Ancestory of dogs traced back to gray wolvesAt the end of June we had an opportunity to visit our son, Matt, and his family in Illinois over a long weekend.
By: By Mike Reiter, New Richmond News
At the end of June we had an opportunity to visit our son, Matt, and his family in Illinois over a long weekend. Besides getting a chance to spend some quality time with Matt, our grand twins, Garrin and Brady, and daughter-in-law, Angela, we had the pleasure of watching Matt receive his MBA diploma from Lake Forest School of Management at the commencement exercise held at Navy Pier. We are very proud of him and his family.
The day before we also attended the Brewers game at Miller Park and observed the “Brew Crew” dismantle the “Twinkies” in the second game of their three-game sweep. The weather was exceptional and all in all it was a perfect visit.
One evening during our stay, we watched a couple of DVDs that Matt had picked up at the public library. One was from a PBS special entitled “A Murder of Crows.” When crows get together similar to a brood of pheasants, a gaggle of geese or a flock of ducks, their gatherings are called “murders,” for whatever reason. I had heard about the program from several people and I think Mary Sather wrote about it in her weekly newspaper column awhile back. Even with their drab color, one of my favorite birds is crows because of their exceptional intellect and family values. This program is definitely a “must see.”
The second DVD was a Nova special entitled “Dogs Decoded.” It follows the domestication of dogs over time and gives a fascinating look at how the dog became our “best friend.”
Through DNA analysis it has been shown conclusively that all our dog breeds, from the smallest Chihuahua to the largest Great Dane, came originally from the gray wolf. The gray wolf is the wolf species that inhabit Wisconsin today. It was felt the wolves would follow early man in their hunting forays and the most curious and friendly of the wolves over many generations became the dogs we know today.
The intelligence of our present day dogs has been shown to include visual and vocal stimulation that goes well beyond a trained response. How dogs perceive humans visually through facial recognition has been shown to be unique in the animal world. Certain breeds of dogs will even respond to photos of objects that they will selectively retrieve from a pile of numerous related items.
An experiment was performed to see if wild wolf pups would assume the docile behavior of dogs if raised in a human environment. A pair of newly born pups, taken from a wild wolf den, was raised to adulthood in a human family setting. At first the pups behaved much like dog puppies, but as they became older, their wild, innate traits emerged and they became completely unmanageable.
In another experiment, artic foxes were followed for more than 50 years of selective breeding to see what behavioral and physical changes could be ascertained. Foxes are cousins of wolves and the artic foxes are raised for their fur in commercial fur farms. These farms would provide a valid controlled experimental setting to test the hypothesis that breeding was the reason that the wild wolf could become the family pets of today.
Most of the foxes would display wild-type aggression to humans but a select few would show signs of curiosity and more docile behavior. These human friendly animals were selectively bred and, over the course of the study, some remarkable attributes were seen with these pairings. The foxes became more doglike with tail wagging and typical human friendly behavior. Physical traits also began to change. The tails of the foxes began to curve and various fur colors started to manifest themselves. Instead of the dark black pelage display of the wild artic fox, various fur hues and textures emerged. Through selective breeding these animals with a specific phenotype, could be made to breed true. This was simply amazing.
If you have the opportunity to view either of these programs on TV, or can get them from a local library, I would strongly recommend them.
By Bayli Maliszewski
The recent rains soaking the landscape continue to benefit the hard work of New Richmond High School students, as they teamed up on May 20 with the St. Croix Wetland Management District to plant thousands of native prairie plugs. The event was part of the high school’s Service Learning Day, an annual event in which students spend their day volunteering throughout the area.
The prairie plugs were placed in the ground on a freshly-tilled plot at the Prairie Flats South Waterfowl Production Area, which is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The agri-science students began the project in January, planting prairie seeds and learning about the important role these species play in forming soil, controlling erosion and providing wildlife food and habitat. They planted the prairie seeds, carefully tending to them until they were mature enough to withstand the natural environment.
The seedlings were then transferred from their sheltered home to the planting site. The students arrived early Friday morning, spades in hand and ready for a busy day. Staff members from the SCWMD were also present to lend a green-thumbed hand.
After almost 4,000 prairie plugs were in the ground, the planters gave their knees a break and were given a tour of the maintenance facility by Wildlife Biologist Chris Trosen, where they learned about the machinery used to plant and harvest prairie seed.
After muddy knees and dirty hands, all those who partook in the planting looked across the field of seedlings with accomplished grins. The effort proved to be teamwork among an assembly line of tray cutters, diggers and planters working together to tackle the project.
Rachael Sauvola, agricultural education teacher at New Richmond High School, commented that the event was “a wonderful partnership between the classes and the Fish and Wildlife Service. It opened doors for collaboration, and taught students that they can be a valuable asset to the environment.”
The day ended with an indoor picnic for all at the high school, including the 900 students who completed more than 40 volunteer projects that day. A big thank you to all who participated in the prairie planting.