strange behaviors

Cool doings from the natural and human worlds

  • Richard Conniff

  • Reviews for Richard Conniff’s Books

    Every Creeping Thing: True Tales of Faintly Repulsive Wildlife: “Conniff is a splendid writer–fresh, clear, uncondescending, and with never a false step; one can’t resist quoting him.” (NY Times Book Review)

    The Species Seekers:  Heroes, Fools, and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth by Richard Conniff is “a swashbuckling romp” that “brilliantly evokes that just-before Darwin era” (BBC Focus) and “an enduring story bursting at the seams with intriguing, fantastical and disturbing anecdotes” (New Scientist). “This beautifully written book has the verve of an adventure story” (Wall St. Journal)

    Swimming with Piranhas at Feeding Time by Richard Conniff  is “Hilariously informative…This book will remind you why you always wanted to be a naturalist.” (Outside magazine) “Field naturalist Conniff’s animal adventures … are so amusing and full color that they burst right off the page …  a quick and intensely pleasurable read.” (Seed magazine) “Conniff’s poetic accounts of giraffes drifting past like sail boats, and his feeble attempts to educate Vervet monkeys on the wonders of tissue paper will leave your heart and sides aching.  An excellent read.” (BBC Focus magazine)

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Posts Tagged ‘roadkill’

Animal Music Monday: Dead Skunk In The Middle of the Road

Posted by Richard Conniff on July 18, 2016

Loudon Wainwright III is said to have written this absurdist little country tune by accident, in 15 minutes. He later mock-boasted that it made it to number one on the hit parade for six weeks in Little Rock, Arkansas, “and only very intelligent people live in Little Rock.”  It became his biggest hit, reaching number 16 on the Top 100 nationwide in 1973.

People still have a fond place for it in their Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Funny Business | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Under Pressure, Texas Moves to Stop Ocelot Traffic Deaths

Posted by Richard Conniff on October 15, 2014

(Photo: Ana Cotta)

(Photo: Ana Cotta)

A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece for Takepart about the only U.S. population of the endangered ocelot suffering from roadkills because of poor planning on Texas State Highway 100.  Among other things, I asked readers to phone or email to let the Texas Department of Transportation know how they felt about that.

Now TexDot, as it’s known, says it’s going to fix the problem.  It’s not clear whether this is a smokescreen or the beginning of a genuine improvement.  I’ll keep an on it to see what really happens, and whether it happens soon enough to make a difference.  Meanwhile, here’s the report from

Funding has been secured for four ocelot crossings on Highway 100 between Laguna Vista and Los Fresnos.

After four of the endangered cats were killed on the busy road and years of meetings with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is prepared to construct four wildlife crossings beneath the roadway similar to this one on Highway 48 near the Port of Brownsville.

Regional TxDOT spokesman Octavio Saenz spoke to the Nature Report about the project.

“We secured funding for four crossings,” Saenz said. “We are still in negotiations or talks, I should say regarding the size of two of those crossings.”

With less than 50 of the rare cats estimated to remain in the wild, Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Conservation and Extinction | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

How A Fur Coat Is Helping Save an Endangered Cat

Posted by Richard Conniff on September 26, 2014

ocelotMy latest for Takepart.

Everybody has some dreadful bit of family history stashed away in the attic and preferably forgotten. For the Rockefeller heirs last week, it was their investment in the fossil fuel industry, largely founded by their oil baron ancestor John D. Rockefeller. For me, it was an ocelot jacket inherited from my wife’s grandmother.

And let me tell you, it is hard to write about endangered species when you have a dead one literally hanging over your head. Or more like 15 dead ocelots, to make up the single carcoat-length jacket that has been hidden away in my attic for several decades now. So I decided to get rid of it, more or less the way the Rockefellers decided last week to divest their millions from fossil fuel companies. Only on a somewhat more modest scale.

Ocelots are beautiful little cats, roughly twice the size of a house cat and covered in elongated spots that seem to want to become stripes. They’re hide-and-pounce predators, and tend to be solitary and elusive, but still range through much of South and Central America, and up both coasts of Mexico. The fur trade used to kill as many as 200,000 ocelots annually for jackets like the one in my attic, which probably dates from the 1950s. But Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Conservation and Extinction | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Highways as the Last Hope for Some Wildlife

Posted by Richard Conniff on September 27, 2013

Everywhere in the world people are moving to cities and suburbs, covering the landscape in houses, highways, office developments, and strip malls.  Just in the lifetimes of today’s 20-somethings, urban coverage in the lower 48 states will more than triple–from 2.5 percent to 8.1 percent of the landscape by 2050.  In some Northeastern states, according to the U.S. Forest Service, the land will be more than 60 percent urban by mid-century, up from about 35 percent now.

So where will plants and animals fit in this crowded world?  Nowhere at all, unless planners figure out how to make a place for them.  It may be a mark of desperate times, but many conservationists are now looking to the sides of highways as the only place left for some species to live.

The United States has four million miles of highways, most of them with substantial unpaved medians and margins. Planting grass is the standard treatment, partly because that’s how the guys in the highway department have always done it, and partly because political patronage at the county level drives the investment in machinery and gasoline. But a few states now take a greener approach.

In Iowa, for instance, the wall-to-wall planting of corn means hardly any of the original prairie habitat has survived. So that state has become a leader at … to read the rest of this story, click here.

Posted in Biodiversity, Conservation and Extinction | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »