TIME Environment

Louisiana Black Bear Is No Longer Endangered

In this May 17, 2015 photo, a Louisiana Black Bear, sub-species of the black bear that is protected under the Endangered Species Act, is seen in a water oak tree in Marksville, La.
Gerald Herbert—AP In this May 17, 2015 photo, a Louisiana Black Bear, sub-species of the black bear that is protected under the Endangered Species Act, is seen in a water oak tree in Marksville, La.

The bear is the original inspiration for the "Teddy Bear"

The Louisiana black bear is set to be removed from the endangered species list, the U.S. Department of Interior announced.

The bear, which was the original inspiration for the “Teddy Bear,” has been the focus of conservation efforts for more than 20 years. On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal announced that because of that conservation push, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed that the Louisiana black bear no longer be listed as endangered.

“Across Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, we have worked together with our partners to protect and restore habitat, reintroduce populations and reduce the threats to the bear,” Jewell said in a press release.

“Today’s recovery of the bear is yet another success story of the Endangered Species Act.”

TIME animals

These 4 Clouded Leopard Cubs Weigh Less Than a Box of Cereal

The tiny quadruplets were born last week

The Port Defiance Zoo & Aquarium in Tacoma, Wash., has posted a video of zookeepers feeding four clouded leopard quadruplets that were born last week to mother Chai Li and father Nah Fun.

The cubs, which are not on view to the public yet, spend most of their time eating, with two-hour meal times taking place every three hours. The largest weighs about as much as a box of Corn Flakes, the zoo said in a statement.

Native to Southeast Asia, clouded leopards are endangered. They’re only bred by about two dozen accredited zoos in North America, so Chai Li giving birth to a litter of four cubs is a rare event, zoo curator Karen Goodrowe Beck said in a statement.

TIME Japan

Japanese Aquariums to Stop Buying Dolphins From Town Criticized for Mass Animal Killings

Fishermen trapping a group of dolphins in a holding cove following a large capture of dolphins in Taiji, Japan in 2007.
Lars Nicolaysen—EPA Fishermen trapping a group of dolphins in a holding cove following a large capture of dolphins in Taiji, Japan in 2007.

"This momentous decision marks the beginning of the end for dolphin hunting in Japan"

A group of Japanese aquariums voted to stop purchasing dolphins from the town of Taiji after an international zoo and aquarium organization condemned the town’s annual tradition of killing hundreds of dolphins and other marine mammals.

Most of the members of the Japanese Association of Zoos and Aquariums voted Wednesday to remain affiliated with the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA), which will require them to stop getting dolphins from Taiji, the Guardian reports. The vote came nearly a month after WAZA suspended its Japanese members for acquiring Taiji dolphins. Leaving the group would have prevented Japanese zoos and aquariums from acquiring some rare animals from their counterparts in other parts of the world.

The Pacific coast town of Taiji is known for its fishermen who trap dolphins and then kill them to sell their meat, a practice widely condemned as brutal. Fishermen also capture a small number for sale at zoos and aquariums.

“This momentous decision marks the beginning of the end for dolphin hunting in Japan,” Australia for Dolphins chief executive Sarah Lucas told the Guardian. “Without demand, the hunts won’t continue. It is the first major step towards ending the Taiji dolphin hunts once and for all.”

[Guardian]

TIME animals

Panda Poop Suggests They Shouldn’t Eat Their Favorite Food of Bamboo

A photo taken on April 1, 2014 shows the giant panda Hao Hao eating bamboo at Pairi Daiza animal park in Brugelette, Belgium.
Virginie Lefour—AFP/Getty Images A photo taken on April 1, 2014 shows the giant panda Hao Hao eating bamboo at Pairi Daiza animal park in Brugelette, Belgium.

After 14 hours of eating bamboo, only 17% is digested

Giant pandas may be reliant on a highly specialized diet of bamboo, but new research suggests they are not actually very good at digesting their favorite meal.

Scientists in China discovered that, unlike most herbivores, a panda’s gut bacteria has not evolved to match its diet and remains more akin its omnivorous bear cousins.

The team took 121 fecal samples from 45 giant pandas — 24 adults, 16 juveniles and five cubs — and compared these with data from a previous study, which included seven wild pandas. Both studies indicated that the bears do not have plant-degrading bacteria like Ruminococcaceae and Bacteroides.

“This result is unexpected and quite interesting, because it implies the giant panda’s gut microbiota may not have well adapted to its unique diet, and places pandas at an evolutionary dilemma,” said Xiaoyan Pang, a co-author of the study in a press release.

The scientists also discovered that gut bacteria in late Autumn is quite different from spring and summer — which they hypothesize may be a result of the lack of bamboo shoots in the fall.

Pandas spend up to 14 hours per day consuming bamboo but only digest about 17% of their meal.

China’s most famous animal evolved from a species that ate both meat and plants and began to consume almost exclusively bamboo around 2 million years ago.

TIME animals

White House Unveils Plan to Save the Honeybees

Beekeepers lost more than 40% of honey bee colonies in the last year alone

The number of honeybees across the United States has been on the decline for years, threatening both the country’s environment and agricultural production. The White House unveiled Tuesday its long-awaited plan to reverse the trend.

Among other initiatives, the federal government will seek to increase the size of pollinator habitats, encourage training of future bee scientists and establish seed banks for bee-friendly plants.

More than 90 commercial crops in North America, including many nuts, fruits and vegetables, rely on honey bees, and honey bee pollination contributes billions to the U.S. economy, according to the White House. In recent years, the number of honey bees has declined precipitously. Beekeepers lost more than 40% of honeybee colonies in the last year alone, according to a study released last week.

“By expanding the conversation through enhanced public education and outreach, as well as strongly built public/private partnerships, the Strategy seeks to engage all segments of our society so that, working together, we can take meaningful and important steps to reverse pollinator declines,” said Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy in a letter accompanying the announcement.

The announcement comes nearly a year after the Obama administration announced a task force to look into the health of honeybees.

TIME nature

This Black Bear Spent a Week Roaming a Louisiana Neighborhood

A Louisiana black bear, a protected sub-species of the black bear, is seen from its perch in a water oak tree in a neighborhood of New Orleans on May 17, 2015.
Gerald Herbert—AP A Louisiana black bear, a protected sub-species of the black bear, is seen from its perch in a water oak tree in a neighborhood of New Orleans on May 17, 2015.

The bear was too frightened to leave the neighborhood

(MARKSVILLE, La.)—A young black bear has been a backyard spectacle in a central Louisiana neighborhood where he has spent the past week up one tree or another as he searches for a new home.

The bear is among three to five that have wandered into populated parts of Louisiana in the past 10 days, said wildlife biologist Maria Davidson, head of the large carnivore program for the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

It’s on the outskirts of Marksville. Another has been spotted in Jonesville, about 35 miles north-northeast of Marksville, since Thursday or Friday, Davidson said.

It’s the season when mother bears chase off yearling cubs so they won’t be attacked by any big males that come calling. Females often wind up within visiting distance of mama, but males aren’t allowed to.

“It’s somewhat nature’s way of preventing inbreeding,” Davidson said.

The males, about 1½ years old and 125 to 150 pounds, go on cross-country jaunts.

This one showed up in Marksville about May 10, Davidson said Sunday evening.

“That’s my little grandchild,” joked Patsy Trevillion. “I’ve been watching that bear since Wednesday.”

That’s when she spotted him about 20 to 25 feet up the big water oak between her yard and that of next-door neighbor Dennis Carmouche.

Carmouche said he got home from work that day and saw the bear in the tree.

“I was shocked, amazed — ‘What’s a bear doing in my yard?'” he recounted.

Trevillion was outside. “I hollered at her,” he said.

Trevillion called a game warden she knows. She said he told her, “Tell everybody to back up and maybe he will leave.”

But the bear hung around, apparently too frightened to leave.

“They’re still young enough that when they sense danger, their first instinct is to go up a tree,” Davidson said. “They know they’re safe up a tree, even though it happens to be right in the middle of a neighborhood.”

After a couple of days, state biologists set a trap in Carmouche’s yard. The bear went in, chowed down on the bait, and trundled back out without stepping on the trigger plate and closing the trap.

He’s also made a nest of branches in the tree, she said.

On Sunday, Trevillion said, biologist Ken Moreau made the trap a bit trickier, putting doughnuts under the trigger plate. He also put cat food or tuna into a tube like an 8-ounce water bottle, which he was attaching to the end wall to make the bear work to get at it.

Bear-watching isn’t unmitigated joy for Carmouche. “I’ve got a little 7-year-old girl. We can’t let her go outside by herself. My wife has got a little daycare at home. We’ve got to keep the kids in,” he said.

The bear is comfortable going in and out of the trap, and sooner or later he will step on the trigger plate, Davidson said.

When he does, he’ll get a standard workup: blood and DNA samples, ear tag, and microchip. She also plans to fit him with a GPS collar that will take a location every three hours. “It will give us a really good idea how a dispersing animal can pick and choose his way through a fragmented landscape,” she said.

Trevillion said she watches the bear for hours at a time. When she’s inside, her pit bull’s barking alerts her as the bear climbs up or down, or someone comes into the yard.

“If and when he does leave, I’m sure going to miss him, Trevillion said.

___

AP reporter Janet McConnaughey contributed from New Orleans.

TIME animals

It’s Raining Spiders in Australia

A house is surrounded by spiderwebs next to flood waters in Wagga Wagga, Australia.
Daniel Munoz—Reuters A house is surrounded by spiderwebs next to flood waters in Wagga Wagga, Australia.

They're descending by the millions

Baby spiders appear to be raining down from the sky in Australia.

“Millions” of baby spiders have been pouring down in the Southern Tablelands region of Australia, blanketing the area in webs, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.

One resident said it looked like his house was “abandoned and taken over by spiders.”

Researchers told The Sydney Morning Herald that the area may be seeing a mass migration of baby spiders. Spiders, especially young ones, often release a stream of silk as they jump, and they can be taken with the breeze and carried away. Mass migration can result in a large amount of what’s called gossamer or “Angel Hair,” which is the silk produced by spiders.

Some experts say that once the weather warms, the spiders will disperse.

[The Sydney Morning Herald]

TIME animals

See This Cat Take Care of 6 Abandoned Kittens Named After the Brady Bunch

In this May 11, 2015 photo, Henry, a male cat cares for some kittens at a home in Ketchikan, Alsaka.
Heather Muench—AP In this May 11, 2015 photo, Henry, a male cat cares for some kittens at a home in Ketchikan, Alsaka.

"We have Henry playing Alice; it was the perfect match"

(ANCHORAGE, Alaska)—Six abandoned kittens named after the kids in “The Brady Bunch” TV series are getting a nurturing boost from an unlikely source—a male cat with a slight neurological disorder.

The 3-week-old kittens—named Jan, Marcia, Cindy, Greg, Peter and Bobby—have been adopted by Henry, an 8-month-old male cat in the southeast Alaska community of Ketchikan.

“We have Henry playing Alice; it was the perfect match,” said Heather Muench, comparing the cat’s role to that of the lovable live-in housekeeper on the TV series.

Muench, a volunteer with the Ketchikan Humane Society, is caring for the kittens at home after someone put them into a cardboard box and left them on a road between Klawock and Craig on Prince of Wales Island.

Children walking home from school one day last week heard the kittens crying. A humane society volunteer living on the island had the kittens flown to Ketchikan.

Muench is providing round-the-clock care, both at her home and at her day job, Island-to-Island Veterinary Clinic in Ketchikan.

At home, she’s getting lots of help from Henry, a male cat she and her husband adopted from the all-volunteer Ketchikan Humane Society. Henry’s disorder affects his coordination, causing him to walk unevenly and preventing him from jumping.

What he lacks in motor skills is more than compensated by his demeanor. “He is very, very sweet and gentle, and he has taken a shine to these kittens,” Muench said.

Henry spends hours licking the kittens clean and has become very attached.

Muench takes the kittens to work with her to continue their care during the work day, raising Henry’s angst. “I couldn’t get them out of the crate fast enough to satisfy him. But he was very, very happy to have them back,” she said of her return home from work.

The kittens face an uncertain future because they’re too young to be vaccinated, but she said Henry’s care could be a difference-maker. “It’s kind of unusual for a male cat to decide take on the role of mother. But he’s doing a fabulous job, and he’s probably increasing their chances of survival,” she said.

TIME animals

Scientists Discover the First Fully Warm-Blooded Fish

The opah lives hundreds of feet deep below the surface

Scientists have discovered another apparent first, according to new research published in Science: a fully warm-blooded fish.

The opah, which researchers say dwells in the cold, dark depths of the ocean, is able to produce heat by constantly flapping its fins like wings as it moves about, keeping its blood warm as it circulates throughout its body. The opah’s warm-bloodedness is advantageous for the fish, as it’s able to keep itself at least 5 degrees Celsius warmer than its surrounding water and move about quickly to prey on other fish.

The researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association said the fish is the first known one to be identified as fully warm-blooded, a characteristic typical to mammals and birds; tuna and shark are only partially endothermic, meaning warm blood pumps to only select organs.

Researchers told the Washington Post on Thursday they were curious about the fish given its large size, big eyes, and agility in cold water.

TIME psychology

How Dogs Are Giving Veterans a Reason to Live

jack-russell-terrier-jumping
Getty Images

A dog's love can cure anything — including PTSD

Phil Ruddock had trouble adjusting when he returned home to rural Louisiana, disabled by a traumatic brain injury he received during an Air Force tour of duty during Desert Storm. He had all the classic symptoms of PTSD: “I drank all the time, I couldn’t get along with anyone, I kept checking every room in the house to make sure it was clear every time I came home, I got up and checked the locks on the doors and windows too many times to count, I was always depressed and pissed at the world, and I never slept. I drove my family so crazy that they wanted to leave,” he says with a country twang. “I still do some of those things,” he adds, “but it’s getting better.”

Sit. Stay. Lie down. They’re the words that helped him through his recovery.

Ruddock’s now assisting other veterans afflicted with post-traumatic stress disorder from Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan the same way he survived his night terrors and flashbacks — with service dogs. His nonprofit Brothers and Sisters in Arms is a boot camp of sorts based out of central Louisiana, where he’s teaching veterans to train their own service dogs, all adopted from shelters. The repetitive learning of commands works like physical therapy for disabled vets and gives them something to work towards. Once they’ve completed the program, they gain a loyal companion and a sense of accomplishment, “a pride that you can’t imagine,” Ruddock says.

“When a soldier is deployed or on base, they feel secure because they have all the other soldiers there watching their back. But when they are out of the military, when their spouse goes to work, their kids go to school and they’re left alone, they have nobody watching their back,” Ruddock says. “It makes them very anxious, paranoid. A dog turns out to be their battle buddy and watches their back. It never leaves them, it never judges them, it never asks questions that they don’t want to answer. It gives them unconditional love,” Ruddock explains.

A program connecting veterans and rescue dogs may sound cutesy, almost saccharine, but for Ruddock, it’s serious — vital even. He asks the veterans to list Brothers and Sisters in Arms as the primary contact associated with the animal’s microchip, rather than the owner’s home phone. “The suicide rate for veterans is 22 per day,” Ruddock says, about 8,000 every year. “If that dog would show up at a shelter and they ran the microchip, chances are that veteran is not going to answer his phone.”

Ruddock started the nonprofit in November 2012 after his personal experience with an abandoned pit bull. Following a nervous breakdown, he lost his job as lead clerk at the local VA outpatient clinic. His spent his days walled alone up on his remote property, until a friend arrived with a pit bull for him to train. “She was as beat up and as messed up as I was,” he remembers of his white-faced, brown-eared dog, Mia. “She kind of rescued me.” The dog sat in the passenger seat of his truck on rides into a nearby village and eventually gave him confidence to travel farther.

Within the past couple months, Ruddock logged more than 20,000 miles in his sojourns across the Sugar State, from Slidell, a town across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans that butts up against Mississippi, all the way out west to Fort Polk, an Army installation near the Texas border. Last year, he certified 31 service dogs, which are specially licensed after 120 hours in public, and 15 companion dogs.

At the pound, Ruddock seeks out the calmest dogs. “We look for dogs with a good disposition. We don’t want the ones that jump and bark and get with the other dogs,” he says. He generally avoids puppies — too much added stress — and certain breeds like German shepherds that can become overprotective if they’re not socialized regularly, but otherwise he’ll take every breed from a 20-pound Jack Russell terrier to a 200-pound mastiff.

Training sessions run one hour a week for roughly eight weeks, though he’s come to expect a few absences. “A veteran may have problems one day. Some demons may come up and he may not be able to show up. It may take a little longer,” he says.

Besides the essentials — what Ruddock calls good citizenship for canines (think: table manners for children) — the service dogs learn three main commands that are unique for handlers who still carry wounds from the battlefield. The dog learns to “block,” inserting itself into the space between the owner and somebody else so that a person keeps their distance. “Cover” sends the pup to its owner’s back or side, facing away as a kind of lookout that allows a vet to relax at, say, a counter or cash register. The last is “grounded.” If the soldier faints or has a nightmare, the dog lays on top of the owner and licks his face, prompting a welcome (if wet) return to reality.

Brothers and Sisters in Arms is different from many other groups that provide service dogs. For one, Ruddock doesn’t charge for his services or the animal. His operation is funded entirely by donations; the bill from other groups can run as high as $25,000. (“These guys get out of the military, and they’re just above poverty level. They can’t afford that,” he says.) His classes are all one-on-one, making it easier for vets who can be skittish around crowds, nervous about competition and failure. And every instructor is a former soldier, because, as Ruddock says, “There’s no better therapy than a veteran talking to another veteran.”

Ruddock wants to see the program expand across Louisiana. He’s already processing five to 10 applications a week, and he’s starting to get referrals from VA psychiatrists who can’t officially recommend a service dog but still send warriors his way. “It’s not about the fame or fortune. It’s about that feeling you get when you help somebody. The warm fuzzies, the goosebumps, whatever you want to call it,” he says of his motivations. “It’s about doing what’s right.”

It’s for the men and women, his brothers and sisters, that Ruddock keeps trekking across the bayous, working with soldiers, like the young man he met last month. “You can tell he’s had it rough,” Ruddock says. “He couldn’t even stand the sound of a loud car going by. He kept moving around and shaking. He couldn’t look you in the eye. He constantly looked down, and if he did catch your eye, it was a white stare like he could see right through you.” The man expressed no emotion, until Ruddock brought out a puppy. As if he was emerging from a daze, the man started petting the dog. He smiled, and Ruddock knew another soldier was safe.

This article originally appeared on NationSwell.

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