It Looks Like the Flu, But Isn’t: What Is Adenovirus?
By Rachael Rettner, Senior Writer |
The flu isn’t the only virus that could leave you feeling feverish and generally miserable this winter — another virus, called adenovirus, can cause similar symptoms, although doctors don’t routinely test for it.
Adenoviruses are prolific viruses that can cause a variety of illnesses, including upper respiratory infections — such as colds — as well as pneumonia, gastrointestinal illness, conjunctivitis (pink eye) and even urinary tract infections, said Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. (There are 52 strains of adenovirus, and different strains cause different illnesses.)
When a person has a respiratory infection caused by an adenovirus, “it would be really hard to tell it apart from influenza” just by looking at the patient, Adalja said. Symptoms can include fever, sore throat, cough and runny nose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). [The 9 Deadliest Viruses on Earth]
However, unlike the flu, adenovirus doesn’t have a “striking seasonality,” Adalja told Live Science. Although outbreaks of adenovirus infections are most common in the late winter, spring and early summer, they can occur year-round, the CDC said.
In some cases, adenoviruses can cause severe respiratory symptoms, including pneumonia, particularly in patients whose immune systems are compromised, Adalja said. In 2007, an outbreak of adenovirus sickened about 140 people in four states, killing 10 patients, according to the CDC. But that fatality rate doesn’t compare to that of the flu, which can cause between 12,000 and 56,000 deaths per year, according to the CDC.
Outbreaks of adenovirus in the military led the U.S. Department of Defense to begin vaccinating military recruits against two strains of the virus in 1971, according to Medscape. When vaccine production stopped in 1996, cases of adenovirus in the military increased, as the disease spreads easily in close quarters. This re-emergence of the disease led to the reintroduction of the vaccine among recruits in 2011, Medscape reported. It’s estimated that the vaccine prevents about 15,000 cases of adenovirus infections in U.S. military recruits, according to the U.S. Army Medical Material Development Activity.
A recent study, published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, looked at adenovirus respiratory infections in nonmilitary members and concluded that the vaccine should also be considered for susceptible groups outside the military, such as those living in long-term-care facilities or college dorms.
Adalja agreed that “because [adenovirus] does cause a considerable burden of illness, we want to explore” the ability to use the vaccine outside of the military context.
For example, the vaccine may benefit people at high risk of contracting the virus, such as patients with lung disease and others with compromised immune systems, but it may even benefit the general population, Adalja said. However, future studies would be needed to examine which segments of the population would benefit most, and whether vaccination would be cost-effective, he said.
The Australian stingless bee Tetragonula carbonaria is not your average pollinator. For starters, out of about 20,000 known bee species in the world, T. carbonaria is one of only 500 without stingers.
That’s not to say this bee is defenseless. Invasive beetles that have tried to infiltrate T. carbonaria nests have found themselves suddenly covered in a brew of wax, mud and plant resin — effectively mummified alive by bees.T. carbonaria colonies have also been observed waging days-long territory wars against their stingless neighbors, resulting in hundreds of bee-on-bee casualties and queens unceremoniously dethroned.
This is all to say, if you had a home like T. carbonaria‘s, you’d probably fight for it, too. As seen in a popular photo posted to Reddit last week, swarms of T. carbonaria rear their young in mesmerizing, spiral-shaped towers called brood combs, linking hundreds of individual egg chambers together into a continuous staircase of unborn baby bees. [Here’s What Wasp Faces Look Like Up-Close]
“The image is just one layer of the brood comb,” entomologist Tim Heard, who took the photo while researching stingless bees for The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Australia, said in an email.”A fully developed nest consists of 10-20 layers. Each layer is one circle of a continuous spiral.”
The little circular pods you see forming this spiral are called brood cells. Within these cells, individual bees grow from egg to adulthood in the span of about 50 days, Heard wrote in his stingless bee-keeping manual, “The Australian Native Bee Book” (Sugarbag Bees, 2015). To build these cells, worker bees secrete wax from their abdominal glands and mix it with a plant resin derivative, making a sturdy construction material calledcerumen.
“A cell is [then] mass provisioned by nurse workers regurgitating food to about two-thirds of the capacity of the cell, which is sufficient to feed the larva for its entire development to a pupa,” Heard wrote. “The queen lays an egg on the provisions. The cell is then immediately capped so that the larva can develop in a closed cell.”
When one cell is completed, workers move onto another, building new cells outward and upward in a spiral pattern, Heard wrote. Eventually, adult bees start emerging from the oldest cells built in the center of the lowest level of the brood comb, leaving behind a steadily growing cavity of empty husks known as the retreating edge. (You can identify the newly hatched bees in the photo by their silvery sheen — their skin will darken to its mature color a few days after the bees leave their cells.)
As this cavity of empty cells grows from the bottom up, workers begin building a brand new brood inside it, continuing the cycle. A single colony could potentially live indefinitely in this fashion, Heard and his colleaguestheorized, so long as it had a queen to lay new eggs.
So, why the spiral shape? Researchers have tried (and sort of failed) to explain the bee’s construction guidelines as an algorithm that every worker bee innately knows. But Heard, for one, would as soon leave it to mystery.
“It may be unwise to attempt to explain the adaptive significance of why this form may have evolved,” Heard told Live Science. “Perhaps, it is just the outcome of some random behavior or perhaps it is adaptive. A possible adaptive advantage of this form is that it is efficient use of space and also facilitates the circulation of air between the layers. But then one has to ask, why it is not more common.”
No enthusiastic skywatcher ever misses a total eclipse of the moon. The spectacle of the lunar disk slipping into Earth’s shadow and turning a deep shade of red is often more striking and engaging than one might think. What’s more, when the moon is entering into and later emerging out of Earth’s shadow, secondary phenomena may be overlooked, but these additional features of the eclipse are worth looking out for.A total lunar eclipse occurs when the moon is completely submerged in Earth’s dark, inner shadow, called the umbra. If the moon is only partly covered by the umbra, or only enters the outer shadow (called the penumbra), it is considered a partial lunar eclipse. The total eclipse is said to “begin” when the moon is fully covered by the umbra; this phase is also called “totality.” [Super Blue Blood Moon 2018: When, Where and How to See It]
To help prepare for the upcoming eclipse Wednesday morning (Jan. 31), which NASA has dubbed a “Super Blue Blood Moon” eclipse due to its occurance near perigee and during the second full moon of January, Space.com has prepared a step-by-step chronology of the eclipses’ major phases and some of the secondary phenomena you might expect to see. Not all of the events mentioned in the chronology will necessarily occur, because no two eclipses are the same. But many will, and those who know what to look for have a better chance of seeing them!
In the above timetable, all times are for a.m. on Jan. 31. When dashes are provided, it means that the moon has set and is no longer visible. Below are the numbered stages listed above, fully described:
1. Moon enters Earth’s penumbra: The shadow cone of the Earth has two parts: a dark, inner umbra, surrounding by a lighter penumbra. The penumbra is the pale outer portion of Earth’s shadow. Although the eclipse begins officially when the moon enters the penumbra, this is, in essence, an academic event. You won’t see anything unusual happening to the moon — at least not just yet. The Earth’s penumbral shadow is so faint that it remains invisible until the moon is deeply immersed in it. We must wait until the penumbra has reached about 70 percent across the moon’s disk. So for about 40 minutes after the “start” of the partial eclipse, the full moon will continue to appear to shine normally, although with each passing minute it is progressing ever deeper into Earth’s outer shadow.
2. Penumbral shadow begins to appear: Now the moon has progressed far enough into the penumbra that the shadow should be evident on the moon’s disk. Start looking for a very subtle, light shading to appear on the moon’s left portion. This will become increasingly evident as the minutes pass, with the shading appearing to spread and deepen. Just before the moon begins to enter Earth’s dark umbral shadow, the penumbra should appear as an obvious smudge or tarnishing of the moon’s left portion.
3. Moon enters Earth’s umbra: The moon now begins to cross into the Earth’s dark central shadow, called the umbra. A small dark scallop begins to appear on the moon’s left-hand (eastern) limb, or it’s apparent edge. The partial phases of the eclipse begin; the pace quickens and the change is dramatic. The umbra is much darker than the penumbra and fairly sharp-edged. As the minutes pass, the dark shadow appears to slowly creep across the moon’s face. At first the moon’s limb may seem to vanish inside of the umbra, but much later, as it moves in deeper you’ll probably notice it glowing dimly orange, red or brown. Notice also that the edge of the Earth’s shadow projected on the moon is curved. Here is visible evidence that the Earth is a sphere, as deduced by Aristotle from lunar eclipses he observed in the fourth century B.C. Almost as if a dimmer switch was slowly being turned down, the surrounding landscape and deep shadows of a brilliant moonlit night begin to fade away.
4. 75 percent coverage: With three-quarters of the moon’s disk now eclipsed by the umbra, the part of it that is immersed in shadow should begin to very faintly light up— like a piece of iron heated to the point where it just begins to glow. It now becomes obvious that the umbral shadow does not create complete darkness on the lunar surface. Using binoculars or a telescope, the shadow’s outer part is usually light enough to reveal lunar maria and craters, but the central part is much darker, and sometimes no surface features are recognizable. Colors in the umbra vary greatly from one eclipse to the next, reds and grays usually predominate, but sometimes browns, blues and other tints are encountered.
5. Less than 5 minutes to totality: Several minutes before (and after) totality, the contrast between the remaining pale-yellow sliver of the moon’s surface and the ruddy-brown coloration spread over the rest of the disk may produce a beautiful phenomenon known to some as the “Japanese Lantern Effect.”
6. Total eclipse begins: When the last of the moon enters the umbra, the total eclipse begins. How the moon will appear during totality is not known. Sometimes the fully eclipsed moon is such a dark gray-black that it nearly vanishes from view. But it can also glow a bright orange. The reason the moon can be seen at all when totally eclipsed is that sunlight is scattered and refracted around the edge of Earth by our atmosphere. To an astronaut standing on the moon during totality, the sun would be hidden behind a dark Earth outlined by a brilliant red ring consisting of all the world’s sunrises and sunsets. The brightness of this ring around Earth depends on global weather conditions and the amount of dust suspended in the air. A clear atmosphere on Earth means a bright lunar eclipse. If a major volcanic eruption has injected particles into the stratosphere during the previous couple of years, the eclipse is very dark.
7. Middle of totality: The moon is now shining anywhere from 10,000 to 100,000 times fainter than it was just a couple of hours ago. Since the moon is moving to the south of the center of Earth’s umbra, the gradation of color and brightness across the moon’s disk should be such that its upper portion should appear darkest, with hues of deep copper or chocolate brown. Meanwhile, its lower portion — that part of the moon closest to the outer edge of the umbra — should appear brightest, with hues of reds, oranges and even perhaps a soft bluish-white.
Observers away from bright city lights will notice a much greater number of stars than were visible before the eclipse began. The moon will be in the dim constellation of Cancer, the Crab, and positioned almost midway between the backward question-mark pattern of stars known as the Sickle of Leo well to its east (upper left) and the “twin stars,” Pollux and Castor of Gemini well to the west (the moon’s lower right). The darkness of the sky is impressive. The surrounding landscape has taken on a somber hue. Before the eclipse, the full moon looked flat and one-dimensional. During totality, however, it will look smaller and three-dimensional — like some weirdly illuminated ball suspended in space.
Before the moon entered Earth’s shadow, the temperature on its sunlit surface hovered at about 266 degrees Fahrenheit (130 degrees Celsius). Since the moon lacks an atmosphere, there is no way this heat could be prevented from escaping into space as the shadow sweeps by. Now, in shadow, the temperature on the moon has dropped to minus 146 degrees F (minus 99 C); a drop of 412 degrees F, or 229 degrees C, in less than 150 minutes!
8. Total eclipse ends: The emergence of the moon from the umbral shadow begins. The first small segment of the moon begins to reappear, followed again for the next several minutes by the Japanese Lantern Effect.
9. 75 percent coverage: Any vestiges of coloration within the umbra should be disappearing now. From here on, as the dark shadow methodically creeps off the moon’s disk, it should appear black and featureless.
10. Moon leaves umbra: The dark central shadow clears the moon’s right-hand (western) limb.
11. Penumbra shadow fades away: As the last, faint shading vanishes off the moon’s right portion, the visual signs of the eclipse come to an end.
12. Moon leaves penumbra: The eclipse “officially” ends, as it is completely free of the penumbral shadow.
Editor’s note: If you capture an amazing photo of video of the Jan. 31 total lunar eclipse and would like to share it with Space.com for a story or gallery, send images and comments to: email@example.com.
Joe Rao serves as an instructor and guest lecturer at New York’s Hayden Planetarium. He writes about astronomy for Natural History magazine, the Farmers’ Almanac and other publications, and he is also an on-camera meteorologist for Verizon Fios1 News, based in Rye Brook, N.Y. Follow us@Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original article on Space.com.
Tuesday, January 30, 2018: The atmosphere of Saturn’s moon Titan glows with colorful, hazy layers in this newly released image from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. When Cassini acquired this view, it was approximately 20,556 miles (33,083 kilometers) from Titan, facing the night side of the moon’s north polar region. The spacecraft ended its mission by crashing into Saturn last September. — Hanneke Weitering
Storms Swirl Near Jupiter’s North Pole
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Bjorn Jonsson
Friday, January 26, 2018: A view from NASA’s Juno spacecraft reveals commotion in Jupiter’s clouds near the planet’s north polar region. Juno captured this image during its tenth close flyby on Dec. 16, 2017. At the time, Juno was about 5,600 miles (8,787 kilometers) away from Jupiter’s cloud tops. Citizen scientist Björn Jónsson processed this color-enhanced picture using data from the spacecraft’s JunoCam imager, which is publicly available online. — Hanneke Weitering
Saturn’s ‘Belly Button’
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/Kevin M. Gill
Thursday, January 18, 2018: Saturn’s south pole looks like a linty, cosmic belly button in this image from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. Cassini captured this view on Sept. 10, 2008, and citizen scientist Kevin Gill processed the raw data to create this stunning color image. Saturn’s south polar vortex looks a lot like a hurricane on Earth, with a round eye at the center surrounded by towering clouds. — Hanneke Weitering
Zuma Sky Spiral
Credit: Peter Horstink
Friday, January 12, 2018: Dutch pilot Peter Horstink snapped this stunning photo over Khartoum, Sudan 2 hours and 15 minutes after a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched the secret Zuma mission into space on Jan. 7, 2018. Horstink was just one of many observers who saw the dazzling sky spiral from the Falcon 9 upper stage following the launch. Read our full story here!– Tariq Malik
Friday, January 5, 2018: Brilliant hues of blue and gold are smeared across Saturn’s cloud tops in this view from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. Citizen scientist Kevin Gill processed the image using near-infrared data that the spacecraft collected just before it passed through Saturn’s ring plane in December of 2012. — Hanneke Weitering
A Spiral in Space
Credit: European Southern Observatory
Tuesday , January 2, 2018: Like a wheel within a wheel, this dazzling barred spiral galaxy (called NGC 1398) is sculpted by ribbons of dust and gas in this view captured by the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in Chile’s Atacama Desert. The galazy is 65 million light-years away in the constellation The Furnace (Fornax). – Tariq Malik
Happy New Year from Space!
Credit: JAXA/Norishige Kanai
Monday, January 1, 2018: Astronaut Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) celebrated the New Year of 2018 with this photo of a sunrise from the International Space Stationon his Twitter. – Tariq Malik
Image of the Day Archives
Credit: NASA, ESA and Orsola De Marco (Macquarie University)
Why Wednesday’s Super Blue Blood Moon Eclipse Is So Special
By Laura Geggel, Senior Writer |
Imagine going to a drive-thru and ordering the following: a blue moon, a supermoon, a blood moon and a total lunar eclipse. Although such a request is impossible (if only!), all four events are actually happening tomorrow (Jan. 31).
But what, exactly, are these four celestial treats? And how rare is it that skywatchers can view all of them on the same night?
Even separately, these events are rare. For instance, a blue moon happens when two full moons occur within the same calendar month. Normally, Earth has 12 full moons per year, which equates to one per month. But because the lunar month — the time between two new moons — averages 29.530589 days, which is shorter than most months (with the exception of February), some years have 13 full moons, Live Science previously reported.
Blue moons happen once every 2.7 years, which explains why the last one happened on July 31, 2015. But despite their name, blue moons don’t actually appear blue. A bluish tint is only possible when smoke or ash from a large fire or volcanic eruption gets into the atmosphere. These fine particles can scatter blue light and make the moon appear blue.
Supermoons, however, are more common than blue moons. A supermoon happens when a full moon is at or near perigee, the point in the moon’s monthly orbit when it’s closest to Earth. Because they’re marginally closer to Earth, supermoons can appear up to 14 percent larger and up to 30 percent brighter than regular full moons, Live Science previously reported.
The most recent supermoon happened this past New Year’s Day, on Jan. 1, 2018. Because the upcoming full moon will be January’s second full moon, it has earned the title of “blue moon.”
Finally, the last two events — the total lunar eclipse and the blood moon — are linked. A total lunar eclipse can happen only when the sun, Earth and full moon are perfectly lined up, in that order. With this alignment, the full moon is completely covered in Earth’s shadow.
During a total lunar eclipse, the moon may appear “blood red,” or at least ruddy brown. This unusual hue happens because when the moon is covered by Earth’s shadow, some of the light from Earth’s sunrises and sunsets falls on the moon and makes it appear red, at least from Earth,according to Space.com, a Live Science sister site.
The last total lunar eclipse happened during Sept. 27 and 28, 2015. To watch the upcoming total lunar eclipse, tune into Space.com.
Skywatchers in North America will be able to see the total lunar eclipse before sunrise on Jan. 31. People in the Middle East, Asia, eastern Russia, Australia and New Zealand will be able to view it during moonrise on the evening of Jan. 31, according to NASA.
However, the supermoon will be visible worldwide, as will the blue moon, so long as there isn’t too much cloud cover.
Pioneers of the American West: The Harvey Girls (Photos)
By Linda & Dr. Dick Buscher, Live Science Contributors |
Moving across the land
Credit: Library of Congress
When New York Tribune owner Horace Greeley wrote in an 1865 editorial, “Go West, young man, go West,” he became a leading voice in America’s expansion westward following the recent successful conclusion of the long American Civil War. The age of manifest destiny had begun and war-weary Americans listened to the call, packed up their often meager belongings and began their journey to create a new western life. Pop culture, including artist like John Gast with his famous 1872 painting “American Progress,” shown here, embraced this movement as thousands of miners, farmers, ex- soldiers, merchants and eventually wives followed Greeley’s call.
The trip to the West was full of peril. The railroad became one of the safest ways to travel, but riding the early trains was certainly challenging. Cars were hot, seats uncomfortable, and the food was available only at the nearby roadhouses when the steam locomotive stopped to take on water. This food was best described as “horrible” with often spoiled meats, cold beans and weak, watered-down coffee. Prices were also unusually high. The train trip from New York to California could take up to a week, and these poor conditions discouraged many train passengers from making the journey to the West.
Feeding the travelers
In 1876, a railroad freight agent named Fred Harvey saw a business opportunity to address the issue of poor food for the train passengers. He began a business partnership with America’s largest railroad company, the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe, to create the first national chain of restaurants, retail stores and hotels within the railroad’s train stations. Harvey became the founding father of the American hospitality industry, as he soon established some 84 Harvey Houses in cities large and small from Chicago to Los Angeles. Locating and retaining reliable and qualified employees was Harvey’s biggest challenge in many Western towns along the line; he solved this problem by employing a group of young women who became known in history as the Harvey Girls.
In search of servers
Through the newspapers of the Midwest and East Coast, Harvey ran employment ads – “Wanted: Young women 18 to 30 years of age, of good moral character, attractive and intelligent, to waitress in Harvey Eating Houses on the Sante Fe in the West. Wages, $17.50 per month with room and board. Liberal tips customary. Experience not necessary. Write Fred Harvey, Union Depot, Kansas City, Missouri.” Thousands applied. Those women chosen for an interview were invited to the company’s headquarters in Kansas City, Kansas. Exemplary character was the highest employment expectation and each girl hired was required to sign a pledge swearing to that fact. They also had to be well-mannered and educated at least through the eighth grade.
Harvey demanded that his restaurants provide exceptional dining to railroad passengers with the highest standards of the time in food preparation and service. His all female waitstaff, the Harvey Girls, became America’s first national corp of adventurous, bright and independent working women. The reputation of a Harvey House was very important and these girls were not referred to as a “waitress” but called Harvey Girls to instill a sense of pride in the young women selected.
Each selected girl was placed into a six-week training program. They agreed to worked 12-hour shifts six days a week, lived in dormitories with house matrons and curfews, and signed six-month contracts stipulating that they would remain unmarried. They were highly trained in rules of etiquette. They learned how to properly set a table and to be sure that none of the uniquely designed Harvey plates and glasses were cracked or chipped. They could not speak to another Harvey Girl in the presence of a customer and all Harvey Girls had to learned to always work with a sincere smile.
On the job
Credit: Linda & Dr. Dick Buscher
When her training was complete, a Harvey Girl was assigned to a Harvey House along the Santa Fe line. Most newly trained girls were assigned first to one of the smaller Harvey Houses to perfect her training before moving on to the busier houses in the larger railroad communities. All Harvey Girls were to dress in the company’s uniform, which consisted of a black dress, crisp white pinafore apron, polished black shoes, black hose and a white ribbon in their hair. No make-up was allowed. All the girls were inspected to ensure their proper dress before they were allowed on the floor to serve customers.
Attention to detail
Harvey was a stickler for details. He was known to flip out over an improperly set dining table demanding it be correctly set. There were many sets of rules and regulations, called the “Fred Harvey way,” outlining how almost everything could be done perfectly. Male Harvey House managers followed an elaborate and detailed plan for keeping track of every egg, cup of coffee, steak, cigar, etc., sold at their Harvey House. Managers knew how many passengers were on each train and which of them intended to eat at the upcoming Harvey House. The train’s whistle would blow a mile outside of town, allowing the Harvey Girls to know when another group of hungry customers were about to arrive.
Credit: Linda & Dr. Dick Buscher
The Harvey Girls not only brought great food and fine dining etiquette to the American West, but they also brought love. During their time of employment, the girls were strictly forbidden to fraternize with the Harvey House guests. But some historians estimate that out of the over 100,000 girls who worked in the Harvey House restaurants and hotels along the rail line, some 20,000 became the wives of their regular town customers.
One railroad owner said, “The Harvey House was not only a good place to eat; it was the Cupid of the Rails.” American Humorist Will Rogers said of the Harvey Girls that they “kept the West in food and wives.” The photo above is of Harvey Girl Mary Lawler, who began working in the New Mexico and Arizona Harvey Houses in 1893.
Sharing a culture
Credit: University of Arizona Library
By 1902, train travel to the American Southwest was waning. The Fred Harvey Company came up with the idea to create an “Indian Department,” which commissioned Native American artists, photographers and ethnographers to document and share the unique culture of the Southwest Indian tribes. In 1926, the company began their soon-to-be famous Indian Detours from their Harvey House locations between the Grand Canyon and Santa Fe. Tourists were whisked away from the Harvey Hotels by a fleet of “Harveycars” composed of the latest Franklins, Packards, Cadillacs and White Motor Co. buses. The drivers were always men, but the “couriers” or tour guides were always college-educated women trained in Southwest history and archaeology, who dressed in Navajo-style costumes that included velveteen blouses and skirts, squash blossom necklaces and concha belts. Once again, the Fred Harvey Company was the industry leader in providing quality jobs for the woman of the American West.
Serving the troops
Credit: Library of Congress
The Harvey Girls and their many Harvey Houses played an important role for American soldiers during World War II. American railroads were the main means of transporting troops from their bases of training to the West Coast for deployment into the Pacific Theatre. Records from La Posada, the spectacular Harvey House still operating in Winslow, Arizona, show that during World War II over 3,000 meals were served at La Posada daily by Harvey Girls to American soldiers as the “troop trains” made their final stop before reaching California.
Making a mark
Credit: Northern Arizona University Library
The Harvey Girls were forever memorialized into American history when in 1946 MGM released the Hollywood movie “The Harvey Girls” staring Judy Garland. The movie was based on the 1942 book with the same title written by Samuel Hopkins Adams. Through the magic of the big screen many Americans got to see for themselves the story of these brave young woman who courageously came to the American West for a well paying job and a chance for adventure and independence. They were as much a group of brave American pioneers as any westward traveling miner, trapper, railroad man or farmer. And, in a time when there were “no ladies west of Dodge City and no women west of Albuquerque, the Harvey Girls brought civilization to a vast region of America and became the founding mothers of the new American West.
The Weird Tale of a Larger-Than-Life Wolf That Outran the Law, Almost
By Mindy Weisberger, Senior Writer |
For nearly a decade during the dawn of the 20th century, a lone — and furry — figure cut a criminal swath across South Dakota’s badlands, evading government officials as well as seasoned trackers and bounty hunters.
At the peak of his infamy, the price on his head totaled $500 — the equivalent of about $6,000 today. He was the Custer Wolf, a North American gray wolf (Canis lupus) so-named for the nearby town of Custer, South Dakota. The four-legged outlaw that preyed on livestock was widely reviled as a scourge of farmers and ranchers, but was also a source of fearful speculation, rumored to be an enormous monster possessing supernatural powers that prevented its capture.
On this day (Jan. 17) in 1921, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) distributed a statement announcing the death of the elusive Custer Wolf at the hands of a federally contracted hunter, naming the wolf “the master criminal of the animal world” and describing it as “the cruelest, the most sagacious, the most successful animal outlaw that the range country had ever known.” [Photos: Brand-New Baby Wolves]
The language in the statement — written by USDA press officer Dixon Lanier Merritt, also a poet and humorist — seems a little over-the-top, but so was the Custer Wolf’s story.
Larger than life
For nine years, the beast hunted and fed on horses and cattle across a range spanning about 300 square miles (780 square kilometers) in South Dakota, costing their owners an estimated $25,000 — an amount equal to about $311,000 in 2017.
But the wolf was also said to mutilate its kills “in atrocious ways for the mere sake of killing,” according to the statement. Over the years, attempts to catch the wolf with traps, guns, dogs and poison were unsuccessful. Fearful rumors circulated that he was no “mere wolf,” but a hybrid of wolf and mountain lion, “possessing the craftiness of both and the cruelty of hell,” and that he was accompanied by two coyotes that served as “bodyguards,” the USDA reported.
Historically, wolves in the Dakotas typically preyed on large ungulates such as bison, moose and elk. But as Europeans settled in the West, they killed off the wolves’ prey. And so the wolves, their ranges now greatly reduced by agriculture and ranching, began hunting livestock in order to survive.
This marked the beginning of federal bounty programs to exterminate wolves. These programs were so effective that North American gray wolves were largely eradicated in most of the lower 48 states before they were offered protection by the Endangered Species Act in 1978, with only a few hundred animals remaining in Minnesota, the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) reported.
Death of “the criminal wolf”
In the end, the Custer Wolf couldn’t outrun the law. The USDA sent one of its own hunters, H.P. Williams, on the trail of the renegade wolf in March 1920, with instructions to catch the animal “no matter how much time was required,” Dixon wrote in the statement.
Williams trailed the wolf for months, first shooting the alleged coyote“bodyguards” and then laying a series of traps that the wolf managed to avoid or spring without getting caught. But the wolf’s storied luck ran out on Oct. 11, when he stepped into one of Williams’ steel traps, the hunter reported to the USDA.
Even then, the wolf managed to break the trap and run for 3 miles (4.8 km), with the trap’s teeth still gripping his front leg, before Williams ended his life with a bullet.
In death, the wolf was found to be no oversize monster. In fact, he was “an old wolf” with nearly white fur, and he was smaller than average, measuring about 6 feet (1.8 meters) in length and weighing 98 pounds (44 kilograms), Williams recounted.
Despite Merritt’s harsh words in the USDA statement about the Custer Wolf’s lengthy “reign of dread,” the writer clearly held some admiration for the animal that evaded human retribution for so long, and grew into a larger-than-life, four-legged legend of the Wild West.
“He loped through every kind of danger and spurned them all,” Merritt wrote.
Currently, there are no known populations of gray wolves in South Dakota, according to the FWS.