Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013



Over the weekend, a number of DUNER BLOG staff members got together at the Sports Bar to watch some College Basketball games.  One of our favorite teams, top-ranked MICHIGAN played at #3 INDIANA.  During halftime, we talked about the Michigan mascot, the Wolverine.  Since the largest member of the weasel family is endangered and exists only in captivity in Michigan (at the Detroit Zoo!), we wondered if it was time for a change.  This proposal set off a tidal wave of discussion and debate.  Here are our findings on endangered state animals...in a top five format, of course.

#5 Michigan.  Wolverine. (Mustelidae Gulo)
After conducting research, we here at the DUNER BLOG have determined Wolverines never lived in the territory or state of Michigan.  The name comes from the 1835 Toledo War, when Ohio and Michigan took up arms against each over a land dispute.  In the end, no one died, a few Ohioans were injured, and Michigan ceded the disputed area to Ohio.  In exchange, President Jackson awarded Michigan the Upper Peninsula.  Anyhow, the Ohioan Armed Forces thought the backwoods Michigan Militia looked like "ornery Wolverines" and the moniker stuck.  Today, Wolverines (the animal) are found from Montana to Alaska and aren't endangered.

#4 Hawaii.  Nene or Hawaiian Goose. (Branta sandwicensis) 
 The poor Nene!  It used to be head honcho on the remote island chain.  Then, a bunch of dumb colonists introduced mongooses and feral cats to the island.  These critters love to eat Nene eggs.  By the time the island chain became a state, Nene Goose were close to being wiped out altogether.  Conservation efforts have resulted in colonies in protected areas.  Today, about 800 Nene can be found on the islands of Hawaii, Maui and Kauai.  However, the Nene remains on the Endangered Species List and is the 4th most threatened waterfowl on Earth...according to the Audubon Society.

#3 Connecticut. Sperm Whale. (Physeter macrocephalus) 
Waaaay back, when the Chestnut State was still a colony, the whaling industry was king.  In 1740, it is estimated there were over a million Sperm Whales in earth's oceans.  Hunting of the 60-ton mammals is well documented in famous son Herman Mellville's leviathan 'Moby Dick.'   Although Americans no long need whale guts, other nations still desire Sperm Whale blubber.  Their estimated worldwide population is slowly growing, but it is still on the Endangered Species List.

#2. California. Grizzly Bears  (Ursus californicus) 
Before the 1849 Gold Rush, Grizzly Bears owned the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  When the yahoo miners came flooding into the foothills, they refused to cede any territory to the newcomers.  The cunning bears raided 49er camps taking their livestock, supplies and women.  As always, Americans responded with guns.  Mark Twain mentions the "stench of the rotting grizzly corpses" in his short story 'The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County. According to the State Library the last Grizzly was "killed in Tulare in 1922." Today, the endangered species is found in the British Columbia, the Yukon and Alaska...but not in the Golden State.

#1. United States. Bald Eagle.  (Haliaeetus Leucocephalus)
Back in 1782, it made sense to have this proud raptor on our Great Shield and National Emblem.  Biologists estimate there were over 100,000 of them in the region known today as the "Lower 48."  However, as the nation expanded Westward, the proud birds were seen as vermin.  It's true...the eagles hunted for the same fish and waterfowl as the humans.  Settlers shot them on sight.  The Bald Eagle Act in 1890 stopped Americans from shooting their national animal, but another killer waited around the corner: D.D.T.  Use of the pesticide was widespread without proper testing.   Before anyone knew it... the harmful chemicals had indirectly decimated the population of our National Treasure!

All in all, our conclusion at the DUNER BLOG is: It's a tough life being a State Animal.  The smart states are Massachusetts and Maryland who have pets as their state animals.  Boston Terriers and Chesapeake Bay Retrievers could never go extinct!

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