Thursday, July 31, 2008

Sandy Toes Learns about Loggerhead Sea Turtles on Edisto

AAG Note: Loggerhead Sea Turtles are an endangered species. Thanks to efforts up and down the east coast, these guys are being given a fighting chance for their survival. The Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island is a great place to learn more about these graceful creatures. Click here to visit their site and see how you can become involved.

Having just arrived at our destination, we were quick to grab our swimsuits and fall out the door onto the sand of Edisto Beach, South Carolina. Slather on some sunscreen and let the vacation begin. While our expectations were high for the week, we stumbled across other finds that show us high hopes for the future.








Surrounding our beach house on the water side were two areas of orange tape. Looking closely, we could see indentations in the sand and the signs placed by the volunteers who watch the Loggerhead Sea Turtle. We sat smack down in between two turtle nests. One had been there for about 40 days and the other one about 10 days according to beach patrol Gary. Gary, who patrols the beach and is a volunteer loggerhead watcher, was eager to teach us landlubbers about the turtles.

The gracious ladies who come ashore to lay their eggs between May and August are coming home to the island of their birth. These gentle creatures can be up to three feet in size and weigh several hundred pounds. They come ashore at night to lay the ping pong ball sized eggs. Their flippers serve as a shovel and it can take an hour or more for the female to complete her nest. A typical nest will contain approximately 60-180 eggs.

The turtles are easily distracted from the work at hand. Should there be lights on the beach, or animals in the vicinity, the turtle may just crawl up and crawl back, thus exhibiting a "false crawl," whose track shape resembles a horseshoe. Gary told us she would then just abort the eggs into the ocean. A "true crawl" is one where the volunteers who walk the beach at night can locate the nest, and it has two distinct tracks.

Our second morning on the beach was thrilling. Here were new turtle tracks. Our trusty guide Gary showed us how to read the turtle tracks. In front of the nest was a huge "x" as in "x marks the spot." Gary explained the turtle patrol who had watched the turtle during the night placed the "x" to alert him of a new nest. He then placed an orange flag in the center of the nest.

Over the incubation period of the next 50-60 days, Gary and the other turtle watchers will keep a close eye on the nest. As time nears for the eggs to hatch, the sand will start to settle. A shell is then placed on top of the nest to show how much it is sinking. Experienced eyes can read those shells and determine about when the hatchlings will make their appearance. The hatchlings will boil out of the nest and head towards the ocean. The watchers are there in hopes that all of the young will make it there. Imprinting happens as soon as those hatchlings emerge. They follow the light of the moon to the ocean. If there are any lights on at the houses, the little tykes become confused and head towards the road.

Once the turtles go into the water, the males will never again touch land. Only the females will return in about 20 years or so.

Gary explained the process where the turtle watchers verify a nest. The nest will be about 18 to 24 inches down in the sand. A stick is used to verify the eggs' location. From the explanation, a gentle hand is used during this process.

Sometimes the eggs are too close to the high tide mark and have to be moved. Should the nest be moved, each egg must be individually moved without rotating the angle at which it was found. If the eggs are turned, the turtles will not hatch, or they will be deformed. While we were there, the oldest nest in front of our house had to be moved. There was an extremely high tide one night and the front part of the nest would not have been above the water line for more than a few days at most. The patrol moved the eggs about 30 feet. While this nest only had a few weeks left to go in its incubation phase, it was the only way any of the eggs will have a chance to hatch.

According to Gary, the female turtles will come ashore three or four times during the season to lay their eggs. The survival rate of the little tykes from the laying to adulthood is only about 1 in a thousand.

These animals can survive for close to 200 years. Full of grace and beauty, they are on the endangered list. Survival from predators who are natural and non-natural have severely depleted this turtle population. Over development on beaches and the loss of sandy beach for their nests have also taken their toll.

Protect the sea turtle. Give them hope. Give us hope.

Until next time,
Sandy Toes on Edisto

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Wild Side of Georgia Tech

In a community where greater enrollment is often the goal, several members of the Tech community are concerned with keeping their numbers at a status quo.

Construction project manager Steven Johnson and utilities analyst Susan Wardrope work to keep feral cats on campus at a sustainable level, all while preventing more from moving in. Together with a network of campus participants, the group works on its own time—and in most cases, its own dime—to alter, monitor and feed these felines.

A part of Auxiliary Services during his “day” job, Johnson instills the practice of Trap, Neuter and Release (TNR), which works to equalize rather than eliminate feral cat populations. When animal control officers capture these cats, euthanasia is the typical result, as they are well past the age of human socialization. In doing this, a vacuum is created wherein other feral cats will just move into the area, continuing the cycle.

However, the central TNR theory is that a controlled community of altered cats aids in maintaining area populations and keeping more feral cats from moving in.

“The best advantages to having them altered is that they start to concentrate around the feeding stations, and they don’t have any urge to mate,” Wardrope said. “They have their food, their sleeping place and their area that they’re familiar with.”

“They defend their territory, keeping other cats from moving into the area, which stabilizes the population,” Johnson said. “An unaltered male will travel up to three miles. An altered cat will only travel about 300 meters.”

The program at Tech started in 1996. “We’d get reports of cats in the area,” said Johnson, who added he discovered students and employees were leaving food for the animals.

He said they counted 19 adult and juvenile cats on East Campus in those early days. In the first full feral cat census for the Institute, Johnson said they easily counted 179 cats in late 1998—32 in one colony that lived in the president’s glade. (Today, Johnson says, that colony is down to three occasional visitors.) Now, as far as Johnson and his group can tell, about 34 cats call Tech home, including only two or three unaltered females—which Johnson says he is still trying to trap.

According to the duo, 30 to 35 cats on campus is very sustainable. Each feeding station has enough of a colony for one dominant male and one dominant female that protect the territory. This “territorial management practice” leads to a fairly accurate understanding of where overlap between the colonies exists.

Johnson and Wardrope work to answer the call—literally—if someone reports a cat on campus. “I’ll go out that night, see if it’s a new cat or one of our own,” Johnson said. “If it’s a new cat, I’ll try to stake it out and see where it’s going—to established food stations or somewhere else.” Sometimes, Johnson said, people who don’t know about the campus program put a food dish outside of a building for any “strays” they see.

If it is determined that a sighted cat is a new “resident,” Johnson traps it—an undertaking that may require several hours of waiting. (“I know all the third-shift police officers by name.”) He keeps the caged animal in his garage overnight and then carries it to the vet the next morning. The cats are neutered or spayed, vaccinated—many for the first time—and dosed with flea control medication. Males are released the following day after surgery. Females are released three days later. For captured kittens, Johnson either finds adoptive families or takes them to no-kill shelters after they are socialized.

“Without a feeding program to localize a colony, you’ll continue to have mangy-looking cats that are more susceptible to diseases and other vectors that they can catch.” But, in what could be seen as a disadvantage in the program, unaltered females tend to have larger litters because of the better nutrition. “When we first started, cats were giving birth to four, where only 50 percent survived. Now they can give birth to a litter of nine, and seven will survive,” he said.

One challenge Johnson and Wardrope have noticed is well-wishers often will leave food out, which aids in diluting established feeding stations. “We leave a note and let them know,” he said. “We’re trying to get the word out that there is a good program—just by going from 179 to 34 cats shows it’s working.”

But Johnson and Wardrope are by no means acting alone. Roughly 30 people are on his e-mail list, Johnson said, and about six handle the campus-wide feeding stations. Johnson himself handles the heavy lifting: tracking the cats’ movements and trapping them.

“We just started doing this out-of-pocket,” Johnson said. Through the e-mail network, however, people donated food and money for surgeries beyond spaying and neutering.

The duo’s efforts have led to collaborations outside the Institute. When Fulton County’s Animal Control units respond to an on-campus call, Johnson receives a courtesy call if it’s a cat issue. This in turn has expanded his TNR efforts, establishing partnerships with Fulton, Cobb, Douglas and DeKalb counties.

“It’s a quid pro quo,” he says. “Fulton County has the Fix ‘Em Free program. When they found out we were running this initiative at Tech, they offered us use of this program. In exchange, when they have reports of a feral colony somewhere, I’m available to go out and talk to people [about TNR].”

In assisting with feral cat colonies in off-campus communities, Johnson explains the Trap, Neuter and Return philosophy, letting people know the usual fate of a feral animal taken to a shelter. “Once people learn about the program, and Steve offers to take [the cats] in to have them altered and vaccinated, they usually have no problem throwing food out for them,” Wardrope said.

“I volunteer to support both the Fulton County Animal Services and Catlanta, a local organization that is basically the feral cat coordinator of the Lifeline Animal Project.” Catlanta recently received a grant to aid in the spaying and neutering of feral cats within the area. It’s a supplement to what Fulton County currently provides, and the group is now in negotiations with DeKalb County to create a similar “Fix ‘Em Free” program.

“We’ll help get them spayed or neutered, all of them are vaccinated for rabies [and] they can receive additional vaccinations, if requested,” Johnson said, adding that almost all counties have a low-cost program that supplements the cost of altering a cat or dog. “I mainly concentrate on the feral cats, and I’ll go out and do the assessment—is it just a backyard colony; or an abandoned cat colony that’s gone feral. Then I’ll report to the agency that’s going to sponsor it—Catlanta [or] Southern Hope.”

And evidence points to TNR reducing the load on animal shelters. Excepting a spike due to foreclosure increases, Johnson said, Fulton County has noticed a marked reduction in the amount of feral cats brought to the shelter.

According to Johnson, Atlanta-area programs have attracted the attention of several national organizations, including the Humane Society of the United States and Alley Cat Allies (which fights for TNR protocols nationwide). “We haven’t gotten our city commissions to enact ordinances yet, but we’re working toward that.”

Some organizations, however, oppose the principles of TNR, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), The Wildlife Society and the American Bird Conservancy. PETA states on its Web site: “Because of the huge number of feral cats and the severe shortage of good homes, the difficulty of socialization, and the dangers lurking where most feral cats live, it may be necessary—and the most compassionate choice—to euthanize feral cats. ... If you leave them where they are, they will almost certainly die a painful death. A painless injection is far kinder than any fate that feral cats will meet if they are left to survive on their own.”

Johnson doesn’t see it that way.

“In a managed colony, human caretakers have just made portions of [the cats’] lives easier by removing the stress of producing multiple litters,” he said. “By offering a tended food station, caretakers provide a steady supplemental food source, which also permits the cats to be observed for injuries and, when necessary, to be trapped for treatment. A minority of cats specialize in bird hunting as opposed to rodent hunting,” Johnson concedes. “But rodents are still the main natural prey species of outdoor cats. Just because one might kill a chipmunk or Carolina wren does not mean they, as a species living within a habitat, deserve to be exterminated.”

Overall, Johnson and Wardrope are trying to get the feral cat management plan under way in the metro area, and then slowly branch out to the outlying counties. And he’s been reaching out to other University System of Georgia units.

But as for Tech, the next steps for the program include establishing the Library and Information Center’s feeding station and then moving further north on campus to the Howey building and the College of Computing. “We’ve gotten reports from the building manager, as well as from the College of Computing, that they’ve seen cats in the area. We’re trying to identify where would be the best place to establish a feeding station.”

Partnership Saves 100 Threatened Gopher Tortoises from Construction in Florida

The Humane Society of the United States, Nokuse Plantation, D.R. Horton Homebuilders, Bio-Tech Consulting and local volunteers have relocated about 100 threatened gopher tortoises from a 45-acre development site in Zellwood, Fla. The tortoises were moved from the Zellwood Station subdivision to a permanent home at Nokuse Plantation, a non-profit conservation area in Walton County.

Until 2007, the state did not require the relocation or removal of gopher tortoises prior to construction. The state's "incidental take" permit program permitted the destruction of more than 100,000 imperiled gopher tortoises. The tortoises were often buried alive, causing a slow and inhumane death for the animals.

Although developers with grandfathered "incidental take" permits are still not required by law to relocate tortoises, Texas-based D.R. Horton Homebuilders took steps to ensure the safe removal of tortoises from the Zellwood site before construction.

"The Humane Society of the United States applauds D. R. Horton for acting to save the tortoises who were living on this site," said Jennifer Hobgood, The HSUS' Florida state director. "We hope that other developers will follow D.R. Horton's lead and humanely relocate the other tortoises whose homes are threatened by construction projects."

With assistance from donations and a grant from a private foundation, The HSUS helped to fund the project and transport tortoises to Nokuse Plantation. Monitoring and assessing the tortoises after the relocation efforts will provide crucial information for future projects.

"We are very excited to receive the tortoises from the Zellwood Station site and commend D.R. Horton, local volunteers and The HSUS for working with us to save these animals," said Matthew J. Aresco, conservation director of Nokuse Plantation. "We will closely monitor the tortoises to ensure they acclimate well to their new home and will specifically manage their habitat so they will eventually be part of the breeding population."

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Dog Adoption Is A Life-Changing Event

(NAPSI)-There’s good news, bad news and better news about pets.

The good news: A recent report by the American Veterinary Medical Association found that about 63 percent of all households in the United States have a pet.

The bad news: 5 to 7 million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide every year and about 3 to 4 million are euthanized.

The better news: One solution to reduce the number of pet deaths is adoption.

Adopting a dog is a life-changing event. Dogs need lots of time and attention, requiring owners to be there every day. Therefore, it’s critical to find out whether you’re actually ready for a dog or would be happier with a goldfish instead.

“Making sure people are fully prepared to adopt a dog means a happier home and longer life for the dog,” said dog expert Trevor Wright. “Taking the time to thoughtfully consider if you are ready can reduce the number of abandoned and neglected pets.”

Here are a few things to consider when adopting a dog:

1. Are your children ready? Babies and toddlers can’t be trained as easily as dogs, which is why many experts recommend waiting until children are at least 8 years old before bringing a canine into the mix. If you’re set on getting a dog and have small children in the house, consider adopting an easygoing adult dog who’ll need less attention than a growing puppy.

2. Is the decision to adopt unanimous? Dogs shed, bark and can be messy. Unless the whole household is fond of your dog, it’s easy for resentment to build. It also makes it hard to set and enforce house rules, such as whether the dog can join you on the couch.

3. Consider the costs. On average, expect to spend about $800 during the first year of your dog’s life. If you live in a city where vet costs are higher, work full-time and need backup care, and want to give him at least a few treats, it can easily climb to $1,200 to $1,800 annually.

4. No yard? No problem. Some people believe a fenced-in yard is critical to having a dog. In fact, a yard can become an excuse for not walking or exercising your dog daily. Dogs spending most of their time in the backyard miss out on meeting other dogs and people, which keeps them happy and well socialized.

Wright’s company, DogTime, an online pet network, has created powerful tools in the fight against abandoned and neglected dogs. “Are You Ready?” is an online quiz to determine if you are ready to bring a dog into your home. After answering multiple-choice questions, you can link to “DogFinder MatchUp” to help determine what kind of dog is right for you based on your personality.

Learn More

For more information, visit www.dogtime.com.

Finding the right dog for you may be just a click away.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Congress Addressing Horse Slaughter Cruelty in New Federal Legislation

A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers has introduced legislation to ban the slaughter of American horses for human consumption overseas, as well as the export of American horses to other countries for slaughter. House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) introduced the bill, H.R. 6598, known as the Conyers-Burton Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act of 2008.

In addition to Conyers and Burton, the original co-sponsors of the legislation include Reps. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), Walter Jones (R-N.C.), Bobby Scott (D-Va.), Jim Moran (D-Va.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Betty Sutton (D-Ohio). The legislation has strong support from The Humane Society of the United States and other animal protection organizations.

"Every day the Congress waits, there will be more torment and more suffering for America's horses," said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States. "The horse is an American icon, and it is a betrayal of our responsibility to these animals to treat them like cheap commodities and send them across our borders for slaughter. We ask leaders in Congress for an up or down vote before the end of the session."

State legislatures have recently acted to ban horse slaughter, shuttering the last remaining foreign-owned horse slaughter plants in the U.S., but Congress has failed to act to stop the export of live horses to Canada and Mexico for slaughter. More than 45,000 horses have been sent across U.S. borders to slaughter in Canada or Mexico so far in 2008, surpassing the number of exports to date in 2007.

Past congressional actions on horse slaughter have demonstrated a strong, bipartisan desire to prohibit killing horses for human consumption. In the 109th Congress, legislation to stop horse slaughter passed the House of Representatives numerous times by a margin of more than 100 votes, and passed the Senate by a more than two-to-one margin. But so far in the 110th Congress, the existing legislation, H.R. 503 by Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), and John Spratt (D-S.C.), and S. 311 by Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and John Ensign (R-Nev.), has not yet been enacted because it has been blocked by House committee leaders and Western senators. Animal advocates hope the new bill will advance quickly in Chairman Conyers' House Judiciary Committee.

Butchering horses is a particularly cruel end for these loyal and trusting creatures. The HSUS documented the cruelty and abuse when investigators followed "killer buyers" transporting horses thousands of miles from auctions to feedlots to interstate highways. They also documented a barbaric method of slaughter on a kill floor in Juarez, Mexico. Thousands of horses are stabbed with short knives, a method that leaves them paralyzed and unable to breathe. The animals are still conscious as they are hoisted up by a chain and their throats slit.

The HSUS is joined by members of Congress, the National Show Horse Registry, American Horse Defense Fund, Veterinarians for Equine Welfare, United States Equine Sanctuary & Rescue, American Walking Pony Association, American Indian Horse Registry, Palomino Horse Association, United States Eventing Association, National Thoroughbred Racing Association, National Steeplechase Association, Churchill Downs and more than 500 endorsing organizations along with the majority of Americans in support of the Conyers-Burton Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act.

Friday, July 25, 2008

How To Keep Your Pet Healthy In Warm Weather

(SPM Wire) Keeping your pet healthy is important year-round, but especially so in warmer weather when heat and humidity can pose unique risks.

With this in mind, the experts at PetMD.org, the 3-D digital magazine dedicated to pet health care, are serving up some helpful advice:

Keep water in multiple locations for your pet. Water bowls can turn over easily, get dirty or grow bacteria. Also take water with you for your pet when you travel or hike.

Don't leave your pet in the car, as it takes only a few minutes for it to get hot... even with cracked windows. It's actually against the law in many states.

Know your pet's heat tolerance. Heat and humidity, combined with age, health, obesity and type of breed or type of pet all factor into heat tolerance. Dogs and cats -- whose normal body temperature is between 100 and 102.5 degrees -- don't do well in heat, especially if they get dehydrated. Cats sweat through their paws and will lick themselves to cool down, become inactive, and seek cool places. Above 85 or 90 degrees, they can get stressed. Dogs don't lose heat as fast as humans, and, therefore, heat quickly can become a health risk.

Throw away uneaten pet food. Bacteria grow faster when it's hot, so uneaten food should be thrown out. More frequent, smaller portions may be appropriate during warmer months.

For more pet care advice visit www.petmd.org.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Bald Eaglets Released Into Foothills of Great Smokies Named By Miley & Billy Ray Cyrus

BUSINESS WIRE --Two 14-week old bald eaglets named Hope and Tennessee by Hannah Montana TV stars Miley Cyrus and her father Billy Ray were released by the non-profit American Eagle Foundation (AEF) from an artificial nesting tower located on Douglas Lake in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. A group of Mileys fans was on hand to help set the eagles free.

The birds flew majestically while discovering their newfound freedom right after the nesting tower door was opened by several of Mileys East Tennessee fans, said AEF founder and President Al Cecere. This is yet another step in our efforts to fully bring back eagles to our nations lands, waterways and skies."

The young eagles named by the Cyruses were hatched from non-releasable parents earlier this spring at the AEFs United States Eagle Center at the Dollywood family adventure park in Pigeon Forge, TN. Five other captive-hatched eaglets were also released.

A song titled Wake Up America appears on Mileys new record album (Breakout) that expresses the singers feelings about protecting our Earth and Americas natural resources:

The Earth is calling out
I wanna learn
What it's all about
Everything I read
Is global warming,
Going green
Wake up America
We're all in this together
It's our home
So let's take care of it

To date, 313 captive-hatched and translocated bald eaglets have been released in Tennessee since the early 1980s - with 95 eaglets released at the Douglas Lake location.

There are presently an estimated 77 successful wild nests in Tennessee that fledged about 135 young last year. The state had no known occupied eagle nests in the early 1980s.

Although the bald eagle was delisted from Endangered Species Act protection in June 2007, Americas living symbol isnt out of the woods yet, said Cecere. The birds fight for future survival will be an on-going process."

According to the AEF, it will cost millions of dollars to monitor and protect eagle nests on private lands nationally for the remainder of this decade and beyond.

The conservation group hopes to raise an initial $10 million from the general public for its American Eagle Fund endowment by 2009 - to help monitor and protect the bald eagle for future generations.

A special United States Mint commemorative eagle coin set that went on sale in January 2008 has already raised over $6 million for the Fund, and could potentially raise over $10 million by the end of the year with the publics support (www.usmint.gov). The coins celebrate the eagles successful recovery to America.

Its the responsibility of every American to participate in keeping this precious national treasure flying strong and free forever, said Cecere.

AKC Responsible Dog Ownership Day Events Unleashed

Are you interested in learning training and grooming tips from the pros? Or considering adding a new family member? Be sure to mark "AKC® Responsible Dog Ownership Day" on your calendar. This month-long celebration includes hundreds of organizations around the country holding free events filled with fun and engaging activities for every current or future dog owner. AKC Responsible Dog Ownership Day events are held throughout September and are listed on www.akc.org.

"Due to the increasingly important role dogs play in our lives, practicing responsible dog ownership and training our dogs to be good citizens is more vital than ever. According to an AKC survey, 88% of pet owners consider their dogs family members," said AKC spokesperson Lisa Peterson. "It is important for dog owners to be courteous and respectful of their neighbors so we can strengthen relationships between dog owners and non-owners in our communities."

Each AKC Responsible Dog Ownership Day event is unique but many include obedience and agility demonstrations, Meet the Breeds, microchipping clinics, breed rescue information, therapy dog/service dog demonstrations, health clinics, safety around dogs for kids, giveaways and other entertaining and educational activities. If you want to show your friends and family what a respectable member of society your dog can be, take the AKC Canine Good Citizen® (CGC) Test. This 10-step test certification rewards well-mannered, obedient dogs – and is offered at many of our events.

Listings of all events can be found and searched by state at http://www.akc.org/clubs/rdod/events/. The site will be updated weekly to reflect new additions. Over 200 local events have been entered to date.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Letter from Georgia Heartland Humane Society

Georgia Heartland Humane Society (GHHS) could not help abused and abandoned animals without the support of the community. We thank Fayette Front Page for championing our causes. Coverage of Buster the cat, our entry in the Humane Society of the United States Photo Contest, resulted in seed money for our Pet Overpopulation Initiative. Extensive coverage of our major fund raiser, increased participation in the Doggie Dash, pushing receipts to the highest level ever. Readers have given donations through our website www.gaheartland.com.

GHHS is an all volunteer organization. Our committed volunteers would work tirelessly without a word of praise or thanks, but it lifts our spirits to know that Fayette Front Page shares and supports our cause to help the unwanted pets in Fayette and Coweta Counties.

Barbara Grossee
President
Georgia Heartland Humane Society

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Giant Wasps Not After Humans

The scary two-and-a-half-inch wasps hovering over Julie Barkley’s flowerbeds drove the Athens, Ga., resident inside and to her computer.

“I have three children, and we avoid the outdoors because not only of the size of this insect but of the vicious appearance, too,” she said.

Online, she learned that the wasps are called cicada killers. To find out how to get rid of them, she shot off an e-mail to University of Georgia Cooperative Extension.

The answer she got back would likely surprise most proactive, bug-spraying Georgians. UGA Extension entomologist Will Hudson told her to leave the wasps alone. There’s really no reason for homeowners to try to kill them. They aren’t after humans. They’re after just one thing: cicadas.

“Try to see them as another part of Georgia’s wildlife,” he said.

Summer is cicada season, the time the insects start to hatch and the female cicada killer goes on the hunt, he said.

When the wasp catches a cicada, she stings it, carries it to her burrow and lays an egg on it. She lays many eggs, but each one gets a cicada. A female egg may get two, Hudson said. The larva feeds on the paralyzed, but not yet dead, cicada. It pupates and emerge the next year to complete the cycle.

“The wasps are in your yard looking for food for the next generation,” Hudson told Barkley. “You are just another part of the landscape to them, and they pose no threat. While the wasps can deliver a painful sting if provoked, you pretty much have to grab one or try to prevent her from taking a cicada to her burrow to get stung. Who’s going to do that?”

As a child, Hudson and his brother used to chase cicada killers around and try to hit them with brooms. The boys never got stung, he said.

For the past week, Hudson has been fielding calls about the wasps from UGA Extension agents all over Georgia. Most of the calls come from Georgians who want to know what to spray on the wasps to kill them.

Unlike bees, wasps and fire ants, cicada killers are not social insects. They have no workers or soldiers whose sole job is to protect the nest. The female cicada killer is on her own.

“If she stings you and you swat her in retaliation, that’s it,” Hudson said. “She’s not going to be able to reproduce. With bees, the colony can afford to lose some of them and it doesn’t matter. She’s all there is.”

Cicadas can be pests, Hudson said. They lay their eggs in the stems of trees. When they start hatching, a lot of twigs start dying, especially during a heavy outbreak.

“That’s usually not any big deal, but for nurserymen, it can be a problem,” Hudson said. “It changes the growth habit of the tree they’re trying to grow and sell.”

Hudson reminded Barkley that looks can be deceiving and not to be fooled by something’s appearance.

“Hummingbirds look like they could peck the stew out of you with that long, sharp beak, right?” he said. “Cicada killers are no more threatening than hummingbirds, unless you are a cicada.”

By Stephanie Schupska
University of Georgia

Stephanie Schupska is a news editor for the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Petiquette for Summer Entertaining

(ARA) – Humans are not the only ones who look forward to summer. Imagine warm weather from your pet’s perspective – long walks in parks full of green grass and interesting aromas for dogs, and hours of bird-watching from a sunny window for cats. It’s also fun for pets to be part of the festivities when their human “parents” do some summer entertaining. However the definition of a party for a furry friend is very different from that of its care takers.

How do you include the furry members of the family into summer entertaining without turning a backyard barbecue into a doggie food free-for-all or the evening dinner party into a feline hissy fit? By carefully planning and managing your pet’s interactions with guests and preparing for the big day, it is possible to keep Fluffy or Fido an enjoyable part of your celebration, says Charlotte Reed, pet care expert and author of “The Miss Fido Manners Complete Book of Dog Etiquette”.

“Petiquette for summer entertaining is a fine balancing act, but one that offers significant rewards for you and your pets,” Reed says. “Your guests can enjoy the presence of a well-behaved pet and a fresh, odor-free home.”

Here are Reed’s tips for making summer entertaining as enjoyable as possible for your pets and your guests:

1. Make your pets’ presence known.

While most summer guests will likely know your pet status, some may not, especially if they are recent acquaintances or first-time visitors to your home. Be sure to alert guests to what type of pets you have at home at the time you invite them to visit. From strong allergies to pet hair aversions, there are many reasons why guests may want to know ahead of time what furry friends will be at the party.

2. Freshen and clean.

Bathe and groom your pet before the summer party. “It’s very common for pet owners to become so used to their pet’s aromas that they don’t even notice them anymore,” Reed says. “But your guests likely will, especially when they come into your home from fun in the sun outdoors.”

In addition to helping your pet clean up, be sure to freshen your home as well. Vacuum carpets, fabric upholstery and drapes just a few hours before guests arrive. Use a pet odor elimination product, like Febreze Air Effects Pet Odor Eliminator, to remove pet odors from the air. “Avoid products that simply cover up pet odors with stronger scents. Febreze actually eliminates pet odor and replaces it with a light, refreshing scent,” Reed says.

3. The ABCs of introductions and interaction.

First impressions mean a lot. “If your dog jumps up on people every time he meets them, he won’t be giving a good impression,” Reed says. If your dog has a tendency to jump, work with him for several weeks before the party to train him to sit and lay. As guests arrive, keep your pet on a leash and personally introduce him to each new guest. Encourage guests to interact with him calmly and firmly so that he doesn’t forget his manners in the excitement of meeting someone new.

Likewise, if your pet is simply not that social, don’t force her to interact with guests. Allow cats to retreat to their favorite hiding spot – few felines are into the party scene. And if your dog seems stressed by the attention and action, allow him some quiet time in a private place. “There’s no point in forcing your pet to interact with your guests if he or she doesn’t want to,” Reed says.

4. Fend off food fights.

Food discipline should start long before the party, Reed advises. “You may think your dog’s begging eyes are adorable and irresistible, but few things are more unappetizing to house guests than a pet begging for food,” she says. Train your pet not to beg at the table. And if he or she simply can’t break the habit, then confine him to quarters when the food is served.

Discourage guests from feeding pets tidbits or table treats. “The last thing you want is a pet with an upset stomach because he ate too much human food,” Reed says.

Febreze Air Effects Pet Odor Eliminator is available in grocery and drug stores nationwide. To learn more, visit www.febreze.com.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Federal Court Orders Coast Guard to Review Shipping Routes to Protect Endangered Right Whales

The federal Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia issued a major decision in the ongoing battle to save the world's last remaining North Atlantic right whales. Ruling on a lawsuit filed by Defenders of Wildlife, The Humane Society of the United States, Ocean Conservancy and other whale advocates, the Court ordered the Coast Guard to review the impact of shipping traffic lanes on endangered whales. The ruling is a crucial step toward altering shipping lanes to stop ship strikes in critically endangered right whale habitat.

"We applaud the court's decision," said Robert Dreher, vice president of conservation law for Defenders of Wildlife. "Ship collisions are the greatest threat to the survival of the right whale, so ensuring that the Coast Guard protects the whale in setting shipping lanes is a great conservation victory."

Ship strikes are the leading cause of injuries and mortalities to the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale. Vessel strikes are known to kill or injure a minimum of three whales each year on the East Coast, and a number of ship strikes are believed to go unreported. Only about 350 North Atlantic right whales are left, and according to the National Marine Fisheries Service the loss of even one whale brings the species closer to extinction. The North Atlantic right whale is protected under both the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

"This decision is a wake-up call for the Coast Guard," said Jonathan R. Lovvorn, vice president of animal protection litigation for The HSUS. "The agency cannot just stand idly by while the last few right whales are run into the ground by the shipping industry."

In 2006 the National Marine Fisheries Service proposed a rule to limit ship speeds in right whale habitat to further avoid ship strikes. The Bush Administration has delayed implementation of this rule even though slower speeds are necessary to save this endangered species.

"The Court made clear that U.S. Coast Guard has an obligation to protect endangered whales from ship strikes by assessing its routing measures," said Vicki Cornish, vice president of marine wildlife conservation at Ocean Conservancy. "However, the Bush Administration shares this responsibility and it has yet to act on speed restrictions. The Office of Management and Budget needs to stop delaying vital protections before we lose right whales forever."

The same plaintiffs recently filed a new lawsuit regarding NMFS's refusal to impose emergency ship speed restrictions while the agency's 2006 proposed rule is being finalized. The Court noted in today's decision that the continued delay in finalizing the proposed rule "cast doubt" on the propriety of refusing to issue emergency measures.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Interns Study 'Rare' Specimen

AAG Note: This story caught our attention. What a great way to spend the summer!

Four student interns with the Georgia Museum of Natural History are reconstructing the skeletal remains of a pygmy sperm whale as part of an upper level anthropology internship.

The skeleton of the small whale species was originally discovered in 1987,....

By David White
University of Georgia
Red and Black
July 17, 2008

Read the story.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

I am "Evidence"

Last spring, a young male zebra was found severely injured on I-75 south of Atlanta, Georgia. Noah's Ark Animal Rehabilitation Center in Locust Grove was called by the DNR to see if they could assist. They had him stitched up by a local vet and put a call out to the area veterinary schools to see if they could save his life. Auburn University was the first group to call back with the words, "Get him here."

Now, three months and several surgeries later, the young zebra has gained 60 pounds and has a permanent home with Noah's Ark. His name is Evidence and he made his public debut on July 12, 2008.





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New Initiative Unleashes the Power of Paws™

AAG Note: Kudos to Canine Assistants in Alpharetta for being a part of this adventure. We think it's great.

BUSINESS WIRE --Pets and people getting healthy together. Thats the heart of a new national initiative called Power of Paws that educates consumers about the mutual health benefits that both pets and pet parents enjoy and motivates them to spend time together and connect.

Studies show there are significant physical, mental, and emotional benefits for both pets and pet parents, said Bill Pearce, chief marketing officer for Del Monte Foods, the lead program partner. Its as easy as taking your dog for a walk. Researchers say youll walk farther with your pet than you would if you were walking alone an activity that benefits you both. Our family of brands, including Milk-Bone, Meow Mix, Kibbles n Bits, Pup-Peroni, and Snausages have always been focused on enriching the lives of pets and pet parents by encouraging them to enjoy active lifestyles together. We are very pleased to join with multiple pet partners to unleash the Power of Paws. Were excited to hear from consumers as they share the impact pets and people make in each others lives.

Research Proves the Benefits of the Pet/Human Bond

New research is proving the physical and emotional benefits of pet ownership for adults, seniors and even children.

  • Studies have indicated that pet parents have lower blood pressure and plasma triglycerides than non-pet owners.
  • Heart patients are nearly five times more likely to survive a heart attack if they own a pet.
  • Just two brisk 15-minute walks with a dog each day satisfies the standard for aerobic exercise for humans and pets. Daily exercise can lengthen a dogs life.
  • Other research has connected pet ownership with better psychological health and enhanced self-esteem and social interaction.

Power of Paws Supports New Discovery Health Documentary Premiering Sunday, July 20, 2008

Educating consumers about the health benefits of pets is a key component of the Power of Paws program. Thats why Power of Paws is supporting a new show called Pets and People: The Power of the Health Connection premiering Sunday, July 20 at 9 a.m. ET on Discovery Health. Hosted by Animal Planets Jeff Corwin, the documentary explores the impact pets have on blood pressure, how assistance and therapy dogs can help wounded veterans and autistic children and the unwavering social support pets give their owners without asking for anything in return except love and affection. Encore airings of the show are scheduled through September on these dates and times: Sunday, July 27 at 8 a.m. ET; Saturday, August 9 at 8 a.m. ET; Saturday, August 16 at 9 a.m. ET; Saturday, August 30 at 9 a.m. ET; and Saturday, September 6 at 9 a.m. ET.

Consumers Invited to Tell their Tail and Raise Money for Power of Paws Partners

Power of Paws is celebrating the power of the pet/human bond by making pets more accessible to those who need daily assistance or a loving friend. Thats why Bergin University of Canine Studies in Santa Rosa, CA, Animal Medical Center in New York City, Animal Friends in Pittsburgh, PA and Canine Assistants in Alpharetta, GA have joined this effort.

The Power of Paws partners know that pets and people are better together, said Lisa Henriksen, Del Montes vice president of innovation and business development. Whether its outreach and education, bringing pets to those in need or improving animal health, were proud to help launch the Power of Paws initiative so people across the country can learn about and experience the mutual benefits of pet companionship.

It seems that every pet parent has a story to tell about the way their doting dog or cuddly cat makes their life more fulfilling and enhances their physical, mental and emotional health. Now consumers can watch more than 100 inspiring video testimonials about pets that have helped their owners get healthier, recover/cope with an illness, deal with grief or live independently by visiting www.powerofpaws.com. These heartfelt stories told by diverse people from across the nation share one common thread: each persons life is better and healthier because of a pet.

More devoted pet parents can tell their tail by logging on to www.powerofpaws.com. For every eligible person who signs up to share their story, request a Power of Paws DVD and brochure or receive a Power of Paws newsletter, the Power of Paws brand partners will donate $1 to the initiatives charity partners (up to $225,000). Visit www.powerofpaws.com for the terms and conditions of this offer.

Pets are Paws-itive for Kids and Seniors

Kids and seniors often benefit most from their relationships with dogs and cats:

  • Reading books to pets make kids more self-confident and improves their reading skills.
  • Kids who suffer from attention deficit disorder (ADD) learn to concentrate by focusing on a pet.
  • Children who own pets score significantly higher on empathy and pro-social orientation scales than non-owners.
  • Kids ages 11-16 with pets have better ability to understand non-verbal communications.
  • Autistic children reap the rewards of daily interaction with their furry friend. A pet helps facilitate social interactions plus it creates an emotional and educational bridge between a child and other people by becoming a modality for communication.
  • Seniors who have pets visit physicians 21 percent less often than those who do not have pets.
  • Elderly pet parents are less likely to feel lonely.

Pets Enjoy Health Benefits Too

Dogs and cats enjoy health benefits as a result of their relationship with their pet parents:

  • Studies show that 30 percent of dogs and 25 percent of cats are overweight which contributes to a shorter lifespan and an increased risk of arthritis, cancer, diabetes and other health concerns.
  • Walking is a great way for your pet to get exercise and achieve ideal weight. Studies show that dogs and cats who maintain their weight live a longer life.
  • Pets thrive with daily physical and mental stimulation from their owners because it builds confidence and trust.
  • Food and treats are great ways for owners to connect and bond with their pets.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

New Lighting Guidelines for Jekyll Island Beaches to Protect Endangered Sea Turtles

PRNewswire -- The Jekyll Island State Park Authority (JIA) today announced it's intentions to set greater restrictions on lights near its natural beaches in order to protect sea turtles from the adverse effects of artificial light. The move, once approved as a new ordinance for the state-owned island, will likely be the model for beach lighting ordinances for all of Georgia's coast communities.

Artificial lighting is the light that emanates from any man-made device, such as street-lights, tree lights, beach-walk lanterns, and neon signs. This new ordinance, which strictly defines what will and will not be allowed on and near the beach, will be regulated and enforced by the JIA.

"Jekyll Island is well-known for its conservation efforts, especially through the work of the Georgia Sea Turtle Center," said Ben Porter, chairman of the Jekyll Island State Park Authority. "This is another big step towards making Jekyll Island one of the most environmentally-friendly communities on the East Coast."

The new ordinance was developed in conjunction with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources with vital input from the experts at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center. Once approved, illumination of certain beaches will be prohibited at nighttime during the sea turtle nesting season for the protection of the nesting females and hatchling sea turtles making their way into the sea. Oftentimes hatchlings will confuse artificial lighting with the reflection of the moon, which they use as a marker to get to the ocean once they hatch.

"We were pleased to see the Jekyll Island Authority take the lead in placing these restrictions into an enforceable ordinance," said Noel Holcomb, Commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources. "As Chairman of the Shore Protection Committee, I will promote the standards within this ordinance to the Shore Protection Committee as we consider beachfront projects for permitting under the Shore Protection Act."

Lighting may still be operated during the nesting season if the light, or reflection, is not directly visible from the beach. But the majority of the lights will be low-intensity lighting, such as amber or red LEDs, red neon lights and "Turtle Safe Lighting," which are coated and compact florescent lamps under 13 watts. Additionally, the ordinance states that tinting will be installed on all windows and glass doors within line-of-sight of the beach.

The new ordinance was announced by the Jekyll Island Authority at its regular meeting on Monday. The "first reading" of any new ordinance must be posted for public review, anyone interested in reading the proposed ordinance language can view it on the Authority's Web site at www.jekyllislandauthority.org . The Jekyll Island Authority is expected to adopt the new ordinance at its regular meeting in August.

Giant Squids Land at Dover Air Force Base

A 326th Airlift Squadron aircrew landed at Dover Air Force Base, Del., July 11 with two giant squids in its cargo compartment.

The two sea creatures were transported in a C-17 Globemaster III cargo aircraft from Europe and will be delivered to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. The female preserved specimen, which will become the largest on display in the United States, measures 24 and a half feet long. The male is 9 feet long.

"My daughter is going to think I am the coolest dad ever," said Air Force Master Sgt. Phillip Vicker, a 326th AS loadmaster whose mission was to load and balance all of the cargo, including the squids, onto the aircraft.

Even though none of the aircrew or passengers could physically see the squids, Vicker said, everyone could still see the long box labeled with 'giant squids' stickers.

"They were really pumped up about it; they kept asking, 'Are those really squids in there?'" he said. "Even we didn't believe it when we first saw it on the cargo manifest."

The shipping container for the pair of squids was not as long as the actual bodies inside. The project manager at the Smithsonian, Elizabeth Musteen, said this was because the specimens' arms and tentacles were folded over the top of their mantles. However, when on display, the female will be fully expanded horizontally, and the male will be encased in a vertical state, she added.

"These specimens, brought up in deep-sea fishing nets off the coast of northern Spain, are expected to be a main attraction," Musteen said.

The giant squids will make their public debut Sept. 27, when the Smithsonian opens its new Sant Ocean Hall, an exhibition area designed to support ocean education.

"I can't wait to take the family to the display," said Air Force Maj. Mark Chagaris, one of the C-17 pilots who brought the deep ocean dwellers to the United States. "I can say, 'Your daddy helped bring that over here.'"

After unloading the squids from the C-17, four 436th Aerial Port Squadron airmen prepared the squids for transport to the Smithsonian by truck.

"There's nothing we can't handle," said Air Force Airman 1st Class David Strong, one of the four ramp services specialists who moved the 10-tentacled creatures. "If there's anything that needs to be shipped, we take care of it."

Dover's porters work for the world's largest aerial port, and are trained to load or unload cargo weighing 5 to 2 million pounds, and many have experience moving odd objects.

Air Force Senior Airman Michael Goicoechea, a ramp services specialist who helped to move the giant squids, said he has moved cargo ranging from submarines and Stryker vehicles to helicopters and Humvees.

"I was stationed previously at Kadena Air Base, Japan," he said. "But, I've moved more cargo working at Dover Air Force Base in five months than my two years in Kadena, and this is my first squid!"

While not trained to receive every single package, aerial port airmen here deal with all kinds of unexpected cargo.

"That is why our job is never boring," said Tech. Sgt. Steven Braddick, ramp services specialist shift supervisor, who has seen Air Force jets transport dolphins and parts for the space shuttle. "We're always learning and training throughout our career field, because who knows what else we'll be loading?"

By Air Force Master Sgt. Veronica A. Aceveda and Airman 1st Class Shen-Chia Chu
Special to American Forces Press Service

Air Force Master Sgt. Veronica A. Aceveda serves with the 512th Airlift Wing, and Air Force Airman 1st Class Shen-Chia Chu serves with the 436th Airlift Wing.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Pick a Feeder, Any Feeder

(ARA) - Backyard bird feeding is an easy way to enjoy wildlife up close and personal. Feeders, and the beautiful birds that perch upon them, can brighten up any garden or yard. More important, however, is that bird feeding is very beneficial to the outdoor pets we adore so much.

There are many types of birds that have become well-adapted to taking advantage of bird feeders. In fact, according to the National Audubon Society, more than 100 species supplement their natural diets with birdseed, suet, fruit and nectar obtained from feeders. Plus, many are so widespread in their range that they'll feast almost anywhere in the United States, from California to New York.

To accommodate this wide variety of birds, there is a wide variety of feeders: hopper feeders, tube feeders, platform feeders, suet feeders -- the list goes on and on. Choosing a feeder is ultimately a matter of satisfying the specific preferences of the birds you want to attract. In other words, the birds you desire to feed will determine the type of food you put out. The food, in turn, helps to determine which feeder you should use.

For example, desirable birds like cardinals, woodpeckers and chickadees are attracted to feeders filled with premium seeds and real fruit. Foods like Wild Delight Less Mess Cardinal Food work great for attracting these birds because they're made with real raisins, cranberries and cherries that sought-after birds love. As a result, feeders that accommodate large fruit pieces and seeds are necessary to attract these types of birds.

Some feeders work well for a number of different types of food. Hopper feeders and platform feeders are big and bird-friendly. They can hold almost any size seed and a lot of it, so they have to be refilled less often. Large fruit pieces and nuts, like those found in Wild Delight Less Mess Fruit & Berry, can easily be accessed from either of these feeders.

Tube feeders are extremely popular and come with feeding ports (the holes where the birds access the food) of varying sizes in order to accommodate different types of food. A tube feeder with large holes will let sunflower seeds and fruit pieces through, while others with small holes should be used for small seeds like Nyjer. Tube feeders are ideal for smaller birds like finches and pine siskins because they have small perches that large perching birds like starlings can't grip.

Suet feeders, which are wire cages specifically made to hold suet, are an excellent way to offer your outdoor pets a variety of dining options. Suet is the hard, white fat on the kidneys and loins of cattle and other animals, and is a favorite of many birds. Some suet products, like Wild Delight Deck, Porch N' Patio Suet, are even mixed with nuts like pistachios. If it were up to the birds, they would take the entire piece of suet away with them. Thankfully, the suet feeder cage design only allows small chunks to be eaten at a time, which means that desirable birds such as woodpeckers and nuthatches visit more often -- so you get more time to enjoy watching them.

Yet another type of feeder is the mesh feeder. This kind of feeder is used for dispensing larger seeds such as black oil sunflower seeds. Mesh feeders, somewhat similar to tube feeders, are meant to attract birds that cling because other birds cannot perch on them. This helps to keep starlings and other nuisance birds away. More significant is that they're designed to resist squirrel damage. Squirrels can use these feeders, but will be frustrated because they can only pick one seed at a time.

Very similar to the mesh feeders are finch sock feeders, which are mesh bags that allow finches to cling to them and discourage other birds from stealing seed. Products like the Wild Delight Finch Sock Feeder come already stocked with premium Nyjer seed, creating a convenient, all-in-one feed and feeder combination.

There are a number of helpful resources today that can help you pick out the appropriate types of food needed to attract desirable birds, and the feeders that suit them best. In fact, Web sites such as www.WildDelight.com are becoming a popular reference point for outdoor pet lovers.

Finally, remember that no matter what feeder appears to best suit a particular situation or yard, the key is really the type of food you put in it. Want better birds? Feed them premium food. Want to make it easy for birds to eat the premium food? Make sure you put it in the right type of feeder. With all the different types and styles of feeders available today, there have never been more opportunities to enjoy outdoor pets and the entertaining hobby of backyard bird feeding.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Zebra Evidence Found at Noah's Ark


Evidence, the zebra found last spring on I-75 in Butts County, made his public debut today at Noah's Ark in Locust Grove. The parking lot was completely filled within 15 minutes of the opening and everyone flocked to see Evidence.

Evidence and his new "herd mate" Grace, were peacefully grazing and taking it all in. From time to time, Evidence could be heard crying for "Pop", who quickly rushed to assure the young zebra that all was ok. Charlie "Pop"Hedgecoth has been the primary caregiver for Evidence since the Animal Rehabilitation Center was called in the spring to see if they could assist the seriously injured zebra found grazing on the Georgia interstate.

Noah's Ark has provided Evidence and other exotic animals with a permanent home and love. While it costs about $10,000 per month to feed the animals, Noah's Ark runs completely on donations.

Donations to help Evidence and the other animals who call Noah's Ark home can be made at www.noahs-ark.org/index.html. The habitat is open to the public Tuesday thru Saturday from noon until 3 pm.

By A S Eldredge
Photo: ©2008 Cassie Eldredge

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Friday, July 11, 2008

African Lion gives Birth to Amazing Quintuplets

24-7PressRelease - G.W. Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma announces an amazing birth from a rescued African lion. On July 6th, 2008, Marty the Lion gave birth to the last of what would be 5 baby white lions.

"This is so very rare," said Joe Schreibvogel, Park Director. "It is rare enough for a lion to give birth to 5 healthy babies and they all live. But to have 5 white babies from two brown lions is even more rare."

Marty was one of a group of six animals taken in at G.W. out of Kansas. The birth of the white lions makes the second miracle this year at G.W. Last month the very first White Tiger was born from a tiger taken in out of Texas.

The park started out back in the late 90's as a sanctuary and grew into a huge full blown Educational Zoological park. The Park has never had any kind of white baby born in the 10 years it has been in business, and this makes two unexpected litters in one year.

The baby lions will be on hand for visitors to see near the end of July of this year. "We want to make sure they remain healthy before we allow the public to see them and touch them," said Joe. "We don't want to stress them out or put them at risk in any way. It's a small miracle for the park to have white lions, for people to come see and learn about, and they are going to be treated like the miracle they are."

"The park is indeed one of the finest around and Oklahoma should be very proud to have such a beautiful and magnificent place with in it," said Beth Corley, a USDA licensed Employee. The park has now 31 certified feline handlers and they are all ready to teach the public about the parks new little miracles.

The park currently houses over 130 big cats, and is open to the public 365 days a year. The park and its current staff have many accomplishments. Joe Schreibvogel, Park Director, has received many awards from organizations such as the American Red Cross and IBC bank, and has been honored in the Book of Who's Who.

For more information or to make a donation to help build the White Lion display Please go to www.gwpark.org

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

DNA Study Unlocks Mystery To Diverse Traits In Dogs

(NAPSI)-What makes a pointer point, a sheepdog herd and a retriever retrieve? Why do Yorkshire terriers live longer than Great Danes? And how can a tiny Chihuahua possibly be related to a Great Dane?

Dogs vary in size, shape, color, coat length and behavior more than any other animal and until now, this variance has largely been unexplained. Now, scientists have developed a method to identify the genetic basis for this diversity that may have far-reaching benefits for dogs and their owners.

In a recent cover story of the science journal Genetics, research reveals locations in a dog’s DNA that contain genes that scientists believe contribute to differences in body and skull shape, weight, fur color and length--and possibly even behavior, trainability and longevity.

The Canine Genome Puzzle

“This exciting breakthrough, made possible by working with leaders in canine genetics, is helping us piece together the canine genome puzzle, which will ultimately translate into potential benefit for dogs and their owners,” said study co-author Paul G. Jones, Ph.D., a Mars Veterinary genetics researcher at the Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition--part of Mars Incorporated, a world leader in pet care that has been studying canine genetic science for the past eight years. “By applying this research approach, we may be able to decipher how genes contribute to physical or behavioral traits that affect many breeds.”

Dogs originally derived from the wolf more than 15,000 years ago-a blink of the eye in evolutionary terms. Selective breeding produced dogs with physical and behavioral traits that were well suited to the needs or desires of their human owners, such as herding or hunting ability, coat color, and body and skull shape and size. This resulted in the massive variance seen among the more than 350 distinct breeds that make up today’s dog population.

13,000 DNA Samples Used

The research used 13,000 dog DNA samples provided by Mars Veterinary, which holds one of the most comprehensive canine DNA banks in the world. This collection has been built up with the help of pet owners who have consented to their pets providing cheek swabs and blood samples for the database. Mars’ DNA bank allowed the study to cover most of the American Kennel Club−recognized breeds that span a wide variety of physical and behavioral traits and differences in longevity.

Thanks to the research, pet owners and veterinarians may be able to develop better care regimens. The research may also have implications for human health, as dogs suffer from many of the same diseases that humans do.

The Wisdom Panel MX mixed breed analysis test from Mars Veterinary is the first product to use knowledge gained through this research. Learn more about this study at www.wisdompanel.com.

Researchers zero in on what specific genes contribute to differences in traits.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Snakes Alive at Sprewell Bluff State Park

Have you ever wondered what kind of snakes live around middle Georgia? Are they all that bad? What purpose do they serve? At 5:00 pm, July 12, bring a picnic dinner and a blanket, and spread out on the cool grass as Southeastern Reptile Rescue presents “The Snakes of Georgia”. Lean about all our native snakes, including Copperheads, Rattlesnakes, and Cottonmouths. Jason Clark, the founder and main presenter for Southeastern Reptile Rescue, will bring the snakes out and explain the importance of snakes in a healthy ecosystem, as well as demonstrate that even the snakes with the worst reputations, are not inclined to bite a person.

This program is free to all attendees, but there is a $3.00 park pass fee upon entry to the park, that will be collected by the boat ramp parking area. The program will take place in the main parking area, in an open area of the park near the playground. After the program, the members of Southeastern Reptile Rescue will allow any visitors to pose for pictures with certain non-venomous snakes, including an 80 pound Burmese Python. Photo purchases will go toward Southeastern Reptile Rescue, a non-profit education and rescue organization.
For more information on this program, please call the Sprewell Bluff State Park Office at 706-646-6026, or stop by and talk to a ranger. For more information of Sprewell Bluff, or any other state park, check www.gastateparks.org.

Mosquitoes’ Bites Are Worse Than Their Buzz

(NAPSI)-The annoying buzz of mosquitoes is as much a part of hot weather as the sounds of kids splashing in the pool or baseball on the radio. But when mosquitoes attack your cat or dog, their bites can be much worse than their buzz.

That’s because mosquitoes carry and spread both West Nile virus and heartworms. West Nile virus can lead to reduced appetite, difficulty walking and other problems. Heartworm infections, which are more common in dogs than in cats, can lead to health problems that cause pets to become disabled or even die. Symptoms may not show up for months, and it’s easy to confuse the signs of West Nile virus or heartworm infections with other diseases and conditions.

“The best defense against West Nile virus and heartworm infections is a good offense against mosquitoes,” says Brian Reardon, product manager for TriForce Squeeze-On. “Pet owners can and should protect their pets from mosquitoes and other insect pests with an adulticide applied monthly, such as TriForce, and by managing exposure to mosquitoes around the home.”

Because mosquitoes require water to reproduce, homeowners are advised to eliminate standing water around the home and yard, including outdoor watering bowls, which should be emptied and refreshed regularly. Pet owners may also want to keep pets inside in the early morning and evening, when mosquitoes tend to be most active. Of course, owners themselves benefit from these same practices.

“We all know how annoying mosquito bites can be on a hot day,” Reardon says. “But the disease threats they present to pets go far beyond annoying. Give your dogs and cats the protection they need with the skeeter-beatin’ control of TriForce.”

TriForce Canine and TriForce Feline go to work quickly to kill and repel mosquitoes, and they keep on working for at least 30 days. TriForce delivers veterinary-strength control in a convenient over-the-counter formulation. Each monthly treatment also provides excellent protection against fleas and ticks. TriForce is available at farm, home and pet supply centers in dosages for dogs and cats of all sizes.

For more information about where to find TriForce Squeeze-On, call 877-734-7565 or visit www.triforceforpets.com and print the $5 cash-back coupon for your next purchase through August 31, 2008.

The best defense against heartworm and West Nile virus in your pets is a good offense against mosquitoes.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Georgia Sea Turtle Center Releases an Old Friend into the Sea


AAAG Note: This story inspired our staff. As a result, one of our staff members visited a beach where there are currently 32 turtle nests and spent some time learning about these fabulous creatures from the volunteers who watch over them. Stay tuned as our stories come to life.

PRNewswire/ -- Dylan, a straggler hatchling who was rescued on Jekyll Island almost 10 years ago and became a national ambassador for sea turtles, is going home. Officials from the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island, and the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta released Dylan into the ocean on Monday, June 30th at 11 a.m.

Visitors to Coastal Encounters Nature Center on St. Simons Island, the University of Georgia's Tidelands Nature Center, the Georgia Aquarium and (most recently) the Georgia Sea Turtle Center have enjoyed the sights of this graceful sea turtle for many years. Now that her carapace is over 50 cm long, Dylan is big enough to return to the ocean according to standards set by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

Since last summer, when Dylan returned to Jekyll Island from the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, she has been learning the skills needed to return to the wild - including identifying and capturing natural prey such as blue crabs, horseshoe crabs and whelks.

At 3 p.m. on the day prior to her release, Dylan will also be fitted with a special satellite transmitter, providing Georgia Sea Turtle Center (GSTC) researchers and visitors to the GSTC and Georgia Aquarium Web sites the opportunity to monitor her activities and movements. This will be the first time that a sea turtle has been raised entirely in captivity for this long and then released with a tracking device. By studying her movements, researchers may be able to learn about some of the differences between learned and inherited behaviors.

"We are very pleased with Dylan's progress," said Dr. Terry Norton, Director of Veterinary Services and Interim Director of the Georgia Sea Turtle Center. "She has come a long way in the last year and has been a great representative of sea turtle education and conservation, helping to spread the word about the plight of the sea turtle and the marine ecosystem. We are glad to see her depart for her real home at sea and are excited to watch her travels once she is released."

"The Georgia Sea Turtle Center is an exciting project initiated by the Jekyll Island Foundation and the Jekyll Island Authority. The Center reflects our commitment to conservation, preservation and education," said William Lattimore, Jr., Chairman of the Jekyll Island Foundation. "This is a very special event for the entire community. Dylan's release is indeed an appropriate finale for Sea Turtle Weekend, the anniversary celebration of the Georgia Sea Turtle Center."

After outgrowing her tank at the Tidelands Nature Center in Jekyll Island, a partnership was formed with the Georgia Aquarium, where Dylan was relocated in November 2005. She returned to Jekyll Island in May of 2007, arriving at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center shortly before its official public opening, becoming the second patient.

"The Georgia Aquarium's partnership with the Georgia Sea Turtle Center has been important and hugely successful," said Ray Davis, Senior Vice President of Zoological Operations at the Georgia Aquarium. "We loved having Dylan in Atlanta and were sad to see her go, but it is certainly important that she will be released and continues to educate and inspire the future stewards of our oceans."

The loggerhead sea turtle is threatened worldwide and is under consideration for being reclassified as "endangered" due to diminishing populations in the Western Atlantic Ocean. Because sea turtles nest on land, responsibility for their conservation is shared between the National Marine Fisheries Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and various state agencies and independent conservation organizations.

About the Georgia Sea Turtle Center

The Georgia Sea Turtle Center officially opened June 16, 2007 in Jekyll Island, Ga.'s National Historic Landmark District on the site of the original 1903 Power Plant building, much of which has been preserved and incorporated into the new facilities. The ambitious, $3 million center, offering an outstanding museum-style and interactive learning experience and a state-of-the-art rehabilitation center and veterinary clinic that is visible to the general public, is the first of its kind in Georgia and focuses on sea turtle rehabilitation, research and education. For more information about the Georgia Sea Turtle Center and its programs, visit www.georgiaseaturtlecenter.org .

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