Monster Week 2014

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Animal Planet’s annual Monster Week begins Sunday May 18th. New specials for this year include “Man-Eating Super Wolves,” “Man-Eating Zombie Cats,” and a new movie, “Blood Lake: Attack of the Killer Lampreys.” Like last year, Monster Week wraps up with the season finale of River Monsters on Sunday May 25th.

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Previews of some of the new shows are on the Animal Planet website:

http://www.animalplanet.com/tv-shows/monster-week

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RIP Farley Mowat

329540Canadian nature writer and environmentalist Farley Mowat has passed away at age 92.

Mowat was a prolific author with over 40 books to his credit including People of the Deer, No Man’s River, Born Naked, and Owls in the Family. His bestseller, Never Cry Wolf: Amazing True Story of Life Among Arctic Wolves was made into a feature film by Disney in 1983.

Mowat started writing early in his life, penning a regular column on birds for the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix. He later started his own newsletter, Nature Lore.

During his long career, Mowat received numerous awards including a Lifetime Achievement Award and the Governor General’s Award. In 2012, he was given a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame.

Mowat passed away on May 6th, and a private funeral was held on Tuesday May 13th in Port Hope, Ontario, Canada.

In 2012, Canadian publisher Douglas & McIntyre announced plans to create the Farley Mowat Library series that would re-release many of his most popular titles with new cover designs and introductions.
Mowat’s claim to “never let the facts get in the way of the truth” earned him praise and criticism but his books remain a great resource of wildlife stories and nature lore.

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Ohio Bigfoot Conference

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There’s a great Cryptozoology conference coming up this weekend in Ohio. If you’ve never been to the annual Ohio Bigfoot Conference, now in its 26th year, this weekend is your opportunity to check it out.

Featured speakers this year include Lyle Blackburn, author of the Beast of Boggy Creek and Lizard Man, true story of the Bishopville Monster. Grab your copies and get em’ signed and of course, you’ll get a chance to hear Lyle lecture.

Also appearing is Cliff Barackman, star of Animal Planet’s hit show Finding Bigfoot. Cliff is the real deal and has spent tons of time in the field, well before he became an international TV star.

Additional guest include Charlie Raymond, Tom Yamarone and the legendary Bob Gimlin of Patterson-Gimlin fame.

Check it out at the Salt Fork State Park Lodge & Conference Center.

http://www.ohiobigfootconference.com/Home_Page.php

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The Jackalope: Mythical Icon of the West

61-seated-wild-jackalope-48085-c-pcThe Jackalope has long been a part of American folklore. Depicted as a large jack rabbit with the horns of an antelope or deer, the mythical hybrid animal is a solid icon of popular culture in the west.

The origins of the American jackalope are shrouded in the past. Some of the first stories of the animal may have come from the exaggerated campfire tales of lumberjacks in the early 1900s. These rugged men spent much time in the forest and the telling of tall tales became their entertainment. Outrageous stories of rare animals and strange things that lived in the wild were standard fare at lumberjack camps.

One popular origin story for the American jackalope says the creature was the brainchild of a Wyoming hunter named Douglas Herrick. An article published in the New York Times claims that Herrick got the idea when he saw the carcass of a jackrabbit next to a set of deer antlers. Using taxidermy skills learned from a mail order course, Herrick and his brother put a set of antlers on a jackrabbit head, mounted it for display, and the jackalope was born.
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Herrick sold his first mounted jackalope to a gentleman named Roy Ball who put it on display in the LaBonte Hotel in Douglas, WY. It drew a lot of attention and an entire legend began to unfold around the Jackalope. Herrick’s mounted jackalope remained on display at the LaBonte Hotel until it was stolen in 1977.

Herrick may have actually gotten his idea for a jackalope from lumberjack tales, or, he may have seen depictions of so called ‘horned hares’ in early animal encyclopedias.
In the 18th century, many ‘Bestiaries,” (fanciful animal encyclopedias) contained depictions of various horned hares. They were in fact listed in so many “scientific” texts of the time that they were given their own, formal Latin name—Lepus cornutus translated as “horned hare.”
The animals were purported to exist in many parts of Europe, especially Germany, but were supposedly very rare. It’s possible that the tales of these European beasts were simply transposed to American soil by Europeans.

As with many tales, there may be a grain of truth to the early stories of rabbits with horns. Around the same period that Herrick created his jackalope display, a Canadian writer and naturalist named Ernest Thompson Seton was publishing a series of books titled “Lives of Game Animals.” Included in volume four of Seton’s work was a hand drawn plate showing sketches of rabbits with horn like growths on their heads and faces. It turns out; there actually had been sightings of animals with this bizarre condition.
The odd condition was documented by biologist Richard E. Shope. Shope discovered that a virus could cause the growth of hard tumors on the heads of infected rabbits. The virus, now called the “Shope papilloma virus,” could create the appearance of horns on rabbits. On rare occasions, people still spot animals infected with this condition.
Horned hare pic, Joris Hoefnagel, 1580
Humorous and outlandish qualities have been attributed to the jackalope over the years.
Although rare, groups of jackalopes are occasionally seen. Such a gathering is called a “flaggerdoot.” More often than not, it’s solitary jackalopes that are spotted. Full moons are considered the best time to catch a glimpse of the animals as they like to sit in the moonlight and sing in a human voice. Jackalopes can in fact, mimic any human voice that they hear as well as the sounds of other animals. This makes the notoriously difficult to catch. When pursued, they will throw their ‘human’ voices and emit misleading cries such as “Over there!” or, “He’s this way!”
Over the years, cowboys discovered that the best way to catch a jackalope was to use a bottle of whiskey as bait. It seems the animals can’t resist the potent beverage.
Today, jackalope items can be seen in gift shops all over the west. From postcards, to t-shirts and statues, to mounted jackalope heads.
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The creature is celebrated in Wyoming, especially in Douglas, the proclaimed “Home of the Jackalope” where the annual “Jackalope Days” are held each June.

Zoologist Karl Shuker did an excellent piece on European horned hares on his ShukerNature blog, linked below.

Horned hares, mythical jackalopes and the tall tales of early America have given the west its crazy icon, and let’s face it; it’s a lot more believable than a giant rabbit delivering chicken eggs on Easter!

Karl Shuker on Horned Hares:

http://karlshuker.blogspot.com/2013/09/horned-hares-potted-or-should-that-be.html

Douglas, WY Jackalope Days:

http://www.cityofdouglas.org/index.aspx?NID=156

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4 Corners Beyond the Edge

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Be sure to tune into this week’s Beyond the Edge with hosts Lon Strickler, Eric Altman and Sean Forker as they welcome Crypto Four Corners founder JC Johnson and Native elder Chief Leonard Dan.
This is sure to be a great round table as they guys discuss current and historical investigations in the four corners region.

Listen live and join in the chat on Sunday night, April 20th.

http://www.beyondtheedgeradio.com/

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Sharks On Twitter

shark16n-1-webScientists have tagged a massive great white shark off the Western coast of Australia. The female shark was estimated to be at least sixteen feet long and weigh a staggering 1.6 tons.

Great whites are impressive animals, considered highly intelligent with a curious nature and highly developed senses. They can reach up to twenty feet in length and over two tons in weight. Great whites can swim at speeds up to fifteen miles an hour and despite their size, can leap completely out of the water in pursuit of prey. These huge sharks have three hundred teeth arranged in seven rows. They have been known to attack humans and have killed a number of divers and swimmers off the Australian coast in the last several years.

Australia has received a lot of flack recently due to a culling program designed to keep swimmers and surfers safe from shark attacks. Critics point out that many shark species are at risk and, while the great white is not officially endangered, it is considered ‘vulnerable.’ Wildlife supports believe that alternatives to killing the sharks are needed to protect the species. Biologists have devised a tracking plan using acoustic tags surgically inserted into the sharks. The tags allow scientists to track the movements of sharks and should last for at least ten years per tag.

The great white, nicknamed “Joan” was tagged in King George Sound. Once the shark was hooked, fisheries staff had to attach ropes around it and roll it upside down. Rolling it over caused the shark to slip into a state of “tonic immobility,” similar to being asleep. Keeping the shark in the water, a small incision was made in its stomach and the tag was inserted.

Mark Kleeman, project head for the Shark Monitoring Network stated that tagging a great white of such size is unprecedented. He told the Newcastle Herald:

“This is very exciting and potentially a world first. Lots of juveniles get tagged, but to have a fully mature female and get 10 years data out of it is a big thing for us. We are excited by the potential of what this shark can give us.”

The tags are linked to a satellite network that includes over 320 seabed monitors to help record the movements of the sharks. Kleeman said that the program greatly improves the safety of Australian beaches and provides extensive data to scientists studying shark behavior.

“Over time we will be able to build the data and then we can see if there are any patterns forming, which is great for understanding more about them.”

This innovative program is another step to learning more about the mysteries of the ocean and the creatures that live there.

In a clever use of modern technology, the shark tagging program computers are now linked to a computer feed that sends out alerts via twitter. The tweet notifies people of the size, breed and approximate location of over 300 individual sharks now tagged by the program.

https://twitter.com/SLSWA

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RIP Peter Matthiessen

25matthiessen-articleLargeSad to report that American writer, researcher and activist Peter Matthiessen passed away April 5, 2014. After being diagnosed with leukemia over a year ago, Matthiessen died of the disease in New York at the age of 86.

Matthiessen’s life story reads like an adventure novel and his travels spanned the globe including Asia, South America, Africa, Europe and Australia. A highly educated man, he served time as a journalist, explorer, novelist, professional fisherman and even a spy. In 1953, he co-founded The Paris Review, a well known literary magazine. Years later, in a 2008 interview with Charlie Rose, Matthiessen admitted that he “…invented The Paris Review as a cover” for his CIA operations. He worked for ‘the company’ for two years before moving on to other ventures.
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After the passing of his first wife in 1927, Matthiessen spent time in Nepal trekking into the Himalayas. Also during the 70s, he experimented with LSD, practiced Zen meditation and later, became a Buddhist priest. He believed that his Buddhist path was a natural progression that evolved from his experimentation with hallucinogens.

Matthiessen was a three time National Book Award winner and a prominent environmental activist with a focus on the effects that humans have on the animal world.

764165He also had a long standing interest in reports of Sasquatch type creatures from around the globe. In his 1978 bestseller “The Snow Leopard” he spoke about his search for the Yeti, a creature he would write about again in his 1995 book, “East of Lo Monthang: In the Land of the Mustang.”

Matthiessen was in attendance at one of the first gatherings of those interested in the study of the Sasquatch, a conference in Vancouver, British Columbia in May, 1978. The list of attendees reads like a who’s who of Sasquatch studies and included John Green, Rene Dahinden, Bob Gimlin and Grover Krantz.

In later years, Matthiessen gave talks on the topic including a lecture hosted in Idaho by Sasquatch authority Dr. Jeff Meldrum. The presentation, “A Naturalist’s Impressions of the Wildman” featured Matthiessen’s knowledge of the elusive creatures and he discussed legends of Wildmen ranging from the Pacific Northwest to the high Himalayas.
Even his massive bestseller, “In the Spirit of Crazy Horse” mentioned the Sasquatch, specifically, Lakota legends of the “Big Men,” the regional, native term for the mysterious, furry beings.

Scientist and writer, Stephen Jay Gould dubbed Matthiessen “Our greatest, modern nature writer in the lyrical tradition.”

Peter Matthiessen’s final book, a novel titled “In Paradise” is scheduled for release this week. He will be deeply missed.

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River Monsters Season 6

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Jeremy Wade returns with River Monsters season six on Animal Planet. The season premiere on April 6th is “Amazon Apocalypse.”

Check out the sneak peak on Animal Planet’s website:

http://m.animalplanet.com/tv-shows/river-monsters/videos/get-a-sneak-peek-amazon-apocalypse-season-6-premiere?page=0

 

 

 

 

 

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Tagging the Coelacanth

Scientists have reported success with a coelacanth tagging program launched in 2013 off the coast of South Africa, and they have retrieved a satellite tag holding nine months worth of data about the rare fish.
coelacanthBecause of the creature’s endangered status, only one coelacanth was tagged under the project in May, 2013. The tag was programmed to release and float to the surface after nine months. Since coelacanths spend much of their time in caves on the floor of the sea, scientists were not sure the tag would ever make it to the surface. In February of 2014, the tag’s location information was transmitted to project members and a search party found the small egg sized device the following day.

The coelacanth has been called a ‘dinosaur fish,’ a ‘living fossil’ and a ‘Lazarus fish.’ It was thought to have gone extinct in the Late Cretaceous period about 65 million years ago.
In 1938, a coelacanth was discovered among a catch of fish off the coast of South Africa. Brought in by the fishing ship, Nerine, the bright blue fish was taken to a museum by curator Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer. Debate over the authenticity of the specimen raged until another was caught near Madagascar fourteen years later. Following the discovery and verification of the coelacanth’s existence, countless specimens were caught, so many in fact, that it led to their endangerment.V4-2Coelacanth_750

The fish is not considered a food source since its oils give the flesh a foul taste. It is however, the frequent victim of commercial fishermen using deep sea trawling methods. So far, none have survived long in captivity making it a difficult animal to study closely.
The name ‘coelacanth’ is derived from the Greek word for ‘hollow spine,’ a nod to the hollow spine fins that the fish bears. The fish can grow to between five and six feet in length and weigh over a hundred pounds. The coelacanth has eight fins and is covered in armor like scales. Each of the fish bears its own, unique color markings and their colors vary from bright blue and white to brown. Scientists believe that the fish are able to recognize each other through electric communication.
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In 1997, a second population of coelacanths was discovered off the coast of Indonesia. Marine biologist Mark Erdmann spotted the fish at a local market and snapped a picture. At the time, Erdmann didn’t realize the fish had not been documented in the region. Indonesian fishermen were well familiar with the animal however. They referred to it as the “Rajalut” or “King of the Sea.”

For many years there have been rumors of a population of coelacanths in the Western Hemisphere. Various bits of evidence have been presented including coelacanth like scales. Some areas even have local legends about the fish, but no solid evidence has been proven.

The current populations of coelacanths are being closely studied. Both known species of coelacanth are considered endangered and scientists are taking precautions to help save the fish.

The coelacanth is often cited by cryptozoologists as an example of supposedly extinct species that have still survived in remote pockets. The approach in dealing with these rare fish should be watched closely as a learning model for future cryptozoological discoveries.

More about the Coelacanth tagging project can be found here:

http://www.sanbi.org/news/coelacanth-tagging-study-success

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Patterson-Gimlin Filmsite

Daniel Perez, editor of the Bigfoot Times newsletter, has produced a cool, fold-out postcard of the Patterson-Gimlin filmsite. The card features five different images of the famous location, showing how it has changed over the years. Beginning in 1968 and ending in 2012.

The limited edition foldout is only $5.50 postpaid. These won’t last so snag a copy while you can. Contact Daniel at: perez952@sbcglobal.net

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