"Wild Animals Belong in the Wild"

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Re: "Wild Animals Belong in the Wild"

Postby Crimson847 » Mon May 30, 2016 10:47 pm

cmsellers wrote:Regarding killings, this article shows that there was exactly one fatality as a result of a pet big cat between 2000 and 2010. Even if you include the two deaths from pet bears, even if you assume all of the victims were unconnected to the owner (which is unlikely), that's still a far lower fatality rate than from domestic dogs. ...

I will say that attitudes like yours allow animal rights groups to push either blanket bans on large groups of animals, or worse: to ban anything that's not explicitly permitted. Blanket bans on carnivores cover raccoons, foxes, and kinkajous; bans on primates cover marmosets, bush babies, and lemurs; bans on crocodilians covering dwarf caimans. None of these animals are any more dangerous than a domestic cat (they might cause minor injuries, but nothing that requires hospitalization). Even the tigers, chimpanzees, and Nile crocodiles which drive these bans are statistically less dangerous than large dogs.


http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-n ... 74/?no-ist
http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/w ... incidents/

I already found two deaths from pet tigers within that time frame, in one case the owner's 10-year-old nephew who was visiting. Let's charitably assume there aren't any more and call it .2 deaths per year, and go with the 10,000 estimate for total number of exotic pet cats in the country. Overall that works out to about a 1 in 50,000 chance of a human fatality per big cat per year.

Domestic dogs killed 34 people last year, or 170 times as many people. However, the number of pet dogs in the US is estimated at about 75 million, which works out to less than a 1 in 2 million chance of a human fatality per dog per year.


Now, there are some potential issues with that analysis, but the main takeaway is for fuck's sake don't use a Hubpages blog entry with no citations to prove such an extraordinary claim. I mean really, are you seriously saying you like your chances of surviving an encounter with a loose tiger just as much as your chances of surviving an encounter with a loose golden retriever? I'm completely open to arguments against exotic pet bans here, but you're not going to convince me that a tiger poses no more risk than a dog and a raccoon is no more potentially troublesome than a cat. That's flatly not true, and if you know as much about wild animals as it sounds like you do I think you know that, so I don't understand what's going on with this post.
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Re: "Wild Animals Belong in the Wild"

Postby NotCIAAgent » Mon May 30, 2016 10:50 pm

Wild animals belong in my fridge.
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Re: "Wild Animals Belong in the Wild"

Postby cmsellers » Tue May 31, 2016 1:49 am

@Crimson:

In fairness, Dante had me angry enough that my thinking was a little bit clouded. I was making two different claims, and conflating them. One is that the damage that cats and other carnivorous/omnivorous animals of roughly the same weight are capable of inflicting amounts to no more than minor scratches and bites. (My thinking on this matter is that if you have a non-domesticated animal that's about the size of a cat and try to treat it like a cat, the injuries it will inflict if you misread its body language will fall into the category of "not severe" and "a learning experience.") The other was that pet dogs are more likely to kill someone unconnected to the owner than pet big cats, in light of the precautions big cat owners take.

In comparing raccoons to cats, I was suggesting that the animals are inherently equally capable of causing roughly equal damage. Since raccoons are about the size of a large cat and have no special equipment cats do not, and since the stories I've heard from raccoon owners involve at worst minor scratches, this seems a reasonable assumption. I also assumed that a non-rabid raccoon will not attack an adult unless provoked, which seems to be born out through googling. However in the course of googling I've realized that I was making another assumption which was completely unjustified.

I was assuming that nobody would be stupid enough to leave a small child and a raccoon in the same room unattended. When I state it explicitly, it's bloody obvious that "of course someone would be that stupid," but I wasn't even aware that I was making that assumption until I saw the evidence to the contrary. I can only find one incident of a pet raccoon attacking a child unprovoked, but the results, while non-fatal, are both tragic and horrific. (Google "pet raccoon attack at your own risk.)

So for raccoons at least, I believe I was right in what I was trying to say, that bites and scratches by pet raccoons, like bites and scratches by pet cats, are the sort of thing which aren't really a problem for adults. However I was wrong in my thinking. I assumed both that hand-raised raccoons will only attack children except as a cat would: when the child pulls the tail and the animal scratches in self-defense. I also assumed that no one would be stupid enough to leave a child unsupervised with a carnivorous animal that weighs more than said child, no matter how tame. I will note that people do the same thing with dogs, and that can even lead to fatalities, however I will concede that for children, raccoons are inherently more dangerous than cats.

By contrast in comparing big cats to dogs, I will admit that Panthera sp. and cougars are inherently more dangerous than any individual dog. Here, I was suggesting that because dogs are common and frequently mishandled, while big cats are rarer and most states heavily regulate the care and keeping of them, and because it is politically much easier to regulate or ban big cats than domestic dogs, that a random big cat is less likely to kill a member of the general public than a random dog. While the source I used turns out to be wrong about both the total tiger fatalities and her math regarding dogs, I suspect that it is still true that big cats are less of a threat to the general public when kept as pets.

The example you gave with the little boy (I can't find the specifics of the other example), suggests that the enclosure was improperly designed if the tiger could grab a child outside of it and drag him in. While tragic, it's still a case of someone connected with the tiger dying. It's an argument for stringent restrictions on tiger housing; it's an argument against allowing children unsupervised contact with big cats; it's not evidence that pet tigers pose a threat to the general public. Again, I know of no case where someone's pet big cat escaped and killed someone unconnected to the owner. Dogs, by contrast, do often kill people not connected to the owner. I would be much more uncomfortable if my neighbor had snarling junkyard dog on their property than a properly-fenced tiger.
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Re: "Wild Animals Belong in the Wild"

Postby Grimstone » Mon Jun 06, 2016 5:03 am

"They're not pets, they're wild animals" I wonder where these people think pets come from.
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Re: "Wild Animals Belong in the Wild"

Postby DashaBlade » Mon Jun 06, 2016 5:36 am

cmsellers wrote: In comparing raccoons to cats, I was suggesting that the animals are inherently equally capable of causing roughly equal damage. Since raccoons are about the size of a large cat and have no special equipment cats do not, and since the stories I've heard from raccoon owners involve at worst minor scratches, this seems a reasonable assumption. I also assumed that a non-rabid raccoon will not attack an adult unless provoked, which seems to be born out through googling. However in the course of googling I've realized that I was making another assumption which was completely unjustified.

I was assuming that nobody would be stupid enough to leave a small child and a raccoon in the same room unattended. When I state it explicitly, it's bloody obvious that "of course someone would be that stupid," but I wasn't even aware that I was making that assumption until I saw the evidence to the contrary. I can only find one incident of a pet raccoon attacking a child unprovoked, but the results, while non-fatal, are both tragic and horrific. (Google "pet raccoon attack at your own risk.)

So for raccoons at least, I believe I was right in what I was trying to say, that bites and scratches by pet raccoons, like bites and scratches by pet cats, are the sort of thing which aren't really a problem for adults. However I was wrong in my thinking. I assumed both that hand-raised raccoons will only attack children except as a cat would: when the child pulls the tail and the animal scratches in self-defense. I also assumed that no one would be stupid enough to leave a child unsupervised with a carnivorous animal that weighs more than said child, no matter how tame. I will note that people do the same thing with dogs, and that can even lead to fatalities, however I will concede that for children, raccoons are inherently more dangerous than cats.


I'll preface this by reminding everyone that I adore cats, but I dispute that raccoons are more dangerous than cats. Sure, when placed in the room with a toddler, a raccoon might be more dangerous (or at least less restrained), but from an ecological standpoint, domestic cats are terrifying. The main reason I do the trap-and-release program for strays and ferals is that cats cut a path of destruction on the local wildlife like no other domestic animal. You don't see raccoons killing dozens of birds a day for giggles, or devouring platoons of lizards and frogs and squirrels.

And most of the legislation about animal ownership tends to be about the impact that having such pets will have on the environment, at least when it comes to non-native species. So if a critter causes as much damage as a stray cat, then yeah, maybe owning them should be banned. Otherwise, the state could use the licensing fees for exotic animals to do something like, oh, I don't know, funding more spay/neuter + vaccination programs for stray cats and dogs. Either that, or start a stray dog/cat program to train them to hunt non-native animals that are released into the wild by irresponsible owners. I bet the cats and dogs I know would love to try a little sugar glider or kookaburra. ;P
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Re: "Wild Animals Belong in the Wild"

Postby Grimstone » Mon Jun 06, 2016 5:51 am

DashaBlade wrote:I'll preface this by reminding everyone that I adore cats, but I dispute that raccoons are more dangerous than cats.


Cat Vs. Raccoon
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Re: "Wild Animals Belong in the Wild"

Postby cmsellers » Mon Jun 06, 2016 6:05 am

@Dasha:
Cats are absolutely more ecologically destructive than raccoons; same with dogs. It's a bit frustrating that harmless exotics are legal in many places, while cats and dogs are legal everywhere, even really delicate ecosystems like Hawaii and New Zealand. But cat and dog owners far outnumber the people who keep all other animals combined; it would be political suicide for anyone to ban cats and dogs.

Which doesn't mean that some concerns about invasiveness aren't sometimes merited. New Zealand's ecoystem is so delicate that the native, flightless, weka--which is an endangered species on the mainland--has been introduced to offshore islands and wrought havoc on seabird nesting sites. Pretty much any animal introduced to New Zealand is potentially invasive, though exotic pets--being relatively rare--are unlikely to be a problem unless a large number escapes at onces, for example from a pet shop.

One thing I like about Australia is that at least some of their conservationists have come around to encouraging Australians to keep native wildlife (though it's only legal to keep anything other than a small number of parrot species in South Australia and Victoria), primarily because the native wildlife is less destructive on native wildlife.

That said, outside of Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, California, and Alaska (the last one really inexplicably because it's a fucking icebox), and a few specific species such as red-eared sliders, bans on exotic animals usually aren't the result of invasiveness concerns.

The most common reason for exotic pet bans is disease. It's usually one of the three main drivers behind blanket bans on primates and one of the reasons that most states ban native carnivores. Indeed the only mammals completely banned as pets under Texas law (armadillos, opossums, raccoons, ringtail cats, and all species of skunks and foxes) are all banned because of disease concerns. It's also the reason many states ban the keeping of deer and their relatives.

The next-most common reason for exotic pet bans and the most common reason for new exotic pet bans (most of the disease-related bans are relatively old) stem from concerns about animals being dangerous to owners or others. This is the justification used by animal rights groups use in crafting blanket bans on "wild animals" in general (as in every New England state except Rhode Island) or broad bans that carve out large groups of animals rather than particular species. Two groups in particular are affected by this: Carnivora (which includes big cats, bears, and wolves) and Primates (which include large monkeys and chimpanzees), although primate bans also have disease concerns and and anthropocentric belief that we shouldn't be keeping our closest relatives as pets influencing them.
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Re: "Wild Animals Belong in the Wild"

Postby Grimstone » Mon Jun 06, 2016 9:24 am

I kinda want a raccoon now

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Re: "Wild Animals Belong in the Wild"

Postby momeg5 » Thu Mar 28, 2019 1:48 am

That raccoon looks adorable. How would it be if it were a Gorilla instead? :) :) :)
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Re: "Wild Animals Belong in the Wild"

Postby DanteHoratio » Fri Apr 05, 2019 4:21 pm

I have been pretty open about being against having large and dangerous wild animals as pets. Trying to argue that "Pet dogs kill more people than pet lions, tigers, or bears(oh my)" does not work as a argument because pet dogs far outnumber pet lions, tigers, and bears(oh my). If you had both a pet dog and a pet tiger, the tiger is more likely to attack and kill you. Dogs had millions of years of domestication, while tigers don't. And than there is the risk of the wild animal being released into the wild.

Florida already has this problem with pythons and monitor lizards.
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Re: "Wild Animals Belong in the Wild"

Postby cmsellers » Fri Apr 05, 2019 5:31 pm

The boas being invasive in Florida thing is a myth.

And you can't cry "base rate fallacy" without demonstrating the actual base rate. Because dangerous animals tend to be caged and most people tend to recognize them as dangerous, while it is socially acceptable to let poorly-trained dogs run free, I would imagine that the fatalities from dogs, adjusted for ownership numbers, are still higher. This is even more so when you're looking at the deaths of neighbors or strangers. Dogs attack quite a lot of people who do not choose to be near the dog. I am aware of two cases where snakes escaped and killed a neighbor. Every other case I know of where an exotic pet killed or seriously someone, it was because the owner or someone present on the property with the owner's permission entered the enclosure or approached it too closely.
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Re: "Wild Animals Belong in the Wild"

Postby iMURDAu » Fri Apr 05, 2019 8:55 pm

How are boas not invasive? They aren't native. They're breeding and that's just one kind of exotic pet that's been dumped in the Florida swamp.

Pythons have been around for a long time in the Everglades. If you want to read about a python attempting to digest a white tail deer then that article will be helpful. There's a picture too! I recommend it for the picture. It also contains funny/horrifying quotes like:

"We have recorded a 99 percent reduction of fur-bearing animals," says Michael Kirkland, Invasive Animal Biologist at South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD). "They are now preying on wading birds and even the occasional alligator."


and

"That was a 31.5-pound python that had a 35-pound white-tailed fawn in it. It was eating 111 percent of its body weight," says Bartoszek.
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Re: "Wild Animals Belong in the Wild"

Postby cmsellers » Fri Apr 05, 2019 11:53 pm

When you brought it up, I realized I confused boas with Burmese pythons, and specifically the myth that they were expanding from the Everglades across Florida. That this is a myth is something the Florida FWCC itself confirms as inaccurate. Still, even if Dante wasn't referring to that myth, it remains inaccurate to call either the Burmese pythons or red-tailed boas invasive.

Not all introduced species are invasive. The vast majority are not. They become established locally, but never expand far beyond the initial introduction point. They also never pose a major threat to local ecosystems. This appears to be the case with both the pythons and the boas.

By contrast, two species of lizard introduced to South Florida are definitely invasive. The brown anole has been expanding its range since its introduction, and driving out the native green anole. The green iguana exploded out of the Keys, where it was introduced to cover the whole southern half of the state, and have devastated native plant life as they've expanded.

It's also a myth that the Burmese pythons established in the Everglades because people dumped them. Our current understanding is that they escaped after Hurricane Andrew.
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Re: "Wild Animals Belong in the Wild"

Postby iMURDAu » Sun Apr 07, 2019 12:08 am

They escaped from a breeding facility. What were they being bred for? I'm going to guess so they could be sold as pets.

We don't know if that's even true. It's just what has been popping up in recent news coverage. It used to be reported that the motherfuckin' snakes in the motherfuckin' glades (so sorry) came from disinterested pet owners or pet shops destroyed in Hurricane Andrew.

I really don't know how you can look at all the evidence and say the pythons and boas are not posing a threat to the local ecosystem. They are being actively hunted for that reason.

They're also pretty well spread out for only having been introduced to a limited area almost 30 years ago.
https://www.eddmaps.org/florida/distribution/viewmap.cfm?sub=20461

That's a link from the page we've been linking to, right under where they say
A population of Burmese pythons is established in south Florida, mainly within the Florida Everglades. Individuals have been found near Naples, suggesting that the population may be moving northwest. Python observations outside of south Florida are escaped or released pets.
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Re: "Wild Animals Belong in the Wild"

Postby cmsellers » Sun Apr 07, 2019 1:19 am

People often worry about private pets being established as invasive species, but I don't know of any cases where that's happened, other than with (domesticated) cats and dogs. It was reported, because it sounded cool, similarly to stories of sewer alligators. When a population of animals kept as pets is established, and we can establish the origin, it's usually because of a mass breakout from a pet store or truck, and yet rumors almost always claim that the population from people's individually released pets. And while we don't know definitively the origin of South Florida's snakes, from what I've read, non-hurricane-proof biosecurity still seems like the most likely option.

This suggests to me that the problem isn't having such animals as pets, it's keeping them in groups in unsecured facilities. The instinct politicians have, of course, is to look for the easiest legislative solution, which is simply banning anything they think might be a problem (except cats and dogs, which would be political suicide), but I disagree with this approach on every issue where it's applied, and here in particular.

Invasiveness is a spectrum rather than a clearly binary distinction, even if we have to draw a line semantically somewhere. Any introduced species is likely taking food and other resources native species could use, as well as feeding on native animal and plant species to at least some degree. However when a species only does this in the context of habitats heavily-altered by humans, such as backyards and city parks, we don't usually consider them invasive. There are a lot of species like this in South Florida which you never hear about, such as the rock agama, and others you hear about only in a positive light, such as Florida's feral parrrots.

Because the snakes are found in the Everglades, a protected and delicate ecosystem, in terms of ecological threat, they are clearly further along the invasiveness spectrum than the rock agama or feral parrots. But they're still much further down the spectrum than species like the iguanas, anoles, or water hyacinths. However the snakes are large and scary and have even been known to kill people on rare occasions (though not in South Florida that I know of). Presumably for this reason, I've stumbled across a lot of news articles on the Burmese pythons in the Everglades, maybe one or two on the water hyacinths, and none on the anoles and iguanas without actively looking for them.

In terms of range expansion too, the snakes seem to be far closer to rock agamas than to green iguanas. I would not describe that map as "pretty well spread out." After thirty years, the vast majority of sightings are in or on the immediate fringes of the Everglades. There are sightings throughout the state, but the source notes that, except for Naples, which is on the northern edge of the Everglades, those are likely escaped or released pets and not part of a breeding population. And the fact that the pythons could get from one end of the Everglades to the other over the course of thirty years is not the sort of explosive expansion you see in clearly invasive species.

But I realized I didn't make it clear why I'm even arguing about this. I'm arguing about it for two reasons. The first is that, as a result of hysteria over the Florida Everglades pythons and a lobbying campaign by groups like PETA, secured a ban on the interstate trade in three species of constricting snakes, and these groups are still pushing to apply these rules to all constricting snakes currently in the pet trade. But the broader issue is that the media tends towards sensationalism when it comes to exotic animals which are either big and scary or potential disease vectors. They cover any issues they present far more than similar issues with less frightening animals, and usually present them as a far bigger threat than they are. It's true for the constricting states in South Florida, and it's true for tigers and monkeys nationwide.
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