Speed Kills!

Kit Fox, deceased (Vulpes macrotis)Over the course of nearly thirty years operating automobiles,  I have moved off of roadways and roadsides far too many dead animals (coyote, hawk, owl, squirrel, snake, raccoon, opossum, skunk, deer, jackrabbit…the list goes on), and on January 16 in Death Valley National Park, I added a new species to the list. Not far from the parking lot for the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, I found a kit fox lying just beside the road. I was immediately angered and saddened – this doesn’t have to happen. This poor fox was virtually undamaged, although its bowels were slightly protruding and it appeared to have a broken back leg. There was very little blood. Such a beautiful, soft, and delicate creature, not bigger than most of my cats. I gently laid it to rest beneath a creosote bush and wished it well. My sleep was not good that night.

Speed kills! Please, when in wildlife country, no matter the posted speed limit, slow down! Do not assume that animals will make the right choice as your vehicle or headlights move towards them – they will not. Be observant for those sets of eyes that catch the glint of your headlights; automatically slow down when you see them. Project and imagine what the guilt will feel like after you’ve hit an animal. Imagine the young animals that could be left behind to suffer and starve after their provider has been killed. Let these thoughts guide your safer, more observant, and slower driving. Wildlife does not have to die beneath our wheels.

Disclosure: I’ve done a significant amount of driving where wildlife lives, often during the wee, dark hours. In my thirty years, I’ve hit only one creature (a kangaroo rat), and it was one creature too many. However, I have had  many animals in my headlights or on the roadway before my vehicle, but they received the attention and berth they needed to survive.

Please slow down and save a life.

You are visiting the blog of fine art landscape photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website. You can also find Michael on TwitterFacebook, and Google+.

Art from the Pit

Art from the Pit

Art from the Pit

Nope – this post has nothing to do with juicy tips from the trenches. Although it may end up being the first of many Art from the Pit posts. What the hay am I talking about?

I have a sweet and loving pit bull named Mojave. You can read a little about her story here. Despite her sweetness (no different than any other pit bull well-treated by humans), she has jaws of steel and enjoys crushing containers, cans, basketballs, wood…you name it. Pit bulls enjoy exercising those fat muscles in their heads and relish in the careful disassembly of most objects, and Mojave is no different. So I’ve decided to start photographing her ‘works of art’. It’s an aluminum cat food can today, but it could very well be a glass container tomorrow….

You are visiting the blog of fine art photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website

Lucky – one month later…

Lucky3

Lucky the Cat, pre-injury

About three weeks ago I wrote a post about our cat, Lucky, who had been shot at close range and sustained a severe fracture of the front left humerus. It’s now been about one month since the incident, and Lucky had yet another follow-up appointment and more radiographs today. I’m happy to report that Lucky is doing excellent and healing as planned, so he won’t have to visit the vet again for another month. He still has another month of low-activity confinement, but we hope that for his sake the time will pass quickly. He is growing bored :)

THANKS to everyone for their compassion and support!

You are visiting the blog of fine art photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website.

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Lucky

Lucky

Lucky (AKA SpiderMan), wearing a mask of spiderwebs

Last Tuesday afternoon (October 13, 2009), our dear cat Lucky was shot at close range with a high impact pellet gun. I believe that this incident occurred less than 200 feet from my own home, as I watched Lucky running back toward our home with a terrified look on his face (dragging one useless leg) while I stood on my porch. When I was finally able to corner him and pick him up (he hid in a deep, dark recess of my workshop), Lucky’s front left leg swung flaccidly from his body. I knew something was terribly wrong. Lucky was rushed to emergency, where it was discovered that he had a badly shattered front left humerus. The
Lucky's fractured humerus and pellet circled in red

Lucky's shattered humerus and pellet circled in red

emergency room veterinarian believed that Lucky was hit by a car (which I doubted due to lack of sufficient evidence), while the surgeon confirmed that the pellet visible on the radiograph was indeed the cause of the fracture. Lucky had surgery the following morning, during which he was implanted with a pin, a plate, nine screws, and ten staples to
Post surgery, with hardware

Post surgery, with hardware

package it all up. The second radiograph at left shows Lucky’s front left leg with its new accouterments. It’s not easily visible on these small resolution jpegs, but the repair was not perfect, and there are still bits of bone fragments floating around in there due to the explosive nature of the pellet’s impact. We’re told that this should all consolidate during the healing process. Good thing that Lucky is still young.

Lucky had his one week checkup yesterday, and the surgeon is very pleased with how things

Four shaved legs (for IV's), a quarter-shaved body, and ten staples

Four shaved legs (for IV's), a quarter-shaved body, and ten staples

are coming along, although Lucky must still endure another seven weeks of solitary confinement with severely restricted movement. As you might imagine, Lucky’s surgery and follow-up have cost us a few thousand dollars (so far). My preemptive reply to those who will undoubtedly question WHY we would spend this kind of money on “just a cat”: what dollar value do you place on life?

Shauna and I have eight cats and one loving pit bull (Mojave). All have been rescued from the mean streets and certain death. As anyone can likely imagine, our annual animal care costs are in the thousands, and a trauma like this pushes the budget way over the edge. Sometimes I think we’re crazy for taking in nine animals, but I accept the St. Francis-like events that have followed me through my entire life (rescuing innumerable domestic animals and wildlife along the way). And then I remind myself that someone has to be there (thankfully there are many of us) to speak and care for those who have been treated with negligence and irreverence by a more highly evolved(?) species.

Shauna and I have filed a report with the police and have queried much of the neighborhood to no avail. Justice will likely never be served, but thank goodness for Karma.

The most interesting aspect of this whole event has been the overwhelming compassion and generosity displayed by friends AND strangers alike. Unbeknownst to me, my good friend Guy wrote about Lucky on his blog and requested donations to help with Lucky’s care. The response has been surprising, amazing, and international in scope, and I am truly humbled by the outpouring of compassion. Shauna, Lucky, and I sincerely THANK everyone for their concern and contributions. Just when I’m about ready to give up hope for my species, this outpouring of love and compassion reminds me that people are indeed beautiful. May our beauty rid the world of the evil scourge that causes intentional harm to humans and animal alike.

I’ll continue to post updates about Lucky as they become available.

You are visiting the blog of fine art photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website

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Desert Tortoises, Under Siege

photo, picture California Desert TortoiseDespite their dwindling numbers and imperiled status, I’ve been fortunate to encounter quite a few wild desert tortoises over the years, including this cooperative and patient fellow found in the Chuckwalla Mountains (photographed with my 4×5″ view camera; view cameras can be slow, but tortoises are slower!).

As if the tortoises haven’t had it hard enough, Fort Irwin is expanding its operations and is displacing and relocating many desert tortoises (760 so far). If only the relocation was successful. L.A Times story.

You’d think that we’d have learned by now that tinkering with nature generally produces unexpected and unfortunate consequences, yet “In an effort to prevent further losses, the Army has requested that the predators, described by one military spokesman as a “rogue clan of coyotes,” be eradicated by animal control sharpshooters.” Someone please help me with this one; how can the most powerful (and presumably smartest) military in the world not realize the stupidity of such a statement? They’re not going to target a “rogue clan”; they’re likely to kill every coyote they can find, “innocent” or otherwise. Further, when coyotes come under fire, they don’t vanish – they reproduce and expand their territory. Shooting random coyotes will accomplish nothing, as generations of ranchers have already learned. Why are innocent coyotes and tortoises going to have to pay the ultimate price for the U.S. Army’s blunder?

The Center for Biological Diversity will “file suit later this month against the Army, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Land Management for allegedly violating the federal Endangered Species Act in their management of desert tortoises.”

They have my fullest support.

Tug on anything at all and you’ll find it connected to everything else in the universe.”
John Muir

The outstanding scientific discovery of the twentieth century is not television, or radio, but rather the complexity of the land organism. Only those who know the most about it can appreciate how little we know about it. The last word in ignorance is the man who says of an animal or plant: “What good is it?” If the land mechanism as a whole is good, then every part is good, whether we understand it or not. If the biota, in the course of aeons, has built something we like but do not understand, then who but a fool would discard seemingly useless parts? To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering.”
Aldo Leopold

You are visiting the blog of fine art photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website.

Mojave

Three years and a month ago, I took on the biggest challenge of my life. While driving home from an extended photography trip in Southern Utah, I spotted a wandering dog on the southbound side of Interstate 15 about fifteen miles east of Baker, California (the southern gateway to Death Valley). Seeing that she was a pit bull, I knew she was a goner if I didn’t do anything, and I knew I wouldn’t sleep that night (or the next one, or the one after that….) if I just passed her by. As a cat-person, all I knew about pit bulls was what the news media projected (which any human owned by a pit bull will tell you is overblown nonsense; any breed can be trained for aggression and fighting). I was terrified of her, she was terrified of me, but after three and a half hours of effort, I got her in my truck – suffering no bites or ill feelings – and drove her three hours further to home.

Snap to today: this dog has changed my life. Like any pit bull, she is a willful handful and has required lots of discipline and a huge commitment, but she is a vibrant and smiling personality, is full of affection, and is spoiled absolutely rotten. Mojave has been on more adventures and stood on more mountaintops than most people ever will. For this pit bull, life is perfect, and like any doting parent would say about their child, I cannot imagine a day without her.

She is my photographic subject quite often, but rarely do I get something that really excites me. Like this one…
Mojave, amongst the oaks

You are visiting the blog of fine art photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website.