Self-injurious behaviour in prisons

25 10 2012

Depressing CBC story found by Jamie (click link):

Self-injurious behaviour in prisons

Scoring mink for sexual desperation

25 10 2012

This is Heather (Kinkaid), working with Maria (Diez Leon – behind the camera) to rank for “male desperation” about 88 female-sized “pop holes” used in a mate choice test. Some male mink waited quietly while the females decided which hole, if any, to slip through, while other males tried to chew their way out to get to her. Mike (Walker) and Carole (Fureix) did this ranking too; as did Beagher (Meagher) & Jamie (Dallaire), each pair working independently, and the IORs were phenomenal! We’re hoping these data will now help Dana see if environmental enrichment boosts male libido (half the males used here were enriched-raised; the other half – their brothers – were non-enriched all their lives).

“Operation Kitten” Part II

25 10 2012

Not the greatest photo, but this is the ‘rescue kitten’ having her belly stroked by four different people at the vets’ yesterday, where she was pronounced FIV negative, not having a dying tail after all, and nearly twice the weight she was 10 days ago! Carole (who is French) may be feeding her steak tartare…


NFACC draft Codes for “fur animal welfare” now out, along with reviews of the scientific literature

19 10 2012

The National Animal Farm Animal Care Council updated all of its Codes last year – a very long process to create guidelines that are sadly only voluntary. I was on the panel that wrote the two scientific reviews on mink and foxes (a process that involved well over 40 hours of meetings plus a tonne of writing and editing). They look pretty good now! Here is the Fox one: … and here the mink:

These reviews fed into development of new Codes, which were created by two other committees (the mink one headed up by Kirk Rankin, a local farmer we often work with: a very nice man, very interested in research). These draft Codes are currently open for public comment. Here are the mink ones: … and here they are for foxes:

Paper out on negative affective states and survivorship

19 10 2012

A great review paper led by Mike Walker. Definitely not one to read if you’re a hypochondriac…
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“Operation Kitten”

17 10 2012

Jamie found this kitten with an injured foot on the road on the way to Ted’s farm at the weekend. Guelph Humane Society was closed, so Carole ended up taking it (later revealed as “her”) in … for now at least, but who knows…?

We took her to the vet on Sunday, where she was diagnosed as being dehydrated, having a belly full of worms and ears full of mites, possibly having an eye infection, with a stinky, deep abscess in her tail, and in probable need of a tail and toe amputation when she’s big enough for a general. She could easily turn into the $1000 kitten (if she doesn’t have FIV; if she does, what to do?); she has covered Carole’s apartment in poo and vomit (that this is kitten poo and kitten vomit does not make this cute apparently); and yet she is totally adorable and we’re all very glad she was lucky enough to run into Jamie (and not the other way around).

In a great talk by Shane Bateman (OVC and President of the Board at Guelph Humane Society) earlier that very same day, all three of us learnt that people treat cats very casually, in a way they tend not to for dogs (kicking them out when they move house, that kind of thing), and that there are 20 000 stray cats in Guelph. This little parasite-laden mite was starving, skinny, had probably been hit by a car (likely source of the foot injury), and yet is unbelievably friendly – obviously well-socialised. So, what on earth is her story?


A McMaster kind of week

16 10 2012

Last week was enjoyably dominated by McMaster (or “McBastard”, as my stepson used to call it when he was little), just up the road in Hamilton. On Wednesday I gave a seminar in the Biology department’s Evolution and Ecology series, on behavioural plasticity and animals’ responses to captivity (adaptive or otherwise). Carole (Fureix) and Mike (Walker) came along. Reuven Dukas ( was the host, and we had a fun lunch with him and Sebastain and Zac from his group ( Then on Thursday Mike went back again, this time with Maria (Diez Leon), to see Stephen Gangestad ( talk about mate choice in humans (in part to see if oxidative stress could be a good, biologically relevant metric for assessing aging in mice)