High: 40° FThe 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.
Low: 21° F
Conditions: Winter weather advisory. Snow and freezing rain. Nearly an inch of ice is expected.
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.