Exposing the Big Game

Forget Hunters' Feeble Rationalizations and Trust Your Gut Feelings: Making Sport of Killing Is Not Healthy Human Behavior

Exposing the Big Game

Why Are There No Horse-Sized Rabbits? We Finally Know The Evolutionary Answer




(Gary Bendig/Unsplash)NATURE


If you’ve ever wondered why rabbits and hares never evolved to be the size of horses, scientists have now got the answer.

It might sound like a flippant question, but it gets to an important part of evolutionary science: What is it that causes some animal taxonomies to have such a wide variation in size, while with others it’s very small?

For example, lagomorphs – which include rabbits and hares – don’t vary much in size, whereas the closely related rodents can go all the way from the tiny pygmy mouse to the chunky capybaras with hundreds of times as much mass.

“The largest living wild lagomorphs weigh only about 5 kg (11 lbs) on average, a tenth of the largest living rodent, the capybara,” says vertebrate paleontologist Susumu Tomiya from Kyoto University in Japan.

“But some breeds of domestic rabbits and other extinct species can weigh up to 8 kg. We were surprised by this and so began to investigate what sort of external forces keep wild lagomorphs across the world from evolving larger body sizes.”

The researchers analyzed lagomorph sizes past and present, looking at the fossil record and evolutionary history of the mammals, before turning their attention to other ecological factors. It turns out that the presence of ungulates, or hoofed animals, can be linked to lagomorph size.

Following up on the lead, the team looked at energy use across different sizes of lagomorphs and ungulates. They found that once lagomorphs reach around 6 kilograms (about 14 lbs) in mass, they’re at a competitive disadvantage to ungulates.

A return to the fossil record for North America backed up the idea that the smallest contemporaneous ungulate in an area was a big factor in determining the largest lagomorph – anything larger had a lower chance of survival with the bigger, more energy-efficient competitors around.

“We see this pattern today across numerous eco-regions, suggesting that there is an evolutionary ceiling placed on lagomorphs by their ungulate competitors,” says Tomiya.

The researchers point out that there are other factors that come into play once lagomorphs become too big to operate at optimum capacity: competition from other animals from the same clade and increased danger from predators.

However, it’s the ungulate comparison that seems to have had the most effect in this case. The research feeds into two contrasting ideas about how species evolve: the ‘red queen’ hypothesis, which ascribes most importance to species competition, and the ‘court jester’ hypothesis, which says abiotic forces like climate changes have the most impact.

According to the research, it seems that the red queen model is the one that’s most significant here, against the backdrop of abiotic forces that aren’t anything to do with animal competition.

“An ongoing debate in evolutionary biology concerns whether biological or environmental processes are more important in shaping biological diversity,” says Tomiya.

“For some time, the court jester model – ascribing diversity to abiotic forces such as the climate – has been dominant, due to the difficulty of studying biological interactions in the fossil record.”

These results serve as a reminder that we can’t ignore the effects of ignore species competition, however, as it seems to be the main reason we don’t have horse-sized rabbits and hares. 

The research has been published in Evolution.

A hunter ate a wild rabbit and caught black plague

A hunter ate a wild rabbit and caught black plague

CREDIT: National Institue of Allergy Infectious Diseases

Twenty-eight people are in quarantine in China’s northern Inner Mongolia province after a hunter was diagnosed with bubonic plague Saturday, the local health commission said.

According to state-run news agency Xinhua, the unidentified patient was believed to have become infected with the plague after catching and eating a wild rabbit in Inner Mongolia’s Huade county.

Bubonic plague is the more common version of the disease and is rarely transmitted between humans.

The case comes after the Chinese government announced on November 12 that two people were being treated for the pneumonic plague in the capital of Beijing — the same strand that caused the Black Death, one of the deadliest pandemics in human history.

Pneumonic plague is the most virulent and deadly strain of the disease. It originates in the lungs and any person who is infected can spread it to another person by sneezing or coughing near them. It can be cured with antibiotics, but is always fatal if left untreated, according to the WHO.

In comparison, bubonic plague can only be spread by infected fleas or by handling an infected animal’s tissue.

State media Xinhua said Saturday that there had been no evidence of the plague spreading further in Beijing and there was no connection to the latest case. But it was the second time the disease had been detected in the region in the past year.

In May, a Mongolian couple died from bubonic plague after eating the raw kidney of a marmot, a local folk health remedy.

Although plague is inextricably linked to the Black Death pandemic of the 14th century that killed around 50 million people in Europe, it remains a relatively common disease.

At least 1,000 people a year catch the plague, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), which they acknowledge is probably a modest estimate given the number of unreported cases.

The three most endemic countries are the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Madagascar, and Peru.

An average of seven Americans get the plague every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2015, two people in Colorado died from the plague, and the year before there were eight reported cases in the state.




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Real-life Bambi and Thumper spotted in small Washington town

An adorable friendship is blossoming in the town of Loomis, Washington. Meet the deer and bunny who resemble Bambi and Thumper.

LOOMIS, Wash. — Perhaps the movie wasn’t the end for Disney’s Bambi and Thumper. A small herd of deer and their rabbit companion have been spotted in Loomis, Washington.

KING 5 viewer Darlene Wilbourn said the animals visit her mother’s yard every day. In the heartwarming video, you can see the bunny follows a few of the deer around as they lay in the sun.

There doesn’t seem to be any other bunnies as part of the group, but the deer don’t seem to mind. One deer chews peacefully as the bunny sits between its front legs. Another deer even appears to touch noses with the smaller animal.

It seems that Disney’s duo has come to life in Washington.

Share your photos and videos with KING 5 on our Facebook page, or by tagging your Twitter and Instagramposts with #k5spring.

Ban the bunny: California aims to end post-Easter parade of unwanted rabbits

By Barbara Goldberg

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Californians can eat chocolate bunnies and snuggle plush Peter Cottontail dolls to their heart’s content this Easter.

But those who want to buy a live bunny as an Easter gift won’t find them for sale at pet stores this year after California became the first U.S. state to pass a law aimed at stemming a post-holiday deluge of maturing rabbits being abandoned or euthanized.

The legislation, which took effect in January, prohibits retail shops from selling commercially bred dogs, cats and rabbits. The idea is to encourage adoption of rescued animals and to crack down on the sale of pets from “puppy mills,” “kitty factories” and “bunny bundlers.”

Legislatures in New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Pennsylvania are considering similar bills. Dozens of cities, from Boston and Chicago to Salt Lake City already have local ordinances on the books.

The problem of abandonment and euthanasia is particularly acute for rabbits purchased in pet stores, as they tend to be impulse buys, especially in the days before Easter.

“In the one to three months after Easter, we traditionally see a spike in shelter rabbit intakes,” said Anne Martin, executive director of the House Rabbit Society, a nonprofit group that rescues rabbits and places them in foster care.

“In Northern California alone, thousands of stray and unwanted rabbits end up in the municipal shelter systems, and the majority of these rabbits are under a year old,” she said.

The Easter Bunny, an age-old symbol of fertility and renewal, plays an endearing role in the springtime holiday celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ, tempting parents to buy one of the cuddly-looking creatures for their families.

But to the surprise of many, rabbits are not low-maintenance balls of fur, their owners say, as they require daily cleaning and specialized medical care.


“There is a common misconception that a rabbit just can sit in a cage and eat carrots,” said Jacob Levitt, 44, a dermatologist who owns eight young, adopted bunnies that roam his New York City luxury apartment.

He said it was “unintentional animal cruelty” to keep a rabbit cooped up and to fail to give it a proper diet of grass hay.

Fulvio Roman, 32, whose fiance made a “spur of the moment” decision to buy a pet store rabbit, admitted to being unprepared for the demands of its care.

“Once she saw the bunny and was able to hold her, she immediately fell in love,” said Roman, who lives on Long Island and supervises kitchen workers in New York City public schools. “We didn’t know what it really took to have a bunny.”

Eight months later, after the rabbit resisted being picked up, chewed through air conditioner wires, and their landlord demanded a non-refundable $1,000 security deposit, they surrendered the rabbit to a shelter.

“Not everyone knows how much work a bunny takes. We ended up being educated by force,” Roman said.

Rabbits typically live 10 years and multiply every 30 days, with an average litter of eight babies. Pet stores often fail to neuter bunnies, according to House Rabbit.

Bunnies mature at 3 to 6 months and males spray urine and females become territorial. When they grow less adorable, house bunnies are left in backyard hutches or abandoned in fields or woods.

Under California’s Law, consumers can adopt animals from a shelter or buy them directly from a breeder.

Some 2.8 million U.S. households have rabbits as pets, according to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), compared with 60.2 million with a dog, 47.1 million with a cat, 7.9 million with a bird and 2.6 million with a horse.

The House Rabbit Society said bunnies are the third most abandoned pet in the United States. Advocates say rabbits are also the third most euthanized, based on a 2010 study of four shelters in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.


In California, pet industry leaders, many of whom opposed the new law, say local shops that sell animals will suffer.

“We expect the California law will have disastrous consequences for the small, local business pet stores,” said Mike Bober, president and CEO of Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council.

But live animal sales account for just 3 percent of the industry’s roughly $70 billion in annual sales, according to APPA’s website. The bulk of U.S. pet store sales in recent years has been for food, vet care, supplies and over-the-counter medicines.

John Goodwin, a senior director at the Humane Society of the United States, urged Americans to pass on buying a live bunny as an Easter present.

“There are plenty of stuffed animals and chocolates in rabbit form,” Goodwin said.

(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York; Editing by Frank McGurty and Bill Berkrot)

Hunter taken to hospital after being shot with several pellets

36-year-old Shawn Hunt of New Hampshire was hit in the head with several pellets from a shotgun when a rabbit was spotted.
By News Desk |

SOMERSET COUNTY(WABI) – Game wardens say a rabbit hunter was shot Tuesday morning in Pleasant Ridge Plantation.

Authorities say 36-year-old Shawn Hunt of New Hampshire was hit in the head with several pellets from a shotgun.

We’re told Hunt was on a guided hunt with two people when a rabbit was spotted.

Officials say Hunt instructed one of the other hunters to shoot the rabbit, and Hunt was hit by several pellets.

Hunt was taken to the hospital in Skowhegan to be evaluated.

Game wardens are still investigating.


Police investigate hunting accident that kills N.L. man in early 60s

Police investigate hunting accident that kills N.L. man in early 60s

COLINET, N.L. — A man in his early 60s was killed when a gun accidentally discharged during a rabbit hunting trip on Newfoundland’s east coast, police said Monday.

RCMP Const. Steven Hatch said officers were called to a remote dirt road near Colinet at about 1:35 p.m. Saturday for a report of an accidental shooting.

“We got a 911 call from one of the people in the hunting party that there was an accidental discharge of a firearm, striking another male in the upper body,” he said from Placentia. “Indications are that it was a hunting accident.”

He says police and paramedics responded, but the man was pronounced dead at the scene on Route 91.

Hatch said the man, from the Foxtrap area of Conception Bay South, was hunting rabbit with others and was on the dirt road when the shooting occurred.

Police are investigating with help from the medical examiner’s office.

Dog shoots owner to death in freak hunting accident


A Russian hunter was shot dead by his own dog when the excited pooch hopped up on his lap and tapped his shotgun — which discharged into his gut.

The freak accident struck while Sergei Terekhov, 64, and his brother were hunting rabbits in the remote Saratov region, according to reports Monday.

Terekhov’s double-barrelled shotgun was resting on his knee when his Estonian Hound bounded towards him and bumped the weapon with his paw, causing it to go off, according to the local news site Region 64 and other outlets.

“The weapon rested on his knee, with the butt facing down and the barrel pointing towards his stomach,” investigator Alexander Galanin told the site.

The investigative committee later told Newsweek Terekhov was holding the Soviet Toz-3, which discharged after the pooch darted from a car and hopped up onto him.

Terekhov’s brother called an ambulance but he died on the way to a hospital.

Terekhov was experienced hunter with a license, Galanin said. “Everything was in order. It was an accident.”

Terekhov’s was a sportsman who loved hunting rabbits and other game, the UK Telegraph reported.

Investigators had found no sign of foul play on Monday.