Welcome to the eleventh in a series of Animal Tales from the Bermuda SPCA, which have kindly been sponsored by our good friends at Noah’s Ark.
To the annoyance of some people the print media is already full of Christmas ads, while the odd Christmas song can be heard on the radio. One of today’s plays was ‘Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer’.
Where on earth you might wonder, did the association between Christmas and reindeers originate? The answer is three-fold.
In the northern hemisphere we always associate Christmas with snow — even if we live on an island where it has never snowed on record.
The natural environment of the reindeer is the Arctic plain or tundra, which is covered in a blanket snow throughout the harsh, freezing cold winter.
Surprisingly, of all the species of deer, the reindeer is the only one that can be domesticated.
As such man has used them for a variety of purposes over thousands of years – including pulling wooden sleighs across the snow.
Imaginative minds in decades past have sought to link the legends of old St. Nicholas with reindeers and sleighs, until now we accept this association as an inseparable part of the Christmas tradition.
Reindeers are herbivores and eat a wide variety of plant material. They typically weigh between 200 and 600 pounds, and live on average between 12 and 15 years.
They are always on the move and herds may number as few as 20 or as many as several thousand.
Though they appear slow, reindeers have an amazing turn of speed. How fast? Well, in a race for example, a day-old reindeer would be capable of out running Usain Bolt!
If you are thinking about adopting or buying a pet for Christmas, then you should seriously think again and postpone your decision until after the New Year.
Christmas, in fact, is the worst possible time to bring a new pet into your home. Firstly, the animal faces the trauma of being introduced to a new environment and getting to know the current residents.
There is also the heightened excitement of the holiday season and having to compete with all and sundry for attention over a frenzied fortnight.
Secondly, with the beginning of the New Year, life suddenly returns to normal, and your pet will be left wondering why the house is so quiet and people are leaving it all alone.
It’s much more sensible and less stressful for your new pet to bring him or her home after the holidays when your pet can gradually assimilate into its new surroundings, and you can steadily work on bonding together.
A census of a different kind
If you think Bermuda’s census takers are having a hard time arriving at an accurate count of island residents, then spare a thought for animal census takers in India who are trying to accurately count the number of wild tigers left in their country.
With an estimated tiger population of just 3,500 spread over 100,000 square kilometres of forest, that’s no easy task!
Scientists now believe that they’ve found a reliable and low-cost method of assessing wild tiger numbers through the examination of paw prints and faeces.
Previously, scientists relied on expensive camera traps to gather their evidence, but the new system has proven just as accurate and for just seven per cent of the cost of using camera traps.
The data is apparently vital for conservation investment, planning, habitat management and law enforcement. You could apply the same reasoning behind the need for Bermuda’s census data, and although we are so far behind with our count, I don’t think that we need to resort to such basic counting methods on our island just yet!
Jack and the pussy cat
There have been numerous tales over the years of small, feisty cats defending their territory against much larger adversaries, from large dogs to grizzly bears — and winning!
Now comes a tale from South Dakota of a 17-pound Jack Russell that chased a 150-pound mountain lion off its property and up a tree. Eventually, the cat came down and was chased away again by the same dog and its owner.
Wildlife experts think that the cougar probably wasn’t very hungry, otherwise it would have instinctively turned on the dog.
Apparently, it normally takes a minimum of three dogs working together to drive away a fully-grown mountain lion, and not as in this case, a single, spunky average sized Jack!