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)

  • Wall of the Dead

  • Categories

Posts Tagged ‘Texas’

Texas Tunnels Under for Ocelots

Posted by Richard Conniff on May 27, 2016

ocelots-main2

(Photo: Francis Apesteguy/Getty Images)

by Richard Conniff, for Takepart.com:

Back in the fall of 2014, I took a whack at the Texas Department of Transportation for treating the nation’s only viable population of endangered ocelots—beautiful spotted cats about twice the size of a house cat—as fodder for roadkill. The department had flagrantly disregarded recommendations from wildlife experts on the critical need for safe road crossings, instead installing an impassable concrete barrier down the center of a busy highway bordering a national wildlife refuge.

TxDot, as it’s known, responded with a note suggesting that they were hurt, deeply hurt, by my suggestion that they were anything less than acutely sensitive to the needs of wildlife. But it would cost $1 million apiece for crossings in the area of that concrete barrier. Not that anyone was counting. They had only asked whether it was worth spending that kind of money on a species nearing extinction in this country so they could “learn and understand the historical dynamics of wildlife survival.” This was at a time when the relevant dynamic was that highway accidents were causing 40 percent of all ocelot deaths.

But occasionally good things happen, even in the unlikeliest places. So I am delighted Read the rest of this entry »

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

Texas Gasses Its Rattlesnakes This Weekend–Maybe for the Last Time

Posted by Richard Conniff on March 6, 2014

(Photo: Greg Ward/Getty Images)

(Photo: Greg Ward/Getty Images)

My latest column for Takepart, the website of the movie company Participant Media:

Members of the Texas State Parks and Wildlife Commission had a rare opportunity in January to commit an act of political courage. If they’d done it, hundreds of native Texans—and the creatures living around them—might have been spared a needlessly horrifying death this week.

A vote originally scheduled for the commission’s January meeting would have ended the practice of spraying gas fumes into cracks and crevices in the ground to drive rattlesnakes out of their dens. The groggy victims get tossed into bags and delivered to a rattlesnake roundup in Sweetwater, a town of 10,600 about three hours west of Fort Worth, which has made itself notorious with this practice. Because of the non-vote, the roundup will take place this Saturday and Sunday as usual.

The practice of gassing snakes, once common, is now regarded as barbaric even by the state’s other rattlesnake roundups. More than 9,000 people supported the proposed ban during the state’s yearlong round of research and public hearings. Apart from the question of cruelty, the argument against the practice is straightforward: Gasoline sprayed into the porous karst, or limestone, inevitably gets into groundwater, and that’s bad news, as the Houston Press reported, “for anyone or anything—especially out in West Texas—who, you know, likes to drink water.”

Gassing also threatens other karst wildlife. Studies have found “dramatic and obvious” effects, from “short-term impairment to death” in snakes, lizards, toads, and other vertebrates living in and around rattlesnake denning sites. The gassing also kills many karst invertebrates listed as endangered or threatened by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, among them the Comal Springs riffle beetle, the Bone Cave harvestman, and the Government Canyon Bat Cave spider.

In the face of overwhelming support from around the state, the Parks and Wildlife Commission decided to delay the vote. “I view it as total cowardice,” one local conservationist remarked. The commissioners, who are unsalaried and serve at the pleasure of the governor, delayed the vote, the conservationist theorized, because “no one will do anything if it is going to upset anyone, anywhere,” or at least not anywhere in Texas.

The commissioners may have wanted to avoid controversy ahead of this week’s state legislative primaries. They may particularly have wanted to avoid raising a sensitive issue for Rep. Susan King, R-Abilene, who represents Sweetwater. King was the only person allowed to make a statement at the meeting at which the commission had been scheduled to vote on the gassing ban, and she delivered a rambling, disjointed, Sarah Palin–esque argument for doing nothing.

Among other things, King recalled her horror Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Environmental Issues | Tagged: , , | 5 Comments »