Columns

Fun for gator and bear, not tortoise and mastiff 2015.10.14

 By RICH FOLEY

There seems to be a rash of interesting animal stories in the news lately.  Interesting for us, that is. Oftentimes for the animal involved, not so much.

At least an alligator in downtown Fort Worth was humanely caught and transferred to a nature refuge. The 10-foot, 2-inch male gator was found in a river in a park near the downtown area. It’s thought that heavy rain and flooding may have brought the alligator to town.

After several sightings over a period of weeks, state game wardens brought in reptile hunter Chris Stevens to aid in the capture of the alligator. Luckily for the gator, Stevens was able to empathize with its plight.

“The problem is not the alligator,” Stevens told the Associated Press. “It’s the people,” he said, adding “People are going to start feeding it, and anytime you have an alligator like this, it’s just a matter of time before people poke it.” Stevens used a noose to snare the alligator, which he believed to be blind in both eyes, and transferred him to a safer home.

Not so lucky are Tibetan mastiffs, which a few years ago were all the rage in China but are now suffering the effects of being yesterday’s fad in a slowing economy. At one time, a prize example might have sold for as much as $200,000. Those days are long gone.

According to a recent New York Times story, buyers are now few and far between. The best dogs now bring no more than $2,000, but desperate breeders often take far less. To properly feed a Tibetan mastiff costs $50 to $60 a day, so it quickly costs more to feed one than a breeder can now hope to recoup in a sale.

Earlier this year, a truck loaded with over 150 dogs was intercepted on its way to a slaughterhouse in northeast China. Over 20 of the dogs were Tibetan mastiffs, destined to be sold for about $5 each and “rendered into hot pot ingredients, imitation leather and the lining for winter gloves.” What a sad end for such a majestic animal.

Then there are gopher tortoises, a threatened species native to Florida. They are protected under state law, but apparently, many Floridians have yet to get the memo. Unlike many species of turtle, the gopher tortoise does not swim. This puts them at great risk from humans who think any turtle they encounter needs to be in water, even when water deeper than their head will drown them.

One witless woman recently posted a video on the internet of her “saving” a gopher turtle. “Here’s a little note to self to anyone who finds a turtle—save it. Don’t just leave it on the road. They’re so cute,” she said, before announcing “Turtle saving is a hobby,” and flinging the helpless reptile into a lake to its death.

Earlier this year, after a rash of similar incidents with residents throwing gopher turtles in the ocean, one television station ran a story titled, “Gopher tortoises don’t swim. Don’t ‘help’ them into the ocean.” I hope at least a few of the fools got the message.

Enough of the sadness for now. I’ll end this with news of a Colorado black bear with a very large sweet tooth. This is the time of year when bears put on as much weight as possible before it’s time to hibernate for the winter. The bear in question hit the jackpot.

It broke into a bakery and, although numbers vary slightly between sources,  most agree he ate 24 cherry pies and 14 apple pies. The bakery had strawberry rhubarb pies available, too, but the bear didn’t touch a one. Obviously, he knows what he likes.

In fact, that wasn’t even enough for him. After having his fill of pies, the bear tried to take bags of cocoa and sugar to go. He left behind a trail of sugar and cherries as he made his getaway.

A bear had been spotted on security cameras several times before the break-in and that bear is the major suspect in the robbery, even though security tapes the night of the break-in don’t show him.

Surprisingly, the owners of the bakery hold no ill will toward the bear, due to all the publicity his break-in has brought the company. That’s a rather understanding attitude. And since there haven’t been any reports of a bear breaking into Walgreen’s and stealing insulin, he seems to have survived his massive meal with no lasting effects. That’s a happy ending for everybody.