Archive for the ‘Wild Animals’ Category

Rats!

Remodeling in the East Bay

From dirt to doorknobs

It’s a rare attic or crawlspace where we see no evidence of these nasty critters. It seems like they climb, swim, dig, or chew their way into our houses no matter what we do. One homeowner complained of rats that ate the fruit out of their dining table centerpiece!

Rat raceway between insulation and subfloorRat raceway between insulation and subfloor

It’s bad enough that they get into our attics and crawlspaces, worse yet is what they leave behind. Proteins in their urine are potent allergens and become airborne when dry. Their urine and feces can contain hantavirus, a group of deadly virus that can be aerosolized and transmitted through air movement (more on hantavirus).

In the average house ducts leak at least 30%, and the building “shell” leaks at least 100% more than what’s required for adequate ventilation (data). If the leaky ducts run through the attic or crawlspace, they can directly vacuum up rat leavings and deliver it into each room of the house. If they don’t vacuum it up directly, they can depressurize the house, causing the house itself to suck it in through all the little holes and cracks between the attic or crawlspace and the house.

Rat urine on a water pipeRat urine on a water pipe

 In a typical building performance project that involves rodent infestation, we remove all contaminated materials and neutralize soiled surfaces. Then we reduce duct leakage and eliminate air infiltration between the attic or crawlspace and the living space. Even if the rats eventually get back in, the bad stuff stays in the attic or crawlspace, not in the bedrooms.

This unsealed, leaky duct plenum makes a handy toilet. Unfortunately, it is also pulling pollutants into the indoor air.This unsealed, leaky duct plenum makes a handy toilet. Unfortunately, it is also pulling pollutants into the indoor air.
 
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Village of the Damaged

Those cute little creatures that share our living space here on earth are quite good at damaging our world in places not normally noticed. maybe its just their way of pay back.

 Pecking Creatures

In the pictures below, birds have been “pecking” out the latex sealant in many areas of the roof’s edge. The problem here is that water flows into the holes during one of our heavy Florida rains and is running down to the floor below and heavily damaging the walls.

This has been going on for many weeks, just as soon as the gaps are resealed, the birds return and peck out more holes.

 

Gnawing Creatures

This customer heard a gnawing sound in his attic, we checked out the attic and found a heavy rodent evidence but there was no signs of gnaw marks anywhere to be found. Gnaw marks can’t always be located but the customer was so adamant about the gnawing that we checked the roof. Bullseye!

 

THE VERY DESTRUCTIVE TYPE

 

 This is from my aunts house, she had a raccoon in her attic. The raccoon would walk along the wooden fence, hop onto the rain gutter and slip into the attic through the vent that the raccoon had ripped open.

And my personal favorite…

THE  WEIRD TYPE

A new customer called in with a rodent problem. We met the home owner and she described the usual rat observations until she mentioned that the curious little rodent was pulling the upholstery tacks out of the dinning room chairs.

 She said that each morning the little rascal would remove a few tacks out of the chairs.

The Evidence…..

 

Here is some rat trivia from Wiki

Did you know….A 2007 study found rats to possess metacognition, a mental ability previously only documented in humans and some primates.

Domestic rats differ from wild rats in many ways. They are calmer and less likely to bite; they can tolerate greater crowding; they breed earlier and produce more offspring; and their brains, livers, kidneys, adrenal glands, and hearts are smaller.

Rats are edible by humans and are sometimes captured and eaten in emergency situations. For some cultures, rats are considered a staple.

Ancient Romans did not generally differentiate between rats and mice, instead referring to the former as Mus Maximus (big mouse) and the latter as Mus Minimus (little mouse).

On the Isle of Man (a dependency of the British Crown) there is a taboo against the word “rat.” See Longtail (rat) for more information.

The Black Death is traditionally believed to have been caused by the micro-organism Yersinia pestis, carried by the Tropical Rat Flea (Xenopsylla cheopis) which preyed on Black Rat living in European cities during the epidemic outbreaks of the Middle Ages; these rats were used as transport hosts.

The normal lifespan of rats ranges from two to five years, and is typically three years.

 

Northern Manhattan Subway Riders Say Rats Abound

Fulton Street in Manhattan, June 2010.Marcus Yam/The New York Times The rats are downtown, too: Fulton Street in Manhattan in June.

Rodents, the traditional scourge of New York City, are having a rough year. The rise of the bedbug seems to have rendered rats a has-been pest, a mere nuisance to be ignored rather than read about in countless alarmist trend articles. The bedbug is a breakout media star; the rat is, well, still a rat.

But there is one realm where the rodent still rules, where rats play the stars of an underground theater with a captive audience in the millions. Where else but the subway?

Earlier this year, the city’s Board of Health, in what was called the first study of its kind, discovered that half the subway lines in Lower Manhattan exhibited signs of mild or severe infestation. At the time, many New Yorkers expressed a surprising fondness for the creatures.  Now, a new, slightly less scientific survey has found a similar rat takeover of 20 stations in Upper Manhattan, based on the observations of thousands of riders who say there is a “severe” rodent problem in the underground.

The Have You Seen a Rat Today? campaign, sponsored by State Senator Bill Perkins, a Democrat of Harlem, collected responses from about 5,000 New Yorkers who filled out surveys distributed by the senator’s office.

Because this type of survey is self-selecting, and because there was no way to verify the responses, the results of Mr. Perkins’s study (also see below) ought to be taken with a grain of rat poison. But the findings do seem to match up anecdotally with many New Yorkers’ experiences.

Nearly 9 in 10 respondents said they saw rats on a daily or weekly basis in the subway, with a majority of sightings on the tracks. (Far fewer rats appeared to make their way onto benches or into the trains themselves.) Only 1 percent of the respondents said they “never see rats.”

All 20 stations in Mr. Perkins’s district, the 30th, were cited. The worst offenders: the big 125th Street express stop at Saint Nicholas Avenue; the 145th Street station on the A, B, C and D lines; and the 163rd Street station in Washington Heights. Strangely, the new 96th Street station at Broadway was also cited, although perhaps all the recent construction sent rodents scurrying of late.

The point of the survey, Mr. Perkins said, was to prompt officials to examine new methods of attacking the rodent problem. He also proposed a ban on eating in the subway, similar to no-food policies used on transit systems in Chicago and Washington.

“What we know for sure is the rats are not growing the food they are eating, nor are they shopping at Whole Foods or McDonald’s,” Mr. Perkins said in an interview. He noted that discarded food and litter are the primary culprits that attract rats to the mass transit system: “If you feed ’em, you breed ’em.”

Mr. Perkins mailed his survey results to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority on Oct. 21, and he urged the agency to step up its eradication efforts. The agency has laid off station cleaners this year and acknowledged over the summer that it may not have the budget to pursue a more advanced attack against rodents.

“I know this is a challenging time for transit and for the M.T.A.,” Mr. Perkins wrote in his letter. “But rodents in the subway jeopardize the health of all those who travel and work underground.”

In the interview, Mr. Perkins emphasized the far-reaching effects of his cause.

“This system is so important to people,” he said. “It is an experience that determines significantly one’s daily life, not simply from a bread-and-butter go-to-work point of view, but from an emotional and psychic point of view.

“You’re on a subway and a rat is sitting next to you — that moment does not end for a while.”


Tale of the Headless Dragonfly: Ancient Struggle, Preserved in Amber

In a short, violent battle that could have happened somewhere this afternoon, the lizard made a fast lunge at the dragonfly, bit its head off and turned to run away. Lunch was served.


Headless dragonfly. This ancient species of dragonfly is seen largely intact in amber, missing only a few feet and its head – presumable in the mouth of the lizard seen fleeing at the left. (Credit: Photo by George Poinar)

But the battle didn’t happen today, it happened about 100 million years ago, probably with dinosaurs strolling nearby. And the lizard didn’t get away, it was trapped in the same oozing, sticky tree sap that also entombed the now-headless dragonfly for perpetuity.

This ancient struggle, preserved in the miracle of amber, was just described by researchers from Oregon State University in Paleodiversity, a professional journal. It announced the discovery of a new sub-family of dragonflies in the oldest specimen of this insect ever found in amber.

More importantly, the study and others like it continue to reveal the similarities of behaviors and ecosystems separated by many millions of years, said George Poinar, a professor emeritus at Oregon State University. Poinar is one of the world’s leading experts on life forms found preserved in this semi-precious stone that acts as a natural embalming agent.

“Dragonflies are still eaten by small lizards every day, it’s a routine predator/prey interaction,” Poinar said. “This shows once again how behaviors of various life forms are retained over vast amounts of time, and continues to give us insights into the ecology of ancient ecosystems.”

Dragonflies are one of the world’s more colorful, interesting and successful insects, Poinar said, having managed to survive for a very long time. This is the oldest fossil ever found in amber, but other stone fossil specimens of dragonflies date back as much as 300 million years, including some that were huge, with wingspans up to three feet.

Amber is a semi-precious stone that originates as the sap from certain trees. Later fossilized through millions of years of pressure, it’s unique for the ability to capture and preserve in near-lifelike form small plant, animal or insect specimens that provide data on ancient ecosystems.

“Dragonflies are now, and probably were then, very quick, evasive, and greedy predators,” Poinar said. “They feed on other larvae and insects, mosquitoes, gnats, lots of things. Some are quite beautiful, very popular with insect collectors. And some modern populations like to migrate regionally, going south to mate.”

But as the new amber specimen shows, dragonflies are now and for a long time have also been prey, particularly of small lizards. Young and hatchling dinosaurs also probably dined on them, Poinar said.

The quick and merciless battle preserved in this stone took place in the Early Cretaceous somewhere between 97 million to 110 million years ago in the jungles of the Hukawng Valley of Burma, now known as Myanmar. The dragonfly — with one notably missing part — is preserved almost perfectly. Only the foot and tail of a small lizard remains in the stone, presumably as the animal was trying to flee.

“It’s unfortunate we don’t have the entire specimen of the lizard, because it probably had the dragonfly’s head in its mouth,” Poinar said. “Both died when they were trapped in the tree sap in the middle of this duel.”

Like a never-ending feud, these battles are still going on today. Scientists have documented in some sites near waterfalls in Costa Rica that there are many dragonflies of a certain species. But if lizards are present, there are no dragonflies — it appears they all get eaten.

Sometimes things change. Sometimes they don’t.

 

Desperate Female Spiders Fight by Different Rules

 If you thought women’s pro wrestling was a cutthroat business, jumping spiders may have them beat. In most animals the bigger, better fighter usually wins. But a new study of the jumping spider Phidippus clarus suggests that size and skill aren’t everything — what matters for Phidippus females is how badly they want to win.

Found in fields throughout North America, nickel-sized Phidippus clarus is a feisty spider prone to picking fights. In battles between males, the bigger, heavier spider usually wins. Males perform an elaborate dance before doing battle to size up the competition. “They push each other back and forth like sumo wrestlers,” said lead author Damian Elias of the University of California at Berkeley.

Jumping spider females fight by different rules than males. For females size and skill aren’t everything — what matters is how badly they want to win. (Credit: Photo by Damian Elias)
 

This fancy footwork allows males to gauge how closely matched they are before escalating into a full-blown fight. “Males rarely get to the point where they solve things by fighting,” said co-author Carlos Botero of the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in Durham, NC. “Before the actual fight there’s a lot of displaying. This allows them to resolve things without injuring themselves.”

But when the researchers watched female fights, they found that females fight by different rules. They skip the preliminaries and go straight for the kill. “Males have a more gentlemanly form of combat, whereas in females it’s an all-out fight,” said Elias. “At the drop of a hat they start bashing and biting each other.”

And unlike male combat, female feuds were often fatal. “They don’t give up, even when their opponent is beating them to a pulp,” said Botero. “They keep going until one of them is dead, or severely injured.”

The researchers were unable to predict which female would win based on size or strength. “Nothing we could measure predicted which one would come out on top. That was really unexpected,” said Elias.

At first, the researchers wondered if victory went not to the bigger fighter, but to the owner of the battlefield. “In a lot of animals one of the things that determines whether they win a fight is whether they’re on their own territory,” Elias said.

Phidippus clarus spiders live in nests they build from silk and rolled up leaves. While males are nomads, wandering from nest to nest in search of mates, females generally stick to one nest and guard it against intruders.

To test the idea that in turf wars the rightful owner typically wins, the researchers set up a series of fights between resident and intruder females. But when they put pairs of females in an arena — one with a nest, and one that was homeless — the head of the household wasn’t always the winner. Instead, the female most likely to win was the one closer to reproductive age.

“The ones that were closer to maturation fought harder,” said Botero. “They were more motivated and valued the nest more strongly.”

Why might that be?

Before a spider is ready to reproduce, she must first shed her hard outer skin and grow to adult size through a process known as molting. “They’re very vulnerable to predators at that time,” said Elias. “If they’re really close to molting and they don’t have a nest at that moment, they’re unlikely to survive.”

Females need the safety of their nests to molt, mate, and rear their young. “Finding a good nest becomes more critical the closer they are to maturing,” said Elias.

“In female fights it’s not how big or heavy they are, but how badly they want it,” he added. “That trumps size and weight and whether it’s her territory. They fight until they have nothing left.”

The team’s findings were published online in the June 4 issue of Behavioral Ecology.

Other authors on this study include Maydianne Andrade of the University of Toronto, Andrew Mason of the University of Toronto, and Michael Kasumovic of the University of New South Wales.

Snakes rattle and roll: End of birthing season may mean maximum numbers

It’s not quite a scene from “Snakes on a Plane,” but Ken Gioeli, natural resources agent for the St. Lucie County Cooperative Extension Service, says the Treasure Coast “probably has a maximum number of rattlesnakes in the area about right now.”

The reason, Gioeli said, is that the snakes’ birthing season is nearing an end; and natural predators, such as birds of prey, have not yet brought the snake population back down to normal.

What prompted Gioeli’s pronouncement? He received three reports of rattlesnake sightings over the weekend, and that was after he helped capture a 5-foot Eastern diamondback rattlesnake Friday evening outside his office on the grounds of the extension service office west of Fort Pierce.

The snake had 15 rattles on the end of its tail; adult diamondbacks usually have from six to 10 rattles. Gioeli estimated the rattler to be about 5 years old.

 Ken Gioeli handles an Eastern diamondback rattlesnake that was found Friday afternoon outside the St. Lucie County Cooperative Extension Service office west of Fort Pierce.  Ken Gioeli handles an Eastern diamondback rattlesnake that was found Friday afternoon outside the St. Lucie County Cooperative Extension Service office west of Fort Pierce.

 

Rhonda Irons, spokeswoman for the Martin County Sheriff’s Office, said the animal control division last received a report on a rattlesnake six to eight weeks ago. Lindsay Nester, assistant South Florida regional biologist for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, added: “They (rattlesnakes) are definitely out there, but I wouldn’t say they’re any more than normal.”

Besides diamondbacks, which can grow as long as 8 feet, dusky pygmy rattlesnakes, which commonly reach 1 to 2 feet, call the Treasure Coast home.

“Obviously, they tend to be in areas with more natural space,” Gioeli said, “but they’ve also adapted to living in the suburbs. So people need to be on the lookout for them. They’re hard to see; I was 3 feet away from the one at the (Cooperative Extension Service) office, but it was so perfectly camouflaged in the mulch that I couldn’t see it.”

If you see a rattlesnake at a safe distance, Gioeli said, “Leave it alone and call 911 for animal control officers to come and take care of it.”

 This Eastern diamondback rattlesnake found Friday afternoon in western Fort Pierce has 15 rattles.  This Eastern diamondback rattlesnake found Friday afternoon in western Fort Pierce has 15 rattles.

If you come in close proximity to a rattlesnake while walking or gardening, he said, “Move slowly away from it; don’t make any sudden moves. Then, when you’re a safe distance away, call 911.”

Authorities can capture the snake and relocate it away from inhabited areas. The rattler found at the Extension Service, for example, was released in western St. Lucie County.

“I hope people realize that these snakes all have a role in the environment,” Gioeli said. “For example, they do a really good job of keeping the rodent population down.”

SNAKE FACTS

Fast facts about seldom-seen slitherers:

Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes and dusky pygmy rattlers can be found throughout Florida, except the Florida Keys.

Both species give birth to seven to 12 live babies at a time. Newborn rattlers have venom.

A rattler’s venom remains dangerous after the snake dies; but the notion that stinging insects feeding on the carcass can become venomized is false.

When you see a rattler with its forked tongue stuck out, it’s “tasting the air” with the so-called Jacobson organ on the top of its mouth. The rattler will locate its prey with the Jacobson organ and when it gets close, will sense the heat of the animal with the heat-sensing pits on the sides of its head, hence the term “pit vipers.”

Two other species of venomous snakes — coral snakes and water moccasins — also call the Treasure Coast home.

Between 7,000 and 8,000 people are bitten by snakes each year; five to six people die from snake bites each year. You’re nine times more likely to die from a lightning strike than a snake bite.

The last person in Florida to die from a snake bite was Inocenio Hernandez, 29, who was bitten by a coral snake in June 2006 in Bonita Springs; the state’s most recent fatal rattlesnake bite victim was Joe Guidry, 54, who was bitten by an Eastern diamondback in October 2005 near Gainesville.

To treat a snake bite: Stay as calm as possible and get to an emergency room as soon as possible for treatment with antivenin; don’t try to suck out the venom.

Sources: University of Florida, Ken Gioeli of the St. Lucie County Cooperative Extension Service and Chief Al Cruz, head of the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Venom Response Unit, which catalogs fatal snake bites throughout the country.

HOG Hunting Florida Style

HOG HUNTING PHOTO TAKEN ON N. RIVER RD ,

NEXT TO I-75 & U.S. 41, JUST SOUTH OF NORTH PORT , Florida
 
 




The trick is teaching your retriever to let go of the Hog

once they’ve caught it !