Friday, July 5, 2013

Moose And Squirrel: Animals In The News

Editor's Note:
When I started writing this blog post, I had no intention whatsoever to write about Rocky and Bullwinkle. It is merely coincidence that two of the animals mentioned in these news stories just happen to be a moose and a squirrel.

Our first news item concerns the prairie dog, which is not a dog at all, but a rodent. They really should be called prairie rats but apparently their squeaky warning call sounded like a bark to the person who named them. Yeah right; the bark of a chihuahua with a lungful of helium.

We first found out about this "news" item from the CBC. Here are some excerpts:

Did that prairie dog just call you fat? Quite possibly.

...biologist Con Slobodchikoff described how he learned to understand what prairie dogs are saying to one another and discovered how eloquent they can be...

"They're able to describe the colour of clothes the humans are wearing, they're able to describe the size and shape of humans, even, amazingly, whether a human once appeared with a gun," Slobodchikoff said.

Also remarkable was the amount of information crammed into a single chirp lasting a 10th of a second.

"In one 10th of a second, they say 'Tall thin human wearing blue shirt walking slowly across the colony.'"

Slobodchikoff said he has been working with a computer scientist to develop a device that uses voice pattern recognition techniques and artificial intelligence to translate between human and animal speech.

"We could potentially have something maybe the size of a cellphone in five to 10 years where a dog would say, 'Woof' and the device would say. 'I want to eat chicken tonight" or a cat could say, 'Meow,' and the device would say, 'My litterbox is filthy, please clean it.'"

Or, much more likely, a dog's bark would be interpreted as, "If it would not terribly inconvenience you, kindly allow me go out. I want to roll in a rotting squirrel carcass."  A cat's meow will most likely come out as, "Why are you getting your knickers tied in a knot over me sharpening my claws on your furniture, you self-absorbed biped? You can expect a nice wet hairball on your white rug tomorrow morning."

I'm afraid further research by the team at SSIC will be required regarding these grandiose assertions of animal intelligence. However, if we discover that these claims are true, we may soon be seeing these items in the news:
  •     A prairie dog can recite the entire Gettysburg address in just two and one-half chirps.
  •     Wild horses have been know to stage operas — like La Traviata and Madame Butterfly — on the open plain. Some individual performances have been said to rival those of Luciano Pavarotti and Beverly Sills.
  •     A man in Brandon, Manitoba needed only one hour to teach his basset hound how to build a crystal radio. Within days, the dog was fixing every electronic item in the house and now works for the IT department at the local SPCA.
Alright, enough of that nonsense. On now to a serious news item concerning another member of the family sciuridae.

Again, we first learned of this story from the CBC. Excerpts from it are in italics. We've editorialized where we deemed it necessary.

A Winnipeg woman had to act fast after finding a furry home invader taking a bath in her toilet earlier this week.

Angela Campbell said she found a small squirrel floundering in her toilet early Wednesday morning after hearing a strange noise coming from the bathroom of her St. James-area home.

Campbell she was first woken up by her two dogs around 5 a.m. but couldn’t figure out what was bothering the pair until hours later when she heard “big splashing in the toilet.”

Not such an unusual sound, unless of course — as was the case here — there was nobody in the bathroom.

Campbell didn't know what she would find when she opened the lid of her toilet, so she carefully knocked on the sides of the bowl before lifting the lid.

A prudent practice whenever your find your toilet is making enough noise to wake up your dogs.

When she finally summoned the courage, she flipped the lid to find a small, drenched squirrel grasping the sides of her toilet bowl.

So Campbell did what any sensible Winnipegger would do — grabbed a pair of BBQ tongs from the kitchen and put the water-logged creature in her bathtub.

Only in Winnipeg do they use this method. In other Canadian cities and towns we use peanuts to lure waterlogged rodents out of our commodes. Then we carry them outside using a spatula.

“It was just filthy. I didn’t know how it could breathe because it stunk so bad,” said Campbell.

We here at SSIC do not wish to speculate on this particular element of the story.

So she gave it a quick bath before she tried to release it.

Sometimes I need a little inspiration for my "poetry". I call this piece Zest That Pest:

A Winnipeg woman was stressed
When she found in her toilet, a pest;
A squirrel that stunk
As bad as a skunk.
So she bathed it with water and Zest.

Campbell said she had no idea how the squirrel got in her toilet but said the city’s water and waste department was cleaning water mains on her street at the time.

So the squirrel ended up in her toilet by way of a reverse flush?

Or perhaps — if we are to believe the previous news item — this squirrel is an engineer working for the city's sewer and drainage department. He was likely inspecting the drainage system and was about to file his report when he was ignominiously snatched from his job by a pair of BBQ tongs.

I hope that woman has insurance. Those water engineer squirrels are a litigious bunch.

Finally, we move on to this story about a much more advanced member of the animal kingdom — the mighty Canadian Moose!

The Nature Conservancy of Canada has received 316 hectares of private land from a former top diplomat to promote cross-border moose love along the Nova Scotia-New Brunswick boundary.

The land conservation organization has been attempting to assemble a corridor of land on the Chignecto Isthmus between the two provinces as part of its so-called Moose Sex Project.

So if you ever find yourself wandering around in the Maritime Moose Sex Corridor, it would be a good idea to make yourself look as unmoose-like as possible.

This story also illustrates another way in which other mammals can be just like humans. When it comes to sex, they behave like animals.


  1. Geez, I don't know where to start. I loved this post from start to finish, and cannot for the life of me figure out why hundreds of people aren't here to laugh out loud at your wondrous wit and words of wisdom. (Hush! I'm on an alliterative roll here.)

    As for being able to communicate with our furry friends through the wonders of technology, personally, I'm not sure I want to know what our cats are thinking. The way they look at me sometimes, I fear they may be far more intelligent than I. Then again, sometimes they look at me as though they were brain damaged.

    Which brings this thought to mind... perhaps it would be more useful if science could help parents decipher the mumbles coming from the barely moving lips of their teenage offspring.

    I REALLY enjoyed this post. You crack me up, Canadian dude.

    1. I’m not sure I really want to hear a translation of the inaudible mutterings from teenagers. I’m sure that even if you heard their words, what they really mean would make those words sound like polite Victorian upper-class discourse.

      Thank you so much Susan for your comments.

  2. So stinky it couldn't breathe?! Oh dear! I am going to do an experiment to test whether it is indeed easier to catch my breath once I have showered. Crazy!

    1. That must have been one stanky squirrel.

      I do hope the woman threw those BBQ tongs away.