RIP House Widow


On a trip to the laundry room several years ago I discovered a black widow spider. As the only family member licensed to dispatch spiders, her demise was automatic and swift. My husband protected us from snakes, spiders were my responsibility. A practical, unspoken arrangement acted upon without hesitation, quelling arachnid hysteria never bothered me. If a snake ever hissed in the house my husband would do the same. I forgave the one and only house snake in our 35 years, the garter snake he and the kids brought home in a bucket, the one they named Mrs. Slithers when she gave birth to 11 babies the following day, but that’s another story.

Soon after finding laundry room widow, many more disturbed domestic harmony. Upstairs, downstairs, bathroom, kitchen, bedrooms – black widows were becoming a problem. Some had to be executed, but only as a last resort when catch and release failed. Along the way a peculiar affinity developed for well mannered widows. Rogue spiders couldn’t be allowed to roam at will, homesteaders were another matter.

For a while “No, of course I don’t want a black widow bite”, “Yes, I’ll do something about basement widow” sandbagged rising dismay. Relax! Spiders are my job, the situation is under control!

My son broke the news. “You were sleeping…” “We saw an egg sack…” “Sprayed it with Raid…” “Got the vacuum out…” I heard myself say, you killed my spider? Then wished I could take it back because it sounded so crazy. “We can get you a pet spider” he offered with genuine sympathy. “It’s ok, I don’t want a pet spider” was spoken, “I liked that spider” wasn’t.

I couldn’t explain without sounding unbalanced, wouldn’t expect them to understand mild obsession with observing the same spider for almost 2 years. Their spiders are my snakes, I get it. RIP basement widow.

 

Basement Widow Update


Basement widow hasn’t crossed my mind in a while. Paid a visit after work tonight, snapping a hasty cell phone image of her impressive domain.

Research indicates female black widows have a life span of up to three years. My spider is entering her second basement summer. Rest easy, I’ll update her status every few months.

Steveston Sea Lion Stupidity


Anyone who’s seen the program When Animals Attack understand it almost always starts with nincompoops too stupid to grasp imminent danger.Yesterday afternoon the dock at Steveston B.C. catapulted stupid to the stratosphere. Hey, lets feed this wild animal! No wait, lets put this child in its face. Hahaha, it tried to kiss her, lets put our child even closer. NO STUPID! It wants to eat her, she looks like food! Hit play and watch stupid in action –

 

Never Open My Freezer


My daughter wanted small animal skulls for an art project. Naturally she asked my brother, a perfectly reasonable request none of us considered remarkable. “No problem” he said. We promptly forgot about it for several months. Out of mind until he messaged to expect a parcel sent Greyhound express.

If I could bottle my brother the label would read “Essence of  decency, character, work ethic, empathy, moral fibre and principles”. A man of few words, words saved for storytelling delivered with mesmerizing cadence matched only by the twinkle in his eye. Stories of thwacking a bear on the nose while witching for water, sticking his hand down a drainpipe to extract a rattlesnake, plunging through alone in the wilderness pond ice under the weight of fur bearing animals, once and for all riddance of Saturday morning Jehovah Witness interruption courtesy a half skinned Marmot passed off as his cat. Trapper, water diviner, nuisance wildlife problem solver, woodsman and yes – provider of small animal skulls for an art project.

Not wanting to hurt his feelings I kept an open mind to caution our Greyhound parcel was perishable. “Do tell” seemed appropriate. “Wow, thank you” was all I could muster on hearing its contents. It would appear ungracious to point out she wanted “small” animal skulls, how could I argue with news of several Lynx skulls (skinned but not free of brain matter), raccoons, skunk, marmot and squirrel similarly stripped but not purged and one cougar head skin intact. Not wanting to be a ninny, I heard myself calmly remind him I lived in the city. What were we supposed to do?

No worries he said. Put everything in a large pot, boil until bits start floating to the top. It might take a while, if it smells disgusting throw in some bay leaves and pretend you’re making stew. OMG!! I’ll spare subsequent details, suffice to say it involved extraction of soft boiled tissue.

He would have been proud. Stoic, unflappable determination opened the package, assessed the situation, put all but the far too large cougar head in a pot set on boil. Congratulatory back slaps waned relative to ever growing gray pot scum.I couldn’t say how long it boiled, I can attest to the moment gag reflex stench recalled adding herbs to skull stew. Big mistake! Rubber gloves – check. Soft tissue extraction implements – check. Why aren’t these skulls coming clean? Where did we go wrong?

Suddenly my daughter shouts “abandon ship” – we rationalize postponement not failure. “it’s ok, we just ran out of time, we’ll try again tomorrow”. We carry the pot downstairs intent on flushing skull scum water down the toilet. Nothing prepared us for the last swirling toilet gurgle ejecting a rogue floating skunk skull – a spectacle so absurd both of us collapsed in hysterical stress release laughter. Composure returned with dutiful bagging of drained animal parts. Bag of drained bits back in  pot, punctuated with the satisfying clang of lid containment. Cougar head wrapped in another bag – both problems parked in a basement chest freezer.

That was five years ago, it goes without saying our one and only attempt would be the last.We don’t talk about that day, it’s far too awful. Guilt of wimping out is troublesome. Worse still, I can’t bring myself to deal with contents of the freezer for fear of disappointing my brother. We no longer use the freezer, it serves to preserve a pot of assorted par- boiled skulls and one glorious skin intact cougar head. I need help!! Anyone looking for a frozen cougar head?

Super Sticky Frog Spit


Ten times softer than a human tongue, elastic frog tongues store energy like a spring. Hapless prey succumb to tongue lashings five times greater than the force of gravity. Ever the perfectionist, nature wasn’t satisfied with soft frog tongues wired to change shape on contact and retraction with lunch. A dose of good measure insisted on super sticky frog spit.

Sticky frog spit alone is a fathomable concept, why wouldn’t evolution coat a frog’s soft spring loaded whip tongue with adhesive spit? Ah, but this is “super” sticky frog spit and nature likes to show off. Ponder this by Alexis Noel of Georgia Tech, lead researcher of a frog spit study published Feb. 1, 2017 in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface –

“There are actually three phases. When the tongue first hits the insect, the saliva is almost like water and fills all the bug’s crevices. Then, when the tongue snaps back, the saliva changes and becomes more viscous — thicker than honey, actually — gripping the insect for the ride back. The saliva turns watery again when the insect is sheared off inside the mouth.”

Faster than a blink of the human eye, frog saliva changes viscosity three times. I’d call that super freaking awesome sticky frog spit.

http://earthsky.org/earth/frog-tongue-in-super-slow-motion

Start Milking Tasmanian Devils


Until this afternoon, if asked to draw or describe a Tasmanian Devil my best guess would have resembled Bugs Bunny’s cartoon nemesis. Animated Saturday morning impressions – enormous mouth, exaggerated teeth, wild eyes, muscular body, large torso and pointy ears.

An image search did little to vanquish childhood assumptions. Other than black not brown, ears pinkishly rounded and tail longer than recollection, Taz appeared much as expected. Moving forward demanded a wiki search.

Who knew Tasmanian Devils were listed as an endangered species in 2008? Or that since the late 90’s drastic population decline was attributed to devil facial tumor disease? Enter a link to Tim Stark at Devil Ark. Located in New South Wales, Australia Devil Ark is a non-profit organization dedicated to preservation of Tasmanian Devils.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Devil_Ark

For the sake of brevity I’ll get to the point – milk from Tasmanian Devils contain peptides capable of wiping out antibiotic resistant superbugs. Obvious considerations such as how do you milk a devilish marsupial, or why ponder doing so in the first place aside – this is news.

Overuse of antibiotics and hand sanitizing germaphobia are bacterial microbes wet dream. It’s too easy, all they have to do is mutate as we flub about in a cloud of assertive ignorance. Oblivious to hundreds of thousand superbug casualties each year, we wake up every morning convinced humanity is invincible. Along comes Tim Stark, director of a non profit Tasmanian Devil preservation society, a man struggling to save obscure cartoon marsupials from terminal face cancer extinction. A man who milked Tasmanian Devils and stumbled upon a cure for antibiotic resistant bacteria.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2016/10/18/tasmanian-devil-milk-is-a-new-hope-in-fighting-superbugs/