Sunday, June 30, 2013

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Image of the Day

Male serval

Jaguar Photos From Arizona's Santa Rita Mountains Show Rare Animal Roaming Wild

AP  |  Posted:
TUCSON, Ariz. -- New photographs show that a rare male jaguar apparently has been roaming in Southern Arizona mountains for at least nine months, indicating the animals are occasionally moving into their historic range from northern Mexico and into the American Southwest.

The Arizona Daily Star reports ( that remote cameras have photographed the big cat in five locations in the Santa Rita Mountains' eastern flank on seven occasions since October. Those photos were taken for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service by University of Arizona cameras after a hunter gave state authorities a photo of a jaguar's tail that he took last September in the Santa Ritas.

jaguar photo arizona
This photo released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows a remote camera that photographed a rare male jaguar west of the proposed Rosemont Mine site in the mountains southeast of Tucson. The photographs come as federal wildlife officials consider designating more than 1,300 square miles in New Mexico and Arizona as critical habitat for the jaguar. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service / AP)

The images were provided to the Star this week by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.
Federally financed remote cameras photographed the jaguar west of the proposed Rosemont Mine site in the mountains southeast of Tucson.

It is the only jaguar known to live in the United States since the 15-year-old cat known as Macho B died in Arizona in March 2009.
The photographs come as federal wildlife officials consider designating more than 1,300 square miles in New Mexico and Arizona as critical habitat for the jaguar.

The proposed habitat would include parts of Pima, Santa Cruz and Cochise counties in Arizona, and New Mexico's Hidalgo County.
While this habitat isn't as good for jaguars as what exists in Mexico, said Jean Calhoun, an assistant field supervisor in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Tucson office, "It's the best (jaguar) habitat we have."

Tim Snow, an Arizona Game and Fish Department nongame specialist, said the area where the photos were shot has prey for the jaguar like deer and javelina.
But the new photos don't change the state Game and Fish's opposition to a jaguar critical habitat.
"That solitary male jaguar is no reason for critical habitat. We don't have any breeding pairs," said department spokesman Jim Paxon. "If that was critical habitat, we would still be doing the same thing that we are doing today. We are not harassing that jaguar or modifying normal activities there that are lawful today."

Michael Robinson of the environmental advocacy group Center for Biological Diversity, however, said a habitat is needed in American Southwest. "It's hard to see how an area with possibly the only jaguar living in the wild in the United States ... how that habitat would not be essential to recovery here," he said.


Cat a paint ball after centre break-in

PAINTED CAT: Shy-shy before she was anaesthetised and shaved.

Shy-shy will be feeling even more bashful when she returns home to the mosque.
The Christchurch cat had a close shave with burglars who doused her with paint - and yesterday got an even closer shave from the vet.

Police placed the cat in SPCA care after a break-in at the Hillmorton/Spreydon Islamic Centre was discovered on Tuesday morning.
Shy-shy had been daubed with paint, items were strewn around inside the Lincoln Rd premises and a donation box containing cash was taken.

SPCA field officer Jenna Woodford said the paint had hardened on the cat's fur and would not wash off.
Shy-shy was put under general anaesthetic and the affected fur shaved off, including on the cat's head, legs, back and side.
"She looks like a Siamese now," Woodford said.

Shy-shy stayed overnight at the vet's and would spend a few days at the SPCA for final checks before being returned to the centre.
SPCA Canterbury inspectorate manager Geoff Sutton said the mosque community was paying for the cat's veterinary care.
"We've seen it before with tar, but not paint. That's a first."

Police said a forensic examination had been done at the Islamic centre but no arrests made.


Friday, June 28, 2013

Image of the Day

Attentive Toundra by Tambako the Jaguar
Attentive Toundra, a photo by Tambako the Jaguar on Flickr.

Human Activities Threaten Sumatran Tiger Population

Sumatran tigers are threatened with extinction; it is estimated that fewer than 400 currently survive in the wild. (Credit: © Giesbers/WWF-Canon)

June 26, 2013 — Sumatran tigers, found exclusively on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, are on the brink of extinction. By optimistic estimates, perhaps 400 individuals survive. But the exact the number and locations of the island's dwindling tiger population has been up for debate.

Virginia Tech and World Wildlife Fund researchers have found that tigers in central Sumatra live at very low densities, lower than previously believed, according to a study in the April 2013 issue of Oryx -- The International Journal of Conservation.

The findings by Sunarto, who earned his doctorate from Virginia Tech in 2011, and co-researchers Marcella Kelly, an associate professor of wildlife in the College of Natural Resources and Environment, and Erin Poor of East Lansing, Mich., a doctoral student studying wildlife science and geospatial environmental analysis in the college, suggest that high levels of human activity limit the tiger population.

Researchers studied areas and habitat types not previously surveyed, which could inform interventions needed to save the tiger.

"Tigers are not only threatened by habitat loss from deforestation and poaching; they are also very sensitive to human disturbance," said Sunarto, a native of Indonesia, where people typically have one name. "They cannot survive in areas without adequate understory, but they are also threatened in seemingly suitable forests when there is too much human activity."

The smallest surviving tiger subspecies, Sumatran tigers are extremely elusive and may live at densities as low as one cat per 40 square miles. This is the first study to compare the density of Sumatran tigers across various forest types, including the previously unstudied peat land. The research applied spatial estimation techniques to provide better accuracy of tiger density than previous studies.

Sunarto, a tiger and elephant specialist with World Wildlife Fund-Indonesia, collaborated on the paper with Kelly, Professor Emeritus Michael Vaughan, and Sybille Klenzendorf, managing director of WWF's Species Conservation Program, who earned her master's and doctoral degrees in wildlife science from Virginia Tech. The WWF field team collected data in partnership with the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry staff.

"Getting evidence of the tigers' presence was difficult," Kelly said. "It took an average of 590 days for camera traps to get an image of each individual tiger recorded."

"We believe the low detection of tigers in the study area of central Sumatra was a result of the high level of human activity -- farming, hunting, trapping, and gathering of forest products," Sunarto said. "We found a low population of tigers in these areas, even when there was an abundance of prey animals."

Legal protection of an area, followed by intensive management, can reduce the level of human disturbance and facilitate the recovery of the habitat and as well as tiger numbers. The researchers documented a potentially stable tiger population in the study region's Tesso Nilo Park, where legal efforts are in place to discourage destructive human activities.

The study -- "Threatened predator on the equator: Multi-point abundance estimates of the tiger Panthera tigris in central Sumatra" -- indicates that more intensive monitoring and proactive management of tiger populations and their habitats are crucial or this tiger subspecies will soon follow the fate of its extinct Javan and Balinese relatives.

Story Source:
The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Virginia Tech (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University), via Newswise.
Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.

Journal Reference:
  1. Sunarto, Marcella J. Kelly, Sybille Klenzendorf, Michael R. Vaughan, Zulfahmi, M.B. Hutajulu, Karmila Parakkasi. Threatened predator on the equator: multi-point abundance estimates of the tiger Panthera tigris in central Sumatra. Oryx, 2013; 47 (02): 211 DOI: 10.1017/S0030605311001530

Virginia Tech (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University) (2013, June 26). Human activities threaten Sumatran tiger population. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 28, 2013, from­ /releases/2013/06/130626183925.htm

Stuffed Tiger Plays with Kittens - Hilarious!!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Image of the Day

Man stages tiger attack as he teaches big cat to play fight

Animal trainer Randy Miller dices with danger as he teaches his 400lb tiger Eden to leap into the air and pretend to maul him in action scenes in films.

26 Jun 2013

Mr Miller rears his animals from birth at his facility in Big Bear, California and uses his bond with them to get them to perform on the big screen.
He has hand-fed Eden since she was born and eventually taught her to jump on him for food rewards.
He has trained creatures for roles in Transformers 2, The Last Samurai and many other big-screen productions.
"I like using Eden for the staged attack because she comes at me so fast and hits hard, so it's very convincing" said Mr Miller.
"She's dependable and knows what she's doing, but you still need to be cautious and play your role.
"You can hit your head and get knocked out and that becomes dangerous because the animal can take advantage of you. It's in a predator's instincts to prey on the weak, and it can come at any time.
"One bite could kill you, and if you get bit in the neck, you're dead."
The expert handler's act with predators is so convincing it landed him a top stunt award for his work on Russell Crowe blockbuster Gladiator.

Crowe's face was superimposed onto his for a scene when Maximus was attacked by one of Miller's tigers, Tara, in a battle in the Colosseum.
However during the stunt Tara bit through his fake armour on his arm, which was made of leather.
"It wasn't a big deal and I didn't take it personally," he said. "She just liked the smell and got possessive of it."


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Indiana Leopard: Cat Lady Kills Big Cat

Indiana Leopard: Cat Lady Kills Big Cat 
Apparently the love of a “crazy cat lady” comes with size restrictions.

A leopard has been shot and killed on the property of a woman in Charlestown, Indiana. Concerned about a recent spate of attacks on neighborhood pets, the woman and her boyfriend sat up all night, watching what they believed was going to be a bobcat.

Upon seeing movement at the tree line on the edge of her land, the as yet unidentified woman instructed her male companion to shoot. They were, naturally, surprised to find that the animal was a leopard, a species native to vast areas of land across Africa and Asia—but not Indiana.

Adult leopards can weigh up to 200 lbs. and run at speeds of up to 35 mph. Bobcats typically weigh around 30 lbs. So if she indeed thought this animal was a bobcat, it would have been a doozy.
The woman owns several housecats and was concerned for their safety. According to a neighbor, Donna Duke, “she’s got cats that are basically her family.”

Officials are searching for the origin of the big cat. Indiana residents are allowed to keep such exotic animals, provided they have the appropriate permit, but no legal owners of leopards have yet claimed responsibility.

This incident comes on the heels of a tiger attack in western Indiana on Friday. Marissa Dub, 21, a worker at an exotic cat rescue operation in Center Point, Ind. was mauled while cleaning the cage of an adult tiger named Raja.


Raccoons blamed for illnesses at Wylie big cat sanctuary

In-Sync Exotics
Credit: WFAA
Big cats at Wylie's In-Sync Exotics Wildlife Refuge are being treated for symptoms of canine distemper.

Posted on June 23, 2013 

Officials at a Wylie animal sanctuary believe a raccoon is to blame for an outbreak of canine distemper among big cats.

In-Sync Exotics says 22 animals — including lions and tigers — are infected with the potentially fatal virus which can infect the central nervous system.

The sanctuary said several of the cats are showing neurological symptoms.

Raccoons live in the area around the sanctuary. In-Sync is asking for monetary donations as well as cleaning supplies.

The cats are vaccinated against feline distemper, not canine distemper. Fifty percent of dogs that contract distemper die from it.

The illness begins with respiratory and digestive problems. As it progresses to the nervous system, infected animals have trouble walking and experience muscle spasms and seizures.
Infected raccoons have also been found in several neighboring Collin County cities, including McKinney and Plano.

In Tarrant County, Arlington has had raccoons test positive for distemper.



Keighley charity launches dog virus campaign

A Keighley charity is helping to fight a disease, originally spread by domestic dogs, that makes endangered tigers and other big cats lose their fear of humans.

Canine distemper virus (CDV) is a pathogen that threatens some of the rarest feline species across the world, and Wildlife Vets International, based on Parkwood Street, has joined efforts to stop it from decimating the tiger population.

Big cat specialist and co- founder of the charity Dr John Lewis will visit Sumatra to offer advice and help launch a programme to shed new light on the causes.


Tick-Caused Bobcat Fever Can Be Deadly to Domestic Cats

Close-up of a lone star tick. (Credit: Photo courtesy of Michael Dryden)

June 24, 2013 — Kansas State University veterinarians are warning pet owners to watch out for ticks carrying a disease that could kill cats.

Cytauxzoon felis, also known as bobcat fever, is a blood parasite that infects domestic cats and has a very high death rate. Susan Nelson, a veterinarian and clinical associate professor at Kansas State University's Veterinary Health Center, says this disease was thought to be carried only by the American dog tick, but now may be carried by the lone star tick, which is quite prevalent in northeast Kansas.

"Most people have probably seen a lone star tick even if they're not familiar with them by name," Nelson said. "They're the ones that have a bright white spot on their back."

Bobcat fever does not affect humans or dogs. It is called bobcat fever because bobcats are considered the main reservoir for the disease, as it is typically not fatal for them.

Most cases of bobcat fever occur from March through September, which coincides with the times cats are most likely to encounter ticks. Late spring and early summer are the peak times for ticks in Kansas.

Nelson says cats that live outside the city boundaries are at a higher risk of getting bobcat fever because they are more likely to encounter ticks in a rural environment; however, that doesn't necessarily mean that your city-living kitty can't get the disease. If your cat has contracted the disease, it can be anywhere from five to 20 days before symptoms appear.

"First, you're probably going to notice they're going to be really lethargic and tired," Nelson said. "Their appetite is going to decrease. They may feel very hot to you as they will tend to run a high fever early in the course of the disease. As the disease progresses, you might see breathing problems, dehydration and the whites of their eyes or the inside of their ears might start looking yellow as they start getting jaundiced. Their body temperature will start to drop as they near the end stages of the disease."

A cat may be infected even if you don't see a tick on the animal, because the tick may have already fed and dropped off the cat before the animal starts showing symptoms of the disease.

No vaccine is available for this disease. Treatment can be expensive and often unsuccessful, so it is important to take precautionary steps to keep your cat from being bitten. Nelson says the best thing to do is to keep your cat indoors. If you can't do that, then keep your yard well maintained -- it's a myth that ticks from fall from trees.

"If your cat likes to stay in the yard, try to keep your grass mowed down so it's not tall," she said. "The ticks tend to like the taller grasses. Keep the shrubbery trimmed short and remove debris around your house. Do daily tick checks on the cats and remember to look between their toes. If your cat lives with a dog, make sure you are using some type of tick control on the dog as it can bring ticks into your house, which can then feed on your cat."

Nelson also suggests talking to your veterinarian about types of tick control medications to determine which is best for your pet.

Tick expert Michael Dryden, university distinguished professor of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology at Kansas State University, tracks the lone star tick and says they are mainly found in eastern Kansas and in the Southeastern states. So far, he has not found any lone star ticks west of Clay Center, Kan., but he expects its territory will expand.

Story Source:
The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Kansas State University. The original article was written by Lindsey Elliott.
Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.

Kansas State University (2013, June 24). Tick-caused bobcat fever can be deadly to domestic cats. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 25, 2013, from­ /releases/2013/06/130624103807.htm

60 big cats killed in Brazilian parks in last two years

By: Jemma Smith
June 24, 2013

At least 60 big cats have been killed within national protected areas in Brazil during the past two years according to a recent survey published in's open access journal Tropical Conservation Science (TCS). The report, which focuses on jaguar (Panthera onca) and puma (Puma concolor) populations, within Brazilian protected areas shows that reserve management and use restrictions impact the level of big cat hunting.

Results collected from a questionnaire sent to a sample of reserve managers shows reports of hunting was 3 times more frequent in reserves with less restriction for human use. The study also shows that hunting had occurred in nearly 50% of reserves known to have populations of big cat.

Hunting is rarely reported and when reports are made they are hardly ever followed through with legal prosecution. This could mean that residents near less restricted reserves are not concerned with being prosecuted leading to higher levels of hunting being reported in these areas.

Both jaguars and pumas have international protection against hunting. Jaguars are listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN's red list and included on CITIES Appendix 1, while pumas are listed as Least Concern and included on Appendix 2. These classifications mean the hunting of both species is illegal. The scientists comment that "hunting is widespread in protected areas and that legal protected status is no guarantee of actual protection."

Even with this report there is still insufficient data and the number of big cat deaths is just an estimate. It is likely the actual number of deaths is much higher. "More studies are needed to evaluate death rates, factors associated with hunting, the effects of human population size and of specific management measures. Most important is the need to know how hunting affects population viability in these areas" explains the scientists. Furthermore, the scientists suggest "managers of protected areas should try to systematize the available information and investigate possible cases. Only by recognizing the problem will it be possible to take measures to solve it."

Jaguar in Brazil. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.
Jaguar in Brazil. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.

CITATION: Carvalho Jr, E.A.R and Morato, R.G. 2013. Factors affecting big cat hunting in Brazilian protected areas. Tropical Conservation Science Vol. 6(2):303-310 


Image of the Day

Monday, June 24, 2013

Image of the Day

Ninja is angry! by Tambako the Jaguar
Ninja is angry!, a photo by Tambako the Jaguar on Flickr.

Tiger Mauls Woman at Indy Sanctuary for Rescued Big Cats

By Tara MacIsaac, Epoch Times | June 23, 2013
Tiger mauls woman: A 21-year-old woman was mauled by a tiger at an Indiana sanctuary for big cats on Friday when a sliding door was left open.

Marissa Dub was brought to hospital after the attack; she suffered a head injury, but was responsive to questions, reported the Indy Star. The tiger griped her head, releasing it after her coworkers sprayed its face with water and lured it away with meat, according to Reuters.

The tiger was in a holding area outside of the main habitat, but a sliding door between the spaces was left open, reported the Star, citing a Clay County Sheriff’s Department statement.

The Exotic Feline Rescue Center (EFRC) in Center Point, Indiana, houses large felines that have been neglected, abused, or kept illegally. One of the largest rescue centers in the United States, it is a non-profit caring for about 230 animals.

The 18-year-old male tiger that attacked Dub, Raja, has been at the center for several years, reported the Star. Dub is believed to be an intern.

In March, a lion at a California animal park killed 24-year-old intern Dianna Hanson. Investigators reported at the time that the feeding cage door was likely only partially closed, allowing the 5-year-old lion to escape and attack.


Saturday, June 22, 2013

Momo the cat safe after dramatic escape from truck in Alberta flood

Cat swept away in Alberta floods swims to safety Kevan Yeats swims after his cat Momo to safety in High River, Alta. on Thursday June 20, 2013. (Jordan Verlage / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

The Canadian Press
Published Friday, June 21, 2013
DE WINTON, Alta. - An eight-month-old cat's dramatic escape from a truck sinking in Alberta floodwaters has cast both the water-loving pet and her owner into the spotlight.

There has been an outpouring of concern on social media for Momo the cat and her owner Kevan Yeats since the two were photographed Thursday by The Canadian Press swimming to safety as Yeats's pickup truck was swept downstream in High River, Alta.

Yeats's mother, Lori Yeats, says both her son and "grandkitty" are safe and sound after their ordeal.
Lori Yeats -- who lives in De Winton, Alta., just south of Calgary -- says Momo is an indoor cat that actually loves water and constantly tries to crawl into the shower with her owner.
In fact, she says of the two, Momo is the faster swimmer.

Lori Yeats says her son and his pet were a little emotional last night, but they're taking their dramatic water adventure in stride.


Image of the Day

Painful love by Tambako the Jaguar
Painful love, a photo by Tambako the Jaguar on Flickr.

Two Persian leopards mating

Friday, June 21, 2013

Big cats in the big house: Calgary Zoo could move lions, tigers to courthouse

Postmedia News
Published: June 21, 2013

Big cats from the Calgary Zoo could be moved to holding cells at the Calgary Court Centre if flooding conditions worsen.
Earlier this morning, Bruce Burrell, director of Calgary Emergency Management Agency said the cats were evacuated from the zoo to cells at the new court centre to ensure they would be safe from flood waters.

However, police officials told the Herald at 6 a.m. that the big cat move to the courthouse hadn’t occurred but they still consider it an option.
Zoo spokeswoman Laurie Skene said the zoo had discussed a number of options for the cats, which include four lions, two snow leopards and six tigers, three of which are cubs that are approaching full size.
“The courthouse remains a contingency plan for the big cats if they need to be evacuated,” said Skene.
The cats have been moved to other zoo enclosures including holding pens at the zoo’s animal health centre.
Parts of the zoo are under a foot or two of water, particularly the west end.

Two pot-bellied pigs were believed to be evacuated to the City of Calgary animal shelter from their low-lying enclosure.
The gorillas were also confined to a higher area of their enclosure which includes a large play area, due to fears that flood waters could seep into the lower part of their homes.


Unhindered mining in heart of Ranthambore poses threat to big cats

Jaipur, June 21, 2013 |

Ranthambore National Park
Illegal activities start before sunrise and continue till around 10 am.
The rampant illegal mining inside critical tiger habitat of the Ranthambore National Park (RNP) in Sawai Madhopur is not only posing threat to the ecology of the park but it is also a serious threat to the big cats.

Experts assert that for the disappearance of at least 12 tigers including four cubs since 2010-11 and death of a tiger in December 2012 was due to the illegal mining mafia. The tigers missing from the park since 2010-11 include T-29, T-40, T-21 and tigresses T-17, T-27, T-31, besides two cubs each of T-11 and T-13, one cub each of T-8 and T-9.

The most notorious area of mining has been Kundera range of the park. Illegal mining has been rampant in regions like, Uliyana, Ainda, Shyampura, Basaun-Khurd and Badhlaw villages - all inside the critical tiger habitat. These activities start before sunrise and continue till around 10 am on a daily basis, sources pointed out.

In one of the glaring examples tigress T-17 disappeared some three months back leaving behind her 3 cubs in her territory around Badhlaw Talab (lake) close to Uliyana village in Kundera range of the park. Experts including Rajasthan's former chief of forest and principal chief conservator of forests R.N. Mehrotra asserted that poaching of T-17 could not be ruled out.

Dhirendra Godha, an expert on RNP tigers, was of the opinion that absence of intensive monitoring was the reason behind illegal activities. Expressing concern over the lack of safety of the big cats in RNP he said that if mother-tigress was not safe (T-17) her three cubs that she left behind were endangered in the area.

Another tigress T-37 disappeared from Indala region of the park around same time. Forest department didn't think it proper even to conduct any inquiry into their disappearance. On December 23 carcass of a big cat was discovered in the Khandar range. Strangely the department could neither identify the animal so far nor could ascertain the exact reason for the death despite instituting two different inquiries.

During 2010-11 four big cats  - T29, T40, T21 (all males) and tigress T27 were found disappearing but the matter was hushed up without fixing any responsibility, notwithstanding an inquiry by then additional principal chief conservator of forest AC Chaubey. In his report he maintained that two big cats could have been dead (with no carcass found) while two other could return in future if tracked properly; but the fact remains they never returned or found.  However, the report was never sent to the RNP for follow up.

Giriraj Singh Kushwaha, IAS, who was district collector of Sawai Madhopur till early this month before he was transferred to planning department, Jaipur,  while talking to Mail Today conceded that mining activities had been going on in the tiger habitat in Uliyana, Khandar, Malarna, Ainda, Shyampura  and other regions of the park. "I had in fact  seized 5 JCBs from the illegal mine operators  and imposed penalty of Rs.2 lakh for each JCB  not long ago", he said. He had also served notices on two rangers of the RNP for not patrolling their respective areas as was mandatory. However, it didn't help stopping the illegal activities.

Kushwaha didn't rule out the possibility of poaching of the missing big cats by the mine operators. Divisional forest officer (DFO) Rahul Bhatnagar though conceded that illegal mining was going on in the park but asserted that it was not rampant. "Illegal mining was going on as clandestine activity and was on the decrease currently due to rains. We are alert on this front", he maintained. 

Lil BUB to Add Feline Presence to Techy Network

Even Revision3 isn't immune to the cuteness of cats, as they just signed the YouTube channel featuring Lil BUB, along with owner Mike Bridavsky, because he's kind of important too.  And because cats are primadonnas, Lil BUB had to make a video announcing that not only is it her second birthday, but she's going to have her own show, called, "Lil BUB's Big Show."  Cats are, of course, huge in online video and you can probably name a few, which is the weird culture we live in.  Grumpy CatMaru.  These cats are now getting their own shows.


Image of the Day

The cute Madiba by Tambako the Jaguar
The cute Madiba, a photo by Tambako the Jaguar on Flickr.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Image of the Day

Cat versus dog: Which is better and why?

It’s the question that stirs debate and emotion among pet owners. But the results are not even close, according to the latest poll.

Cats may be the most owned pet in the U.S. by number, but, according to a recent poll, dogs have won the hearts of voters.
Jens Meyer / AP
Cats may be the most owned pet in the U.S. by number, but, according to a recent poll, dogs have won the hearts of voters. 

It’s the question that tends to stir hot debate and hair-raising emotions among pet owners: Which pet do people prefer, dogs or cats?
Cat lovers may want to stop reading here.
The result is not even close, according to a poll released by U.S.-based Public Policy Polling.
Jim Williams, a polling analyst with Public Polling Policy, told the Star that he is disappointed with the results on a personal level.
“I’m a big cat person, so I was hoping for more a cat-friendly response,” he said.
“This was a little surprising to me because I heard that cats are the most-owned pet in America by number, but it would appear that dogs win this round.”
This was the first time the Raleigh, N.C.-based company has conducted a poll on pets.
Since 2001, PPP has conducted surveys for politicians and political organizations, unions, consultants, and businesses.
But although the dog-loving world can lap up these results, there was some relief in the poll findings for the cat camp.
The stereotype about the “crazy cat person” wasn’t widely supported, according to the results.
Just 23 per cent of those polled agreed with the statement “Cat owners are weirder than dog owners.”
Here are some of the reasons that may indicate why cats are less popular.
  • 11 per cent of those polled are allergic to cats.
  • 5 per cent of respondents are afraid of cats, but just 3 per cent are afraid of dogs.
  • 8 per cent say they should all “live in the woods.”
  • When asked which would make a better U.S. president, based on personality, 37 per cent of those polled chose a dog, and only 19 per cent picked a cat.
  • 10 per cent of respondents say that black cats are bad luck.
  • 23 per cent say their cats are not friendly to visitors.
  • The biggest reason why cats win out with some people? Eleven per cent of respondents say that cats “make you work for their affection and don’t sell out like dogs do.”
    Here are some other data collected by Public Policy Polling.
  • One in five respondents say they prefer to spend time with their pets over most human beings.
  • Americans are more terrified of snakes than any other animal. Alligators were a close second, with sharks third and bears coming in fourth.
  • Although sharks are scarier than bears, most people think a bear would win out in a fight with a shark.
  • When picking what they’d like to have as an exotic pet, most people chose a tiger.
  • 10 per cent of those polled say they’d like a hippopotamus for Christmas.
  • Bambi wins out as “favourite movie animal,” beating Lassie, Garfield, Nemo, Free Willy and Jaws.
  • 18 per cent of respondents say they think the Loch Ness Monster is real.
  • Public Policy Polling surveyed 603 registered voters between June 11-13, 2013. The margin of error was +/- 4 per cent.


    Lions like ice cream, too!

    This lion knows it's Monday!

    Via Imgur (

    Just another Monday morning down at the old wildlife sanctuary

    1 day ago
    Lions. So majestic, so powerful, so proud, so … utterly goofy. This dude hanging out doing not very much at an unnamed wildlife sanctuary ruins all the preconceptions we have about the King of Beasts. We're not sure what his problem is. Could be he has a little leftover gazelle stuck in his inner cheek. Maybe the wind changed at an awkward moment. Perhaps he just couldn't hold it together anymore. Either way, we love him, and look forward to what we hope will be a steady stream of Goofy Lion memes. Make it happen, people.


    Caretaker fuming over big cat fight

    Posted: Jun 20, 2013 

    TAMPA (FOX 13) - 

    It was a move that didn't go as planned, and it has one man very upset.
    For four hours, crews tried to move a pair of tigers, but they wouldn't budge. And it all has to do with an ongoing court case involving their owner.

    The tigers and a leopard were confiscated a year-and-a-half ago from a Palm Beach facility owned by "Tarzan" actor Steve Sipek.

    He, however, won a court battle to get them back, but according to Vernon Yates, who has been caring for the cats since they were removed, the movers had "no idea what they were doing."
    The move failed Wednesday. They're going to try again Thursday.

    For more than a year, Yates has been caring for the cats at another facility in Seminole County. Their food and medical bills have all been on Yates' plate, and he says that totals about $60,000.
    He's not happy.

    "They obviously don't know how to handle big cats that are mean or scared," he said.
    A judge has ordered the cats be removed from Yates' facility and moved to another near Sipek, who is still not allowed to keep them at his home facility.

    Yates said he's glad the cats are leaving. He said they haven't been friendly in their time with them, but he was hoping to not be out of pocket for their care.


    Distemper virus hits local big cat rescue shelter

    Photo courtesy of Rachel Diebner
    Published: Thursday, June 20, 2013 10:54 AM CDT
    A few weeks ago, not many people likely knew about In-Sync Exotics Wildlife and Rescue Education Center, a Wylie shelter that houses more than 60 abused and neglected exotic cats.

    Now, the small organization has fallen under a big spotlight, after realizing that its tigers and lions might not live much longer.

    Four of the big cats contracted canine distemper virus (CDV), while 18 other lions and tigers have begun to show symptoms.

    The disease is deadly: In-Sync has been told 50 percent of the animals will die.

    The news has sent the shelter into a frenzy. The cats’ annual birthday bash was cancelled, and the staff has been staying at the shelter until two or three in the morning each night.

    “We are all frantic to save their life again,” said Vicky Keahey, In-Sync founder and president. “We did that when we rescued them, and we’re supposed to do that forever. Every effort that we have goes into saving them again.”

    The virus was thought to be transmitted through raccoons. Last month, 25 raccoons in Plano and 29 in Arlington were diagnosed with distemper, and in the past few months, In-Sync has found four raccoons on the property, Keahey said, adding that the big cats likely contracted the disease through contact with the urine or feces of one of the raccoons.

    The outbreak could have easily been prevented had the cats received a vaccination. However, while the cats were vaccinated against feline distemper, they did not receive the vaccination for canine distemper. Instead, veterinarians and cat experts alike advised the shelter against it: the vaccination posed dangers to the cats, and besides, the chance that they would catch the disease was slim, Keahey said.

    After the first four cats were diagnosed, the remaining lions and tigers were given immunizations against canine distemper. It remains unclear which of these cats have contracted the disease and which are simply displaying symptoms from the vaccination.

    Symptoms of distemper include lethargy, loss of appetite, diarrhea, seizures, respiratory disease, loss of motor control and death.

    Because it is a virus, distemper cannot be treated, Keahey said. The key to the cats’ survival will be to boost their immune systems through antibiotics and a good vitamin protocol.

    “They may be tigers, but we’ll get the medicine down ‘em,” he said. “And they will be OK. They have to be.”

    However, with the additional medications, vaccinations and veterinary appointments, In-Sync’s expenses have skyrocketed – as if the shelter was not already struggling financially. In a typical year, In-Sync spends $50,000 on veterinary care. This year, the shelter has already spent more than $70,000 on veterinary care. Factor in $12,000 more per month for food, and bills are mounting.

    And it’s only June.

    For Keahey, this means a lower paycheck. Not that it matters much to her: she normally doesn’t take a monthly paycheck, and she said that the most she has made in a year is $24,000.

    “The only time I get paid is when the cats can afford to give me a thousand dollars in a month’s time,” she said. “I spend 14 to 16 hours out here every day, seven days a week, 365 days a year – all for the cats.”

    With In-Sync’s animals’ lives in danger, the public has grown worried about their own pets. While humans are not susceptible to the virus, cats and dogs are at risk.

    As a response, Collin County Animal Services will host a low-cost vaccination clinic for domestic dogs and cats at the county animal shelter. From 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, the shelter will provide combination vaccinations (DHPP for dogs and FVRCP for cats) targeted at a number of diseases, including distemper, at a $10 cost.

    Though some of its animals don’t get that chance, Keahey said In-Sync will do what it can – and what it always does.

    “I have been told that 50 percent of the animals will die. That’s what I’ve been told,” Keahey said. “But the person who told me that doesn’t know me, either. They don’t know In-Sync and how determined we are.”


    Wednesday, June 19, 2013

    Tuesday, June 18, 2013

    Image of the Day

    Profile of Polo by Tambako the Jaguar
    Profile of Polo, a photo by Tambako the Jaguar on Flickr.

    Black jaguar

    NATURE's Big Cats | Coming in July on PBS (Video)

    Cats getting more space at Winnipeg’s Assiniboine Park Zoo

    Shane Gibson/Metro Winnipeg Work is getting underway this month on expanding the tiger enclosure at the Assiniboine Park Zoo thanks to a $500,000 donation from James Cohen and Linda McGarva-Cohen.
    The big cats that call Assiniboine Park Zoo home are getting a whole lot more room to roam and roar.
    Work is getting underway this month to turn the current 2,900 square-foot home of the zoo’s three Amur tigers into a 26,000 square-foot mixed vegetation habitat complete with a pool and plenty of shady spots for some serious tiger relaxation time.

    And it’s not just about relaxation — Assiniboine Park Zoo COO Don Peterkin told Metro the extra space means we can likely expect to hear the pitter-patter of little paws soon.
    “This is going to allow us to take our breeding program for the Amur tigers… into high-gear,” he said, explaining the zoo currently has one male and one breeding female, which need to be kept apart because the male is a little too interested in the couple’s female cub at the moment. “We have to maintain the genetics.”

    Phase one of the $1 million project will see the tigers space expanded, while two other enclosures, including a new space for lions, will be built in the second and third phases in the area around the existing tiger den.

    The cost of phase one, expected to be complete by this fall, is being covered by a $500,000 donation from James Cohen and Linda McGarva-Cohen.

    The donation brings the Assiniboine Park Conservancy’s fundraising efforts to $116 million of their $200 million goal.


    The Secret Life of Cats: Here are the questions they didn't answer

    • By Carolyn Hitt

    From sat-naving cats, we learned that they like to roam around a bit and catch the odd mouse. But what about the answers about cats' behaviour we really wanted?
    Horizon: The Secret Life of Cats
    Horizon: The Secret Life of Cats
    It's been a momentous couple of weeks for the feline of the species.

    First we learned that Karl Lagerfeld would happily marry his moggy if he could. Then the BBC’s flagship science programme Horizon devoted its considerable academic resources to probing The Secret Life of Cats.

    The creative director of Chanel really does have a muse that mews. Lagerfeld’s fluffy white feline Choupette is set to become the most talked about cat since Mrs Slocombe’s pussy.

    She apparently loves shopping, iPads, antique lace and has two maids. She also has her own Twitter account, has given “interviews” in multiple high end fashion magazines and modelled for a 10-page photo-shoot.

    The 50 cats featured in Horizon didn’t enjoy quite the levels of luxury lavished on Lagerfeld’s four-legged friend. Though, as they populated a well-heeled village in Surrey, they were still pretty posh pusses. The roll call of names sounded like a prep school register – Brutus, Claude, Kato...
    Then the voiceover informed us we were going to be introduced to the “cat scientists.”

    Blimey, these really were well-educated mogs. But before we could spot a Siamese in a white coat, a pair of human boffins appeared with enough surveillance kit to fill a series of Spooks.

    Trussed up with GPS tracking devices and collar cameras, the cats of Shamley Green were monitored night and day – from midnight hunting expeditions to laying down audio tracks of their purrs. It was like Big Brother with fur.

    Owners were encouraged to collect the prey their cats had dispatched. It produced a surreal morgue of small mammals. One family turned up with a frozen mole in Tupperware.

    Back at kitty HQ, the findings were analysed. Satellite maps of Surrey revealed the extent of the cats’ wanderings – each puss’s path plotted in a different colour.

    One particularly adventurous Tom called Sooty completed a route of the local woodland so circuitous it could have formed the basis of a Michael Palin expedition.

    But what did we actually learn about the Secret Lives of Cats? Not much more than I could have told you based on my own experience of the feline life as lived vicariously through my 17-year-old ginger and white cat, Scully.

    Horizon “revealed” that cats break into other people’s houses and help themselves to other moggies’ meals. Covert footage of cheeky Claude chowing down on a neighbours’ supply of Gourmet Chicken Chunks in Jelly confirmed this.

    But I gathered even more evidence of cat flap burglary when I came home to find my neighbour’s geriatric and incontinent tom, Jasper, had illegally entered the premises, knocked over a bottle of Merlot, slurped it up and regurgitated it over a cream sofa.

    Horizon showed us intrepid cats like Sooty can travel great distances. Scully has shown me cats can also stay on their fat ginger backsides for most of their lives.

    For 16 years I thought she spent all day, every day, outside, possibly terrorizing the small mammal population of Cardiff’s Thomson Park.

    But then Scully is a particularly indolent feline. Exercise is restricted to shifting herself from one settee cushion to the next and perhaps a little light combat with a Ferrero Rocher wrapper.

    I only found out quite how slothful she is, however, when I dropped a sock down the side of the bed. I slid my hand down the gap between the duvet and the wall to retrieve it, hit warm fur and heard an indignant meow.

    I pulled out the bed to discover Scully had a bed of her own, fashioned from a small storage basket lined with missing socks. And once she’s polished off a breakfast of Felix Sensations she spends seven hours there every single day.

    After 9,000 years of domestication, Horizon claimed cats have adapted their behaviour to fit in with the human household.

    They even purr craftily at the same pitch as babies to capture our attention.

    The anthropomorphizing continues in cat-care books. For example: “Do not show distress when your cat brings you a dead animal. He is simply trying to contribute to the family.”

    If I’d read this top tip before Scully slinked into the house recently with an enormous slow worm drooping from her mouth like Fu Man Chu’s moustache, I may have been a little more understanding.
    Contributing to the family is doing the Tesco Extra run not turning the living room into a Bushtucker Trial.

    Horizon’s surveillance exercise was impressive. But the programme failed to address some of the essential feline questions that niggle me.

    Why do cats always lick their bottoms when you have visitors?

    How can one cat produce enough fur to coat every item of clothing I own?

    Why is giving a cat a worming tablet more difficult than the Seven Labours of Hercules?

    Why do cats regard your thighs as pin cushions with that infuriating paw kneading routine – why can’t they just sit down straight away?

    Why does Scully resist all wipe-clean surfaces and vomit on the one piece of carpet I have in the entire house?

    And why have women cat owners been having a bad press since the Witchfinder General?

    Men can get away with moggy affection without stereotyping. Look at Byron, Dickens, Churchill – cat-lovers all of them.

    And remember Graham Henry’s kitty journalism? At the height of a national rugby crisis, Henry gave a startling insight into the pressures of being Welsh coach with the following revelations in his newspaper column: “A couple of weeks after Cysgu’s passing, I arrived home to see black and white Twiggy with her cute multi-coloured son Dudley.”

    Single women with cats don’t get executed as supernatural hags these days but we are advised to omit details of sharing a house with a ginger tabby on dating websites.

    The anti-feline brigade never think of Audrey Hepburn wafting round her trendy pad with her cool kitty in Breakfast at Tiffanys, they always picture a madwomen with smelly houses full of litter trays.
    But there are certain folk who look down on cat-lovers of either gender.

    We’re talking, of course, about Dog People. Ironic when dogs are the creatures that demand so much more emotional investment.

    The most telling moment of the Horizon investigation came with its pay-off line: “Owners are often left with the uncomfortable feeling their cat is in charge.”

    Of course they’re in charge. Dogs have owners, cats have staff – just ask Choupette.

    * Carolyn will be swapping small cats for big cats next Saturday – don’t miss her Lions Diary from the First Test in Brisbane.


    Sunday, June 16, 2013

    Image of the Day

    Lying sand cat by Tambako the Jaguar
    Lying sand cat, a photo by Tambako the Jaguar on Flickr.

    Sand Cat (Felis margarita)

    22 Exotic Cats at Wylie Refuge Have Distemper

    View more videos at:

    Owner vows to nurse them back to health

    By Scott Gordon
    |  Friday, Jun 14, 2013  | 
    An unusual outbreak of distemper is threatening the lives of about 20 big cats at In-Sync Exotics, a Collin County wild animal rescue.

    Some 22 tigers, lions and leopards at a Wylie wildlife rescue organization have come down with canine distemper, an often-fatal disease more common in dogs.

    "They're my children. They're my kids,” said the owner of In-Sync Exotics, Vicky Keahey. "What do I like about them? What's not to like? They are God's most magnificent creatures."

    She has rescued big cats and given them a comfortable home for 22 years.

    But a few weeks ago, she noticed some of them getting sick. She quickly learned it was distemper.
    "I just want to go in there and give them a big hug and tell them they are going to be OK,” she said.
    While canine distemper is usually associated with dogs, some other animals including tigers can get it too.

    "Tigers are strong. They're strong, fierce animals,” Keahey said. “And to have something as stupid as canine distemper get them down like this and take all their strength away, is crazy."
    Keahey isn’t sure how the exotic cats got the virus but speculates they may have been infected by raccoons who live in the nearby woods.

    Now, every night, more than a dozen volunteers give the sick cats vitamins and medicine to give them the best chance at survival possible. "Can't lose any of them,” she said. “Not going to lose any of them."

    But she knows there may come a time she may have to make a tough choice. "I'll know,” she said. “God will tell me."

    Putting any of the animals down won't be easy, but if the disease progresses, she knows it may be best for them. "And then instead of crying myself to sleep, I won't sleep at all."

    Saturday, June 15, 2013

    Image of the Day

    Young shy lynx by Tambako the Jaguar
    Young shy lynx, a photo by Tambako the Jaguar on Flickr.

    White Tiger loves her ball! (Video)

    Conservationists alarmed by big-cats bill

    By Megan R. Wilson - 06/14/13 
    A for-profit wildlife organization in Miami has hired its first K Street firm to lobby against legislation aimed at protecting big cats.

    The Zoological Wildlife Foundation provides wild animals for events and gives educational tours at its facility in Miami. It recently hired Vitello Consulting — and former House National Resources Committee staffer Frank Vitello — to push back against the Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act.

    That legislation, sponsored by Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), would ban keeping lions, tigers and other big cats as pets and prohibit breeding or transporting the animals across state lines.

    The foundation argues the bill would prove disastrous for conservation efforts by limiting the breeding and sales of big cats.

    “[It] would destroy conservation programs that we, as private individuals, have created,” said the organization’s director, Mario Tabraue.

    Vitello said he has already met with McKeon’s staff to air the Zoological Wildlife Foundation’s concerns.

    “[They’re] great guys, but being boxed in by the groups that are supporting” the bill, he said in an email.

    The big cats bill provides an exemption for traveling circuses, for members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), and for organizations that follow AZA’s breeding guidelines.

    The AZA believes that animals should not be bred into hybrids, according to a position paper by its board of directors, citing the potential health complications that can result. Vitello said that would be a big problem, because many animals in captivity are mixed.

    “Most tigers you see at zoos or the circus are hybrids,” Vitello said.
    Even though the Zoological Wildlife Foundation is registered with both federal and state regulators, if the bill became law, they would no longer be able to breed or buy new cats, Vitello said.

    McKeon’s office said the carve-outs in the big-cats bill are not set in stone.

    "We want to legislatively come up with a solution that protects everyone's interests and that makes sense on a federal level," said Alissa McCurley, communications director for McKeon. "Just because it's in there, doesn't mean there's a hard line on [the exemptions]."

    Supporters of McKeon’s bill say that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is understaffed and ill-equipped to handle the burden of both regulating licensed facilities and tracking down every rogue, illegally bought cat.

    Animal rights groups estimate 10,000 to 20,000 big cats are being kept in backyards and roadside zoos in the U.S., and that the wild animals have killed 22 people since 1997, injuring about 200 more.

    McCurley says inconsistent state and federal rules can cause accidental attacks. The legislation aims to bring nationwide regulatory certainty to everyone.

    The Zoological Wildlife Foundation — along with Vitello’s other clients, the Zoological Association of America and The Institute of Greatly Endangered and Rare Species — want an exemption in the bill solely for facilities licensed by the USDA.

    “It's a philosophical agenda cloaked in public safety,” Vitello said. “They can't put responsible owners that they don't like out of the tiger business if they allow those with a federal license to be exempted.”

    Facilities that keep, rent out and throw events featuring wild animals can be big business. Those dollars end up going to conservation efforts and charities worldwide, he said.

    "With any law, you want to make sure that it's not just good on paper, it actually accomplishes the goals you're trying to achieve on a practical level," McCurley said, adding that McKeon is open to making changes.

    "That's what the legislative process is for," she said.


    ‘Big Cat Diary’ live at the Mara

    Posted  Friday, June 14  2013

    • Our gaze moves to where she is staring and we see a herd of Thomson gazelle with their foals. The mother-and-cub duo makes for the tall grass, where they are perfectly camouflaged. The aim is to get as close as possibly to the quarry, then sprint for the kill.

    The sheen of the rising sun spreads over the long grasses of the great savannah plains.
    In a few weeks the great migration of the wildebeest and the zebra will begin and by the time the herbivores leave the Maasai Mara to return to the Serengeti, the grass will have bowed to their stampede.
    A male Jackson’s widowbird in full breeding plumage of a long black tail and a scarlet chest hops above the grass stalks while the yellow wattle stands out on the beak of a wattle plover a few feet from our car. With me are the Maliks, who are are enjoying the last day of their safari in Kenya and their first visit to Africa.
    They have seen a cheetah on previous game drives and, speaking of beginner’s luck, the family watched a leopard hunt down an impala from start to finish — a hunt few are lucky to see. Suddenly, the grass levels to the ground and Joseph Gichuki, a driver-guide at the Mara Intrepids Camp, points to a cheetah couple.
    “It’s Malaika and her cub,” he whispers, excited. I have met Malaika before on several visits and she is a real survivor — and a famous star in BBC’s Big Cat Diary — with a penchant for climbing on top of cars. Jonathan Scott, the host of the wildlife documentary, estimates her to be around six to eight years old.
    “A cheetah that lives to be 10 years in the wild, is old,” Jonathan and Angie Scott tell me. The husband-and-wife team has spent more than three decades documenting the cats of the Mara in their trilogy of Big Cat Diary books featuring lions, leopards, and cheetahs accompanying the long-running BBC TV series Big Cat Diary and the collection of their best African wildlife images in Mara-Serengeti: A Photographer’s Paradise and Jonathan Scott’s Safari Guides to East African Animals and Birds.
    Sprint for the kill
    Scanning the horizon, the spotted feline and her cub, named Lucky Boy, look healthy. Suddenly alert, she rises on her forelegs and her cub imitates her every move.
    Our gaze moves to where she is staring and we see a herd of Thomson gazelle with their foals. The mother-and-cub duo makes for the tall grass, where they are perfectly camouflaged. The aim is to get as close as possibly to the quarry, then sprint for the kill.
    “She looks too well-fed to hunt,” remarks Gichuki, a little puzzled. The cheetahs stealthily close in and a few seconds later bring down a tiny foal as the rest of the herd runs for safety.
    With heaving chests, the cats lie down by their kill, then suddenly “the kill” jumps up and makes a dash for its life. We jump up too at the unexpected sequence. It is Lucky Boy who chases after the foal this time and trips it. We think the foal has had it this time.
    But no — Lucky Boy is more interested in “playing” with his new toy. Every few seconds the foal lets out a plaintiff cry while Lucky Boy plays cat-and-mouse with it. His mother, Malaika, watches calmly.
    “She’s teaching him to hunt,” reveals Gichuki. A martial eagle glides over them, but not interested in the small prey, moves on. An hour later the cat-and-mouse game is still on.
    “Lions and hyenas are a major threat to cheetah cubs,” say Jonathan and Angie. “Too many of them in a place poses a threat to cheetah numbers. In the old days, before the concept of wildlife conservancies was introduced, areas outside the Mara Reserve were often good for cheetahs with cubs because Maasai warriors kept lion and hyena numbers in check.
    “The other major impact on cheetahs is the change in habitat. Cheetah mothers need safe hiding places for young cubs — clumps of tall grass or patches of bush. The Mara has become much more open in recent years — the trees and acacia thickets within the reserve are disappearing and some open plains areas now resemble the Serengeti Plains, where cheetah cub survival has been shown to be very poor as it is easier for lions and hyenas to spot a cheetah with cubs and to steal their food and kill their cubs.”
    The Mara is one of the last strongholds of the cheetah, but nobody knows the number of the current population.
    However, global cheetah population in the wild is estimated to be less than 10,000. A new project called The Mara Ecosystem Cheetah Project, in collaboration with Oxford WildCRU, aims to find the current status of cheetahs in the greater Mara ecosystem and identify the major threats that could be causing decline in their population.


    From Botswanan big cats to Surrey house cats

    June 14th, 2013
    Scientists who designed GPS tracking collars to study hunting cheetahs in Botswana have miniaturised them to track 50 domestic cats in a Surrey village for a BBC programme. The BBC also deployed cat-cams which were turned on by the collar's activity sensor when the cat was moving.

     'The Secret Life of The Cat' is broadcast on BBC Two Horizon on Thursday June 13th 2013 at 21:00.
    In a first study of its kind the wanderings of our feline friends were recorded, revealing how far they roamed and what they got up to once they leave their owners behind. The team were concerned that cats were known to pop through the cat-flaps of neighbouring houses to steal food so they used the GPS to tell when the cats were indoors and switched off the cat-cams.

    Professor Alan Wilson, from the Royal Veterinary College, University of London and his team are currently studying the cheetah in research funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), and Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

    Their innovative tracking collars, which use GPS and motion sensors, have recorded hunting cheetahs at a top speed of 58mph as well as the first data on the animal's acceleration and maneuvers. The results are published in the journal, 'Nature' on Thursday June 13th 2013.

    Professor Wilson said: "If we understand an animal's speed and maneuverability we will be able to see how managing habitats will have an impact on predators and hunting."

    Back in the UK the team used their expertise to design the technology for the study on domestic cats for BBC Two's Horizon program. They designed the protocol, programmed the collars, and analyzed the data of the domestic puss.

    Professor Wilson said; "Our motivation for getting involved in the program is to showcase scientific research methods to the public and demonstrate science is cool. It's an excellent large-scale deployment opportunity for our tracking collars and the analysis tools used for our studies on wild animals. Ironically we knew more about cheetahs than domestic cats, until this study."

    More information:

    Locomotion dynamics of hunting in wild cheetahs; A. M. Wilson, J. C. Lowe, K. Roskilly, P. E. Hudson, K. A. Golabek & J. W. McNutt (doi:10.1038/nature12295) is published in the journal Nature.

    Provided by Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council


    Wednesday, June 12, 2013

    A Glamorous Killer Returns

    Back on the Prowl: Mountain lion, puma, cougar, catamount, painter, panther — no matter what you call it, the big cat is making a comeback.

    The great migration began perhaps 40 years ago. From strongholds in the Rocky Mountains and Texas, young males headed east, seeking female companionship and new places to settle.

    Dan Coyro/Santa Cruz Sentinel, via Associated Press
    A young male cougar was tranquilized after it was found stuck in a concrete-walled aqueduct near downtown Santa Cruz, Calif., in May. 

    Hulton Archive/Getty Images
    A print of an American cougar, made around 1850.

    The emigrants were about seven feet long, nose to tail, and weighed up to 160 pounds. Given a dietary choice, they preferred deer, but would eat almost anything that moved: elk, bighorn sheep, wild horses, beaver, even porcupines. Left free for an evening, they were capable of killing a dozen domestic sheep before dawn, eating their fill and leaving the rest for the buzzards. They were also known to attack humans on occasion.
    Long ago the Inca called them puma, but today — though they belong to only one species — they have many names. In Arizona they are known as mountain lions; in Florida they are panthers, and elsewhere in the South they are called painters. When they roamed New England, they were called catamounts. In much of the Midwest they are known as cougars, and that is the name everyone understands.
    Until relatively recently, they were mainly a memory. All but exterminated east of the Rockies by 1900, they were treated as “varmints” in most Western states until the late ’60s and could be shot on sight. In Maine, the last catamount was killed in 1938.
    But today Puma concolor is back on the prowl. That is one of the great success stories in wildlife conservation, but also a source of concern among biologists and other advocates, for their increasing numbers make them harder to manage — and harder for people to tolerate. No reliable estimate exists for the cougar population at its lowest point, before the 1970s, but there are now believed to be more than 30,000 in North America. They have recolonized the Black Hills of South Dakota, the North Dakota Badlands and the Pine Ridge country of northwestern Nebraska.
    There are increasing reports of sightings in 11 Midwestern states, as well as in Arkansas and Louisiana. A young male tripped a trail camera in the Missouri Ozarks on Feb. 2, and dogs treed one in Minnesota in March.
    “Every year we see more of them,” said Mark Dowling, a founder of the Cougar Network, a nonprofit research group and a leading source of online information about cougars. “It used to be a rarity when a mountain lion showed up in Missouri. It’s almost routine now.”
    And as cougars migrate eastward, they are likely to wear out their welcome. People in states unaccustomed to these outsize prowlers will have to answer unpleasant questions: How many livestock and game animals are people willing to lose? How dangerous are cougars to pets and children? How much disruption is a small community willing to endure?
    “A lot of state conservation agencies are looking into how to prepare for recolonization,” said Clay Nielsen, a wildlife biologist at Southern Illinois University and the director of scientific research for the Cougar Network. Surveys he conducted in Illinois, North Dakota and Kentucky found “the public more supportive than I would have guessed.” But as the big cats become more plentiful, he added, “attitudes are probably going to change.”
    The center of cougar genetic diversity is in Brazil, but the Western Hemisphere has six robust subspecies in all. The Florida panther was listed as endangered in 1995, when eight Texas female cougars were released in South Florida in a last effort to save them from extinction. It worked. The Florida panther, it turned out, is a North American cougar whose kinked tails, heart defects, small litters and short lives were consequences of prolonged inbreeding. From fewer than 30 in 1995, the panther population in southwestern Florida has grown to more than 150.
    Melanie Culver, a wildlife geneticist at the University of Arizona, says the cougar appears to have evolved about 300,000 years ago from a cheetahlike cat that is now extinct. When Europeans arrived in the Americas, cougars were everywhere, but human predation and the loss of habitat to agriculture took a heavy toll.
    Dr. Nielsen said, “By 1900, we had basically killed them all off in the East and Midwest.”
    Cougars are solitary predators whose hunting ground can vary widely in size, depending on available prey, water supply and cover. They like woodland and high country, but can handle almost any habitat that offers concealment, including desert (Arizona), swamp (Florida), prairie (Nebraska), temperate rain forest (Washington State) and the Pacific Coast. National Park Service biologists tagged a pair of cougar kittens last year near Malibu, Calif.
    Cougar offspring stay with their mothers up to two years. After that the young males tend to disperse, partly to avoid other males in their home territory and partly to lower the odds of inbreeding. After cougars filled up the mountain states and West Texas, the young males began to travel east. (Females also move, but tend to stay closer to home.)
    Cougars are not cuddly. Jw Nuckolls, a rancher in northeastern Wyoming, lost 15 sheep one night to a single cougar, and 32 to cougar predation in two months in 2011.
    During an aerial survey at the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge in southwestern Arizona in 2000, “what looked like three golden retrievers” were spotted on a stone outcrop, recalled Susanna Henry, the refuge manager. They were cougars — probably mother and children.
    “In the following years the population of bighorn sheep at the refuge began to decline precipitously, from 800 at the turn of the century to 620 in 2003 and 390 in 2006,” Ms. Henry said. Since then, the sheep count appears to have stabilized at a bit over 400.
    Despite their propensity to wreak havoc on other wildlife and livestock (they will take on animals up to seven times their own size, including full-grown elk, horses and steers), cougars are regarded as a manageable nuisance by ranchers and offered a respect that wolves, the West’s other legendary marauders, can only dream about.
    There is no easy explanation for this. Dr. Nielsen noted that Europeans had no experience with big cats when they arrived in the New World, but had long vilified the “big bad wolf.” Wolves, he said, “had a bad rap.”

    Ogden Driskill, a northeast Wyoming cattle rancher, offered a simpler explanation. “Cougar are easier to hunt” than wolves “and easier to control,” he said. Cougars run from wolves and will run from barking dogs. Hunters use hounds to tree them. They are predictable, while wolves are not.
    But if cougars are easier to control now, “things will change,” said Harley G. Shaw, a retired wildlife biologist for the Arizona Game and Fish Department and an author of a cougar field guide now in its fourth printing. “That time may even be here now.”
    Arizona and New Mexico deliberately cull cougars to protect their bighorn sheep, he said, and added: “Most desert bighorn ranges are small and isolated under the best conditions. One or two lions can have a big impact.”