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Monday, October 13, 2008
Backcasts archive: Through Oct. 10, 2008

By Brett Pauly
ESPNOutdoors.com blog columnist

Blog calendar: Oct. 8 | Oct. 7 | Oct. 6

posted Oct. 8, 2008

Here's what happened after the quick, sly fox jumped over the lazy, brown dog

Absolutely too good to pass up is this item out of Dover, Tenn., we were alerted to by a "foxy" colleague.

You've heard the quick, sly fox jumped over the lazy, brown dog.

Well, sometime after the critter bounded over its fellow canine … it got hit by a car, was tossed into the backseat by the driver (who thought it was dead) and then caused a wreck when it snapped back to life and freaked out its captor.

And the name of the driver?

Fox.

Tommy Fox.

Confusing? To be certain.

And while it's a big bummer Fox crashed his SUV, we also find out that foxes apparently only have two lives, however, as the beast died at the scene.

Here's the story, in brief, as provided by the Leaf-Chronicle, Tennessee's oldest newspaper, founded in 1808 out of Clarksville:

Fox was en route home from work late one recent evening when the first accident took place. Realizing the tail would make quite a souvenir, Fox pulled over and tossed the fox into his vehicle.

You can guess the rest of the tail – er, tale. Yes, Fox became distracted when the very much alive and clearly displeased fox started making threatening sounds.

While searching for a blanket to ward off the animal, Fox careened off the road and his SUV flipped into a ditch, according to the Web site of the newspaper.

Fox was treated for minor injuries at the scene, but the fox died.

It was unclear at the time of the report if the fatal injuries to the four-legged fox were caused by the first accident or the second, nor was it known whether Fox got to keep its tale – er tail.

Now that is a news story, and hats off to the Leaf-Chronicle and writer Tavia D. Green for sharing it.

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posted Oct. 7, 2008

World's mammals are in serious trouble, according to comprehensive survey

It's certainly a sad affair and while we're not big on somber stories, the plight of the world's wild mammals is something that must be touched on here.

Their numbers seem to be plummeting like those of the stock market.

You see, a new research suggests that at least a quarter of these warmblooded animals around the globe are in danger of becoming extinct, the Washington Post reports from Barcelona, where the survey was released yesterday.

And this is one complete study, having taken five years and input from 1,700 experts in 130 countries to finish, according to the Post. It covers nearly 5,500 species and will be published in the journal Science.

Not surprisingly, over-harvesting and destruction of habitat are the primary factors, although hunting also is blamed for diminishing numbers of land mammals, while their marine brethren are susceptible to pollution, fishing nets and being hit by vessels.

And the situation may actually be even direr, as thin data on some species has prompted the paper's lead writer to suggest that up to 36 percent of mammals face extinction.

Safarigoers should know that the Dama gazelle was called out. Meanwhile, nearly 80 percent of primates in South and Southeast Asia are in peril.

What can be done?

The answer is simple and shouldn't be at all unexpected: habitat protection.

One of the paper's writers suggests hunting and "other forms of exploitation" must be prevented. That's a hot potato here, so we'll let other experts debate it. But it seems logical to change the hunting regs for threatened species, and we trust the proper authorities to do just that.

Now poaching is a different story altogether; it's reprehensible and unforgivable and let's just hope the researchers in this survey aren't lumping legitimate hunters in with illicit poachers when they point their fingers.

If there is a silver lining in the report it is that more than 5 percent of threatened mammals have rebounded from previous pressures and are enjoying "stable or increasing populations," the Post reports.

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posted Oct. 6, 2008

What's that? Making animal sounds heard by more is one tough job

"You leave at 2 a.m. and find yourself wandering around bleary-eyed in a swamp. Sometimes you wonder what you're doing."

Sounds like a difficult assignment, with emphasis on "sounds."

That's what University of Utah research librarian Jeff Rice tells the Associated Press he has to go through in order to expand the West's first major audio archive of wild animals.

A year into the encompassing project, Rice already has more than 800 recordings from Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming, including those of 75 percent of the region's frog and toad species, 70 percent of the birds and dozens of mammals and reptiles, the AP reports from Salt Lake City. Many were donated; some were procured in the field by Rice.

Together they compose the symphony that is the Western Soundscape Archive, a sound clearinghouse that is headquartered at the library of Rice's employer and available free to the public on the internet.

And it's a remarkable Web site, really. Call up a more vocal being, like the wapiti, and you'll see an image of an elk, a biology lesson, recording information, along with a link to 24 seconds of bugling.

Seeking something a little different? Search for the call of the Altamira oriole or the trill of the Amargosa toad.

The Ferruginous hawk and the field cricket are here, and so are the gila monster and the gila woodpecker. There's even the tailslap of the beaver.

Wingshooters should dedicate nine seconds to listen in on the ring-necked pheasant.

Additionally, the archive houses "ambient soundscapes" from natural areas across the West, such as what you'd hear at the edge of a tide pool along with Oregon coast, complete with its squawking gulls and powerful breakers in the background.

According to the AP, the landscape recordings could also provide an important audio snapshot that could be used for comparison later when trying to understand how animals respond to encroaching subdivisions, oil and gas development, a warming climate, or other changes.

Now that's good stuff.

From the clatter of sage grouse and javelina to the pitch of moose and rattlesnakes, lend an ear to the Western Soundscape Archive. It's something well worth bookmarking … and that's the first time we've made such a bold suggestion.

After all, the AP reports, as natural places disappear, so do the animal sounds that decorate them.

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    About the author: Brett Pauly spent nearly six years editing and publishing ESPNOutdoors.com before moving on to produce the ESPN.com Sports Travel site. He is a national award-winning writer and editor with 14 years of experience in the newspaper trade, including stints at the Los Angeles Daily News and Seattle Times. The Evergreen State is where he now makes his home. Click here to email him.

  • Check the Backcasts archives for previous blogs.