Wolf protection plan raises hackles in Southwest

The U.S. wants to ban most killing of wild Mexican wolves in New Mexico and Arizona, and expand the area where the animals can roam. But many see federal overreach.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes to extend Endangered Species Act protections for an estimated 75 Mexican wolves in the wild in New Mexico and Arizona. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service / January 25, 1998)

ALBUQUERQUE — In the small, rural community of Reserve, children waiting for the school bus gather inside wooden and mesh cages provided as protection from wolves. Parents consider the “kid cages” a reasonable precaution.

Defenders of the wolves note there have been no documented wolf attacks in New Mexico or Arizona. Fears of wolves attacking humans, they say, are overblown, and the cages nothing more than a stunt.

In 1995, the reintroduction of Canadian gray wolves into the northern Rockies ignited a furor.

In 1995, the reintroduction of Canadian gray wolves into the northern Rockies ignited a furor.

Such protections would make it illegal to kill wolves in most instances. The new federal plan would also significantly expand the area where the wolves could roam unmolested.

To many conservatives in the West, such protections are examples of government overreach — idealistic efforts by officials who don’t know what it’s like to live with wolves.

Read more at the Los Angeles Times

Hummingbirds: hovering on the brink of extinction

I have been fascinated by hummingbirds ever since I was given a pack of wild animal cards in hospital while my tonsils were removed and fell in love with Heliothrix aurita, a speck of fire and jade. And also wine-red Topaza pella, perched in a jungle whisking a crimson tail.

I still have those cards. Their pictures seem crude now, but when I was eight I was enraptured. The Aztecs said the Earth’s first flower was fathered by the god of poetry in the shape of a hummingbird; and everything about hummingbirds seems tailor-made for a poet.

Birds see ultraviolet light, and female hummingbirds have a taste for iridescence, so males have turned themselves into flying jewels. Their metallic sheens, glancing as soap bubbles, are reflected in equally iridescent names for which taxonomists have plundered all the shimmer in the lexicon.

There are more than 300 species: words such as emerald, copper, bronze, gold, fire, sapphire, lazuline, emerald and sunbeam spill like Aladdin’s treasure through the list: amethyst woodstar, blue-headed sapphire, Brazilian ruby, buff-winged starfrontlet – you marvel not only at nature’s capacity for spangly variation but the human urge to match it in language.

Hummingbird nests – the size of a nutshell, spun out of plant down, covered with lichen, bound by spider’s silk – are works of art straight out of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Hummingbird tongues, almost transparent, are liquid-trapping miracles of bioengineering that change shape as they flick in and out of the nectar. Their tips are forked: the V’s inside edges have feathery tufts that draw in nectar by capillary action. When hummingbirds sleep they fall into hibernation-like torpor. Metabolism drops, temperature zooms to near-hypothermic levels and breathing slows so drastically that if you find a sleeping hummingbird you think it’s dead. Which, in the Peruvian Andes, makes it a symbol of resurrection.

Read more at The Telegraph