Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Audubon Guides - Go Fighting Owls!

The Piper High School Bengals never had a chance. The Fighting Owls dug in at the 25-yard line and never gave any ground. Literally. A few weeks ago a pair of Burrowing Owls dug a hole in the middle of a football field, forcing the Piper High team to play out their season on the road.

As a species of special concern, the pint-sized bird benefits from the protection of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Birds on the field? No game today.

Burrowing Owls (Athene cunicularia) are found throughout the western US and once inhabited the open prairies of central Florida. Cape Coral, a sprawling, nearly tree-less city on Florida’s southwest coast has the largest population of the ground-dwelling raptors. As development persists in the sunshine state, more and more of the owls preferred habitat is lost which makes the rare sighting at the high school in Sunrise, FL all the more interesting.

Burrows are occupied year-round with nesting occurring from February through July. These birds were firmly entrenched on the green gridiron and clearly had plans to stay.

In the western US the birds may reuse gopher holes while in Florida they recycle old Gopher Tortoise holes. In this case they did the digging themselves.

The owls can be tolerant of some human interaction. While my momentary presence was simply annoying, football players and cheering fans would clearly be apocalyptic. So on a quiet Monday morning I was escorted on the field by Linda, a Piper guidance director. Here we found the mouth of the burrow and a mound of dirt bisected perfectly by the white hash mark of the 25-yard line. A solitary owl peered out – its eyes matching the yellow CAUTION tape that encircled its new den.

The burrow would last only a few more days. The students created a starter burrow in a more appropriate place nearby and with the approval from wildlife officials the athletic department filled in the hole. With luck the owls will take the hint and Piper High School will have a pair of new mascots. Go Fighting Owls!

More good stuff at Audubon Guides -

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Killing Animals is Funny

If a black cat ran on a basketball court on Halloween and a player kicked it to death it would be hysterical right? And if a sinister python slithered among the players until it was beaten to death it would be a hoot. So no doubt when Manu Ginobili of the San Antonio Spurs whacks a bat to death during an NBA game it's a laugh riot. The problem is - it's not. I enjoy ESPN's Mike and Mike in the Morning but when they hosted SportsCenter a few nights ago and played a video of this event I was livid at their humored reaction. I was further annoyed by a guest of ESPN's Scott van Pelt Show who claimed anyone who doesn't find this funny needs to shut up and go away.

Here's where I have a problem:
1) NBA star Manu Ginobili should not be in charge of pest control.
2) A bat flying loose in an NBA arena on Halloween? Coincidence? I think someone captured one and set it loose and if this is the case, they endangered the safety of any one of the 17000+ people in attendance.
3) If the bat wasn't freed upon the crowd than it may have been roosting in the arena and was disoriented or it was sick - potentially with rabies. I'm not saying they needed to evacuate the place but there should have been some attempt to capture the low-flying animal other than a mascot swinging a net at it. Bats can carry rabies but it's rare. Day flying bats in the US should be treated as if they are sick and certainly that is what should have happened here.
4) People in general have a disdain for the night-flying creatures. They are "low on the food chain" as Scott van Pelt suggested on his Tuesday radio show. Bats are intelligent, highly social creatures - so this and other ill-informed comments can be considered woefully ignorant.
5) A San Antonio Spurs official said the bat was taken away and "released". Anyone who comes in physical contact needs to be vaccinated against rabies. One of their players swatted the bat from the air and handed it to an arena employee and they let the bat loose? I would imagine the bat was killed and the team is hoping to avoid a PR mess.
6) PETA as usual needs to take a breath and not take such a hateful anti-Manu stance. It was a split second reaction - not the brightest move but Manu Ginobili is not Michael Vick.

In the end Manu had to get 4 rabies vaccination shots and will have to have subsequent shots further down the road. I hate needles. I've had the vaccinations. It's not as bas as he's making it out. But I'll give him credit - no doubt he was put up to it, but he did speak out against anyone handling bats and the dangers of rabies. If only he or any of the misinformed media would have had a little more respect for bats as a species in general. They are amazing when they are not being demonized.