Monthly Archives: February 2018

Wild Chickens, Feral Cats Join Forces On Blacktip Island

chickens and cats 2

A wild chicken stands lookout near the Blacktip Island dump Thursday, watching volunteers set a trap for feral cats. Island officials worry the chickens and cats are colluding to take over the small Caribbean island. (photo courtesy of DIAC Images)

Wild chicken and feral cat population increases on northern Blacktip Island, coupled with possible coordination between the species, have many locals concerned about public safety Thursday.

“There’s always been chickens around the airfield, and mangy cats around the dump,” resort owner Elena Havens said. “But nowhere near this many. And they always avoided each other.

“Now, though, we’re eat-up with chickens from the Tale Spinner bar all the way south to, Sandy Bottoms’,” Havens said. “It happened overnight. And now you always see chickens hanging out with cats. Staring you down. Stalking you. It’s not natural.”

The burgeoning populations have negatively impacted local businesses.

“Damn roosters are crowing all night. Guests can’t sleep,” Sandy Bottoms Beach Resort owner Sandy Bottoms said. “We got chickens running across the bar. Eating all the popcorn. Pooping on the pool deck. Bookings are down and complaints are up.

“And this is migratory bird season, you know,” Bottoms said. “Bird watchers from all over come here to see the exotic birds. The cats have eaten them all, though. The birds, not the birders. No birds to see now but chickens. My resort’s half-empty.”

Island officials say increased animal numbers poses a health risk.

“We know feral chickens and cats carry transmittable diseases,” public health chief Herring Frye said. “But every time we try to catch a cat to study, the chickens swarm all over us, and vice versa. It’s like a bad horror movie.

“These two species are normally enemies,” Frye said. “If they’re in cahoots, the worry is they’ll take over the entire island, potentially make it uninhabitable for humans.”

Locals echoed that sentiment.

“We’ve tried to cull their numbers, but the critters seem to know when we’re coming. And what kinds of traps we set,” Rocky Shore said. “Either they’re all smarter than us, or they’re working together.”

“When we were setting cat traps at the dump, you should’ve heard all the clucking and crowing,” Molly Miller said. “Then the hens charged us. There were feathers flying everywhere. I didn’t know there were that many chickens on the island.

“There’s been some ugly incidents with tourists, too,” Miller said. “A bunch of them got their heads pecked outside the store. And a bunch of cats blocked the airstrip yesterday. The plane couldn’t land, but it was fun watching people trying to herd them off the tarmac.”

Some locals spun the situation as positive.

“All I know is the rat population is way down,” said Lee Helm said. “I reckon that’s the chickens’ motivation: with the rats in decline, they get a bigger share of food at the dump. And in peoples’ kitchens.”

Others are fighting back.

“We got coq au vin on the nightly dinner menu now,” Sandy Bottoms said. “And folks with lionfish spears chasing down roosters morning, noon and night.”

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Trained Groupers To Patrol Blacktip Island’s Coast

grouper intel

A Nassau grouper stands guard on Blacktip Island’s Pinnacle Reef Thursday. A plan by the Tiperon Islands Defense Enterprise would surround the island with specially-trained grouper to warn of any impending invasion. (photo courtesy of lowjumpingfrog)

Following last week’s news that a Blacktip Island divemaster had trained a Nassau grouper to add and subtract, the Tiperon Islands Defense Enterprise announced Thursday it plans to train grouper to help guard the Tiperons from possible foreign attacks.

“If this grouper thing checks out, and I think it will, we could have the makings of a offshore early warning system,” TIDE head MacArthur Wrasse said. “They’ll be our eyes and ears on the reef, able to tell us how many bad guys are coming and from what direction.

“We’re calling it our ‘Grouper Wall,’” Wrasse said. “First order of business is getting this Hoase fellow a security clearance. We’ll need clearances for the fish, too, pronto, so we can get the defense system operational asap.”

Grouper training for all the islands will take place on Blacktip, officials said.

“Blacktip’s isolation’ll help keep the training details as under wraps as possible,” TIDE deputy chief Harry Blenny said. “Blacktip’s small, slow-paced and backwards, like most of its residents. Any off-islanders show up and start poking around, we’ll know straight away.”

Island officials welcomed the news.

“We’ll all sleep a little sounder knowing there’s someone on guard,” said island mayor Jack Cobia. “Security on that scale has been sadly lacking for a long time, what with there being no standing military in the Tiperons.

“On Blacktip all we have is the island constable and a volunteer defense force that does occasional patrols, but that’s about it,” Cobia said. “Frankly, the Blacktip Force for Defense is more of an excuse to hang out and drink beer. Groupers don’t drink. That’s a plus right there.”

Not all residents were happy with the idea.

“They’re talking about weaponizing fish. In a marine park,” Blacktip People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals president Harry Pickett said. “Plus, there’s a 2,000-foot wall that drops off 100 yards offshore. How much early warning will the groupers actually give? It’s more like telling us who’s at the door.

“Bigger picture, the program’s a blatant scam for government funding,” Pickett said. “Who, exactly, is going to attack us? There’ve been zero invasions in the island’s history. Unless you count tourists.”

BFD officials called that attitude naïve.

“It only takes one time, you know,” said Antonio Fletcher, BFD sergeant-at-arms. “Not many enemies now, sure, but you can’t be too careful. Cuba’s close by. And Belize. Things change. And The Sight can’t pick up everything.”

“Groupers watching the coast makes good sense – they know the sea better than any of us,” Fletcher said. “Plus, they’re naturally suspicious. They know when something’s fishy or doesn’t smell right.”

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Blacktip Island Divemaster Trains Grouper To Do Math

math grouper

Eagle Ray Divers guest Juanita Cerf poses an arithmetic question to Bernie the Nassau grouper on Blacktip Island’s Hammerhead Reef Thursday. (photo courtesy of Grady Cerf)

A Blacktip Island divemaster has taught a Nassau grouper to do basic arithmetic to entertain dive guests, the Caribbean island’s Eagle Ray Cove resort announced Wednesday.

“Gage Hoase’d been messing with that grouper at Hammerhead Reef for ages. Bernie, the one who likes to be petted,” Eagle Ray Divers operations manager Ger Latner said. “We had no idea what Gage was up to until he had the fish add and subtract for guests during a dive.

“Nassaus are smart, on the fish scale, but this blew us away,” Latner said. “Divers can ask Bernie math questions, and the damn fish’ll answer back. Correctly. Our boats are packed, and we’re diving Hammerhead two, three times a day.”

Hoase said Bernie’s skill came about by chance.

“He’s a friendly fish, always interested in what I was doing,” he said. “One day I was counting divers on my fingers and I noticed him bobbing his head in time with my counting.

“I held up four fingers on each hand and he nodded eight times,” Hoase said. “From there it was a natural jump to writing math problems for him on an underwater slate.”

Dive guests raved about their encounters.

“I asked Bernie what seven plus nine was and that little dickens answered right!” said Eagle Ray Cove guest Kenny Bloate. “He bobs his head for single digits and shakes it side-to-side for larger numbers: one shake and six nods equaled 16! They charge extra for the dive, but it’s worth it.”

Other divers were skeptical at first.

“I thought it was BS, then I put Bernie through his paces,” Juanita Cerf said. “I even gave him a problem with a negative number as the answer and he turned 180 degrees and counted it right out.”

The island’s scientific community remains dubious.

“We dived Hammerhead Reef without any Eagle Ray Dive staff present and found the fish to be curious, but otherwise untalented,” Tiperon University-Blacktip marine biology chair Goby Graysby said. “Our working hypothesis is Mr. Hoase is signaling to the fish.

“That’s not to say Gage’s work isn’t impressive,” Graysby added. “To train a grouper to respond to signals is unusual. But the fish can’t perform arithmetic.”

Hoase rebuffed Graysby’s claim.

“It’s a game for Bernie. If he doesn’t like you, he won’t play,” Hoase said. “And fish learning is more common that you think. A woman on Barbados taught a parrotfish to tell time. And a humphead wrasse in Palau can spell. In Latin and Cryrillic scripts. It’s working on kanji characters, too, but so far is only up to emojis.

“The next step for Bernie is quadratic equations,” Hoase said. “He understands them, but we haven’t worked out a system for him to communicate anything like ‘x=y+2’. It’ll probably involve barrel sponges.”

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