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July 23rd, 2014 WW Staff | Featured Stories
 

Best of Portland 2014: Best Animals

bop2014_(animals)HANG TIME: Hareo, now pregnant with a third-generation sloth at the Sloth Center. - Image courtesy of The Sloth Center
     
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BEST SLOTH SLEEPOVER

Looking for that romantic weekend getaway amid the largest captive population of adult sloths in the world? Look no further than Rainier, Ore.—a one-hour drive along the Columbia River, and home to the Sloth Captive Husbandry Research Center (chasing-tail.com). 

The center is essentially trying to figure out what might make the gentle, sluggish Central American three-toed sloth slightly happier and more likely to produce more sloths. But it also offers limited visits to people who agree not to make loud noises or sudden moves. 

Sure, you could settle for petting the sloths, who in videos move with the deliberate languidness of old beachcombers, if those retirees in Bermuda shorts were really focused on chewing leaves. But if you’re already paying $99.99 for that blissful experience—and I’m not being sardonic here, sloths are everything kitten videos promise but do not deliver—you might as well spend the night. That’s right: For $399.99 per person, you and your honey can sleep in a rustic tent cot during the hours when the nocturnal sloths are most active. It’s the fluff that dreams are made of. AARON MESH.


BEST FROG LEGS

If you want to save a frog’s life, you’ve got to be ready. There’ll be no advance warning. When it’s dark enough, and wet enough, and warm enough, the frogs begin to move. And if you let them get to the bottom of the hill, it’s almost certain death.

Shawn Looney first noticed them one night in January 2013, while driving to a neighborhood meeting in Northwest Portland’s Linnton neighborhood, near the St. Johns Bridge. The road squirmed with amphibians.

“They were getting squished like crazy,” she says. “We thought, what the heck are all these frogs?”

What Looney learned is that each winter the northern red-legged frog must reach the wetlands by the river to spawn. But because there’s no ground cover left on that stretch of the Willamette, they live the rest of the year up the hill in Forest Park—on the other side of U.S. Route 30.  

The highway is not a hospitable place for a northern red-legged frog.

So for this January—as first reported by Allen Classen in The Northwest Examiner (see page 27)—Looney and her friend Rob Lee enlisted Jane Hartline and the Forest Park Conservancy to gather volunteers to get the frogs across the road. By the end, a 40-strong bucket brigade stood on constant alert. “Very few got by us,” Hartline says.

“We had 5-gallon buckets,” says Looney. “You get in front of the frog and shine a headlamp, and she’ll freeze.” Biologist Sue Beilke of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife then chauffeured them to the wetlands. The volunteers were out almost every rainy night for three months, ferrying the frogs in both directions—to spawn, and then to get back home. In all they saved over 650 frogs. And in November, when the juveniles start to come ashore, they’ll tote them up the hill, too.

Hartline says that Portland General Electric, currently restoring wetlands where the frogs spawn, has agreed to modify its project to allow for frog habitat. So the frog brigade might eventually not be needed.

Hartline doesn’t mind the effort. “It was a ton of fun,” she says. “Probably the most fun you can have doing good conservation work. Except it was in the rain, in January, at night.” MATTHEW KORFHAGE.


BEST DOG MEMORIAL

If you went to art or music shows at Disjecta (8371 N Interstate Ave., 286-9449, disjecta.org) between 2000 and 2012, chances are you were charmed by Clyde. The beloved Rottweiler/border-collie mix of Disjecta’s founder Bryan Suereth, Clyde could be found sauntering around each of the nonprofit’s three successive locations. Essentially, he was Disjecta’s mascot, and his laid-back presence gave the venue a cozy, familial vibe, even when it moved into its current 12,000-square-foot digs in the Kenton neighborhood. When Clyde died two years ago, Suereth turned Disjecta’s asphalt parking lot into a courtyard park in Clyde’s honor. “Clyde Park” was built with the help of a few dog-loving donors and an ad hoc team of architects and landscape designers. A bronze plaque memorializes what Suereth calls “a 15-year love affair with the best dog ever.” If you have a soft spot for man’s best friend, the plaque’s 169 words of text boil down to four: Read it and weep.  RICHARD SPEER.


BEST DOORDOG

It’s not every week you’re greeted with a round of cheers as you stumble into a bar on a Monday night. It’s even rarer when you’re greeted by that most adorable of dogs, a Pembroke Welsh corgi. But such is Monday Cheer Day at downtown’s Tugboat Brewing (711 SW Ankeny St., 226-2508, d2m.com/Tugwebsite).

Regulars abound—some seated at the bar, others playing board games—including Oliver Cromwell, 3, who is a service dog of sorts.

The bartender takes a break from a conversation with two patrons and walks out onto the bar floor. “C’mon, boy, orbit!” he says. Oliver quickly runs two tight circles before darting between his legs. The bartender tosses him an apple cube and heads back behind the bar. As Oliver follows him, the bartender knowingly turns around, shapes one hand into a pistol, takes aim and shouts, “Bang!” The corgi rolls over—playing adorably dead.

More people filter in and out—to cheers for the former, boos for the latter—as the clever corgi performs more tricks, all merely prelude to his showstopping finale. With the door slightly ajar, the bartender shouts, “Close the door!” Oliver scampers over to the door, stands on his hind legs, and puts his entire weight against the door, just below the handle, until it quietly shuts. Closing time. You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay with the corgi. JOHN LOCANTHI.


BEST INVERTEBRATE ADVOCACY GROUP

Bugs don’t have many human allies. Mostly, they get squashed, swatted, sprayed or stuck to rolls of poisoned paper.

But, in Portland, someone wants to protect them. The Xerces Society (xerces.org) pressures lawmakers to regulate the interstate transport of bumblebees, protect the tiny habitat of the caddisfly and advocate for the homes of the Salt Creek tiger beetle.

“People think of insects as pests,” says Xerces endangered-species program director Sarina Jepsen. “But they provide vital services from pollination to pest control to recycling nutrients to food for other organisms.”

The Portland-based society is the world’s largest pollinator conservation group, with 7,000 members in more than a dozen countries. It took its name from the tiny Californian Xerces blue butterfly—the first American butterfly driven to extinction by humans. But what began as a society of butterfly scientists in the 1970s has expanded its mission.

When 50,000 bumblebees were massacred in the parking lot of a Wilsonville Target in 2013—they had sucked nectar from linden trees treated with pesticide—a Xerces pollinator helped cover the branches to avert more bloodshed. And when the Forest Service planned a new project in the Columbia River Gorge, they called on Xerces’ endangered-species advocates to crawl around in the dirt identifying the territory of the rare sideband snail.

“We aim to address the needs of invertebrates; they are really underappreciated,” Jepsen says. “There is no end to the need.” KATE WILLSON.


BEST NATURAL PEST CONTROL

The big winners when the city of Portland began curbside composting in 2011 were seagulls. They flocked to the giant Metro-owned transfer station in Northwest Portland, where fleets of garbage trucks dumped tons of putrid table scraps in a gigantic open-air shed. 

The pests created a business opportunity for Airstrike Bird Control (airstrikebirdcontrol.com). The company uses falcons to scare away gulls, crows, grackles and even geese. When falcons show up, other birds scram.

That’s because falcons are deadly predators that can dive at speeds of well over 200 mph, says Kort Clayton, the Northwest operations manager for Airstrike.

Airstrike’s falcons, which are raised in captivity and cost about $1,000 each, now police Metro Central and the composting yard in North Plains, where all the curbside compost ends up.

Clayton says winged pests quickly learn that falcons, which are unpredictable, are more dangerous to them than air cannons, shiny plastic strips and other devices designed to deter them.

And the good news for pests and the people who love them is that falcons don’t have to make many examples to be effective. “Our program is generally non-lethal,” Clayton says. “We’re not out here wholesale killing birds.” NIGEL JAQUISS.


BEST RESTAURANT MASCOT

Elvis is in the building. He’s just a little sleepy right now.

It’s the first day of summer at Alf’s, a ’50s-style drive-in diner in McMinnville (250 SW Baker St., McMinnville, 472-7314), and a Little League team is already lined up to inaugurate the season with burgers and shakes. But the main attraction here isn’t the menu. It’s the monkey. Through the window of his enclosure, which takes up half the restaurant’s indoor seating space, the only parts of the tiny capuchin visible from under his blanket are a pair of darting eyes and a black tuft of fur. Even in his more active states, Elvis doesn’t do much other than eat and screech. Still, the business rests atop his shoulders: The sign out front advertises “Live Monkeys Here,” and much of the bric-a-brac lining the walls is primate-themed.

A few things to know about Elvis: He is Alf’s fifth monkey. He was born on Valentine’s Day in 2000. He wears a diaper, so as not to gross out customers with any fecal play. He goes home with owner Terrie Rickerd every night, and some days doesn’t come into work. Perhaps to pre-empt knee-jerk criticism of using a live animal to sell burgers, a framed collage of photos of Elvis playing with Rickerd’s family hangs next to his pen.

Of course, that hasn’t stopped the Yelperati: “He looked as if he was lonely and attempting to be social,” wrote one user in 2012. 

Another user, Stathi N. of Beaverton, offered a more enlightened view: “The point of the Monkey is to have a Monkey, if you cant deal with that, go back to your vegan restaurant in your Volvo.” MATTHEW SINGER.

Best of Portland 2014 

Best Listens | Best Buys | Best Moves | Best Animals | Best Civic Life 

Best People | Best Reads | Best Looks | Best Bests

 
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