Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Social Climbing

High: 40° F
Low: 21° F
Conditions: Winter weather advisory. Snow and freezing rain. Nearly an inch of ice is expected.
The New York Times ran a wonderful article today about recent research on the spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta). Much maligned for their wily scavenging and pernicious nature, spotted hyenas are now believed to be remarkably sophisticated in their sociability, too. In fact, Dr. Kay E. Holekamp, the Michigan State University professor who ran the recent study, claims that hyenas are akin to primates when it comes to recognizing different members of a clan, maintaining social networks, and responding to nonverbal cues. They also have a surprising large frontal cortex.

Normally, this information would captivate me and the caninaturalist. We have an uneasy interest in hyenas: although they look remarkably dog-like, hyenas are actually more closely related to cats (both belong to the suborder Feliformia). I find this fact intriguing; the caninaturalist finds it somewhat appalling. But she is intrigued by their unruly behavior: females cross-dress to look like males (and even present large pseudo-male reproductive organs, which makes identifying the two sexes difficult). Spotted hyenas are also notoriously covetous of other animals’ possessions, and they’re not opposed to sneaking around and stealing food from much larger animals. In short, they’re kind of an amalgamation of all the most mischievous quadruped behaviors regularly seen in my house. The idea that they are also some of the most socially complex animals? Fascinating. Or at least it would be most days.

But not this week. This week, Ari has other things on her mind. Ever since we were tracked by a large bobcat (you can read the post here), Ari has been viewing the world through a very different lens: the lens of a prey animal. And I have to admit, it’s jaded her.

Normally a huge fan, she now views our neighbors Charlie Horse and Lily with decided suspicion.

The local goats have become too dangerous to consider.

Even Mesquite, Ari’s favorite walking buddy, gets a stern once-over from the caninaturalist.

I’d like to believe Ari is just being unusually paranoid. And, in truth, that’s exactly what I did think for quite a while. But then our good friend Brent sent us the following picture, taken in Van Buren, Maine—not far from the New Brunswick border.

Canada Lynx (Lynx canadensis)! And not just lynx, but lynx hanging out in groups. Like dogs!
Forget about hyenas, this is serious--especially if they figure out how to track snow-loving dogs. We’d like to think of ourselves as two of Canada’s biggest supporters. But if this is what our great northern neighbor is importing, I fear they’ve lost one four-legged fan.


PKPWV said...

Wow a pack of Lynx! Ari, I'd be hiding!!! They look scary! And they are bigger than any house cat!! I'll take my house cats any day! I don't blame you for being suspicious!!!

I think your mom is right when she said to my mom that I might rebel when she goes back to work. My mom has already talked to my pet sitter about me-don't you hate it when they talk about you?? I think I might get treats or treated special since I've spent 3 months non-stop with mom!!

Island Rambles Blog said...

Great picture of the Lynx...sorry ari is a little put off and not trusting the goats!! We have cougars here, they have bobcats in the interior that eat the goats. The big cats are scary as any movement to them is prey, food.

Indy said...

Wow, those Lynx cats are something! Do you think they'd want to play?

I go to school at Best Friends Pet Resort and Salon in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Do you know somedoggy who goes to school there???

Kapp pack said...

Good luck with the ice! We've had so much rain I think we will float away!

Woo woo, Kelsey Ann

Dave Coulter said...

Lynx! Wow! What an awesome shot. Thanks for visiting my blog today! :)

Farmgirl_dk: said...

Really fun pictures - and the lynx street party shot was amazing. Imagine arriving unaware to such a gathering...jeez. Beautiful creatures, though.
And just what is the difference between a bobcat and a lynx? I'm beginning to think that what I have attached to a felt rug in a box in the garage isn't a bobcat, like I thought, but rather a lynx (sad, i know, but it was my grandfather's and it's been in the family for decades).

John Theberge said...

I'm glad you enjoyed the photo I posted yesterday. I wasn't photographing the puffins as part of the restoration project; I was just doing for it myself. They are fun to watch and when you're around them it seems as though you're surrounded by chainsaws off in the distance.

Khyra The Siberian Husky said...

Now THEY are some khats I would like to hang with!

I bet they aren't afraid of a Dyson!!

Another great post from you two!!!

Sweet Innocent Khyra being made the bad gal by some evil khat in Washington State with a name that starts with W and ends in R!

seasonseatingsfarm said...

It is a weird feeling when you know you're being followed or watched. Cheer up Ari. Springs coming (or at least that's what I've been told) and the bobcats will go further back into the woods. Here's to better weather for everyone next winter.

Turbo the Sibe said...

Lynx are not only interesting animals, but also just about the best word to play in a game of hangman!

Marigold said...

Goats? Did you say goats? Let's hear more about the goats.

We have a lynx here. The local rangers say, and I quote, "There are no lynx on the Olympic Peninsula". That would be precisely WRONG! Our fellow is VERY tall, with huge feet and cinnamon colored. No white anywhere. We saw a bobcat the day after we saw the lynx and, believe me, there was a BIG difference. So much for that myth. :)

The Army of Four said...

Holy CATS, look at those CATS!? Yikes! Cool picture, but YIKES!
Ari, your friends all look so cool. And that snow .... oh, the lovely snow! Sigh. We might get some tonight, though. I have to ask Amber. She always knows.
Play bows,

Max said...

It's great to follow the adventures of a fellow DogBlogger! Our dog also wavers in her trust of humans and other species. We all have a lot to learn about our canine companions.

JB's Big World said...

Wow, this is a great post. What great Lynx pics. I think Ari should not be so serious about your animal neighbors though....they all look too friendly!
Maybe you should give Ari some pie to calm her down! hee hee

Gus and Louie said...

Wow we love the Lynx. They are so cool.. Great pictures....

Big Sloppy Kisses
Gus and Louie

Sid the Dog said...

Neat-o lynx! I was also intrigued by the hyena article in the NYT (I am a huge fan of the NYT Olivia Judson blog as well). I wonder what a similar study on my Canis Lupus cousins would turn up...

Apparently the lynx are having trouble thanks to snowmobiles being able to get deeper and deeper into the woods. Lynx paws are designed for snowshoeing, enabling the cats to go after winter prey that other predators have not been able to access due to their lack of wide feet. Now that coyotes can follow the snowmobile tracks into the woods, they are competing with lynx for the same food source. Silly Great Oppressors... Not that I'm a huge fan of cats, of course. I'm liberal, but not that liberal!

Sharon said...

That picture of the pack Lynx is cool but scary! Hove you seen any more signs of that big cat that was tracking you the other day? Heaving one that close is even scarier.

Pippa said...

I like goats and horses. I don't know about lynx. They are very rare here and endangered. I think that is sad. I hope you aren't endangered when you go out though.


sugarcreekstuff said...

I'm a scaredycat, because I'm scaredy of those cats. Yikes!

Majchy said...

We finally got snow too. :D
Nice photos! :)

Pet your beautiful Ari for me. :)

Me & my puppies said...

I’m with Ari, I would be staying out of woods for awhile. Lynx are usually solitary, although they have been known to travel in small groups (as seen in your photo) and at times they hunt together. Since mating takes place in the late winter, you might be seeing more of them.

It is my understanding, the Canadian Lynx is an endangered species in the United States. Interesting story and great photo, thanks for sharing.

Rusty said...

It snowed at my house today! Not real snow like you have, but enough so I could feel ita nd see it and get my picture taken in it!