fredag den 7. december 2012

It was a wolf!

Ever since the alleged wolf was found dead in northwestern Denmark on November 16th., speculation has been rife as to the actual identity of the animal, and the actual cause of death. The Danish Veterinary Institute has now published their findings and conclusions.

First of all - the animal was not shot or poisoned or anything sinister. The poor thing was suffering from some form of tumour in the chest cavity - not cancerous, but caused by some form of inflammation. The tumour ended up being so large the animal couldn't eat, and finally wasn't able to breath.Not an easy death by any means.

There was of course morons celebrating that the "monster" was dead, but the general feeling was one of sadness. A lot of people would have liked to have free-roaming wolves in Denmark. But not this time.

And then there was the matter of identity - wolf, wolf-dog hybrid, wolflike dogbreed or something else?? The first detailed anatomical examination of the dead animal could not give a definitive answer. Some dog breeds are extremely wolf-like, or a wolf is very doglike so to speak, so we all had to wait for a DNA analysis.

It was indeed a bonafide wolf. According to the genetic analysis it must have come from the German population, so it had been on quite a walkabout before it ended up in northern Denmark. Nobody knows for how long it has been here, but probably for at least a year. I have a sighting from the border area with Germany from early 2011 from a girl of 16 who thought she saw a wolf running across the road early one morning when she was on her bycicle driving to school. This could have been the first entry of the wolf into Denmark.

Anyway - what is certain is that the now dead wolf represents the first confirmed wolf-sighting in Denmark in 199 years! Not bad. I wonder what comes next?

mandag den 19. november 2012

Alas poor wolf - an update

The possible wolf that showed up in Denmark recently - and in my last post - elicited the kind of reactions you would expect. A lot of people were over the moon about it, talking about how fantastic it would be to have this large predator back in Denmark. And of course the panic mongers started coming out of the woodwork, screaming about what all those treehugging greenie f****** hippies would say when the wolf attacked their child - which it would certainly do, because we know from scientific sources (Little Red Riding Hood and so forth) that wolves are bloodthirsty killers...bla, bla, bla.And could we please send a lot of hunters and policemen out there and kill it as quickly as possible.

Fortunately not everybody lost their head in such an obvious manner. The environmental authorities mounted a whole string of automatic cameras all over the area and supplied the animal with plenty of bait - dead deer and various other juicy pieces of meat - and then sat back and waited. It almost ended in a major stampede, as some started to offer rewards for a definite picture of the animal. Luckily the reward offer was withdrawn before people started galloping all over the restricted area where the "wolf" was seen

Alas poor wolf - the story did not have a happy ending. As can be seen from this link:

the animal was found dead a couple of days ago. Everybody feared it had been shot by some vigilante type or poisoned, but it seems the poor animal died from starvation inspite of the large number of camerabaits. It is now going to be dissected to determine the exact course of death, and a DNA-test will be performed to see whether it was in fact a wolf, and if so from what population.

Stay tuned for further developments.

tirsdag den 16. oktober 2012

The first wolf in Denmark in 200 years?

Strange things are a foot in northern Denmark. On October 14th, a group of birdwatchers in Thy National Park in northern Denmark saw and photographed what they believed were a wolf. One of the admittedly not very good pictures can be seen here: The animal was seen rather late in the day and at a fair distance, but for almost half an hour. It is a rather exciting find, if it is indeed a wolf, as the closest confirmed wolf sighting was a young animal in northern Germany about 100 km south of the danish-german border a couple of years ago. And that's some 500 km south of Thy National Park. There has been sightings of a wolf-like animal in the area for the last couple of years, 4 sightings that I know of at least, but this is the first time anyone has taken a photograph. There has also been sightings in the area around Silkeborg, a densely wooded area filled with lakes about 200 km further south. These sightings have been going on for many years. I have documented a lot of these, including a couple of cases where people have heard wolves (yes - plural) howling.

I have also collected a few sightings in the area just around the border with Germany, so the possibility of a wolf in Denmark is not that remote. As of now everybody, self included is waiting for more people with big lenses to get out there and take some better pictures. But unfortunately we are also waiting for the inevitable panic reactions, people demanding that the animal be shot or farmers claiming that a lone wolf have killed 200 of their cows or sheep or whatever, and that there children are in grave danger the moment they step out the door. Reactions like this almost makes you wish it is in fact just a stray dog, but it looks rather convincing to me. Stay tuned for further developments.

lørdag den 4. august 2012

A beast of a bezoar

This little piece of writing is perhaps not so much a matter of cryptozzology as a piece of magic - or at least pertaining to magic. Quite a lot of us have read the Harry Potter books and have read the famous scene where Harry saves a poisoned Ron Weazley by shoving a bezoar down his throat. Now, I have always imagined bezoars, which are "stones" that forms in the stomach of goats and various other cloven-hoofed animals, to be rather small, and indeed in the Harry Potter stories that's exactly what they are, so imagine my surprise, when leafing through an old book about daily life in Denmark in olden days, I came across this picture.
This is a mighty whopper of a bezoar - in fact it is almost as big as an ostrich egg. It has been mounted in silver in Amsterdam sometime in the early 1600's. It can now be found in the National Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen. For now you have to make do with this old b/w photo of it. It is still in the museum's collections (I've checked) but it is not currently on display. I have requested permission to see and photograph it, and hopefully obtain some better quality photographs sometime during this autum. It may not be obvious from the picture, but the bezoar has actually been hollowed out and mounted as a drinking vessel. As Harry Potter so clearly tells us, bezoars can, or were at least believed to, neutralize any form of poison, so a drinking vessel made of a bezoar would protect any king or noble lord against any attempt on their life using poison. Well worth the investment one would imagine.

onsdag den 27. juni 2012

The dog-loving shieldbearer part 2

It seems that I haven't been doing my homework properly. Several people have called my attention to the fact, that the extinct fly which may still be living in southern Denmark and northern Germany, is in fact not extinct. It was rediscovered in Spain in 2009 and 2010. Oh well - nevertheless, I intend to carry on looking for it here, as this would be several hundred kilometers outside of its formerly known distribution.But given the fact, that it now can be found in Spain, and possible in Denmark and Germany, it might be worth for all entomologist to keep and eye out for it.

tirsdag den 26. juni 2012

The strange case of the dog-loving shieldbearer

Crypto-entomologi is a fairly small field of study. Although I have never considered myself an entomologist, I have nurtured a growing interest in insects the last 5 or 6 years. I have even managed to rediscover a beetle everybody thought had died out in Denmark in the early 1990's, but nothing REALLY cryptozoological - until now that is. Some weeks ago I got an e-mail from a friend of a friend - well, you now how it goes. This person lives in southwestern Denmark, only about a mile from the german border. He had been out one day taking a walk, when he stumpled upon a very dead something - probably a fox or a dog. It stank to high heaven, and as could be expected, it was absolutely covered in flies. Most of these were blowflies of one species or another, and as such rather dull. But there was one that was rather special. It was fairly large, something like a centimeter, bluish black, none of which was remarkable in any way. But this thing also had a big round orange head! He described the fly as looking like it was ferrying a brightly coloured pearl around. At first I thought he had been imagining things, but suddenly something started to stir in a deep, dusty and slightly cobwebbed recess of my memory vaults. I had read something somewhere about a fly looking like that, and a fondness for althings dead and festering. Enter Thyreophora cynophila, the dog-loving shieldbearer. The name refers to a shield like outgrowth on the thorax of the males, and the fact that the first specimens were caught on a dead dog.Thyreophora does infact have this strange swollen and rather colourful head. This is were the spirit of cryptozoology rears its head and snorts, because Thyreophora has not been seen for something like 150 years!! Unfortunately my correspondant had no camera, and no menas of catching the fly, and he hasn't seen it since. But I have managed to dig up one other person who claims to have seen another one of these strange insects, although a couple of years ago. It intrigued him enought to try and make a drawing of it. Although I have seen the drawing, and he has promised me a copy, I still haven't received it, but I will publish it as soon as I do. What to do now? Is there really a supposedly extinct insect, awaiting rediscovery out there? And furthermore several hundred kilometers north of its former distribution? I don't know. I have visited the area and done a thorough search without any luck - but the danish summer have been rather cold, windy and generally dismal so far, and the insectlife has been less than overwhelming, so... Anyway - if the weather improves, I intend to go there and put out some nice juicy carcasses for the local insectlife to feast upon, and then hopefully catch a dog-loving shieldbearer.

tirsdag den 24. april 2012

The farting dragon

In honor of St. George, here is a story of a Danish dragon, that I don't think many will know outside of my home-country. Denmark is not particularly rich in dragon-lore, but the ones we do have, tend to be rather special in some way. They are usually not too bad-tempered and evil, although they do tend to destroy churches on sight, and they are not generally as fixated on gold and tresures as many of their colleagues in other parts of Europe. The dragon in this story is though, it lives deep below the ruins of Kalø Castle in eastern Jutland where it guards an enormous treasure, big enough to pay all the taxes in Denmark for a seven year period. All the money is to be found in a giant copper kettle, around which the dragon has curled itself. A lot of people have tried to dig down to the dragon's lair, but only twice have people managed to actually open the gates to the dungeons. The first one was an adventorous German, but in his case the dragon acted suitably dragon-like and tore him to pieces. In the second case though, things did not start out well for the dragons. Perhaps because it was two local lads. In any case they spoke to the dragon in such a stern way that the poor creature got quite scared, and tried to hide in a corner of the cave. The two men were just about to start dragging the treasure op to the surface, when something rather unexpected took place. In pure fright the dragon released a mighty foul-smelling wind that brought tears to the eyes of the men, curled their hair and singed their shirt-tails. Coughing and spluttering they staggered towards the surface, leaving the treasure behind. And since then not a single soul have dared to enter the lair of the farting dragon.

mandag den 26. marts 2012

The letter and the thylacine

It seems to me that danish cryptozoology (i.e. me!) is besieged by letters at the moments. During a recent clean-up, I came across a bundle of letters that used to belong to my mother. She died almost 17 years ago, so I had completely forgotten their existence. Never mind - I was just about to throw them away, when a single word caught my attention; "pungulv" - that's danish for "thylacine". The letters turned out to be from a friend of my mothers. She had emigrated to Australia shortly after the Second World War with her family, the Temmings, but she and my mother kept contact for many years until what was left of the family returned to Denmark in the early 70's.
Anyway, I promptly sat down and started writing old letters. Unfortunately there was only one letter mentioning the thylacine, but that was interesting enough. The letter was dated autum 1956, but I don't know if it was autumn in Australia or in Denmark, so... Apparantly there was a lot of things written in Australian newspapers about the thylacine at the time, and my mothers friend Alice mentions this as well as the fact that she and her family had actually seen thylacines twice. The first time in 1954 when they visited Tasmania looking for a property to buy. Apparantly they were driving along a road in Northwestern Tasmania, when a thylacine walked out on the road and just stopped and stared at the car. It didn't even budge when they stopped nect to it to have a good look. After a few minutes it just sauntered away into the forest and disappeared. They had no camera, but my mothers friend describes it very detalied in her letter, so I have no doubt she actually saw a thylacine. The second sighting was from early 1956, but the by far most interesting thing about that was, that this apparantly took place in New South Wales some 300 km west of Melbourne. Unfortunately the description is tantalinzingly brief - it only says something along the lines of "oh, and we saw another one of those stripy things on a trip to aunt Helga in January". Aunt Helga lived on a farm in New South Wales. I will now try to track down any members of the Temming family to see if any one of them remembers my mother and perhaps has old letters or anything from their time in Australia.
As far as I know these sightings have never been documented or published before, so this is a first.

The screwy squirrels

For many years a small population of siberian chipmunks have been cavorting in forest a few kilometers outside of Copenhagen. Nobody has the slightest idea where they have come from. Common logic would dictate, that they are the descendants of escapees from some hamfisted local who forgot to close the cage on his pet chipmunks. The population has been rather small for many years - sightings goes back at least to sometime in the 70's - but now they seem to be on the rise. And in a strange quirk of fate a nature school has opened smack in the middle of their general living quarters. How's that for at funny twist of fate? What's even more interesting is a letter recently sent to the writer of this blog. It is from 1954, from the father of the person who sent the letter to me. In it he describes very clearly to a friend hos he has relased 4 squirrels in the woods near his home, very close to where the animals are found now. This presumably is the original release, but unfortunately he doesn't say anything about where he got the squirrels from - I presume siberian chipmunks were not readily available in the pet trade in Denmark in the early 1950's. And I also wonder why nobody then saw neither hair nor hide of the chipmunks for at least 20 years until sightings started to be reported in the middle 1970's. I willinvestigate further, and try to get a little bit closer to the critters.