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« Reply #4395 on: Jan 15, 2018, 05:21 AM »

These creatures faced extinction. The Endangered Species Act saved them

By Darryl Fears
WA Post

Here are some of the animals that have been saved by the Endangered Species Act. (Monica Akhtar/The Washington Post)

The federal Endangered Species Act has been called the world’s gold standard for environmental protection. Passed in 1973, it strengthened earlier federal protections for animals that had been nearly wiped out by humans, including bald eagles, humpback whales and California condors.

But the act has faced opposition from those who believe it unfairly protects animals that sometimes poach livestock and that it unfairly restricts land use.

At a recent hearing to discuss “modernizing the Endangered Species Act,” Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), head of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said the ESA “is not working today.”

On the House side, Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) said the act “has never been used for the rehabilitation of species. … It’s been used to control the land. We’ve missed the entire purpose of the Endangered Species Act. It has been hijacked.”

A former U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service director at the Senate hearing responded to calls that the law needed a dramatic change by reminding committee members of how the law is viewed in other parts of the world. “The Endangered Species Act is the world’s gold standard” for conservation and protection of animals, said Daniel M. Ashe, now president and chief executive of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

“It’s not perfect. It can be better,” Ashe, “Your goal is to make it … stronger and better,” Ashe said.

The world’s flora and fauna are experiencing a global extinction crisis caused by human activity, according to many experts. But humans have also learned how to protect species and help them make a recovery. Here are eight species that would probably have disappeared already were it not for the Endangered Species Act.

A black-footed ferret at the Vermejo Park Ranch in northern New Mexico. (Kimberly Fraser/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via AP)

Black-footed ferret

If raccoons could get plastic surgery, they’d transform themselves into black-footed ferrets. This variety of ferrets is the only one that’s native to the Americas, but Americans are shoving them off their habitat with development, and they inadvertently introduced a plague to their primary food source, prairie dogs. Along with development that causes prairie dogs to scatter, the sylvatic plague, which caused the bubonic plague in humans, wiped out entire prairie dog populations and spread to ferrets.

Black-footed ferrets exist on about 2 percent of their historic range. Listed as endangered in 1967, they were twice considered extinct in the 20th century before a population of about 20 was found. the Fish and Wildlife Service partnered with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Va., and zoos to breed the animals in captivity and reintroduce them into the wild in a bid to save them. The federal agency is also experimenting with using drones to scatter plague vaccine, encased in peanut butter tablets, to protect the animals against disease. There have been hopeful signs of a small rebound, but as development continues to slice up their habitat, their fate is still dicey.

Humpback whale

This is the famous singing whale. No one really knows why, but males, who do all the crooning, sing for up to 20 minutes at a time, sometimes all day, pausing only for a breath — an underwater opera. The singing nearly stopped in the 1960s, when more than a century of commercial hunting took its toll. Humpback whales were listed as endangered in 15 habitats worldwide, and their numbers fell to 1,600.

They were listed as endangered in 1967 under the Endangered Species Conservation Act that preceded the current act. Nearly five decades later, they’ve rebounded to about 20,000 individuals across the world, enough to be de-listed in all but a few of their habitats.

Bald eagle

The bald eagle was designated as the national bird in 1782, just before the end of the Revolutionary War. Although the Americans and British stopped fighting, hostilities didn’t end for eagles.

Name a threat, and bald eagles have faced it: illegal shooting, poisoning, habitat destruction and contamination of its food with the deadly chemical DDT. By the 1970s, when they were listed as endangered, bald eagles were on the verge of extinction. Wildlife officials teamed up with state and federal lawmakers to save them.

The first step was to ban DDT, ushering in a bald eagle recovery through conservation, including the protection of nesting areas. Bald eagle populations recently climbed to an estimated 70,000 birds from a low of about 400 breeding pairs in 1963, a recovery that the Fish and Wildlife Service called remarkable. They were removed from the endangered list in 2007.

American alligator

Why does this member of the crocodile family look so scary? It’s basically a dinosaur. Alligators have been on Earth for 200 million years, hunting other animals and devouring them.

Gators aren’t the only merciless animal. Humans nearly put an end to their existence through hunts and habitat destruction. Like the black-footed ferret, alligators were listed as endangered in 1967. Authorities banned hunting to protect it, the American alligator quickly rebounded, and in 1987 the service declared that the animal had fully recovered. American alligators exist from North Carolina to Florida on the Atlantic coast and from Florida to Texas on the Gulf coast. They abound in the Florida Everglades, where invasive Burmese pythons have begun to challenge them for the top spot on the food chain.

Grizzly bear

There’s no mistaking a grizzly bear. Its powerful build, its walk and claws are iconic.

Those features are part of the reason scientists named grizzlies Ursus horribilis, “terrifying bear.” Biologists don’t like the term grizzly. They’re a subspecies of the Kodiak bear and are officially the North American brown bear.

Other North American bears such as the polar bear are bigger. But grizzlies have a fearsome reputation. Some wonder why, considering that they are largely solitary, playful and can be communal eaters in areas where food is plentiful. Humans fear them, but grizzlies have proven no match for humans. Half a million grizzlies once roamed the Lower 48 states, from the northwestern corner of Washington to southern Wyoming. Now only about 1,800 remain.

Grizzlies were listed as threatened in the lower 48 states in 1975 after being reduced to 2 percent of their historic range. In their southernmost territory, inside Yellowstone National Park, they were fiercely protected, and hunting outside the park was ended. The bears’ numbers have grown from about 130 to 700 in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, and now Fish and Wildlife is considering removing them from the list, sparking an ongoing fight with ranchers on one side, conservationists on the other and the federal government in the middle.

Florida manatee

Manatees have lived in Florida for about 45 million years, according to fossil records. They are big, gray, lumbering and docile marine mammals, plus they eat sea grasses, so people call them sea cows.

As Florida developed into a vacation and retirement paradise that swelled its population to 20 million, making it the fourth-most-populous state, sea cows found themselves in the path of boats. Sharp propellers butcher the animals, and they are harassed by snorkelers and tubers longing to touch them. Florida first acted to protect manatees as far back as 1893, and the federal government first protected them as an endangered species in 1967.

Aerial surveys in 1991 proved that their numbers had dropped from the tens of thousands to fewer than 1,300. In 2013, there were a record 800 manatee deaths caused mostly by humans. Faced with the extinction of the Florida manatee, an offshoot of the West Indian manatee that roams the Caribbean and South America, the state and federal government stepped up protections. They created manatee protection zones marked clearly for boaters, worked to minimize harassment, disturbance injury and mortality, and closely monitor the animal’s habitat and population.

Manatee numbers are rebounding, with about 6,200 in the most recent annual count. Last year in January, Fish and Wildlife proposed to downgrade their status on the endangered list.

California condor

They are among the largest flying birds in the world, speeding at up to 55 mph on air currents in a search for carrion such as deer. Thousands of years ago, they weren’t just California condors. They existed as far away as Florida.

But like every other animal on this list, it couldn’t overcome human expansion into America. “As people settled the West, they often shot, poisoned, captured and disturbed the condors, collected their eggs, and reduced their food supply of antelope, elk, and other large wild animals. Eventually, condors could no longer survive in most places,” according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

A few remaining condors were backed into the Southern California mountains by the turn of the last century. It’s been illegal for anyone to kill a condor in California for 100 years. But the same chemical that nearly doomed eagles, DDT, was an invisible killer of condors. Compounding the problem, carrion killed by lead shot poisoned birds that fed on the carcasses. They’ve been protected by federal law since 1967 and state law since 1971.

By then, they were already too far gone. In 1982, only 23 were left worldwide. Five years later, they were rushed into a captive breeding program for intensive recovery. Without it, condors would probably no longer exist. In 1992, federal officials started releasing a few into the wild, and now there are 410 birds. Although the recovery program says there are “more California condors flying free in the wild” since the program’s start, their survival is still an open question.

One of the first things the Interior Department did under its new secretary, Ryan Zinke, was rescind an Obama administration regulation that outlawed hunting with lead shot.

Gray wolf

The gray wolf, Canis lupis, has a public relations problem that’s hard to overcome. In fables, it menaces Little Red Riding Hood and blows down the houses of pigs. In horror tales, a man unfortunate enough to be bitten by a werewolf transforms into one.

But wolves once roamed the whole of North America, the greatest distribution of any wild animal, and were an essential part of the ecology. They helped control populations of deer, elk and bison, ensuring that those animals roamed about rather than ruined areas by remaining too long, trampling the ground and demolishing trees that other animals relied on for habitat and safety.

As humans colonized the east and expanded to the west, ranchers came to despise wolf packs that killed cattle on instinct learned over thousands of years of hunting prey. They were hunted, shot, trapped and poisoned throughout the lower 48 states until they were on the brink of extinction.

Gray wolves were listed as endangered in 1978. Although some progress was made toward their recovery, they continue to be listed as endangered in 39 states and parts of another five because shooting and trapping still happen. A distinct north Rocky Mountain population was de-listed due to recovery six years ago.

Opponents of the endangered listing are working to remove wolves from the list, as conservationists complain that there isn’t a sufficient number to escape extinction. But it’s clear that protection has led to a rebound.

Watch: <iframe width='480' height='290' scrolling='no' src='https://www.washingtonpost.com/video/c/embed/0d697376-01dd-11e7-9d14-9724d48f5666' frameborder='0' webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen></iframe>

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« Reply #4396 on: Today at 05:15 AM »

Think twice about buying 'squashed-faced' breeds, vets urge dog-lovers

British Veterinary Association launches #breedtobreathe campaign to highlight serious health issues breeds such as pugs and French bulldogs are prone to

Nicola Davis

Vets have urged dog-lovers to think twice about buying squashed-faced dogs such as pugs and French bulldogs, after many would-be owners were found to be unaware of the health problems such breeds often experience.

According to data from the Kennel Club, registrations of squashed-faced, or brachycephalic, breeds have shot up in recent years: while just 692 French bulldogs were registered in 2007, registrations reached 21,470 in 2016.

Certain DNA variations in dogs are linked to a short skull shape. The animals’ baby-like faces with large, round, wide-set eyes and flat noses are known to be a key factor in why owners choose such breeds: over time those traits have been bred for, and in some cases have been taken to extremes.

This selective breeding and prioritising appearance over health has left the breeds prone to skin disorders, eye ulcers and breathing difficulties among other problems.

Now the British Veterinary Association (BVA) has launched a campaign dubbed #breedtobreathe to draw attention to the issues, revealing that a new survey of 671 vets found 75% of owners were unaware of the health problems of brachycephalic breeds before they chose their squashed-faced dog. Moreover the vets said just 10% of owners could spot health problems related to such breeds, with many thinking that problems including snorting were “normal” for such dogs.

The survey also revealed that 49% of vets thought advertising and social media were among the reasons behind the surge in ownership of these dogs, while 43% said celebrity ownership was one of the driving factors.

“We find that our veterinary surgeons are finding increasing numbers of flat-faced dogs are coming into their practices with problems which are related to the way these animals are made,” said John Fishwick, president of the BVA. “One of the things that is causing this increase that we have seen over the last few years appears to be celebrity endorsements and their use in advertising.”

Among those criticised by the BVA are pop star Lady Gaga, who is often photographed with her French bulldogs, and YouTube star Zoella, whose pug features in her videos. Big brands are also targeted; the organisation revealed that Heinz, Costa and Halifax have all agreed to avoid using squashed-faced dogs in future advertising.

The BVA is urging people to send letters to brands asking them not to use such dogs in promotional material. The campaign also aims to raise awareness of potential health problems of squashed-face breeds, and stresses the need for vets, owners, dog-show judges, breeders, researchers and others to work together to make sure the breeds are healthy.

“They are lovely breeds of dog, they are very friendly and they make good pets,” said Fishwick. “The problem is a lot of them are really struggling, and we really want to make sure people understand this and encourage them to think about either going for another breed or a healthier version of these breeds – ones which have been bred to have a longer snout … or possibly even cross breeds.”

The BVA warned that without action, the number of corrective surgeries needed on such animals will soar.
xmlns="http://www.w3.org/2000/svg"> At last! Paid days off for new pet owners are a sign of progress

Caroline Kisko, secretary of the Kennel Club urged owners to do their homework before buying a squashed-faced dog. “As soon as you get a market drive then the puppy farms just say ‘ooh we’ll breed those now,’” she said.

But Dr Rowena Packer of the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) said the problem is not confined to new owners, with recent research from the RVC finding that more than 90% of pug, French bulldog and English bulldog owners said they would own another such dog in the future. “It is not just going to be a flash in the pan that we see this huge surge and then it goes away,” she said.

It has been suggested that vets may be unwilling to speak out for fear that owners will simply take their pets elsewhere, damaging business.

But Packer disagrees, saying: “I don’t think any vet went into [the job] hoping that their salary would be paid by the suffering of dogs who have been bred to effectively have problems.”

Dr Crina Dragu, a London-based veterinary surgeon, noted that not all squashed-faced dogs have problems. “You see the ones that have happy lives, normal lives, and you see the ones that the minute they are born they spend their entire lives as though [they are being smothered] with a pillow all day, every day,” she said.

Packer said prospective owners should be aware squashed-faced dogs can be an expensive commitment: “I think they need to be aware of both the emotional and financial hardship that they could be putting themselves and their dogs through for potentially five to 10 years.”

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« Reply #4397 on: Today at 05:18 AM »

Miniature wild cats get on well with their larger cousins in well protected forests

Adult oncillas can weigh as little as 1.5kg, and are sensitive to the nature conservancy status of their habitat.

Martha Henriques

Several species of spotted wild cats live in the same space in tropical forests, but a new study finds that they still manage to live harmoniously alongside each other and do not compete for their habitat.

The factor that had the most impact on where cats could survive was how protected their environment was from human interference, according to a study published in the journal PLOS ONE. The more an area of forest was protected as a nature reserve, the more likely that small spotted cats would thrive there.

"Before this study, it was thought that there was some competition going on between the species. It was a total surprise to find out that competition wasn't the main driver of distribution, but that human-related factors were," study author Mariana B Nagy-Reis of the Universidade Estadual de Campinas in Brazil told IBTimes UK.

The scientists looked at where ocelots, margays and oncillas were living – in an area of 35,000 hectares of what remains of the Atlantic Forest in Brazil. This forest used to stretch for 130 million acres – twice the size of Texas – but now 85% of it has been cut down.

Using camera traps and samples of cat droppings, they tracked where the three different species were living. The three kinds of cat all had relatively similar habitats and types of prey but differed in size. Ocelots usually weigh in between 8-15kg, margays are between 3-9kg, and the tiny oncilla is between just 1.5-3kg. The average domestic cat, for comparison, is about 4kg.

All of the species were sensitive to how well their habitat was protected from human interference. Small spotted wild cats are at risk of poaching for their fur. Ocelots are not endangered, according to the IUCN Red List, having been previously listed as vulnerable. Margays are classed as near-threatened. The tiny oncilla is classed as endangered.

Where the cats' environment is sufficiently protected in nature reserves, deaths due to hunting or poaching are rare, the authors write in the paper.

"This suggests that small felids can be sensitive to the area protection status, emphasising the importance of maintaining and creating reserves and other areas with elevated protection for the proper management and conservation of the group," the authors wrote in the paper.

"We believe that knowledge of these potential relationships will be useful for planning management actions towards the conservation of this key group in the Neotropical forests and helpful in clarifying the role of interspecific interactions on the occurrence of small felids, which could benefit our understanding of how small felids occur in other ecosystems worldwide."

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« Reply #4398 on: Today at 05:20 AM »

Humans are now the biggest threats to lions in the wild

Trophy hunting and retaliatory killings are threatening wild lion populations.

Léa Surugue

Uncontrolled, intense trophy hunting can have a very negative impact on lion populations, and represent one of the greatest threats to adult male lions. Only small, well-regulated hunting quotas may be compatible with the protection of these large carnivores.

A report published last week by Professor David Macdonald – the founding director of Oxford University's Wildlife Conservation Unit – created controversy as it concluded that when trophy hunting was well-regulated and transparent, it had the potential to contribute to lion conservation.

In two new studies co-authored by Macdonald and published in Biological Conservation and in the Journal of Applied Biology, scientists now present another, in-depth analysis of the threats posed to lions by human activity – including trophy hunting.

Lion mortality

The researchers have examined data from the the Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, which was home to Cecil the Lion. The research published in Biological Conservation dealt directly with the impact of trophy hunting, by looking at the killings of male lions in the Park from 1999 to 2012. This was a time when trophy hunting was particularly intense and the data suggests that the practice had a dramatic impact on the lion population.

The other study, which looked at mortality records in the park, indicated that interactions with humans caused 88% of male lion deaths – most of them due to trophy hunting. When males were killed by hunters this also had a negative impact on the rest of the lion population, as male deaths were associated with lower survival of all age and sex classes of lions.

However, the researchers have also discovered that when trophy hunting management was improved by greatly reducing hunting quotas from the mid 2000s, there was a positive impact. The lion population increased by 62% as a result and the number of adult males in the population by 200%.

This suggests that reducing quotas of lions that can be hunted, as well as strictly monitoring the practice of trophy hunting, can have positive effects. The researchers conclude that regulated quotas may be compatible with large carnivore conservation, although other measures also need to be taken.

This includes focusing resource-limited anti-poaching operations on wildlife-rich areas close to human settlements, as this is where most bushmeat poaching takes place. Conflict with humans over livestock is another important problem, so better protecting these animals from lions should be a priority to avoid retaliatory killings by cattle owners.

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« Reply #4399 on: Today at 05:25 AM »

Gorillas React To Their Reflection

Gorilla Family and Me - BBC Earth

Find out how these wild gorillas react when they get a glimpse of themselves for the first time. Subscribe to BBC Earth for more amazing animal videos

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aZ7F1yRM5vg

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« Reply #4400 on: Today at 05:28 AM »

Here's What Happened When I Tried to Rescue Piglets From a Factory Farm

By Jenny McQueen

For a city girl, I've had a lot of experience with pigs. I've visited with them in sanctuaries, given belly rubs (they love those), introduced little children to them, rescued and cared for young piglets, witnessed distressed, overheated/freezing/thirsty young pigs in slaughter trucks, and experienced the hellish conditions inside a pig breeding and pig growing facility.

Reading about the injustices meted out to food animals turned me into a vegan and then an animal rights activist. This was the 1990s, before I'd even met any farmed animals.

So what's the truth about how pigs live on farms?

The industry provides an adorable illustration of "This Little Piggy" in a sweet-looking children's booklet, "Pig Tales Fun Book." It shows piglets suckling from their mama on the grass, a vet on hand, kids playing among the pigs. The pigs are enjoying their freedom in an idyllic setting. It's an artistic rendering that the kids can color. What fun.

The reality, however, is quite different. This is from my direct experience, in Canada, a developed country.

From the outside, there are neat buildings, a clean white shed, surrounded by pristine fields. Workers park their cars and leave civilization to enter a secret world of suffering and injustice to their charges—hundreds, perhaps thousands of pigs. Their offices and kitchen area look like any workplace. Open the door to the pigs' area and your senses and emotions are assaulted.

Pigs have sensitive noses. Their cousin, the truffle hog, is prized for sniffing out precious truffles. But pigs enduring life inside an industrial farm are in absolute purgatory. Shine a flashlight into the air and it's thick with particles. I wore silver jewelry and it was tarnished just from being exposed for a few hours. The cacophony of hundreds of pigs in distress, some screaming to escape, is deafening, as are the sounds of machinery—automatic feeders, automatic air extraction. Working in this environment must be awful for the humans, too. Who would be able to take pride in work that involves brutality, suffering and dangerous conditions? Dusty cobwebs hang from the electrical fittings, a desk fan is strung up in the corridor pointed at more electrics. The building is a fire hazard.

One could argue that the female pigs kept for breeding have it the worst. They languish in either a cramped gestation or farrowing crate, where they can't turn around. They urinate and defecate in the crate, and as they have to stand in their feces, it gradually falls below the slatted floor to a big pit. They give birth on these cold hard floors, not able to nuzzle their young or create a nest as they do in the wild. If they suffer injuries, there's no vet on hand. I witnessed one pregnant pig with a huge prolapse. She was being kept in a cold room, her chart marking her due date. Females like her are forced to reproduce until their piglet production declines, and then they are brutally loaded and shipped off to slaughter.

Male pigs are mostly slaughtered young, at barely 6 months old. Some males, however, are kept for breeding and used to supply semen. I witnessed large boars confined in a small cold room, in similar cages to those of the females. They were trying but failing to escape the confines of their cages. The look of desperation in their eyes is something I will never forget. Syringes were nearby.

The baby piglets seem oblivious to their fate. They struggle to reach their mother's red, often sore, nipples. Some are obviously suffering, thin and struggling to survive. I tried to save one piglet who was shivering on the bare, cold floor. She died in my arms.

Piglets who don't thrive are swung by their feet until their heads are bashed on the concrete floor—and yes, this is standard industry practice. They endure 'modifications' such as having their tails snipped off, their testicles removed and even their teeth ripped out without any painkillers. Witnessing these atrocities, and knowing that pigs are intelligent, feeling animals breaks my heart. Locking eyes with adult pigs who are in a constant state of anxiety and distress is soul-destroying.

Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) activists have managed to rescue some individuals. We took one lucky piglet, Noel, out of a hellish place in Ontario, Canada. He had a swollen ear and needed urgent veterinary treatment. He's now safe at a sanctuary, but we had to leave behind so many others.

The public is beginning to understand what happens to animals used for food. So-called humane slaughter methods have come under scrutiny. A court in Canada recently viewed footage of the gas chambers in a pig slaughterhouse. The pigs descending into the gas were seen screaming and struggling for air.

Please share this video and help the public see the truth.

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lPd-QNAhOps

Reposted with permission from our media associate AlterNet.

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« Reply #4401 on: Today at 05:31 AM »

The Hunt for ‘Fire Cats’ Amid Northern California Ashes

JAN. 16, 2018
NY Times
SANTA ROSA, Calif. — When a firestorm swept down the hillsides of Sonoma County, bringing terror to this tight grid of thousands of homes, dogs tended to rush to their masters.

But cats went in the opposite direction, ignoring the pleas of panicked owners and disappearing amid the chaotic evacuation.

Finding the missing cats that fled the October wildfires has been an impassioned quest for Jennifer Petruska, an animal lover whose home, pets included, was one of the few in her neighborhood to be spared.

Ms. Petruska has spent nearly every night since the fires tracking and trapping fire cats, as she calls them, the felines that for weeks have remained missing because of stubbornness, trauma, instinct, or a mix of all three.

Catching cats can be tricky in the best of circumstances but she and her team of volunteers have caught more than 70. They believe many dozens more are on the loose.

Pet Rescue & Reunification, as the volunteers call themselves, have set up night-vision cameras in storm drains and creek beds, where many cats went into hiding. Every evening at dusk they set traps baited with tuna and mackerel, checking them hourly until dawn.

“If you want to catch a cat you have to stay up all night — that’s just the name of the game,” Ms. Petruska said as she prepared for another dark and cold round of cat stalking. “I’ve been a horrible insomniac my whole life, so it suits me.”

Coffey Park, the neighborhood where Ms. Petruska is focusing her efforts, may as well have been struck by a bomb. Well over 1,000 homes were leveled. Ms. Petruska and her team say they realize that with nearly 5,000 homes destroyed in the Santa Rosa area alone their effort is ancillary to the grieving and massive effort of reconstruction that is only just beginning.

The bleak landscape of charred lots is still teeming with creatures stealthily crawling throughout the night, mostly unseen.

Ms. Petruska says she knows there are still many cats on the loose because her motion-activated cameras capture them nearly every night, along with a parade of other nocturnal animals such as skunks, opossums and raccoons.

To the families who lost everything, recounting how Ms. Petruska helped recover their cats often brings tears.

“I just wanted my cat — that was the only thing I wanted back,” said Kelly Stinson, whose home in Coffey Park was destroyed. “I spent hours every single day looking for her.“

Ms. Petruska located Evy and after an evening of coaxing returned a day later and grabbed the cat by the scruff of the neck.

Sara Ratekin, a veterinarian who has treated many of the cats rescued by Ms. Petruska’s team, says the fires have shown the ability of cats to survive perilous circumstances. Captured fire cats often arrive in her office with burned paws, singed whiskers — and many pounds lighter than before the fire.

Unlike dogs, cats have an instinct to flee when they sense danger, Dr. Ratekin said.

“I can explain why they ran away,” she said. “But I can’t explain why they became so wild so quickly.”

In August, during the flooding in Houston caused by Hurricane Harvey, cats were spotted by rescue workers swimming or floating on furniture and debris trying to find high ground.

    THIS IMAGE. Photographer Scott Olson found one angry cat swimming in floodwater. #Harvey pic.twitter.com/yLvsL67BRo
    — Marcus Yam (@yamphoto) Sept. 2, 2017

When emergency medical workers showed up at flooded homes, dogs would often greet them at the door, tails wagging, said Katie Jarl, the Texas director of The Humane Society of the United States.

If cats were still home they would often be hiding — and when discovered would need significant coaxing to leave.

”No matter if it’s fires or flooding, or any type of natural disaster, cats will often hide,” Ms. Jarl said. “It can be days or weeks before they re-emerge.”

To lure Santa Rosa’s fire cats back into domestic life, Ms. Petruska assembles personality profiles of each cat she stalks. One cat likes the sound of whipped cream fizzing from a can. She carries a can in her car. Another cat answers to the sound of the crinkling of a bag of a specific brand of cat treats. She carries the treats.

Unsurprisingly the most effective lure appears to be fish. Ms. Petruska soaks socks in the juices from cans of mackerel and hangs them from trees.

On a recent evening at dusk, she drove through the countless rows of burned out houses to a neighborhood near a small creek. In near freezing temperatures, she hauled a cat trap across the molten remains of a home, careful to step over pieces of roofing and other remnants jutting up through the rubble. She passed a random assortment of household items laid bare in the detritus — a solitary teacup, a blackened metal colander and the burned out remains of a washer and dryer — before setting up a metal trap.

By morning the trap was still empty. But she has persisted, working through the holidays.

Around 10 fire cats have been found without any clues as to their owners; they are being kept at Sonoma County’s animal services department.

She has found cats even after owners gave up the search. Cindy Fulwider fled her home in the early hours of Oct. 9 as embers the size of golf balls rained down. She was convinced that her cat, whom she calls Sweet Baby, had perished. Then she got a call five weeks after the fire from one of Ms. Petruska’s team.

“I really thought we would never see him again,” Ms. Fulwider said.

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