Archive for the ‘wild animals’ Tag

How wolves and warriors help each other heal   5 comments

January 5, 2016 – Source

Matthew Simmons, Lorin Lindner and wolfdog Wiley at LARC

Matthew Simmons and Dr. Lorin Lindner at Lockwood Animal Rescue Center with Wiley, a wolfdog they saved from being euthanized. (Photo: Jennifer Dallas)

About 90 minutes north of Los Angeles at the Lockwood Animal Rescue Center (LARC), healing magic happens every day. Nestled on acres of scenic land inside theLos Padres National Forest, LARC’s Warriors and Wolves program offers combat veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder the chance to bond withwolves and wolfdogs that have been rescued from abusive situations or abandoned because their wild roots make them poor pets. Together they heal and gain a sense of belonging — and a second chance at life.

“Combat veterans have been paid to be predators, much like wolves,” says LARC co-founder and Navy veteran Matthew Simmons. “Many come home with this inner war inside them. They don’t know if they’re an infantryman or a husband. And my wolves don’t know if they’re a wolf or a dog. That inner turmoil they’re both suffering bonds them together and they form a partnership that helps them both.”

LARC veteran bonds with wolfdog

A LARC veteran bonds with wolfdog Cochise who was relinquished by his owner for being a problem pet. (Photo: Sarah Varley)

Life after trauma

Simmons is intimately familiar with the horrors of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). After serving in the Navy, including a stint in Desert Storm, he returned home and launched a computer company. He felt focused and successful, but the harrowing memories of combat lay buried, waiting to surface. He began waking at night soaked in sweat and felt strangely agitated after business meetings.

As his sleeplessness and emotional turbulence grew, Simmons consulted a psychiatrist who prescribed sleeping pills. He was soon popping a few at a time and washing them down with wine. “By this point I’d sold my computer company and was in turmoil, drinking too much and taking too many pills,” he says.

Desperate to stop his downward slide, Simmons visited another psychiatrist who diagnosed him with PTSD and suggested getting immediate help through the Veterans Administration (VA). PTSD can develop after traumatic events, including combat, and may cause nightmares, flashbacks, detachment, angry outbursts, addiction and sometimes suicide.

“I didn’t know what PTSD was, nor did I necessarily think I had it,” Simmons says. “I was a big tough guy.”

But he heeded the advice and connected with the VA Medical Center in West Los Angeles where he soon found himself volunteering to care for abandoned parrots and other exotic birds living on-site in the Serenity Park Sanctuary. Run by licensed clinical psychologist Lorin Lindner, the eco-therapy program helps traumatized veterans and traumatized birds recover together.

The experience changed his life. “That’s where I met the three animals I believe have kept me safe, sane and sober,” Simmons says.

The first two were Maggie and Ruby, feral parrots from San Francisco that had barely survived a brutal raccoon attack. “I watched them physically heal, and whether I was cognizant of it or not, I watched them forgive and let go,” Simmons says. Gaining their trust and nursing them back to health helped him release his own emotional wounds.

His third guardian “animal” was Dr. Lindner, now his wife.

LARC founds with rescue horse and wolfdog

Lindner and Simmons pictured at Lockwood Animal Rescue Center with a rescue horse Megan and Huey, a good-natured wolfdog found abandoned on the streets of Houston. (Photo: Jennifer Dallas)

Eco-therapy for the soul

In 2007, the couple bought a remote property outside Los Angeles in Frazier Park, known for its panoramic mountain views and pristine beauty. They started LARC, a privately funded non-profit, and began rescuing abused horses. At the same time, they learned about captive wolves and high-content wolfdogs (wolves with dog heritage) also in need of forever homes. Many are bred as exotic pets, only to be relinquished to shelters or permanently chained outside for exhibiting natural “wild” and “aggressive” wolf behaviors rooted in their DNA. Wolfdogs aren’t eligible for adoption at shelters so are usually euthanized.

After saving a wolfdog named Wiley minutes before he was to be destroyed, Simmons started taking him on visits to the VA. He was amazed at Wiley’s positive impact on everyone there. “The doctors acted different, the guys in my support group acted different, the security guard acted different, and so did I,” he says. “Absolutely everything changed.”

The couple decided to launch the Warriors and Wolves program at LARC, patterned after Lindner’s successful parrot program, to help veterans with PTSD who needed additional help. “These guys usually have a drug and alcohol problem,” Simmons says. “They’re disenfranchised from their families, often homeless, and many are suicidal.”

The couple also continued rescuing wolfdogs, including 29 that had spent their lives chained in a small enclosure at a roadside wolf attraction near Anchorage, Alaska. Former game show host and long-time animal activist Bob Barker donated $100,000 to fund the rescue.

The cornerstone of Warriors and Wolves is the idea that nature can heal a broken spirit. Veterans — who are either employed by LARC or volunteer — go on nature hikes and participate in stream-bed restoration, but the heart of their work is caring for the wolves and wolfdogs, who, like them, are outsiders and often misunderstood.

LARC volunteers cut up raw meat

Veteran volunteers cut up raw meat for LARC’s wolves and wolfdogs. Meat is obtained from the Landfill Diversion Program — mostly overstock and sell-by-date cuts that would otherwise be tossed by grocery stores. (Photo: Matthew Simmons)

Most quickly bond with one specific wolf or wolfdog. “The animal selects the veteran, and it’s a unique selection to that veteran,” Simmons says. “They usually have similar trauma and similar physical ailments. There’s no way they could know that. Some sort of cross-species communication goes on between them.”

Most remarkable is the special solace and healing they find together — a bond that lasts for life. And it’s not just with their soulmate animal; veterans are also accepted into the wolf pack where they learn about family and trust.

Many of the veterans go on to good jobs, often working with animals. Those who need more time can transition to the New England Wolf Advocacy and Rescue Center (NEWARC) in New Hampshire, which Simmons and Lindner started in 2013. Veterans live and work there for six months to a year, earning a good salary and continuing to heal. Many are able to reconnect with wives and children they pushed away during their PTSD battles and repair damaged relationships.

“Our program heals veterans who would otherwise probably die,” says Simmons. “And the wolves get to live out their lives and maybe share it in a special way with another sentient being who’s also suffered. It’s magical and special.”

Rescued wolfdog at LARC

Like many wolfdogs, Willow Girl was turned over to a shelter by her owners and slated to be euthanized. She now lives freely in a 3-acre natural habitat enclosure at LARC. (Photo: Renae Smith)

By Sidney Stevens

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Tracking British Columbia’s secretive sea wolf   1 comment

October 1, 2015

Source

Two wolves run on the beach, exploring the tidal zone for meals.

Two wolves run on the beach, exploring the tidal zone for meals. (Photo: Paul Nicklen)

When we hear the word “wolf” nearly every one of us will think of wolves in a forest. Perhaps in our mind’s eye, we see a pack of wolves chasing down an elk or bison in Yellowstone, or monitoring a herd of caribou in Alaska, looking for the weakest link. But what we likely don’t think of is a wolf standing in an estuary stream catching salmon, or strolling along a beach poking through washed-up kelp for barnacles and other morsels to eat.

Yet that is exactly what happens among a very specific population of wolves living on the coastal islands of British Columbia. These wolves don’t hunt deer, in fact many may go their whole lives without ever seeing a deer. Instead, they rely on what the tide brings in. Fish roe, crustaceans, seals and washed-up whales are common meals for these wolves, which have been named sea wolves for their reliance on the ocean for food.

They are entirely unique and with behaviors that have scientists fascinated, but they are also heavily persecuted by humans. Between this and a future threatened by climate change, the outlook for these wolves is tenuous at best.

PHOTOS TO INSPIRE: 6 animals with strong family bonds

Photographers Paul Nicklen and Cristina Mittermeier recently went on assignment for National Geographic, spending weeks in the field crouched in a blind to photograph the intimate lives of these secretive wolves. We spoke with them about their experience, as well as what the average person can do to help preserve a highly unique and little-understood population.

Coastal rain wolves live on the outer Islands of the BC coast. Wolves on these Islands live on a very diverse selection of food including deer, chitons in the intertidal zone.

Coastal rain wolves live on the outer Islands of the BC coast. Wolves on these Islands live on a very diverse selection of food including deer, chitons in the intertidal zone. (Photo: Paul Nicklen)

MNN: You spent weeks on the ground, waiting for sightings of a pack of wolves. What was it like the very first time you laid eyes on them?

CM and PN: We arrived on a remote island off the coast of British Columbia where we knew a couple of wolves had been sighted. We used our zodiac (small raft) to circumnavigate the island — a journey that took about 1.5 hours, until we sighted paw prints on the sand. The trick for us was to predict the patterns, trails and times the wolves were patrolling certain beaches, and to try to be there before them.

The first time we saw them it was a total fluke. We landed the zodiac on a beach and as Paul and Oren went up a stream to check things out, I stayed with the zodiac and was utterly surprised when one of the wolves came trotting out of the bushes. A small, slender female, she was completely calm and she just kept trotting my way until she was just 30 feet away.

At the same time, Paul and Oren rounded the corner of the stream and came into the open beach. Now the wolf was in between us. Instead of panicking, she just sat on her haunches, did a long, lazy stretch and then just went back the same way she had come from.

It was a comedy of errors, in which the wolf played its part and we, as photographers, fumbled and made mistakes and ended up with only mediocre pictures of a perfectly lovely encounter.

You had the unique opportunity to watch wild wolf pups hang out with their family. What was it like to witness the family structure of the wolves?

What we found was a pack of five pups being watched by a single adult female, presumably their mother. When pups are young, the entire pack helps take care of them. All the members bring food to the mother, who has to stay with the young pups. On this occasion, the pack must have been out hunting and when night fell and we had to leave, they still had not returned.

The next morning, when we returned to the beach, the pups were gone, so presumably the pack returned and they all moved on to another den site.

A mother and pups on the beach is a rare sight for anyone, and these photographers put in their dues to be able to witness it.

A mother and pups on the beach is a rare sight for anyone, and these photographers put in their dues to be able to witness it. (Photo: Cristina Mittermeier)

You two spent weeks in a tiny blind, waiting for opportunities to photograph the wolves. What do you do to stay, you know, sane?

Working in the blind gave me a whole new level of respect and admiration for photographers who specialize in wildlife. We spent a total of 28 days working from this blind, and it was hard.

The first few days were fun and busy as we selected the site and slowly and carefully set out to build the blind. One has to work slowly and early in the morning as not to disturb things. We laid a tarp on the ground to keep ourselves dry.

Unfortunately, the material crinkled and made noise every time we moved, so we had to remain really still. This meant stiff muscles and boredom. To pass the time we rnd a lot of time together. It teaches you a lot about a partner, when you have to be jammed in a small space and unable to move or talk for long periods of time. I have to say I enjoy Paul’s company very much.

Three wolf pups play with a piece of kelp.

Three wolf pups play with a piece of kelp. (Photo: Cristina Mittermeier)

Why these wolves? What sets them apart so much from other wolves as an extra concern for conservation?

The wolves of British Columbia are very different from any other wolves we have ever encountered. Unlike the gray wolves of the BC interior or the much larger timber wolves, rain wolves or sea wolves as they are known are small and dainty.

Unlike any other wolves, these ones don’t mind swimming between islands, sometimes for long distances but what truly sets them apart is the fact that over 70 percent of their diet is marine. They patrol the beach during low tide and eat mussels, clams and other marine life.

They are also very adept at hunting for salmon as the fish make their way up forest streams. Most impressively, they are able to hunt seals and sea lions.

These wolves are specialists in the meals that are available along a coastline.

These wolves are specialists in the meals that are available along a coastline. (Photo: Paul Nicklen)

Which is the most pressing concern to the future of these coastal island wolves?

Very little is known about them and preliminary DNA studies by scientist Chris Darimont from the University of Victoria indicate they might be a distinct race or even a subspecies.

For us, the real driver, however, is the fact that these fascinating animals are not protected by provincial or federal laws and people are not only allowed, but encouraged to kill them.

They are so curious and their habit of patrolling the beach exposes them to the danger of shooters who can spot them from boats.

The coastal island wolves are used to getting their feet wet for a meal.

The coastal island wolves are used to getting their feet wet for a meal. (Photo: Paul Nicklen)

What can the average reader do right this minute to help protect coastal wolves?

One of our partner organizations, Pacific Wild, a small NGO based in the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest, is doing a lot of work to make authorities more aware of the ecological and indeed, the cultural importance of these animals.

The recent approval of a plan to slaughter 400 wolves in central BC makes it even more imperative to encourage the drafting of some laws that offer some protection.

Pacific Wild has gathered almost 200,000 signatures in a petition to the Premier of BC, Christy Clark to protect rain wolves. Supporting such a petition, opposing the wanton slaughter of wildlife, and educating themselves about the impacts of recreational hunting of apex predators is the best things people can do.

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Find out more about Nicklen and Mittermeier’s conservation work at SeaLegacy, a nonprofit working to document the planet’s fragile marine ecosystems and inspire advocacy for their protection.

By: Jaymi Heimbuch

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China to recognise ‘animal welfare’ for the first time in milestone law change   3 comments

From:  South China Morning Post

Dec. 18, 2014 by Mimi Lau in Guangzhou

A tiger cub being cared for at a wildlife park in Kunming, Yunnan province. Animal welfare will soon be written into China's wild animal protection law. Photo: Reuters

A tiger cub being cared for at a wildlife park in Kunming, Yunnan province. Animal welfare will soon be written into China’s wild animal protection law. Photo: Reuters

The law is to be toughened to give more protection to wild animals on the mainland, according to a news website report.

A wildlife protection law introduced in 1988 is to be amended so that China recognises the concept of “animal welfare” for the first time, an expert working on the panel revising the legislation told the Shanghai-based news website Thepaper.cn.

Professor Chang Jiwen, an academic at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences‘ Institute of Law, was quoted as saying that the tougher laws would help protect many species around the country.

“Animal welfare within wildlife protection law is a major milestone in the history of global wild animal protection as the vast land of China hosts one of the widest ranges of wildlife in the world,” Chang said.

Some endangered species are protected under mainland law, but the report said there were no specific offences to punish people who harmed or were cruel to wildlife.

Chang said the authorities also planned to revise regulations controlling animal habitats, but did not elaborate.

International animal welfare charities have long criticised the authorities on the mainland for not doing enough to protect wildlife and domestic animals from cruelty and abuse.

Their complaints include the demand in China for often endangered animals as food or as ingredients in medicines.

Isobel Zhang, China manager for the British-based animals charity ACTAsia, said the step to include the general concept of “animal welfare” in legislation was a huge step forward, but pets and farm animals should also be included to give them greater protection.

“It means the law is beginning to aim at animal protection, but the law should clearly state its scope,” she said.

“[It] should also discuss extending the concept to non-wildlife.

The mainland lacked legislation to punish people who were cruel to animals or who exposed them to unnecessary suffering or harm, Zhang said.

“While the exact benefits to animal welfare are yet to be seen, this could at least help in generally advocating for animal protection,” she said.

The report comes after two men were jailed on Monday for killing a donkey from an endangered species in Tibet .

The two men chased and hit the kiang in their car. They then killed it with a knife and disemboweled it.

The pair were jailed for 3½ years and one year.

They were also fined 80,000 yuan (HK$101,000) and 20,000 yuan.

They took photographs of themselves with the dead animal and posted them online, sparking public outrage.

 

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