“Bob, I need your help,” came a holler from she who must be obeyed. I hurried to the bedroom. There stood Molly, our Doberman, with the skin of a gray squirrel in her mouth. Suzy, our mini-pinscher, was growling with the hackles on her back raised. “That’s my squirrel skin you stole,” she was exclaiming to Molly in dog language.  Suzy patrols our 40 acres, searching for bones and other animal remains and brings them into the house. I examined the skin which was fresh and devoid of any flesh. I concluded that the squirrel had been killed by a red-tailed hawk, which had consumed its edible parts and discarded the skin. Soon, Suzy will begin bringing home bones and other parts of deer the buzzards and other scavengers have left uneaten. Suzy would be an excellent “cadaver dog,” and if law enforcement authorities need her services, I will allow them to use her on a temporary basis, for a nominal fee of course.

* * *

Chuck Browne, Extension Service specialist, wrote about kudzu bugs in the Opelika-Auburn News and Cliff McCollum wrote about his experiences with the invasion of the Asian bugs in the most recent edition of this newspaper. I had mentioned the bugs in a column when they first showed up in Lee County. Some authorities have predicted that the bugs could destroy up to 30 percent of the kudzu in areas where they become established. But kudzu bugs attack other legumes as well as kudzu, including soybeans and garden variety peas and beans.

I own two properties where kudzu grows, but it’s caused me no problems because kudzu doesn’t invade heavily shaded, hardwood-dominated areas. Another invasive exotic plant belonging to the legume family is Chinese wisteria. On one of my properties, an old house-place is overgrown with wisteria, which can spread into heavily shaded woodlands. The damnable weed now infests over five acres. If kudzu bugs consume wisteria, I welcome them. Kudzu bugs showed up recently in considerable numbers at Hardee’s on Marvyn Pkwy., where the Order of Geezers meet daily. Geezer Bo Torbert asked, “What is this kudzu bug people keep talking about?” I said, “There’s one on your shirt sleeve.” Bo looked at the bug and said, “Well I’ll be darned, it looks almost like the bedbug that used to be common in these parts when I was growing up.” I’ve seen no kudzu bugs in western Lee County so far, but I’m sure they’ll be here pretty soon.

* * *

Do I detect an internecine war of sorts going on between coal companies and natural gas producers? The former are running TV ads about how we must rely on coal for electric energy production, and the gas producers are telling us that gas is abundant, cleaner burning than coal, and a healthful alternative to coal. The gas men seem to be winning the war for the hearts and minds of the people, at least of those who are knowledgeable of the pros and cons of gas versus coal. They are also making headway with power companies, many of which are switching from coal to gas.

Gov. Romney is attempting to curry favor with disenchanted present and former coal miners, the latter having lost their jobs due to shrinking demands for coal. He’s currently concentrating his efforts in the coal mining districts of southwestern Virginia and southeastern Ohio. He’s blaming their problems on the Obama administration for its imposition of regulations to reduce harmful emissions from coal-fired power plants, but to my knowledge he’s ignoring the increasing use of natural gas as a fuel as a major reason for the decreasing demand for coal.

A major plank in Romney’s platform is his insistence that the country become energy independent, yet he continues to stress that, if elected, he will approve construction of the northern segment of the Keystone Pipeline. This would facilitate transportation of petroleum from Canada and the Midwest to the Gulf coast, where it would be refined into gasoline and jet fuel and sold to Europe and Latin America. Would this environmentally unsound project help the country to become energy independent? Obviously not!

Romney insists that we need to open more publicly owned land to drill for oil. The fact is that if the amount of oil recovered in the U.S. continues to increase at the current rate, it will soon exceed the amount produced in Saudi Arabia, and we are already a net exporter of refined petroleum products. Consider also that plans are underway to convert liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities from those designed for importing LNG to exporting the product. Indications are that if we’re not already energy independent, we soon will be, and that opening more public lands to drilling won’t be necessary.


Bob Mount is a Professor Emeritus with the Dept of Zoology and Entomology, Auburn Univ. He is also chairman of the Opelika Order of Geezers, well-known local think tank and political clearing house. He writes about birds, snakes, turtles, bugs and assorted conservation topics.