TIME viral

And Then Here’s an Owl Going for a Swim in Lake Michigan

Could he be the avian Ryan Lochte? This video points to yes

Silly owl, your primary mode of transit is supposed to be flying, not swimming! But alas, here you are, doing what is essentially the butterfly stroke in the cold waters of Lake Michigan.

MORE: The Top 10 New Species of 2014

Chicago area photographer and birder Steve Spitzer captured the brief (but, come on, totally riveting) footage this week in the city’s Rogers Park neighborhood, WGN reports. The Great Horned Owl had apparently been forced into the water by two peregrine falcons — but clearly, he ended up making the best of the situation.

Read next: This Is How Electric Eels Shock Their Victims

TIME animals

This Time-Lapse Video Shows a Cute Puppy Grow Into a Noble Dog in Just 23 Seconds

Watch Sophia the Rhodesian Ridgeback grow up

If you need a break from all the upsetting things happening in the world right now, watch this super adorable time-lapse video that shows a Rhodesian Ridgeback grow from a 2-month-old puppy into a 3-year-old adult.

Her name is Sophia, and in just 23 seconds, she goes from a floppy-eared, big-pawed bundle of pure cuteness to a big, strong, totally noble canine.

Oh, and if you’re wondering how she was so cooperative, be sure to check out the bloopers at the end.

 

 

TIME animals

8 Animal Plagues Wreaking Havoc Right Now

tiger
Getty Images

The scariest diseases plaguing the animal kingdom

WSF logo small

When we talk about studying, controlling, or just plain worrying about pandemics, we usually think of our own, human diseases. But many other species face existential threats as well. In the wild and on the farm, through climate change, human agency, and other causes, deadly diseases and conditions are ravaging specific animal communities. Here are eight of the scariest diseases plaguing the animal kingdom today.

Plague: White-nose syndrome

Target: Bats

This disease is named for the characteristic fuzzy white bloom found on the muzzles (as well as the wings and ears) of hibernating bats infected with the fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans. The fungus seems to have originated in Europe, where it does not harm the native bats. Since it was first documented in New York in 2006, white-nose syndrome has killed an estimated 6.7 million bats in 25 U.S. states and 5 Canadian provinces. Scientists believe bats primarily contract the disease from one another, though it’s also possible bats can pick up spores from contaminated cave surfaces. Some human cave explorers may also transport fungal spores in their clothing and equipment. There’s no known cure, and the disease is incredibly deadly, usually killing between 70 and 90 percent of bats in a hibernating group; scientists are still trying to figure out exactly how the fungus kills bats, and why European bats seem to be immune.

WORLD SCIENCE FESTIVAL: 12 Animals We’ve Driven to Extinction in the Last 50 Years

Plague: Canine distemper virus

Target: Tigers (and dogs, and other canines)

The virus that causes canine distemper is related to measles. It spreads through respiration, but quickly attacks the nervous system and gastrointestinal tract. The virus can also jump to big cats, and is cropping up in tiger populations across the world. In just five years, one population of tigers in Russia dropped from 38 individuals to 9; traces of CDV found in two dead tigers led scientists to finger the virus as the chief suspect in the population crash.

A recent study highlights how smaller populations of tigers are extremely vulnerable to CDV. Tigers are not abundant enough to act as reservoirs for the virus, so researchers think the key to preventing CDV from spreading amongst them is to target the canine species that are the sources of outbreaks. India is contemplating a massive dog vaccination campaign against the virus; the drive is already underway in villages near tiger reserves.

Plague: Starfish wasting disease

Target: Starfish

Over the past 40 years, starfish populations have been stricken by recurring outbreaks of a devastating condition. At first, a starfish’s limbs start to curl, then twist and fall off. Eventually, the wasting disease ravages the entire starfish, turning it into a mushy goo.

Researchers previously blamed this “starfish wasting disease” on environmental changes, like pollution or fluctuations in ocean temperatures. But a new study pins the blame primarily on a type of waterborne virus called a densovirus. One of the chief lines of evidence to support this theory was the fact that captive starfish in aquariums suddenly contracted the disease—except for those starfish in aquariums filled with UV-treated water, which kills viruses. The researchers also found higher genetic traces of the virus in diseased starfish tissue, and found that healthy starfish infected with densovirus would develop the disease within a week or so.

WORLD SCIENCE FESTIVAL: Can Animals Go Insane?

Plague: Brucellosis

Target: Bison, cow, elk

The bacterial disease brucellosis causes a wide range of symptoms in animals, from arthritis to inflamed joints to reproductive trouble. It can also spread to people via unpasteurized dairy products, causing fever and flu-like symptoms as well as arthritis. While brucellosis has largely been eradicated from cattle in the U.S., the disease persists in the bison and elk of Yellowstone National Park. Fears that the wild animals could reintroduce brucellosis to nearby cattle have been bolstered by 17 documented transmissions of the disease from wildlife to livestock in the greater Yellowstone area from 2002 to 2012. Despite protests from conservation groups, park officials are planning to cull up to 900 bison from the herd this winter to stem the spread of brucellosis and stabilize the population.

Plague: Colony collapse disorder

Target: Honeybees

Starting in 2006, beekeepers in the U.S. began to notice what looked like a honeybee version of the Rapture: At once, most or all of the adult worker bees in the colony vanished without a trace, leaving behind empty hives and queen bees bereft of subjects. Colony collapse disorder, as the phenomenon came to be known, is not entirely new to beekeeping, but the magnitude of losses is unprecedented. The root cause of CCD is still unknown: Pesticides, viruses, mites, fungi, antibiotics and other factors have all been proposed.

Most scientists think CCD is prompted by a combination of factors, and that it may not directly kill the bees outright. University of Maryland bee expert Dennis van Engelsdorp explained, in National Geographic: “You don’t die of AIDS; you die of pneumonia or some other condition that hits when your immunity is down. Once the bees’ immune defenses have been weakened, “we’re pretty sure in all these cases, diseases are the tipping point.” Hive losses are still being felt across the country, but the rate of collapse seems to be slowing. According to the USDA, the loss rate in honeybee colonies nationwide over the 2013-2014 winter from all causes was 23.2 percent—still above what beekeepers consider sustainable, but less dire than the 30.5 percent losses of the 2012-13 winter, or the 8-year average annual loss of 29.6 percent.

WORLD SCIENCE FESTIVAL: The Best (and Worst) Fathers in the Animal Kingdom

Plague: Rabies

Target: Bats, monkeys, dogs, raccoons, foxes…and a lot more

Rabies is present on all the continents of the world except Antarctica. The virus, transmitted through the saliva of an infected animal or person, travels through the nerves up to the brain, where it undoes an animal’s ability to regulate its own heartbeat, breathing, and salivation. Most victims die from respiratory failure or irregular heart rhythms.

In the U.S., vaccination drives for pets have caused the disease has to move from one primarily of domestic animals to one primarily found in wildlife, which represent 90 percent of all animal rabies cases reported to the CDC. Most mammals can contract rabies, but the primary source of human rabies transmission in the U.S. these days is bats, with raccoons and skunks the most frequently reported rabid animals.

To prevent the spread of rabies, health and wildlife departments in many Eastern U.S. states entice animals to consume oral rabies vaccine by concealing doses in a coating of dog food or fishmeal. The bait is deposited by hand in urban and suburban areas and dropped from planes in rural areas.

Plague: Chytridiomycosis

Target: Frogs

Around 200 amphibian species have declined or gone extinct thanks to this rapidly-spreading fungal disease. The chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis infects the cells of a frog’s outer layer of skin, which they rely heavily on for respiration. The infected skin becomes thicker, impeding the frog’s ability to absorb water and electrolytes through its skin, and eventually leading to cardiac arrest.

Various treatments are being investigated for chytridiomycosis, including incubating tadpoles in warmer water that kills the fungus and bathing adult frogs in antifungal treatments. While these methods show promise, it is still possible for the frogs to get re-infected out in the wild.

Plague: Cattle fever

Target: Cows, deer

The U.S. government employs a cadre of cowboys to ride the banks of the Rio Grande in order to stop the spread of ticks that cause cattle fever. Parasites transmitted by the ticks can kill a cow within days of the first symptoms, or can cause a wasting disease that can last for weeks and cut a steer’s weight by 20 percent in just a year. A nationwide tick eradication program has largely pushed cattle fever out of U.S. borders, but the “tick rider” cowboys still patrol the borders to catch any stray Mexican cattle—often abandoned by ranchers fleeing drug war violence—that might spark an outbreak.

Wildlife are another possible source of cattle fever, as both white-tailed deer and the imported nilgai antelope can also carry the ticks. Climate change may make the southern U.S. an even more hospitable environment for the ticks, as well as the spread of invasive reeds that shelter the bugs. Scientists are working on ways to combat the reeds, the ticks, and the cattle fever parasite—including a wildlife vaccine distributed in biscuit form.

This article originally appeared on World Science Festival.

TIME animals

See Newborn Twin Giant Panda Babies

Twin giant panda babies were born at the Wakayama Adventure World zoo at Shirahama, Japan on Dec. 3, 2014.
Twin giant panda babies were born at the Wakayama Adventure World zoo at Shirahama, Japan on Dec. 3, 2014. Wakayama Adventure World/AFP/Getty Images

Though they're not quite giant yet

Two tiny, hairless panda cubs—one male and one female—were born Monday in a research center in Chendu, central Sichuan province. They are the second and third children of mother giant panda Yaxing. They were 146 grams and 117 grams when they were born.

TIME viral

Watching This Pug Enjoy a Bath Is Strangely Soothing

He's just so delighted

Having a stressful day? Well, this pug named Barry certainly isn’t. Watch here as his human, Sydney-based photographer David Stanton, treats him to a luxurious bath. Of course, some dogs cower in fear when it’s bath time, but not Barry. Barry loves it so, so much.

Never let society change you, Barry.

Oh, and though the video does come with a cute soundtrack, we recommend watching it on mute and playing this in the background instead:

 

TIME Videos

When It Comes to Frozen, This Dog Can’t ‘Let It Go’ Either

Whether he hates it or loves it, he just can't stop singing it

Oakley the dog is no fan of Charli XCX’s “Boom Clap” and has an uncanny ability to sleep right through the catchy track. But, the pup’s catnap comes to an abrupt halt when the opening dulcet strains of Frozen track “Let It Go” start up.

On the first note the dog’s ears perk up, turning this way and that like adorable satellite dishes seeking a signal. By the time the opening bars have started, Oakley’s eyes are wide open and when Idina Menzel begins to sing, the pup’s head is up and he is seemingly trying to sing along with the chorus of the omnipresent song.

While in the commentary on the video, the puppy’s owner claims this is Oakley’s favorite song, it’s unclear whether he is actually enjoying the tune or trying to make the dreaded earworm stop — at least until the Frozen sequel, which is still only a rumor, hits theaters.

Either way, Oakley is still better at singing “Let It Go” than Ben Affleck.

 

TIME animals

These Baby Bats Swaddled Like Burritos Are the Only Thing You Need Today

If this video doesn't warm your heart, nothing will

Usually we think of bats as creatures that only come out at night. But now, in broad daylight, the YouTube channel Wakaleo has captured footage of baby bats being swaddled (thus, resembling burritos) at the Australian Bat Clinic & Wildlife Trauma Centre, based in the Gold Coast hinterland at Advancetown in Queensland, Australia.

The organization rescues, feeds and provides medical care to baby bats who have become orphans, often after their mothers have died from tick paralysis.

Animal lovers can also see “baby bat burritos” at the Tolga Bat hospital in Atherton, Queensland, Australia, which offers tours of the facility to visitors.

 

 

 

TIME Ukraine

Watch Drone Footage Explore Chernobyl From Above for the First Time

The good news: brown bears are returning to the area

Areas affected by the Chernobyl disaster of 1986 are still frozen in time, as haunting drone footage of the empty city of Pripyat reveals.

The scenes of rusted ferris wheels and abandoned buildings, shot by British filmmaker Danny Cooke for a CBS 60 Minutes segment that aired last week, mark the first time Chernobyl has been seen by air, The Guardian reports.

“Chernobyl is one of the most interesting and dangerous places I’ve been,” Cooke said. “There was something serene, yet highly disturbing about this place. Time has stood still and there are memories of past happenings floating around us.”

Some things are changing in Chernobyl, however: Scientists have observed what they believe is the first evidence of brown bears in the area in more than a century.

Though researchers had previously suspected that the bears had returned, cameras set up in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone actually caught a bear on video, the BBC reports.

“There have been suggestions that they have existed there previously but, as far as we know, no-one has got photographic evidence of one being present on the Ukrainian side of the exclusion zone,” said Mike Wood of the University of Salford.

[The Guardian] [BBC]

TIME animals

Here’s a Drinking Game for Grumpy Cat’s Christmas Movie

Lifetime

The frowning feline goes from meme to movie

Well, this was inevitable. By this, I mean, a movie starring Grumpy Cat, the frowning feline made famous by Reddit that, in the last two years, has become the spokescat for Friskies cat food and boasts two books, a toy line and a possible Hollywood movie deal — all while hobnobbing with Jennifer Lopez and Seth Meyers. (For the uninitiated, the permanent frown is the result of feline dwarfism.)

The gist of Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever, premiering at 8pm ET on Lifetime: a girl who feels like she doesn’t have friends to hang out with during the holiday season discovers she can talk to Grumpy Cat. So she breaks into a mall to see the feline and gets in the middle of an attempted robbery, chasing down bad guys who threaten to ruin Christmas.

Still want to tune in? Well, because it’s Saturday night, and Aubrey Plaza, the Parks and Recreation star who voices the cat, recommended Jimmy Kimmel watch it while tipsy, use this drinking game (trust me, she’s right). So if you can drink responsibly, or have a designated driver, then take one sip when…

  • Aubrey Plaza meows, a forced, unconvincing mew
  • Grumpy Cat merchandise is promoted
  • A cheesy pun is made
  • Grumpy Cat disses another character
  • Other Internet memes are name-dropped or appear on screen
  • Grumpy Cat herself admits how awful the movie is

When the cat is not on screen — which feels like most of the film — you’ll find yourself waiting for laugh-out-loud moments. But alas, my expression was much like Grumpy Cat’s — grimacing and droopy-eyed with boredom.

Just as her books leave much to be desired because they are mostly pictures of Internet memes you could easily find on Google Images, watching the cat just sit there — and be…a cat — gets old quickly. Grumpy Cat may be trying to be the 21st century version of the Grinch, but at least the story of the Grinch was made up of delightful Dr. Seuss witticisms — Grumpy Cat’s lines are not anywhere near as clever.

That said, watching this flick will make you feel less guilty about taking a break to watch a cat video every now and then. At least those clips are only a minute or two long. This Lifetime movie is nearly 2 hours long.

So if you’re still deciding whether to tune in — or tough it out — remember: cats may have nine lives, but you only have one. You’ll never get this time back.

TIME animals

Nathan the Bloodhound Wins the National Dog Show for His Best Thanksgiving Ever

Nathan, Bloodhound (Best in Show, Hound Group Winner)
Nathan the bloodhound, winner of Best in Show at the 2014 National Dog Show Steve Donahue—SeeSporRun Photo

This is his biggest win yet

A 4-year-old bloodhound named Nathan took home the title of Best in Show at the 2014 National Dog Show on Thursday.

First, Nathan bested his fellow comrades in the hound category, then he beat out Freda the French bulldog and Bogey the samoyed to take home the top prize, PEOPLE reports. This is the biggest win so far for Nathan, who has been competing in dog shows since he was six months old.

But Nathan’s win wasn’t the only big news at this year’s show: another contestant — a miniature pinscher — escaped from its owner, dashing his chances at becoming a champion this time.

[PEOPLE]

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