Catalina bison going on birth control —

Catalina bison going on birth control

The Catalina Island Conservancy has been rounding up the herd so females can get a reversible contraceptive vaccine. The goal: Control the size of the herd to keep it and the environment healthier.

Kim Todd, a facilities management worker with the Catalina Island Conservancy, rushes to close a gate on bison being herded into a pen in the interior of the island. (Genaro Molina / Los Angels Times / November 19, 2009)

Reporting from Avalon – Half a dozen men with walkie-talkies and cattle prods set out on foot at sunrise Thursday to coax a herd of 10 feral bison into a corral a mile away at the bottom of a Santa Catalina Island valley.

It wasn’t easy. In the final days of the mating season, a massive bull kept one beady eye on his cows, all of them pregnant, and the other on his human pursuers, who followed close behind shouting and waving their arms as the animals lumbered up steep slopes and into plunging ravines.

It was one of several herding operations that will culminate today with the inoculation of female bison older than 2 years, part of an experimental program designed to limit the population through contraception. The goal: reduce herd size — which increases by 15% or more each calving season — to a manageable, healthier, less environmentally damaging and constant 150 or so.

The vaccine is non-hormonal and will not harm the animals or change their social structures, said Carlos de la Rosa, the conservancy’s chief conservation and education officer. It is also reversible after about a year.

“Bison will continue to be bison,” De la Rosa said. “Males will continue to compete for females, and females will continue to go into heat. The only difference is that we can control how many calves they have.

“For bison in love,” he added with a laugh, “this means romance without responsibilities.”

The Catalina Island Conservancy, a nonprofit organization that owns 88% of the island and is charged with preserving its wild state, believes the program will be a cost-effective, socially acceptable and humane method of controlling the herd. In Defense of Animals, an advocacy group, agrees and has donated a quarter of the cost of the $200,000, five-year program.

The idea of using contraception on the bison was first suggested by Debbie Avellana, an Avalon shop owner and animal rights advocate who fiercely resisted earlier efforts to rid the island of nonnative goats and pigs.

“I’m so happy. Our bison don’t have to be shipped out or killed,” she said, “and they will have more to eat.”

The program involves annual injections of the wildlife contraceptive porcine zona pellucida — PZP for short. When PZP, derived from pig eggs, is injected, it stimulates the immune system to produce antibodies that attach to sperm receptors on the surface of the female’s eggs and distort their shape, thereby preventing fertilization.

“This is the last season the females will become pregnant en masse,” said Ann M. Muscat, president and chief executive of the conservancy. Contraception, she said, “is the next evolution of management strategy.”

That kind of talk worries Darrell Geist, habitat coordinator for the Buffalo Field Campaign, a nonprofit group dedicated to protecting the last wild bison herd in the United States at Yellowstone National Park.

“When you intervene with natural selection,” he said, “you are unraveling a very complex relationship among herd animals, particularly among matriarchal females and bulls who compete for those females.”

The island’s bison are descendants of the 14 shipped here in 1924 to appear in the 1925 silent western “The Vanishing American.” A decade ago, as many as 500 roamed Catalina’s 76 square miles of rugged mountains, lush valleys, streams and grasslands, where the next-largest natural herbivores are ground squirrels.

Locals have come to cherish the shaggy beasts as living symbols of the island’s heritage, and they are a powerful attraction for eco-tourists.

Some homes in Avalon, the island’s tourism and demographic center with a permanent population of about 4,000 people, are festooned with painted images of bison or crowned with bronze bison weather vanes. Gift shops sell furry bison figurines and gold-painted, dehydrated bison droppings.

The Catalina Island Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau sponsored a “Buffalo in Paradise” event in 2003, which featured whimsically decorated fiberglass bison placed outdoors throughout town.

But Catalina only appears to be a hospitable landscape for bison.

In 2003, when there were 350 bison on the island, a scientific survey concluded that “although the bison seem to be doing well, they are significantly smaller than mainland bison, experience relatively low reproductive rates and appear to be in poor nutritional condition, based on blood tests and frequent observations of open sores.”

The health of the bison has significantly improved, conservancy officials said, since the herd numbers were reduced to less than 200 beginning in 2005. They achieved that by sending the bison out for slaughter or to breeding programs elsewhere.

Most recently, however, the animals have been transported, at a cost of $1,000 per animal, to Native American reservation lands in South Dakota to live out their lives.

The study also pointed out that foraging and wallowing bison were trampling native plant communities, altering tree canopies by rubbing against trees, and undermining weed management efforts by dispersing a variety of nonnative grasses through their droppings.

The contraception program is expected to be 90% effective, “so there will be a small percentage that does not respond and becomes impregnated,” De la Rosa said.

In the meantime, the conservancy’s bison wranglers were clambering over the island’s rugged terrain Thursday with a goal of ensuring that every big browser gets a blood test and an ear tag — and, for females, the contraceptive.

By noon, nearly 50 animals had been rounded up and trucked to a holding facility at conservancy headquarters in the center of the island.

“It’s a lot of exercise for our guys,” said Lenny Altherr, the conservancy’s director of facilities management and trail boss of the roundup.

via Catalina bison going on birth control —

Kids are back in School, YAY!

It’s been a while since I updated the webpage.  I blame it on Facebook.  Okay, It’s my fault, but my family and friends actually see those updates.  So, what did we do all summer?

  • We’ll start with Branden’s Little League disasterous season.  First the good news, Branden’s team wasn’t the Yankees or the Red Sox…  He was a Padre, which is a perfectly acceptable team.  The bad news is that they didn’t win a single game.  They came close and made a game of it a couple of times but no wins.  Branden held up okay, there were definitely days when he did not want to play, but he always did his best.
  • We finally got a handle on Bailey’s skin problems.  A dermatologist at Irvine Medical Center confirmed a diagnosis of dyshidrotic excema and prescribed a very strong steroid ointment for treatment.  On our own, through use of the “Elimination Diet” we discovered that Wheat Gluten was a trigger for the breakouts resulting in huge water blisters.  The guidelines said that you should add one food back that you expect may be causing the issue (or whatever the patient misses the most).  Symptoms should occur in the first 3 days.  What do you know?  3 days went by and blisters came up after we added bread.  We immediately stopped any Wheat product and they went away.
  • We took a day trip to Catalina Island and had lots of fun driving around in a golf cart.  I showed the kids my old haunts and told some stories (Just the benign ones.)  We had lunch at the boat docks, fish and chips.  The kids loved the boat ride and the seas were very calm.  We were greeted by Chris Saldaña at the mole.  I also spotted Marco’s boat pulling in with his catch, a 207lb swordfish.  We were only able to talk for a few minutes since our boat was boarding shortly and he was busy weighing and selling his fish.
  • We took the kids to Sea World and had a great time.  We hit all the shows, the Pets show, the Sealion show, the Dolphin show and Shamu.  The ride, Atlantis, was shut down right when we wanted to ride so we missed that.  Bailey’s favorite thing was touching the Bat Rays.
  • Stacy and I went for a long weekend to Morro Bay, without the kids, for our 16th anniversary.  We stayed at the Anderson Inn and our balcony was right over the water.  We visited Hearst Castle.  We wandered around Morro Bay and shopped.  We also went kayaking on our last day there.  We spent a lot of time just relaxing in the room.
  • I had a business trip to Mountain View, CA and had enough time on Sunday to drive with coworkers to Santa Cruz and have dinner and sit on the beach for a while.
  • I started building a room in the garage, an office for Stacy and I so we can reclaim the family room.  We’re almost done too!  Just paint and carpet left to do before moving in.
  • We incinerated two Tri-Tips during the summer, damaging the barbecue beyond inexpensive repair.  So we went barbecue shopping and decided to buy one that doesn’t cook with direct flame, but by radiant heat.  It cooks really well and is easier to clean.  The burners never get grease on them and there’s only a U shaped pan (the one that radiates all the heat) to clean out.  The grease from the first Tri-Tip did flare up and catch fire, but a little water put out the flames, no damage to the Tri-Tip and putting the meat over part that wasn’t lit solved that issue.
  • We had some friends over for a barbecue and get together and had a great time.
  • Stacy was able to take the kids to the beach with another family a number of times during the summer.  I was only able to make it once.
  • Stacy’s Dad and Juanita visited and we went wine tasting.  We had such a good time and actually found some wine we liked.  Stacy and I went back to South Coast Winery for lunch on our actual anniversary and bought a case of that wine 🙂
  • We went to 2 Angels games, one early in the season, we lost.  One just today, we won!!!
  • We were also able to visit a couple of times this summer with family and once, even Wendy made it all the way from Boston!

Well, I think we’re all caught up.  It was a busy summer with lots of fun stuff going on.  July started off very HOT but then we were surprised with a very mild 6 weeks or so.  Of course now it’s really HOT again and we’re glad we saved some of our tax return for the electric bill which topped out at over $700.00 for the July bill!!!  I HATE Southern California Edison’s tiered billing!  They need to take into consideration the excessive heat and the need for cooling when they baseline months.  It is counter intuitive to any other costing.  If I were to purchase anything else in bulk it would cost me less per unit.  Electricity is the only thing that costs more!  Okay, enough of my price gouging rant.

We hope you all had a great summer too!

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