Are Shakespeare’s Starlings Invasive Villains Or Merely Misunderstood Players In An Ecological Drama?

There is little doubt that European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) are a non-native (invasive) species in the United States. They have long been associated indirectly with Shakespeare “fanatics.” But are Shakespeare’s starlings the Iago of the American world? Some now cast doubt on that belief.

a common starling perched on a tree branch
An unpopular bird with bogus
Elizabethan links or ran invasive scourge? Photo by Noureddine Belfethi on

According to starlings are villains on a list that includes such familiar problems as pigs, pythons and nutria.

The New York Invasive Species Information webite links them directly to Shakespeare. It says categorically that the the European starlings came to the United States in 1890. It was what could be called an a classic invasive species scenario. A Shakespeare “fanatic” allegedly sought to introduce every bird mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays into the United States. He purportedly released either 60 0r 200 of the birds in Central Park. That scenario may be fiction but the results are not.

According to the accepted story the results were horrific. Some 200 million of the birds are said to plague the United States.

The New York invasive species website paints a grim picture”:

“The damage caused by European starlings on the agricultural industry was estimated to be approximately $800 million per year at $5 per hectare (Pimentel et al. 2000). Starlings eat cattle rations and destroy fruit and grain crops. Some starlings may also carry various diseases which may be transmissible to humans, other birds (including poultry), and livestock (Linz et al. 2007).

central park new york
A bird enthusiast may have released starlings in Central Park but he wasn’t alone and it probably had nothing to do with Shakespeare,
by sergio souza on

“Due to the flocking nature of starlings and being well adapted in urban settings, roosts near airports have become a large problem. If a plane flies through a large flock of starlings, the birds can get caught in the jet engines causing damage to the aircraft as well as pose a hazard to humans. Additionally, in urban and rural settings, bird may seek shelter in barns and industrial buildings and create a lot of noise and filth which pose health hazards.

“Ecologically, starlings may outcompete native cavity-nesting birds for nest sites. While there are no significant results indicating species declines for all native cavity nesters due to starlings, Koenig (2003) did find that certain species, such as native sapsuckers (Sphyrapicus spp.) were negatively impacted by starling presence. Starlings are also frugivores, meaning they feed on the fruits of plants. When fruits pass through the system of a bird after being ingested it may increase the likelihood that those seeds will germinate in some cases. A study done in 2009 found that the digestive system of starlings will increase seed germination after feeding  on invasive autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellata) and invasive oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) fruit and that the seed stayed inside the starlings long enough for dispersal to occur (LaFleur et al. 2009).”

But now there is pushback challenging both the Shakespeare link and the scope of the damage. Shakespeare’s starlings have defenders.

It began with John MacNeill Miller, Associate professor of English at Allegheny College, who was familiar with the story, and his research assistant, Lauren Fugate. Miller directed Fugate to research the origin story.

“Fugate’s research found that as dislike of the birds grew, so did a new rumor about how they got here. According to that rumor, starlings were imported by a misguided Shakespeare fanatic, a well-to-do entrepreneur named Eugene Schieffelin, who was obsessed with introducing into North America every bird mentioned in Shakespeare.

a glass of iced coffee beside a book
Shakespeare probably did not incite a mad bird lover to release starlings in the United State. But he left behind works read all over the world as this Turkish edition of Romeo and Juliet shows. sPhoto by Sema Nur on

“That story is essentially fiction, but it did a lot to color how people saw starlings in the 20th century,” Miller says. “I wish I could say we all approach starlings more neutrally and evenhandedly now. Unfortunately, those older attitudes and language are still in circulation today, often in supposedly scientific discussions of starlings as examples of non-native, ‘invasive’ species.””

The conclusion they reached is that Shakespeare’s starlings became unpopular long after their introduction earlier in the century. That unpopularity led to ornate rumors of how they got here. Their unpopularity led to tales of their destructiveness.

But Miller may leave a few things out. “Entrepreneur” may not be the right descriptive.

Eugene Schieffelin was a prominent amateur ornithologist. A well known member of a number of ornithology associations. Web sources say he did in fact release starlings in Central Park. He was not the sole person to do so, it must be said, as Miller correctly notes. The idea that he was trying to bring every Shakespearean bird to the United States is harder to prove as it does not appear to be contemporary. However, he was a believer in efforts to introduce plants and animals from one part of the world to the other, web sources say.

Truth be told neither Miller nor Fugate are biologists or experts in invasive species damage. But their research does remind us to be careful with the “received record” and is also a reminder to be skeptical.

Alligators Versus Pythons; Study Shows ‘Gators And Other Creatures Chow Down On Baby Pythons

How to control the booming and expanding Burmese python population in Florida and the American southeast is a problem confounding scientists. Alligators versus pythons seems to be one natural hope for partial control. A new study suggests that alligators eat pythons at most life stages.

alligator in lake
Alligators (Alligator mississippiensis) do eat Burmese pythons. It is still not clear if they eat enough to make a dent in the python population. Photo by Pixabay on

According to Yahoo News a new alligators versus pythons study is giving clues about the interaction of the two species. The study involved tracking baby pythons with transmitters and mortality sensors to find out what happened to them. The study was conducted by the U.S Geological Survey (USGS) and partners.

The USGS is deeply involved in python control through its Wildlife Aquatic Research Center (WARC), From the website:

“Native to Africa, Asia, and Australia, many python species have found their way to the United States thanks to their popularity in the pet trade. However, by way of an intentional or accidental release, one such popular pet snake species, the Burmese python, was introduced in South Florida. They have since established a breeding population and are now considered to be one of the most concerning invasive species in the Everglades National Park. These ambush predators compete with other native predators for prey, which ranges from mammals to birds to even other reptiles. In fact, severe mammal declines in Everglades National Park have been linked to the Burmese pythons. WARC researchers are engaged in a number of projects aimed to understand invasive python biology and ecology to help inform environmental managers tasked with control and eradication efforts.”

The baby pythons (Python bivittatus) were captured and transmitters were implanted. The transmitters had “mortality sensors” which go off when the the animal stops moving for more than a set period of time: The website said:

“Juvenile Burmese pythons were opportunistically collected throughout more than a year. They were implanted with high-frequency radio transmitters equipped with mortality sensors that notified researches when the snake stopped moving for 24 hours. “The number of baby pythons captured was not given.

Pythons are expanding their range in Florida and have moved into neighboring states. Whether they will reach much further is conjectural.

During the length of the study, 19 baby snakes died. At that point, scientists would go to the scene of the crime and conduct some detective work to discover the cause of death.

The results showed that fve of the pythons were definitely killed by alligators. Three were killed by water moccasins. This shows snake vs. snake predation is part of the equation. Interestingly three

of the juveniles were killed by “carnivorous mesomammals.” They may have been cats. Bobcats (Lynx rufus) have been seen eating python eggs. However, since bobcat numbers are thought to be down 90 percent in the region the battle is probably one-sided. For the record there are three types of carnivores. Hypocarnivores eat the least meat. They include foxes. Mesocarnivores require 50 percent or more meat in the diet. Obligate carnivores require 70 percent or more. Cats apparently can be included in both meso and obligate lists.

a close up shot of a bobcat
Cats like this bobcat (Lynx rufus) may have killed three of the pythons in the study. But pythons seem to win most battles with the feisty cats.

Seven of the pythons died from unknown causes. Sometimes the tracking device was found with no means of identifying the cause of death. Burmese Pythons (Python bivittatus) may be expanding their range.

It appears that alligators and pythons are fairly evenly matched. Most experts feel whichever is larger in the encounter has the major advantage. The animals tend to eat different diets, too. That has traditionally limited encounters. Once either animal reaches a certain size they likely leave each other alone.

Domesticated Foxes Offer A Peek Into The Often Ugly World Of Exotic Pets

In 1959 a Russian scientist began experiments in domesticating foxes as an inquiry into the mechanics of domestication of animals. Today, the institute he founded continues to operate and if one qualifies they can obtain domesticated foxes for $8,000 each.

Of course the idea of domesticated foxes raises many ethical and other questions. Is the seemingly limitless desire of human to obtain “cute” wild pets good? Or is it as destructive as many think it is. Dmitri K.Belyaev, the scientist who started with foxes probably didn’t know where it would all go.

True foxes are canid relatives of domestic dogs. They are genetically close but usually not able to breed successfully.

To begin with let’s discuss the difference between a tamed wild animal and a domesticated pet.

As Popular Science puts it:

“Domestication is not like taming. You can tame many wild animals so they won’t try to kill you, by raising them from birth, but that’s just learned behavior; that animal is unlikely to exhibit what we know as affection toward you, and the behavior it does have is not passed down to the tamed animal’s offspring. Domestication is actually change at the genetic level: an animal repeatedly breeds, either through intentional human effort or not (or a combination of the two), to emphasize certain behavioral traits. In the case of animals that would, in the wild, be aggressive towards humans, those traits are easy to decide on: we want the most docile, least aggressive, and least skittish animal.”

Cats and dogs took many generations to domesticate. Foxes from the descendants of Belyaev’s experiments have 35 generations of human contact behind them. But not all exotic animal purveyors are as scrupulous and ethical. Nor are all parts of the United States and the world as careful of animal rights and human safety.

liger walking in a zoo enclosure
The liger is a cross between a male lion and a female tiger. It is one of many exotic cat hybrids created for debatable reasons. Both lions and tigers are in danger of extinction and money, time, space, and management spent on unnatural sideshows are considered a bad diversion by many,

The root question is why do people take it on themselves to own wild animals? In the case of foxes there are probably millions of domesticated dogs worldwide without a stable home. Why do you need to spend $8,000 to own a domesticated fox? Perhaps you can justify some of the foxes as by -products of valid research. After all, Belyaev was studying domestication. But spending money to obtain a cheetah cub? What about taking a hippo out of its natural habitat? Or having tigers and other cats for selfish display? Then there are those who tire of a pet python and toss it out the window to fend for itself?

hippo with open mouth eating grass in zoo
For some reason the late drug lord Pablo Escobar imported “pet “”hippos into Colombia. They are increasing in number and posing a threat to the Colombian ecosystem and may be hunted to solve the problem. Photo by Mehmet Turgut Kirkgoz on

Of course the problem is a difficult as human nature. We can show greed, selfishness, laziness and other negative qualities. These negative attributes can pair with science, curiosity, and entrepreneurism to lead to invasive species and sometimes horrific results. Nutria, for example, are a major invasive species brought into this country. Fur traders bred them to make coats. When the fur trade collapsed, the traders did not behave responsibly and ethically with their rodents. Now we have a nationwide problem.

Florida is reeling from a series of introduced invasive species. Pythons are perhaps the best known but eels (a food source) are clogging waterways after humans dumped surplus eels out the back door. It is not a small problem. Unwanted pets, whether traditional or exotic, cost billions in management and other costs. Many are severely destructive.

Three Sumatran Tigers Born At Nashville Zoo, Cubs Are A Bright Spot In The Big Cat’s Future

The Nashville Zoo has recently announced the birth of three Sumatran tigers, and biologists are excited about the new triplets.

The three Sumatran tigers are exciting because Sumatran tigers(Panthera tigris sondaica) are rare and threatened. They are the last remaining tigers in the region as the tigers in Java and Bali were declared extinct. Bali tigers disappeared around 1937 and Javan tigers may have persisted into the 1970′

The Tennessean says that the three are doing well and the mother is rearing them. They are being kept away from the father so the mother does not fell stress. Stress can cause tigers to harm their young. One cub is male and two are female. Names are yet to be given.

gray and black tiger walking on forest
Tigers are so closely related that researchers have reduced the number of subspecies to two. Panthera tigris inhabits mainland Asia. Panthera tigris sondaica inhabits Malaysia including Sumatra. Photo by TheOther Kev on

The Tennessean said

“They have separate halves of the building,” said Mammal Curator Cinnamon Williams.

. “She can’t even see him because her job is to protect her cubs. We’re trying to keep the building as calm and quiet as possible.”

Sumatran tigers are critically endangered, with only an estimated 400-600 left of them in the world. Currently there are around 235 Sumatran tigers under human care globally, with just under 70 cared for in AZA-accredited zoos in North America. The three Sumatran tigers are an important addition to tiger numbers.

Perhaps 50 are in zoos in Australia and New Zealand. The zoo residents are descended from a small pool of tigers so there are issues with genetic problems caused by close relations. So far the problems seen in some cubs have resolved in the first two years.

photo of tiger and cub lying down on grass
Tiger cubs have a close bond with their mothers, Photo by Waldemar on

Meanwhile, on Sumatra, DNA is being used to try to protect the remaining wild population.

San Diego Zoo researcher Mrinalini Watsa has made a major advance using DNA testing and a cell phone app. It’s quite simple. She used a Sumatran tiger living at the zoo as a test subject. She was able to scoop up soil from a pawprint, find tiger DNA in the pawprint and transfer infomation to a cellphone. According to CNN she is refining the technique to be able to identify gender before testing in the wild.

a wild boar in close up shot
Variosu kinds of deer and wlld pigs are on the tiger menu. Photo by Dario Fernandez Ruz on

When it is operational it will give researchers a powerful tool. Previously they could only count pawprints. Soon they will be able to check gender and perhaps even identify individuals, giving them a much better insight into the population.

Endangered Spanish Lynx Released In New Part Of Spain In Attempt To Expand Range

The endangered Spanish lynx (Lynx pardinus) are one of the most, if not the most, endangered felines on Earth. Their numbers have been rising, and they are being reintroduced to other parts of the Iberian Peninsula. The good news is that they are now considered endangered rather than critically endangered.

a close up shot of a bobcat
Photo by Alex Burr on Bobcats are small lynx that can weigh around 20 pounds. They are common in most of the United States.

According to Reuters five Iberian lynx have recently been released in Granada, Spain. Two captive bred males, a pair of wild born females and a kitten. The idea is to live and reproduce in the region.

The cats dropped in number to about 150, and have been rebounding since. Reuters said:

“In a major leap, the Iberian lynx population in Portugal and Spain rose above 1,000 at the end of 2020.

In Andalusia alone there are currently 522 Iberian lynx in different population nuclei of the region, said Guiseppe Aloisio, director of the regional forest and biodiversity department.

nature animal head portrait
Photo by Pixabay on Lynx strongly resemble each other as this Eurasian lynx shows. At 80 pounds they are able to eat adult deer.

“This is Andalusia’s success. As a region it has been able to multiply by five the critical census we had 20 years ago,” he told reporters after the release of the five wild cats.”

The endangered Spanish lynx have been the beneficiaries of intensive efforts to rescue them. The cats were faced with threats from traffic accidents and urbanization, among other factors.

close up of rabbit on field
One thing lynx have in common is that rabbits are principal prey .Photo by Pixabay on

Lynx are a family of four cats. Lynx rufus (bobcats) inhabit most of the United States and parts of Mexico. The Canada Lynx (Lynx canadensis) inhabits much of Canada. The largest is the Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) which can weigh 80 pounds. It is found from Europe east to Siberia. The smaller lynx such as bobcats weigh about 20 pounds, although a 40 pound bobcat is not unheard of.

Invasive Species Threaten Wildlife, People And Crops According To New Study

The scope of the threat posed by invasive species is something like the forest versus the trees analogy. It is easy to focus on the specific threat and miss the broad picture. Apparently invasive species threaten Earth’s entire eco-system.

animal black and white pig wild animal
Wild pigs (Sus scrofa) are a major invasive species in most of the United States. Italy also has a serious problem with feral hogs. Photo by Pixabay on

According to New Scientist the threat is very large indeed. Some estimates place the number of invasive species worldwide at about 37,000 with about 10 percent of them causing great harm.

New Scientist said:

“This is a huge, huge problem, and it is a growing problem,” says Helen Roy at the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, one of 90 researchers who helped put the report together.

However, the report also says that much can be done to tackle the issue and prevent further introductions. Individuals can help as well as governments, says Roy. “People all around the world can make a difference.”

The Asian swamp eel (Monopterus albus) is another threat to Florida and its waterways. Some say it may become as bad a problem as Burmese pythons (Python bivittaus)

People can take steps to ensure they don’t help invasive species to spread and can also report the presence of invasive species to help eliminate them or prevent them from becoming established in the first place. For instance, she says, reports by members of the public in the UK are helping to ensure that any nests of Asian hornets are promptly destroyed, which has so far prevented the species from becoming established in the country.

Human activities have resulted in the introduction of 37,000 alien species around the world, with 3500 of those species responsible for serious harm to wildlife, food production and human health. The global economic cost of these invaders is now more than $420 billion a year, according to the first major global report on invasive species, by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).” (links in original).

Fire ant worker, Solenopsis invicta
Fire ant worker, Solenopsis invicta by Insects Unlocked Project is licensed under CC-CC0 1.0 Fire ants are a destructive pest and a direct threat to humans because of the dangerous nature of their bites and stings.

The IPBES report can be linked here.

In the United States Texas and Florida are among the hardest hit. Destructive ants, wild pigs, various kinds of snake and eels are among the transgressors. Worldwide, Australia is also hard hit. Feral cats and a host of other invasive species threaten the Australian eco-system.



Deer Tracking To Boost Successful Tiger Conservation In Nepal, Aid Other Wildlife

Increasingly, conservation efforts are leaning on advancing technology. The latest advance is AI assisted deer tracking which is expected to help continue Nepal’s so far successful efforts to boost its tiger population.

Nepal has recently expanded the number of tigers it has. New tracking methods will help monitor what they eat. These are rescue tigers in The Wild animal Sanctuary.

Mongabay said improved deer tracking is critical as Nepalese tigers (Panthera tigris) eat spotted deer (Axis axis) about every other meal. According to Britannica the deer stand about 3 feet tall and live in herds of up to 100. They weigh about 150 pounds, and are also known as chital or Axis deer.

Red Deer Hart, Hind, Roebuck, Thibetian Musk Deer, Reindeer Male, Female in Summer Dress, Guazupuco Deer, Stag of Palestine, Axis Deer, Guazuti Deer, Great Rusa, Stag of the North of Europe, Wapiti, Fallow Deer Buck, and Doe from A history of the earth and animated nature (1820) by Oliver Goldsmith (1730-1774). Digitally enhanced from our own original edition.
A gathering of different deer. The Axis deer is number 12 and is the spotted dear facing left at the top right of the illustration.

The deer gather in large herds and resemble other deer, That makes counting and monitoring them difficult. That is expected to change soon, according to Mongabay:

“All that could change soon as researchers use vertical cameras — so the spots are visible — and the power of artificial intelligence to profile individual chittal based on their spots in Nepal’s Bardiya National Park, just like individual tigers are profiled based on patterns in their fur.

A team of researchers from the University of Wageningen in the Netherlands has been collecting vertical camera images of chittal and using an algorithm to count them based on the unique spots found in their pelt.

“The horizontal cameras are primarily used to count tigers in Nepal,” said JF de Jong, lecturer at the Wildlife Ecology & Conservation Group of Wageningen University, part of the team working on the project launched in 2019. “They are good at counting tigers based on their limited number, say a few hundred, but counting thousands of spotted deer is a different story.”

selective focus of axis deer
Photo by Deepak Ramesha on Another view of the Nepalese tiger’s preferred meal.

The vertical cameras take images continuously, and technicians replace the memory cards every month. The images are then uploaded to a web platform specializing in organization of wildlife camera trap images and analyzed using an algorithm.”

But difficulties remain. The algorithm is not precise yet. It has difficulty identifying individual deer. When the problems are solved deer tracking is expected to be a powerful tool. It will help track predator and prey and guide management decisions.

Asian tiger, vintage animal illustration
Tigers may be rare in the wod but they are not rare in art.

Nepal has had good success with tiger conservation. The world wide goal of doubling the wild tiger population has not been met.Nepal, India and Bhutan are among the few tiger habitat countries to report success. Meanwhile, technology is coming to the aid of Sumatra’s threatened tigers. DNA is being used to identify individuals and track and protect them.

European Wolf Population Is Rebounding, But Debate Continue About Their Future And Numbers

Wolves are certainly one of most controversial of wild mammal species. The European wolf population appears to be expanding. But governments appear divided on whether to allow that or sharply cut their numbers.

According to The Conversation European wolf numbers may be up as much as 25 per cent recently. But governments are reacting to that news differently. Italy seems to welcome wolves. Partly because they may help solve the problem of feral pigs. But some people are poisoning Italian wolves. Other countries, Such as Sweden, take a stricter approach.

Wolves can be useful. In Japan “robot monster wolves” are used to scare bears and other animals out of areas forbidden to them

One of many conservation issues with wolves is how to obtain consensus. Often, consensus is not sought. Conservation (or eradication) is top-down. The government decides and implements policy. That attitude is changing.

Recently we reported on a new conservation alliance, The Partners Conservation Alliance which hopes to end “top down” i.e. mandated conservation goals. The alliance says those goals may not reflect the desires or the reality of the local peoples and may “marginalize” them. The goal is to balance the needs of the local people, the animals and the government. A legal Swedish wolf hunt shows how difficult that is.

closeup photography of wold lying on ground
Related to dogs but not a dog. Canis lupus is hated and feared by many people world wide. Photo by Pixabay on

According to The Guardian, Sweden has about 360 wolves. It shares a border with Norway which also has some wolves. The wolves in the two countries are considered endangered (critically endangered in Norway). Both governments have set very strict numbers for the wolf population. Sweden authorized the killing of 75, Norway will only permit four to six births a year. Sweden and Norway do not represent the extent of the European wolf population. By contrast, Poland, Romania and Germany each has wolf populations numbering well over 1,000. Italy has made headlines by estimating their number at 3,300.

Norway and Sweden have strong hunting lobbies.

“Hunting is absolutely necessary to slow the growth of wolves. The wolf pack is the largest we have had in modern times,” Gunnar Glöersen, predator manager at the Swedish Hunters’ Association, told local press…” according to the paper. The implication being that an increase in wolf numbers is somehow bad. It conveniently ignores that they were recently extinct in Sweden.

funny sheep standing in enclosure and sniffing camera
Wolves do eat domestic sheep. .Sheep are often pretty helpless in the face of wolves without expensive protection. Photo by Rachel Claire on

The government and some Swedes, see wolves as a threat to livestock, a claim that is hotly disputed by conservationists. Swedish shepherds say wolves killed 450 sheep at the last tally. Wolves are certainly capable of killing sheep. Wild Sweden says that anti-wolf sentiment resulted in their extinction in Sweden in the 1960’s.

But a determined set of people wants more wolves not fewer.

Per The Guardian:

“Marie Stegard, the president of the anti-hunting group Jaktkritikerna, said: “Wolves as top predators in the food chain are a prerequisite for biodiversity. Killing a quarter of the population through hunting has negative consequences for animals and nature. It’s disastrous for the entire ecosystem. The existence of wolves contributes to a richer animal and plant life. Human survival depends on healthy ecosystems.”

Scientists and conservationists want the wolf numbers to remain about where they are, no lower than 300. But most of parliament wants the number around 170. There is suspicion, the Guardian says, that the numbers picked by parliament are chosen simply because many members are hunters and they want an excuse to hunt wolves. Some scientists fear 170 is too low a number and will lead to inbreeding. The battle is headed to court – another form of “top down” conservation. Today’s Swedish wolves moved into the country from Russia and Finland after the last Swedish wolves died.

Conservation is a broadly popular goal but it depends on who is conserving what. Wolves are a flashpoint animal and show just how difficult conservation management can be.

Florida Python Battle Continues As Record Sized Python And Record Size Egg Clutch Are Recorded

The Florida python battle continues as bigger and bigger pythons are being caught. In addition, a record setting clutch of eggs has been found and disposed of.

Burmese Python , NPSPhoto, R
Burmese Python , NPSPhoto, R by National Park Service is licensed under CC-CC0 1.0 Python bivittatus is expanding Florida and perhaps elsewhere.

One of the biggest problems Florida faces in controlling Burmese pythons is their incredible fertility. Females lay dozens of eggs at a time. But a new Florida Burmese record is stunning. 111 eggs were found in a single clutch.

According to the Miami Herald the egg clutch was found in July. A typical python nest contains at least 50 eggs and up to 100 has been considered in the normal range. The female in question was 13 feet long.

A map showing the spread of the snakes Potential exists for much greater spread.

Also recently a 19 foot python was captured, one of the biggest in the world. NPR says Florida officials believe it is the world record holder.

The Florida python battle is made more urgent by the risk that the snakes are expanding their range.

Up to now the scientific community felt Florida’s Burmese pythons would be confined to regions in Florida closer in climate to their home habitat in Asia.

deer on snow field
Photo by Rod Dion on The snakes are capable of eating animals as large as white-tailed deer.

But some are not so sure. The thinking has been that the snakes did not do well in cold weather. Recent experience shows that cold snaps do kill the snakes – but not all of them. That suggests survivors could be developing cold tolerance. A bigger question is can they survive the terrain changes needed to get them from Florida’s tropical climate and foliage across the plains and deserts to Oregon and Canada as some fear they will?

The idea of a spread to Oregon is based on computer models and a assumption of major warming. It is not currently widely held.

Indian Wildcat Future Remains Uncertain Despite Major Efforts By Government and Conservationists

As we recently noted India is home to about 40 percent of the wildcat species on Earth. The giant nation is trying hard to protect these animals. India leads the way in tiger conservation, is defending the Gir lion and now has added the caracal and cheetah to its protection goals. But Indian wildcats as a whole face serious risks. The Indian wildcat future is mixed but there is hope.

More information on wildcats by continents and the source of illustration can be found at Wildcats of The World

Herewith is a list of the cats of India and their status in that country.

Asiatic lion (Panthera leo: Also known as the Gir lion. The Gir lion is something of a success story as its numbers have reached over 700 animals. The lion is exceeding the carrying capacity of the reserve it lives in and the possibility or transferring it to other parts of India is being considered. The rise in numbers increases conflict with people.

From felkids and hyenas of the world, Jose R. Castello.Princeton University Press.

Asian golden cat(Catopuma temmincki) Numbers are hard to come by but the cats is considered near-threatened in its range which includes India and southeast Asia.

Asiatic wildcat (Felis lybica ornata) is a small Asian wildcat. Numbers in India are unknown but it is thought to be declining. Wildcats worldwide are “least concern.” One unusual threat is mating with domestic cats, diluting the DNA.

Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris) India has prioritized saving the tiger since 1973 and is now believed to have about 3,000 within its borders. That number represents about 60 percent of the world’s wild population. The Indian wildcat future depends in large part on the success of techniques learned from Project Tiger.

Caracal (Caracal caracal) Although the caracal is safe in much of its range it is critically endangered in India and as few as 50 may survive.

Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) – The cheetah is new to this list as it is the focus of an ambitious reintroduction campaign. Project Cheetah plans to bring about 50 cheetahs from Namibia to live in India. There have been deaths among the transplants, despite the efforts of the conservators and the future of the program is not fully certain.

Wildcats of the World Roger Hall. Africa is home to 10 species of wildcats.

Clouded leopard ( Neofelis nebulosa) – Clouded leopards are considered “vulnerable” and ther numbers worldwide are probably declining. The cats need dense forest cover and high rain. They are present in 9 areas of India, those that have the rain and forest cover. Deforestation is a prime enemy.

Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) Is the largest of the lynx family and is widely distributed from eastern Europe to India and Russia. Worlwide there may be 80,000 of the cats. In India they are confined to a rather small part of the north east bordering Sikkim.

Fishing cat (Prionailurus viverrinus ) Also considered vulnerable these cats subsist primarily on fish. There are an estimated 10,000 worldwide In India they remain close to rivers and swamp and lands such as the Sundarbans. The principal threat is the loss of wetland habitat.

Indian leopard (Panthera pardus fusca) India may have an increasing population of leopards. They are currently estimated at 15,000. One problem Indian leopards face is conflict with tigers. The two cats require different habitats and tiger-centric programs may drive leopards away.

Pallas cat kittens. These unusual looking wildcats are increasingly the subject of scientific inquiry as their numbers may be decreasing, Some were, however, recently spotted on the slopes of Mt. Everest. They were not thought to live there.

Jungle cat (Felis chaus) These cats are a bright spot in conservation as they are least concern in their extensive range. Opportunistic hunters the cats are comfortable in a range of habitats. They weigh up to 35 pounds. Prey as smal as insects and as large as hares are on the menu.

Leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis) Are another bright spot. They are widely distributed from northern India into Siberia and south. Current thinking is these cats were domesticated about 5,000 years ago. It is also believed that housecats from the Mediterranean supplanted them. Leopard cats are foundation stock for the modern Bengal cat domestic feline.

Marbled cat (Pardofelis marmorata) Is another small cat whose numbers are not well understood. It is abut 18 pounds in weight and in India is found in the countries northern forests.

Pallas’s cat ( Otocobulus manul) – The number of this small feline is unknown. They are becoming better understood and their genome has recently been mapped fully. Manuls were recently spotted on the slopes of Mt. Everest in nearby Nepal on the border with China.

Rusty spotted cat (Prionailurus rubiginosus) is a small cat native only to India an Sri Lanka. They face several threats. They are tiny, in the range of three pounds. Although present in much of India are very vulnerable to cultivation of new land and other human activity. They are also hunted. Since there are only about 60 in accredited zoos they are vulnerable to extinction. Currently the estimates are that 10,000 survive.

Snow leopard (Panthera uncia) – About 7,000 of the cats are thought to inhabit the spine of Asia from a level of 6,000 feet up to 18,000. India is reportedly counting its snow leopards which may number about 700.

The Indian wildcat future is mixed but dedicated conservation efforts appear to be aimed at all of the 16 cats in the country