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30 Oct

Bats Need Love Too

Halloween is upon us, and what animal is more a symbol of the holiday than the bat? It's also Bat Week, a designation created to help raise awereness about how awesome bats are, how important they are to us, and to help people realize that most of what you THINK you know about them is wrong. Read on to have all of your bat myths dispelled!

3642531568_a1a9253ef2_bPhoto by Mark Evans via Flickr Creative Commons.

Did you know?

  • Bats are diverse. With over 1,000 species, bats are the most diverse group of mammals.
  • Bats are not rodents. They're not even closely related to rodents. They belong to the mammal order Chiroptera (rodents belong to the order Rodentia), so calling them "flying rats" is flat-out wrong.
  • Bats eat more than mosquitoes. Some bats do eat mosquitoes, but that's not all they eat. Most species in North America feed primarily on insects and help control populations of beetles and moths that are agricultural pests. Other species feed on flower nectar and are important pollinators. Some eat fruit. There are other species that specialize in feeding on fish, frogs or small mammals. And of course, there are three species of vampire bat that feed on the blood of other animals.
  • Bats aren't blind. All bat species have eyes and none are blind. Many species do primarily rely on echolocation to find their prey.
  • Bats won't get tangled in your hair. Bats sometimes swoop close to people, likely in an effort to catch mosquitoes trying to bite us, and so it's possible that behavior inspired this myth.
  • Bats are not dangerous. While bats can carry rabies like most other mammals, your chances of being bitten by a rabid bat are exceedingly low. That chance goes down to zero if you never try to handle a bat. A bat can't bite you if it doesn't touch you, and the only way that will happen is if you try to touch it. Here's how to remove a bat (or bats) that get into your home.
  • Bats are in trouble. Over six million bats have died in North America in just the last few years. The deadly killer is a disease known as white-nose syndrome that mysteriously appeared in 2006 and proceeded to wipe out mass numbers of bats. Biologists are still trying to figure out what white-nose syndrom is and how to stop it.
  • Bat boxes do work. Many people try to help bats by putting out bat boxes, only to be disappointed when bats don't move in. Bats boxes do work, but you have to have the correct model and you have to mount it properly. Here's a good tutorial on building and mounting a bat box.

So there you have it: bats are awesome! If you're still not convinced, watch this video of an orphaned bat responding to its caretakers, and your heart will melt. 

  

 Adopt a Bat with the National Wildlife Federation.

24 Oct

This is Why You Shouldn't Ever Run From a Bear

 If you encounter a bear in the wild, you should never run from it.  Here's why.

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This video from KTUU.com had this caption:

"Billy Adrian says he was in a vehicle driving at about 25 to 30 mph along Dead Man's Curve in Kodiak when he and other vehicles saw a brown bear 'just running' alongside the road Thursday."

Bears have no problem sprinting at speeds up to 35 miles per hour. Humans aren't even half as fast.

Tips for hiking in bear country:

  • Do research and know if bears are active in the area you're hiking.
  • Make noise while you're hiking to alert bears to your presence. Bears generally avoid people and dangerous encounters are more likely to happen if you surprise a bear.
  • Carry bear spray.
  • Don't hike alone, or at a minimum make sure others know where you are hiking and when you should arrive at your destination.
  • If you encounter black bear clap and yell to scare the bear away, and slowly back away from it. Black bears are afraid of people and will run away if they can. 
  • If you encounter a brown (grizzly) bear slowly back away but don't try to intimidate it. Grizzlies will attack if they feel threatened so trying to scare one away like you would a black bear could actually trigger an attack. If attacked by a grizzly, play dead so that the bear no longer sees you as a threat.
  • Never run from a bear, which could stimulate its predatory instinct to chase you.
  • Most importantly, remember that bear attacks are extremely rare. You have more chance of being injured or killed driving your car to the grocery store than you ever would from a bear.

15074449878_485aa9132d_kPhoto by Sandy Brown Jensen via Flickr Creative Commons.

Adopt a bear and protect wildlife with the National Wildlife Federation. 

22 Oct

Meet the Hellbender

Just in time for Halloween, I introduce you to the hellbender.

No, it's not one of Satan's minions or a CGI monster. It's a type of salamander native to the streams and rivers of eastern North America.  Despite its demonic-sounding name, this spectacular amphibian is completely harmless to people. Yet the species is rapidly declining due to human activity such as deforestation, erosion and chemical runoff into our streams--which is the real horror story.

Watch this video put out by the Forest Service and partners about one of North America's most fascinating and little-known wild animals.

 

The Last Dragons - Protecting Appalachia's Hellbenders from Freshwaters Illustrated on Vimeo.

Here's a close up of the ancient beauty of the hellbender, an animal perfectly adapted to and camouflaged in its environment.

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Photo by Brian Gratwicke via Flickr Creative Commons. 

Save Appalachian streams and the hellbenders that live in them with National Wildlife Federation.

20 Oct

Nothing is Cuter Than This Baby Rhino Playing With a Goat

Today's installment of utter cuteness comes to us from the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre in South Africa.

The centre's mission is to conserve rare, vulnerable or endangered animals. A big part of their work is captive breeding of endangered species. While they specialize in cheetahs, the Centre cares for many other species as well, including Gertjie the orphaned white rhinoceros

Gertjie--nicknamed "Little G"--has a sad story that is all too common. He was found next to the body of his dead mother, who was killed and mutilated by poachers. They hacked off her horn for the lucrative traditional Chinese medicine black market.

Practiced throughout Asia, traditional Chinese medicaine holds that rhino horn is used to treat a variety illnesses--despite the fact that science has shown that it actually has no medicinal value and despite the fact that killing rhinos for their horns is illegal. Rhinos are rapidly declining and some species are close to extinction. Yet such is the power of tradition and faith.

White rhino
Southern white rhinoceros calf.

Luckily for Little G, he was rescued and brought to the Centre. White rhinos are the most social of the five rhino species, and even after Little G recovered from the trauma of losing his mother, it was evident that he needed companionship. So the folks at the Centre introduced Little G to a pair of goats, and a fast friendship was born.

Here is Little G frolicking with Lammie the goat. The joy the two animals are experiencing in this video is evident and infectious. Whenever I get down about the horrible things people do to animals, videos like this one and the story of Little G's rescue help remind me that there are still good people and good things happening in the world.

 

Photo by Vanessa via Flickr Creative Commons.

14 Oct

(Adorable) German Shepherd Naps Like My Dad

Here's an adorable video of one tuckered out pup! He MUST be in a deep, deep sleep, dreaming of squirrels, fetching things and delicious, meaty treats ... It may be an oldie from last year but it's still CUTE AS EVER: 

Not to mention, he totally looks like my Dad napping on the couch on a lazy weekend. I LOVE YOU, DOG!!!

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8 Oct

*Kraaazy* Kangaroo Street Fight, Because Australia

Call me naive but I had NO IDEA kangaroos actually, really, for real, REAL-LIFE boxed like THIS:

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30 Sep

Meet the Carnivorous Kangaroo

Kangaroos are herbivores. Native to Australia, they've evolved to be grazers and browsers, feeding on vegetation much like deer in other parts of the world.

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Red Kangaroo. Photo by Mike Souza via Flickr Creative Commons.


When I stumbled on this footage of a young red kangaroo feeding on a seabird, I had to do a double-take. It sounds like something out of the plot of a bad horror movie, but apparently, there have been anecdotal reports of kangaroos eating meat. This seems to be the first time the behavior has been recorded.

Check it out:

No one really knows what might cause this unusual feeding behavior. It turns out that many herbivores have been documented feeding on meat, from cows to deer to elephants. 

It could be that this particular kangaroo was lacking some vital nutrient and developed a craving for meat that could supply it. It could be caused by some a mutation that drove this particular animal to go carnivorous. It's that kind of mutation that sometimes leads to entirely new species, if the mutation results in better survival and reproductive success for the animals that have it. I doubt it hunted the bird, but rather scavenged the carcass on the beach. Either way, it's pretty amazing to see this behavior captured on video. 

Nature never ceases to amaze!

Protect Wildlife with the National Wildlife Federation.  

30 Sep

Ten Reasons to Love Opossums

Opossums are one of the most common mammals in our cities and towns. The are really cool and interesting animals, but most people find them gross and scary-looking.  I'm here to throw a little love to these misunderstood creatures with my top ten reasons to love opossums.

10.  Opossums are North America's Only Marsupial.
Opossums are not rats or even closely related to rodents. They are marsupials. Most marsupial species live in Australia and like kangaroos or koalas, opossums have a very short pregnancy--just 12 days--and give birth to their young even before eyes or hind limbs have fully formed. With only front legs, the tiny babies must crawl into their mother's pouch, where they'll attach to a nipple and nurse while they continue developing.

9. Baby Opossums are Fluffy and Cute.
When born, baby opossums are hairless and only the size of a bumble bee. But by the time they're ready to leave mom's pouch after about 11 weeks, baby opossums have turned into adorable little balls of flull.

8. Baby Opossums Ride on Mom's Back.
Baby opossums get around by riding on their mothers' backs. Few things are cuter than seeing a dozen or so babies just hanging out on mom's back. 

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Mother opossum and young. Photo by Monica R. via Flickr Creative Commons.

7. They Break Records.
Opossums have 50 teeth in their mouths, more than any other mammal. 

6. Like Humans, They are Extremely Adaptable.
Unlike more finicky species, opossums don't require special foods or places to live. They'll pretty much eat anything from fruit to mice to insects (and yes, sometimes our trash). They're just as happy to sleep in a tree cavity as they are in an abandoned car. They might not be the most elegant of animals, but you've got to respect an animal that can live anywhere and thrive.

5. They Eat Garden Pests.
Opossums are great to have around the garden. They love eating slugs and other garden pests and can help keep populations of these critters down so your garden plants thrive.

4. They Utilize Trickery to Survive.
Opossums really do play dead when they can't escape from a threat. They flop over, roll their eyes in the back of their head, stick their tongue out, and release a foul-smelling fluid from their anal glands. This behavior disarms the prey-drive of many predators that are triggered to attack prey that runs or fights back, and it can save an opossum's life. Check out this young 'one "playing 'possum." 

 

 

3. They Are Immune to Rabies.
Unlike most other mammmals, opossums don't contract or spread rabies. Their body temperature is slightly lower than that of other mammals, and the virus can't take hold. 

2. Opossums Eat Venomous Snakes.
Snakes don't stand a chance if there are opossums around. Opossums eat snakes, including venomous ones. In fact, they are generally immune to the effects of snake venom.

1. Opossums Destroy Ticks.
Opossums are masters at destroying ticks. This is because they are very fastidious animals, constantly grooming themselves and removing (and eating) parasites like ticks. One opossum can take out around 5,000 ticks each year. That alone makes them worth having around!

Even though they are extremely adaptable and a successful species, they sometimes get themselves into trouble and need a helping hand. Here's a video of one young opossum in need of rescue.

 

Protect Wildlife with the National Wildlife Federation.  

25 Sep

Sheep Aren't as Dumb as the Seem

SheepSheep don't have a reputation for being the most intelligent animals out there. Generally, there might even be some truth behind that stereotype.  

Every once in a while, howver, a sheep with more smarts than most catches our attention. Such is the case with this lovely lady, who figured out how to navigate over a series of grates installed in the ground spefically to deter hooved livestock such as cattle--and yes, sheep--from leaving the pasture.

Check her out.

 

Via Laughing Squid. Photo by Stefan Powell via Flickr Creative Commons. 

20 Sep

Don't Want None, WHAAA? GIANT Anaconda Sighting in Brazil

Move over with the buns, huns — these boaters spotted one monster of an anaconda in a river in Brazil   The woman in the boat is understandably FREAKING OUT while the men want to pursue the beast — WHY?? I'm on your side, lady:

WHY, sirs, would you even touch that?! Don't mess with Mama Nature, friends:

Anaconda-brazil

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Welcome to the Bites @ Animal Planet, where you can connect with the people who bring Animal Planet to life. Find out what's in the works here at Animal Planet, share your feedback with the team and see what's getting our attention online and in the news.

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