TIME animals

What’s This? Oh Nothing, Just a Raccoon Hitching a Ride on an Alligator

Chillest raccoon ever?

Sometimes, really incredible things happen in nature — like this moment when a raccoon was seen riding on top of an alligator:

A man named Richard Jones captured this image in Florida’s Ocala National Forest Sunday, WFTV reports. He and his family were walking by the Oaklawaha River looking for alligators, and when his son walked through some palm fronds to try to get some photos, he apparently startled the raccoon, who then hopped onto a nearby gator.

“I snapped a lucky picture right when the gator slipped into the water and before the raccoon jumped off and scurried away,” Jones told WFTV. “Without the context you’d think the raccoon was hitching a ride across the river.”

So, sadly, this is not a picture of a super-chill raccoon bumming a ride from his equally chill gator friend — but Jones still calls it “the photo of a lifetime.”

TIME Viral Videos

Watch These Kittens Recreate The Psycho Shower Scene


Anyone who has seen a kitten get a case of the zoomies knows that all kittens have a little psycho in them. So it’s no surprise that YouTube user Pasdidée has followed up the smash hit all-kitten reenactment of the dramatic final fight in The Lion King with something a little more frightening.

Specifically, in the new video, the furry little felines reenact one of the most gruesome scenes in cinematic history — the shower scene from Psycho.

It’s dark and disturbing, and will make cat owners across the globe lock their bathroom doors to bar furry intruders from entering the room before stepping into the shower.


TIME animals

See the Zoo Animals That Escaped in Georgia

Hippos and bears, among other animals, escaped from a Tbilisi zoo this weekend after heavy flooding. At least a dozen people, and several animals, have died in the floods

TIME animals

Dogs Can Tell When You’re Not Nice to Their Owners, Study Finds

New research out of Japan suggests dogs cooperate socially

Scientists are learning more and more about why dogs are man’s best friend, and a new study suggests they can tell when people aren’t being kind to their owners.

Japanese researchers conducted an experiment where three groups of 18 dogs each watched their owners interact with two other strangers and try and open a box, AFP reports. In the first group, the owner asked for help from one of the people and was refused. In the second group, the owner asked for help and received it from one person. And in the third group, both people were neutral and neither helped nor refused.

Afterwards, the two people accompanying the owner offered the dog food. Researchers said the dogs were more likely to choose food from the neutral participant and ignore the person who refused to help in the first group.

“We discovered for the first time that dogs make social and emotional evaluations of people regardless of their direct interest,” said lead researcher Kazuo Fujita, a professor of comparative cognition at Kyoto University. The dogs showed no preference for accepting food in the other scenarios, according to the study, set to be published in the journal Animal Behaviour.

That the dogs don’t always act out of immediate self interest is evidence of their ability to cooperate socially, a trait found in a few species, Fujita said.

“There is a similar study that showed tufted capuchins have this ability, but there is no evidence that chimpanzees demonstrate a preference unless there is a direct benefit to them,” he said.


TIME animals

Taxi Driver Rescues Family of Ducks, Gives Them Free Ride to River

Layna Segall

"As a human it is our responsibility to protect those animals"

When taxi driver Urga Adunga saw a duck and her nine ducklings stuck in traffic in Calgary, he knew he had to act.

“I didn’t want to pass them because there is no way for them to escape from the road, it’s blocked all the way,” he told CBC News. So he pulled over, flagged down some other cars to help and put his feathered friends in the back seat.

“The other people, they are very nice people, and they stopped and they helped me get the nine ducklings,” he said. “One of the people who helped me was a mother, and she had a backpack for the baby and she tried to put them in there, but we couldn’t do it. So I told them to put them for me in the car.”

Adunga said the animals appeared calm throughout the $21 ride to the Bow River—he didn’t charge them, obviously—though he had the shoo the mother duck out of the car before carrying the babies out.

“As a human it is our responsibility to protect those animals, and nature and the environment,” he said. “I could do it again too. Not only the animals, humans too. We have to rescue each other, we have to help each other.”


TIME animals

Captive Chimps to Receive Endangered Species Protections

Germany Zoo chimpanzee
Jens Meyer—AP A baby chimpanzee relaxes on its mother Swela at the Leipzig Zoo in Leipzig, central Germany, April 23, 2015.

Approximately 2,000 chimpanzees live in captivity in the U.S.

Captive chimpanzees will soon be considered endangered species by the U.S. federal government just like their wild counterparts, federal authorities announced Friday. The designation creates new restrictions on the trade of the animal and has the potential to curb some scientific research that relies on chimpanzees.

The decision comes in response to the increasing threats facing chimpanzees since they were first listed as endangered in 1990, including growing deforestation and expanded poaching and pet trade, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). An estimated 300,000 to 400,000 wild chimpanzees live across 22 countries in Africa. Approximately 2,000 chimpanzees live in captivity in the U.S.

“This change shows that many people are finally beginning to understand that it is not appropriate to subject our closest relatives to disrespectful, stressful or harmful procedures,” said famed chimpanzee advocate Jane Goodall in a statement.

The rule, rooted in the Endangered Species Act, will prohibit the import or export of chimpanzees into and out of the U.S. without a permit. The rule also bans the trade of chimpanzees in interstate commerce without permission. Chimpanzee use for scientific purposes will still be allowed but will be restricted to purposes that “benefit the species in the wild,” and will be subject to oversight from the USFWS. The new rule is set to be published on June 16 and will go into effect on Sept. 14.

Scientific experiments involving chimpanzees have come under intense criticism in recent years after a number of cases of alleged abuse. The New England Primate Research Center, which housed 2,000 primates, was ordered closed in 2013 after the death of four monkeys. And, that same year, the National Institutes of Health said it would largely curtail its use of chimpanzees for research and rely on them only in special circumstances.

“Their likeness to humans has made them uniquely valuable for certain types of research, but also demands greater justification for their use,” NIH Director Dr. Francis S. Collins said at the time.

TIME animals

Watch This Reporter Freak Out When Cicadas Attack Her

There has been a lot of buzz about this video

Even though KSNT reporter Katya Leick was recording her stand-up from a tank at Fort Riley near Topeka, Kansas, surrounded by Army personnel in fatigues, it seemed like nothing could protect her from an ambush of pestering cicadas.

In video that, fortunately for Leick, was not live, she can be seen swatting the insects away and shrieking when they stuck to her face. Also fortunately for Leick — and anyone else who ends up in this situation — experts say the insects are harmless.

Read next: 7 Things You Didn’t Know About Cicadas

TIME animals

Truck Full of Sharks Crashes on Florida Highway

Just when you thought it was safe to go back on the road

One shark was killed and three more unsettled in an accident on Florida’s I-95 in Volusia County, sheriff’s deputies have reported.

The sandbar sharks were being transported to an aquarium in Coney Island, New York, when the tractor trailer lost a tire. The truck careened off the road and stopped at a tree line – the shark that died had been thrown clear of the semi in the collision. SeaWorld was summoned to the crash site to transfer the three surviving sharks, who will be transported to the aquarium’s Orlando facility until further arrangements can be made.

“We’re just grateful no one got injured and we’re happy to help,” SeaWorld assistant curator Jim Kinsler said, insensitively, according to My News 13. He said the five-foot-long sharks are in good condition currently, aside from stress from transportation.

The Florida Museum of Natural History claims that sandbar sharks are the most abundant species of large shark on this side of the Atlantic.

This article originally appeared on People.com.

TIME Drought

Why Some California Cities Are Bracing for a Bear Invasion

Justin Worland A bear crossing sign on the side of the road in Monrovia, Calif.

Blacks bears are rocking the suburbs

MONROVIA, Calif.—June is the beginning of bear season, and California game warden Marty Wall is doing the rounds in this quiet suburb only 20 miles from downtown Los Angeles. In his green pickup truck, the wildlife veteran patrols the streets as he waits for locals to report problem bears.

That’s right—bears. Wall, a lieutenant at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW), has 23 years experience with bears and other wildlife. He’s chased them through backyards, across golf courses and on freeways. And, like his counterparts across the state, he is likely to face a rapid increase in the number of bear calls in coming months.

The drought in California has killed more than 12 million trees in the forests of Southern California. And while many small animals that can’t move have died off as their habitat shrinks, bears and other big game have simply moved rather than compete for food in a cramped forest area. For many of California’s 35,000 black bears, that means venturing into residential neighborhoods, searching for food in garbage and trash. “Accidentally or not we supply what they need to survive. Just about every lawn has a meal in it,” Wall tells me as we roam the foothills in his green pickup truck. “Black bears are just looking for a handout, the easiest path through life.”

Whether or not you think bears are on the animal equivalent of welfare, the drought has increasingly brought bears into contact with humans in recent years. Wildlife officials in Central California’s Kern County, for instance, received 1,400 bear calls between June and December of last year, according to DFW wildlife biologist Vicky Monroe. That’s more than the county received in the 20 previous years combined.

“No one had any idea of what the drought really meant before last year. We weren’t in a position to be saying more publicly that there were measurable impacts,” Monroe said. “But last season was just insane.”

Officials say they expect these numbers to grow as the drought continues to kill off forest land. The ever smaller snowpack—which was at its lowest —may also be affecting hibernation patterns, causing bears to forage for longer than they would otherwise, according to Patricia Kruger, regional threatened and endangered species coordinator at the U.S. Forest Service. Officials have sent experts door-to-door in affected neighborhoods, held town hall meetings and canceled vacations to prepare locals for the day when a bear lands on their doorsteps.

Don’t get too worried, though—Wall says that there’s no reason to fear a bear invasion if you’re smart. Bears may stop by your backyard, but they’re more interested in sifting through your garbage for Big Mac leftovers than confronting you. In Wall’s experience, it’s people that tend to turn a bear sighting into a problem. Slapping a bear is bad idea, he tells me. So is trying to take a selfie with a bear. He’s seen locals attempt both.

Despite that, there hasn’t been a deadly bear attack in years. Most bears are captured and returned to their natural habitats, but, in cases where bears do attack, Wall and his counterparts respond and the bear is put down. “I like to think of it more as a misunderstanding than an attack,” he says of most interactions between bears and humans. “You have a bear trying to get a sandwich and then gets a finger. And then you call that an attack.”

Most Monrovia residents know how to handle bears. The city has more sightings of the animal than all but two cities in California—the mountain towns of Lake Tahoe and Mammoth Lakes. Official street signs are emblazoned with a “bear crossing” warning and most sightings don’t even elicit a phone call to wildlife authorities. Wall, one of four game wardens that works in the area, has become such a presence in the community that the city manager waves hello as he passes in an opposing car.

People in other communities where bears could appear in the coming months may not be as welcoming. Wall, who patrols a swathe of Southern California that includes two-thirds of Los Angeles County, says that people unfamiliar with bears are often unforgiving. Killing bears in residential communities is illegal, but it’s hard to prosecute, Wall says. Bears found in residential communities are often riddled with bullet holes. When they survive the bullets—and they often do—they still need to avoid poisoned food.

“How many of these bears, now that they have to wander further, are going to come across people and have negative interactions?” Jason Holley, DFW supervising wildlife biologist, asked rhetorically. “That’s what we’re worried about.”

TIME animals

An Undercover Investigation Alleges Major Mistreatment of Egg-Laying Hens

Costco Egg Investigation
Courtesy of the Humane Society of the United States Undercover investigation conducted at an egg supplier to Costco, the nation’s second-largest grocery retailer.

'It really is harder to imagine a worse existence'

An undercover investigation by the Humane Society of the United States found that a leading chicken farm that sells eggs to retail giant Costco has forced its chickens to live in cramped cages, often with decaying or mummified chicken corpses, the group said on Tuesday.

“It really is harder to imagine a worse existence than being confined in one of these battery cages,” said Paul Shapiro, vice president of farm animal protection for the Humane Society, on a telephone press conference. “The inhumane and unhygienic conditions that we exposed… are unsustainable.”

A Humane Society affiliate worked undercover at Hillandale Farms in Pennsylvania for nearly a month while simultaneously capturing photographic and video evidence of grim treatment of egg-supplying chickens. In the video several hens are crammed together in a small cage, each living on less space than a sheet of paper. The group alleges that a single worker may be responsible for more than 250,000 chickens, making it difficult to keep track of dead chickens. Many hens that have died will sit at the bottom of their cages for weeks before being removed, the investigation says.

Read More: A Guide to What Kind of Eggs You Should Buy

The eggs’ packaging, which portrays chickens roaming on an idyllic farm with green grass, couldn’t be further from the truth, Shapiro said. “These hens never feel sun on their back, never set foot on a blade of grass, never even spread their wings,” he said.

The treatment of caged hens could have health implications for humans as well as hens. Multiple studies have found that housing hens in particularly close quarters, known as battery cages, may increase the likelihood of salmonella poisoning. Indeed, a Hillandale facility in Iowa was at the center of a salmonella outbreak that affected more than 1,600 people and led to the recall of 500 million eggs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). At the time, a Hillandale representative said that the incident had company officials “to take a hard look at our operations.”

This is not the first time undercover reporting by animal rights organizations has exposed practices seen as inhumane. A 2008 video captured by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) of brutal methods used to kill pigs at an Iowa farm sparked a national outcry. In response, agriculture lobbyists began to advocate for controversial laws that would criminalize undercover reporting on the treatment of animals.

The European Union banned battery cages in 2012 and many suppliers in the U.S. have followed suit. For its part, Costco announced in 2007 that it planned to move to cage free eggs, but didn’t provide a timeline for achieving that goal. Hillandale Farms and Costco representatives did not immediately return requests for comment from TIME. Reuters reported that a Hillandale employee said the company was aware of the investigation, but had no immediate comment.

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