5,000 dead red-winged black birds still bewildering


The Daily Beast is pronouncing “Case Closed” on the 5,000 red-winged blackbirds that fell on Arkansas–or as every news story likes to put it “rained from the sky.” Not so fast

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Mickey, black silly squirrel, dies months after hawk attack

Avoacadoface Mickey

Mickey, the black squirrel with ingrown teeth I took care of for a few months earlier this year, has died. Mickey had increasingly worse seizures and wasn’t responding to medicine, the wildlife rehabilitators who took her in said. Eventually they sadly had to euthanize her.

Mickey came to me from Peter Richter, a hawk-watcher and blogger, who knew Mickey as a cheeky character at a Queens community garden. Mickey took nuts by hand, much braver than her squirrel companion. Mickey tried to fight off a red-tailed hawk and ended up falling. My theory was that she broke her top teeth, which her big bottom teeth need to grind against.

Peter nervously watched her decline and brought her to me just in time. She was cold, had lost weight, was covered in mites and her bottom teeth were growing into her top gums. I clipped her teeth and she regained her strength eating mushy foods like avocado.

I got to know and like Mickey. She was easy to handle, almost like a released pet. I wondered if she wanted to be treated like a pet. I hugged her. She peed on me. I stopped trying to cuddle her, but she always did like a back scratch. I thought she’d like to be a mom to orphaned baby squirrels. Nope. She carried them out of her house and attacked them. She would stomp around her cage if she thought it was time for food and I wasn’t providing

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429 Dead Manatees found Last Year out of Population of 4,000; Only 37 Called Natural Deaths

A record 429 manatees were found dead off Florida last year out of a delicate population of just about 4,000. Could it be good news, reflecting a growing population? After all the the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission counted a record 3,807 manatees in their aerial surveys last year.

Not so fast, says the FWC:  “The situation is not that simple. Both the carcass totals and the annual counts from statewide aerial surveys are considered minimum numbers only, and they cannot be used to calculate long-term population trends.” In other words, both the 400 and 4,000 are wild-ass guesses (WAG)–though maybe scientific wild-ass guess (SWAG).

Last year was really cold, so the manatees crowded the power plants and springs like never before, making for stunning pictures (like the one here by  Tom Reinert) and high counts. But that’s not a complete or accurate count. The cold was a big factor: 56 died from cold stress, more than double the five-year average.

But there were record deaths from other factors, too. The data show only 37 were found to have died of natural causes. That doesn’t mean people killed all the rest. Humans were directly tied to 97 from boats, 5 from locks and gates and 7 from other human-related causes. The rest are somewhat a mystery and manatee advocates think humans are tied to many more. 114 were described as “perinatal,” just meaning they were very young, and they believe many are really tied to people.


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World Loses Its Best Dog Ever

Wednesday we lost our great friend and incredible dog, Jolly. He was pushing 16 (by some calculations, 105 in human years) and in the last few weeks, after his longtime girlfriend Shadow died, all of his systems seemed to fall apart.

Even though it’s been a long time since he was able to hear us and run to the door—or just awkwardly block the door by napping in front of it—our home and life is unimaginably empty and quiet without him. But that’s the price you pay for having a sweet, devoted, goofy, clever, complicated dog like Jolly.

Jolly came to me 13 years ago as a foster dog after spending a couple years in a shelter, Mighty Mutts. He was a huge scaredy cat, but eventually he came to believe me when I told him, as I always did, that he was the best dog in the world. He was the king of the dog run and East Village and knew that he was handsome, smart and well-loved. After spending years in isolation, he especially loved friends. “Friend” was just one of the many words he knew. He loved his mommy, daddy and longtime girlfriend Shadow most of all. Shadow was at first the only dog he would play with; she remained the only dog he would roughhouse with, kiss or let enjoy his treats, toys or Jollymobile. But he loved being part of an extended family and community, his aunts, friends of the dog run, street and

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