Megafauna Survival in Southeast Asian Landscapes Varies

February 2, 2023

The presence of humans is detrimental to megafauna survival, and humans are responsible for the extinctions and extirpations of many species across the globe. Furthermore, in regions where megafauna still survives, humans depress their overall populations with hunting and habitat degradation. A new study of megafauna in Southeast Asia analyzes the differences in species survival rates in the presence of human impact. An impressive assemblage of megafauna still survives in the region despite a continuous and growing human presence. Humans have lived in the region for 60,000 years. The region enjoys a rich tropical climate with an abundance of food sources and variety of habitats that support megafauna populations. The authors of the study set up camera traps at many sites in Thailand, Malasia, Singapore, and parts of Indonesia. They recorded the abundance of 14 species including tiger, leopard, clouded leopard, dhole, sun bear, sambar deer, Malay tapir, Sumatran rhinoceros, Asian elephant, wild boar, bearded pig, mainland serow (a species of tropical goat), and banteng and guar–2 species of wild cattle. Wild boar was the most common species and was found at 65% of the sites. Sumatran rhinos were the least common species and were not found at all. The study considers Sumatran rhinos to be functionally extinct. Banteng and guar were among the less common species as well. People like to eat their beef. No 2 sites had identical species assemblages demonstrating the varied response of megafauna to human presence.

Megafauna populations decline or are extirpated in regions where they suffer from human hunting and habitat degradation. Some megafauna species in southeast Asia follow this trend, but others defy it. The reasons for this disparity are complex and poorly understood. Chart from the below reference.
Chart showing body size and whether a species was herbivore or carnivore didn’t matter in the frequency of extirpations at different sites in Southeast Asia. Charts also from the below study.

The authors of the study note 74 extirpations of megafauna that formerly ranged throughout the region. 58 extirpations occurred during the Holocene from 11,700 years ago to 1950. 16 extirpations have occurred in the region during the Anthropocene (since 1950). (Scientists don’t agree among themselves about when the Anthropocene began. The Anthropocene is regarded as the time when humans became the dominant force in earth’s environment. Some scientists think it should be considered as beginning in 1611, while others believe 1950 should be the starting date. Still others think the Anthropocene began 50,000 years ago. This study goes by the 1950 date.) They found no pattern for megafauna survival or failure to survive. Size didn’t matter nor did whether or not they were a carnivore or herbivore. Some species actually favored areas where habitat was degraded. Wild boars thrive near human habitations. They benefit from foraging on farmer’s crops, and the local Muslims won’t hunt them because they don’t eat pork. Asian elephants, tigers, and clouded leopards were also common in degraded habitats. However, the most disturbed sites had 2.5 times more extirpations than the least disturbed sites. There is some good news: as long as anti-poaching regulations are enforced, megafauna can survive near human settlements. Unfortunately, large, protected parks in remote areas are hard to patrol, and megafauna can become extirpated in areas that otherwise offer excellent habitat.

Reference:

Amir, Z.; J. Moore, P. Negret, and M. Irvin

“Megafauna Extinctions Produce Idiosyncratic Anthropocene Assemblage”

Science Advances 8 (42) Oct 2022

https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/sciadv.abq2307

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Snowy Winters and Dry Summers Prevailed in Southwestern North America during the Late Pleistocene

January 26, 2023

Ice Age climates spawned dramatically altered weather patterns compared to those of the present day. The result of those different weather patterns is evident in how changed Southwestern North America has become since then. During Ice Ages Southwestern North America was a land of vast lakes, abundant springs, and widespread wetlands. There even was a lake in Death Valley, California where it almost never rains today. There were especially large lakes in Utah, Nevada, and central Oregon–areas that today are quite arid. Scientists debate the source of the greater precipitation that occurred then. Some think the source was summer rains coming from fronts originating in the tropics, while most believe the polar jet stream carried moisture from the North Pacific that fell as heavy snows during winter. A new study of carbon and oxygen isotope ratios in tooth enamel from Pleistocene mammals supports the latter scenario.

Scientists analyzed 39 teeth from mammoth, bison, horse, and camel excavated from the Tule Spring Fossil Bed National Monument in Nevada. They can determine how precipitation was delivered based on the ratios of carbon and oxygen isotopes in the teeth because the animals ate the plants that absorbed the water, and the animals directly drank it. Most of the precipitation in the region came from heavy snows, and the lakes refilled every spring and early summer from snow melt. They believe summers were relatively dry, and lakes began to evaporate until seasonal snowfall. Mammoths, bison, and horses ate a lot of the fresh grass that grew tall on water from snowmelt. Horses may have eaten more grass here during Ice Ages than they do today. But camels browsed on saltbush (Atriplex sp.). The presence of this species indicates dry summers and arid localities within the lush landscape. Scientists think glaciers to the north of the region split the polar jet stream, and the lower stream carried moisture from the North Pacific, causing winter precipitation. Lake levels were highest during the Last Glacial Maximum following Heinrich Events that occurred when ice dams melted, and massive pulses of freshwater studded with ice bergs flooded into the oceans. Moisture in earth’s atmosphere increased following Heinrich events.

Map of Southwestern North America during the Late Pleistocene. Meltwater from much snowier winters caused the formation of giant lakes in the region then. From the below reference by Munroe and Laabs.
Beth Zaiken’s depiction of wildlife in Nevada during the last Ice Age. Vegetation was much lusher than it is today due to higher annual precipitation.

When glaciers retreated at the end of the Ice Age, the polar jet stream recombined and began to flow to the north. Winter snowfall was greatly reduced, and the lakes gradually evaporated. The Great Salt Lake of Utah is a remnant of a much larger freshwater lake that existed during Ice Ages.

The abundant wetlands and lakes of the region hosted many species of birds that today breed in the Arctic during summer. These species could not live in the Arctic during the Ice Ages because their present-day ranges were under miles of glacial ice. Their breeding ranges shifted to the Southwest. See also:

References:

Kohn, M. et. al.

“Seasonality of Precipitation in the Southwestern U.S. during the Late Pleistocene Inferred from Stable Isotopes in Herbivore Tooth Enamel”

Quaternary Science Review 290 November 2022

Munroe, J.; and B. Laabs

“Temporal Correspondence Between Pluvial Lake High Stands in Southwestern U.S. and Heinrich Event 1”

Journal of Quaternary Science 28 (11) 2013

The Early-Mid Pleistocene European Jaguar (Panthera gombaszoegensis) was not Actually a Jaguar

January 19, 2023

During 1938 M. Kretzoi, a paleontologist, studied some unidentified lower fossil teeth and concluded they belonged to an extinct species of jaguar that roamed Europe during the early to mid-Pleistocene. He gave the species the scientific name Panthera gombaszoegensis. Paleontologists long thought this species was ancestral to the American jaguar (P. onca) and some thought it was the same species. A mostly complete skull was finally found in a Belgian sinkhole (the La Belle-Roche fossil site) during 1980, but paleontologists didn’t really study it until recently. They compared this fossil skull with those from extant species of cats in the Panthera genus including lion, leopard, tiger, jaguar, and snow leopard. They concluded P. gombaszoegensis was not a jaguar after all, though the lower teeth were similar. Instead, this species was most closely related to the tiger (P. tigris) and based on the characteristics of the skull they believe it was a sister species to the tiger, having diverged directly from the same common ancestor. This makes sense geographically because its range was much closer to the tiger than the jaguar. P. gombaszoegensis lived from 2 million years BP to 350,000 years BP, and it is thought to have been a generalist predator, taking whatever prey species they could bring down. Lions and leopards expanded their ranges into Europe from Africa about 350,000 years ago and likely ecologically replaced P. gombaszoegensis.

Map showing range of modern tigers, modern jaguars, and the extinct Panthera gombaszoegensis. An anatomical comparison concludes European jaguars were more closely related to modern tigers than jaguars. This makes more sense geographically. The lower image is a map showing fossil localities where this species has been found in Belgium. Image from the below reference.

Skull of Panthera gombaszoegensis. A comparison of this skull with extant species of cats in the Panthera genus suggest it is a sister species of modern tigers, not jaguars. Image also from the below reference.

Paleontologists think the Panthera genus originated in central Asia about 6 million years ago during the late Miocene. The direct ancestor of the jaguar is unknown. The oldest jaguar fossil known was found in a cave in West Virginia and dates to 850,000 years ago. It descended from a species that crossed the Bering land bridge sometime during the early Pleistocene.

Reference:

Chator, N.; M, Michaud, and V. Fischer

“Not a Jaguar After All: Phylogenetic Affinities and Morphology of the Pleistocene Felid Panthera gombaszoegensis

Papers in Paleontology 2022

link https://www.researchgate.net/publication/363739515_Not_a_jaguar_after_all_Phylogenetic_affinities_and_morphology_of_the_Pleistocene_felid_Panthera_gombaszoegensis

A Genetic Study of Mark Gelbart–My 23 and Me Results

January 12, 2023

My late mother’s cousin researched our family genealogy years ago. and I know quite a bit about our family’s history. Nevertheless, I wanted to know more. I wanted to know what the science reveals. I submitted my DNA to 23 and Me, a service that analyzes a person’s genetics for a fee. The results arrived a few days ago. They determined I was 51.2% British (English and Irish) and 48.8% Ashkenazi Jew. I must have inherited a little more DNA from my mom than from my dad. I already knew I was half of English descent and half Jewish. My mom’s cousin’s genealogy chart on my maternal side goes back 1000 years. Most of the names on my maternal side are very English–Parsons, Penhollow, Howe, etc. However, the oldest names are Norman (the French speaking Vikings who invaded England 1000 years ago). I have no Scandinavian ancestry according to these results. 23 and Me must interpret British ancestry as the indigenous British population + Viking invaders + the Germanic tribes who invaded England even earlier. I also take issue with 23 and Me’s classification of Ashkenazi Jews as European. Ashkenazi Jews originated in the Middle East (primarily the location of modern Israel). They are descendants of the people Romans conquered and forcibly removed from Judea 1900 years ago. The foundling population of Ashkenazi Jews was likely just a few hundred individuals who clung to their traditions. The rest were assimilated or perished.

I have good knowledge of my ancestry, so the results were not a surprise. I’m half British and half Ashkenazi Jew. I take issue though with 23 and Me classifying Ashkenazi as European rather than Middle Eastern. Ashkenazi Jews originated in the Levant.

I was most interested in finding out if I had any relatives I didn’t know about. I found out I have seven 2nd cousins and hundreds of 3rd and 4th cousins who submitted their DNA to 23 and Me. I don’t know any of them. My closest relative who submitted their DNA to 23 and Me supposedly shares a Great Grandparent with me. I know the surnames of 7 out of 8 of my Great Grandparents. They are Gelbart, Shneier, Klarriech, Bailey, Wages, Cobb, and Parsons. The family tree provided by 23 and Me suggests she is related to a Great Grandparent on my Jewish side, but I can’t determine who. She is 1/4th Jewish and 1/4th English. This result is a bit of a mystery, and I think this result might be slightly off. I think it is more likely we share a Great-Great Grandparent, probably from the Klarriech side. I think there was someone from that side who arrived in the U.S. early enough. Her mother was born in 1930. My 2nd closest relative shares a Great-Great-Grandparent, and I think I did figure this one out. He includes the Bailey surname in his list of family surnames. Sam Bailey lived from 1840-1922, and he is one of my Great-Great-Grandparents. I’ve lost touch with my mom’s paternal side relatives, even though many of them live here in Georgia. My Grandfather called one side of his family a “rough bunch” and “horse thieves from Alabama.” I’d be interested in meeting their descendants. I thought I wouldn’t have many Jewish relatives because of the Holocaust, but I was wrong. There are lots of Jewish-sounding names on my paternal side. The list of places where their parents were born is like a map of where Ashkenazi Jews ranged. Birthplaces listed by my 23 and Me relatives include U.S. (359), Poland (217), Russia (193), Ukraine (167), Romania (71), Hungary (67), Lithuania (67), Austria (61), Germany (61), Belarus (59), U.K. (37), Canada (28), Latvia (20), Czeck Republic (11), South Africa (10), Moldavia (10), Italy (9), Israel (7), France (7), and the Netherlands (5).

23 and Me also estimates the chances of certain traits. I do prefer salty snacks over sweet. They gave that a 57% chance. Against the odds, I do like broccoli and Brussel sprouts and cilantro. Unfortunately, also against the odds I have a bald spot and back hair.

I do have back hair and a bald spot, so that is against the odds, but I don’t have dimples.
I do have blue eyes. My hair thinning didn’t occur until after 40.

23 and Me goes way back and can tell which haplogroup I belong to. My mom is from maternal haplogroup H1 which originated from one woman who lived 18,000 years ago and spread throughout Europe and Asia after the Last Glacial Maximum. My paternal haplogroup is much older originating 47,500 years ago in North Africa. They are known as haplogroup E-M5021. They eventually became farmers. The report also claims I’m less than 2% Neanderthal, but I am more Neanderthal than 76% of the population.
My maternal line is haplogroup H1 which originated about 18,000 years ago. We all descend from the same mother who lived in Africa between 150,000-200,000 years BP.
My paternal haplogroup is E-M5021. They are thought to have become farmers.

I was glad I submitted my DNA results, and I hope more of my relatives eventually submit theirs.

Pleistocene Howls

January 5, 2023

Hyoid bones are rarely found in most fossil sites. Canid hyoid bones are a collection of 9 small bones held together with ligaments. The hyoid bone supports the pharynx, larynx, and tongue. During the process of decomposition after an animal dies, the larger bones are more likely to be preserved, but the small bones such as the ones that make up the hyoid get separated and oftentimes crushed. They then dissolve or are broken into unrecognizable fragments. However, the La Brea tar pits are an exceptional fossil site with excellent preservation, and many complete hyoid bones have been found there. Scientists recently studied the canid hyoid bones found there and compared them to the hyoid bones found in extant species of coyotes and wolves.

Diagram of a dire wolf hyoid bone from the below reference.
Illustration by Mauricio Anton. During the Pleistocene big cats mostly hunted in forested areas while dire wolves mostly hunted in open areas.

Dire wolves had larger hyoid bones than modern species of wolves including gray and red wolves and coyotes. They howled with a lower frequency and deeper pitch than any species of extant American wolf. Scientists couldn’t find any difference between the hyoid bones of coyotes and red wolves. Pleistocene coyotes were larger than modern coyotes and so were their hyoid bones. They howled with a lower frequency and deeper pitch than modern coyotes. If we could hear a dire wolf howl, we would definitely notice a much deeper howl than normally heard today by people lucky enough to live where wolves and coyotes’ howl.

Reference:

Flores, D., E. Eldridge, E. Eliminowski, E. Dickinson, A. Hartstone-Rose

“The Howl of Rancho La Brea: Comparative anatomy of Modern and Fossil Canid Hyoid Bones”

Journal of Morphology April 2020

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/340726915_The_howl_of_Rancho_La_Brea_Comparative_anatomy_of_modern_and_fossil_canid_hyoid_bones

All Modern Wolves (Canis lupus) Descend from a Population that Originated in Beringia

December 29, 2022

All wolves in the northern hemisphere descend from a population originating in Beringia, according to a recent study of wolf DNA. Beringia is the geographic region including western Alaska, eastern Siberia, and formerly the Bering land bridge when it was above sea level during Ice Ages. Scientists examined the DNA from 90 “modern” wolf specimens (those dating to less than 500 years old and 40 “ancient” wolf specimens (those dating to more than 500 years old). They concluded the population of wolves living in Beringia 50,000 years ago eventually expanded across Eurasia and North America and displaced the populations of wolves that were already living there. Ice sheets blocked expansion into North America until about 15,000 years ago. There is not enough data to know for sure how similar Beringian wolves were to North America wolves living below the Ice Sheet before the expansion.

Graph showing expansion of the Beringian wolf population across the Northern Hemisphere during the Late Pleistocene. From the below referenced paper.

Late Pleistocene wolves were larger and had teeth, skulls, and jaws that were more robust than modern gray wolves, though they were not as robust as those of the extinct dire wolves (C. dirus) formerly found throughout most of North America. Dire wolves were not at all closely related to gray wolves and were separated by at least 1 million years of evolutionary divergence. Late Pleistocene wolves were well adapted to scavenging and/or hunting mammoths, horses, and bison. The population of wolves from Beringia may have specialized in hunting caribou and perhaps followed caribou herds over long distances. Maybe this explains how they became so widespread. The other wolves, so well adapted to hunting megafauna, didn’t survive megafauna extinctions, but Beringian wolves following caribou herds did.

The results of this recent study contradict an older study that concluded modern gray wolves didn’t descend from the more robust Beringian wolves. The authors of the newer paper explain their study had a greater sample size and looked at more of the wolf DNA than the older study did. It certainly eliminates the mystery of where modern Alaskan wolves originated. They’ve had a continuous presence in the region for a very long time.

Reference:

Loog, Lisa, et. al.

“Ancient DNA Suggests Modern Wolves Track their Origin to a Late Pleistocene Expansion from Beringia”

Molecular Ecology Jan 2020

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/mec.15329

Mammoth Populations Decreased While Horse Populations Increased in Europe during the Late Pleistocene

December 22, 2022

Anatomically modern humans hunted mammoths in Europe over 34,000 years ago. There is plenty of archaeological evidence for this, but the evidence gets scarcer after this date. A recent study places the blame for this decline in mammoth populations on humans. Scientists analyzed the chemical isotope ratios in the bones of mammoths, horse, red deer, caribou, and wolf from a time period dating between 34,000 years BP-23,000 years BP. They determined the environment favorable to mammoths remained intact during the time period, yet mammoth populations declined significantly. Climatic changes were minimal. Therefore, the only explanation for this decline in mammoth populations was overhunting by humans. People likely decimated populations by focusing on the juvenile individuals. This might also explain the scarcity of the scimitar-toothed cat in the fossil record after this date in Europe. The scimitar-toothed cat specialized in hunting juvenile mammoths, and their decline coincided with the decline of their prey.

A scientific study determined mammoth populations in Western Europe declined beginning about 34,000 years ago. Scientists believe overhunting by humans “decimated mammoth populations.” Horse populations increased during this time period because more food became available for them when there were fewer mammoths. The environment remained stable during this time period.

This study found a great overlap in the diets of mammoths and horses. More food was available for horses following the decline of mammoth populations, and horse populations increased during this time period. Eventually though, humans overhunted horses too. The bones used from this study were from Germany and France, and it was an extensive study with a large sample size. It shows how humans impacted landscapes even before we were common.

Reference:

Drucker, D.; et. al.

“Tracking Possible Decline of Woolly Mammoth during the Gravettian in Dordogne (France) and the Ach Valley (Germany) Using Multi-Isotope Tracking (13 C, 14 C, 15 N, 34 S, 18 O)”

Quaternary International Mar 2016

Pockets of Prairies in Eastern North America

December 15, 2022

The notion a squirrel could have traveled through treetops from the Atlantic Coast to the Mississippi River when Europeans first discovered North America is a myth. Extensive grasslands existed throughout eastern North America then. Many factors contributed to their origin. Indians annually set fire to the woods to improve habitat for the deer, bear, and turkeys they ate. Normally, this created an open woodland environment because many species of trees can survive light grass fires. But in some areas, fires can consume much of the tree cover, creating open grassland. Indians also removed trees when they planted corn fields. Abandoned corn fields became prairie-like for at least 10 years before reverting to forest. Natural lightning ignited fires, tornados, and hurricanes also destroyed forests, creating pockets of prairie within eastern forests. In some locations soil conditions that favor grass over trees resulted in grasslands predominating instead of trees.

Hempstead Prairie on Long Island, New York is an example of a prairie pocket within the eastern forest. It originally was 50 square miles in extent and hosted grassland species of birds such as upland sandpiper, prairie chickens, and eastern meadowlark. This was tall grass prairie with 5-foot-tall grasses and a great variety of flowering plants. It was still mostly intact until about 1969, but suburban development during the 1970s destroyed most of it. Today, just 19 protected acres remain. Homeowners are encouraged to plant native species of plants in their yards, but it will never be the same.

Hempstead Prairie on Long Island, New York. Until suburban development during the 1970s, this prairie was 50 square miles. Now, 19 protected acres are all that is left. Photo from the below linked article.

Every region in mostly forested eastern North America had pockets of prairies within the wooded landscape. Below is a map made by surveyors of an area in Arkansas during the early 1800s. Most of the landscape at this time consisted of oak and pine forest and bottomland swampy forests, but there were 5 major prairies and 9 smaller ones in this area. The larger prairies were even given names. Most of eastern North America was forest like this pock-marked with prairies.

Map of prairie pockets within a forested region in pre-settlement Arkansas. Map from the below referenced Midland Naturalist article.

2 species of birds require extensive stretches of grasslands with no trees–upland sandpipers (Bartamia longicauda) and prairie chickens (Tympanuchus cupido). These birds were formerly abundant in eastern North America. Now, upland sandpipers are rare in the east and prairie chickens have been extirpated in the region. I hypothesize some populations of eastern prairie chickens, most notably the heath hen, were unique species. Because these species are so habitat-specific, they can be used as index species in the subfossil record for the presence of grasslands. The remains of both species, dating to the late Pleistocene, have been found in Kingston Saltpeter Cave and Yarbrough Cave in Georgia, and Bell Cave in Alabama. Most of the bird species remains found at these fossil sites are woodland, wetland, or generalist species, but the presence of upland sandpiper and prairie chicken remains is evidence there were pockets of prairies in north Georgia and north Alabama about 13,000 years ago.

Remains of upland sandpipers found at fossil sites can be used as index fossils denoting the nearby presence of prairies during the time of deposition.
Prairie chicken fossil or sub-fossil remains can also be used as index fossils that suggest the presence of nearby prairies during the time of deposition.

References:

Bragg, Don. C.

“Natural Pre-settlement Features of the Ashley County, Arkansas Area”

American Midland Naturalist 2003

Marinelli, Janet

“Amid the Sprawl, A Long Island Prairie Makes a Quiet Comeback”

Yale Environmental 360 December 2022

https://e360.yale.edu/features/hempstead-plains-long-island-wildlife-conservation-gardens?fbclid=IwAR1bV3MQJg6SS0O5wGnE6i432bHuXllCAEiKY8ohHvgb1IUwaTUG-SmjCmQ

Most Modern Varieties of Oranges are Disappointing in Flavor

December 8, 2022

I have a hard time finding oranges, particularly tangerines, that have any flavor. Tangerines, also known as Mandarin oranges, used to have delicious flavor and aroma, but modern farmers developed seedless varieties that are easy to peel and eat and have a long shelf life. They taste so bland; I regret purchasing them every time. “Little Cuties,” small seedless Mandarin oranges, are heavily marketed and found in all grocery stores, but they are usually a tasteless disappointment. Other modern Mandarin orange varieties are just as bland. My favorite variety of orange is the Temple orange. They are full of seeds but taste good. I haven’t been able to find them in several years. Not being able to get a good orange is just another annoyance I suppose I’ll have to learn to accept. Modern grapefruit varieties are an improvement, however. I remember when grapefruits needed added sugar, but it is not necessary to add sugar to the grapefruit varieties available today.

All citrus species originated in the Himalayan foothills during the late Miocene about 8 million years ago. They were first cultivated in China at least 1700 years ago and soon spread to India. Scientists aren’t sure how many species of citrus exist because men have been interbreeding them for so long. The Moors brought sour oranges (Citrus aurantium) to Spain and North Africa during the 8th century. Sweet oranges weren’t introduced to Europe until the 15th century. The Spanish brought oranges to Florida, and William Bartram saw large groves of wild oranges growing all over the territory by 1776. The Spanish also brought oranges to California. Today, the orange is the most widely grown fruit in the world. Leading producers of oranges include in order Brazil, China, India, the U.S., Mexico, and Spain.

All species of Citrus originated in the foothills of the Himalayas.
Genomic chart showing origin of Citrus fruits. From the below reference.
Genomic chart showing breeding of Citrus fruits by human horticulturalists. Scientists don’t know how many species of Citrus there are because humans have interbred them so frequently. Also from the below reference.

Scientists recently mapped the genome of citrus fruits. The modern sweet orange is a hybrid between pummelo (C. maximus) hybrids and mandarin oranges (C. reticulata). Pummelos can be found in grocery stores and are similar to grapefruits but have thicker skins and more pith. Grapefruits are a back crossing of mandarin hybrids with pummelos. Mandarin oranges have been back crossed with pummelos several times. Lemons are a hybrid between sour oranges and citrons.

Reference:

Guohong, Albert; et. al.

“Genomics of the Origin and Evolution of Citrus”

Nature 554 Feb 2018

My Taxpayer Dollars Pay the Salaries of the Sadistic Assholes who Killed My Favorite Cat

December 1, 2022

Richmond County Animal Control took my Stripey away from me. She was my favorite cat, and we enjoyed a 4-year bond. She was a smart, loving cat and in the prime of her life when she was captured and shortly thereafter given a lethal injection before I could rescue her. She first adopted me when she was about 3 months old on days when I punched my punching bag in the shack behind my house. She would shyly come to me and let herself be petted while I was wearing boxing gloves. But when I took the boxing gloves off, she would run away from me. Gradually, she let herself be petted with my bare hands. When she was about a year old, she disappeared for 2 weeks, and I thought I would never see her again. One day, I went for a walk and found her trapped inside a vacant house where homeless people occasionally spend the night. I broke the door down, and she sprinted toward water. It was late spring and quite hot. Apparently, she survived 2 weeks trapped in a hot house without food or water. A day later, she was carrying her first litter from that house to our yard. She eventually had 5 litters, and I gave her the nickname Stripey, the Slut. She lost her first 2 litters, probably through inexperience (I don’t know what happened to them). Two kittens survived from her 3rd litter to be subadults, but both were run over by cars. One kitten from her 4th litter is still with me; another was swept up in the Animal Control raid. I think someone from my neighborhood adopted most of the kittens from her most recent litter.

This was my Stripey helping me wash the dishes. I miss the little nuisance. I was determined to try and rescue her from animal control because of the way she used to look into my eyes with love. No human ever looks at me like that. Richmond Animal Control didn’t give me a fair chance to get her. They were closed on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, and they counted those holidays as business days. I am so upset.

Stripey always ran inside the house whenever she had the chance. To entice her outside, I would open the door and put food on the step. It was like a game for us. Sometimes, she just didn’t want to leave the house and would explore it, mostly looking for something to eat. She would eat food under the table where my wife sits (she’s disabled and drops lots of food). She would peek inside the trash, and she would jump on the sink and lick the dirty dishes clean.

Her final disappearance was at first a mystery. She disappeared on the Saturday before Thanksgiving along with 4 other cats that my neighbors and I were feeding. They were all breeding age females. I first feared my neighbors had something to do with it. One complained there were too many cats which there were. But then, he would turn around and feed them himself. I dismissed this idea because I couldn’t imagine them being cruel to animals. On Monday I took an edible marijuana product at midnight, and I was too high to fall asleep. I heard a coyote howling in my front yard. Maybe, a coyote got them. But this didn’t make sense either. How could a coyote catch 5 cats in less than a day? The cats run fast and climb trees. I also considered the possibility animal control picked them up. But I thought they had to set traps out to catch cats, and I didn’t see any traps. How could they trap that many cats in such a short period of time? Nevertheless, I called animal control to ask if they had caught any cats in my neighborhood. I discovered they never answer their phones. If I would have just gone in person, Stripey would still be alive today, but I wrongly underestimated their proficiency at catching cats.

My neighbor solved the mystery on Thanksgiving. He told me Animal Control came on Saturday, and he gave them permission to come on his property because he thought I called them. He was as surprised as I was that they caught so many cats so rapidly, and he was missing them. Richmond County Animal Control gives pet owners 5 business days to rescue their animals. I felt determined to save my cat and went to the pet jail the next day. The pet jail is located in a rural part of the county near the people jail. Unfortunately, Richmond County Animal Control was closed on Black Friday, a holiday dreamed up by the retail business, so people will spend money on shit they do not need. I waited outside the locked gate until an employee exited. He told me Thanksgiving and Black Friday counted as business days, but he assured me my cat would be alright. This gave me the false hope she would still be alive on Monday. I felt stressed all weekend, and a salty discharge kept leaking from my eyes as if I was a menopausal woman. I kept imagining how happy Stripey would be to see me after being trapped in a cold cage for 9 days.

Alas, it was not to be. We went again on Monday when they were finally open, but we were too late. The pet concentration camp smelled like shit, and the man in front of me in line was furious because Richmond County Animal Control would do nothing about the dangerous dog haunting an elementary bus stop in his neighborhood. I was directed to a lady in charge of the cats. She was friendly and helpful, and we would’ve been able to take our cat home without any of the rabies vaccination red tape I had unnecessarily worried about. She took us to the room with the captured cats. Most of them looked like pampered fat house cats…not stray or feral cats. I saw 1 cat that resembled Stripey, but it wasn’t her. The cages were spacious, clean, and well-supplied with food and water; but the cats were very vocal and stressed. I asked the lady how they killed my cat, and she told me it was a lethal injection–quick and painless. How would she know? Has she ever felt what it was like to have a lethal injection? If only I had come a week earlier. If only I had detained the cat inside the house that past Saturday.

I still have 4 cats to cherish. Stripey, the Next Generation is just like her mother. She first approached me when I was punching my punching bag and only let me pet her at first when I wore the boxing gloves. Now, she is a little nuisance just like her mother, but she doesn’t run inside the house yet. In addition there is a mellow orange tom cat, and a developmentally delayed cat.

The cat in the foreground is a developmentally delayed runt. I call him roly-poly. He’s from the same litter as the cat behind him.
I call this mellow cat, The Whistler…because he whistles.
This is Stripey’s daughter. She behaves just like Stripey did when she was younger, and I call her Stripey, the Next Generation. She is shyer and must have hidden in the woods when Animal Control captured the other cats. That’s where she came from the next day when I went outside to feed the cats. I miss the challenge of having an older, more experienced cat, however.

Richmond County Animal Control will NEVER have permission to come on my property. I have a poor opinion of them. Years ago, I called about a dangerous dog roaming the neighborhood, and they never sent anybody. The man in front of me in line when I went there was enraged because they would do nothing about a dangerous dog in his neighborhood. Yet, they come into people’s yards and kill their harmless cats. I’m also aggravated with whoever reported us. Maybe it was the police. They are probably supposed to report certain situations to animal control. Or maybe it was just some busybody in our neighborhood who doesn’t like cats. I could live with it, if Stripey had been run over by a car or killed by a coyote, but the thought she was deceived by humans, who I contribute tax money too, makes me sick to my stomach.