First Dog-Fox Hybrid Confirmed, Birth Raises Concerns Among Experts About Dangers Of Cross-Breeding

Dogs (Canis familiaris) and foxes (family Vulpus) are both canines but are distant enough genetically that producing offspring should be impossible. However, according to news reports the first such successful wild crossing has occurred in South America. The dog-fox hybrid did not live long after discovery, however.

photo of fox sitting on ground
Photo by Alex Andrews on True foxes of the family Vulpus are common world wide. They were thought to be unable to breed with dogs. But some near-relatives apparently can

The fox in question is a Pampas fox (lycalopex gymnocercus). Although it is called a fox, members of the Lycalopex family are actually closer to jackals and wolves than to true foxes of the family Vulpus. They are distant from dogs too.

Pampas foxes have a wide range in Bolivia and Brazil and other parts pf southern and eastern South America. They are truly omnivorous and about the size of a medium dog They are currently least concern on the IUCN extinction index.

Although very similar in appearance pampas foxes are different enough from true foxes to be in their own family.

According to Men’s Journal the discovery is causing some concern among scientists. The dog-fox hybrid in question was found in Brazil after being injured, possibly by a car. It was taken to a rehabilitation center where unusual features were noted. This occurred in 2021. Recently completed genetic testing proved it was a cross-bred animal. Unfortunately the animal died after rehabilitation leaving many questions unanswered. One of the biggest questions unanswered is whether it was a fertile crossing.

Scientists think that the increasingly close proximity between wildlife and human settlements is leading to more contact between wild and domestic animals. That can lead to cross-breeding and the end of genetically pure species. Scottish wildcats are nearly extinct partly due to cross-breeding with domestic felines. The interbreeding can also introduce diseases between the wild and domestic animals.

Nine Foxes Gathered Around a Tree:
An unlikely gathering.

Researchers are calling the animal a “Dogxim” a portmanteau of dg and the Portueguese name for the pampas fox.

The magazine said:

“According to Dr. Jacqueline Boyd, a senior lecturer in animal science at Nottingham Trent University, the presence of the dogxim likely points to an increase in contact between wild and domestic species. That shouldn’t come a surprise considering the expansion of human settlements in wild habitats. But besides displacing the animals and running the chance of making a non-endangered creature like the Pampas fox endangered, it also increases the risk of disease transmission between species. ” Italics in original.

Dr. Boyd lists the study of canines among here areas of expertise.

Advances in genetic science are leading to re-definition of many species and sub-species. Genetics may help protect endangered animals and lead to de-extinction.

Bhutan Big Cat Increase Requires Redoubled Efforts To Control Conflict As Cats Are Eating More livestock

Tiny Bhutan has recently reported dramatic population increases among two of its largest predators. Tigers (Panthera tigris) have increased in that country by 27 percent. We recently reported that snow leopards (Panthera uncia) are up about 40 percent. Rising Bhutan big cat numbers are increasing the risk of more conflict with the nation’s residents. There are also a number of true leopards (Panthera pardus) in the region.

Seating Buddha looking over the town of Paro, Bhutan.
Seating Buddha looking over the town of Paro, Bhutan. by Prashant is licensed under CC-CC0 1.0Bhutan is a tiny country between India and China. So far it has been a hospitable place for both tigers and snow leopards. But conflicts with livestock owners may change that.

The Bhutan tiger count is now 127, and was celebrated July 29 2023 during International Tiger Day. Bhutan, India and Nepal all have increased their tiger numbers. The international goal set in 2010 is to double the number of wild tigers. That goal is far from being reached, although the governments involved are all pledging to do so.

The obvious problem is that big cats have big appetites and sometimes eat livestock as an easy meal. Bhutan has a reputation for tolerance in all things and revenge killings have been rare. But efforts are underway to reduce conflict.

Tiger drawing, wildlife vintage illustration
Tigers are increasing in number in Bhutan and are preying on free roaming livestock.

According to Mongabay probems are increasing with the rise in numbers of the Bhutan big cat.

“Bhutan’s first tiger survey in 2014-15 estimated 103 individuals. The second survey, due to be published in early 2023, will show an increase, says Tshering Tempa of the Bhutan Tiger Center (BTC), part of the Department of Forests and Park Services. (Ed: the survey was released and showed the increase to 127),

“The overall population increase has been hailed as a success, but many experts warn the new figures may be results of improved monitoring technology, such as camera traps, rather than a real increase in individual tigers. Abishek Harihar, tiger program deputy director at wild cat NGO Panthera, suggests “cautious optimism,” and points to wider survey areas and a better understanding of tiger habitat as possible explanations — conservation progress, albeit of a different kind.

Panthera is an international conservation organization focusing solely on felines.

Whether there are truly more tigers or the reality is as Harihar cautions, one thing seems clear in Bhutan: there are more cases of big cats preying on livestock.

Almost 60% of Bhutanese people live in rural areas, some of them in protected areas. Livestock roam freely, making them easy prey for tigers.” Links in original.

Mongabay quoted Tshering Tempa of the BTC:

“The BTC’s Conservation Through Compassion program aimed to improve the livelihoods of communities experiencing human-wildlife conflict, for example by providing poachers with other means to make a living. But Tempa says their efforts didn’t reach all affected communities and didn’t involve enough people on the frontline.

“We still encourage people to join the Conservation Through Compassion program, but we have now also initiated a community-based tiger conservation program,” he says.

The Gewog Tiger Conservation Tshogpa (GTCT), still in its first year, is an organization run locally by communities, decentralizing the system of compensation and management, with seed money from the BTC. Livestock owners pay an annual premium (around $2 to $5 depending on the breed) to insure their cattle in the program. The pilot project has been rolled out in six gewogs, or counties, with a fund of 1 million ngultrum each, which also accrues interest for the communities.

close up photography of tiger
Who Me? Snow leopards and tigers and true leopards are all found in Bhutan and seem to be increasingly interested in a livestock meal. Photo by Charles Miller on

Community members use a mobile app to immediately report livestock killings to the Tiger Quick Response Team, which follows up to verify and, if appropriate, compensate.

National Zoological Park, Yak
Yaks are among the most important livestock animals in Bhutan

“It has been very successful, so we are implementing it in six more gewogs,” Tempa says. “My colleagues are in the field now, meeting the communities, educating them on the programs we want to introduce.””

The Bhutan big cat increase may benefit strongly from the new more people centric approach. That approach, recognizing the needs of both people and animals, has recently been championed by the World Wildlife Federation.

Bhutan Snow Leopard Numbers Increase 40 Per Cent; Are The Mountain Top Cats On The Upswing?

Snow leopards (Panthera uncia) inhabit a high mountain habitat in many of Asia’s mountains. Reports that Bhutan snow leopard numbers have jumped 40 percent joins other good news about the cats from China and elsewhere.

Photo by David Ogden on The cats have a similar spot pattern to leopards. They are different enough to have their own rung on the feline family tree.

The World Wildlife Federation reported the announcement recently dateline Thimpu, Bhutan. The country counted 134 of the cats in its second survey of the nation. That is up from 96 in the inaugural count. Bhutan is a Himalayan country bordering India and China. It is close to Nepal.

Despite their superficial resemblance to leopards snow leopards are genetically closer to tigers. According to Britannica:

“Formerly classified as Leo uncia, the snow leopard has been placed—with the liontiger, and other big cats—in the genus Panthera. Because of the presence of certain skeletal features, such as having a shorter skull and having more-rounded eye orbits than other big cats, the snow leopard has also been classified by some authorities as the sole member of the genus Uncia. Genetic studies show that the common ancestor of snow leopards and tigers diverged from the lineage of big cats about 3.9 million years ago and that snow leopards branched from tigers about 3.2 million years ago.” (Links in original)

A Marmot with a Branch
A Marmot with a Branch by National Gallery of Art is licensed under CC-CC0 1.0 Marmots are on he smaller side of snow leopard prey which also includes various wild sheep and deer.

Today there are as many as 7,000 of the cats. They inhabit about a dozen Asian countries including China, India, Russia and surrounding countries. Like all snow leopards the Bhutan snow leopard inhabits a belt between 6,000 and 18,000 feet in elevation. Accredited zoos worldwide may hold as many as 700, About one-third of those are in the United States.

Bee nest
Honeybees may play a role in the future of snow leopards. Encouraging native peoples to raise bees for honey and wax reduces conflict. If the people produce honey they make money and their livestock is no longer a target for opportunistic snow leopards.

China reports success with maintaining snow leopards in their part of the range. Chinese media says the cats have stabilized in numbers in Tibet. Tibet is a formerly autonomous region tightly controlled by Beijing. Meanwhile in Kyrgyzstan conservationists are taking a novel and apparently successful approach. They are encouraging residents to tape up beekeeping. Beekeeping replaces animal husbandry and other potential sources of conflicts with the cats. It is lucrative as honey is a treasured commodity. It also helps protect bees, which have suffered from Colony Collapse Disorder. According to the National Pesticide Information Center more than 60 stressors that may help cause the syndrome have been found. Although still a major concern the number of hive collapses has been falling since 2008.

Tasmanian Devil Future Is Not As Bleak As Feared Because Release On Mainland Appears Successful

Tasmanian devils are the largest surviving marsupial predator. They have been confined the island of Tasmania for cenuries if not milennia. The future of the animals appeared bleak because of a ravaging disease. But the Tasmanian devil future is now brighter according to the Washington Post.

Dozens of devils have been released in New South Wales, the paper said, and it is now confirmed that seven babies have been born in the nearly wild. The devils are currently in a 1,000 acre fenced off area that allows them to acclimate and engage in normal behaviors prior to full release. It is a process similar to that used with other rewilding projects. the “new” animals are not released into an unfamiliar habitat without monitoring and acclimatization.

n1024_w1150 by BioDivLibrary is licensed under CC-PDM 1.0 Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii) on the lower right is a fierce marsupial predator,

This project is being led by Aussie Ark. The organization was founded in 2011 with a specific mission of saving the iconic sharp-toothed predator. It has since expanded its role to protect more of Australia’s threatened wildlife.

Australian wildlife is under threat, much of it from feral cats and other invasive species.

The devils have been threatened by a number of factors, including disease.

Since the 1990’s Australian conservationists have been trying to rescue Tasmanian Devils from the ravages of Devil Facial Tumor Disease (DFTD). The cancer is fatal in more than 80 percent of cases.

a tasmanian devil sitting on a rock
Photo by Chaim Mehlman on A healthy devil sitting on a rock

he disease is a virus induced cancer exclusive to the species. It has been under extensive study for over 10 years. Early research was handicapped by a lack of knowledge of the disease and a lack of knowledge of the devils. Researchers now have a fuller understanding of the disease and its causes. They also know much more about the devils immune response – and the evasion techniques of the virus. Transmission appears to be through intimate contact. Biting is thought to be a major transmission source.

Tasmanian devils are the largest marsupial carnivore weighing up to 26 pounds. They are mostly nocturnal and are both scavengers and hunters eating prey as small as insects and as large as snakes and reptiles. One discovery has been of a population of devils that seems to show resistance to the disease.

The resistance to the disease exhibited by the colony of devils appears to be counterintuitive. Devils have a low diversity of certain genes that that fight off disease. In most cases the more diverse the genes are, the stronger the immune system. It was assumed that the low diversity was the reason the virus could enter the devils.

sick devil. Photo

Research on the immune devils suggests that low diversity might actually be a strength. The virus passes into the devils because the immune system in most devils does not recognize the virus as foreign. But it may be that the devils with the less diverse immune are more likely to recognize the virus and destroy it.

This is because the devils immune system has two genetic sequences. The virus has parts of both. Since most devils have both genetic sequences the virus is not recognized as foreign. The more immune devils have only one or the other sequence. When the virus enters these devils, the immune system recognizes the unknown sequence and destroys the virus.

This may lead to a change in strategy for the Tasmanian devil future away from interbreeding to expand diversity and toward isolation, allowing the immune devils to survive and eventually, it is hoped, thrive.

Meet The “Pizzly,” Grizzly Bear And Polar Bear Hybrids Now Have A Name (Or Two)

Genetically speaking brown bears polar bears and grizzly bears are all quite similar. The appearances may vary, but deep down they are very much alike. Which means it is now time to meet the “pizzly” (or grolar bear).

Sometime ago we wrote about a study showing just how closely brown bears and polar bears are related. The study showed that the bears separated into differing populations about a million years ago but have been cross-breeding during that time. Brown bears (Ursos arctos) and grizzly bears (Ursus arctos horribilis) are virtually the same bear. Grizzlies are a subspecies of brown bear. But what about polar bears (Ursus maritimus)? Polar bears are actually almost identical to brown bears.

Big brown bear at the Wild Animal Sanctuary near Keenesburg, Colorado. Original image from Carol M. Highsmith’s America, Library of Congress collection. Digitally enhanced by rawpixel
Big brown bear at the Wild Animal Sanctuary near Keenesburg, Colorado. Original image from Carol M. Highsmith’s America, Library of Congress collection. Digitally enhanced by rawpixel by Carol M Highsmith is licensed under CC-CC0 1.0 Brown bears roam much of the world. They are large and can be quite ferocious. Sanctuaries as the Wild Animal Sanctuary often have bears that have been mistreated.

The differences are habitat and some largely superficial items. Since they live in the snow their fur is actually translucent so it appears white against a white background. In fact they are quite dark. Other appearances are adaptations to living in the polar zone. Some adaptations make it easier for the bears to swim.

Polar Bears Across the Arctic Face Shorter Sea Ice Season
Polar Bears Across the Arctic Face Shorter Sea Ice Season by NASA Goddard Photo and Video is licensed under CC-BY 2.0 Polar bears are highly adapted for an arctic lifestyle.

So what led us to meet the “pizzly”? The current theory is that a population of brown bears was cut off in the far north during the last Ice Age from 1 million to 70,000 years ago. Most died but a few adapted and over time adapted more. But they remained brown bears at core.

Perhaps it can be considered the opposite of what happened with the Gobi bear. Gobi bears are brown bears that live in the ferocious Gobi Desert. They are listed as endangered and are the focus of conservation efforts. These bears have adapted to the high heat and arid conditions of the desert.

Meet the “pizzly”.”Polar bear – brown bear hybrid / polar bear-grizzly bear hybrid also called grolar bear / pizzly bear / nanulak, rare ursid hybrid. (Photo by: Philippe Clement/Arterra/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

According to A-Z Animals at least eight first-generation hybrids have been found recently by scientists.

Moreover, genetic studies indicate the bears have been occasionally mating for centuries. One tested population of brown bears was a found to be closer to polar bears than to other brown bears.

Advances in genetic science are rapidly changing the way we see relationships among related animals. Tigers for example, are being reclassified into two subspecies, down from seven or nine. Mainland tigers are Panthera tigris tigris and island tigers are Panthera tigris sondaica. Even smaller cats are being reclassified as a new species of wildcat is being proposed on Corsica. The “Corsican cat-fox” may just be different enough from other Eurasian wildcats to merit its own species listing. Wolves are another example. At one time there were considered to be about 40 subspecies of Canis lupus. That number is down to around 27 and probably shrinking as well.

Tasmanian Tiger Countdown: Australian Lab Rushing To Resurrect Apex Marsupial Predator; But Are They Even Extinct?

Not too long ago the idea of de-extincting the Tasmanian tiger (Thylacine) was thought to be a long shot at best. The Australian marsupial predator had left behind too little genetic material to work with. But recent discoveries and an RNA breakthrough may have started a Tasmanian tiger countdown.

That, at least is the opinion of some researchers. The University of Melbourne runs TIGRR Thylacine Integrated Genomic Restoration Research Lab) and has this to say:

“Of all the species proposed for de-extinction, the thylacine has arguably the most compelling case. The thylacine was eradicated as a result of direct human influence less than 100 years ago, rather than through natural processes such as those that led to the extinction of the dinosaurs.

Thylacines have not been seen in the wild since 1936. That is the year the last one. perhaps two, died. But their have been scattered reports of sightings ever since.

“The thylacine was unique among living marsupials. Not only did it have its iconic wolf-like appearance, but it was also our only marsupial apex predator. Apex predators form extremely important parts of the food chain and are often responsible for stabilising ecosystems. The habitat in Tasmania has remained relatively unchanged, providing the perfect environment to re-introduce the thylacine and enabling it to reoccupy its niche.

The thylacine de-extinction project will develop key technologies and resources which are critical now to help preserve and conserve our extant marsupial species.

The Tasmanian tiger countdown seems quite bold to most researchers, including those in Sweden who sequenced the animal’s RNA. The most optimistic think ten years is a possibility.

But there is one nagging question: Are they even extinct.? There have been many sightings since the official end date of 1936. A new study is casting doubt on that date. According to the Guardian a careful analysis of sightings since 1936 suggests they may have survived much longer than thought. Professor Barry Brook of the University of Tasmania has been studying the exact date of extinction for years. He made a careful analysis of more than 1,200 sightings since 1936. His analysis suggests the animals survived for at least several decades in the wild, possibly into the 2000’s. But he believes there is less than a 1% chance they still exist as some would hope. Brook and his colleagues recently published their work in Science of the Total Environment. A small cadre of enthusiasts hope Brook is wrong and that there a thylacines out there.

Could this be what they see? The Tasmanian padmelon is a small kangaroo-like marsupial. One analyst of purported thylacine sightings thinks these are what people actually see.

If the animals sighted are not thylacines, what are they? Tasmanian pademelons are one candidate. Since thylacines are dog sized and dog like the average dog is another. As for padmelons Britannica says:

“Often called pademelons, the three species of scrub wallabies (Thylogale) of New Guinea, the Bismarck Archipelago, and Tasmania are small and stocky, with short hind limbs and pointy noses. They are hunted for meat and fur. A similar species is the short-tailed scrub wallaby, or quokka (Setonix brachyurus); this species is now restricted to two offshore islands of Western Australia.”

Professor Andrew Pask, who is part of the thylacine reintroduction plan Told the Guardian:

“Prof “Andrew Pask, of the University of Melbourne, is part of a team trying to work out ways to resurrect the thylacine using DNA from the animal, supported by genetic samples from its relative the numbat.

Pask – who was not involved in the new study – said the research “relies on a lot of maybes”.

He said because thylacines resembled a dog, he thinks many people who were convinced they had seen one may have just been seeing modern canines.

He said: “It would have made sense that a few animals were probably still around in the world [after the 1936 death], but I think it’s very unlikely thylacines would have survived beyond a few generations. And we think each generation as about eight years.

“It’s become like our Loch Ness Monster or big foot – an almost mythical creature – but I like [that some people still think they see them] because it keeps the memory of them alive and reminds people of this amazing animal that we hunted to extinction.”

If the genetic pioneers have their way creatures much like these mammoths (genus Mammuthus) will roam again. It must be noted that the creatures will not exactly be mammoths but a cross breed of mammoth genes and the host that gives birth. That is likely to be an Asian elephant (Elephas maximus indicus) The results will be similar for thylacines.

De-extinction efforts are underway around the world. One of the best known candidates is the wooly mammoth. Even the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is said to be interested in de-extinction. The spy agency is said to be working to be sure the United States has an eye on the developing genetic technologies. Of course the CIA says nothing. All that is certain is that an organization sometimes connected to the spymasters is helping with the research.

Critics remain skeptical and fear the money spent is being diverted from saving currently threatened species. Perhaps a successful Tasmanian tiger countdown t de-extinction would prove a boon. It might suggest extinction is not forever anymore.

Caracal Conservation Moves Into Spotlight In India As Concerns Rise For Future Of The Species

There are neary 40 cat species in the world today. India is of major consequence in feline conservation. More than one-third (15 to be exact) of wild cat species call India home. For comparison, the African continent has 10. Caracal conservation is now in the Indian spotlight.

Caracals (Caracal caracal) are perhaps the rarest of the 15 cats in India, excepting the Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus). Cheetahs are the focus of an ambitious re-introduction program.

Caracal conservation is perhaps a by-product of Project Cheetah as the reintroduction of that species is known. Although the two cats ae very different, they inhabited similar kinds of territory in the past. Now researchers are identifying the most suitable habitat in the nation for focusing effort. India began serious conservation of the big cats in 1973 with Project Tiger. Bengal tigers (Panthera tigris) were threatened with extinction. Their numbers have increased over the decades and the project is considered a success.

close up photo of a brown caracal
The big tufted ears of the caracal are halmarks of the mid-size cat species. Photo by Jiří Mikoláš on

Now it is the caracal’s turn:

According to Down to Earth:

“The researchers found the most significant potential habitat for caracals in Rajasthan, with an area of 25,221.38 square kilometers, followed by Gujarat (16,652.1 sq km), Madhya Pradesh (6416.01 sq km), Haryana (191.36 sq km), Uttar Pradesh (131.11 sq km), and Maharashtra (34.17 sq km).

The most suitable areas for caracals on the district level were found to be in the Kutch district of Gujarat; Sheopur, Morena, and Shivpuri of Madhya Pradesh and Sirohi, Jalore, Alwar, Karauli, Sawai Madhopur, Kota, Dhaulpur, Bundi, Baran, Jaipur, Tonk and Dausa of Rajasthan.

brown cheetah
In an ambitious move Indian authorities have imported cheetahs from Namibia to try an re-introduce the cats into India. Indian cheetahs died out about 1950. Photo by Frans van Heerden on

The most suitable habitat for caracals in Rajasthan, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh is located in Kutch, the Malwa Plateau, the Aravalli hill range and the Bundelkhand region, according to the researchers.

They also noted that large amounts of caracal suitable habitats in India fell within protected areas, thus providing an excellent opportunity for its conservation in the already existing management and conservation setup.

The protected areas which provided high conservation potential for caracals included Kachchh Wildlife Sanctuary (WLS) in Gujarat, the tiger reserves of Ranthambhore,  Mukundra hills and Sariska and the WLS of Kumbhalgarh, Mount Abu and Todgarh-Raoli in Rajasthan, as well as Gandhi Sagar WLS in Madhya Pradesh.”


“India has a robust band of several protected areas, which frequently get surveyed by government-initiated All India Tiger Estimation, along with many wildlife organization surveys, which can assist in monitoring the status of caracals. Also, these areas can be prioritised if species reintroduction is planned,” the authors wrote.”

India has had conservation success with Gir lions and Bengal tigers. The lions have become numerous enough to consider relocating them within India. India is considering export of tigers to Cambodia if conditions are met.

Like Cheetahs, caracals were used by humans for hunting. They are adaptable and relatively easy to capture and train. Caracals were used for hunting animals as small as squirrels and as big as deer. Cheetahs were used to run down and capture large game.

Worldwide the exact number of caracals is unknown. They are considered near threatened. They appear to be abundant in parts and rare in other parts of their range. As the cats are elusive the number in India is not known. The lowest estimate is around 50, which is prompting the renewed caracal conservation efforts. Caracal conservation is an issue world wide as South African caracals are facing threats from pollution.


Rarest Marine Mammal May Be Pulling Back From Verge Of Extinction; Rate Of Population Decline May Have Stopped, Experts Hope

The rarest marine mammal is one most people likely have not heard of. The vaquita (Phocoena sinus) has been on the verge of extinction but may be staging a comeback. The little guy is the smallest of the dolphin family.

The small vaquita is sharply reduced in numbers but the decline may be stabilized, biologists hope.

According to Britannica the vaquita inhabits a small portion of the Gulf of California off Baja California. Numbers have been declining sharply and as of 2018 it was estimated that about 18 remained.

The latest news is a little better. Vaquita numbers had been shrinking up to 45 percent per year. But the numbers appear to have stabilized and remained the same since 2021. According to at least one researcher says this is the best vaquita news in 30 years. At least one baby has been observed.

Vaquitas are about 5 feet long and are by far the smallest toothed whale. They are often caught in gill nets. Gill nets are deadly to a number of whales, seals and porpoises too. As a result the once ubiquitous nets have been banned in many places or strictly controlled. Mexico outlawed their use in the Gulf of California in 2017 but compliance with the law has been slow.

Gill nets are efficient and indiscriminate. They catch vaquitas and many other sea creatures.

Efforts to save the rarest marine mammal started around the year 2000 but were slow in coming to fruition. The recent development of a “vaquita safe” shrimp net may be a major help. Another problem is that vaquita conservation must be a “top down” conservation effort. Vaquitas have no commercial value. Conserving them, moreover, can be an economic negative for local fisherman. They are expected to switch from gill nets and not fish in areas where vaquitas are protected. There is little reason for many locals to save vaquitas.

“Top Down” versus “People Centric” conservation is a difficult problem in protecting endangered species. Conservation by fiat from government is often strongly opposed. Conservation that takes into account the needs and welfare of the local population works more successfully. The World Wildlife Federation, among others, is adapting a people centric model specifically for tigers. In another example, people in part of the snow leopard’s range are being encouraged to take up beekeeping to lesson conflicts with the cats.

Brazil’s Big Cats Face Local Extinction As Invasive Windfarms Drive Them Off Their Land

Wind energy is sometimes touted as a futuristic “green” energy source. But is it? You can ask the birds that die in the millions from flying into the invisible fan blades. Or you can ask Brazil’s big cats. According to the Wall Street Journal the “green” energy source is driving them away from scarce water.

white wind turbines on gray sand near body of water
Wind turbines in Brazil may scare jaguars and pumas off their home range and force them into a dangerous search for water. Photo by Kervin Edward Lara on

South and Central America are home to 10 species of wild cats. The two biggest are pumas (Puma concolor) and Jaguars (Panthera onca). Brazil’s big cats are the most threatened by the quick increase in wind farms producing “green” energy. The exact impact on wildlife by windfarms is not known. For example, no one knows exactly how many birds are killed each year by windfarms. Proponents of the energy source such as MIT acknowledge that millions of birds and bats are killed each year by windfarms. But they make the not very good argument that the slaughter is less than that caused by other bird killers.

Jaguar (Panthera Onca) illustrated by Charles Dessalines D' Orbigny (1806-1876). Digitally enhanced from our own 1892 edition of Dictionnaire Universel D'histoire Naturelle.
Jaguars are the biggest wild cats in the Americas. They are facing many challenges to their survival in an increasingly fragmented range.

Watts Up With That quoted the journal:

“Jaguars “and pumas are facing extinction in the Caatinga, Brazil’s northeastern shrublands, as Europe and China pour investment into wind farms, puncturing the land with vast turbines that are scaring the animals away from the region’s scant water sources.

Particularly sensitive to changes to their habitat, the jaguars and pumas abandon their lairs as soon as construction work on the wind farms begins, said Claudia Bueno de Campos, a biologist who helped found the group Friends of the Jaguars and has tracked the region’s vanishing feline population. They then roam vast distances across the dusty plains in search of new streams and rivers.”

photo of a cougar near a log
Pumas are the second biggest cat in the Americas. They too are having trouble with wind farms in Brazil, experts say. Photo by Nicky Pe on

WattsUpWithThat is a website skeptical of extreme climate change warnings.

The future of Brazil’s big cats in the Caatinga may be bleak. Perhaps 250 jaguars now live in the watershed and 2,500 pumas.

Jaguars and pumas are not close to extinction as species. Pumas have the greatest north south range of any cat. They can be found from Canada south to the tip of South America. Jaguars have a large range, too including much of Central and South America. Both cats, however, are facing challenging futures as fragmentation of populations threatens them with local extinction and inbreeding. Conservation and rescue groups are seeking to protect the future of both cats by efforts to link habitat and re-introduce cats into areas from which they have been driven.

Florida’s Burmese Pythons: Are They On Their Way To Oregon?

Florida’s Burmese pythons (Python bivittatus) are a an ecological disaster playing out in real time. Some reports says they have eaten up to 90 percent of the small mammals in certain areas. Some recent captures weigh about 200 pounds. But could Florida’s Burmese pythons be just starting their move into the United States?

According to Outdoor Life the answer could be a frightening yes. The snakes have been found recently in Louisiana and Georgia and have been moving north in Florida.

Burmese Python , NPSPhoto, R
Burmese Python , NPSPhoto, R by National Park Service is licensed under CC-CC0 1.0

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

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.

A map showing th expansion of the range of the invasive python. Whether there is an absolute northward limit is under debate.

Meanwhile, the pythons are the focus of intensive capture and control efforts.

As to control efforts. Federal, state, academic and local agencies are all working to control the snakes. The problem is huge. Experts say finding and eliminating females is key. That is being done by releasing males with tracking collars. Each snake leads trackers to multiple females. Each female eliminated removes multiple clutches of 50 to 200 eggs from the equation. Hunting and eating pythons is also encouraged. Bounties are also in place and an annual challenge occurs.. The latest challenge recently concluded. One family removed 20 snakes from the wild.

alligator near water plant on body of water
Photo by Rene Ferrer on Alligators (Alligator mississippinensis) are about the only predator able to dispatch pythons. Since they are evenly matched the larger of the two combatants usually wins in a given encounter.

Experts encourage capturing and killing pythons. Humane killing is strongly recommended. To kill humanely the python’s brains must be scrambled even if they are decapitated. Scrambling the brain involves using an icepick or similar tool. It is inserted into the brain and stirred and scraped around to kill the pest.