RACCOONS ON ABACO: A MIXED BLESSING?


raccoon_procyon_lotor_2 wiki

RACCOONS ON ABACO: A MIXED BLESSING?

Abaco, like the rest of the Bahama Islands, is strangely short of native land mammals. The last of the wild ABACO BARBS – descendants of Spanish Colonial horses of high pedigree – died very recently. The proud Barbs are no more. But they, of course, were an introduced species. There are the hard-breeding, hard-hunted hogs. And feral potcakes, unowned or disowned. Many feral cats. Maybe a few rabbit escapees. And bats: several of the dozen (or so) Bahamas species are found on Abaco. At one time there was the shy nocturnal HUTIA that had the distinction of being – or having been – endemic to many of the islands. Not on Abaco, sadly – its own subspecies the Great Abaco Hutia had become extinct by the c17. You’ll have to go to the Exumas to see a hutia.

HEY! THERE ARE RACCOONS, AREN’T THERE?

This endearing-looking creature was photographed on Abaco by Charmaine AlburyRaccoon, Abaco, Bahamas (Charmaine Albury)

Raccoons are a non-native species, probably introduced in the Bahamas many decades – perhaps a couple of centuries – ago. They are thought to have been brought to New Providence originally. More recently they arrived on Abaco – possibly as pets in the first place, which were then released or escaped. And they are spreading: as recently as April 2012 an excellent article in the Bahamas edition of COASTAL ANGLER MAGAZINE introduced “Eleuthera’s Newest Mammal”.

Raccoon (Cheryl Wile Ferguson)

RACOON PROS

  • Cuddly, furry, cute-looking, quite high on the well-known scientifically-based ‘ADORBS’ scale (Animals Deemed Outrageously, Ridiculously, Breathtakingly Strokeable)
  • Comfortingly familiar despite being wild animals (NB potentially aggressive)
  • Don’t have the same drawbacks as skunks
  • Have valuable fur
  • Pelts can be used for Davy Crockett hats

RA-CONS

  • Considered to be “one of the world’s most omnivorous animals”
  • Known to wreak havoc with certain crops, eg watermelons
  • Canny and adept hunters, including at night; good climbers to treetop level
  • Suspected of predation of land crabs (depriving ‘natural’ predators of the pleasure)
  • Compete with birds for fruit, berries and nectar
  • Relish birds’ eggs. Low and ground-nesting birds are particularly at risk throughout season
  • On Abaco, a major conservation program has been needed to protect the nests of the Abaco parrots in the limestone caverns of the national park from raccoons, feral cats and rodents
  • Eat small birds, curly tail lizards, anoles and suchlike
  • Can be aggressive to humans – note the handy claws clearly shown in the photo above

A shy raccoon in a tree, Treasure Cay (Becky Marvil)raccoon-abaco-becky-marvil

LIVE AND LET LIVE?

“The authors of the study Taxonomic status and conservation relevance of the raccoons of the West Indies (2003) hold that the Bahamian raccoon is an invasive species which itself poses a threat to the insular ecosystem.The Government of the Bahamas has this species listed as up for eradication on the islands of New Providence and Grand Bahama”.

So the official line favours eradication of a potentially harmful non-native species – failing which, presumably containment of numbers. Trapping is one way to achieve this – and there are both humane as well as cruel ways to do so. However, trapping in one place, only to release somewhere else is clearly not an option. But it would provide the opportunity to neuter / spay the animals and slow or prevent the reproductive spread of the creatures. Hunting raccoons is another method.  It’s not currently a significant sport, but neither are raccoons protected. Their fur has a value, and some say they could provide a source of somewhat gamey meat.

Or they could be just left as they are, as attractive creatures now well-established, despite the inevitable risks to native species such as the reviving population of Abaco parrots, now at sustainable numbers. On Abaco, reduced to its basics the $64k question might be: which would you prefer in the future? More raccoons or fewer parrots (or indeed, no parrots at all)?

Raccoons exhibited in the Garden of the Groves, Freeport, Grand Bahama (neutered /spayed)raccoons-nassau-bahamas-weekly

PUMPKIN

I wouldn’t wish to run the risk of influencing the delicately balanced arguments about the raccoons of the Bahamas, but will you just take a look at this? The perfect fit for the acronymic descriptor A.D.O.R.B.S!

Coastal Angler magazine, BNT / Erika Gates, Bahamas Weekly, Charmaine & Becky for the Abaco photos, plus Wiki / open source, Buzzfeed / YouTube & don’t get stuck into the rest of the cutesy viddys… Stop Press: added above the pros & cons – a great recent photo by Cheryl Wile Ferguson (nb not taken on Abaco)

At least as far as stamps are concerned, the raccoon gets equal billing with the hutia (and the bat)bahamastamp

“SO THIS IS CHRISTMAS…” ABACO WILDLIFE APPEALS TO EVERYONE!


“SO THIS IS CHRISTMAS…” Abaco (Cuban) ParrotImage: ©RH

Christmas time. Holidays. Festive season. Yuletide. ġéohol*. Noel. Winterval. However you describe it, there’s a reassuring ritual each year. To many, the familiar religious carols and rites. To all, the cheerful sound of jingling tills. The exchange of presents happily bought and excitedly received. The groaning table weighted with victuals. Light and laughter. Glasses generously filled and refilled.  Sudden growing dizziness and a strange lack of coordination. Wondering what others are saying. Wondering what you are saying. Drowsiness. Overwhelming sleepiness. The passage of time. The groaning hangover as seven West Indian woodpeckers attack your skull with hammer-drills… Time for a soothing image.

BMMRO Dolphin Image copyImage ©BMMRO

Where was I? Oh yes. This is a very good time to draw attention to the various wildlife organisations based on Abaco and in the wider Bahamas. During the year they look after the birds, the marine mammals and so forth that help make Abaco such a very special place to be. I am simply going take the opportunity to post the link to my updated page for ABACO WILDLIFE CHARITIES. Oh. I just have. Well, is there one that appeals to you, I wonder? Just asking… Meanwhile, here’s the music of the heading to get you in the mood

Delphi Xmas + lights* Old English / Anglo-Saxon origin of “Yule”

ABACO BARBS – THE LATEST NEWS OF THEIR PLIGHT Sept 2011


Normal(-ish) service is resumed after a break… Before I went away I posted about the Abaco Barbs and the precariousness of their continued existence as a species. I have just heard from Milanne Rehor of ARKWILD with a completely up-to-date report on the current situation. From her account it is clear that these rare wild horses really are on the brink of extinction

“Currently, we have the three mares in a reduced area of the Preserve. We have had limited sightings of one stallion outside the Preserve.  The second outside stallion hasn’t been seen in over a year so we don’t know if he still is alive. 

The mares’ physical condition is “OK” but because of the smaller size of the Preserve  (due to financial cut backs) they are in need of a blacksmith’s attention, veterinary attention to their dental condition and veterinary investigation of their reproductive capabilities.

We are in immediate need of funding to provide grain for the horses, (to supplement the smaller forage area), wages for our men (currently reduced to part time) in their work of feeding the horses, providing security for them and maintaining the electric fence and other chores.

The Bahamian Government has been helpful to a point with an expressed interest and indirect support of the horses , for example the President of our Board of Directors is also the Chief Warden for the Northern Bahamas for the Bahamas National Trust. A number of other board members are equally well placed,  but the government has not yet directly contributed financially. 

I hope this information helps, I’ll be happy to answer any other questions you may have.  Your patience is deeply appreciated and thank you for following our story on your site. Best regards, Mim”

PHOTO CREDITS: ARKWILD             CLICK LINK====>>> ARKWILD

 

 

ABACO BARBS: HURRICANE IRENE VIDEO & NEWS UPDATE


I have been in touch with Mim at ARKWILD to find out the latest news on the Abaco Barbs, and in particular how things are after Hurricane Irene. She has kindly sent a brief update which speaks for itself – not very optimistic-sounding, I’m afraid: 

“Horses did fine, but we are down to the three mares inside, and one, possibly still two, stallions outside, we’re still fighting but it’s hard to paint this picture in pretty colors right now  . . .”

Mim has also sent the link to a dramatic 4 minute video which includes vivid footage of Hurricane Irene’s power as it passes over on August 25; and the aftermath on August 26 with graphic footage of damage, debris and flooding. Luckily the mares in the compound and her dogs were ok. Her boat home, well secured before Irene struck, still had various parts including its solar panels blown off, which she was fortunately able to recover by diving for them! 

CLICK IMAGE TO VIEW VIDEO===>>>  

AN EXPEDITION TO SEE THE ENDANGERED ABACO BARBS


RICKY JOHNSON leads wonderful birding and natural history outings, taking small parties to the prime hotspots for Abaco Parrots and much else besides – see RICKY JOHNSON’S ECO-TOUR for a detailed account. He also takes small groups to see the Abaco Barbs in their protected forest surroundings near Treasure Cay. These photos were taken there in March 2011. The horses are free to roam in the pine forest, but the compound is their HQ, where they can be sure of a feed. There are 4 mares and 1 stallion remaining: even with the best efforts of those concerned, the preservation of this unique breed seems sadly doomed.

ARKWILD is the website to go to for information. There’s a link to the website in the Sidebar Blogroll and also a Twitter link in the Sidebar. Here is the direct link to the latest summary (dated July 2010, but in sequence it should be 2011, I think) and donation page – it is also the portal to the rest of the site with information, photographs and videos                                                                            CLICK LOGO ===>>> 

 (Photo credits – all photos – Mrs rh)


ABACO BARBS – THE ISLAND’S ENDANGERED WILD HORSES


In the rollingharbour tradition of encouraging easy access to online material, here is a selection of 8 videos about Abaco Barbs, the near-extinct wild horses of Abaco. In due course I’ll add some links to the most informative websites and also some photos. The first 3 videos derive from the origins and subsequent conservation work by the charity Arkwild. There’s a link to the Arkwild site in the sidebar Blogroll. The struggle to try to preserve the breed is extremely well documented on the internet, and needs no repetition from me. It’s worth saying, however, that the situation is now worse than ever: in March 2011, there were only 5 horses left, of which only one is a stallion…

The remaining videos are mostly collections of stills, some accompanied by music that you may want to turn down. Or off, in one case. There’s a degree of repetition, but I have left them there in case there is an image that strikes you as special or a nugget of information that is of interest…

THE ARKWILD VIDEOS

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ABACO BARB TRAILER

Horses in the Pines, the story of the Abaco Barbs. Only 8 left on the planet, their story is both tragic and beautiful. by photogchic1 | 3 years ago |

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE WILD HORSES OF ABACO

This compelling video is an introduction to the story of the Wild Horses Of Abaco. Only a few are left now, we’re fighting hard to save them from … by arkwild | 2 years ago |

THE ABACO WILD MARES GET SUPPLEMENTAL SNACKS

Because the forest is in a dry cycle, new grasses are not growing fast enough we decided to supplement each mare with a measure of mixed grain and … by arkwild | 1 year ago

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SUPPLEMENTARY VIDEOS  

ABACO BARB HORSE

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