Archive from October, 2014
Oct 27, 2014 - Animal Policy    No Comments

If you can’t debate the experts, silence ’em!

What is an anti-hunting animal activist to do when educated, hands-on experts wearing *gasp* uniforms come out in opposition to their upcoming anti-hunting referendum?

Why, they run to the courts and try to silence the experts, of course! In Maine, the HSUS-supported coalition group, Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting filed an injunction that would order the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IFW) to butt out of the discussion before the election — despite their background and expertise on such issues, despite the fact that being involved in such issues is kind of their job.  If the injunction succeeded, there could be no opinions on Maine Question 1 on the IFW website, no campaigning or participation in television ads. No voice for the trained experts on one of the very issues they are supposed to be involved in.

It may sound ridiculous, but when you’ve poured more than million dollars into the state trying to push your referendum, winning at any cost probably becomes second nature. Fortunately for the sake of common sense and freedom of speech, Superior Court Justice Joyce Wheeler did not support the injunction:

“Restricting speech on contested public issues is directly contrary to the public interest, which favors a robust and dynamic public discourse,” Wheeler said in her 15-page decision. “It is [for] the voters, not the plaintiffs or the courts, to assess the relative merits of conflicting speech.


Wheeler said that DIF&W is “mandated to ‘encourage the wise use of [wildlife] resources.’ Thus, DIF&W is statutorily required ‘to attempt to persuade’ the public to make wise use of these resources, or to make wise use ‘more appealing or more likely to happen.’”

Regardless of how you may feel about this particular referendum or even hunting in general, attempting to silence those who disagree with your viewpoint before an election is pretty low down behavior. And in this case, given the IFW’s background and expertise, it belies a fear of honest debate — something you should never be afraid of if you are running a campaign based on substance, facts, and the public’s best interest.

Oct 24, 2014 - Animal Science    No Comments

Three Deaf Mice? Not Anymore!

Some amazing results from the world of animal science: scientists have successfully restored hearing in deaf mice!

By inserting and activating certain genes:

The mice that produced extra NT3 regained their hearing over a period of two weeks and were able to hear a lot better than mice that did not have extra production of the protein.

Next stop: humans suffering hearing loss from noise exposure or aging. It really wasn’t that long ago that people looked to instrument makers and ear trumpets for relief — a bulky, imperfect solution; actually recovering hearing is simply an awesome feat!

Don’t forget to hug a scientist (and a mouse) this weekend!

Oct 22, 2014 - Education    No Comments

Life… Finds a Way!

What happened when Cornell University tried to reign in an out of control deer population by performing tubal ligations on the does?

Well, as you’d expect, the birth rate went down, but the problem wasn’t solved: the population stayed the same, as it was maintained by mature bucks …

Something was attracting an abnormal number of mature bucks. Cornell’s biologists realized that the reproductive cycle of the ligated does was to blame.

Under normal conditions, all female whitetails go into heat within several weeks of each other and become pregnant at around the same time. This annual event is called the rut. However, if a doe is not impregnated during the rut, it will enter heat again the following month and again the month after that. Because the ligated does were unable to become pregnant, they continued to produce chemical signals of readiness to reproduce — signals that can attract bucks from miles away.

At $1,200 per doe, that’s an expensive surprise!


Cute, but catastrophic when mixed with traffic.


Volunteer hunters (who would eat or donate deer meat) are a proven inexpensive and effective way to reduce the population, but the university continued to seek out a nonlethal solution to the “deer problem.” So they began surgically removing ovaries from does, and were yet again quickly met with another unbelievable surprise:

Even after the surgical removal of their ovaries, one of the three deer became pregnant again. It is not clear how this was possible. One supposition is that some ovarian tissue may have escaped the scalpel and regrown into a functioning ovary.

Of course, this reproductive tenacity is probably a lot more fascinating (and amusing) to people who don’t have to deal with deer eating their gardens, causing auto accidents, or Lyme disease, but it does serve as a valuable lesson of the things that can go wrong when we try to outsmart nature. The ovaries win this round!