The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newsmagazine Serving the Community since 1989


Dave Harper (right) and friendAnimal Hotline is a nonprofit community service for lost/found pets in Placitas and Bernalillo
P. O. B. 812, Placitas, NM 87043
To report a lost or found animal, Call Dave Harper at 867-6135 or e-mail

People with pets for adoption or sale should place a Signpost classified ad or consider a $5 donation to the Animal Hotline to run the information in this column. Lost and found listings and doptions for found animals are run in the column for free.

For lost/found pets in Placitas and Bernalillo, call Dave Harper at 867-6135

Gracie Harper
Gracie Harper, May 1988–November 2005


DOG—Brownish-gold male mutt lost from Placitas Homesteads (just east of the Merc) the last week of November. Medium-sized, short-haired dog. #1854
DOG—Tiny (7 pounds) toy Brussels griffon lost from Sundance Mesa (western Placitas) November 25. Brownish black, multicolored, rough coat, female. #1856
CAT—Small black-and-white long-haired cat, lost from Placitas Homesteads the end of November. Very vocal cat, female. #1859
CAT—Dark-grey tiger-striped cat lost from Placitas Homesteads November 4. Male, about 11 years old. #1863


CAT—Young calico female cat found about 1.5 mile north of the village of Placitas, end of November. White, with brown and grey spots. #1860
TWO DOGS—Black lab and chocolate lab spotted November 4 just north of Placitas Trails, near Tierra Madre Rd. #1861 & 1862
DOGS—Black-and-tan Shepherd-mix male pup found in Placitas Homesteads November 10. Not neutered. #1864
DOG—Female German shepherd found on Tunnel Springs Road, in Placitas, in mid-November. Very well trained. Very friendly. #1865


DOG—A friend of the Hotline accidentally struck a terrier-type dog with her car in the village of Placitas, November 26. It ran off holding up its left rear leg. Fairly small grey-and-white dog. Our friend will help with vet bills. #1857

Animal News

Pepper Trail
Pepper Trail

Avian flu: Don’t fear the flocks yet

It’s November, which means that the snow geese are pouring into Oregon’s Klamath Basin in the hundreds of thousands. The sight of the undulating flocks, snow white against slate blue storm clouds, is unspeakably beautiful.

These are tundra geese, passing through en route to winter quarters in California’s Central Valley. They have come all the way from arctic Canada, from Alaska, and perhaps a few even from Ostrov Vrangelya, in the Russian Far East. That is, from Asia, from the homeland of avian flu.

The news has been full of reports about avian flu and the possibility that this disease could become a deadly global epidemic. Increasingly, those reports have highlighted the possible role of wild birds in spreading avian flu along their migration routes. For years, I have looked forward to arrival of the great waterfowl flocks every fall. As the time approached this November, I found that anticipation was tinged with a trace of fear. So I decided to review the facts about avian flu and migratory birds.

Although many mild strains of avian flu occur in wild birds, especially waterfowl, the deadly varieties are thought to arise in domestic poultry flocks, where crowded conditions are ideal for their spread. The particular avian flu virus that is the center of all the current concern is called H5N1. This highly pathogenic strain was never recorded in wild birds before it appeared in poultry flocks in Southeast Asia. Since its appearance, H5N1 has killed uncounted thousands of wild birds as well as millions of domestic chickens and ducks.

So far, about 120 people -- all in Southeast Asia -- have been infected with H5N1, over 60 of whom have died. While this form of avian flu is a serious disease if it is acquired, it does not spread easily to humans, even those working closely with infected poultry. It is not the current strain that terrifies public heath officials: It is the possibility that this virus could mutate into a form that is highly infectious to, and between, humans. Such mutations have occurred in the past, most notoriously in the flu pandemic of 1918, which killed 40-50 million people worldwide.

But it’s important to emphasize that this deadly transformation is only a possibility; there is nothing inevitable about it.
The H5N1 virus has now spread outside of Southeast Asia, to China, Russia, Romania and Turkey. Most of these cases are explained by trade in infected poultry. In a few instances, however, it appears that wild birds are carrying the virus along their migratory routes. It’s easy to miss that the ‘spread" being discussed in media reports is from wild birds to poultry, not to people. There is not a single case of human infection with H5N1 through contact with wild birds.

Nevertheless, the news that wild birds may carry the virus has led to some panicked reactions in Asia and the Middle East, including proposals to drain wetlands used by migratory waterfowl, and calls to kill (or ‘cull") wild birds in an effort to contain the virus.

This would actually make the situation worse by dispersing infected individuals and stressing healthy birds, increasing their susceptibility to disease. This view is shared by the World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Organization for Animal Health, and many other public health and environmental groups. These experts agree that the only effective containment strategy for H5N1 is to house poultry flocks in isolation from wild birds and infected water sources, and to conduct swift and complete culls of infected poultry flocks in the event of an outbreak.

H5N1 has not yet been reported from North America. Since the 1990s, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has sampled more than 10,000 migratory waterfowl crossing the Bering Sea from Asia to Alaska, but has not found a single bird carrying the H5N1 virus. Government agencies are now seeking $5 million over the next three years to expand virus testing to birds along their migratory routes in the lower 48 states beginning next spring. This is a prudent step that deserves our full support.
For me and millions of others, the observation of wild birds provides a blessed escape from the worries of the world. Avian flu is now certainly among those worries, but that should not diminish our enjoyment, or our protection, of these beautiful creatures.

Pepper Trail is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News ( He is a biologist who lives and writes in Ashland, Oregon.

NWF teaches how to garden for wildlife

The National Wildlife Federation has announced that the property of the Messiers, in Rio Rancho, is now recognized as an official Backyard Wildlife Habitat site. This achievement contributes to the organization’s goal of certifying seventy thousand sites by its seventieth anniversary, in 2006. The Messier property now attracts a variety of birds, butterflies, and other wildlife while helping to protect the local environment. With the help of NWF, many habitat enthusiasts have turned their backyards into enticing wildlife refuges.

NWF began the Backyard Wildlife Habitat program in 1973 and has since certified over fifty-five thousand habitats nationwide. The majority of these sites represent the hard work and commitment of individuals and families providing habitat near their homes, but NWF has also certified more than twenty-three hundred schools and hundreds of business and community sites. Certified habitats can also be found everywhere from post offices, hospitals and places of worship to community parks and municipal facilities. The size of an average habitat is between one-third and one-half acre, although certified sites range from urban balconies to thousand-acre areas.

Any habitat enthusiast can create a backyard habitat and learn the rewards of “gardening for wildlife.” The program teaches the importance of environmental stewardship by providing basic guidelines for making landscapes more hospitable to wildlife. Habitat restoration is critical in urban and suburban settings where commercial and residential development encroach on natural wildlife areas. Changing landscapes to attract more wildlife enhances the environment’s quality by improving the air, soil, and water throughout the community. This effort promotes commonsense conservation by reducing or eliminating the need for fertilizers, pesticides, and irrigation water.

Habitats can also produce financial rewards for homeowners. Realtors will promote the certified status of homes for sale because they see it as an added selling feature. It’s an attractive element to many potential home buyers looking to share their landscape with Mother Nature. Potential homeowners who are attracted to a house with a certified habitat are also more likely to maintain the habitat once they take ownership and continue to nurture the local wildlife after the original creators move on.

For further information, visit:





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