Tuesday, 23 July 2019


Parents of daughters worry about navigating them through the dangers of human male wildlife, but my wife and I were to discover an also-dangerous form of wildlife that two of our 5 daughters were to embrace. They, Trish and Linda, our two youngest, were often flown, trucked, or hiked in, to remote, isolated areas in Canada, Sweden, and the United States to be left alone among the likes of eagles, elk, moose, reindeer, grizzly and brown bears, bighorn sheep, and mountain lions to conduct studies using their own ingenuity, surmounting storms, deep snow, and hostile terrains.   During her time in Sweden, Trish learned the language and worked with Swedish, Norwegian, Polish and Soviet biologists. During their 10-year study of mountain lions in New Mexico Linda earned her MA, MS and her husband, Ken, his Phd.          They published a 464-page definitive study "Desert Puma".
This blog continues my family’s love of animals, starting with Blog 194, published 21 January 2019, on Magna Terra Smoky, the high-spirited Arabian colt whom daughter Barbara rescued, trained, loved, and published a multi-award-winning book on his life, including 120 races, of which he won 50. 
Trish tells me:    "My career in wildlife ecology may seem of short duration to you since it didn’t start until you were 60. Yet, if time is measured in change, it began long ago, when black-footed ferrets were thought to be extinct, and it continued as gray wolves came back to Yellowstone, and of course to Sweden as well. In Sweden, the reappearance of the wolf was not intentional, it was an invasion from the Soviet North. I remember photos in the Stockholm newspaper ‘Aftonbladet’ with front page photos of wolves being chased across the agricultural fields of southern Sweden by the Svensk Polis (Police). Many surprising events occurred during my time behind binoculars.   Black footed ferrets now roam in prairie dog colonies mere miles from my home, and individual gray wolves  have cautiously ventured south into Colorado seeking the opportunity to establish packs. There are now almost 500 wolves in Sweden and Norway, a big increase from zero when I arrived there in the 1980’s. There are also new threats like Climate Change and the associated wind turbines with blades slicing through the air, killing birds and bats and insects in a place that we never really categorized as habitat before, The sky. The sage-grouse that I banded on legs in the early morning darkness during college are now in danger of being listed as threatened with extinction across their vast range. The whitebark pine, growing in the high mountains in large expanses through Canada and the United States, has survived for millennium and individuals can live 1,000 years, but the species could become extinct in our lifetimes. This is the situation for too many species. I think a lot about loss these days, especially since the office of the Fish and Wildlife Service where I work, focuses on species threatened with extinction. There is a lot of work in the business of extinction these days. I have dabbled in many faucets of this strange profession. Perhaps I have mainly been an observer without much power to change the course of events. At first I spent many hours at night surveying for black-footed ferrets that weren’t there, and I spent many days surveying plant and bird species in areas destined to be transformed by oil exploration or coal mining. Later I spent hours recording the social dynamics of mustangs in the Pyror Mountains; even though my profession does not consider them wild, and more recently I have spent many days picking up eagles from the ground, often torn in pieces, as they are jettisoned off the blade of a wind turbine. Management of Wildlife is controversial. I didn’t know about that so much at the beginning of my career. I knew wildlife could be exploited by over hunting and consumption, but perhaps more importantly, I learned they compete with us for space and resources, and by their very presence limit ways we can make money. I spent some of my career working on projects involving ungulates that were hunted species. That work is popular and better supported. I worked with the National Park Service identifying locations to translocate bighorn sheep to the Rocky Mountains for 3 years, after I returned to Colorado mid-career. That lasted until I busted-up my leg in a ski accident and could no longer hike in rugged country. Before that, and before my son Lee was born, I worked in Sweden to study the burgeoning moose population. I watched and then I wrote articles published in International Science Journals. Including the Canadian Journal of Zoology, about what I saw. (Like nobody had watched moose before.  But it is surprising how much more there always seems to be left to see and understand.
I  saw their migration routes with telemetry, I saw how they competed for food in winter, I saw them during the rut in the  tundra and in the mountains of Sarek.   I also  saw the brown bear and d mountains of Sarek. I also saw the brown bear and reindeer the wolverine.  I spent a lot of time seeing but it is the feelings that have stayed with me the most. The entrancing clickity-clack of the reindeer hooves as the moved like a wave across the tundra, the ominous crunching sounds of the brown bear moving in the brush as it foraged on berries as it  traverses the slope above my observation tent, the adrenalin released by the crashing of vegetation from    the cow moose and her twin calves as they attempted to incapacitate me from ever getting so close again, and the sense of loss in the splash of my camera gear landing in the mud as I threw it at them.  I still hear the laughing of the Sámi helicopter pilot as he would clatter up a tree every time we landed to tag a bear or moose so that he would not be the one to face their revenge. I have experienced other fear too. Fear of the wolf tracker that was sent to keep me safe in my cabin in the roadless wilderness of Sarek; fear of the late night demonic rattling of my cabin that only in the morning did I find out was caused by reindeer licking and gnawing at the foundation to pull salt from the pee of the Sámi herders who use the cabins during the summer; and always the fear of the weather with storms that tear down a tent at midnight leaving me with a 10 mile hike,walk on a muddy trail leading up valley through whipping snow, and my desperate hopes of getting to a cabin. Sometimes I don’t know what my career has meant.  Perhaps I have been paid to simply be an observer.  I see myself in a continuum of people who attempt to resist or balance or compensate for the insatiable desires of humans to consume the Earth whole, while realizing that I am one of the insatiable. I participate in an unending duty to guard wild things, as an effort both driven and limited by the current values of our society. It was only a few years ago I worked to support the prosecution of an industry for indiscriminately killing eagles, and now that same industry has come back, under the rules of a new administration, to find out whether the guard still stands strong where we now stand. The guards in formation vacillate. My career will soon end but with this recurrence of a recent challenge, perhaps I will learn if I have done more than bear witness. "
LINDA:   My story follows my sister’s, just as I followed her path to a career in wildlife sciences. Dad had thought I might go into Art – another field sure to secure my future- but I had no gift for it and my heart was where the wild things are. My initial goal was simple, or so it seemed at first. To try to give back, if even just a little, to the world that inspired and gave such joy.    I fumbled a lot, trying to learn and find my way. A seasonal job with Wyoming Game and Fish, counting big game, getting my truck stuck in a slick snot of clay, the snowmobile broken and buried in snow far from the nearest road, realizing how much I’d rather trust in my own two feet or my cross-country skis than in the “past due date” mechanical beasts that temporary employees were usually provided. Had my first real experience with controversy and competition… when I was asked to use a snowmobile to haze pronghorn from a rancher’s field during one of the worst winters on record. There was a stint in California, during a spell when I couldn’t find wildlife work, fighting wildland fires – cutting line, hauling hose, breathing smoke, and once even helping carry out a severely burned civilian. I lived in the barracks with a couple of the men on our engine crew. They looked out for me. I remember Bill filling a sock with marbles the night that the Hot Shots came to party at the barracks… in case anyone got the wrong idea (guess those are the human wildlife Dad was talking about). 
Then my lucky break. A friend mentioning a possible job helping with a bighorn study in the Absorokas near Yellowstone – I should apply. It was physically demanding work, but I was in my element.  Backpacking trips, often solo, into the wilderness to find, count and watch bighorn sheep. I have a selfie I took (yes, back in 1983!) while sitting atop a boulder on Jim Mountain, wearing my puffy blue down coat (July mornings were still very cold). That was before wolves had returned, and the void was palpable – making the land feel a little more lonely and empty. But there were bears!  Grizzlies weren’t doing all that great then – the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee had just formed to assist with the bear’s recovery – but there were enough around to make solo pack trips a little extra special, though admittedly spine-tingling.  The Absorokas rewarded me with a second gift – it’s where I met Ken.  My path changed course. Although accepted at the University of Wyoming to potentially study pine marten for my MS…
I decided to back out and join Ken in New Mexico, instead. He was to start a mountain lion study on a long, skinny mountain range surrounded by deserts, one with a name that made you take notice: Jornada del Muerto –  Journey of Death. It was one of my best decisions, choosing to go to those desert mountains to learn about lions. 
     The study area was large, encompassing about 800 square miles, and it required a small team of us, working long days out of different camps, to capture and track the cats that lived there. When we started our research, only a handful of studies had been done on the lion (the first being landmark work in Idaho by the man who hired us – Maurice Hornocker). Maurice’s work likely helped with a pendulum shift in attitudes towards this big predator; most Western states began giving the cat some protection in the form of hunting seasons and bag limits. Before that, they were typically considered “varmints” and could be shot, poisoned and trapped ad libitum.  There were still concerns about how to best “manage” lions (for example, how many do we kill, how many do we protect?) to ensure there are enough prey (such as deer and elk) for both the cat and the human predator, that lions aren’t threatening vulnerable prey populations such as desert bighorn sheep, and that the lion is still a vital component of the ecosystem. There is something about predators, cats especially, that I find appealing. Some of it is the desire to stand up for an animal whose reputation is often unjustly maligned. Then there’s the desire to know more about such a secret, solitary beast, one that is capable of pulling down an animal 6 times its own size using only stealth, claws and teeth. Rocky was my first lion. I mean, he’s the first wild lion I got to see up close and personal. We caught him in a padded leg-hold trap and he wasn’t happy about it. At 125 pounds, he wasn’t exceptionally large for a male, (our largest cat during the study weighed 158 pounds), but he made an impression on me. 
We went on to capture cats hundreds of times after that first time, and on some occasions I handled the cat on my own. In most cases, the only fear I experienced was for the cat. We were responsible for the animal’s safety and captures with leg-hold traps or snares involve risks – possible cuts or broken bones from the cable holding its foot, adverse effects from the immobilizing drugs we administered, heat stress from the mix of being captured and drugged (it gets hot in those desert mountains!). Just because I wasn’t often afraid doesn’t mean I threw common sense out the window. Knowing you were alone in lion country…. And rattlesnake country for that matter – the mountains supported 3 species and on some days I encountered all of them – helped to keep your mind sharp. And you do little things to make yourself feel safer, such as placing your trap basket behind you for “protection” while you set snares around a fresh mule deer kill. We also learned as we went. No one before had found a lion’s nursery and then gone in to mark the kittens. We did this close to 80 times. At first, we hazed the mom from the nursery so as to get to the cubs. After a few instances of encountering very protective mothers, we rethought our technique (see, learning!). Subsequently, we’d locate a nursery, try to get a head count, and then quietly leave. We’d come back every day after that (sometimes this meant hiking MILES in and out) in hopes mom would be away hunting so that we could sneak into the nursery and round up the kittens. We broke this rule with one particular female, aptly named “Spitfire”.  She was on to us. Every time Ken and I would find her nursery, she would move the cubs.  They were approaching the age of being too fast to catch, so when we found her and the kittens again, we made the decision to try to haze her from them. Short story, it worked and we marked the cubs. Longer story was she came (at a run) to within 12 feet of Ken before finally veering off and vanishing over the hill. In all instances of aggression, we instigated it…. Oh, and the only inflicted injury I can recall is when a 3-month-old cub, cornered by our hound, Spotty, bit Maurice… and that was because Maurice was trying to extract a prickly pear pad from her mouth.  I  think that says a lot for an animal that could easily kill us. 
We faced much greater dangers from the weather and the other wildlife inhabitants.    I  remember many times during the monsoon season, reaching the ridgeline with my telemetry gear and metal antenna (captured cats were fitted with radio-collars for tracking) just as a storm hit.  Lightning would be crackling all around as I dashed downhill, trying to become the lowest thing on the landscape .  Then there was the time we caught a collared peccary in a snare by accident.  What did it weigh – 50 pounds maybe?  It had me more flustered than any lion, especially when it “popped” its teeth at me.   SCARY! 
And there were incidents of being butted off a ledge by a snared buck deer before we could wrangle and release it, driving off the edge of the road with the back tires spinning in space….
Was it all worth it? I like to think so.   We know so much more about mountain lions now than we did when we started that study – 34 years ago!   Our biggest challenge now may be applying this information to improve the mountain lion’s management and conservation. There are signs that the pendulum is swinging back, with predators (lions, bears, wolves) once again becoming less tolerated or accepted, and sometimes branded as the bad guy for doing something they evolved to do.

Patricia Sweanor                                                                                              Linda Sweanor

Tuesday, 9 July 2019


Long with us, numerous, mysterious, intriguing, yet ridiculed, UFOs deserve the increasing attention they are now getting.  With us for at least 5,000 years, they, as far as we know, have never harmed us.  Our fighter jets have fired on them to no known effect.  They refrain from harmful retaliation.
This blog is sparked by one of my daughters, Trish, who used the current renewal of interest in UFOs to admit she has kept to herself since 1966 the fact that, while returning home from school, was terrified by seeing a large flying saucer hovering over the hills just north of us as though trying to land.  She ran home, becoming quite embarrassed because the saucer had vanished, there was no panic, and everything was normal.  Today, she describes it as having a solid round simmering-blue deck with  a lower  deck shining yellow-orange lights.
In my own flying career, with much night flying, I have only two incidents of unexplained phenomena.  One was in 1943 over the North Sea en route to bomb Germany. I watched numerous large spherical rotating blobs of orange fire swarming up at us.  I had graduated from a month-long course that described all known varieties of enemy flak but these were strange and unique.  Coils of rotating wire?  My second mystery was in 1948 when on a 20-hour flight over the Northwest Territories in northern Canada we saw, about 30 nautical miles west of us, a large area brightly lit amid the surrounding dark sparsely-populated expanse, an area usually all dark.
While serving at NORAD, Colorado Springs, 1963-1966, as a controller working shifts at a long communications counter facing a wall screen depicting current activities, one of my tasks was to record and forward on UFO-sightings calls to the Blue Book Project.   Interpretations in both locations ranged from deep skepticism to deep interest.  Personally, I was intrigued, I was also surprised that many who took these calls lacked curiosity and that responses to our reports were few and inadequate.  Explanations even included  that the visual and radar sightings we reported were merely reflections from snow melting on the mountains.  It was easy to infer a cover-up, especially when I learned the good 1952 criteria of Captain Ruppelt had lapsed.   Our military is paid to detect and protect us from genuine threats.   Too often investigative findings are restricted to a select few thus hindering further research and readiness.  It results in dangerous ignorance among the rank and file and those who get to do the suffering and dying because of mistakes made by a dominant few.   
In our tiny and lonely speck of intelligent life, we can marvel at the staggering amount of knowledge we have acquired, more than enough to support seeking more with open minds.  Skeptics argue that UFOs must have terrestrial explanations.  We have found no other home base for intelligent life.  If any does exist in our time frame, it must be so many light years away that, even with worm holes, it would be impractical for them to expend the effort to study us, Or, are they actually in our space and time but on different vibration frequencies?
     Reported aliens and their ships come in different forms.  Different origins?  Multiverses in the same space?
     Through recent decades reported sightings are increasing.  At least ten countries have set up official organizations to investigate.  One of these is the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON), formed in 1969 in California, now with over 4,000 members worldwide.
       Wikipedia details 242 sightings from 23 countries plus outer space.
Are Abductions real?  Why are reported aliens so concerned with our sexual organs, human and cattle?  Perhaps, a search for DNA that could help their own species?   The number of those involved in investigating and helping abductees  is awesome. Their abductee counts range from a few thousand to 6% of our population. Australia, Canada, and the USA have set up facilities to ease return to normal life those suffering from symptoms similar to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  The stories of numerous humans admitting to have been abducted include many similarities: lack of power to resist, a medical examination of those at reproductive ages, with emphasis on sexual organs, intercourse, nervousness and business-only attitudes of aliens until examinations are finished, then a tour of the alien ship, return to, or near to, their homes where they describe the aliens as humanoid but smaller with large heads and eyes.  Two  incidents report metre-tall aliens of  praying mantis build. 
      The UFO study is too vast and complicated for one blog, but here is a very brief summary:
China:    2,300 years ago (ya), texts recorded a ‘moon boat’ that returned to hover every 12 years.
Lower Egypt: 3,440 ya, the Tulli Papyrus of Pharaoh Thutmose III recorded fiery discs floating across the skies.
Rome:      2,200 ya, Livy recorded phantom ships gleaming in the sky.    2,080 ya, Pliny the Elder told of a spark that fell from a star, became the size of the moon, then shot back to be a small light.
Phrygia, Roman Republic: 66 AD, Plutarch reported that, at the start of a battle, the sky burst asunder, and a huge, flame-like body was seen to fall between the two armies. It was shaped like a silver wine-jar, 
Jerusalem, Roman Empire:   66 AD:   Tacitus and others reported that, as Romans attacked Jerusalem,  chariots with armed angels filled the sky.
World War 2 "Foo Fighters": Many aircrews reported strange objects infiltrating their formations. 
Current worldwide, wide-scale interest was sparked with several incidents three of which were:
Canada:  04 October 1957: Shag Harbour, Nova Scotia: Many people saw 4 orange lights off shore, moving at tremendous speed, then plunging into the ocean just offshore.  They alerted the coast guard who found no wreckage or bodies.  Nor could the crews of 3 RCN ships that searched the area for 3 days.  No known aircraft were in the area at the time.  Meanwhile, a sonar submarine-detecting station had tracked underwater movement from the crash site to 25 miles NE followed by a second underwater object.  Both sat motionless for a week when a Soviet submarine was detected in the area, so naval attention increased.  The underwater objects then moved off faster than they could be followed by investigating ships.  They then shot into the air and vanished.
Brazil:   16 October, 1957:   Near São Francisco de Sales, Minas Geraisms, farmer Antonio Boas, working in his fields at night, claims an egg-shaped vehicle landed and aliens took him aboard where he was examined then had sex with  a female alien.
United States: September 1961: Betty and Barney Hill claimed that, in a late evening, driving home near Lancaster, New Hampshire, they were abducted and medically examined by small aliens from a landed large flying disk.  Wide publicity spawned interest but the story was later shown to be fabricated.
Skepticism: Some roots lie in the Battle of Los Angeles 24-25 Feb 1942 when nervous anti-aircraft artillery crews fired on a lost weather balloon.  Fragments caused 5 deaths and extensive damage to Los Angeles buildings.  Later, in December 1953, Joint Army-Navy-Air Force Regulation number 146 made it a crime for military personnel to discuss classified UFO reports with unauthorized persons. Violators faced up to two years in prison and/or fines of up to $10,000.  This increased suspicions of government cover-up. And the world became more interested in UFO research:
Russia: Billionaire Yuri Milner has invested $100 million in searching for extraterrestrial life.
Canada:   In 1950 a UFO investigation unit, Project Magnet, was established in Shirley Bay near Ottawa by Transport Canada under the direction of Wilbert Brockhouse Smith, senior radio engineer. It was formally active until mid-1954 and informally active (without government funding) until Smith's death in 1962. He had concluded that UFOs were probably extraterrestrial in origin and likely operated by manipulation of magnetism.  A parallel study of scientists and military, Project Second Storey was initiated in 1952
Smith believed UFOs were linked to psychic phenomena and believed himself to be in contact with extraterrestrial beings who communicated to him through telepathy. Smith wrote a number of articles for Topside, the publication of the Ottawa New Sciences Club which he founded, outlining the philosophy of the "Space Brothers" with whom he claimed to be in contact.  The articles were later published posthumously in 1969 under the title The Boys from Topside.
In 1952-61 Avro Canada built, and experimented with, a  Top Secret Flying Saucer, sharing the technology with the United States.
The United States:   In 1947 numerous published UFO sightings prompted Gen Nathan Twining, Chief of the USAF Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio, to form Project Sign, the first of a long line at that base.  Sign’s 1948 report was sent to the Pentagon. Its initial intelligence estimate concluded that the flying saucers were real craft, were not made by either the Soviet Union or United States, and were likely extraterrestrial in origin.  This was destroyed by Gen. Hoyt Vandenberg, USAF Chief of Staff, citing a lack of physical proof.  Project Sign was succeeded at the end of 1948 by Project Grudge which was criticized as having a debunking mandate.  Captain Edward Ruppelt referred to the era of Project Grudge as the "dark ages" of early USAF UFO investigation. Grudge concluded that all UFOs were natural phenomena or other misinterpretations, although it also stated that 23% of the reports could not be explained.
In 1952 high-ranking, influential USAF generals were so dissatisfied with the state of UFO investigations that they replaced Grudge with Project Blue Book headed up by Ruppelt, a decorated WWII airman with an aeronautics degree.  He coined the term "Unidentified Flying Object" to replace the many terms such as flying saucer and  flying disk.  He designed a standard witness questionnaire that eliminated stigma and ridicule.
It also included questions to serve scientific and statistical studies.  Ruppelt left Blue Book in February 1953 for a temporary reassignment, returning a few months later to find his staff reduced from more than ten, to two. Frustrated, he resigned from the USAF, then wrote the book “The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects”  which described the USAF study from 1947 to 1955.  Scientist Michael D. Swords wrote that "Ruppelt would lead the last genuine military effort to analyse UFOs"
Knowing that factionalism had harmed Project Sign, Ruppelt sought the advice of many scientists and experts, and issued regular press releases along with classified monthly reports for military intelligence.  Each U.S. Air Force Base had a Blue Book officer to collect UFO reports and forward them to Ruppelt. He and his team were authorized to interview all personnel who witnessed UFOs, and were not required to follow the chain of command. This unprecedented authority underlined the seriousness of Blue Book's investigation.
Under Ruppelt, Blue Book investigated a number of well-known UFO cases, Astronomer Dr. J. Allen Hynek was the scientific consultant, as he had been with Sign and Grudge. He worked for the project up to its 1969 termination and created the categorization “Close encounters”. He was a pronounced skeptic when he started, but  his feelings changed to a more wavering skepticism during the research, after encountering a minority of UFO reports he thought were unexplainable.
     In July 1952, after a build-up of hundreds of sightings over a few months, a new series of radar and visual sightings were observed near the National Airport in Washington, D.C.  Senator John McCain saw one.  The Central Intelligence Agency set up a panel of scientists headed by Dr. H. P. Robertson, a physicist of the California Institute of Technology, which included various physicists, meteorologists, and engineers, and one astronomer (Hynek). The Robertson Panel first met on January 14, 1953 to formulate a response.
Blue Book's critics erupted on learning its reactions to the 17 Apr 1966 report of two Ohio police officers, who reported they were able to follow for 30 minutes and 85 miles a disc-shaped, silvery object with a bright light emanating from its underside, at about 1,000 feet in altitude. Police cars from several other jurisdictions joined the pursuit. The chase ended in Pennsylvania, some 85 miles away.  This made national news,  Five days later, following brief interviews with only one of the police officers (but none of the ground witnesses), Blue Book's director, announced their conclusions: The police (one of them an Air Force gunner during the Korean War) had first chased a communications satellite, then the planet Venus.  This conclusion was widely derided, and police officers strenuously rejected it. Trust in government plummeted.  This lack of trust is compounded when scientists from other fields are denied support for projects counter to government interests.
  But, world UFO interest had been aroused, prompting the growth of a jungle of fact and fiction articles, books,  movies and organizations pursuing the mystery, fertilized by continued strange sightings.
    Among many serious UFO investigators is Nicholas (Nick) Redfern, a British best-selling author of 124 books and numerous articles,   He urges government disclosure of UFO information, and has found thousands of pages of previously classified files on UFOs dating from the WWII.  He is an editor for Phenomena magazine.  His 2005 book, Body Snatchers in the Desert: The Horrible Truth at the Heart of the Roswell Story, purports to show that the Roswell crash may have been military aircraft tests using Japanese POWs, suffering from progeria or radiation effects.
Between 1996 and 2000 Redfern published: “The British Government’s UFO Top Secrets  Exposed”,  “The FBI’s UFO Top Secrets Exposed”, and “Cosmic Crashes: The Incredible Story of the UFOs  That Fell to Earth”. They were published in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Poland, Russia, and the UK.
Redfern’s appearances on the History Channel, National Geographic, lecture circuits, and the like  keep the human worldwide quest for answers current and alive.
Could all these ongoing UFO investigations help us to uncover a link to the Quantum World to give us more understanding of what we are, where we are, and why we are?
Stay curious.
Ye Olde Scribe
www.yeoldescribe.com georgesweanor@comcast.net