; freedom from discomfort; freedom from pain, injury and disease; freedom to express normal behaviour; and freedom from fear and distress.[5] Many other definitions of animal-welfare follow more or less along the same line.

So let us compare factory-farming to hunting preserves. How are hunting preserves any less humane than factory-farming? The animals are allowed to free-roam within the enclosure; and if one search for videos on YouTube, the animals appear to be calm and are not threatened or stressed by the presence of humans. There is no suffering and the animals are killed humanely with a rifle on their own browsing-grounds. Based on the evidences provided by images and videos, one can conclude the hunting preserve meets the five principles of farm-animal welfare. One cannot say the same for majority of cattle and hogs in feed-lots or slaughter-houses in North America. The ethical treatments of animals on a hunting preserve is non-sequitur.

A public relations stunt by Bonnie at customer service was released:

On March 24th, 2014, Susan Thixton made an inquiry with our Customer Care team asking for additional information on one of our local suppliers of wild boar.  Our team promptly responded to Susan and requested she allow us time to thoroughly investigate her questions to ensure she receive an accurate response. We expected and understood that we would be allowed the time needed to provide a complete response, and regret that time taken has caused concern.

We value the trust of all pet lovers, including Susan. We respect much of the work Susan does in helping ensure pet food makers are honest and transparent.  We regularly respond to her inquiries, support the First Alert program, and are working on her Pledge to Quality and Origin.

We’re also committed to using local ingredients that are sustainably and ethically raised. Hog Wild Specialities supplies us with fresh Wild Boar that is raised on open pastures in Mayerthorpe, Alberta.  Susan’s concerns were regarding ‘canned hunting’, or hunting animals in a confined space, such as in a fenced-in area.  While Champion does not endorse hunting of any kind, Hog Wild Specialties does operate a separate business that offers hunting, which is run on 25 acres of land. Champion is working with Hog Wild to better understand their hunting operations.

It is also important to note that Champion does not utilize any meat from any hunted animals. All animal ingredients featured in ORIJEN and ACANA are processed exclusively in federally licenced facilities regulated by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, all are from animals passed fit for human consumption.

We value your trust and we’re dedicated to upholding the highest standards of authenticity. If you have any questions regarding any of our ingredients suppliers, please feel free to write back.
Kind regards,
Bonnie
Customer Care Leader
Champion Petfoods LP

According to the company, Hog Wild Specialties has two separate facilities: a game-farm and a hunting preserve. It is asserted the meat sourced for Orijen and Acana are not from the preserve, but rather from the game-farm which is a separate meat-production line. It is not exactly clear if they condemn hunting, or they just don’t publicly endorse it. The other murky issue is Champion Petfoods defined the hunting preserve in question as being 25-acre, but the land-usage of the game-farm is never clarified. Amending the statement would put the customers’ concerns at rest.

With a bit of Google Kung Fu, it does not take much to find out the game-farm is a quarter-section, or ¼ of a square mile.[6] That is 160 acres or 0.65km2. The controversy is over-blown if the game-farm is being kept separate from the preserve. Hunted meat are part of the package which goes home with the person who paid for it.

People who are concerned about the sources behind their kibbles are tackling the wrong issue. Instead, the focus should be on the environmental or ecological consequences of keeping wild-boar in Alberta. Now, this blogger has long been advocate of replacing non-native domesticated animals such as cattle, sheep, pigs and others with native game-animals which can be farmed such as white-tailed deer, reindeer, bison and elk appropriate to the region of the ranch. However, since most people find game-meat a bit too strong for their liking, it is unlikely the market-demand would opt for a more sustainable method over our current preference of today’s selection of meat. Nevertheless, this is an issue which should be explored more deeply.

The ethical implication of using humanely-shot boar should never been a question. Husbandry of free-range animals, even if penned in a 25-acre enclosure, is far much more humane than the agricultural-industrial complex. The issue probably would be less controversial if the boars are not being commercially sold to thrill-seekers and are instead harvested with mobile processing facilities on free-range game-ranches for stress-free meat. In the overall picture of ethical kill, however, it does not make a difference if the animal was processed on a game-farm or on a hunting preserve.

  1. Jim Tantillo (2012, July 8). Fair Chase Hunting: Canned Hunts, Fair Chase, and the Sorites Paradox. Retrieved April 5, 2014 from http://fairchasehunting.blogspot.com/2012/07/canned-hunts-fair-chase-and-sorites.html.^
  2. Fieldsports Channel (2014, Janurary 22). Why shooting rare animals can make sense [Video file]. Retrieved April 5, 2014 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3GEfWmbuu10.^
  3. Canadian Broadcasting Company (May, 6 2013). The Current – Boar Wars: Controlling the wild boar population [Video file].^
  4. (2014, March 20). Feral pigs: B.C. allows hunting ‘anywhere and at any time’ CBC News. Retrieved April 5, 2014 from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/feral-pigs-b-c-allows-hunting-anywhere-and-at-any-time-1.2580279.^
  5. Five Freedoms (2009, April 16). Retrieved April 5, 2014 from Farm Animal Welfare Council: http://www.fawc.org.uk/freedoms.htm.^
  6. Liane Faulder (2011, October 18). Going Hog Wild Edmonton Journal. Retrieved April 5, 2014 from http://www2.canada.com/life/food/going+wild/5568967/story.html?id=5568967.^
By |April 5th, 2014|Ethics|2 Comments|

Lessons Learned from Hunting Season, October 2013 Edition

To be frank, although I have went on a few bear-hunts, I have never owned or trained a treeing breed. So, this dog is subjected to newbie mistakes.

And the lessons I have learned so far for this hunting season are:

  1. Or maybe he was destined to be be a bear-dog. Photo: Scottie Westfall III

    Or maybe he was destined to be be a bear-dog.
    Photo: Scottie Westfall III

    Start them young. Start them on the game, which is appropriate for their age: squirrels, birds, martens and other small game to wake up the instinct early on. The older the dog becomes, the harder it is for them to prefer small-game over big-game.

    Delaying hunting plans makes it more difficult to transform a puppy into a multi-purpose universal hunting dog. Unlike out-dated beliefs of three or four decades past about hounds, gun-dogs or police-dogs not being trained until a year old not seeing field-work until two years old, it is not unusual for a treeing dog or baying dog to start on small-game as early as 3 to 6 months old. The onset of realized instinct will occur unexpectedly.

  2. Old dogs can learn new tricks. Don’t give up on older dogs if they have never had a hunting season under their belt. They have a steeper learning curve and it will be more difficult to train them; but once the instinct is awakened, they can learn very fast. However, keep in mind, older dogs with previous hunting seasons with no drive or desire are often washouts.
  3. Dogs are snobs. Freeze-dried pheasants, treated hides, scented dummies are not substitutes for the real things. Dogs have higher drive for the untreated fresh or frozen pelts, bird carcasses or deer-legs.
  4. Girlfriend learning how to shoot her grandfather's rifle from instructors at ANS Safety. Photo: Kevin O'Toole

    Girlfriend learning how to shoot her grandfather’s rifle from instructors at ANS Safety. After this lesson, her fear about not hitting the vital organs during moose-hunting dissipated.
    Photo: Kevin O’Toole

    Don’t be intimidated by the prospect of firearm ownership or hunting. Usually, the courses are based on common-sense. There are lots of idiots out there who should have their privileges revoked. If they can pass the exams, so can you.

  5. Buy a firearm. Archery seems like a great alternative to the scary prospect; however bow and arrow requires lots more practice and the dog needs assurance from his handler the game will be shot. Usually, people with no prior experience with firearms finds their fears to be unfounded and the bogey-monster under the bed disappears once instructed by a certified firearm-safety officer or instructor at their first time at the shooting range.
  6. Don’t worry too much about the perfect rifle. Get whatever is affordable. Most of the time, the top-of-the-line equipment is not required in hunting with a dog. Firearms are nothing more than a sophisticated rock-throwers and we have not evolved much since chimpanzees. And to some, a gun is just a 4-foot penis which shoots lethal wads. Worry about your own needs and not the rants of others.
  7. Invest in inexpensive ammunition. The more practice at the shooting range, the better the shooting skill becomes. There is a reason why folks with 6mm or .25 calibres hunting varmints and rabbits all year-round are often better sharpshooters with all the available calibres than those who dedicate themselves only to big-game.
    Near-obsolete ammunition such as .222 Remington, .45-70 Government, .30-40 Krag and .303 British are classics, but they hurt the pockets and reduces the window of opportunity to practice unless the person reloads. .308 Winchester, .30-06 Springfield, .223 Remington and .243 Winchester are very economical choices. Don’t discount rim fire cartridges such as .22 Long Rifle or .17HMR as well. The more expensive specialty rounds will come in play later once the process of refining hunting methods begins.

    Start with a reasonable calibre and work your way up to the über-class magnums. Despite the debates over ethics of clean-kills, it is actually a disservice to gut-shoot an animal because a bad shooter developed the flinch while shooting a .338 Winchester Magnum or .375 H&H. Remember, there is a reason why outfitters recommend large calibres to clients who never go out while smaller rounds such as .30-30 Winchester, .270 Winchester, .308 Winchester, .30-06 Springfield and 6.5×55 Swede are the staples of residential hunters. Get the right tool for the job. Barring that, it is always nice to stockpile for the zombie apocalypse.

  8. In hunting courses, they teach the 5 stages of how hunting changes over the years and his or her perception of “success”: shooter, limiting out, trophy, method then sportsman. No matter how much anyone want to skip to the end in their heads, they will go through all the stages in reality. There is no shame in going through this process.
  9. Keep a shotgun handy. There are many places where it is either illegal or unwise to use a rifle for safety reasons such as being close to a residential area or to an oil-well. The last thing anyone wants to do is end up wasting a month worth of hunting season waiting for a new shotgun at the last minute to come to the front-step, learning how to use it and adjusting it through a gunsmith or after-market products. While 12-gauge is the most economical and most widely available, consider a 20-gauge. The spread is similar and the felt recoil is not as severe for the same cost and the same availability as the 12-gauge. While it is common for people to recommend 28- or .410 for beginners, they actually have a steeper learning curve due to the smaller spread and the ammunition are very rare or expensive to find.
  10. Always carry a firearm. Learn all the legal hunting seasons. If the regulations don’t apply to all hunters, ask landowner’s or government’s permission for those exemptions. A dog will always surprise you on your walks together with unexpected game. There will be times where one starts regretting not having a gun. Combination rifles such as Baikal or Valmet or drillings are wonderful for these kind of scenarios. However, for those who cannot afford an expensive rifle, shotguns are the working men’s guns for a reason.
  11. Keep a surplus in the bank account for seemingly insignificant and potential impulsive necessities such as an electric collar. Scolding a puppy for chasing game or livestock where pursuit of is forbidden by law is often the way to do it. In general, verbal correction is enough for reasonably trainable dog in check. However, there are the dogs who haven’t seen any game for about three or four months and goes crazy upon sight of the first game it sees− and sometimes that might be a deer. Most of the time electronic collars are not needed to train a dog. Remind your parents of all the missed birthdays, or sell your grandmother’s panties. Receiving the juice once or twice in a life-time is better than running the risk of having the dog shot.
  12. Don’t rely on the GPS. It is easy to lose track of the dog and it is easy to overlook a silent dog treeing something. This handy tool should only be used in the thick bush where it is unknown which direction the dog might be in. In fact, a radio collar is oftentimes more useful in rough terrain due to the poor signals of the GPS’s transmitter despite limitations of directional radio-waves.

    Bet you can't see the wolfish dwarf.

    Bet you can’t see the wolfish dwarf.

  13. Invest in a high-quality visible vest for hunting. The cheaper ones snag easily in the bush and they will tear. Replacement ones of the same product will tear as well no matter what. In addition, the more expensive products tend to come in multiple colour. It is highly recommended to have orange on one side and yellow on the other. There will be times where orange is not visible, but yellow is and vice versa; or neither are visible and only the reflective parts are.
  14. There is no shame in fitting the dog with a wider collar or making him wear two or three visible collars, no matter how much he hates it, protests or becomes depressed. He will perk up when it’s time to go out for a run. The more visible the dog is, the easier it is to find him in the thick brush. Fluorescent colours such as blue, green, purple, yellow and blaze orange are common choice for hunting collars. Don’t forget to tie different coloured ribbons to the collar(s). He will look ridiculous, but on those cloudy days or during the last lights in the thick stuff, it’s a clincher.
  15. Keep the dog fit. Exercise him on a bike or road him with a truck. Be sure to go through rough terrain to build muscles. When game is scarce, expect the dog to cover up to 40 kilometers in a day. The last thing anyone want is a dog tired out after two hours of leap-frogging through a mire searching for a bird in the tree-line.
  16. Consider a light-weight firearm. Hunting with dogs can easily cover 10 kilometers or more, and excess weight can turn leisure into a downer. Most of the rifles and shotguns are meant for stand-hunting or blind-hunting. Youth models are superb choice and single-shots are often the go-to beaters in someone’s truck. Although the pull may be a bit short, they can often be extended with a slip-on recoil pad. The recoil pad would help with the increased felt recoil which comes with lighter bush-guns to feel more like the heavier counterparts without the extra weight.
  17. Be certain of the hunting party. To some people, hunting is a time to socialize and they may not be interested in hunting with a dog. This can lead to reckless activities such as plinking pop-cans for fun while the dog should be hunting. However, the dog shouldn’t always hunt alone since it is crucial for dogs to be used to strangers during the trial. Lay out the rules, but don’t go over-board with them.
  18. Take advantage of no-vehicle zones, closed forestry roads or deactivated roads. There is nothing worse than a service-road which is being patrolled by a half-dozen truck-hunters in a half hour time span. Game are scarce, and time is scarce. The dog deserves to have all the training time available to it since the opening day.
  19. Be a ninja, not a drunken redneck. Consider investing in a mountain bike. They don’t spook the animals as easily as motorized vehicles. In many instances, it is entirely possible to get within 20 meters or closer to a game before it perceives you as a threat. Invest in the highest-quality brake-sets for those gnarly hills and in fat- and knobby-tires for soft terrain such as marshlands and snow.

    Warning: Fatal bloat upcoming.

    Warning: Fatal bloat upcoming.
    Photo: Halla Seppälä

  20. Keep the dog on a high-fat, adequate protein diet. Beware of the wolf on the bag. Unlike what raw food theorists advocates, the dog doesn’t need that much protein to build and maintain muscle. Crude protein does not need to be much higher than 35%, but not lower than 30%. Fats should be a minimum of 18%. Do not be afraid to add Greek yogurt (≥10% fat), coffee cream,
    soft cheese, sardines, mackerel or salmon or other fatty sources to increase the calorie if needed. Performance-based kibble brands with high amount of fillers such as corn are used to keep the cost down on maintaining large sled-dog teams. For only a few dogs, invest in kibbles with higher quality ingredients.
  21. You get what you put in. If the dog only goes out once a month, then it will be a very mediocre hunting partner.
By |October 20th, 2013|Log|0 Comments|

From Which He Flushed

Today is one of those days I wished I had a shotgun for rabbiting. We usually see more game along the edge of forest with pheasants, squirrels and other critters which Pavel flushes out of the bush.  This time, he flushed a lagomorph and gave chase. However, unlike the Vallhund’s previous attempts, the Laika didn’t catch it. While Riley the Vallhund was able to catch rabbits in rainy Vancouver, it was too hot outside (+21C to +23C) to go full-throttle.

Now, it is almost unheard of Laika being used to hunt rabbits. While I am already familiar with “beagling” or “corralling” because of my grandfather, there was very little discussions about how to hare-hunting with a larger dog. However, I know distant cousins and uncles in the northern territories who regularly rabbit with their random-bred huskies by sitting them at the end of the burrow and bolting the hare with smoke; or by training them to sit outside a bush before giving the cue to give chase. So, I asked a friend of mine whose family have had shot rabbits for their beagles, retrievers and Norwegian Elkhounds.

He recommended starting with a 20-gauge shotgun. If lamping is not allowed, then early morning or late evening is the best time to hunt snowshoe hares. Only shoot if one has a clear view of the rabbit and the dog is not closing in on it. With a Laika, not every shot will be taken and the Vallhund would be a better choice for rabbiting since by anatomical  design the Vallhund is a slower dog.

He also mentioned smarter breeds which are reared with rabbit-hounds will learn to intercept the hare at the half-circle. So, the dog might be running the hares too close to allow for clear shot. However, hunting on a hot day will slow down the dog significantly. If one is really concerned about shooting a dog, then whistle-stop training should commence to slow down the dog enough to take a safe shot of the quarry.

By |May 17th, 2013|Log|2 Comments|

Noisy Forest

Everyone is worried about the disappearance of frogs these days with pollutants in the environment, chytridiomycosis, climate change, industrial and urban development and so forth. A few years ago, my grandfather while staying in Cranbrook for the summer spoke about the silence of the frogs; which is much more disturbing than the silence of the birds. However, that year he saw a few frogs and he was excited to see them since it means the ecosystem is recovering from the exploitation of mining which comes with hazardous dumping of waste-water and heavy water with disregard for the health of the streams and river systems. He have not heard frogs or seen frogs for roughly 10 years. This conversation was about 5 or 7 years ago.

While out for a walk with Pavel and Riley, the sand-forest we walked in was especially nosier than usual. Last year in the fall, the area frequented was just a meadow where one can spot mule deer. Since we had a long and unusually cold winter, the ground took a long time to thaw out and the water has nowhere to drain except to sit and become stagnant. As the result, many meadows are now flooded.

The wood frogs love it though.

By |May 5th, 2013|Log|0 Comments|

The Sheep and the Wolverine

wolverinehunt

From avid Norwegian hunter, Eirik Krogstad, addressing the concern of hunting denning animals:

For those of you who are not familiar with this kind of behaviour, I will explain something.

To hunt large predators is, in my opinion, okay: either for the hunt itself or to protect property from the danger they may cause sometimes. But in Norway, hunters hired by the government also locate wolverine dens up in the mountains to neutralize the female and also her babies.

Why?

The reason is: sheep farmers let millions of sheep out in the mountains and forests all over Norway for the whole summer, and naturally predators will affect this stupid tradition. Sheep are nothing but fast food for them. Easy to find and easy to kill.

Most of the sheep which are lost die due to a number of reasons. Predators included. The county can approve to neutralize single individuals, and this is mostly done by local hunters or government hunters, and in a fair way. A regular hunt which give both the predator a chance to survive and the hunters a chance to succeed.

Nothing wrong in that; but when a mother and children are regularly pulled out of the safety in their dens and put down to “protect sheep for the coming summer”, I really want to vomit.

I have nothing but the highest regards for those hunters who pursuit large predators and are successful in their hunt; but to hunt predators in their dens, I sure don’t approve of.

The above passage has been modified for grammar and leixcon usage.

In most places in North America, most sporting hunters would not even dream about touching hibernating, nesting or denning animals. While the topic concerning depredation of coyotes, foxes, bears and wolves is heavily debated, it is seldom people discuss about what to do with pups or cubs or a weaning mother. Back in the days of the bounty programs, it was not uncommon for people to cull litters mercilessly for an additional income for the household, but those days are long gone.

Coming from a Norwegian hunter touching on the topic of sheep husbandry concerning the wolverine, I cannot help but draw parallel the conflicts hunters and non-hunters have with the grazing rights of ranchers on public lands in the United States, Crown land in Canada or the reindeer area in Finland. The topic of predator control is rather interesting since public grazing is often subsidized by tax-payers; and typically ranchers and farmers don’t like it when tax-payers tell them what to do.

Although I do not claim to understand the complex between Norwegian sheep shepherds and the wildlife. However, the issue in Canada and the United States is far from simple. Since livestock owners and predators are in perpetual conflicts since the Agricultural Revolution 10 000 years ago, it is not hard to imagine the same problem exists in every country.

Firstly, trapping in the 21st century as a livelihood is on the decline. Since the value of the fur pelts is no longer as what they were two or three decades ago, most of the trapping is done recreationally  Those who still trap for a living are often seasonal workers who take on construction or trucking jobs during the summer. In addition, vast tracts of trap-lines are inactive and left to fallow and unused in British Columbia. While there are many persons with a trapping licence in Canada, trying to secure a purchase or even a lease is difficult to obtain since sometimes the line-holders are hard to contact. Also, it is becoming more popular amongst recreational hunters in North America to purchase trap-lines so they can legally build a small cabin without leasing or zoning and developing the land as agricultural. The purchases by recreational hunters push the value of the trap-line beyond what is economically feasible for anyone with a trapping licence. So, nowadays, there are very few trappers who still are managing the fur-bearing population. Without the support of trappers, the wildlife biologists, ecologists, population geneticists and government cannot calculate an accurate census for wildlife.

Secondly, although tax-payers and ranchers do not always see eye-to-eye, non-hunters and hunters do not always see eye-to-eye either. The majority of North Americans support subsistence hunting. Hunting for fur fall under subsistence hunting, but more commonly the John Q. Public views the scenario as putting food on the table. The support for subsistence hunting is in opposition to trophy hunting, which is frowned upon in today’s society. In effect, predator hunting seen synonymous with trophy hunting. In such cases, predator hunting is sometimes banned, as seen in Washington state and the Southwest. Where effective predator-hunting is restricted or banned, tax-payers’ dollars end up being spent on government-employed hunters using the same methods as recreational hunters; or sometimes crueler than those of the recreational hunters. Consequently  when the budget for Fish and Wildlife department is slashed, then hazing programs and depredation programs to protect threatened or endangered populations from public outcry are no longer active, then increasingly predators learn not to fear humans and often cause public scares and knee-jerk reactions. Not allowing regular hunters and trappers to participate and relying on government-funded hunters or trappers to resolve human conflicts is a waste of tax-dollars; and not instituting hazing programs for protected populations also leave unresolved issues.

Thirdly, the interests of guided outfitters do not always coincide with the interests of the resident hunters or the locals. For instance, it is not uncommon for outfitters wishing to maintain a monopoly to report residential cougar-hunters as poachers even though the licences, permits and tags are legally purchased. Over time, the resident eventually gives up in frustration and leaves the sport altogether. Since trophy animals are highly sought after, often times the population is protected by the guides and outfitters in the region which puts other users of the land at risk of the younger predators. Also, when something other than the traditional blame has been demonstrated to be the problem, it is not uncommon for people to turn the other eye. For instance, when research has shown young grizzly bears heavily impact the moose population more so than wolves, many Alaskans still do not support predator control of grizzlies to supplement the moose population since the grizzly trophy hunt is the economic powerhouse in the North. Oftentimes, the wrong predator or game-animal is targeted for the sake of profit.

Lastly, livestock compensation programs are not always in the interest of the ranchers. It is common-place the government will only pay out half of the market value for a carcass. In a rancher’s mind, a 50-cent bullet or a 5-dollars cable-snare will ensure full profit of the herd. In addition, it is not unusual the government will not cover certain types of predator attacks such as those caused by coyotes or feral dogs which leave ranchers cynical and a dim view of the bureaucracy if the claim of a wolf-attack is denied. Foreign ways which ranchers have no experience with such as electric-fencing, using livestock protection dogs, steel or spiked collar for livestock and other methods recommended by wildlife biologists are not heeded since the government do not subsidize the expenses. Even if the rancher tries new methods out of his own pockets, there is insufficient mentorship on how to accomplish their goals. When the ranchers or farmers are left to own device and try to control the predators with the methods they know best, then trappers and hunters often take the blame from urbanites and environmentalists who do not always sympathize  If it is in the best interest to protect both the wildlife and the livelihood of agriculturalists and pastoralists, then the government should be fully committed to their compensation programs and not leave conflicts half-resolved.

Even though the Norwegian hunter in question addressed the concept of “fair chase”, there are several other issues which must be raised. Personally, I do not believe in micro-managing predators so road-hunters can be satisfied with the over-population of deer, elk or moose to the point where the local ecosystem is over-grazed and stripped bare of natural habitats for small-game animals. However, after witnessing many animal-lovers suddenly changing their views once cougars, coyotes, wolves or bears start strolling into town and eating pets or attacking small women and children, predators should have natural fear of mankind; and demonizing hunters and trappers will not alleviate the conflicts. Making access and affordability more difficult for other hunters and trappers to participate for someone else’s selfish reason, either intentionally or unintentionally, enable human-predator conflicts in the long run. While everyone is entitled to have food on the table, even if the said food is subsidized by the government, there need to be a healthy relationship between human and the natural world, which means providing education and supplies to deal with conflicts as well as compensating fully for the livestock or land damage. Unless all these points are addressed, the misuse of our natural resources will continue.

Please feel free to share the campaign awareness against the misuse of Norway’s natural resources through the extermination of a sensitive keystone species by launching preemptive strike and unfair hunting of denning animals. Since the population density of wolverines tend to be low, they should be given a chance to learn to avoid humans and their settlements.

By |March 25th, 2013|Nature|2 Comments|

For One Allele

uutisia_paimennus2010_2

Image courtesy of Konnunkodon Kennel

 

One Allele to rule them all,
One Allele to find them,
One Allele to bring them all
and in the darkness bind them.

− Adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Fellowship of the Ring”, Chapter Two

For two years, “Prick-Eared” was a platform for research in Swedish Vallhunds. However, over time, the dog-circles became more or less the same flavour as the troubles concerning exotic hobbyists; albeit with different incentives: the former being authoritarian and the latter being monetary.  As the result, this blog would be discontinuing discussions on the welfare of dogs. Rather, it is much better to hand the rein over to someone who has devoted her life to the welfare of the dog-breeding.

Historically, breeders would keep their safely-guarded secrets to themselves and seldom anyone heard anything negative about any breeds. As the result, numerous train-wrecks can be seen across the spectrum in the dog-fancy and trial worlds. In the new Millennium, came forth a new generation of breeders who were dealt a rather odd stack of cards.

Among the new generation, a Swedish- and Finnish-speaking Västgötaspets breeder with two decades of dedication has decided to start a new blog in two languages:  ”Vain yhden alleelin tähden” and “Only for One Allele“. In her hands, she has the complete database of Västgötaspets within every dog can be traced back to their foundation. Also, over the years, many articles on the breed were gathered from the old-school; and she  has had wrote many articles to the Finnish local breed club, Länsigöötanmaanpystykorvat ry, which the club publishes a magazine quarterly. In January 2013, she has decided to make the information publicly-accessible.

Halla Seppälä of Konnunkodon Kennel has been witnessing changes in her breed ever since her first acquired dog eighteen years ago; and she is bent on conserving the breed the way historical texts have defined the Swedish Vallhunds and maintaining the clade into the post-modern era utilizing the latest scientific knowledge and advancements branded with the new-found ethics. Her intentions are good-hearted and the breed will profit from sharing of information.

It will be most intriguing what sort of data-sets on the Swedish Vallhund will be published. It will be even more interesting to see how many people would be participating in the open discussions about the issues in the breed. However, while her audience would primarily be from Finland and Sweden, and the blog would be best written in Swedish for most impact, it still does not change the fact that English is the lingua franca of contemporary world. It is with much hope, the discussions will remain civil and open-minded. Here to good luck to “Only for One Allele” blog.

By |February 20th, 2013|Uncategorized|0 Comments|

The Christmas Ham

Although we don’t really celebrate Christmas, there are some things which can only be found around the festive holiday. Yesterday, Halla and I did the traditional Finnish main course, the joulukinkku. Don’t ask how it was cured. It is just a piece of ham anyone can buy from the frozen section of grocery stores.

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After leaving the ham overnight in the oven at about 75-80°C, we let the ham on the counter to cool for a few hours. After the ham has cooled, we removed the net, discarded the skin, removed the fats and liberally coated the remaining hulk of meat with mustard, then we sprinkled bread-crumbs on top. We nibbled on the trimmings for breakfast in the morning, then gave the rest of the gobble of fats to the dogs.

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A few hours later, we stuck the stripped ham back into the oven at 225°C until the mustard coating has browned. In the meantimes, Pavel eagerly waiting in front of the stove.

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bon appetit!

Since it was only the two of us, we only had ham and salad for dinner. Of course, traditionalists would prepare a full-course meal with all the traditional dishes; which most would end up in the trash-can and then the landfills.

Happy holidays.

By |December 24th, 2012|Log|0 Comments|

Joulukinkku

Joulukinkku is the Finnish Christmas ham. Usually it is baked overnight, so the family can help themselves to a few bites in the morning of Christmas Eve, then served for dinner later in the evening. Historically, the hog was consumed over the summer while the wealthy dined on it during the winter. However, the rise of the middle-class in Nordic countries became a game-changer.

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First the oven is preheated at 100-125°C. The ham is rinsed in cold water, then it is placed into a plastic roasting bag with slits made in the bag. The thermometer is then inserted into the thickest part of the meat. The ham sits in the oven until the internal temperature reaches 75-80°C. After sitting in the oven overnight for about 6-8 hours, the ham is left to sit to cool for a few hours after the net, skin and fats are removed. The liquid is drained, then is set aside to be processed into gravy. When the ham has cooled down, the oven is pre-heated to 225°C and the ham is glazed with a mixture of breadcrumb, mustard and honey. The ham is then baked until browned. The surface is then decorated with cloves before being served.

Of course, the results won’t be posted until tomorrow since the ham is sitting in the oven.

By |December 23rd, 2012|Log|3 Comments|

Skansen Terraria and Zoo

Halla and I went to Stockholm via an overnight trip on the Viking Line departing from Turku.  Pavel stayed behind with a friend of hers who has had owned a Swedish Vallhund, an East Siberian Laika and a Karelian Bear Dog. The babysitter was delighted to have him as company.

So why Stockholm? We made the plans to go to the Vasa Museum. Unfortunately, we forgot to bring the chargers for the camera-phones, and the snap-and-shoot camera was low on battery. The rest of the day following the Vasa Museum was made up on the spot the night of the departure to Sweden.

Originally we have planned to go to the Stockholm Aquarium, the Butterfly House, Biological Museum, the Royal Armoury and Museum of Science and Technology. However we quickly found out virtually every museum in Stockholm was closed on Monday. So, instead, we went to the Skansen Aquarium and Zoo. The aquarium isn’t really an aquarium, but rather a terrarium.

The photographs are not of very good quality. They were taken with a Samsung Galaxy Nexus with either the default program or one of the filters which comes with Camera 360 software.

The following series is only a small fraction of more than 200 species on exhibition in Skansen. A selected few which intrigued the two of us were selected for the scrapbook.

Hoffmann’s two-toed sloth (Choloepus hoffmanni). Photograph was taken as an inside joke describing one of Halla’s friends as a sloth. Unfortunately, the picture made the specimen looks more like an Afghan Hound stuck in a tree than a sloth. The two-toed sloth is fascinating in that they are not as chilled out as their three-toed cousins and will fight back if a human picks them up.

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Inland Taipan (Oxyuranus microlepidotus). The world’s most venomous snake. Friends of mine in Australia would feel right at home in Stockholm.
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I have forgotten which specimen this one is. I am pretty sure one of the herptoculturists or herptologists would know.
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Eyelash Viper (Bothriechis schlegelii). A popular venomous snake to keep in captivity in herpetoculture, mostly because of its ornamental value largely due to the radiant yellow and the fancy eyelashes.
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Iran Jaya Blue-Tonbued Skink (Tiliqua gigas ssp.) I tried, and failed, to capture a shot of the courtship mating protocol between the two skinks which involves the male nipping at the female until she submits. This is usually the time of the year when my friends in the herpetoculture would try to breed their females. Did I mention I inherited a specimen named “Blueberry” from a friend in paleontology? Fascinating creatures.
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King Cobra (Ophiophagus hannah). Beautiful specimen. However, it is forever tainted in my memory as the species which led to heavy regulations of exotic pets in British Columbia after a collector was bitten by a cobra and the staff at Reptile World in Drumheller, Alberta had to procure the antivemon.
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False Tomato Frog (Dyscophus guineti). For some reason, my companion was fascinated with this frog. These “tomato frogs” (Dyscophus sp.) are commonly sold as pets at expos, mostly of the Madagascar variety. There was an exhibit of Poison Dart Frogs which are captivating, however a SLR would be needed to capture their beauty.
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Antelope Ground Squirrel (Ammospermophilus sp.) When I saw this critter, I immediately thought of Jess Ruffner and Stephen Bodio. Although what Jess has in her backyard is the Spotted Ground Squirrel (Xerospermophilus spilosoma). I was also excited on my own behalf since we have the Richardson’s Ground Squirrel (Urocitellus richardsonii), or more commonly known in Canadian lexicon as “gopher”, which is a popular vermaint to shoot in many people’s childhoods on the Prairie.
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Alligator Snapping Turtle (Macrochelys temminckiii). The Matamata Turtle (Chelus fimbriata), the Spiny Turtle (Heosemys spinosa and the Pancake Tortoise (Malacochersus tornieri) were far more intriguing, however apparently it is really difficult to get good shots of them. The first time I have seen them without behind a glass wall was in a friend’s basement when he pulled it out the giant Rubbermaid water-storage container. His specimen was astoundingly impressive at the time. Ever since then, Snapping Turtles behind the glass were nothing to be in awe about.
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Naked Mole Rat (Heterocephalus glaber). I have never seen one of these critters before. They are ugly, like dicks with teeth. Or a mammalian version of a Bipes biporus. The set-up reminds me that of the leaf-cutter exhibits.
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Oddly enough, almost every signs in the Skansen Aquarium were posted in Swedish, Finnish, English and Russian. However, for some reason, this warning sign was posted in English only. Perhaps it tells a lot about American tourists; or maybe more about British tourists since the Brits are the bulk of English-speaking group who goes around in Nordic countries.
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Here is an intriguing bar-graph constructed by the Skansen Zoo of the correlation between over-hunting and Swedish brown-bear population; and the subsequent rebound once hunting regulations were introduced. The orange is the number of bears shot and the red is the population of the bear. On the side in a small black sign is the text in English explaining the board.

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Swedish Wolf (Canis lupus) I first saw my Eurasian wolves in Finnish zoos in summer of 2012, but it wasn’t until we went to the Polish zoos, we saw the wild canines leading an active lifestyle. Even though we have been to several zoos including the one in Skansen, I am always amazed how small the wolves are and never really fully understood the phobia in Nordic countries since the Eurasian wolves are about the same size as our North American coyotes; and we regard the coyotes as pain in the hind-side, not something to be feared. However, our humongous western wolves still provoke fear in the populace.

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In many of these cases, the Canon point-and-shoot would be a better substitute since the low-light condition of the grey winter skies reduced the quality of the photographs. However, many of the small primates, birds and invertebrates still require a good SLR camera to capture their true details. I hope the readers of the blog enjoy the photograph. They may not mean much, but they add to the scrapbook which we call life.

By |December 18th, 2012|Log|3 Comments|

The Pump

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These bicycle-pump stations, where people can put air into the tires, are found all over Stockholm. I am told these can be found throughout Sweden and Norway; but are not found in Finland. In addition to the low-carb diet Norwegians and Swedes embraced, there is little wonder why the two countries are the thinnest in Europe: patriotism lies in their outdoors lifestyle. Being slow to adopt the automobile-centric American way of life, many people still either jog or bike to work.

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By |December 18th, 2012|Log|0 Comments|