The sabertooth salmon, now extinct, inhabited the waters off the Pacific Coast of North America 5-12 million years ago. Oncorhynchus rastrosus received its nickname from a pair of canine-like fangs that protruded outward from its snout.
The sabertooth salmon was huge, the largest of any salmonid to ever exist. Adults reached a length of 7.5 feet, and a weight of up to 400 pounds. Try dip netting for that beast.
Like today’s salmon, the sabertooth was thought to be anadromous, meaning they went from salt water to fresh water to spawn. O. Rastrosus would have shared the ocean with some rather large predators: Namely the Megaledon shark and the Livyatan, a predatory whale.
The American Lion went extinct approximately 11,000 years ago. A sister lineage to the European Cave Lion, the American Lion was 25% larger than today’s African Lion. In fact, they may well have been the largest feline to prowl the Earth’s surface, standing 3.9 feet at the shoulder. The saber-toothed cat was more stout and muscular, and the American Lion more lean. The two predators hunted in a very different style, with evidence showing the lion being built for speed.
The American Lion ranged from Alaska through much of what is now the western and central United States, Mexico and into South America.
I’ve written on here before about the steppe bison at the Museum of the North that is on exhibit. The bison was quickly frozen after its death, and preserved in the permafrost. On its flanks, one can see the claw and bite marks from an American Lion.
There is some debate as to whether the species was actually a lion, or from the tiger or jaguar lineage, but most classify the species as being a sister line to the European Cave Lion, which was isolated after many thousands of years.
The above skeleton of an American Lion came from the La Brea Tar Pits, but there were relatively few found in the pits compared to the saber-toothed tiger. One theory is that the American Lion had one of the largest brain cavities of any feline, so it’s possible most of them were smart enough to avoid the tar.
No matter how you look at it, the American Lion was one, big cat. It must have been an impressive sight.
Another Alaska tale that captured some global interest recently, was the man who was rescued outside of Nome by a United States Coast Guard helicopter. Reports came into Alaska first, that a bear had attacked a man on a four wheeler, the man escaped to a mining shack, only to be harassed for days by the rogue bruin. I was an immediate skeptic, but quickly moved on from the story, as I had closer things to worry about.
Now, the Nome Nugget has called out the bear tale. Enough contrary evidence has surfaced to call the ordeal into question. Since Alaskans rarely need much of an excuse to take a ride out onto the tundra, several Nome residents ventured out to the mine claim in question. The door handle on the mining shack looked to have been knocked off by a hammer, and the four wheeler looked to be in great shape, but there are obvious scratches on the trailer that were “either made by a screwdriver, or a bear with one claw.” Also, there was no bear sign to be found around the cabin. “There’s no hair, no tracks, no scat, nothing.”
The most damming evidence found was the untouched two pounds of bacon in a cooler sitting on the four wheeler. For his part, the man who claimed to be stalked by the bear has not changed his story: “They can believe what they want,” the man told the Nugget. “I was there. I know what happened. I haven’t been that scared in a very, very long time.”
Even though the area is certainly known for its bears, Sourdough Miners in the area believe that the “victim” accidentally crashed his four wheeler, and was too embarrassed to admit it. At any rate, both Sourdough and Coast Guard officials believe the man truly needed rescuing, regardless of the actual circumstances. Another example of the Coast Guard’s vital role in Alaska.
For the first time, a company in Massachusetts is delivering genetically modified salmon to the dinner tables of U.S. households.
The bioengineered salmon, is actually the genetic mixing of three different fish: Atlantic salmon, Chinook salmon and the eel-like, Ocean Pout. The modified hybrid grows to market size in 18 months, which is half what it takes for a salmon to mature in the natural world.
In Alaska, the bioengineered fish are often called Frankenfish, and they have not been well received. A store or restaurant that offers farmed fish, will take heat for it, and often lose customers. I would be very surprised to see anyone in state, offer the genetically modified fish, where fishing for a living, is so vital to the economy.
The village of Buckland, which is located in Northwest Alaska, started to see the water rise on May 12, due to an ice dam on the Buckland River. As one can see from the image, the village was quickly flooded out, with over five feet of water throughout the community, cutting the villagers off from the airstrip.
A disaster was declared by the governor on Monday, and water started to recede on Tuesday. The damage will be extensive, but details won’t be known until the water drops further.
Buckland, or Nunatchiaq in Iñupiaq, is an Inupiat village of approximately 416 people. Residents have lived at different points along the Buckland River over the centuries, but relocated to the current location in the 1920’s due to the villages reindeer herd. The community was incorporated in 1966.
It is mainly a subsistence lifestyle in Buckland, with residents relying on hunting, fishing and trade for survival. Caribou, beluga whale and seal are a major source of food. The reindeer herd of 2000 provides some jobs, where the payment is made in the form of meat. There are also some jobs through the school, city and health clinic.
Photos credit: The State of Alaska; additional source information courtesy of the Native Village of Buckland
Ducks, geese, swans and cranes have all come back to the neighborhood. The back pond still has ice, although it’s looking more than a bit dodgy and should go out this weekend. The beaver is patrolling the edges, occasionally flushing a pair of mallards from the open water to the ice, where they stand patiently waiting for the open water to be beaver free. Even the gulls are back, swooping low over the pond’s edge looking for the perfect nesting spot.